Wednesday, February 24, 2021

The Truth Behind DO NO HARM


HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:
Whoa. Big big day on Jungle Red—the USA Today bestselling Christina McDonald is here!  You know her, right? Her first book, The Night Olivia Fell, has been optioned for television by a major Hollywood studio. Her next blockbuster, Behind Every Lie, was another huge hit.

 

And ta- dah! Her brand shiny new Do No Harm came out this week, and wow, go right now (well, not right now right now, but after you read this) and snap it up!

 

It is one of the most thought-provoking books I have ever read. I got an early copy months ago, and I am still contemplating the decisions the main character makes. What would I have done, I wonder? Would I have…well, you’ll have to read and decide for yourself.

 

And there’s no way not to wonder, when you are devouring the pages, how much of the book comes from real life.  And that’s exactly what I asked her.

 

 


How Much of Real Life Do Authors Put Into Their Work?

By Christina McDonald

 

As an author, a big part of my writing process is distilling things from my life into the fictional worlds I create. All of my books include these little peaks into my life; my characters are built from what I see and hear, things people do, unique characteristics I notice, like a flick of the hair or a love of Bocelli or a loathing for the grate of a nail file.

 

Do No Harm, however, is my most personal book yet. While the plot and the characters are entirely from my imagination, much of the story is emotionally authentic to me as its author.

 

The most strikingly personal aspect of Do No Harm is the central theme around the opioid epidemic. Dr. Emma Sweeney, my protagonist, has a brother who’s struggled with addiction most of her life, and this is true for me as well. I’ve spent most of my life watching my brother’s addiction to opioids, and this is why I’ve known for a while that I wanted to set a book against the backdrop of the opioid epidemic.

 

But there are other moments in Do No Harm that emotionally connect me to the story as well. Some are funny, some horrifying, some sad. Whatever the emotion, I’ve mined it to bring Do No Harm to life.

 

Fun and personal facts about Do No Harm

1. Bit-O-Honey – One day while I was writing, I randomly started craving Bit-O-Honey, the old-fashioned honey-flavored taffy. My mom used to buy it for my sisters and me as a treat when we went on road trips. So I had one of my characters eating it thinking about his childhood, as I was thinking about mine.

 

2. Skamania - The town of Skamania, where Do No Harm is set, is based on the Cascades Chinook Native American word sk'mániak, which means ‘swift waters’. Since a lot of the book is centered around a warehouse that’s perched on the edge of a waterfall, I thought it fit nicely.

 

3. Snoqualmie Falls - Skamania is loosely based around the real-life town of Snoqualmie, which is located about 45 minutes from Seattle, which is where I’m from. Like Skamania, the town is named after its real-life waterfall, Snoqualmie Falls.

 

4. Pimple squish – one of the cute things Josh, who’s just five, says in the early chapters of the book, is he calls cuddles ‘pimple squishes’. It’s when Emma, his mommy, cuddles up tight on one side and Nate, his daddy, cuddles up tight on the other, and they scootch in with the Josh in between. My oldest son, who’s now 12, coined the term. He loved pimple squishes and used to beg for them every night.

 

5. Josh’s dreams – After Josh finds out he has leukemia, has starts crying because he’s afraid of being buried. In the way children think, he believes he’ll be buried alive, and he won’t be able to breathe. I wrote this scene the very morning after my youngest son, who was about Josh’s age when I was writing this book, had this exact dream. He dreamt he’d died and been buried beneath the Eiffel Tower in Paris and he couldn’t breathe because mud covered him. All he could do was lie there and look up and see ev

eryone walking over him like he didn’t exist. It broke my heart, so I wrote that scene for Josh because I imagined how scary it would be for a child getting a diagnosis like his.

 

6. Sucking pointer and pinky fingers – Most kids suck their thumb, but my youngest, who’s now seven, sucked his pointer and pinkie fingers until he was five, the same age as Josh is in Do No Harm. I thought it was adorable and unique, so I decided to give this endearing habit to Josh.

 

7. Chili - At the beginning Emma returns home after a particularly challenging day at work to find her husband has prepared dinner for her. I wanted to set the scene for their life together; one where she feels loved, accepted. Something that evokes family and belonging, so I had her husband cooking chili. My mom used to make it a lot when I was a kid, so it’s always felt like one of those classic family comfort foods.

 

8. CAR T-cell immunotherapy - The cost of Josh’s CAR T-cell therapy, the immunotherapy treatment he needs to save his life, really does cost between $400,000-$500,000, and most insurances don’t cover it. So you can see why any parent would be so desperate in this situation. How do you put a cost on a child’s life?

 

Including little pieces of myself in my stories is important to me because it helps strengthen the connection between myself as the author and the written words on the page. This connection breathes life and emotion into my books, and I hope readers feel this emotion as they read Do No Harm.

 


HANK:  More I cannot say about this book—but if you have a bookclub, this is the one for you! You will not stop thinking about it. 


To find out more about Christina, got to the wonderful “about the author” section of her website. She interviews every author you’d ever want to meet! (And pssst…look who interviewed her!).

 

And now, Reds and readers, let me ask you. Which one of Christina's examples can you match? A candy bar, a childhood habit, a memorable location? A dream, or a secret to amazing chili?


(And I’m giving a copy of DO NO HARM to one lucky commenter!)


And oooh! To hear the first chapter of DO NO HARM read out loud to you on First Chapter Fun: just click here!


https://www.facebook.com/HankPhillippiRyanAuthor/videos/431651754820817


You may need to join the private Facebook group--but hey, you've already done that, right?


Christina McDonald is the USA Today bestselling author of Behind Every Lie and The Night Olivia Fell (Simon & Schuster/Gallery Books), which has been optioned for television by a major Hollywood studio. Her third book, Do No Harm, is available February 2021.

Her writing has been featured in The Sunday Times, Dublin, USAToday.com, and Expedia. Originally from Seattle, WA, she has an MA in Journalism from the National University of Ireland Galway, and now lives in London, England with her husband, two sons, and their dog, Tango. She's currently working on her next novel.

 

DO NO HARM

From the USA Today bestselling author of Behind Every Lie and The Night Olivia Fell comes an unforgettable novel about the lengths one woman will go to save her son.








85 comments:

  1. Wow . . . this sounds like an intriguing book, Christina. I’m looking forward to reading Emma’s story . . . .

    It’s so interesting how bits of real life make it into a character in a story.
    Your examples are both funny and heartrending.
    I can relate to the thumb-sucking child . . . that habit never bothered me, though. My daughter also had a blanket that went EVERYWHERE. I always worried that it would get lost, so I made her a scarf out of the same material [yes, I made the blanket, too] and she’d take that with her when we went out. There were pockets on the ends for her little treasures, so it worked out quite well [and the blanket never got lost] . . . .

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    1. Oh the blanket! So wonderful that it never got lost… That can be a situation :-) And lucky daughter that you made her such a perfect one!

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    2. So cute! My oldest son had a little green teddy bear he called Paddy. He took it everywhere with him and even now sleeps with him on his bed (he's 12! lol). We always worried we'd lose Paddy so we bought a spare one, but my son never knew he wasn't the real one. lol

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  2. There is a song that, every time I hear it, I am transported to a state park where I grew up camping. My parents had just gotten the record and put it on a tape one time when we went up there. It's the same trigger for everyone in the family. Of course, we've listened to it many times over the years when pulling into the state park, so that helps the connection.

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    1. Ohhhhhh —what song??? That is such a lovely memory! And a beautiful detail.

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    2. It's a song called "Would You" by an early Christian singer named Evie. I'd left that out because I doubt too many who read the blog would have heard of her or remember the song. It wasn't one of her big hits, and I probably wouldn't think much of the song if it were for how it is connected to that state park.

      What's ironic is we don't associate the rest of the album with the state park. Just that song. But back then, you didn't listen to random songs, you listened to an entire tape all the way through.

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    3. I love that story, Mark. We always listen to Jimmy Buffet once we hit route 1 in Delaware on our way to visit our daughter and family who live in a town on the Delaware shore.

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    4. I love that story, Mark! It's funny how music can bring back such strong memories! :)

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  3. Yes! This sounds very good! I used to make up stories of a flying dog & dolphin to help my daughter go to sleep and I’d have to spray “monster repellant” in the closet & under the bed to keep the monsters away. 💜

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  4. CHRISTINA: This book sounds like a thrilling read, and I will have to re-watch the video on First Chapter Fun.

    My childhood habit would be that I took my stuffed dog that my mom made for me EVERYWHERE. I was an only child and Lassie was my constant companion since I was 1. Since she was a talented seamstress, Lassie was repaired many times during my childhood. And I still have her somewhere in my closet.

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    1. You still have her! Oh, that is wonderful. So very sweet....

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  5. Bookreaderforlife, that was a brilliant idea!

    So many memories from childhood, but I'll just pick one: walking home from school with my sister and neighbor, and stopping at the grocery store that had what I now recall as an entire wall of penny candy. The Bit-o-Honey reminded me. My personal favorites at the time were the spumoni-colored coconut "bacon rind", and the candy lipstick, which had to be made entirely of confectioner's sugar, it was so sweet. My sister preferred candy cigarettes, so we were pretend smoking and pretend making up all the way home. We must have been a comical sight!

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    1. So adorable! You know, there was actually a study that showed that children who “smoked” candy cigarettes were more likely to smoke real cigarettes? I guess that makes sense...

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    2. But that bacon rind thing sounds truly awful, I have to admit...

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    3. I had no idea what that "bacon rind" candy was called and I haven't thought about it in years but it was delicious, sweet and chewy!

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    4. How interesting, Hank. I have never smoked, but my sister did, for years.

      But I do wear lipstick every day! LOL

      You have to like coconut, I guess. I loved it.

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    5. I adore coconut! I am looking this up right now.

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    6. I was addicted to Pixie Stix.

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    7. Pat, do you remember Lik M Aid? Like Pixie Stix, but in a flat paper package, like Kool-Aid came in.

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    8. Karen, yes! Tear an envelope open and dump it in your mouth.

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    9. Yes, just pour that sugar DIRECTLY onto your teeth...

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  6. Congratulations on your new release! Excited to read it.

    Childhood memory: a quiet, sunny afternoon picking Japanese beetles off the roses one at a time and drowning them in a jar of soapy water.

    When my kids and nieces graduated from their pacifiers and blankies: we would ceremoniously put them in a pretty gift bag and stand at the edge of the landfill at the local dump, pose for a photo, and hurl them into oblivion.

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    1. Wow. Both of those could go right into a novel. Yikes. Haunting, for some reason....

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    2. Margaret, I am gafawing here at the thought of kids throwing that stuff, gift-wrapped, into the landfill.

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    3. But it is such a momentous occasion! It’s just really profound… and quite brilliant.

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    4. Thank you so much, Margaret! I love your childhood memory so much. :)

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  7. Chhristina, welcome to JRW and congratulations on your new release and all of the accolades that are being heaped on it already!! I well remember the First Chapter Fun episode when your book was featured and wow, it sounds like a powerful and haunting story. It is on my TBR list already.

    As for memories of childhood habits, I remember stopping at a real penny candy store on the daily walk home from school. It was a shack about the size of a walk-in closet. If you had 5 cents, you could come away with a bag full of goodies. I loved squirrels, 2 for a penny.

    My son, Jonathan slept with his soft brown bunny until he left for college. He brought it to my cousin's house for a weekend and her son (3 years older and very amused) said that Jonathan was the boy with the brown bunny. Soon that bunny became known as Brown Bunny, and my son got the nickname Bunny Boy, because he was the boy with the brown bunny. I still call him Bunny Boy. He'll be 39 in 4 months.

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    1. That is a wonderful charming adorable story! I am so loving these! And the evolution of nicknames is so fascinating.

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  8. When my first child was born my mother called him "little bean" for no reason I can think of. That gradually turned into Beano and when he learned to talk he called her Grandma Bean, for the rest of her long life. He called my father Boppa and my grandfather Hat Boppa. (His other grandparents were Grandma and Pa). When my other children came along the nicknames stuck.

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  9. I love making homemade chili. It brings such a comfort for some reason, and my husband likes it so that's a plus. When I was a kid, I remember sucking my thumb and having a pacifier of sorts, really just a onesie pajama, you know ... the kind with feet and a zipper up the front. One day, I don't remember how old I was, I decided I was going to give up my pacifier and give it to my dog, Snoopy. Oh, and Snoopy was a dog I read to ... oh, but I did. Dang, I loved that dog. Also, as bad as it sounds, I could not for some reason stop sucking my thumb until the pediatrician threatened to chop it off. No joke! He put his thumb down on the counter and demonstrated just where he could whack it off at. Yeah, I stopped sucking my thumb. Nothing else worked, but that did. Thank you for the opportunity!

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    1. That is absolutely cruel! Oh my gosh, you poor thing, that is… Traumatic!

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  10. That is absolutely cruel! Oh my gosh, you poor thing, that is… Traumatic!

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  11. I'm still digesting the idea that there's a $400-$500K treatment that can save a child's life - but insurance won't pay for it. Can I hope Dr. Emma spends the book tracking down the insurance executives who made the treatment ruling and killing them cleverly one by one? No? 'Cause I think that's a novel a LOT of readers can get behind.

    Sigh. Okay, yes, I put so many moments from my childhood into my series, in part because I lived full-time in the part of New York I write about between the ages of 11 and 14. In fact, as my childhood increasingly moves into the "historical fiction" category, I have to double check my references to make sure they aren't out-of-date for my characters, most of whom are younger than me now.

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    1. Steve has a cousin who is a doctor. He quit his medical practice when an insurance company refused to pay for a lifesaving procedure for a child that would cost $250,000. That was about 20 years ago. He's been teaching medicine ever since.

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    2. KAREN: I sm so sorry that the insurance company refused to pay for a lifesaving procedure.

      JULIA: there was a murder mystery on an American tv show. I cannot recall which tv show it was. I cannot recall if it was attempted murder or murder mystery. In this episode, it looks like random business people are targeted for murder. They are having coffee in a cafe when someone drives through the window of the cafe. Turns out that these random business people worked for an Insurance company that DENIED lifesaving treatment for the person.

      Diana

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    3. Diana, I think I saw that episode. I am with Julia. Revenge against monsters in the insurance industry could be a good plot.

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    4. Hi Julie,
      I know, right?! It's just bonkers that a treatment can be that prohibitive!

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  12. Congratulations on your new release! This novel sounds captivating. I have so many memorable childhood memories. Each summer we would drive for 2 hours or so to a fishing camp perched on a beautiful and isolated lake filled with fish, perfect for a little motor boat and swimming. A rustic small cabin which gave me a sense of comfort and simplicity for 2 weeks.

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    1. Thank you so much! Your childhood memory sounds absolutely idyllic!

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  13. Congratulations on your new released novel! I noticed that you and your family now live in England. The family in your book would have National Health Insurance if they lived in the UK!

    Childhood memory: The smell of felt pens bring back memories of my early childhood school as a four year old.

    Diana

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    1. Felt pens! Are you old enough for mimeograph fluid :-) ?

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    2. HANK: What is mimeograph fluid? For the copy machine?

      Diana

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    3. Nothing like being in first period and getting the tests fresh and warm from the mimeograph. Everyone snorted the test papers!

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    4. And those of us teachers making those mimeos were a bit dizzy on our way back to the classroom.

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    5. Hi Diana, yes, you are absolutely correct. The NHS is a huge reason why we've stayed in London rather than moving back to Seattle, where I'm from. When you have children things like gun safety and good education and healthcare being incredibly important! My family in Do No Harm, however, live in Washington State, so insurance is quite different there than in the UK.

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  14. Congratulations! A childhood memory and habit which I did every so often on my walk home from school. Each day we walked to and from school 4 times but after school I would love to drop into the Woolworth's in our neighborhood. I could have browsed there for hours. I miss those days.

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    1. Oh yes! Woolworths! Those were fabulous. I worked at a GC Murphy’s— very like Woolworths— at the candy counter for one high school summer. That was pretty hilarious.

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  15. Congratulations on your new release! Like Julia, I'm trying to wrap my head around a lifesaving treatment that insurance will not cover.

    Memorable childhood moment? Wow, so man. I think the funniest was my cousin Gerald. He refused to be parted from his bottle. Every morning, his mother filled it with juice and Gerald would walk around with it dangling from his mouth. When he was thirsty, he would stick up a thumb and use it to lift the bottle for a drink. When he was five, his mother swiped the bottle one night and told Gerald that a bear took it for her cubs. Not one to be deterred (and this was in upstate New York - there were bears) Gerald took off for the woods to find the bear and give her a piece of his mind. Fortunately, an angry five year old is easy to track!

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    1. That is so hilarious! That’s what happens when you tell the kid a made up story… you have to deal with the consequences. Don’t mess with the bottle!

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    2. Oh my gosh, his teeth must have been rotten!

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    3. Hahaha! Love this. Like Deborah said, yikes, what about his poor teeth?! lol

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  16. Cherries and strawberries were also finally available in our grocery stores in late June, when I was a kid, which was just in time for me to have angel food cake with strawberries and whipped cream for my birthday. Congratulations on the new book.

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    1. Oh, these memories are so absolutely fantastic! Thank you all for sharing them… Keep them coming!

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  17. Some words are in our unique family vocabulary due to my little brother. He had a way of mangling words when he was a kid. Stizzers instead of scissors is one example. And a movie called "Them!" that came out in the 50s. We loved to watch bad monster movies. This one had giant ants and my brother always called the movie "Them Ants!" And so do we to this day when it pops up on TV.

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  18. Christina --who lives in the UK--is having internet issues! She'll be here as soon as she can...xoxoo

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    1. Thanks so much, Hank, I'm back! 24 hours without Internet access is horrific! lol

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  19. I can identify with the dream. I often have a dream where I go to my grandmother’s apt to save her, but I can’t open my eyes no matter what i do.
    Can’t wait to read Do No Harm as I’ve read and loved all of Christina’s other books

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  20. My Sister gave me two bags of Bit O' Honey for Christmas. I hadn't seen it in years and remembered from my childhood. A couple of years ago we found it at a store in Michigan. Books sounds like a great read, looking forward to reading it.

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    1. What a great gift! And they are so delicious...

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    2. Bit O Honey was so yummy! I wonder if they still sell it?

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  21. Food always takes me back. In fact, The Hubby recently brought home a 100 Grand Candy bar and I thought of the time in college when I stocked up on them in a post-Halloween candy sale so I could enjoy them while I studied for finals.

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  22. I love the stories of giving your characters traits you know so well. In my so-far-unsold mystery, "My Roommate's Murder," narrator Daisy MacDonald has a MacDonald tartan cape to keep away the Indiana cold and keep snow off her coat. I could describe the cape's navy blue and green background and red stripes easily -- it's my family tartan and my favorite cape, too!

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    1. We will remember this story when your book comes out!

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  23. I can relate to the Candy and the party about fear of being buried!

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  24. My little brother sucked his ring and middle fingers. When Dad was reading to him and skipped a page, the fingers came out and slapped the page until Dad read the right one. We had a children's record player, and Bob would listen to a record and drag it back to listen again. I had to laugh when a friend's husband thought of getting a new stereo and giving the old one to the baby. That would have ruined a real record player! Stay safe and well.

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    1. They know, don't they? Even if they can't read?
      ANd yes, that would have been a disaster!

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    2. I love that your brother sucked his ring and middle fingers too! :)

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  25. Poor Christina is still having internet problems! I was supposed to do an event with her today, and she had to cancel! But I know she'll come back and read all these wonderful and nostalgic comments! And I will pick a winner just after midnight. YAY!

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  26. Mary Garrett says she cannot post--but put this on Facebook. It is SO adorable, I couldn't resist passing it on to you!

    MARY GARRETT: As the second of five children, I have few memories of my own rather hectic childhood . . . it's all a blur. Mom did tell of the time I got away from her at the zoo, joining the end of the line of chimps going back "home" after the chimp show. My show biz career, nipped in the bud.
    My niece's favorite stuffed elephant was left at the top of Mt. Haleakala, and was still there when they went back for it. As it wore out, both parents became adept at repairs, until not much of the original was left. 😉
    When the little daughter of my friend in England graduated to the big toilet, Clare made up a story about the fairies sailing away in her child's potty and asked friends to report sightings. I sent word of spotting them on the Missouri River, and sent a link to photos of the river, Frontier Park, and the Lewis and Clark statue. ❤

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  27. AND THE WINNEr IS: MelissaMT67! Message me your address, or email me at hank@hankpryan.com

    YAY!!

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    1. I am just now seeing this. OHMIGOSH. Thank you!

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