Sunday, June 30, 2013

Book Reviews–June 30, 2013

Yep, folks, it’s that time again! Book reviews! I don’t promise any consistency in my likes and dislikes, so take it with a grain of salt.

Dating Jesus: A Story of Fundamentalism, Feminism, and the American Girl by Susan Campbell. I really enjoyed this book, but I felt like it was disorganized and scattered. I realize that memoir isn’t held to the same linear standard as autobiography, but this book was more confusing than I would have liked. But, I enjoyed it. As spiritual memoir goes, this was a pretty good one. B

The Dressmaker: A Novel by Kate Alcott. The story of Tess, an apprentice to Lucille Duff Gordon, is told against the backdrop of the events of the sinking of the Titanic. When controversy erupts around Lady Duff Gordon, how should Tess respond? Fascinating book. A

The Shadow of the Titanic by Andrew Wilson. After I read The Dressmaker, I got on a Titanic kick, so I read this book. It really is fascinating to see how clearly the class lines were drawn one hundred years ago. It’s also fascinating to see how the Titanic disaster affected the rest of these people’s lives. A

Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright. This is a well-written book about Scientology and it’s fascination with Hollywood and celebrity. All the names and places can get confusing, but I think Wright does a good job with helping to keep things sorted out. I’m fascinated by various religions and why people believe or stay in them when they’re clearly abusive. The book provides a glimpse into a system that is clearly dysfunctional for many people, yet they choose to stay. Fascinating. A

Until I Say Good-bye: My Year of Living with Joy by Susan Spencer Wendel. I went to high school with Susan. She was drum major in our band the year before I was. Otherwise, though, we were in different circles of friends, so I was surprised to hear that she had been diagnosed with ALS, although I wasn’t surprised to hear that she was a successful journalist at the Palm Beach Post. This book is a memoir of a year that she took to deliberately spend time with her family and friends before her disease became too debilitating. It’s funny, poignant, and sad. I highly recommend it. A+

Rapture Practice: A True Story by Aaron Hartzler. Aaron grew up in a Fundamentalist Christian home and went to a Fundamentalist Christian school. Somewhere along the way, he didn’t turn out to be a Fundamentalist Christian himself. That’s what his memoir is about. It’s well-written, funny, and full of insight. A

Beyond Belief: My Secret Life in Scientology and My Harrowing Escape by Jenna Miscavige Hill with Lisa Pulitzer. This true story is about a woman whose family is high up in the Scientology hierarchy and who grew up in Scientology and how she got out. It’s a fascinating look at how a religion can overwhelm one’s common sense. My only complaint is the title – her leaving Scientology didn’t seem much like a “harrowing escape”. Otherwise it was a good book. A-

Chosen by Ted Dekker. This is a young adult novel that we read aloud as a family. A small group of forest dwellers are fighting to defend themselves from the desert dwellers who surround them. A group of new, young soldiers are sent into the dessert to retrieve an item to prove themselves, but an adventure follows instead. It’s an exciting adventure story. The Christian story parallels may be a little heavy-handed, but our family enjoyed it. A

The Central Park Five: The Chronicle of a City Wilding by Sarah Burns. I’m old enough to remember the case of the Central Park Five – five teens who confessed to the brutal rape and beating of a woman out jogging one evening in Central Park. The problem is that they didn’t do it. But, they confessed. And that is the problem with our legal system. This book goes through the events of that night which explains why the boys would have confessed, why none of their confessions at all matched, and who the real perpetrator was. All of them have now been released from prison, but this has obviously had a negative impact on their lives. This is an excellent look at the problems with our justice system. A

I’ll have some movie reviews coming up soon. And, if I can remember the audiobooks that I listened to, I’ll include reviews of those! In the meantime, keep reading!! And share your recent book and movie favorites in the comments!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday–Ireland


I’m devoting this week’s 7 Quick Takes to the kids’ trip to Ireland because, well, Ireland!

1. Quiet has left our house now that the kids are back home! But, I wouldn’t have it any other way. We’ve had people noise and music again since Wednesday night!

2. Both kids got tin whistles. Rosie Girl got 2 “tourist quality” whistles, one in the key of D and one in the key of C, as well as a “real” tin whistle. She was sitting and playing one while they had some free time on their tour and one of the other tour members dropped a Euro at her feet – it’s the first money she’s made as a street musician!

3. Wild Man got me a Cavanaugh (actually “Kavanagh”) coat of arms with history and room for genealogy information on it since my family on the paternal side is the Cavanaugh’s.

4. Rosie Girl, knowing that I love religious artifacts, got me a celtic cross from a church. It’s just beautiful. She also got me a worry stone from some special Irish marble.

5. Grandma brought home some truffles from the Jameson Irish Whiskey plant. Oh, my, were those some yummy truffles! But, I did share with the rest of the family.

6. I felt kind of bad for the kids and Grandma. Not only did they have jet lag from coming home, but they came home with jackets on to temperatures in the 80’s with 100% humidity. Thankfully, yesterday’s storms brought a cool front. Nonetheless, Wild Man has decided that he wants to move to Ireland when he’s an adult.

7. The kids loved the music in Ireland. Rosie Girl was excited about one duo because they go to Thailand to make their instruments. Wild Man got to learn to play one of the hand drums that one of the groups played.

Yep, my kids loved their trip to Ireland and we can’t thank Grandma enough for taking them. It’s an experience that they won’t ever forget. They learned a lot about Ireland, but they also had some great experiences.

Check out Conversion Diary to see what others have been up to this week!!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Lagniappe–June 27, 2013

I’ve been neglecting my poor blog for a few weeks. Partly, I’ve been busy, which is good because it means that I’ve been feeling well and living real life. The other reason, though, is that my neurologist increased my Topamax dose and my ability to find and string together words and phrases is significantly diminished. That being said, I’m going to try to attend to this blog on a more regular basis, if for no other reason than to stimulate the language neurons that appear to be languishing (ha! did you get that – language, languishing!) while I’m on this current dose of medications. But, I like the medication change otherwise, because my headaches are getting better. So, I’ll press onward, if only with limited cognitive function.

It has been as hot as Hades here in the The Great White North. Clearly, this part of the north is not currently white. And I’m wondering why we moved up here from the Deep South. At least, in New Orleans, we had air conditioning. It’s supposed to only be up to 74 tomorrow, instead of the evil 87 (with high humidity) that it was today. Let’s hope so!

The children are back from their trip to Ireland. We picked them up from the airport at 10pm last night. They are incredibly jet-lagged! But, they had a great time and learned a lot about Ireland, traveling, and life in general.

And my kids have seen Greenland!! Granted, it was from cruising altitude on a jet, but still! Greenland!! But, the place is not green. It’s mostly white from what they could see.

I spent last week painting the inside of the new shop! (You may recall that we purchased this house because we wanted the shop in the back to move The Knitting Nest into – just wanted to keep you up to speed.) This is significant on several levels. First, it means that the builders were almost done and were waiting for the painting to be done so they could move on. Second, it means that I’ve been feeling well enough to spend five out of seven days painting for 4 or more hours a day. I attribute that to the increase in dose of Topamax. (And I had help for a couple of those days – I wasn’t a lone ranger or anything!)

I still don’t have a washer and dryer. The money is set aside, but the washer and dryer have to be rather small because they have to fit down our basement stairs. I finally have decided on the ones that I want, but they aren’t available at any of our local Sears stores, so we have to time their arrival in town for when we won’t be at Family Camp. So, off to the laundromat tomorrow. It’s a good thing I like the people at the laundromat.

That’s what’s going on in my life right now. I’ve got some books to review and a few other ideas rattling around in my head. We’ll see what happens when I try to get them written down. What’s new with you??

Friday, June 14, 2013

Learning Obedience Through Suffering

I ponder suffering a lot. Not as much now I’m on some meds that seem to be working pretty well, but I still have enough headaches that I think about suffering a fair bit.

I read the following passage in Hebrews 5:7-8 tonight.

7 During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8 Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered.

The chapter is about how Jesus was able to be our high priest and pay for our sin because he was human like us, but without sin. What caught my eye, though was the phrase “he learned obedience from what he suffered.”

I’ve given up trying to figure out all the “why”s of my migraines. I have migraines. I no longer have a medical career. I don’t know why. I have learned lots of things, but I have quit asking “why”.

Jesus learned obedience through his suffering. Have I? Have I become more obedient to God in the last several years? Or have I wallowed in self-pity? What does being more obedient look like? Every day is different. Obeying God involves different things when I have a migraine than when I’m having a good day. Am I willing to learn to obey God through this hard time in my life?

What do you think about this passage? Other ideas?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Last of the Last

It’s done. Rosie Girl’s high school career is officially over. Tonight was the last of her high school events.

Two weekends ago, she danced in the last dance recital of high school. The week of Memorial Day was filled with lots of dress rehearsals and photos. There were two performances on Saturday, June 1 and two performances on Sunday, June 2. I made it to both of the Saturday performances and the last of the Sunday performances. Rosie Girl danced with her tap class and did her senior tap dance (to the music from Dr. Who) in all four shows. She also was in the Daddy/dancer dance and the faculty dance (since she was a demonstrator) in all four shows. For two of the shows, she was also helping the little girls in the classes for which she demonstrates.


It was a crazy, but fun weekend for all of us! And we went to Perkins on Sunday night for a late dinner or dessert. Of course, there were lots of other dancers there, so it was wild and crazy, and Rosie Girl had the time of her life.


Grams and Grandpa arrived last Thursday evening for a short visit and to be here for the graduation party. I had managed to plan the party so that we needed very little preparation time. But, Rosie Girl decided that she wanted a chocolate fountain for the party. So, Wednesday, Rosie Girl and I set out to purchase or rent a chocolate fountain. We were unsuccessful in that endeavor. After several efforts and numerous plans, we ended up changing plans and going with chocolate fondue.

So Rosie Girl went shopping with Grandpa to get everything she needed for the party and then spent most of Saturday setting up what she needed for the chocolate fondue. In the meantime, I had a migraine. That’s OK, though, because I woke up on Sunday without a migraine.

For the party itself, we had subs from Subway, the fondue that Rosie Girl and Grams had prepped, and a cake made by a friend. The only real glitch was that we burned half the chocolate, but we got it cleaned up and redone before the guests arrived! When we ran out of chocolate, we just smiled and pointed out that there was still cake. Overall, we had about 40 people here and everyone seemed to have fun. Several girls stayed till evening and one stayed overnight with Rosie Girl. And we just vegetated on Monday.


Tonight was the last of the last. It was Rosie Girl’s last piano recital of high school. She and another high school senior had a recital together. They each played three pieces and then played a duet that Rosie Girl composed last summer at music camp with Rosie Girl on ocarina and the other girl on piano. They both did an excellent job. We enjoyed some snacks afterward and visited with the other family and friends.


Rosie Girl’s high school years are now completely done. She finished her homeschooling work before Memorial Day, but it wasn’t like there was a ceremony or anything. It’s just  over. The recitals are more formal endings than anything else. And I’m kind of sad. I’m glad that she’s moving on to college, but it’s a bittersweet feeling. Part of me isn’t quite ready for this last of the last.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

The Last Dance Recital

This weekend is Rosie Girl’s last weekend of dance recitals as a high schooler. Hard to believe. PWM and I have learned a lot over the last thirteen years!

When we signed her up for her very first pre-ballet/tap combo class, there were a lot of things that no one told us.

No one told us that this could be the beginning of driving to Stevens Point once or twice a week for 13 years.

No one told us that this could drain our pocketbooks if she “took” to dance (which she did).

No one told us about the long afternoons in the studio making sure all the kids in the carpool ate their dinners and made it to the right classes.

No one told us about itchy costumes (although we did discover that having the girls wear a flesh-colored leotard underneath would help the itchies).

No one told us we should learn how to do stage make-up or do up hair in a bun (my nemesis).

No one told us about the chaos that is dress rehearsal week.

No one told us that our child would out grow their dance shoes 6 weeks before recital. And then out grow that pair of shoes 6 weeks into the next semester of dance.

No one told us how complicated dance shoes would get. Rosie Girl’s last pair of tap shoes that she ordered had to be split sole jazz tap shoes with tunable taps. And that’s just for tap! I can’t even think about pointe shoes or hip-hop or jazz shoes, too!

But, also,

No one told us how we would believe that our child was the best and most adorable dancer the first couple of years even if she was the one who sat on stage and didn’t dance.

No one told us how proud we could be to see our little dancer on stage concentrating so hard on the movements that she didn’t even have a nerve cell to spare on smiling!

No one told us that a piece of our hearts was up there with her.

No one told us how all these years of dance have translated into such poise and grace whenever she’s on stage or talking to strangers.

No one told us how attached we’d get to all the wonderful teachers we’d get to know over the thirteen years.

No one told us how every year, we’d be proud to see how much Rosie Girl had grown, but miss a little bit the little girl she was last year.

No one told us how hard the last recital would be. How hard it would be to see the last dances and know that this is the last year.

No one could have known when she was four that she’d still be dancing at seventeen. But, she is. And, she’s beautiful.

What an experience the last thirteen years have been! And none of us would change it for anything!