Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Yes Ma'am

Even though we live in the southern part of the country, people from New Orleans aren't "southern". We don't speak with a southern drawl, our culture is Catholic rather than Baptist, and we don't automatically address our elders as ma'am and sir. Even though I spent much of my childhood in Mississippi, my parents were from the midwest so I didn't grow up saying ma'am and sir either.

A few years ago our esteemed legislature decided that one problem with the schools was that pupils lacked respect for the teachers. Once you get north of I-10 in Louisiana, people are "southern" so the solution to this problem was to require that all public school students over a certain age address the teachers as ma'am and sir. My sitter is a believer in teaching them young, so since that point, she has made it a point to make sure all "her" kids know the proper form of address. The trouble is the only adult the kids have to address during the day is her, so they learn to say "yes ma'am". My youngest sounds so cute when she tells my husband "yes ma'am".

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Happy Mardi Gras

I got parading out of my system Sunday. My youngest wanted to spend time exploring and socializing rather than watching the parades, so I didn't see a lot. Since it is so crowded on Mardi Gras, and since we didn't have anywhere to go with easy access to bathrooms, I decided to stay home. My youngest and I went to the playground for a while and found some other party (or shall we say parade) poopers. I also managed to read two books today (and got very little housework done). I read Janette Oke's Once Upon a Summer and Jan Karon's At Home in Mitford.

Once Upon a Summer is set in rural America around the turn of the century. The main character is a twelve year old orphan who lives with his Grandfather, his Great Uncle and his Aunt, who is five years older than he is. Shortly after the book starts, his Great Grandfather joins them. The book focuses on his relationship with his Great Grandfather and with his Aunt Lou, who of course, is courting age. It is Christian fiction but except for one scene, pretty subtle about it. In that scene someone shows the main character about self-sacrificing love.

At Home in Mitford is the first in a series of books about an Episcopal priest in a small town. He works too hard and takes care of everyone but himself. It has a happy ending, and yet it leaves itself wide open for the books which follow. I'm going to be trying to get them, but after Easter.

These two are now on my Bookmooch list.

One Lenten resolution is to read some of the books I have, and want to read, but have been putting off because they require too much thought. They include C.S. Lewis's Surprised by Joy, Heni Nouwen's The Return of the Prodigal Son, a book on recently cannonized saints, Patrick Madrid's Pope Fiction, Charles Carlson's Buying Stocks Without a Broker, Max Lucado's The Final Week of Jesus and a book about teenagers on the Autism Spectrum.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Between Friends

I just finished another Debbie Macomber book. The title is Between Friends and it is about two women, both born in 1948 who grow up as and remain, as my daughter would say BFF (best friends forever). The story is told via their correspondence with each other and with others. The book includes references to "current" (as of the dates of the correspondence) events, and since I remember many of these, I found it a trip down memory lane. Neither of the characters gets the ideal life; both have much sorrow to bear, but both bear it well. The book has a pretty happy ending. I have mixed feelings about it though.

I'm 13 years younger than these women (who I'd guess, looking at her picture, are Macomber's contemporaries) so my experience of the world is going to be different from theirs. One of the women was pregnant when she graduated from high school, married her high school sweethart and went on to have three more kids, all unplanned. The main characters were both raised Catholic and graduated from a Catholic high school. While she doesn't come right out and say it, you definitely get the impression that this character left the Catholic church for the Protestant church where she attended Bible study. None of her kids were married in a Catholic church. During her marriage she struggled with the birth control issued and tried using rhythm with little success. After her fourth child, she had her tubes tied, figuring God gave her a brain and a budget and she needed to use the brains to stick to the budget. Her mother, after her alcoholic husband dies, ends up marrying a priest. On the one hand if Macomber was a Christian fiction author, I'd dismiss the whole book as Catholic bashing. On the other hand, the conflicts this character went through, and her resolution were pretty common for women her age. She started having kids in the mid '60's. My mom's kids were born in 61, 62, 64, 65, and 71 (with miscarriages in 60, 63, and 69). When I was in Catholic school, out of my class of 35 kids, at least 10 of us came from families of more than 3 kids. By the time my baby brother's group came through, big families were much less common, and most of the kids in his group who were from big families were the youngest. Catholic women my mom's age (born in 1930) didn't generally use birth control, at least until their families got "too big", and if they did, they felt guilty about it. Somewhere between her generation and mine, birth control ceased to be an issue for most Catholics--but those in-between women did struggle with the issue so to have a Catholic character of that age struggling with birth control is a very realistic thing.

The other major character also leaves the Church, and for the most part, God, until clost to the end of the book when she realizes she needs to surrender her will to His (or Hers). It is interesting to note how one character finds strength from God to deal with the adversity in her life while the other rejects God because of the adversity in hers. As I said earlier, the book has a happy ending and while not typical of Macomber's books, I'd say it was enjoyable overall.

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