The Storm On Our Shores – by Mark Obmascik (2019)

Storm On Our Shores

Do you think that the battles of World War II never touched United States soil? That’s what I thought until I read this book. In May of 1943, a brutal struggle took place on the Aleutian island of Attu, which is part of the state of Alaska. It was a remote location that was almost uninhabited. For nearly a year, Japanese soldiers battled American soldiers for control of the island. It was a cold, windy, foggy place with spongy ground, which made it almost impossible to transport vehicles across. Most of the fighting was guerrilla-style.

When the Americans finally won control of the island, a hand-written journal was found on the dead body of a Japanese doctor. It was translated into English with the hope of finding some military secrets. But it contained only the daily happenings of the surgeon, and his desire to return home to his wife and daughters, one of whom he had never met. Copies of the translation began circulating among the servicemen. It was a side to the enemy that most had not considered – that some of the Japanese soldiers who were drafted were much like themselves. They loved their families, were homesick, and wanted the war to end.

The Japanese surgeon -Paul Nobuo Tatsuguchi – had actually spent ten years in the United States studying to become a doctor. He had returned back to Japan to marry his childhood sweetheart, but hoped to become a U.S. citizen someday. But the start of World War II killed that dream. The Japanese were the enemy, and the United States didn’t want more coming into the country, let alone becoming citizens. Paul’s dream died, but he did the best he could to be a good doctor in Japan. He and his wife were 7th-Day Adventist Christians, which was not a good faith to have in Japan. Then came the order that he was being drafted. There was no choice; he had to serve. So Paul Tatsuguchi tended  to the medical needs of his fellow soldiers, while trying to follow his religious beliefs of non-violence. It was an impossible situation.

The book goes back and forth between the story of Paul’s life, and the life of American soldier Laird, who shot and killed Paul. By the end of the book, I felt sorry for both of the men.

The battle of Attu was mostly unknown to Americans, and the government and the military suppressed the story. This battle claimed thousands of lives, both American and Japanese, and was totally unnecessary. When will mankind ever learn that in war-times, everyone loses? Everyone.

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An Invisible Thread – by Laura Schroff and Alex Tresniowski (2011)

An Invisible Thread

When we think of life-long friends, what comes to mind are: kids we went to school with, neighbors we hung out with, and college roommates we kept kept in touch with after graduation. Our friends tend to be about the same age as us, and have shared interests.

That is what makes the story of Laurie and Maurice so different. They weren’t the same age, race, or socio-economic status. They met by chance – or was it chance? Maurice was an 11-year-old black kid panhandling to feed himself, since his mother was a drug addict incapable of providing for him. Laurie was an advertising executive walking down a busy city street in Manhattan when Maurice asked her for money. She shook her head no, kept going, then stopped and went back. Instead of giving him money, Laurie took him to the nearest McDonalds and fed him. And that was the beginning of their life-long friendship.

Maurice and Laurie met every Monday to talk and eat together. The other days of the week, Laurie would pack her young friend a huge brown-bag lunch, and leave it with the doorman of her apartment building for Maurice to pick up while she was at work. An invisible thread drew them together, and became stronger as time went by.

This true story is incredible. Even though it seemed that Laurie and Maurice had absolutely nothing in common, they did. Both had fathers that had failed them, one being a violent alcoholic and the other being an absent drug addict. What I took away from this book was: 1, God brings people into our lives at just the right moment, even if it seems random, and 2, keep your eyes open because you might be the “Laurie” or the “Maurice” in someone’s life.

Population: 485: Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren At A Time – by Michael Perry (2003)

Population 485

This isn’t your usual non-fiction read. It’s not quite a biography, not quite an orderly book on a particular topic. It’s the words of a man reminiscing about a small town and its volunteer fire department. The author admits that his natural tendency is to be rather hermit-like. But working with the local fire department has bonded him to the the little community that he grew up in and returned to.  Mr. Perry describes his job as an emergency responder:

“In New Auburn, we are on call twenty-four hours a day. We are not scheduled, we are simply assumed to be available. We carry our pagers everywhere we go, we sleep with them beside the bed. You get so you jump at anything that beeps or jingles. I stayed with a friend over the holidays, and she had this Christmas clock with a little Dickens scene, and every hour on the hour, it played a wheezy electronic carol, the first note of which matched the tone of the fire page. Every hour on the hour, that clock would fire up, and I’d jerk as if I’d been goosed.

“I was paged one hundred and six times last year. Fires, drunks, babies, grandmothers. Injured farmers, frightened salesmen, old fishermen. The pager is on my hip right now, even as I type. It will go off, perhaps in the next five minutes, perhaps next Tuesday when I am in the bathroom. My heart will jump. If I’m getting something from under the sink, I may crack my head on the grease trap. I’ll listen for the details, find out where, begin forming a half-baked picture in my head. I’ll run across the backyard, headed for the hall. Whoever’s out there needing help, they’re getting me, for better or worse. Me, and a handful of my neighbors…” (from pages 159-160)

After reading this book, I thought about how difficult it must be to do emergency work in such a small community. You would probably know most of the people you were called on to help. You would need to emotionally detach yourself at the emergency scene so that you wouldn’t become too panicked or upset to help them. I, for one, am very grateful for people who have the gift of being able to handle emergencies calmly and efficiently, whether in a large city or in a small hometown like New Auburn. God bless those firemen and ambulance EMTs!

Unplanned – by Abby Johnson (2011)

unplanned

When most people decide to resign from a job, it’s not national news. But when Abby Johnson walked away from a good-paying director’s position at a Planned Parenthood clinic for moral reasons, it hit the news. This book covers how Abby began as a volunteer,  became the director, and spent eight years there before resigning.

As she describes becoming drawn in during her college years, that part made sense. Abby truly did care about women in crisis. She wanted women to have access to annual check-ups and birth control so that they wouldn’t ended up with unplanned, unwanted pregnancies. But then she went on to accept full-time work there. Her family wasn’t happy about it, and her husband didn’t like it either.

I did greatly admire her resolve to never call the police on the pro-life group that gathered every day on the other side of the fence surrounding the clinic. She developed a good relationship with them but refused to be persuaded by them. Then came the day she was asked to assist the clinic doctor by holding the ultrasound probe as he performed the abortion. The ugliness of abortion became real to her, and she vowed to never again participate in an abortion. She joined the Coalition For Life that had been praying over the fence for eight years, and resigned her job, only to find herself being dragged into court by Planned Parenthood.

It was a fascinating story. I could see both Abby’s desire to help people, and the way she managed to rationalize what she was doing as good. It’s human nature to convince ourselves that what we have chosen to do is alright. I was just amazed that it took her a whopping eight years to admit that she was going against her conscience. Now I’m ready to go see the movie, which is currently running in the theaters.

Ben & Jerry’s: The Inside Scoop – by Fred “Chico” Lager (1994)

Ben & Jerry's

When I opened this book, I slipped into nostalgia-land. It felt like the beginning of the computer era, and the tail end of the hippie days. In fact, the story of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream business falls into the same time period – the late 70s and early 80s. What a great time this was for entrepreneurs! Ben and Jerry were two buddies who shared a love for ice cream, and had a dream of making the best ice cream in Vermont. Although they often did not know what they were doing, they persisted in their efforts, and built an outstanding ice cream company.

Along the road to success, they hit a fair number of difficulties. Like where to set up shop. (They ended up renovating a gas station!) Getting people to believe in their dream and help finance them. Wrestling with ice cream machines that kept getting clogged. And fighting their competitor, Haagen-Dazs, for the right to be sold in grocery stores.

What a story! It just goes to show that where there is a will, there’s a way to make your dreams become reality.

 

 

1920-40 Atoms To Automation – by Steve Parker (2001)

Atoms To Automation

I found this nifty book on science and technology at a library book sale for 50 cents. It is only 30 pages long and is heavy on pictures, but does a great job of giving a brief overview of the exciting advances made in the 1920s and 1930s.

Some of the things I found most interesting:
– In 1932, a radio engineer discovered that stars and even galaxies emit radio waves.
– By 1933, we had microscopes that were advanced enough to see the smallest of germs.
– The first modern highway was built in Germany in 1921 (the autobahn), before most people even had cars. The Germans also started mass-producing the VW bug.
– Interurbans (commuter railroads) were popular for a while, but lost out to city railcars.
– Synthetic fabrics like rayon and nylon were invented.
– There were actually televisions in the 1920s!
– Penicillin was discovered, and we found out what really caused malaria – mosquitoes.
– Reflective road bumps were invented to make nighttime driving safer.

This was a fun, quick read, and refreshed my mind on things I had learned in school as a kid, but forgotten over the years. It’s never too late to learn or re-learn things!

Are You Hungry Dear? – by Doris Roberts (2003)

Are You Hungry Dear

One of our family’s all-time favorite television shows is “Everybody Loves Raymond”. The ABC comedy kicked off in September of 1996, and finished in May of 2005. Like “All In The Family”, “I Love Lucy”, “Friends”, and “Taxi”, the show was recorded before a live audience, so the laughing you hear is real. The show featured the Barone family – Ray the sports writer, his stay-at-home wife Debra, their three kids, Ray’s melancholy brother Robert, his sarcastic father and nosy mother Marie, who live across the street. It’s all about family dynamics, how people clash with the ones closest to them and how they straighten things out. No matter how much your family drives you crazy, they are still family, and love wins. The stories are told in such a hilarious way that the viewer cannot help but laugh.

About the time that the show wrapped up, Doris Roberts, the actress that played the part of Marie, published her autobiography. In real life, Doris was just as passionate about watching over her family and trying to protect them from dangers as her tv character, Marie. That is why she was able to play the part so perfectly. But unlike Marie, she didn’t stay home much. She was a working mom with an astonishing amount of accomplishments in the acting world  before joining the cast of “Everybody Loves Raymond”. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the real life of Doris Roberts. Now, when I watch an episode of “Everybody Loves Raymond”, I will appreciate her acting ability even more.

By the way, if you have never seen this tv show, you can still watch it on the TV Land or TBS channels. It doesn’t seem to be available for streaming through Netflix or Hulu. You can buy seasons of the show on DVD, or individual episodes to download. Many public libraries have it available to check out. Whatever way you find it, this is a show that you really should at least sample. And Doris Roberts is a huge reason that it is worth your time.