Monday, December 31, 2007

Any History Buffs?

I don't know about you, but I find old maps fascinating. Resource Shelf has an article about old maps available on the web.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Old Friends

We had a party this afternoon and invited a lot of old friends we haven't seen in a while (some since the last party like this that we threw two years ago). A lot of them were people we ran with when single. We all got married within a couple of years of each other and then had kids close to each other. We went to each other's birthday parties and used to get together monthy for the adults to visit and the kids to play. As the kids got older and went to different schools they started inviting friends to birthday parties and as the years went on, the monthly get togethers got harder and ended up dropped. Now the older kids are in high school and prefer being with their friends to being with the parents' friends' kids. However, most of the kids were dragged along with their parents today. It was nice to see them--and how they've grown, but whereas the kids used to all play with each other, today some sat with the adults, others zoned out with DS's and only a few played with each other.

Unfortunately, I'll be seeing a bunch of those people again tomorrow. I say unfortunately because we will be at a funeral. My son's Godfather lost his mother yesterday morning and the funeral is tomorrow. I told my sitter Friday not to stay open for me Monday, since I wasn't working; but that if she was open, I might leave the little one with her for a while and go shopping. She wasn't sure what other people's plans were, but she hadn't planned to be closed. I'll call her in the morning and see if she has kids. If she does, the little one will go there and I'll take the big ones to the funeral. If not, I'll probably leave them all home; but I think the big ones are old enough to start going to funerals of people they know, or who are close to those they do. I wouldn't pull them out of school to go, and I'm not taking the little one, but since we are all off, and the family has been close to us forever, I think they should go.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Redeeming Love

If you've read this blog for any length of time, you will have realized that I love to read, but that my taste in books is anything but intellectual. I have to think all day long at work; I'm not really interested in reading books "for fun" that take a great deal of concentration and thought. I don't want to be depressed when a book is over, and I don't want to spend a lot of time reading any one book. Learning something is ok, but don't make me work too hard at it, and entertain me in the process.

One genre I've explored lately has been Christian fiction. Most of these books are written by women, and I'm sure the audience is mostly female as well. They are largely romance novels with chase heroines who discover faith as well as love. They are generally right on par, literature wise, with the paperback novels you buy in the grocery store or Wal-Mart, some of which (especially lately, those written by Debbie Macomber) are also on my reading list. This past weekend however, I found one that is a step above that. It was still an easy read with a happy ending, but the characters were well developed, the story compelling and while the end was never really in doubt, the story was anything but sacchrine sweet. The books was Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. It was the Biblical book of Hosea re-written and set in Gold Rush California. In both books the hero follows God's command and takes a prostitute as his wife. In both books, the prostitute leaves him several times over, and he seeks her out and brings her back.

It was interesting to read this story of a woman who keeps fighting against all the good someone is trying to give her and who, much as she hates her old life, isn't ready to give it all up. How much do I fight against what is good for me, what God wants for me?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Posada


Last year I blogged that I was disappointed that our parish no longer did Christmas pagents. We got a new DRE this year, and the pagents, while changed, are back. Our pastor wants us to celebrate Advent, not Christmas, during Advent, so that does limit us somewhat, but our new DRE had the kids do a Posada during the last religion class. This is a Hispanic tradition during which people pretending to be Mary and Joseph go from place to place knocking on doors, and being turned away, until the end when they are let in. While I think the execution could be improved (they had a hundred or so people walking from place to place on the church grounds and with the exception of a few, they couldn't see or hear Mary, Joseph or the people turning them away) I'm glad they chose to do something--especially since my daughter was picked to be Mary.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

More Fluff

I read two fluffy novels this weekend. I read Sisterchicks Do the Hula and Country Brides. Country Brides is by Debbie Macomber and is the story of two women who (gasp) fall in love and get married. One of them kind of reminded me of myself. She had a guy who wanted to marry her, but she didn't want to give up her independence. She was also suffering from a broken heart, which wasn't an issue for me, but I know my husband has told me he would have proposed long before he did except he kept getting mixed signals (probably because I was giving out mixed signals). I did like my independence, but its funny, I never really felt like I lost it when I got married. If I had to pick one best day of my life, it would be my wedding day. Most other milestone days either involved saying goodbye to something like school, or involved at least some pain, like childbirth. I didn't realize it at the time, but I didn't lose anything, I gained a great guy!

Sisterchicks is about two college roommates and longtime friends who go to Hawaii to celebrate their 40th birthday. Between the time the trio (without husbands or kids) is planned and the time it happens, one of them ends up pregnant. Anyway, the book chronicles their week in Hawaii and how they decided to embrace changes in their lives. Its a happy read but has some interesting thoughts in it.

Both are on my Bookmooch list

Friday, November 23, 2007

A Voice from the Past

I was at my dad's house yesterday. I was looking at my parents' wedding album and I found an unfinished letter in it. The letter was dated 11/5/05 and was written by my mother. I suspect it was in the album because they were living at my brother's at the time and I had found the album intact at their house post Katrina and had brought it to her. Anyway it was to a cousin she hadn't seen in years and was kind of a recap of her life since leaving for college. She talked about their Air Force years as being good ones and about moving to Long Beach and falling in love with the place. She talked about her diagnosis and the fact that at that point she really couldn't do anything. I suspect she was going to write more but that's about the time her REAL downward spiral started--not that she had been well for a long time, but she was in the hospital about that time, had bronchitis at Thanksgiving that year, was able to enjoy Christmas but ended up in the hospital for the last time a the end of January, coming home on hospice care.

It was nice to see her writing again; it was kind of like hearing her voice. When I was in college, long distance calls were still expensive, and therefore, at least in my family, pretty rare. Mom wrote to me every week, and I wrote back. Its funny, I asked her to save my letters since I figured they'd be a nice diary of that time of my life, but I never thought to save hers. Now, I kind of wish I had. I miss her so much.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Some Foolishness

I've been trying to write more often, however that often means that I have something less than profound to say. This is something written by someone I knew (slightly--it was a small school, I knew just about all the dorm students' names) in college and we W alums try to suport each other: http://www.simonsezsanta.com/index.php

Sunday, November 11, 2007

How Much Do You Love Your Spouse?

A college friend of mine has breast cancer. She lives in Honduras and had the lump removed there but decided to come here for a second opinion. She spent last week having tests and meeting with doctors. Her husband came with her. They said that the doctor told her husband "Now is when you find out how much you really love your wife". It is so easy to take our loved ones for granted, but when faced with the possibility of losing them we realize how much they mean to us. All indications now are that my friend will be find, but keep her in your prayers.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

MY pink book

I got a bookmooch book in the mail today. It is Debbie Macomber's Changing Habits and it is about three women who enter the convent in the 50's and 60's and leave in the 70's. Even though all the women end up leaving, the book paints their convent life in a reasonably positive fashion--as opposed to some nun novels that make the convent seem like another word for jail. I enjoyed the book an one day it may be on my bookmooch list, but not right now. You see, this isn't my book, it belongs to my youngest.

When I was opening the package today she was there and asked for the pink book. I gave it to her, figuring that she'd tire of it soon enough, since it is totally devoid of pictures. She took it into her room and picked it up in there and started to read it. I set it down, she picked it up and took it back. I put her to bed and reclaimed my book. I read in bed for a few minutes before leaving for adoration. I left the book on my bed and when I got home it wasn't there anymore. I went into the bathroom and noted that she'd been in there. I went into her room and there next to her on the bed was the pink book. Since I'm finished with it, I guess I'll give it back.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

How is Your Vocabulary?

Go to http://www.freerice.com and take the vocabulary quiz. You not only get to learn how smart you are, but in doing so you donate rice to the UN to feed the poor. My score was 41, what's yours?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

I Guess I'm on Track




Your Life is 17% Off Track



No doubt about it, you are living the right life.

You've made some great decisions, and they've definitely paid off.

Keep it up. You're on the right track!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Book Review: A Merry Heart

Well, I didn't start out to write a book review blog, but that's what this has turned into. Oh well, my latest read is called A Merry Heart by Wanda E Brunstetter. It is an Amish romance novel. I've read several books she wrote about the Amish but frankly they aren't that well done. She recycles her characters (this is the third one I've read) at different points in their lives but the books are all obviously set in the present. This one mentions a reporter taking a picture of the main character with a digital camera. That wouldn't be a problem except that one event in the book is that a child is injured and paralyzed. In other books this child is a young adult, and, later, a grandmother. Anyway, except that it is set in Amish country, this is the basic book about a young woman jilted by her first love who closes off herself to love but is eventually wooed and won by the shy guy who loved her all along. It's on BookMooch if you want it.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Yarn Shop Books

I mooched a couple of books from Renee. They are by the same author as Morning Comes Softly reviewed earlier. They are titled A Good Yarn and The Shop on Blossom Street. They are feel-good chick-lit. Both books are set in a yarn shop in Seattle and focus on the lives and friendships between the owner of the yarn shop and members of a class she teaches. There is nothing very deep about the books, and stuff almost works out too well, but hey, I read for entertainment and its nice to be left smiling, not crying.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Mourning

The confirmation program in our parish requires Catholic school students to attend the Lifeteen Mass once a month, and the Lifenight that follows. This was the week and I took my son to mass tonight. Since I never quite outgrew youth masses, I stayed. Part of autism is sensory sensitivity--in short loud music hurts his ears. The work-around we've found for the Lifeteen mass is to let him sit in the cryroom, where the music all comes in over the speaker, and where the speaker has a volume control knob. I asked if he wanted me to sit with him and he said no, so I sat in the pew. Behind me were a couple of pews of high school kids behaving badly, whispering and giggling during mass. Its times like that, when surrounded by normal high school kids that my son's handicap hits me the hardest. I found myself wishing he was back there cutting up with the other kids.

People who write stuff for the parents of handicapped kids sometimes say that you have to let yourself mourn for the kid you didn't have, and maybe that's what I was doing tonite, because after communion the tears flowed. At this point, we really don't know what the future holds, he has some real strengths--he is kind, he is smart, he isn't easily led to do things he knows he shouldn't (one advantage to not noticing coolness). On the other hand, school gets more difficult every year. He isn't showing the ability to stick with a task or self direct. He has no social skills. It's hard to see him holding down a real job. Sometimes he seems almost normal, other times it seems like he is so different from the other kids. The last few months have been really tough especially.

In tonights homily Fr. was telling us that ways of dealing with problems like anger, passive agression, avoidance etc. were harmful to us and didn't help--what helps is asking for help in prayer and of people we love. I have been praying about this more lately, I guess I need to keep it up and let Him lead us on this journey.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Book Review: Morning Comes Softly

Just so you don't think all my reading is religious or serious, this review is of a nice fluffy romance novel, Morning Comes Softly. A rancher in Montana inherits his nephews and niece when his brother and sister-in-law are killed in a car accident. He finds it impossible to take care of them and impossible to hire help--the agency told him he was looking for a wife, not a housekeeper. Therefore, he placed a personal ad for a wife to take care of the house and kids. His ad is answered by an old-maid librarian from Louisiana. She moves to Montana, marries him and then, of course, they fall in love.

One thing I found interesting is what she told her best friend. She said "They need me". I know the book is fiction, and it is set in pretty much the modern day, but I wonder if a lot of us wouldn't be happier if we concentrated on meeting the needs of others, rather than worrying about what we can get. My dad is into geneology. During his research he found out about this guy who lived around the turn of the century. He was a widower with small kids. One day he went to this strange woman's house. Before he knocked on the door, he looked in the window. What he saw must have been ok, because he knocked on the door and when she open, he introduced himself as a friend of a friend and then proposed. Though she hadn't been a widow very long, she accepted. The fact of the matter was they needed each other. He couldn't take care of the farm and watch the kids and fix the meals, and she couldn't watch the kids and make the meals, and work in the fields at the same time. They managed to have several more kids, so they must not have found each other too rupulsive.

Anyway, the book is on my Bookmooch list and is a good fluffy read. However if sex scenes offend you, don't get it, there are a couple, but they happen after marriage.

Book Review: For the Love of God

This book is subtitled "The Faith and Future of the American Nun". It is written by someone who says she was raised by an a non-practicing Jew and a non-practicing Lutheran. She claims no real religious faith and until she researched this book she had little knowlege of or contact with nuns. She says this allows her to be unbiased, but her bias toward feminism and away from the institutional church shows. She states that her research showed that only contemplative orders were getting new recruits these days. She talked to a lot of old ladies, some nuns and some ex-nuns. She offered an interesting glimpse into their lives, but I think her conclusion that vowed women in active ministry were on their way out is premature.

Book Review: The How-To Book of the Mass

This book by Michael Dubrueil is a clear well-written guide to something that is so familiar to us Catholics that we can take it for granted--the mass. He takes each section, tells us why we do what we do, quotes the Catechism and scripture and even has some cute drawings. He also gives some meditations throughout the book. I enjoyed it and may have even learned something. Its on my bookmooch list.

Friday, October 12, 2007

I Got a Bargain!

Today I had to drive to Baton Rouge on business. The courthouse in BR is about 1.5 hrs from my office, if there is no construction and if everyone has managed to keep his/her car from crashing. Between here and there is a large outlet mall. I'd say I average 4-6 BR trips per year but usually they end up being at times or on days when I can't stop. However, as today is Friday, I didn't have to get home to do homework, and I was up there late enough that I couldn't have picked up kids if I had wanted to--so I called my husband to tell him I wanted to stop and shop. Of course I found stuff for everyone but me. My best deal was in the Children's Place outlet. They had a bunch of skirts and tops for $2.99 each. I got some for each of my girls, and they almost match. They each got a leopard print skirt (but the prints are a little different from each othe) and a brown corduroy skirt (slightly different styles) and some matching tops. The girls were excited with their haul, but when I pointed out that lovely feature, my older daughter said she'd never wear matching clothes. I told her every mother got to do that at least once--and that I wanted to get their pictures taken together in matching clothes. I think she'll humor me once.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Math Help

When my son was younger, my husband would be the math homework helper. He has more of a natural knack for it, likes it etc., whereas I never saw math as anything but work. However, last year algebra stumped him, and since I hadn't followed it from the beginning, it stumped me too. This year my son is taking geometry, and I've been following it closely since the beginning, and I'm surprised at how much of it is coming back reasonably easily. However, I find a lot of instances that I can find the answer, but can't really explain HOW I know those angles are the same--I just know. Well, today I was checking one study guide while he was working another, and using his book as a reference so I started googling the concepts that were giving me trouble and I found a really neat math site. It is called Purple Math and while it mainly covers algebra, some geometry is there too. They also have a links page that I'll be exploring.

Right now we are trying to decide where my son is going to school next year. The school he attends now offers only an academic curriculum. They offer basic (not as hard as college prep) classes, but next year, if there he will take Algebra II (he got through Algebra I, with the help of a tutor, with a D- in summer school), Chemistry (I got through it with a C, which for me was a bad grade), a foreign language (I took Latin only, and he isn't interested in trying that), English, Religion, US History, and two other classes--and there don't seem to be any vo-tech type classes on the list. Basically I suspect that the classes that will give him the most trouble are classes I'm least able to help him with--and least interested in re-learning. If I could figure that it would be a lot of work, but at the end of the road he'd be ready for college if that was his choice, then maybe I could see it as worth it. However, realistically speaking, his grades aren't going to land him in any college except our local community college--and my guess is that they'd put him in remedial classes. On the other hand, I could send him to our local public school. Its reputation isn't the greatest, but I've generally been happy with the public schools we've used, though none of our friends has every set foot in one (unless they are people we've met through school). They have vocational courses, which I figure should at least get him a job when he gets out of school. He can still take the academic classes if he wants to (and some he will have to take) but he will have other options. He can get more special ed support. He'll get home much earlier in the afternoon, and it will cost a whole lot less. Can you tell which way I'm leaning?

Monday, October 08, 2007

I Don't Know What the Answer Is

One article getting play in a lot of newspapers and on-line forums recently is about some old nuns in California who are being evicted from a small home which the diocese owns and plans to sell to help finance the settlement with sex-abuse victims. It is a shame that these ladies are being made to move, and I'd presume they were engaged in some sort of ministry in the area which may suffer if they aren't able to find other quarters nearby. However, with few exceptions, it doesn't matter what the diocese does to get the money to pay those victims, someone would be hurt. If they lay people off, then they are hurting those people and their families--and probably cutting services since you would assume those people did something all day. If you close parishes, even underused ones, you are selling our heritage, destroying communities and all sorts of other things. If you sell property (unless it is the bishop's residence or possibly the chancery office) then you are evicting someone. If you spend money in the bank, then donors or thier families complain that they had other things in mind when they donated the money.

I think in some way, we'd all like to see those responsible for this mess punished. It would be great if we could take something away from the perpetrator priests and/or the bishops who covered for them and give it to those who were hurt--that makes us feel just. However, when they come to us and say "We want you to give something up to compensate those who someone else, someone you trusted (or maybe you didn't) but had no control over, hurt" then our hands cover our wallets and we say "Why us?"

Maybe we should just take it as a lesson in the effects of sin, and remember that we are one church, and that what you do does effect me.

The Not So Funny Pages

As I suspect is true at many houses, the comics are the most read section of the paper here, and everyone has his/her favorites. Two of mine are "For Better For Worse" and "Funky Winkerbean". Those of you who read them now understand the title of this post. Funky Winkerbean, which for those who don't read it, is about a group of people who went to high school together who are now, I'd guess, in their late 30's to early 40's. The most recent story line has been about Lisa, the nerdy girl from high school who was impregnanted and dumped by the captain of the rival school's football team, who just died from breast cancer. She left behind her husband Les (high school nerd who married her years later) and her daughter Summer. In the last few months she has discovered that her breast cancer, which she beat a few years ago, has come back, she found the son she gave up for adoption and has gone through the dying process. The last few days the calendar has sped foward ten years and Les is on the couch in the shrink's office telling him about her last days and the days thereafter. Its not exactly funny stuff. For Better for Worse is about a Canadian dentist's family and their friends. Last week Grandpa had his second stroke and they are now talking about moving him to a long-term care facility.

I've never had to watch someone close to me die of cancer. My father-in-law was diagnosed with lung cancer shortly before he died of complications from a stoke following chemotherapy, but it was less than a month from cancer diagnosis to death, and about two weeks from stroke to death. However, I did watch my mom die, and other than the pain, I guess there really wasn't that much difference. Slowly her body basically shut down to the point that she couldn't walk or even get in and out of the bathtub, with help. A week or so ago, we could see that Lisa was wearing a diaper. She was in a wheelchair the last time we saw her out of bed. I read an interview with the author some time ago in which he stated that Lisa would die, so why do I keep reading? Why does my other favorite strip have to be starting what I'm sure isn't going to be a thread with a happy ending (well, I guess going to heaven is happy, but the strip is seen through the eyes of those left behind).

Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Millionaire Next Door

The Millionaire Next Door was my weekend read. I was expecting to learn something about financial planning, but the book said I was on the right track and to me most of what they said was just common sense to me. They said you should have a net worth, not counting what you inherited, of 1/10 your age times your yearly income. Using my husband's age (since he's older) we comfortably make that standard--which I think is good since I computed it on our present income and he just got a substantial raise. Surprisingly enough, in looking at net worth, it seems that what you spend is more important than what you make. In other words, there are plenty of high-income people with low net worths--they spend it as fast if not faster than they make it. The basic thesis of the book is live beneath your means, save your money, budget, invest for the long term in things you know and don't teach your kids to spend too much money. If you are interested, the book in now on my bookmooch list.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Mathetes Awards

The description of the award from the originating website reads:Mathetes is the Greek word for disciple, and the role of the disciple (per the Great Commission) it to make more disciples. I'd like to take the opportunity to award five other bloggers with this award and badge for acting in the role of a disciple of Christ. These five all share the message in their own creative ways, and I admire them all for what they do.In the spirit of this award, the rules are simple. Winners of this award must pick five other "disciples" to pass it on to. As you pass it on, I just ask that you mention and provide links for (1)the originator of the award (Dan King of management by God), (2) the person that awarded it to you (Michelle of Deo Gratia) and then (3) name and sites of the five that you believe are fulfilling the role of a disciple of Christ. If you know of other deserving recipients of this award, and would like to start a new string, then please post a link to where you've started in in the comments to this post. I would love for many deserving bloggers to be blessed with this recognition.

Ok, I copied everything above from Michelle's site and just edited it. I don't have a lengthy list of blogs I read regularly, but let's see who I can name:
Renee
Elena
Toni
Janette

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Fall Reading Challange


I saw this on Michele's blog and thought I'd play too.

1. The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen

2. The Lamb's Supper by Scott Hahn

3. Animals in Translation by Temple Grandin

4. The How To Book of the Mass by Michael Debruiel

5. The Englisher by Beverly Lewis

6. The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas Stanley

7. Founding Mothers by Linda Grant De Pauw

8. Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis

9. Adolescents on the Autism Spectrum by Chantal Sicile-Kira

10. Crescent & Star Turkey Between Two Worlds by Stephen Kinzer

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Judge Not....

It seems to me that some of non-Christians' (or non-practicing Christians') favorite Bible verses are those about not judging--take the plank out of your own eye etc. In other words, they like to say what amounts to "How dare you say that what I'm doing is wrong". Is that what Jesus really meant when He said not to judge? I don't think so. He says time and again that we are to avoid sin, and in order to avoid sin, you have to be able to name it, to identify it. The fact that it makes you feel good, the fact that everyone does it, the fact that it would cause you pain to avoid it; none of these change a sinful action into a non-sinful one--nor does the fact that I"ve never been in a position to want to commit that sin.

Free Music

I don't have an I-Pod. I play CD's on my computer, the few that I have. I have a box of albums in the garage, and keep saying that one day I'll get a new needle for the record player so I can play them. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm not the world's biggist music fan, nor do I know anything about who is cool today. However, I did buy my daughter an mp3 player (less than $30.00) for her birthday and then went looking for music to put on it. I looked at Napster and Rhapsody, but from what I could tell, they wanted a monthy subscription fee and the music wouldn't work anymore if you quit paying it--which didn't seem like a good deal to me. I found Wal-Mart.com that allowed downloads for $0.88 each and that did seem like a good deal so I gave her a spending limit and told her to have fun--and she was able to find songs she liked. This week I found what to me seems like an even better deal--SpiralFrog. You can go there and download all the songs you want at no cost. The only hitch is that you have to come back to the site monthly to renew your membership. Things I've read about it say that they don't have as many songs as some of the other sites, so maybe it won't meet everyone's needs, but I was able to finds some of the things (ok, sappy oldies) I wanted. The site is ad-supported but I didn't find the ads intrusive (though I wouldn't be surprised if they become more intrusive as time goes on). Check it out, the music is not pirated, the artists are paid and they do have a big variety of music.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Friday, September 14, 2007

Keep Saying Yes

If you've been reading this for a while, you know that in January (yes, nine months ago) I started Weight Watchers. I followed the plan pretty closely and lost weight easily for several months. I now weigh about forty pounds less than I did then. Unfortunately I still have at least 10 pounds to go, and really, I'd like to lose another 20-30. However, I'm sick of watching everything that goes into my mouth. I've said before that if I preferred salad and exercise to dessert and web-surfing, I wouldn't have a weight problem.

I was at adoration tonite and looking up at the crucifix and it hit me that not only did Jesus not have to get in that position to start with--He could have hidden Thursday nite, told Pilate or Herod what they wanted to hear, or just used his God powers to wipe everyone out--He didn't have to stay on the cross once He got there. As humans we have free will, but our will is often thwarted by the will of others, but in this case He always had free will, He could have come down at any time, but chose not to.

What do the preceding paragraphs have in common? I'm having trouble continuing to say "yes" to what I know I should do, not only with the diet but also some other things in my life. I know I should do them, I want to do them (at least sort of) but it is so much easier and more pleasurable to say "no" rather than "yes". I need to remember that He continued to say "yes" until His last breath.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Wanna Buy a New Widget?

If you want to buy a new widget (or computer, or camera or .....) check out Summize.com. Research Buzz turned me on to it. Basically it is a search engine that pulls together product reviews from all over the web so you can easily click from one to the other. I just checked out my digital camera and for the most part, agreed with the reviews I found.

Stuff for the Kids

Printable Center has all sorts of ideas and printable worksheets for kids. My three year old wants to do homework with the big ones (I guess she's figured out that is the best way to get attention in the evening) so here is some I can print. The site also has craft ideas and more. It is covered with ads, but the activities don't have ads on them, that I've seen. Thanks to Research Buzz for the link.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Shunning

My latest Bookmooch finds are books by Beverly Lewis about the Amish. High quality literature they are not, but they are entertaining, easy to read and, if reasonably accurate, give me some insight into a society that has intrigued me since I read Plain Girl as a pre-teen. Lewis' books are series Christian fiction so religion plays a part in them, and the books are part of a set of books which all have the same characters and reference each others plot lines,and though she tried to give enough details about the previous story to make the present one make sense, in my opinion, she doesn't always succeed.

Anyway, this post isn't so much a book review as it is a pondering about the role of the community in helping other members maintain their fidelity to the standards of that community. Like Catholics, according to Lewis, the Amish do not believe in "once saved, always saved" but rather see salvation as a goal to be reached, through the grace of God, by living the life to which God calls us. Lewis sees this as a works-based salvation, and in my experience, her favored characters realize that they have to accept Jesus and are saved by that. I mention this because one thing I've noted in her books about the Amish is that there is almost always a shunned character. In my understanding, if a baptized Amish (they are baptized generally as young adults, after classes to make sure they know what they are doing) persists in sin--including sins such as leaving the Amish lifestyle for a modern one--the community shuns the person. They do not speak to the person, or eat with him/her or otherwise treat him/her like anything but a stranger. If the person is living with other Amish, those people will set a separate table for the one shunned. There are two purposes for the shunning: to keep the person's sin from infecting the community and spreading and to encourage the person to repent and give up his/her sinful choices. In her books, Lewis always shows shunning as hurting the loved ones as much if not more than the ones shunned, and while my memory may fail me, I don't think her characters are ever moved to repentance by it. I wonder though how often it is used in real life, and how well it works.

I say that because to some extent all societies use social pressure to get people to conform to their norms. You don't realize how many "rules" there are until you have an autistic kid who keeps breaking them--and who pays the social cost. Have you ever thought about the fact that you don't walk down the street waving your arms in the air or stretching them over your head? Think of all the fashion rules that even the most unhip among us obey daily--and know when to disobey. In what ways are you allowed to express your displeasure when in public? The penalty for disobeying all these unwritten, and sometimes contradictory rules is social isolation--not a formal shun like the Amish have, but rather the isolation caused by people avoiding the "weirdo". But back to what I was thinking about earlier--to what extent should we use social pressure to get people to behave in a moral manner. Catholics have never shunned to the extent that the Amish do, but my parents have told me that when they were kids, no Catholic would dream of going to a wedding of a Catholic that was held outside a church. Unwed mothers were shunted off to maternity homes and practically forced to put their kids up for adoption. Divorcees were considered to be of questionable character--and don't even go there regarding homosexual behavior. Certain things were held to be right, others wrong and social pressure was used to encourage (or perhaps berate) people into following the religious and moral norms. Today however, the opposite seems to be true. It seems we are all afraid of being judgmental and are all trying to be open, loving people, such that as a society we don't stand up and say "this is wrong and we won't tolerate it" to sinful behaviors, even to the extent that we do to "weird" behaviors. Have we quit shunning sinful behavior because we believe shunning is bad, or because we don't believe the sinful behavior is bad?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Katrina--Two Years Later

Well, I live in metro New Orleans so I guess that's what I'm supposed to write about. Two years ago tonite I was at my sister's in Atlanta watching the news as this monster storm was heading for my home. Luckily, we escaped her major wrath, and our lives returned to "the new normal" as quickly as anyone's did. My husband and I returned to our jobs a month after the storm, and by January, all was normal with them. My new normal means that I now spend as much time working on hurricane cases of one sort or another as I do working car accident or slip and fall cases, but the legal field has managed to make lemonade out of all the economic problems I've seen in this area in the last twenty years. I've posted pictures on this blog showing the recovery in various parts of town, and my last drive through the area pretty much told the same story. Most people in Jefferson Parish, the western suburb in which I live, have completed repairs, though there are still a few FEMA trailers around. In New Orleans, Lakeview, the wealthy area innundated with flood water from the broken levee is on the rebound, and that rebound often means that the old house has been demolished and a new larger one is going up. Gentilly, a less wealthy neighborhood next to Lakeview, still has a lot of gutted homes without much action. The Ninth Ward seems devoid of life in many places. St. Bernard Parish has lots of trailers. It will be smaller, but I think it will come back. New Orleans East looks like a ghost town.

One question many of you may ask is "What is taking so long". In short, the problem is money. Most of the damage from Katrina was caused by flood, and floods aren't covered under homeowner's insurance. Most people with mortgages on their homes had flood insurance, but unlike homeowner's insurance where most people who can afford it buy replacement cost coverage, flood insurance only pays the face value of the policy, and only pays depreciated cost. Also, the maximum amount of flood insurance available was $250,000, unless you bought excess coverage--and most agents weren't aware that excess was available because most people had homeowner's with an agent who worked for one company like Allstate or State Farm, and those companies didn't sell excess flood insurance. Also, for most people, "flood" meant you had to pull the carpet, cut out four feet of sheet rock, and get new bottem cabinets. If they skimped on insurance, this was a reasonabe place to do so. I worked on three files today regarding houses that had ten feet of water in them. They were knocked off their foundations, and filled with water which sat there for weeks. All the contents were a total loss. The interiors had to be torn out down to the studs and the plumbing and wiring had to be redone. The damages were estimated at over $120,000 for a 1200 sq ft house ($100/sq. foot seems to be a benchmark figure). The owners were paid their policy limts of $60.000 on the flood claim. They got about $10.000 on the homeowners claim because the insurance company said all damages except to the roof were caused by flood. In short, they have $70,000 to repair a house that will cost $120,000 to repair/replace. Actually, they don't even have that because the mortgage company took that those checks and paid off the mortgage. So now these people, who weren't wealthy to begin with, and who have lost EVERYTHING they own--and maybe their jobs too, though at this point jobs are pretty easy to get, have to go out to get a mortgage to build a new house or renovate the old one, a job which costs a pretty penny more than it did before Katrina. They have to decide whether to rebuild in the old neighborhood--and hope that the neighbors do too or whether to move to another area or out of the city totally. While the wait for contractors has gone down, the good ones still have waiting lists. Road Home is passing out money, but none too quickly--and often those grants have to go to repay money already received from another source like SBA loans.

I had to call the courthouse today on another matter and the clerk to whom I spoke said people were lined up out the door. Today is the deadline to file suit for Katrina damages, and people are doing it. Everyone is hoping to get their insurance companies to foot more of the cost of repairs--and complaining about the high cost of homeower's insurance. I'm sure my office will be deluged in new hurricane cases in a few weeks. At mass every week we pray "Through the intercession of Our Lady of Prompt Succor may we be spared all loss of life and property this hurricane season" and that is my prayer tonite.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Another Book: Pledged

Pledged, The Secret Life of Sororities is my latest read. As indicated by the title, it is about college sororities. While not telling exactly how she did it, the author got several Sophomore sorority members at a state university to speak with her and/or she infiltrated the sororities in some manner and then wrote about these girls' year in the sorority. At that school, rush is after Christmas and girls don't live in the sorority house until their sophomore year, so, while fully initiated, these girls were new to full sorority life. The author gives their school and their sororities fictional names but says that the events really happened. She follows the girls from move-in day, through parties, meetings, friendships, romance rush and initiating new members. The girls she followed seemed at least at the beginning of the book to be inside outsiders--members who didn't see themselves as inner circle members of the sorority, who considered leaving it, but who, in the end stuck it out. In general, the book paints a rather bad picture of sorority girls as drunken, sexually loose, spoiled rich girls who are mean to each other and to outsiders; yet the author also state that for two of the five girls she followed, sorority membership was a very good thing, and for the others, it wasn't really bad. From reading the book, I'd guess we don't have enough money to have to worry about my daughters joining a sorority, but if we did, and if this book paints an accurate picture, despite the fact that the book says that sorority members make higher grades and are more likely to graduate than non-members, I wouldn't want my daughter to join one. The sorority often seemed to be a high school clique on steriods and the social events were basically hanging out at a bar, drunk, and then having sex with fraternity boys. Though friendship is often touted as a reason for joining a sorority, the girls in the book seemed a lot like my college friends, in that we had two or three close friends, five to ten other "members of the gang" and had other folks on campus that we liked, and didn't like. Even though these girls were allegedly "sisters" with a whole sorority, they pretty much stuck with their little groups.

I graduated from Mississippi University for Women which was the first and last state-supported institution of higher learning exclusively for women. We didn't have sororities, we had local social clubs. They had some of the same trappings--the rush parties followed pretty much the same format as the rush parties described in the book, new members were called pledges and had to earn their membership in the group during a pledging period that included learning about the group and its history, doing activities with the group and culminating in Hell Night. They had club sweaters or sweatshirts, club mascots that cluttered their rooms, paddles and the like. They were different from sororities in that they were local and they did not have houses. While this year the school has started to house all social club members (if they want to) in one dorm, up until now, they have lived among the general student population, often rooming with members of the same club, but not always.

I started rush my freshman year because people told me it was a good way to meet people--and that's what everyone was doing then anyway. I dropped out after the first round because it was easier than dealing with the rejection I figured was coming, and I wasn't all that interested anyway. Later I realized that no one who went through rush ended up without a bid--and after I got to know my way around school I figured that there were several clubs that probably would have accepted me. I say this simply to say I was an outsider to the system. I don't know exactly what went on behind closed doors with the clubs, but I did see the public aspects of pledging, which at the W, in my day, took place during the first semester of the freshman year for most folks. The first thing I noticed is that when "the gang" got together to go to dinner it was much smaller, since the pledges were required to eat with their clubs at certain meals and tended to do so that others. These meals were in the cafeteria and they'd offer me an empty chair, but it didn't take long for me to feel like an outsider and find a group of independents to eat with. Pledges wore some type of membership symbol--usually a wooden plaque around their neck, which could be taken by an active if they broke some rules. They carried pledge books which gave the history of the clubs, their family tree, club symbols, songs etc. They had to get all the actives to sign their book. They also had silence days when pledges were required to eat with the club, but on which members did not speak to them at all. For some reason this made more than a couple of pledges cry. Pledges had to perform skits for actives at meetings. In short, with the exception of silence, I had no real problems with the pledging activities I observed or heard about and I could see that their purpose was to create a sense of group identity and to make the girls value the group.

My problem with pledging was the silence--and anything I didn't know about which made the girls subject to it unhappy or uncomfortable. I thought then, and still think now, that taking a vulnerable group of girl who were away from home for the first time, putting them in a position where you were their main support system (since you were the ones she was eating with, studying with, playing intramurals with, visiting nightly etc) and then saying that to remain part of the group you had to tolerate x, y, or z that you didn't like, was giving the actives too much power. I had a couple of friends who were "almost" members of a club. By that, I mean that they lived with members of that club, generally ate with the club members, went out with them, and were even sometimes invited to club social functions. They pledged the club as Juniors but dropped out pretty quickly. When I asked why, one said "It was a lot of hassle and I realized that the girls in the club who were my friends would stay my friends even if I dropped, and those who weren't my friends wouldn't become my friends because I was a club member." She also said that had she done this as a freshman, she would have probably stuck it out. The W also had two-year social clubs for juniors and seniors. The girls who got bids to those clubs were popular girls who, for the most part, were members of other social clubs. I heard some rumors about the awful things they had to do when pledging and since I don't know how much is fact and how much is fiction I won't repeat it here, but I will say I was never concered about those girls. I figured that if girls in those positions weren't smart enough to say "no" they deserved what they got. If my daughter went to the W today, I don't know how I'd feel about her joing a club, except that it seems better than the sorority alternative.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Book Review: Five for Sorrow Ten for Joy

I just finished a wonderful book by Rumor Godden, titled Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy. It is about a prostitute/madame who ends up as a nun. One thing I liked about the book was that when the main character, Lise, was a prostitute/madame she wasn't all bad. While rule breaking got her into that profession, she wasn't a mean, cruel person without redeeming features, and as a matter of fact, without giving the plot away, it is that good in her that causes her to go to prison--where she meets the nuns in the order she eventually joins. However, as much good as we see, we also see her grappling with her weakness as a nun. It is a story of the saving power of Christ and yet it is not a preachy book, but an enjoyable novel. It's on my Bookmooch and Swaptree lists if you want it.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Book Review: the Silence We Keep

This book, subtitled "A Nun's view of the Catholic Priest Scandal" is an all-out attack on the Catholic Church. The basis thesis around which the book is built is that the reason the the current priest scandal is that the horrible patriarchial church has forced celibacy on this group of men who accept it (or more precisely prentend to accept it) in return for the power, both sacramental and personal, of the priesthood. The author begins by saying that the early church was home-based, and all believers were equal, and there was no ordained priesthood. That, she says, came later, about 100 A.C.E. (why can't a nun say A.D.?) I realize this is a book for public consumption, and not a scholarly journal article, but it would have been nice if she had quoted scripture or some other early Church writings that support her beliefs, but what we get instead is page after page of what strikes me as revisionsist history--or church history somewhat similar to that of the independent fundamentalist churches. Bascially in her version of history, all early Christian believers were equal with each other, with no hierarchy. The first pope reigned about A.D. 400. By 100, those evil males were remaking the church into the patriarcy of society. Then Augustine came around and his repressive sexual teachings have colored Catholic belief since then. Between Augustine and the desire to keep the Church from having to support the priests' families, celibacy, understood as the absence of marriage and/or sexual activity was imposed on priests as a condition of their privilege but because it wasn't freely chosen it is honored more in the breach.

The funny thing is though, she says that for women religious (nuns) celibacy is freeing. Nuns, she states, generally freely choose celibacy and don't long for sex. They channel that energy into other things.

She goes through the same old tired arguments about the Dark Ages and the Inquisition and concludes that the priesthood as we know it must come to an end and the priesthood of all believers will be restored. At least Jack Chick proclaims himself to be anti-Catholic. I'm not sure why she still claims to be Catholic. Anyway, the book is now on my Bookmooch and Swaptree lists.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Book Review: here. now.

here. now. a catholic guide to the good life is by Amy Welborn whose Open Book weblog is one of the heavy hitters in the Catholic Blogosphere. Amy is a former high school teacher who is married to another Catholic author, Michael Debruil. They live in Indiana. She has three kids from her first marriage and two young ones from her current marriage. This book was written for young adults, basically to tell them that the way to a good life is through the Catholic church. The title is indicative of the writing style--choppy. saving on words, but getting the message across. She addresses the need for the institutional church, the sacraments, and talks about developing a prayer life. Like most books like this, I think everyone can find something that sets off a lightbulb. For me, in this book, that moment was when she discussed suffering. She said "In fact, most of our sins--most of our many steps backward, away from God--come about because we'd rather not suffer, thanks." She goes on to talk about suffering in scripture and then finishes the chapter by saying "Yes, suffering is a part of a disciple's life, and its presnce demands a question. Just be careful that you ask the right one. Be careful that you're not asking , 'will this choice help me avoid suffering?' but rather: 'Will this choice bring me closer to the good life that God calls me to--no matter if I suffer on the way or not?'".
The book is on my Bookmooch list and my Swaptree list.

Swaptree

Elena at My Domestic Church turned me on to Swaptree. It is another trading site, but instead of just dealing in books, it deals in books, computer games, dvds and cd's. I've been playing around on it tonite because my son wants new computer games for old. So far, I prefer the instant gratification of Bookmooch but if I was more into computer games or dvds I might like this better. Basically you go in and create a list of items you are willing to trade. As you enter them, the system tells you whether anyone wants them right now, such that a trade can be arrange, and what you can trade for. Items trade 1 for 1 so if you won't trade that paperback for a dvd, don't enter it (though you aren't under any obligation to make any particular trade). The system will find three way trades--where you send something to me, I send something to a third person who sends something to you. If you send something out, you get something in return, that's the good part. The bad part is that it can take a lot of entering to find something that makes a match. You also do an "i want" list so that if I enter something you want, they can try to set up a match. I entered a bunch of stuff tonite, including three of my son's games and his two summer reading books. There were a few games for which he could trade (basically one guy wanted it and had three up as trades) and the most hits came from Travels with Charley--but since the books offered in trade were mainly kids' books, I wonder if they were kids looking for books for summer reading assignments, who wouldn't be interested in trading now. Take a look, see if you like it.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

A Different Perspective

I go to mass every Sunday. I read scripture frequently, but only short passages. Lately I've gotten a little different perspective. As noted in my prior post, I've been spending time on a treadmill. To pass the time I took some tapes my husband bought years ago (and which have sat on the bookshelf since then) of the New Testament and have been playing them. Tonite I finished the Gospel of Matthew. Most of it is very familiar, these are stories I know. What I've found interesting is hearing so much of it in such a short period of time. Hearing this story this week and that story next week you don't get the sense of the whole that you do hearing that much that fast. I knew for example that the story of Jesus feeding the crowd with the loaves and fishes was in more than one gospel. I didn't realize that Matthew said it happened twice--in Matthew 14:
15
When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said, "This is a deserted place and it is already late; dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves."
16 (Jesus) said to them, "There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves." 17 But they said to him, "Five loaves and two fish are all we have here." 18
Then he said, "Bring them here to me," 19 and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking 5 the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. 20
They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over 6 --twelve wicker baskets full. 21 Those who ate were about five thousand men, not counting women and children

Matthew 15:
32 Jesus summoned his disciples and said, "My heart is moved with pity for the crowd, for they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, for fear they may collapse on the way." 33 The disciples said to him, "Where could we ever get enough bread in this deserted place to satisfy such a crowd?" 34 Jesus said to them, "How many loaves do you have?" "Seven," they replied, "and a few fish." 35 He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground. 36 Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, gave thanks, 14 broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. 37
They all ate and were satisfied. They picked up the fragments left over--seven baskets full. 38
Those who ate were four thousand men, not counting women and children

Just an observation I'd never made before.

My New Toy

Last weekend I bought a treadmill. I checked out the stores and then found something acceptable on Craigslist for about half the cost of the low-end models. I figure that way if it ends up being a dust collector, I don't have as much invested. However, I want to keep exercising even though school has started and my early evenings are filled with homework. I've decided that 30 minutes a nite is doable--enough to make a difference yet not so much as to consume the night. Of course treadmills are boring so I play beat the clock, trying to get more mileage in the same time. Hopefully soon I'll be up to 2 miles in 30 minutes. Tonite I made 1.9.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Catholic Blogosphere

A few weeks ago I was clicking links and reading random blogs listed on the Catholic Blog Directory. I found one I liked, and I'd love to give you a link, but I can't remember what it was. In order to find it again, I'm methodically going through the list in reverse alphabetical order. I've made it through z, y, x, w, v, u and t. One think I find so interesting is how different Catholic bloggers are from people I know in real life. "Everyone" is so excited about the Pope's recent document expanding access to the old Latin mass. "All" the moms stay home and homeschool. Large families are the norm. People read philosophy and classic works that kids I went to school with bought Ciffs Notes to avoid reading. More Latin in the mass is seen as a good thing. I guess I run with the wrong crowd. I can't imagine asking my kids to sit through a Latin mass, what I've heard of Gregorian Chant all sounds the same to me--and I have no desire to hear more. My kids liked before and after school care--it was time to play with their friends. I've even tried a few pieces of classic literature as an adult, and I haven't cared for most of it any more than I did as a high school student. Hopefully I'll find that blog for which I'm searching soon.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Why Do Catholics Pray to Saints?

Why do Catholics pray to saints is a FAQ among non-Catholic Christians. I just read a book, Any Friend of God's in a Friend of Mine that is a Biblical explanation of why we do so. In short, we are all part of the Body of Christ, scripture says that we are, and that doesn't exclude those in heaven. We are urged to intecede for each other and that branch of the family isn't excluded. The author, Patrick Madrid also takes on other questions like the use of relics, Purgatory and statues and images. It's a quick, easy informative read, and now it is on my Bookmooch list.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Siblings

I'm the oldest of five kids, four stairsteps and a caboose. I wouldn't say any of us are particularly close, though I can't imagine us getting into some of the hateful fights I've seen some families enter. My kids however are close and to me it is a joy to watch. My son has always been very attached to me, so we were worried about how he'd deal with his new sister. The worries were for naught--he was crazy about her. As his interests become narrower and hers become more broad they don't spend as much time together, but on the other hand, they don't fight. I was at a meeting at school one day discussing my son and someone asked about their relationship. I said that their interaction was as close to normal interaction as he would achieve. They would truly engage in cooperative vs parallel play. Then the speech therapist, who saw them both (she had picked up a few of his articulation problems) said "they are so sweet, and so cute together but definitely NOT normal". Basically he won't fight with her.

The girls too are close, even though they are nine years apart. The older one was on a Girl Scout trip to Washington DC last week and the baby really missed her. She was so thrilled when my husband brought her sister home last night and this morning the two of them were reading and I heard the older one tell the baby "I really missed you".

Buy One, Get Two Free

My son and I cleaned off his bookshelf yesterday. I took the books I have no intention of keeping for my daughters and added them to my Bookmooch list. If you mooch any book from me (kid's or adult's) and then email me with the name of two kids' books you want, I'll add them to the package at no point cost to you.

Friday, August 03, 2007

SPOILER ALERT!!!!!

Ok, I assume that if you are still reading this you either 1) have finished H.P. and the Deathly Hallows 2) don't care if you find out what happens before you finish it or 3) don't have any intention of reading it. If you haven't finished it, and don't want to know what happens, then please, quit reading now


Still here? Ok, here is my take on the book. It was good, not great, but good. Personally, I think that standing alone, as just another book, it would have been a medicore seller at best. Because it was the last book in long series, many of us read it to see what happened to our "friends", but IMO, if you didn't already "know" the characters, the book was long, the plot lines were a bit mixed up (I still don't really "get" why the deathly hallows plot was added to the search for the horcruxes and the battle between HP and Voldemort). I couldn't get all upset about the characters she killed off--I'm sorry Fred (or was in George) died, and I'm sure his family was too, but it was kind of like the difference in reading the obits in the paper and noticing someone I used to work with, or that my parents knew, versus hearing that a close friend or relative died. None of those who died were main characters or made to be close enough to the main characters (like Sirus) that I felt any real sense of loss -- with the possible exception of Dobby. I figured before I got the book that Harry would win--the only question in my mind was whether he'd have to give his life in order to do so, and while I'm glad he didn't (and I think it is more appropriate for a children's book that he did live) somehow I think the whole book was just a little too pat.

There is a part of me that likes series fiction--those books where you meet the same characters over and over again. It's like popping into the life of old friends. I read Trixie Belden, Cherry Ames, Star Trek novels and more. The trouble with these types of books is that they get formulatic quickly and you don't know any more about the characters after reading ten books than you do after reading one. Also, the plot line usually is predictable--the characters have to win so they can come back for the next book. I think the first few HP books avoided this but I'm not so quick to say that about the last couple of books. I read somewhere that the Epilogue leaves open the possibility of following the younger generation off to Hogwarts. I think if JK Rowling wants to make even more money, that's a great idea; however, if she is interested in writing great books, I think she needs to stop, take a break, and then invent a new world and some truly new characters (I'm afraid that the second generation would have a brave loyal leader like Harry, a brainy friend and true follower engaged in a battle against the evil of the day). We'll see.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Book Review: Doc Susie

I just finished Doc Susie which I mooched, via Bookmooch from Renee. You'll note on my sidebar that it is availabe to be mooched from me. It is about a woman physician who practiced in a rural area outside of Denver CO in the early 20th century. It is a biography but it reads like a novel and shows a woman who worked hard but never made much money. Doc Susie was encourged to go to medical school by her father, who later said something to her fiance that made him leave her at the altar. She later noted about men that she couldn't get the ones she wanted and didn't want the ones who wanted her. She moved to CO as a cure for TB--when she got there she wasn't sure she was going to live. She regained her strength and lived to be over 90. The book was a quick easy interesting read about a woman with a lot of spunk who found herself giving herself to others.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Too Close for Comfort

Funny how I read about stuff that happens to other people, but it doesn't seem really real until it happens to someone I know. Today the news headlines say that Robin Roberts, the news anchor, has breast cancer. Robin Roberts is my "I knew her when..." celebrity. We lived down the street from each other in Turkey and were in the same second grade class. We lived in the same housing area in Biloxi and were in the same fifth grade class. She was smarter than I was--or at least harder working. Our dads were both in the Air Force, both retired from Keesler and when her dad died a few years ago, my parents attended his funeral. In short, while I'm sure she probably wouldn't recognize me, though she did tell my parents at the funeral that she remembered me, she's a real person to me and not just a face on TV like most celebrities are. I've known other women who got breast cancer, but they were old. Robin was a classmate. Guess I need to be careful with those exams.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Book Review: Heroes of the Faith: Mother Theresa

I just finished a book about Mother Theresa that is part of a series of books called Heroes of the Faith. A sticker on it indicated that it came from the chain of Christian bookstores that is in our mall. The list of heroes includes some familiar names such as John Bunyan, George Washington Carver, Billy Graham, Martin Luther and John Wesley and some unfamiliar ones like Amy Carmichaell, George Muller, Watchman Nae and Mary Slessor. It is obviously not a Catholic series and the author of this book was obviously not Catholic, often referring to mass as "a religious service". That being said, for a kids' book it wasn't too bad. I learned a lot about Mother Teresa and there was no Catholic bashing. The language was somewhat stilted, which is often a problem when books are written for kids by less talented writers. In other words, this was no classic, but it was a quick easy read about a wonderful woman. If you want it, it is on my bookmooch list.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

What a Difference a Year Makes

We just returned from Pigeon Forge TN, which for those of you unfamiliar with the area, is just down the road from Smokey Mountain National Park. Last year we stayed in Gatlinburg, which is between Pigeon Forge and the park. We did a lot of the same things, including hiking trails in the park which took us to waterfalls. Last year I was huffing and puffing up those hills; this year I had no problem, and was even able to tote the three year old up one trail. I even look different--I've lost 40 pounds and cut my hair. Note the before and after pictures:

Monday, July 16, 2007

KIDS!!!!

My son has been in summer school the last three weeks, taking a class he failed during the school year. I realized quickly that it wasn't going to be any better this time around, and that I needed help, since of course this is the one class I'm not capable of staying a paragraph ahead of him and helping him learn it. Unfortunatly, it took me a week to find someone, but she's been working with him for a week now. I think he is doing better, but of course I don't have all his grades yet. Tonite they were studying for the final and he had a tantrum(some people use the term "meltdown" but I call a spade a spade, and even though he is 15, not two, it looked and sounded like a tantrum). He has been having them regularly lately, particularly when overwhelmed by school. Of course, that takes valuable time away from studying. He came home with a long study guide today and I told him I'd pay for each right answer. Unfortunately, there weren't very many of them.

I have a coworker dealing with kid problems too--problems with an adult kid. It struck me that the thing driving us both up the wall is our lack of control. When the kids were little we could physically control them if nothing else. You can make a toddler pick up even if it means taking her hand, putting it on the toy and leading her to the toy box. Try that with a teen and the result will not likely be good. It is so hard when you see kids making such a mess of things. You know exactly how to fix the problem, but there comes a point where the kid has to want to do it, and if he doesn't, then all your help is in vain. I don't think my son wants to fail, but I do think he has decided he can't pass, and isn't putting forth enough effort to pass.

I've decided that I'm going to control what I can--I found and paid the tutor, and will adopt a serene attitude about what I can't control--like how well he does on this test. At least I talk a good story.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

FINALLY!!!

As my regular readers know, I've been a Weight Watcher's member since January, and I've done well on the program. However, the last few months have been rough. I was hoping to lose 40 lbs by my birthday, June 25, and then by July 4...but I finally reached that level today. I've lost just about every week, just not those 2+ pounds per week.

On the positive side, I started walking when I started the program, and around April, I started trying to run. The track by my house is 1/4 mile around, and in April, I could only jog about 1/4 of the way around it. Tonite I jogged 3/4 of a mile, after walking a mile to get there. I then walked 1/2 mile and followed that by running as fast as I could around the track, and I made it 1/2 way around it. I just hope I can keep the activity level up after school starts.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Playing PI

I'm a paralegal by profession and part of my job is discovering useful information regarding people who are suing our clients. Much of that information is available to anyone willing to spend a little money and/or time on the project. This post will give you some resources in case you ever want to play PI, whether for geneological research, to learn about the family of or your kids' (or your) newest beau, or to learn about the family that just moved in down the street.

You can start with a simple (and free) websearch on Yahoo, Google and/or other search engines. Obviously that is more effective when researching uncommon names than common ones, but if you can find someone's blog or message board posts, or email list posts, you may discover a side of them you didn't know existed. Also able to be searched for free are websites like 411.com which allows reverse phone number searches (enter the phone number, discover the owner). Many sites like this give you a little information at no cost, and then offer to sell you more. I've bitten a few times, and have been disappointed more often than happy. One site I would recommend if you want to spring for a few bucks is Knowx. Their price list is here and it is very reasonable. They let you know before you search if the area in which you are interested is available and I've found their information to be reasonably up to date.

If you don't want to spend money, there is plenty of information available on the web, but not covered by search engines. Is the person you are researching a licensed professional? Do a websearch for your state's board of _____, filling in the blank with the appropriate profession (though doctors are usually licensed by the board of medical examiners). Some of these sites even list disciplinary action and/or verified complaints against a person. A listing of physicians can be found on the AMA's website. Does your subject own a business? If so, it may be an LLC or corporation, in which case it will be listed with the Secretary of State in your state (or the state in which the business is incorporated). Do you have a library card? Check your library's website. They may have a subcription to a service such as Newsbank which archives newspapers. I can go to my library's website and search our local paper back to the early 1990's. I can see when my kids were on the honor roll and read a letter to the editor of the paper which I wrote.

Another treasure trove of information is the local courthouse. Sometimes recent information is availabe on-line without substantial cost; however, often there is a steep set-up or monthly subscription cost. You can get around this by going to the courhouse in person. Since our firm subscribes to the records of several of the loca courhouses, I can go on-line and find out whether a person has sued or been sued during the covered periods. If they have, I can get copies of what was filed (which often gives my a person's medical history, in the case of accident victims). I can see if they own property, what it was worth when they bought it, what the tax assessor says it is worth today, and how big a mortgage was taken out. If someone had a bitter divorce, there may be interesting dirt in that file too. While you may not be able to access this information on-line, you can go to your local courhouse and find these records. If you need records from a non-local courthouse, you can request them, but the research and copying fees may be steep.

Almost everyone is covered by the Social Security system and when they die, you can find when and where in the Social Security Death Index.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

My Kitchen Floor

I have a Nafco vinyl tile floor in my kitchen. It is about seven years old. I chose it because it looked a lot like ceramic tile (even has beveled edges to simulate grout lines) but it isn't as cold and hard as ceramic tile (nor as hard to get rid of when I get tired of it). The pattern is mostly grey, brown and white, with a little blue-green mixed in. Over the years I have used Mop-N-Glo to clean it and over the years the M&G has built up. It wasn't anything we really noticed at first but lately we've noticed how bad the floor looked and I'd even started thinking about replacing it--though I was disappointed it didn't last longer--while it cost less than ceramic tile, it was expensive for vinyl. Well, I don't know what came into my husband but he started to scrape one of the tiles, and found the real look under all that crud. We decided to try stripping the floor and so after a trip to the hardware store for stripped, that's what we spent most of Saturday doing. It took two bottles to finish the job, and while our kitchen isn't small, it isn't huge either. It was hard work, but after all that work, my floor looked new again (unless you count the gouges where the light fixture fell).

I dont' know why, but I started thinking about this in relation to the spiritual life. Stuff, even stuff that looks nice originally (like M&G) can gradually dull our soul until one day we realize just how bad it really looks. It doesn't have to be big stuff--it wasn't any one big spill that messed up my floor--enough of the little stuff left to build up can make a real mess. Luckily a good scrubbing (Sacrament of Reconciliation) can make us good as new. I know that's not a completely accurate analogy--minor sins are forgiven at mass so they don't build up like the gnk on the floor -- but I do find the sacrament helpful in focusing my efforts to get rid of certain sins -but like stripping the kitchen floor, I don't find it enjoyable.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A New Toy

There is a new Google toy--a pedometer. Walking has become my primary form of exercise. I walk the streets of my subdivision almost nightly, and while I've driven some routes to determine their length, I've been using that as a starting point, and then trying to determine an approximate distance with that in mind. Now I don't have to. Gmaps allows you to map out any route, turn by turn, and it will tell you not only how far you walked but also, if you enter your weight, how many calories you burned. Not bad.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Out With the New, In With the Old?

I'm a reader of several Catholic blogs, including but not limited to Amy Welborn's Open Book. Right now a favorite topic of conversation on several different blogs is a document the Pope is expected to issue which will, allegedly, allow any priest to say the old Latin mass--the one where he faces the altar on the back wall rather than the congregation--to do so whenever he so desires, whereas now special permission has to be obtained from the bishop to do so. Personally I think that if and when such a document is issued it will cause far more discussion and activity in the blog world than in the real world. I just have a hard time believing there is a lot of unmet demand among the faithful for such a mass. In a parish such as mine that has multiple masses on the weekend, people would adjust if one mass was changed to Latin--but does my pastor, who will be the sole priest in our parish starting this summer need the extra work of preparing two homilies rather than one each weekend, since the masses have different readings? Does the pastor of a rural parish who says three different masses each Sunday in three different places use one of them for a mass that many may actively dislike?

Many of these blog writers don't want the 10 am mass to have Gregorian Chant and the 6 pm mass to be the Lifeteen mass-they want chant or other classical-type musica at all the masses. They think bringing back more of a sense of the sacred and beautiful will keep people in the Church. I have my doubts. People aren't leaving the Catholic church for the formality of the Orthodox faith in any great numbers, but they are heading down the street to the "Christian" churches with their contemporary music and informal worship services. I think that if you don't like loud guitar music, don't go to the Lifeteen mass. My son hates it, he covers his ears when forced to go (and I suspect his autism makes that loud music almost painful for him). My daughter loves it and loves to manipulate her weekend schedule so that she "has" to go then rather than to the more mainstream mass we usually attend. Some would say that it isn't about what they like--but if they don't like it there is less chance they'll go once Mom doesn't make them anymore.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Summer Reading

Since we don't have homework to worry about, summer is time for trips to the library, and lots of books for me. I love to read but during the school year I rarely have the time. What am I reading? Well, my college alumni email list buddies decided to start a book thread and we decided to read Delta Belles, a book by fellow alum, Penelope Stokes. The story is about four women who graduated from Mississippi Women's College (our school was Mississippi University for Women) in the late 1960's and much of the way she describes the college is obviously our school. I'll save further discussion of that book for later except to say that I enjoyed it and that the next time I went to the library, I selected more of her books.

I checked two out of the library yesterday afternoon, and have finished them both. When I first looked her up after Delta Belles was selected, I noted that she wrote Christian fiction. I don't know about you, but I've read plenty of Christian fiction, and most of them were historical romances. These books, in general, are about as predictable and have characters as complex and well-developed as your basic bodice-buster novel found in the supermarket check-out line. Boy meets girl, there is an attraction but something stands in the way. Eventually they find each other--and in the Christian version, they find God too. Instead of steamy bedroom scenes you get scenes from church services or people's prayers. These novels (both the standard and Christian versions) are pure mind candy, easy to read and just as easy to forget. I've read plenty of both types. I found her books to be different. In the last week I have read A Circle of Grace, The Blue Bottle Club and The Amber Photograph. While they are easy and quick reads, they have complex strong women characters and while they have happy endings, they do not end up with everyone getting married. Relationships between women seem to be the focus of her writing. While most Christian fiction I have read has a scene or two pushing "accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior" these books do not. God is there and faith in Him helps some of the characters deal with life, but there is never any intimation that faith in God will solve all the problems the characters have. Further the characters grapple with who God is and what kind of God would allow what has happened to them--and the ministers don't offer any pat answers. I suspect the author's religion is of the liberal variety as two of the books have homosexual characters--characters who are in relationships and who find themselves made whole by those relationships. One of the main characters of The Blue Bottle Club is a Catholic nun and her faith isn't put down or played down as I've seen in other Christian fiction. In short, I'd recommend all four of those books and I plan to read the rest of her books when I can get my hands on them.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Hope for NO East

In Gentilly, the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary is up and running.


And they have hope, and so does our city!

Even More NO East

Another house that doesn't look like it's being fixed.
This McDonalds is on the corner of Morrison and Dowman, and I'm sure it was very busy before the storm.
On a positive note, the Wing King down the street was open.
In Gentilly, this shopping center is fenced off and closed.
The Walgreens' across the street is open though.

More photos of New Orleans East

This had a yard of the month sign, and it appears to be finished, and occupied. There is a lake behind the house, but not a lot of neighbors.

Two shots of the same property--one showing the house, the other the FEMA trailer.
No one here
This backyard faces the interstate and it doesn't look like anyone is here.

New Orleans East

This house obviously hasn't been touched.

No one here either. Realize that this picture (all these pictures) were taken while drivng down a four lane road. The fact that I could stop and do that says as much as these photos
No cars, no FEMA trailers, no neighbors, just empty houses
Even the thrift shop is desolate



I've chronicled the recovery of New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina at various times here. Today I drove through the area known as New Orleans East. As the name implies, it is on the eastern side of the city, but within city limits. The area was developed in the 1970's and has gone from being a white area to a mixed area and now one that is primarily African-American. There are a lot of middle class and nicer homes--it is the part of town favored by African-American professionals--and a lot of huge apartment complexes that held Section 8 tenants before the storm. New Orleans East was also home to the largest (in terms of square feet) shopping mall in the city, namely The Plaza. Unfortunately, The Plaza had fallen on hard times even before the storm. Today when I drove by it was a pile of rubble. Several of the large aparment complexes had demolition signs on them and a few have already been torn down. A couple have been renovated and reopened.




For those of you who know the city, I drown down Read Blvd. to Morrison, and took Morrison (a four lane road) to Donman (another four lane road that connects to the Interstate). From Dowman, I turned onto Gentilly Blvd. and continued on it until St. Bernard, at which time I quit playing tourist and got back on the interstate. Here are some pictures.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

DONE!!!!!!!

My son has his last final exams tomorrow. If he passes, that means homework is over until August. YEA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And if you think I'm excited, you should see him. He got out of school at 11 today and I came home this afternoon to study with him so hopefully he got in enough study to pass the tests. I suspect he failed the one today. It was algebra and he has struggled with it all semester. If he passes the class it will be with a low D. If it was a class that he was never going to see again, I'd take the D and just be happy it is over, but he is going to have to take Algebra II in another year so I'm queasy about him barely passing. Summer school is a drag but it will only be for three weeks, assuming he passes all his other classes--and he could fail the other two too.

It's been a long year. We've decided to send him back to the same school next year as much for the stability as anything. We don't know if someplace else would be any better, and it might be worse. Sometimes I hate a lot of things about the school; but I do think that the people working with him care about him, and that's worth something.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Teens and Driving

One thought that has been on my mind lately is teen drivers. You see, I have a son who just turned 15, and who last week informed me that the kids at school told him that at 15 you can get a learner's permit. My mildly autistic son has a normal teen desire--to drive a car. On the one hand I'm thrilled that he is experiencing a normal desire at a normal age. On the other hand, like I told the special ed teacher at school this morning when he made a comment about my son driving "that's a scary thought". My son is disorganized, inattentive and has lousy motor skills. Those aren't exactly qualities that make me eager to put him behind the wheel of a car. On the other hand, my job is to get him ready for life, and in our society, grown-ups drive.

Elena wrote tday about her teenaged driving son. The gist of her post is that she doesn't like the fact that the car allows him to distance himself from the family. That's not really my problem. My problem is that I think it will take a long time for my son to be a good driver (if he ever is) and we live in suburban area with lots of busy streets. The "payoff" for me letting him drive would be that he could drive to school, and since his school is in the city, it would be a major help for us not to have to pick up and drop off. However, it would mean a long drive on busy streets during rush hour.

When I was at school this morning I saw flyers for drivers' ed. They are teaching it at summer school for a couple of weeks. At this point we may be looking at summer school for academics. If not, I'm trying to decide whether to sign him up for drivers' ed. Parenting teens is tough. I don't have the dating issues to deal with, but I have others.

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