More Assassinations

aa-kenn lincApparently I’ve been on a U.S. presidents kick.  Just the other day I realized that I have read four books about U.S. presidents so far this year.  Three of them have been about assassinations.  A friend recommended O’Reilly’s books on Lincoln and Kennedy so I decided to give them a try.  Since I really enjoyed Candice Millard’s books about James Garfield and Teddy Roosevelt, I decided it would be good to delve into more presidential stories.

It might be an understatement to say that Millard’s writing style is very different from O’Reilly’s.  I have not seen many O’Reilly television shows but I’ve seen enough to recognize his overall style.  Although Millard’s books are factually based, they read more like literature.  O’Reilly’s books are interesting and fast-paced but read more like news reporting.

Of O’Reilly’s two books on presidential assassinations I’m not sure which one I liked better.  I felt like I knew the basic stories of both presidents but there were also a lot of historical facts and new stories I learned along the way.  

And, it definitely is uncanny to think about how many similarities the two assassinations share.

Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot seemed like it was a little too chronological. I thought it would have been more interesting had it not been laid out so sequentially.  Kennedy was a very complicated, flawed, gifted man. Many details of his life are compelling and his presidency occurred during a historically significant time in America’s civil rights movement.

Toward the end of the Kennedy book I felt my heart beating faster, as his life’s story came to a close.  My sympathies went out to Jackie as I read about her scooping her husband’s brains off the car.

One huge disappointment: I wish the conspiracy theories surrounding Kennedy’s perplexing assassination were explored in this book.  There are so many inconsistencies in the details of his assassination.  Killing Kennedy was definitely a just-the-facts-ma’am type of book, but I found myself wanting more.  I understand the simple truth is that we can speculate but we will likely never know the full scope of why JFK was assassinated or if there was a larger plot involved.  But it would have made the book more compelling to have the conflicting theories and controversies spelled out.

Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed American Forever opens during the closing battles of the American Civil War.  I thought it was fascinating to read about the final conflicts and the beleaguered players involved, including General Lee’s humbling surrender to General Grant.

I was surprised that this book didn’t cover more of Lincoln’s life prior to his presidency. Kennedy’s book covered more details of his life prior to his presidential ascension.  Kennedy’s book also covered a lot more about his wife.  Although, I definitely think people would rather read about Jackie Kennedy than Mary Lincoln any day.  So, I get that!

Lincoln was brilliant, compassionate, and a man of integrity.  Reading about the violent and abrupt ending to his life was very sad.  I kept wondering how much better our country could have healed if Lincoln had lived.  The book definitely painted a clear picture of the tensions and desperation in our country during and after the Civil War.

The manhunt for Lincoln’s assassin in rural Maryland and Virginia, and details of the larger plot to assassinate Lincoln’s VP and Secretary of State, were also interesting.

The best quote from these two O’Reilly’s books (taken from the Kennedy book) is when O’Reilly detours from his factual reporting and waxes poetic:

“Most people live their lives as if the end were always years away. They measure their days in love, laughter, accomplishment, and loss. There are moments of sunshine and storm. There are schedules, phone calls, careers, anxieties, joys, exotic trips, favorite foods, romance, shame, and hunger. A person can be defined by clothing, the smell of his breath, the way she combs her hair, the shape of his torso, or even the company she keeps. All over the world, children love their parents and yearn for love in return. They revel in the touch of parental hands on their faces. And even on the worst of days, each person has dreams about the future-dreams that sometimes come true. Such is life. Yet life can end in less time than it takes to draw one breath.”

Kennedy and Lincoln both helped to hold America together during times of crisis.  It was intriguing to read about their short but influential lives, their tragic deaths, and the intense manhunts for their murderers. 

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Stretching Times, Good Times

As I get older I think the extroverted/introverted parts of me have become more balanced. Kevin tells me that I’m not really an introvert; I’m just a busy mom who gets tired and wants everyone to leave her alone for a few moments.  But, really, I do enjoy alone time more lately than I ever have in the past.

This week we have had so much interaction with various groups of people that the extroverted part of me is fat and happy and the introverted part of me is ready to crawl into a hole somewhere and take a nap.

In the midst of all of this, trying to get out the door on Thursday evening, something happened that basically summarizes my Mom Life right now.  In fact, I had to stop and laugh so that I wouldn’t lose it and cry.  Basically I was rushing around trying to do all the last-minute stuff to wrap up things at home and get the kids out the door.  The last thing I had to do was type up some things for my nine-year old to review with her dad that evening, so she could prepare for a difficult Latin test the next day.  [One of my main goals this summer is to make my nine-year-old take a typing course so I don’t have to do this anymore!]

If there’s anything that can make me go from feeling smug about my relative intelligence to making me weep at my acute stupidity, it’s my desperate attempts to try and figure out Latin just enough to stay ahead of my daughter.  I have failed and will probably soon give up entirely.  I also think Latin teachers are amazing!  My hat’s off to you!

So, anyway, there I was, typing nine sets of declensions furiously, also calling out to the children to get their shoes on and head to the car.  Then I heard crying in the bathroom.  I had built in some extra time, but apparently not enough.  It turns out that my preschooler is in the middle of the worst constipation pains any kid of mine has ever had.  I felt like a birthing coach for about ten excruciating moments huddled in the small downstairs bathroom.  Meanwhile, three kids have already been in the car for a long time, waiting, and now they are calling out, wanting to get out of the car.

From Latin to Poop in Mere Minutes.  I think that will be the title of my memoir if I ever write one.

Life is stretching sometimes.  It can’t be neatly compartmentalized when kids are in different ages and stages.    

But then there was yesterday. It was a calm day.  We stayed home.  The best Saturdays are the lazy Saturdays.  I got a huge kick out of my two-year-old skating around the driveway in a super hero t-shirt and his big sister’s Barbie plastic roller blades.

IMG_8222The older girls put together an impromptu lemonade stand, which they have been doing about three times a week for a month now.  The same four people always dutifully buy lemonade from them. But today they got two new customers.  After twenty minutes or so, they get bored and decided to drink away the rest of the profits.  I’m not sure they are learning to be entrepreneurs necessarily, but they sure are enjoying themselves.

It was 70 degrees and they all decided it was warm enough to don bathing suits and break out the water guns.

They make me smile.

Life is good.