Thursday, April 30, 2015

Seven Quick Takes about With the Help of Thy Grace Cookbook and a Giveaway!

seven quick takes friday 2

  1. With the Help of Thy Grace is a Catholic Cookbook.  Besides recipes that will look familiar to those who love church cookbooks, it also contains spirtual readings and meditations on most pages.  You can read my review of the book here.

  2. One thing I like about church cookbooks is that the recipes are things people actually eat. I reviewed a cookbook once that had a recipe that took two days to make and used over twenty-seven ingredients.  Those types of recipes aren't found in cookbooks like With the Help of Thy Grace.

  3. I've made two recipes from With the Help of Thy Grace.  One was Sweet and Sour Pork Chops.  You'll have to come back in a few days to get the recipe and see how they looked after I cooked them.  They were good, at least according to the food critics who live at my house.

  4. I also made Cheesy Baked Chicken which had a crust made of breadcrumbs and cheddar cheese.  Yummy!
  5. You can order a copy of With the Help of Thy Grace from Catholic Word.  Isn't the cover pretty?
  6. Catholic Word is sponsoring a giveaway of this cookbook.  For every twenty people who enter (that's unique people, not entries) they will give away one cookbook.  Isn't that generous?
  7. There is a recipe for Tomato Soup Cake, that contains a can of tomato soup, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, nuts and raisins.  Has anyone every made Tomato Soup Cake?
To enter the giveaway:  Leave a comment with your name, email address and the name of a dish you make to celebrate the Liturgical Year (even if it is Christmas Cookies or Easter Ham).

For a second entry, Visit Catholic Word's website and leave a second comment containing the URL of a page showing a product in which you are interested that no one else has left.

For a third entry tweet about this contest and leave a comment with the tweet URL

For a fourth entry, follow me on Bloglovin and leave a comment with your Bloglovin name

For a fifth entry, spread the word about this contest on facebook and leave a comment with the facebook URL

For another entry, blog about this contest and leave the URL in  a comment

For another entry, follow me on Twitter (RAnn@ruthjoec)  and leave your Twitter name in a comment.
Winner will be randomly selected May 15, 2015.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Review: With the Help of Thy Grace Cookbook

About the Book:
With the Help of Thy Grace Cookbook by Susan M. Greve is a unique and captivating "must have" cookbook for every Catholic home. This one-of-a-kind culinary collection pulls together a depth of "I-always-wanted-to-have" recipes which include appetizers, salads, main courses, desserts, and a variety of scrumptious special dishes. 

My Comments:
This cookbook would make a lovely shower or wedding gift for a Catholic couple.  Most of the recipes are church cookbook standards, which means they are family friendly and don't take exotic ingredients or make you dirty every pot in the kitchen to make them.
 The author is of German-American heritage and you can see it in the recipes, though they are collected from family and friends and contain food from other ethnic groups as well.  The picuture above is from the page of the cookbook with the recipe for Sweet and Sour Pork Chops, which I will be showing you in another post.  You can see that in additon to the recipes, the book contains quotes and meditations from a variety of Catholic sources.  I tend to think about these they way I do all those emails to which I have subscribed over the years and routinely delete without reading.  No, I don't read them all (or even most of them) but the titles catch my eye and to the posts touch my soul often enough that I don't unsubscribe.  When you pull out this cookbook to start dinner, you never know what type of spiritual material will be on the page, or when Someone is trying to use it to get your attention.  

Unfortunately, the book does not contain pictures of the recipes but I really like the way the binding allows the book to lay flat when you are using it.  The cover is a sturdy cardboard, so durability should not be a problem.  

I'd like to thank Catholic Word for sending me a complimentary review copy.  Grade:  B+. 

 Catholic Word describes itself as " a one-stop resource for leading programs and religious titles from over 35 top Catholic publishers. For over 15 years, Catholic Word has built a reputation based on quality, personal relationships and a devotion to excellence in service."  The mission they espouse is "to build up the Church one soul at a time through top quality Catholic materials and resources. Wherever a person is on their faith journey, we offer real help to taking the next step closer to God. Our motto is to do the right thing, in the right way, for the right reason."  They claim to be "100% faithful to the teachings of the Magisterium".  

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Great Disconnect in Early Childhood Education: My Review

About the Book:
Early childhood educators need to be cognizant of the disconnect between public policy and classroom practice—the success of children they teach depends on it. This book analyzes how ineffective practices are driven by unexamined public policies and why educators need to challenge their thinking in order to make a difference in children's lives. A very complex story about public policy and the importance of teaching is told while entertaining and engaging the reader throughout.

Michael Gramling is an expert in providing family literacy training and positive guidance training 
and has conducted experiential supervisor and mentor coach institutes for Head Start programs.

My Comments:
"Data-driven instruction" is one of the big buzzwords in education today.  It is something accreditation teams expect to find and something from which lots of computer companies make a lot of money.  Michel Gramling says it is hurting those it is most supposed to help--low income "at risk" kids in preschool programs.  

In short, the model of education adopted by many low-income schools is to define objectives and then plan lessons, experiences and evaluations to determine if those objectives have been met.  This leads to a process of basically "teaching the test" where the teachers constantly go over--teach in a "linear manner" the items on the test.  Making a construction paper jack-o-lantern is an opportunity to review the colors orange and black and the names of facial features.

While not denying that knowing such things is important, Gramling points out that the major difference between high-income students and low-income students is the number and quality of words to which they have been exposed prior to entering schools.  Because the high-income students' parents tend to be better educated and tend to use a more sophisticated vocabulary naturally, even when conversations are not directed at the children, the children absorb the sounds and meanings of those words.  As a result, high-income students are far ahead in language acquisition when they get to school--whether school is kindergarten or preschool.

Further, it is Gramling's belief that the way to increase the vocabulary of low-income students is not to directly teach the words, but rather to engage the children in conversations or to allow her to hear conversations where the teacher is using a variety of words, talking about a wide range of topics and using sophisticated sentence structure.

For example, using the linear model, a teacher would approach a child building a block tower and compliment him on it and then ask him questions about the shapes of the blocks he was using, how many blocks he was using or the colors of the blocks.  Using Gramling's approach, the teacher would look at the tower and ask what it was used for.  Upon receiving an answer, the teacher would continue the conversation, doing most of the talking, but giving the child a chance to analyze, think, and to hear words that would not necessarily come up in a lesson plan.

For example, a child built a house.  The teacher talked about not liking it when people barged into the bathroom and asked about building a bathroom just for the child's mother.  The child had never seen a house with two bathrooms, so she rejected that idea, but did come up with putting a lock on the door to assure privacy.  The linear model, Gramling states, exposes children to far fewer words and does so in an isolated manner.

The pre-schools of the well-to-do focus on providing a lot of experiences in a lot of areas to enrich the child's life.  The data-driven government-funded pre-schools for the poor focus on meeting objectives, many of which are developmental and which cannot be hurried along by direct instruction.  Gramling points out that unless there is a developmental problem, all children learn to sit up, roll over, stand and walk, in pretty much the same order and at about the same time--though some take longer than others, and there isn't much you can do to hurry the process.  Nevertheless, Gramling points out that many preschools attempt to do just that--to force the children to behave in school-appropriate ways with the excuse "they will have to do it in kindergarten, so we need to get them ready".  

What Gramling found most distressing, and what is alluded to in the title, is that the data-driven linear methods of instruction are not what all the research on child development or learning processes reveal to be effective.  In short, teachers and schools are teaching the way they do, not because they know or believe them to be the best way, but because the drive for accountability in schools has basically forced it on them.  Teachers have to document that they teach the defined skills and that the children have mastered them.

I found the book to be an interesting read.  My older kids attended a public school; my youngest attends a Catholic school.  One thing I like much better about the Catholic school is the lack of emphasis on testing.  Both schools are good schools with caring, nurturing, stable staffs.  However, the Catholic school's test scores aren't in the paper yearly.  The school isn't considered better or worse than the one down the street based primarily on test scores.  I'm not so naive as to think test scores don't matter to the school, or to the archdiocese, but we don't have kids getting sick because of nerves over standardized tests and if a principal or teacher loses her job, there are going to be reasons other than just test scores.  I personally think that much of the backlash against Common Core is a backlash against the whole over-emphasis on testing.  

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via Edelweiss.  Grade:  B+

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Review: Things Unknown to Lily

Things Unknown to Lily (The Lily Series) (Volume 5)

About the Book:
Charlotte was willing to accept whatever suffering came her way, just to be with the man she loves. But she could never have foreseen how difficult it was going to be to weather the louring tempests of her husband’s depression. Mystified by why her devotion is not enough to make John happy, she carries the burden of his sadness, unaware that it is a long-ago secret, kept from his aunt Lily, that prevents him from surrendering to the joy born of true love. Healing is about to come from an unlikely place, as it often does with anyone who has known Lily and grows to understand that something quite unexpected can change everything.

My Comments:
Lily and her family are back.  For those who haven't read the other books, Lily was a woman with Down Syndrome who made a profound (and good) difference in the life of her family.  This is the story of her nephew (whose mother conceived him so that Lily could have a child to help raise) and his wife.  John, the nephew suffers from depression.  His wife Charlotte is almost totally blind, and will be totally blind soon.  Charlotte wants to help John, but he won't let her in.  In the end, Lily is the answer.

I love Sherry Boas' writing, not only her stories, but her writing as well, and if you peruse this blog, you'll find that there are few writers about whom I say that.  She has a real gift in her use of language; if I had to guess I'd say she was a poet in a previous life, not a journalist (though in reality, she was a journalist).  

While classified as religious fiction, Things Unknown to Lily is on the milder end of the spectrum.  The fact that the characters have faith is mentioned, and Mother Theresa makes an appearance but this is no sermon dressed as a story.  The faith elements are there, but they belong in the story naturally and for the most part did not feel forced.  It is definitely not a "find Jesus and life will be grand" book.  

Fans of the series will enjoy catching up with members of the Lovely family but Things Unknown to Lily stands well on its own--you don't have to read the other books first, but they do add an additional dimension to the story.  I like it enough to give it an A- and if you've read this blog very long, you'll know that's high praise.  

I'd like to thank Catholic Word for sending me a review copy of the book.  Catholic Word describes itself as " a one-stop resource for leading programs and religious titles from over 35 top Catholic publishers. For over 15 years, Catholic Word has built a reputation based on quality, personal relationships and a devotion to excellence in service."  The mission they espouse is "to build up the Church one soul at a time through top quality Catholic materials and resources. Wherever a person is on their faith journey, we offer real help to taking the next step closer to God. Our motto is to do the right thing, in the right way, for the right reason."  They claim to be "100% faithful to the teachings of the Magisterium".  

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Why I Am A Girl Scout Leader

My daughter and I outside St, Louis Cathedral

Reading some Catholic blogs, one would get the impression that Girl Scouts of the USA is the last organization in which I would want my daughter participating or which any decent pastor should allow on parish property.  Yet, I am a proud Girl Scout parent and Girl Scout leader.  Why?  

Purported Problems with Girl Scouts

First, for the uninitiated, the problem some people have with GSUSA is that they claim it is a pro-abortion, pro-contraception organization.  There is a video clip showing the past CEO of GSUSA saying "We partner with churches...we partner with Planned Parenthood".  There is also a denied and disproved story about a UN conference and Girl Scouts advocating for abortion or contraception.  That proves it, doesn't it?  The video clip is real.  However, you have to understand the structure and organization of Girl Scouts.

Girl Scouts USA is the umbrella organization to which all American Girl Scouts belong.  Its job is to set policies and create program materials.  There have been complaints about the liberal bent of some of those materials and about some of the women praised in the material.  As a matter of fact, some of the materials were revised because of those complaints.  GSUSA does not partner with Planned Parenthood. 

Under GSUSA are geographic councils.  These councils recruit and train leaders and provide programming.  Councils often partner with businesses or non-profits to provide programming.  For example, a local hospital system puts on science days where Girl Scout Brownies earn their Home Scientist badge.  The Microsoft Store offers free workshops where the girls earn the technology badges for their age level.  Some councils have worked with Planned Parenthood to develop materials or present programs for older girls.  My council has not and will not.  In councils that have, the money flow is from Planned Parenthood to Girl Scouts, not the other way around.  Also, Girl Scout rules require specific parental permission before discussing topics dealing the sex or sexuality.  

Under the councils are individual troops, the groups to which most girls belong.  Again, Girl Scout rules require specific parental permission before sensitive topics are discussed.  Hypothetically, I suppose a troop could bring in someone from Planned Parenthood to speak, or could do service projects in support of Planned Parenthood, but it would have to be done with the knowledge and consent of the parents of the girls in that troop.  

Is Girl Scouts a Pro-life organization?  No, it is "pro-choice" in that it recognizes that Americans have a variety of beliefs about abortion and that parents have the right to teach their daughters their beliefs on that and other sensitive topics.  That is why troop leaders must get specific permission to discuss them--so parents can decide if the troop leader is someone they can trust with that topic.  I work with five and six year old, and the topic hasn't come up.  I helped prepare fourth and fifth graders for their Catholic awards.  The topic of abortion did come up and the leaders' reponses were definitely pro-life.  

Why Should I Believe You Rather Than What I Read?

It would not surprise me to learn that the non-Catholic organization most investigated by the Catholic bishops was Girl Scouts, and with good reason.  Girl Scouting is an important part of youth ministry in many dioceses, including mine.  The findings of the bishops are here.  The conclusion was "NFCYM strongly supports Catholic Girl Scouting and the use of Catholic religious recognition programs as a means to evangelize and catechize girls in Scouting programs."

But What Positive Reason Do You Have for Being Involved with Girl Scouts?

I am a Girl Scout leader because it is a way I can help provide a wholesome activity for the girls in our community.  I do it for my daughters and their friends, and for other kids.  I teach girls to be honest and fair, friendly and helpful, considerate and caring, courageous and strong, to respect themselves and others, respect authority, use resources wisely, make the world a better place and to be a sister to every Girl Scout.  I try to draw out shy girls, provide success experiences to those who don't get them in school, and to teach life skills.  One of my first Girl Scouts went to a different school than the other girls in the troop.  One day her  mother thanked me for allowing her daughter in my troop.  She said that her daughter did not have any friends at her school but that my girls had taken her in and that her daughter loved Girl Scouts.  The mother of one of my current Girl Scouts told me that as a result of having to learn her phone number for the Safety pin, her daughter was able to give a Disney cast member her mom's cell phone number when she got separated from the family at Disney World.  

Why Don't You Join American Heritage Girls or Little Flowers or....

There are a lot of very good youth programs out there.  American Heritage Girls and Little Flowers are two that are often touted as alternatives to Girl Scouts as they are all-girl programs which can have much the same structure and activities as Girl Scouts, without any possible taint of abortion or contraception.  Why stick with Girl Scouts when there are alternatives?  For me, the answer is two part.  First, being a part of Girl Scouts gets me access to Girl Scout properties and Girl Scout activities.  Our Girl Scout camps are well-equipped facilites that cost my troop far less than similar facilities available to non-Girl Scouts.  Our council provides programming and facilitates leader cooperation between troops.  Our numbers give us advantages that other groups do not have.  The second reason is that as a secular organization Girl Scouts has a reach that exceeds that of explictly religous groups.  We have access to the public schools.  We recruit girls whose families never go to church.  We expose those kids to us and to our values, and, depending on the troop, to some religious programming.  In Girl Scouting I teach the values of our faith, even if the words are a little different.  

What About Explict Religous Teaching?

We have that too, where appropriate.  There are patch programs teaching girls about women in scripture and models of faith.  There are major recongition programs that require the completion of a workbook and a service project.  Over 100 Girl Scouts in our archdiocese received those awards this year.


I'm proud to be a leader of young women involved in the largest all-girl organization in the US.  I'm proud of my daughter and her friends for earing their "I Live My Faith" award.  I'm proud of over twenty Girl Scout Daisies in my troop (kindergarten and first grade) who learned that the lily is a symbol for St. Joseph and that wheat is a symbol for Jesus.  I'm proud of girls who have gained confidence in themselves, have shown the courage to try new things, or who have developed their character through troop activities.  I'm proud to be part of an organization that tries to reach all girls.  On my honor, I will try to serve God and my country, to help people at all times and to live by Girl Scout Law.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Quick Review: No Time To Cook

About the Book:
No time to cook? No problem! Make weeknight cooking easy with more than 100 foolproof recipes that cover quickie breakfasts, lunches, dinners, desserts, and even impressive feasts for guests — all in 30 minutes or less. Created with intuitive graphics that are easy to follow, The No Time to Cook! Book will transform your weeknight cooking and make getting dinner on the table quick, easy, and stress-free. Really!
These recipes are presented simply and easily. The No Time to Cook! Book includes illustrations, flow charts, and pie charts that make recipes easier to understand. Special sections such as "10 Fun Things to Do with a Chicken" and "The Wheel of Dressings" outline easy recipes with the humor that's so necessary at the end of a busy day, and a quick reference section is perfect for the new cook in a time crunch. Take the stress out of dinner with The No Time to Cook! Book.

My Comments:
I saw this one on Edelweiss and since twenty minutes is the usual amount of time I have to fix dinner, I grabbed it.  Unfortunately, they did not give me a Kindle edition I could keep; only a time-limited galley.  Therefore I will not be trying any of the recipes and posting about them.

The book itself looks like  a great gift for anyone setting up housekeeping for the first time, or even for an experienced cook.  It features photos of the recipes, illustrated, step-by-step instructions for some of the dishes and foods that go beyond the old standards.  Readers will learn how to make sushi, fajitas, curries and salsa.  The proper way to cook a steak is shown, along with how to test for doneness.  If you ever wanted to make pickles, this gives a refrigerator recipe.  There are grilling recipies and a collection of ways to make quiche. The desserts look tasty too.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

From My Archives: April 2006

I don't know about you, but I'm enjoying this trip back in time.  As the anniversary of my Dad's death approaches, this post about him giving stuff away after my mom died brought a lump to my throat.  One difference between blogging now and blogging then is the ease of posting pictures now that I have high-speed internet.  Here are the rugs I was writing about:
This is the one my Dad gave me years ago.  It is in my den and the green thing is the footrest on the sofa

This is the silk rug, laying on the treadmill in my garage.  None of my siblings wanted the Turkish rugs so I got them all

2006 was my first Easter without my Mom.  I thought celebrity worship was silly then, and for the record, I still do.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Review: Last One Home

About the Book:
Growing up, Cassie Carter and her sisters, Karen and Nichole, were incredibly close—until one fateful event drove them apart. After high school, Cassie ran away from home to marry the wrong man, throwing away a college scholarship and breaking her parents’ hearts. To make matters worse, Cassie had always been their father’s favorite—a sentiment that weighed heavily on her sisters and made Cassie’s actions even harder to bear.

Now thirty-one, Cassie is back in Washington, living in Seattle with her daughter and hoping to leave her past behind. After ending a difficult marriage, Cassie is back on her own two feet, the pieces of her life slowly but surely coming together. Despite the strides Cassie’s made, she hasn’t been able to make peace with her sisters. Karen, the oldest, is a busy wife and mother, balancing her career with raising her two children. And Nichole, the youngest, is a stay-at-home mom whose husband indulges her every whim. Then one day, Cassie receives a letter from Karen, offering what Cassie thinks may be a chance to reconcile. And as Cassie opens herself up to new possibilities—making amends with her sisters, finding love once more—she realizes the power of compassion, and the promise of a fresh start.

A wonderful novel of perseverance and trust, and an exciting journey through life’s challenges and joys, Last One Home is Debbie Macomber at the height of her talents.

My  Comments:
If you click this link you'll see my post on negative reviews, and what types of books are likely to garner negative reviews as opposed to being ignored if I do not like them.  In this case, I have read and positively reviewed many of Debbie Macomber's books.  I did not enjoy this one and frankly, I believe that if it was sent to a publisher or agent by an unknown author, it would have never made it past the reject bin.  The writing is not professional quality.  While the story concept was good, and the opening strong, the book never got out of the starting blocks and the characters, usually Debbie Macomber's strong point, never really came to life.  

Cassie was a battered wife and the story opens with her supporting another battered wife as the other woman testifies in court against the man who hurt her.  We learn that Cassie left her husband after being beaten many times, went to a battered women's shelter, and is now working as a hair stylist and living in a small dumpy apartment.  However, she has just been accepted as a Habitat for Humanity homeowner, and it is while putting in the necessary sweat equity that she meets her love interest in this book.  Of course they clash, and eventually, each decides the other isn't all bad.  

While the blurb above pitches this book as being about the relationship between sisters, Cassie's sisters remind me of teenagers, not grown women.  Of course their lives aren't as ideal as they appear on the surface, but we never really get into what makes them tick either. In the end, it is happily ever after with everyone's problems solved and a big group hug--but I still didn't think I knew the characters; rather I had just been told what happened over this time in their lives. At times the writing was repetitive, and the whole story just never grabbed me, despite the potential.  The book was a disappointment to me and I'm giving it a C because so many Amazon readers gave it five stars, putting it the category of a book that I didn't like, but which  you might.

Thanks to Edelweiss for providing a review copy.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


It has been a while since I joined the cool kids in this book-lover's meme where bloggers tell what they've been reading and what they plan to read.

What's next?  Probably Debbie Macomber's Last One Home.  

Review: Together With You

About the Book:
When a Lost Child warning blares over the mall's PA system, Carly Mason finds the little girl playing with a stuffed rabbit. Something about Penny Tremaine is different. An ex-social worker, Carly recognizes that the child suffers fetal alcohol effects, and a piece of Carly's past suddenly confronts her. Never again will she become personally involved with a client. The risks are far too great. But something about Penny--and Penny's handsome father--tugs at Carly's heart.

Dr. Ryan Tremaine is trying to put his life back together. With his ex-wife remarried and on a trip far away, his two teenage sons and Penny are living under his roof full time. Ryan has put his faith in his Sink-or-Swim list, a plan to reconnect with his children. The first step: recruit Carly Mason to be Penny's nanny.

Ryan never anticipated being so drawn to Carly, an attraction Carly seems to fight as much as he does. Could Carly be the missing piece that helps his family stay afloat, or will their blossoming romance only complicate things further?

Known for her realistic and engaging characters, Victoria Bylin delivers an emotion-packed story reminiscent of The Sound of Music, one that reminds us all to believe in the power of faith and love.

My Comments:
This is old-fashioned Christian romance where one of the characters has to find Jesus before they can live happily ever after.  If a lot of overt religious content is a turn-off, this is not the book for you.  Nevertheless, it is a heartwarming romance with a lot of good information about fetal alcohol syndrome and the effects it can have on a child.  

Ryan failed his wife and failed his family.  Now he is divorced, and his ex-wife, with whom his boys usually live, is on a mission trip.  He has the boys for the summer and has to be the single parent.  Complicating this is the fact that the woman with whom he had an affair and fathered a child recently died, and so now he is raising his daughter, who has fetal alcohol syndrome.  He has been through three nannies so far and is looking for another. Ryan does not believe in God.

Claire trained as a social worker and worked with teens affected with fetal alcohol syndrome. Something happened with a teen with whom she worked that convinced her to leave working directly with clients.  However, Ryan convinces her to become his daughter's nanny.  It doesn't take long for the sparks between them to fly, but Claire is a Christian and she is concerned about getting involved with a man who doesn't share her faith.   

As I said in the first paragraph, Ryan has to find Jesus before they can live happily ever after.  Claire also has a spiritual lesson to learn and we listen to her minister-father teach it to her.  Other religous lessons are dropped here and there, primarily dealing with sexual purity.  I suspect this is a book that will be preaching to the choir as others will reject it on religious grounds.  Grade:  B-

Review: The Day We Met

About the Book:
For fans of Jojo Moyes’s Me Before You comes a beautifully written, heartwarming novel about mothers and daughters, husbands and wives. The Day We Met asks: Can you love someone you don’t remember falling in love with?

A gorgeous husband, two beautiful children, a job she loves—Claire’s got it all. And then some. But lately, her mother hovers more than a helicopter, her husband, Greg, seems like a stranger, and her kids are like characters in a movie. Three-year-old Esther’s growing up in the blink of an eye, and twenty-year-old Caitlin, with her jet-black hair and clothes to match, looks like she’s about to join a punk band—and seems to be hiding something. Most concerning, however, is the fact that Claire is losing her memory, including that of the day she met Greg.

A chance meeting with a handsome stranger one rainy day sets Claire wondering whether she and Greg still belong together: She knows she should love him, but she can’t always remember why. In search of an answer, Claire fills the pages of a blank book Greg gives her with private memories and keepsakes, jotting down beginnings and endings and everything in between. The book becomes the story of Claire—her passions, her sorrows, her joys, her adventures in a life that refuses to surrender to a fate worse than dying: disappearing.

My Comments:
Claire and I have something in common.  We both had babies when we were 43.  For me, it was the continuation of life as I had lived it for some time--in other words, my answer to the "Same husband?" question some people ask when finding out I have adult kids and a ten year old is "yes". Claire was the single mother of a teen when she met Greg, and when she learned she was expecting his baby, they got married.  Finally Claire thought she had it all.  Unfortunately, it didn't last.  Shortly thereafter, Claire learned she, like her father before her, had early-onset Alzheimer's Disease.   This is the story of her life in the months after her diagnosis.  

Each chapter is titled with the name of a character--usually either Claire or her daughter Caitlyn, though her mother gets a few.  Some are also titled with a date, to give the necessary backstory. The chapters are written in the first person and give that character's view of what is happening, or in the post-dated chapters, of what did happen.  We hear Claire's frustration with the limitations her disease places on her.  Her family has taken away her car keys and her house keys.  She is not allowed out without someone (and like a teen, she rebels and runs away).  She is an English teacher who one day cannot read the often repeated favorite story of her three year old.  Some days she is better than others, but the trajectory is clearly downhill.  She knows her mother and her daughters and remembers their places in her life, but even though she is told time and again that Greg is her husband, she does not remember him.  He seems nice enough but he doesn't belong.  Then, one day when she gets lost, she meets a man--a man to whom she is attracted, a man who doesn't seem to realize that she isn't all there, a man who doesn't treat her like she is ill.  Despite her increasing failing memory, she manages several rendezvous with him.

Besides being the story of Claire, it is also the story of Caitlyn, her college-age daugther,  Caitlyn had been at the university and was dating a guy with whom she was in love.  He dumped her when she found out she was pregnant.  Because of her emotional state at the time, she failed her exams and was not invited back the next term, but she hadn't told her family any of this.  Of course a pregnancy doesn't stay secret for long, and this is the story of how Caitlyn comes to terms with hers, and about how Caitlyn finds out about her father, a man she thought had rejected her as her boyfriend had rejected her baby.

I really enjoyed this book.  At the point we meet her, Claire realizes how much she has lost, and how much more she will lose before she loses the battle for her life.  I guess in some ways it is like getting the diagnosis that you have terminal cancer when your symptoms are still at the bothersome stage, as opposed to the debilitating stage.  You are annoyed by the way things are, but you know they are going to get much worse and that there isn't anything you can do about it.  The use of the first person makes the story personal in a way that using the third person would not have.  

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via Edelweiss.  Grade: A-

Saturday, April 04, 2015

They Don't Build Them Like That Anymore

I hope everyone had a blessed Good Friday. Here in New Orleans, there is a tradition of visiting churches to pray on Good Friday.  New Orleans is an old city and like many old cities, it has a lot of Catholic churches in relatively close proximity to each other.  Pilgrims walk from church to church to visit nine churches, often getting to the last one in time for the 3:00 p.m. service.  I didn't do the walk, and I didn't make it to nine churches, but I did drive to four, and I got pictures of two that I'd like to share with you.

This is the main altar at St. Alponsus, which is a church built by Irish immigrants.  It is right across the street from St. Mary's Assumption, where the German immigrants worshipped.  St. Alphonsus has been closed for some time; now it is used as a cultural center rather than for worship (except on Good Friday).  The building needs work but it would be a shame to lose such a lovely part of our heritage.  

Old-fashioned air conditioning in use

A recently restored statue of the dead Jesus

These are more pictures from St. Alphonsus.  One question that maybe a reader can answer.  In some of the old churches, the pews are on a platform a couple of inches higher than the aisle. Anybody know why?

Next we headed across the street to St. Mary's Assumption.  It is the church where Blessed Francis Seelos served a it houses a shrine to him.

For veneration

Lots of people walking today

My sidekick poses with  Blessed Fr. Seelos

Thursday, April 02, 2015

From My Archives: February and March, 2006

It is interesting going back and reading this old stuff and seeing how much my family has changed over the years.  Back when I was in college, before the days of email, I used to write home weekly.  I asked my mom to save those letters for me and they are in a box in my garage.  Reading them sometimes brings back memories, and sometimes it doesn't.  I also used to keep a journal; some things made it into those that never made it into the letters to my mom.  I have those in a box in my garage too.  One day my kids will find them and see a picture of their mom before they knew her, back when she was a student at Mississippi University for Women.

Never looked like this when I was there

Photos by Dr. Bridget Pieschel

Anyway, looking at old posts on this blog brings back memories in much the same way that reading my college letters and journals does.  

What was I writing about back in 2006?  I went to Mass twice one weekwend and reflected on how different priests draw different lessons from the same readings.  I wrote about going to Confession.  I wish I could tell you that if I wrote a post like that today, it would be much different, and I guess it   would be because that priest has gone to his eternal home, and no one has fussed at me about infrequent confession since I quit going to him.  As we  approach the one year anniversary of my Dad's death, I've been thinking about him. In 2006 my Mom died.    I liked sharing links back then and I found a place that told how things were made.  Finally, the article I linked to isn't there anymore, but I wrote about reporting on AIDS.  

What were you writing about way back when?

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