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).

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