Monday, April 14, 2014

Book Review- Finding Grace




            From the moment I got my hands on Laura Pearl’s novel, Finding Grace it surprised me by being so much more than I expected.  
 
Knowing only that it was the story of a 13 year old girl with a name that was a challenge to live up to, I expected a somewhat simple tale.  I was surprised to find that Finding Grace was anything but a short one-dimensional story….

Instead of the quick read of maybe 150 pages or so that I had envisioned, the book boasts well over 300 big pages.  This is book is no quick afternoon read.    

Instead of just introducing the reader to young Grace Kelly in her early teen years, the book follows her all the way through high school and college.  

Instead of a sweet, light-hearted glimpse into the ordinary struggles and innocent awkwardness of adolescence, the book delves deep into difficult and mature themes.  

Pearl tackles issues that may have been relatively new and disturbing in the 1970’s but have become commonplace and “normal” in our day and age.  She confronts such difficult subjects as pre-marital sex, underage drinking, contraception, the feminist movement, moral relativism, and much more all while staying true to the plotline and never losing sight of the story itself.  

There was much I liked about Pearl’s debut novel.  First, the book did not come across as overtly preachy yet the main characters never failed to stand up for what they believe in.  There are also a great variety of secondary characters with who Grace shares her life and her story.  Each of the secondary characters adds to the lessons of the book, some by the wise choices they make, others by their poor choices.  Amazingly with such a large cast of characters, Pearl does a wonderful job of developing each of them so thoroughly and making each one so unique and memorable that I had no trouble keeping them all straight in my mind.  

Second, the relationships between characters were full of complexity and substance.  And amid those sometimes challenging, continually honest interactions in Grace’s life, many of the most important messages in the book are revealed.  

And lastly, the story promotes all the things I value as a Catholic.  Morality, truth, virtue, faith, it’s all there.  The traditional, old fashioned ideals of Grace’s close knit family become the lens through which she views the changing world around her.  Her family and her faith are what allow her to navigate the often thorny path of the narrow road.  Interwoven into the fabric of the story are compelling reasons for staying true to the precepts of the Catholic faith.   As a bonus, through Grace’s always believable life experiences, is revealed beautiful examples of holiness from the lives of the saints. 

All in all, Finding Grace was full of unexpected surprises that I found to be both enjoyable and insightful.  Grace is a character who sincerely strives to practice the virtues that lead to sainthood, never giving up even when the endeavor proves difficult. I look forward to sharing her story with my own daughters.  

Friday, March 28, 2014

Water, water everywhere and life NEVER going according to MY plans



Way back in mid-February, on an already busy Saturday afternoon, as I got ready to go to our upcoming Teams of Our Lady meeting, Tim decided to fix the bathroom faucet that had very low water pressure.  

Things didn’t go as planned.   

The valve broke off the pipe and water gushed into our house at an alarmingly rapid rate.  We had water pressure now- but now we couldn’t turn it off.  The water main shut off was completely stuck.  Water poured into our house for about 45 minutes or so while we waited for a plumber to come and fix it.  The whole house was flooded in the process.   

We didn’t make it to our Teams meeting.

The insurance claims process, the water mitigation, the clean up and put back together of our soggy house has been long and exhausting.  Nothing has gone according to plan.

Not really a picture of our flood.  This is from last summer at the local "spray ground."  But it was cute and it fits the theme of water water everywhere.


The chaos and unpredictability of it all started almost immediately with four hours of ripping apart the wet mess of our home, followed by four days of dodging huge dehumidifiers and fans all over.  Followed by four five weeks of waiting…waiting…waiting for the new flooring, painting, minor carpentry repairs, and new bathroom vanity.   

In the meantime- under our old laminate, the kitchen floor was the most indescribably hideous, disgusting linoleum that was covered in mismatched patches and textured with streaky stripes of old tile glue.  It wouldn't come clean- I know, I got down on my hands and knees and scrubbed it with multiple cleaning agents ending up with bruised knees and a floor that still left the bottom of our socks a dingy brown color.

This week, more than a month since the flood, the contractors hired by the insurance company began the restoration work!!!!!  

First thing, Monday morning, we got a call- the flooring sub-contractor was coming to install the new laminate.  I looked at our school work for the day and planned out how to accomplish it all in the midst of workmen taking over our kitchen.  Then, an hour later, I got a call from the flooring company again.  They weren’t coming after all, because of rain in the forecast.  As we did our schoolwork, I watched out the window as NO rain fell on our house.  Nothing was fixed on Monday.

Tuesday, we got the same call again.  The flooring men were on their way.  The kids and I went to Mass for the Feast of the Annunciation assuming the workmen would arrive soon after we got home.  Instead, we came home to a voice mail message- the painters were coming.  Long story short—still no floors but the painters were at our house ALL day leaving at 5:30 with only one room completed!

Our leftover paint all lined up
 
Wednesday, there were paint cans, drop cloths, ladders, brushes, and baseboards stashed all over my house, but the painters weren’t coming because FINALLY the flooring WOULD be installed!  One team of workers took on the kitchen to install the laminate.  Another team tackled the bedrooms to put down new carpeting.  We couldn’t get down the hall, had to literally climb our way to the toilet, and had furniture and toys and stuff all over the family room (and all the painting supplies too) because it was the one room that would not be getting new flooring.  What a mess of a day!  The kids and I did about half of our planned work and then gave up because the distractions were too overwhelming.  When Tim got home from work the floors looked AWESOME, the house was mostly put back together and the kids and I were having trouble keeping our eyes open through dinner because we were so tired from all the chaos of the day.

Thursday, the painters came back.  Another loooong day of painting.  Workers all over my house.  Paint fumes permeating the air around us.  Apologetically sneaking by the painters and all their supplies to go to the bathroom.  And seemingly endless phone calls to figure out when the last of the work would be finished (our baseboards were never finished and somehow in the craziness of Wednesday the pile of uninstalled ones completely disappeared.  No one knew where they went.  No one was scheduled to finish them.  And no one would tell me when or IF they would ever be done.  The new bathroom vanity has not come in yet.  No word on an estimated date of arrival for that either.  Oh and the family room carpet is supposed to be professionally cleaned for us.  No one has even mentioned that.  AUGHHHH!).  My kids have been amazing troopers and have kept up with their school work as well as they possibly could.  They have stayed out of the workmen’s way and have not complained about the disruption of our lives.  We are hanging in there keeping our positive attitudes and our sense of humor about the whole situation- but just barely.

Our new kitchen flooring- still waiting for the baseboards.

This morning it’s Friday!   We still have no baseboards.  Still no official word on them even.  Still no word on any of the other unfinished work either.  But the kids and I have our co-op classes and after not leaving the house all week because I had to be here to supervise the workmen, we are all anxious to go see our friends and get some fresh air.  But….a half hour before we were set to leave, my four year old threw up ALL over the beautiful new laminate flooring.   No co-op for us….

Lent is all about letting go of our will and submitting to God’s, right?  I think I’m getting the message..… Can things quiet down just A LITTLE NOW?!?!!?!?!?!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Confirmation



I guess I didn’t do a very good job of keeping up with my Confirmation Prep Series. I didn’t write a thing about my daughter’s Christian Service hours.  How she signed up to help out at the infant care center of our local crisis pregnancy center to get her 20 required hours.  Or about how she fell in love with the babies there and could not give up her volunteering even after she met the 20 hour requirement, and even now, more than 3 months after she surpassed 20 hours, she still looks forward in great anticipation to the few hours a week she gets to go play with those precious babies whose mothers chose life even in the darkest of circumstances.

I didn’t write about the service project she did with the other Confirmation candidates at our parish- going to a soup kitchen and serving dinner and dessert to nearly 200 homeless men and women.   Or about the mini-retreat we had one chilly breezy afternoon on the shores of Tampa Bay praying and reflecting and meditating on the works of Holy Spirit along with her wonderful sponsor.  

Which reminds me- I didn’t even mention my daughter’s chosen Confirmation sponsor- the lovely, faith-filled young lady who used to be our babysitter but is now a treasured friend.  My daughter was so incredibly blessed to have a sponsor who is not just a loyal and kind friend but also a great role model-- a truly magnificent example of authentically living out one’s Catholic Christian faith even through the sometimes difficult challenges of late adolescence and into early adulthood.

I didn’t mention much about the books we read in preparation, or the discussions we had, or the prayers we shared. 

But, despite my negligence in all this- I won’t let the opportunity to share about the actual Confirmation pass….

After all our learning and preparing and praying……..Last Thursday, finally- the Confirmation Mass was upon us!  My parents came and so did some close family friends.  And of course, our entire family was present to witness the sacrament.  My oldest son was privileged to be one of the altar servers assisting the bishop in the Mass.

My daughter dressed in the long flowing skirt and matching silver sweater we had painstakingly sought out.  She pinned on the name tag prepared for her for the event that proclaimed her Confirmation name- “Bl. Teresa of Calcutta.”   She wore a Holy Spirit medal and dainty jeweled cross earrings.  During the Mass when we were invited into the moment of silence before the official conferment of the sacrament, I offered my prayers that my daughter would feel the Holy Spirit touching her heart, but, that even in the moments of life when she didn’t that she would remain ever faithful and close to Our Lord.  My daughter looked beautiful and peaceful as she stepped forward with her sponsor to receive the sacrament.  The bishop spoke with her for just a moment, imploring her to be like Mother Teresa and see Jesus in everyone she meets in life and then he spoke the words of the sacrament, “Be sealed with the Holy Spirit” and anointed her head with the sacred chrism, making her a fully initiated Catholic.  

the best picture we got during the Mass
The Mass was moving and beautiful and the get-together afterwards was full of laughter and love as we celebrated the joy of the occasion.  

opening her gifts after her Confirmation
(how cute is it that she put her new Confirmation name on her cup?)

Preparing my daughter for this sacrament was a new experience for me.  I was no expert on Confirmation going into it but as with so many things- we learned together as we went along.  I am still no expert on the sacrament but through our months of sacramental prep, my daughter and I were very blessed to have many opportunities to talk about our faith and how to truly live it out and what it means to be a soldier for Christ.  I hope her faith was strengthened.  I hope my faith was strengthened too.  And I hope the Holy Spirit continues to work in both our lives inspiring us to holiness…..

Monday, February 10, 2014

Inspiring fiction- The Life I Dreamed



What if you had the chance to influence someone’s decision to choose life or to abort an unplanned pregnancy?  Now imagine that encouraging the decision to choose life, would come at great inconvenience to you...what would you do?

 http://www.amazon.com/The-Life-Dreamed-Kari-Burke-ebook/dp/B008GNLLI8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1392063223&sr=8-1&keywords=the+life+i+dreamed
 Read the fictional account of one young family's response to just such a situation in, the CWG Seal of Approval novel, The Life I Dreamed.

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