Thursday, December 27, 2007

Nutritional medicine?

Research into my "mystery ailment" has lead me into a health labyrinth. I optimistically say labyrinth rather than maze, because I'm hoping that everything is leading in one direction - to the solution. Though, there have been some dead-ends along the way so far. I prefer to think of them as blips in the journey.

One positive thing that has come out of all this is a return to a more sensible way of eating. I've investigated the GI Diet extensively. This isn't really a diet so much as making commonsense food decisions. But more about that in another post.

Today I bring you what appears to me to be an interesting look at nutritional medicine - "What Your Doctor Doesn't Know About Nutritional Medicine May be Killing You", by Ray D. Strand, M.D. Oxidative stress and the damage of free radicals is the main thrust of his book. He deals with heart disease, high cholesterol, eye health, autoimmune diseases, arthritis and osteoporosis, lung disease, neurodegenerative disease, diabetes, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia.

He speaks as a doctor who once was an unbeliever in the powers of nutritional medicine, but gradually came to see their value.

One of the things I like is that he is not selling a product. A red flag goes up for me when a person is trying to sell you on a concept - the solution to which will make him money. A weakness of mine perhaps, but it's there none the less.

Check out his website

Friday, November 30, 2007

Purple Cows

I can't believe that I haven't posted since mid-October. So much has been going on in my life. Yes, I've been reading, but mostly online stuff as I try to get to the bottom of my sudden health issues. Maybe I'll talk about that...but maybe I'm sick and tired of it and won't after all.

I like to use post-it notes when I read a book - especially if my journal isn't handy or I'm just not in the mood to write notes. "Purple Cow" by Seth Godin is literally bristling with post-it notes. This book is actually a business self-help type, but I'm reading with children's ministry in mind. Hey, the subtitle is "transform your business by being remarkable". Any area of life you're involved in can use a shot of that! I picked it up online somewhere, but I would have loved to get it in the original packaging. A milk carton with a purple cow print on it. That would be a keeper.

Basically the message of this book is all about thinking outside the box, cutting edge, being different, leading the crowd, don't be boring and more. It's short, succinct, and practical. And it looks great too. A book I'm proud to have on my bookshelf.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Edward Hallowell...prolific author

Checking my library account I discovered that I have an interlibrary loan book due...tomorrow! Yikes, I haven't read it yet. Skimming time. The funny thing is that some of the first words out of this author's mouth were a discourse on skimming and how prelevant it is in our information overload society. Whoops! Caught! He did become one of my favorite people, though, when he confessed that he CANNOT go into a bookstore without coming out with more books than he will actually read. A man after my own heart. Just the owning is pure joy.

In any case, this book (that I will end up paying a big fine for), is called "the childhood roots of adult happiness" (lower case choice was his). Subtitled: Five steps to help kids create and sustain lifelong joy. His theory is that the key to adult happiness is a connected childhood. He goes into detail on how to get that in a child's life. But skimming through the book I was pleased to see that we have gotten it pretty much right in the life's of our own children. A study showed that there were two factors that most protected children from negative outcomes. A feeling of connectness at home and a feeling of connectedness at school. Wow! If you home school what does that mean? Other important factors were: a parent's presence at key times during the day (morning, after school, dinner, bedtime); parents' high expectations for school performance (expecting them to graduate/post secondary); parents' engaging in activities with their children on a regular basis; absence of guns in the house; parental disapproval of the child engaging in sexual intercourse; not having easy access to cigarettes, alcohol, or marijuana; lack of prejudice at school; self-esteem; not working at a paid job twenty hours a week or more.

Hallowell's five step program to adult happiness consists of connection ... play.... practice... mastery... recognition - a repeating cycle. He briefly describes each of these steps and then in the last third of the book he gives practical suggestions for creating a connected childhood. My focus will be here in the next day or so as I try to glean as much as I can from this book.

Glancing through I see that he is VERY big on pets. Oh, no! Does that mean the dog stays?!! And what about one of the puppies, as the kids are hoping? We'll wait and see.

The mom and one of her puppies

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself

Can I really not have read a book since the end of August??!!!!! Maybe that's where my health problems are coming from :) I HAVE to read! I LIVE to read! And I HAVE read...just not books all the way through. Magazines, blogs, online articles have been my nutrition for the last few months. The summer months were bliss as I spent copious hours on the beach reading. Then fall hit. Copious hours are long gone. Free time is at a premium. Books in progress will be the topic of conversation here on the book blog.

The stack of books on my side table is about 12 inches high. The one I keep going back to (and just renewed) is "Worry" by Edward Hallowell. Worry does worry me, I have to admit. I can be a bit of a worry-wart, although I prefer to think of it as "being concerned". There IS a time and place for being concerned, or worrying. Some of us take it to extremes, though. Another great book I read awhile back was "When the Body Says No" by Gabor Mate. His theory is that stress can cause physical illness. Given my present physical problems I'm starting to wonder if what I considered to be my laid-back (albeit sometimes worrying) nature isn't so laid-back after all. Maybe when I THOUGHT that I wasn't bothered by something, I really was but suppressed it till finally my body said NO! Just a theory.

Back to "Worry". I can't seem to find the time to just sit down with this book and read it through. I read bits and pieces that are all so interesting I want to finish it. Finally, I flipped to the end - at least I can hear what he suggests we DO about all that worrying. From page 245: "Instead of letting worry bore into your brain, the next time worry strikes try immediately to put the sequence of EPR into motion: evaluate, plan, remediate. If you can make this a habit, you can control many worries quickly before they control you.

For example, let's say you experience a pain in your chest while walking upstairs one day. Instead of spending the next few hours worrying what it meant, and dodging the question, you could do as follows:

1. Evaluate: This was a kind of pain I don't remember having felt before. It was sharp, in the area of my heart. It passed when I paused for breath. I do not know what this means.

2. Plan: Since I do not know what this means and since I do fear it might be serious, I will seek expert advice.

3. Remediate: You call your physician right away."

This is actually a technique that I have learned to some extent in my years as a messy. One thing that caused a lot of worry and stress was "where are the keys?" Years ago I made a place for the keys and always put them there. No more worry. On my desk are two stacking filing units. There's a slot for every part of my life. All bits of paper and important information goes into its respective slot. Now when I get that "yikes, where did I put our passports for the trip (or whatever)" I can relax immediately because I know they are right where they should be. A place for everything, and everything in it's place. An old cliche, but a true and useful one.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

More of Ted Dekker

"THR3E" is a thriller with a message. How great is that?!! I won't say anymore - lots of surprises, twists and turns.

"The Martyr's Song" asks the question "what would you die for?". Very thought-provoking and challenging. Short little book that comes with a CD of the song.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Kickin' back on the beach...

I look forward to summer days at the beach when all there is to do is read, read, read. It's nice to have uninterrupted stetches of time. Usually I have to limit myself to bits and pieces amid schooling and housework and errands. In the last month and a half I have read some really good books. But now I have to get back to reality, so I don't have time to give an indepth review of them.
Here's a listing:

"A Thousand Splendid Suns" by Khaled Hosseini (5 stars - must read. The story of several women in Afghanistan. There's an interesting video interview with him online somewhere. I bought this but it's available in the library)

"Prey" by Michael Crichton (3 stars - a page turner, but WAY too technical for me. I skipped over all the jargon and scientific explanations. This is in the library)

"Enter Three Witches" by Caroline B. Cooney (4 stars -a novelized retelling of MacBeth from a young girl's perspective. Library)

The Circle Trilogy, "Black", "Red", and "White", by Ted Dekker. (4 stars only because I was starting to get a little tired of the series by the end of it. Great theology lessons - these books will stretch your spiritual mind. Library)

"Irish Chain" by Barbara Haworth-Attard (4 stars. The story of a girl with dyslexia during the time of the Halifax explosion in 1917. I own this book)
"A Part of the Sky" by Robert Newton Peck (4 stars. Sequel to "A Day No Pigs Would Die". Library)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Life on the farm

Coming of age books can be iffy. "A Day No Pigs Would Die" is a sweet book that gives you a look into the life of a young boy growing up as a Shaker. I had an image of Jethro Bowdean (sp?) from the Beverly Hillbillys show as I heard the thoughts and conversation of young Robert Peck. Since Robert Peck is also the author of the book it is probably autobiographical, although written as a novel. You will delight in his stories of life on the farm, even as you agonize with the harsh realities of that same life. A young boy or young man would find this book a good read - and perhaps learn a thing or two about what it means to take on the responsibilities of manhood.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Book theft, book madness and cheese...

Books about books - what more could a booklover want? "The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak almost slipped through my fingers. In the first few pages we learn that the narrator of the book is Death himself. Weird, I thought. Worth my time? Give it a few more pages, I decided. And I was hooked. This book bursts with words and word pictures. Some authors use the technique of personification to add color to their stories. This book has personification on every page. It's alive with it. If you love words and the images that words conjure up you will love this novel. At the same time it is a heartbreaking story of a young girl growing up in Germany during WWII. "The Book Thief" touched my heart. Take note that Chapters rates this for ages 10 - 12. I found it in the Young Adult section of the library. I wouldn't want my 12 year old son to read it. The language is sometimes questionable and it's too sophisticated a storyline. There are plenty of other books on this time period that would be more suited to this age group.

"The Bookwoman's Last Fling". A murder mystery about books! I love it! John Dunning obviously loves books and horses, as that is the framework of this book. Can we ever have enough books? Is there such a thing as too many? This book will probably give you a bit of a twinge if you're like me and have books everywhere. I finished it in several days and consider it a great summer read. I'll definitely look for others in the Cliff Janeway series.

So that's the book theft and book madness. Where does the cheese come in? In this fast paced world you MUST read (and reread) or in my case, listen to the audio of, "Who Moved My Cheese?" by Spencer Johnson. The short parable speaks about change and how we react to it in healthy and unhealthy ways. His amusing metaphors will linger with you and cause you to rethink your reactions to the unavoidable changes that come along in life.

Monday, June 25, 2007

The darkness of Night...

I finally finished another book. There were several false starts in the last few weeks, but "Night" by Elie Wiesel was not one of those.

Mr. Wiesel is the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for 1986. His book "Night" (which has been translated from French) is the story of his experiences during WWII in concentration camps. He tells with chilling and surprizing detail the accounts of being rounded up, separated from his mother and sister, and his loyalty to his father throughout their time in the camps. Wiesel describes the loss of his faith during that time, but then seems to have regained it again by the time of his Nobel prize acceptance speech at the end of the book. So perhaps we can assume that the faith was not lost completely, but just challenged. I'd like to hear more of THAT story.

The chronicle of Wiesel's time in captivity isn't new to anyone who has read other WWII stories, but we MUST keep this time period fresh in our minds and hearts and pass it on to the next generation. Our children must be as horrified as we are, lest history repeat itself.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Books I DIDN'T read...

There are SO many books to read and just not enough time. So it doesn't make sense to keep reading a book that doesn't capture you or give some hint that you will be better off having finished it. I recently thought that I would give Stephen King another chance. Years ago I avidly read his books - before I decided that horror was not a genre that improved my character. So I borrowed "Kisey's Story" from the library. And I gave it a good chance. But no go...back it went. However, having read that King's wife and son are also novelists, I reserved a book each of theirs. Owen King is Stephen's son. "We're All in this Together" is a novella and short stories. The novella (same title as the book) was intriguing enough to hold me through most of it, but unfortunately the language (oh woe, that "F" word) did it in for me and I delegated it to the "soon to go back" shelf. Then I pulled out Tabitha King's "Survivor", but didn't make it beyond the first few chapters. Language! Really Tabitha! Am I so far out of the "real world" that bad language bothers me so much? I can sort of see it in war novels or coming from the lips of criminals in a thriller, but when regular characters start spouting it, I'm out of there. I want to be edified by the literature that I read. The free dictionary online defines edifying as "enlightening or uplifting so as to encourage intellectual or moral improvement". Authors - give me edifying words!
What interests me the most about this literary family is what went on between their four walls to give them all such a talent and love for writing. Did Stephen take his son Owen through WriteShop or Writing Strands? Did he require his son to write daily in a journal or practice the structural models and stylistic techniques till he had honed his craft to perfection? I suspect not. He probably just wrote everyday himself and modeled such a love of writing that his son, (who already had ideas within himself to express), naturally started putting those down on paper himself. But I could be wrong. I'd sure like to know, though.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

End of the year juggling act...

Egyptian jugglers
Every year at this time it's the same story. Many balls in the air and they're going faster and faster. My arms are getting tired and my head is spinning. Added to the regular routines of house and schooling and children's ministry, is the demands of the yard and planning for NEXT year's schooling. Everything in and of itself is interesting and good, but when combined it makes for a situation pushing overload. No wonder I haven't had much time to read for JUST pleasure!

I did discover a new author. Frederick Beuchner (pronounced Beekner). "The Wizard's Tide" was a delightful story of a few years in the life of a young boy living in Winnipeg. It's the story of a family and their struggles through the depression. Beuchner says that it's "mostly a true story". I wonder if it's HIS story. In any case, the depth of emotion and clarity of recall is amazing. I just wanted to scoop up the main character, Teddy, and give him a big hug. The library has several of Buechner's books and I have reserved them. He has been compared to C.S. Lewis (although on the cover of one of his books of sermons he looks more like Anthony Hopkins to me!). The forward to "Secrets in the Dark" is by Brian McLaren, so that tells you something. I look forward to gleaning some life wisdom from this man.

Another author that was recommended (from a CBC radio program) is Carol Shields. On the program her husband was talking about the book "Larry's Party". So I promptly ordered it from the library. Well!! This book was SO intriguing. I moved from chapter to chapter really wanting to know what was going to happen next to Larry. However... I finally couldn't get past the bad language and the crudeness. I made it to almost half way. Nope, sorry, can't do it. I skipped to the last section and kind of got the drift of what had happened to Larry in the intervening years. It was really a sad story in a way. The story of a man who just missed the mark it seems to me. So much potential, but pushed about by the tides with no intentional directing of his life. Shields has written a number of other books, as well. I'll give one more a try before abandoning her.

A quick read for me these last few weeks was The Vikings by Elizabeth Janeway. I bought it at the homeschool convention with thoughts of it being for the kids. I have a fascination with Vikings so I read it myself before passing it over to them. It's a Landmark Book which is supposed to be a mark of excellence. And this WAS a good book. It's the story of Eric the Red and his son Leif. Well researched and substantiated. I learned a lot about the Vikings from this book. My 12 year old son, however, got about half way through and abandoned it for Bone Dry by Kathleen Karr. Oh well, maybe he'll pick it up again another time.

Can you see me as a Viking maiden???

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Tribute to the library

"A library is not a luxury but one of the necessities of life." said Henry Ward Beecher.

I have to agree with him on that. But how often do we consider how privileged we are to have the libraries that we have in this country? A copious reader goes through many more books from a library than (usually) they could afford to buy. My reading marathon of last week was only possible because the books were readily available in the local library. The second to last book arrived in time to be gulped down and now I await eagerly the final installment of the Shadow Children series. Admittedly, I'm starting to tire of the repetition necessary to bring readers up to speed who haven't read previous books in the series, but overall, the story line was intriguing.

Back to libraries. An amusing children's picture book about a bibliophile is The Library by Sarah Stewart. I can fully relate to a house overflowing with books and will be happy one day to start giving the books away to my children's children.

One amazing feature of our library is the interlibrary loan service. By requesting books that aren't available locally, you can read books from all over the country - and maybe further, I don't know. My latest acquistion came from Tumbler Ridge, entitled "Forbidden City" by William Bell. Again, a young adult book. The writing style wasn't very "heavy", but the content more than made up for it. This is the story of events leading up to the Tian An Men Square massacre. Very first-hand; very informative. Knowing that his significant other is from China leads you to believe that what he writes about is as factual as it can possibly be.

Tian An Men Square

Monday, April 16, 2007

A reading marathon...

How can it be, that with a great pile of started books waiting to be finished, I picked up something different to read? Wanting to preview a YA novel for my kids, I took out a stack of Margaret Peterson Haddix books from the library. She writes copiously. One series is Shadow Children. A classic "what if" scenario. What if the overpopulation zealots managed to bring in a law that only allowed two children per family? And then, what if some families happened to/decided to have a third? How would that child manage to remain undetected? What if these children got the notion that they should have rights? I love that "what if" concept in SciFi fiction. These books managed to keep me glued to the page (between all the "stuff" I have to do, like housework and meals and kids needing rides and doing school). I read the first 5 books one after the other, but have to wait to get the last two which I have reserved. Then I went on to her "Running out of time" novel - similar theme as the movie The Village. I finished off my Haddix marathon with "Turnabout", which has an immortality theme. I found all these books to be perfect for what I was needing this week - diversion. The concepts and characters were interesting and the writing not too juvenile that I felt at any time that I was being dumbed down.
But then, just to top off the week, on Sunday I listened to an award winning book (on tape) - Rockbound by Frank Parker Day. This book won the 2005 Canada Reads contest. Now this was a great book! The book takes place on the south shore of Novia Scotia and has all the classic elements of good literature. Drama, suspense, romance, jealousy, hatred, murder. Very Shakespearean in flavour. But it also reminded me of Moby Dick, which I also listened to as a book on tape. Maybe that's because of the sea/fishing atmosphere. The narrator does a remarkable job of getting the accents of the characters down so well - that really adds authenticity to the story which I wouldn't have necessarily gotten if I had read it. I highly recommend this book.

"Fishing boats at Sea" by Vincent Van Gogh

Saturday, April 7, 2007

My body succumbed...

After many false alarms over the winter, my body finally gave in and got really sick. My doctor thought it might be step throat. I almost hoped it was, so that I could take something and get better. But alas, just a really bad cold. No voice for three days and only a squeak for several after that. Almost two weeks later I'm still recovering. All this to say...I haven't been reading at my regular pace. Taking stock of books on the go - Norman Mailer The Spooky Art, Oliver Van DeMille A Thomas Jefferson Education, Israel My Glory magazine, The Artist's magazine, Richard Powell Wabi Sabi for Writers, Rob Bell Velvet Elvis, Lewis Thomas The Lives of a Cell, AND Holley Pierlot A Mother's Rule of Life.

The only book I have finished in the last 3 weeks is P.D. James's The Children of Men. I had been warned not to watch the movie because of the bad language so I opted for the book instead. I have to admit that it took me till about one-third into the book to really get hooked on it. I enjoy science fiction, but this wasn't your usual sci-fi novel. Once hooked though the story line was interesting. It brought to mind the book The Lord of the Flies. How will we behave when the structure of society that we have always counted on is gone? Our true character comes out when the going gets tough. Scary thought.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A time of introspection

The scene outside is bleak and dreary, but inside the heater pumps warmth into the room as I clean, sort, organize and rearrange. In the process I've come across my years and years of journals. It's important, I think, to occasionally read what you have jotted down in a journal. It brings a time of introspection - you can see where you've been and where you had hoped to be. It might bring on an "aha" moment or a "right, I'd forgotten about that". In this hurried world, layer upon layer of busy-ness can cloud our focus and keep us running around like a chicken with its head cut off (and I know from where I speak on the headless chicken concept). Spending some time reflecting on what has been important to you in the past can clarify your mind to see what needs to be weeded from your present life.

Spring is a time when I start planning for the following educational year with my children. I came across some quotes about education that I had jotted down many years ago and I'd like to share them here. I hope through these inspirational words that I can find myself back on track to creating a positive learning environment for my children that best acknowledges their God-given gifts and talents and the direction that He is leading them.

"We must keep in mind that education is nothing if it fails to teach beliefs and skills that prepare us to live successfully within our times."

"It's really important to look at the wrong answers. It is from them that we best learn about our mistakes and how to correct them. Mistakes are much more important than right answers."

"In real learning, however, mistakes are essential. A person rarely has the right answer the first time around, so learning is accomplished through trial and error."

"Education leaves out the crucial process of questioning what you don't know."

"Learning begins with questions - questions the mind forms in response to the world and events."

"School treats all the same, gives all the same, produces all the same."

"Education is preparing your child to live out the individual and personal calling of God."

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Getting inside someone else's skin

My sixteen year old son and I both enjoyed "Zack" by William Bell. We probably got different things out of it because of the difference in our ages and life perspectives. I'm sure he related to the main character - a teenage boy just starting to stretch his wings and crave independence. The historical aspect of the novel was significant, with a lot of research having gone into it. Basically, this is the story of a young black youth coming to terms with his ancestry - his father a Jew and his mother African/American. I felt it gave me a better understanding of the race issue especially comparing Canadian to American outlooks. This is definitely a young adult book - there are girl/boy episodes that younger children shouldn't be exposed to. And there is a little bit of "language". All in all, though, this is a book well worth reading for the development of the concept and even for the poetic language he includes. Bell paints many mental images through his use of words that certainly add to the depth of the book.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Purim isn't just for the Jews

This weekend I reread a "book within a book" - The Book of Esther in the Bible. What an inspiring story of standing up for what you believe in! Standing up against all odds in spite of danger. I love the celebration of Purim which is the time when Jews (and Christians who call Abraham THEIR father) all over the world remember what Esther did and the freedom that she gained for the Jews of her time. All Jewish holidays have their customs and special foods and Purim is no different. And each time in history brings new ways of looking at old practices. Check out this blog for extraordinary interpretations of traditional Purim and Passover objects.

I made hamentashen cookies for my kids in Sunday School (we watched a NestFamily DVD on Esther). The poppyseed filling they were very leery of but the raspberry and apricot were a great hit. Hamentashen are a somewhat picky to make. The dough is best if you chill it for a few hours and then roll it out in several batches. I used a drinking glass as my circle cutter - make sure to dip the glass in flour each time. Put a SMALL teaspoon of filling on the circle of dough, pinch three sides up to make the triangular shape, bake and enjoy. I like them best fresh, but they're tasty the next day too. Make lots - everyone will want more than one or two. I saw a recipe on the net somewhere for cherry filling cookies - I'll try those next year.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Books for us gals

You've heard of chick flicks? Well, there are some books out there that are meant just for us girls. Books that you curl up in a soft chair with - a cup of hot chocolate or cappuccino on the table beside you. A few pages later you're transported off to another world - another woman's world. But because you are both women, somehow there's a connection. Feelings are shared; minds connect. You can relate to this woman even if she is experiencing something you never have - because you're both women. Or maybe suddenly you see things from a different point of view because she is at a different stage of life than you or just went through something you haven't. But even so, there's a relationship - because you're both women. Whenever I'm feeling lonely or isolated there's nothing like reading a good "chick book" to remind me that all women share common feelings, dreams and desires and so, therefore, we're all bonded together. Of course, having a gab session with a flesh and blood friend is good too!

A few books I've read in the last year that confirmed how unique and special being a woman is (with a quote from each one - some sentences resonate with your spirit and can't be left to the memory; they have to be written down!):
The Year of Pleasures ~ Elizabeth Berg (pg. 160 The older I get, the more I see that nothing makes sense but to try to learn true compassion.)
Eat Cake ~ Jeanne Ray (pg. 122 She was a teacher in her soul and found that inside every action there was the opportunity for instruction.)
Pride and Prescience ~ Carrie Bebris (pg. 174 They began with minor transgressions and escalated their misdeeds, each one making the next acceptable in their own minds until they arrived at a destination so foreign to civilized men that their broken moral compass can no longer lead them home.)

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Living Books

Some books catch your heart, deepen your knowledge, make you laugh or cry, transform you or transport you to a world outside your four walls. This is a "living book". "Throwaway Daughter" is just such a book. Written by Ting-Xing Ye (with William Bell), Throwaway Daughter is the story of an abandoned female baby in China who was adopted by a Caucasian couple and raised almost from birth in Canada. The book tells the story of her feelings growing up Chinese in an almost totally white neighborhood. Her struggles to accept her background intensify until, at graduation, she decides to go to China to look for her birth mother. The book does not hold back - her intense feelings are laid bare. The heart-breaking ramifications of the one-child policy in China are clearly displayed. After reading this young adult novel dealing with this issue you might want to go on to "A Mother's Ordeal" which is a true story of a young woman and her fight against China's one-child policy. I'm anxious to read Ye's memoirs called "A Leaf in the Bitter Wind".

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Going to the dogs

My sister just bought a dog from the SPCA in a town an hour away from here. She went online to check out what was available. It made me wonder if I should be doing the same. I fluctuate between not really wanting a dog to really not wanting a dog. But the kids want I spent a precious hour of my day looking at dogs on the web. There are lots of unwanted dogs out there! I went through pages and pages of dogs. My desires are very specific - small, non-yappy, non-allergenic, stuffed (no...never mind that one, although they were selling some cute little puppies last Christmas that were so lifelike and their bodies even went up and down like they were breathing). All the tiny ones that seemed like they would take up a small space in the house and have small poops, weren't suitable for children. And then I came across a corgi. Immediately my thoughts went to one of my favorite authors - Tasha Tudor. I LOVE this woman. She is the epitomy of someone doing what they want to do in life. One of my favorite books about her is written by her daughter Bethany Tudor. "Drawn From New England" is full of stories from Tasha's life, photos, and pages from her sketchbook. She is a real inspiration and example of a hard working, creative woman. Corgis and Tasha go together because that is the kind of dog that she has always had and I have always thought I would like one too.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Stories of those who stood for Jesus

Everyday during our reading time in the morning I read to the kids from "Jesus Freaks" by dc Talk and The Voice of the Martyrs. The stories in this book are incredibly inspiring and yet sobering too. Would I have the strength of character to conduct myself as these heroes of the faith have done? I can only think that they probably had the same opinion of themselves, but that God gave them what they needed for the situations they were in. I don't keep any of the stories back - even from my 6 year old, even though some are quite gruesome. One day they may need to hold onto these evidences of courage and sacrifice to get them through a tough time. Our exemplary heroes of today are few and far between.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Uncle Tom's Cabin

A few years ago I finally read "Uncle Tom's Cabin" by Harriet Beecher Stowe. It's one of those classics that I'd heard so much about, but had never actually read myself. Apparently this book made SUCH an impact in the United States after it was written - people finally started "getting it" about slavery. I wanted to see if the book really was as impacting as I had heard. And yes, it was. I could see how a sensitive mind would be changed by the life stories Harriet Stowe had in her book. On the 200 year anniversary of the abolition of slavery in England I would like to reread this important book.

After reading this book I began to wonder if a book on a more modern "issue" would have the same impact in today's world. I came to the conclusion that it would probably take something with a multimedia approach to reach the masses today. Like, for instance, a movie or Youtube. Just look at how many people tuned into "the bride freaking out over her hair" Youtube episode. There are plenty of crucial messages that need to be brought to the forefront – I hope and pray that concerned citizens are being raised up to use whatever resources needed to capture the attention of people who can then take action and make a difference.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Outreach Magazine

I picked up my first copy of Outreach Magazine a few weeks ago. This issue focuses on innovative churches in America - I wrote down lots of websites to check out and put many books on my "wishlist" (as if I need any more books to read!). I think that after perusing these sites for awhile my understanding of the postmodern church/emerging church will be a little clearer. Layer by layer my understanding grows.

The bonus to this issue was an educational DVD on the
new movie coming out "Amazing Grace", the story of William Wilberforce. It includes a trailer, movie clips, music and more. Hopefully the movie won't be long in coming to Canada - it looks very good. Wilberforce was a strong abolitionist who fought for many years and finally was instrumental in ending the slave trade in England. He was good friends with John Newton, who wrote the hymn Amazing Grace - hence the title of the movie. For up-to-date info on the modern slave trade visit Stop the Traffik When we wonder how it could have happened in history - ask yourself "What am I doing about the problem right now?"

Read With Me

This inspiring book would be of interest to anyone with a desire to help adults learn to read. Each chapter tells the story of an adult who struggles for one reason or another with reading and the tutor who helped them make the "reading connection".

A quote from the author Walter Anderson - "I would argue that literacy itself does not make people smarter or better. Literacy is as neutral as an axe; it can rust away, unused, or it can fell a tree, shape lumber, or sever a head. The ability to read and write is not knowledge but a tool to acquire knowledge; it allows us to use our brains in a unique and rewarding way. More, it can affect how we perceive the world, giving us genuine personal power. And that, finally, is its greatest value: literacy empowers."

I don't think any aspect of educating my children is as fulfilling as watching them learn to read. To give a child the tools to unlock the wonders of the written word is a priceless gift. To do this for an adult who has struggled for years with the stigma that illiteracy causes would be just as fulfilling, I'm sure.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Spider's Web

I didn't really WANT to reserve a large-print version of Peter Tremayne's novel "The Spider's Web", but that's the only way it came and I want to read the whole series of Sister Fidelma's mysteries situated in ancient Ireland. (reading large-print makes me feel old) It actually took me over a week to read it - that tells you how full my life has been. Or maybe it wasn't as interesting as the previous ones have been. It WAS enjoyable and the title is apt - the plot was as complex as a spider's web. I continue to enjoy the historical aspect of Tremayne's novels - I learn something new each time I read. My quest to obtain the audio version of one title so that I can say the names and places correctly.(I think it's Valley of the Shadow) has still been unsuccessful, so I'll keep looking. Oh, the excitement of the chase!

On an aside - I did try another Alys Clare book (she writes mysteries from ancient Ireland as well). The first few pages were enough to convince me that I won't bother with her again.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

A book about snow is appropriate for the weather

I was recently going through my MANY children's picture books looking for a book on slavery to read to my Sunday School class. I came across a beautiful book I bought from Scholastic a few years ago, "Snowflake Bentley" by Jacqueline Briggs Martin. This book is SO inspiring!

Wilson Bentley was born in 1865, the son of a farmer. He was homeschooled till he was 14 and only attended "real" school a few years. Willie had a love affair with snow - the annual snowfall in Vermont where he lived was 120 inches! So wanting to know everything he could about snow was a logical study. The aspect of the book that is especially inspiring to me is that when he was 16 he wanted a camera that could photograph snowflakes. It was very expensive, but his parents spent their savings and bought it for him. He went on to devote his whole life to the study of snow and is considered the expert in the field.

Wow! That really makes me think when one of my children has a passion, but no money. I want to encourage their constructive interests and help them out if I can. Who knows where it might lead? Several of my kids are musically inclined and one likes to do wood carving, so I'm always buying magazines and musical paraphanalia. The hard one is that the next step with one son is a new computer so that he can record properly using a program he just bought. My goodness - computers aren't cheap. We may be able to work out a "buy it now - pay for it later" deal.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

A Treasure of a Book

A friend recently returned a book to me that I consider a real treasure to have on my bookshelf. I was introduced to MaryJane Butters this summer when I serendipidiously came across her magazine in a small grocery store that I rarely shop at. She spoke to my heart! I consider her the Martha Stewart of the farm scene. A real "down-home", grassroots type of person - but she could be a little intimidating in that she seems to be able to do anything and have energy to spare. But her values and love of family and women shines through all her writing. The book that I treated myself to just before Christmas is entitled "MaryJane's Ideabook ~ Cookbook ~ Lifebook", and it's all that for sure. Each chapter deals with a different aspect of farmlife (or urban farmlife or wanna-be farmlife). There are recipes and instructions and reflections on life and living. It's the kind of book I would be proud to have written and is a useful resource to have on the shelf. It would be a great shower/wedding present for someone who likes to be a do-it-yourselfer. Check out her website for challenging ideas on eating organically.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

In the Twinkling of an Eye

Some books just beg to be picked up and "In the Twinkling of an Eye" was one of those. Although a paperback, it has the look of an antique book because of the way they have photo-texturized the cover. It also has a "good heft", meaning it just feels good in your hands. I picked it up at a homeschool convention on spec, never having heard of it before. The back cover spoke of the rapture and that intrigued me. Sometimes you buy a book on impulse and it turns out to be exactly what you like to read. This book reminded me very much of "In His Steps", which challenges us with the question "what would Jesus do?". "In the Twinkling of an Eye" is set in the late 1800's and puts forward the question "are you ready for Jesus to come?". What made the book especially stimulating for me was all the Jewish insights that were brought out, as I have a deep interest in anything Jewish. In fact, one subplot in the book was the developing awareness of several Jewish people that the Messiah had indeed come two thousand years before and will come again. While I didn't find the book to be riveting, it certainly raised some provocative ideas and was challenging in its position that all the conditions are in place to indicate that Jesus could be coming back at any time.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

"A New Kind of Christian"

Postmodernism...I just haven't wrapped my head around it yet. This book by Brian McLean brings postmodernism to the Christian arena. It's written as the back and forth discussion between two men - one who is searching for more meaning to his Christian experience and one who thinks he has some of the answers. This is definitely NOT an easy read. I started it months ago and wasn't able to get all the way through. The meaning or substance of postmodernism continues to elude me. Finally, in desperation (the book is borrowed), I flipped to the last few chapters. Here he gets down to the nitty-gritty of how a PM church would look. This was helpful. I think what he's saying is that PM in the context of church means that people want to put their faith into practice. A lot of doing practical stuff, not just talking about faith in an intellectual way. A quote from page 132, "So salvation is joining God's mission instead of trying to live by our own selfish personal agenda." Community seems to be very important; and being open and tolerant.

I still haven't decided if PM is something that should be studied and dissected or just allowed to happen, if indeed it is happening. If you don't "get it" are you ever going to? Or do PMers "get it" automatically and that's what makes them PM? Am I a helpless Modern?

Because I am who I am, I will continue to read more on this topic. Any enlightening resources would be welcome.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Latest read

I just finished a good reference book called "What Stories Does My Son Need?" - a guide to books and movies that build character in boys. For the most part this short book just confirmed what I already believe - the books and movies that children read/watch shape their character and moral values. A quote from page 2, "A decade of research into brain development and the media confirms that until a child's brain develops fully, it is imprinting, modeling and performing based on imagery it takes in from all social sources, including the media...Especially until about age sixteen, the greater the exposure a boy gets to stimuli that do not teach compassion and self-restraint, the more difficult it becomes for him to learn such things." He strongly urges parents to closely oversee the books and movies that their boys have access to. He then goes on to list 100 books and 100 movies that he recommends, with their plot line and a few discussion questions. I take my opinion even further than he does. Books and movies have an effect on your belief system and behavior all your life. The old garbage in - garbage out effect.

Thursday, January 25, 2007


A friend and I have plans to travel to Europe in 5 years, so I have been giving serious thought to what I would like to see there. As I ran through all the places to visit it occurred to me...maybe we should be thinking of this in a new way. Are we just planning this as a one time event? Or will this be the first of many trips? Because that can make a difference to where you want to go. If it's once in a lifetime, we may want to see many places quickly. But if more than one trip is going to happen you can spend more time in one spot. My interests have always tended towards the historical, in particular Elizabethan England. So the more I thought about it, the more I thought I would like to see the historical spots in England. To that end I bought a book at Chapters showing all the historical spots to see and do in England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland. Egypt and Greece are high on my list too. (Does Egypt count as Europe?) I've studied ancient Egypt a number of times with my kids and find it fascinating and the pyramids would be fantastic to actually touch. CAN you touch them, I wonder? Probably half the fun of the trip will be in the planning!

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

I tuned into an interesting show recently on CBC radio (I like CBC because it makes me THINK). The discussion was about plastic surgery - how much is TOO much? what are the spiritual ramifications? why do we do it? Unfortunately, I missed the beginning and the end but some interesting points were raised. Women seem to do it the most. Why? There is more pressure on women to "look good" longer. One speaker said her plum line was "would I do this on a desert island?" She concluded that she would continue to use make up if she was alone on a desert island because she liked using it, but wouldn't resort to plastic surgery . This whole concept of artificial beautification is foreign territory to me. I've never worn a lot of make up and up till a few years ago had kept my "youthful looks". However...having passed the 1/2 century mark I'm starting to see those tell tale signs of aging and suddenly my mind is starting to wander in new directions. I have always admired old people and their signs of aging - till it became me! Our society is so youth oriented - you do have to be comfortable with yourself and the fact that you are getting older or else you could get swept up in the urgency to disguise your true age. My Mary Kay make-over experience was interesting. Oh, how women can paint themselves up! It just seems like a lot of work to me. I was happy to help my friend out and buy the cleansing system and will try it for the duration of the product. If I see a difference over my regular routine (just plain water, ma'am) then I'll restock. And I'm doing an experiment with the eye firming sample she gave me. One eye gets the treatment and one is left without. If I see a difference - she's made a sale!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Journal thoughts

I've kept a journal for many fact, I'm old enough now to have 20 years of journals on my shelf. How can that have happened?!! In any case, I don't write a lot of personal reflections on my pages. My worry is that someone would get ahold of it and read personal thoughts better left undisclosed. So I include books I have read, along with quotes from them and my impressions of the book. If I go to a workshop or seminar I write my notes in there. Did I attend a meeting?....check my journal for what went on. Does my house need organizing?...check my journal for my latest Flylady-type plans. It makes for interesting reading to go over the journals I have collected over the years. I've tried having a notebook for this subject and another for that. But I've ended up going back to one for everything. My latest organizational trick is to number the pages and have a table of contents at the beginning. At least this way I don't take so much time to look something up if needed. And after suffering through a cheap $ store notebook over the summer and fall, I've now decided that my words deserve better and I splurged with a beautiful $15 book that has a gorgeous cover picture of a bookshelf and a very content cat. I can write on both sides of the pages and it's a pleasure to pick up and even to just look at. There's no going back to el-cheapo for me :)

Another reading attempt aborted

Well, I really did my best to continue with "What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Learning"....but to no avail. It's just over my head and I don't have the time to try and make sense out of if. Basically, I BELIEVE he's saying that video games enhance learning because of the way that they allow you to become a part of the environment of the game. Also, as you continue to play them over and over attempting to win each level you "learn as you go", teaching the skills of building on basic knowledge to acquire more. He criticizes the school system for lagging behind in this area, often using methods that are more skill and drill than innovative.

In the meantime I finished a book that I can't recommend called "Girl in a Red Tunic". This is a medieval mystery by Alys Clare. It was a little too graphic for my taste - I had to edit a number of parts by "sweeping the page". Too bad - the storyline was interesting and it WAS a good read for the plot and historical value. I'll try one more of her books, but if that seems to be the way Clare writes I'll give her a pass from then on.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Reading thoughts

I started a book last night called "What Video Games Have to Teach Us about learning and Literacy" by James Paul Gee. As a concerned mother I'm always wondering if my children are spending too much time on the computer and other media sources. So I read everything I can on the subject. After reading only part of the introduction I was feeling very overwhelmed. Maybe I was tired (it was evening, after all), but I was starting to feel anxiety radiate from my stomach to my outer limbs as I tried to decipher his sentences. He's a professor of reading at a university in the States and I think you need to be another professor to understand what he has to say. Basically, I am getting the impression that he is in favor of the learning that goes on when playing video games. He has some interesting ideas about reading and literacy that confirm what I have heard from other sources, most recently Susan Wise Bauer. Reading is more than just decoding the words. Your life experiences, background, culture etc. all play into what you get out of what you read. I am intrigued enough by the little that I got out of my journey into his book last night to attempt to try again today. If I get bogged down I will cut to the chase and skip to the ending chapters to see how he concludes the whole thing. I hope that I don't learn that I should be playing video games for brain development!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Latest reading and older children

I just finished a good book - Gregor the Overlander. It's actually a older children's book - I've been reading a lot of those in the last year. I'm trying to keep tabs on what my kids are reading, for one thing, but often these books are a good read. In this story a young boy discovers a world under New York City and has many adventures as he tries to go home. It's full of action, drama and great family values. It's set up so that there could possibly be a sequel, so I'm going to be on the look-out for that.

On another note - a friend called me up yesterday and said there was a call in program on the radio dealing with older children living at home. So I tuned in for a while (I don't usually listen to popular radio - CBC doesn't seem to have so many commerials!) Anyways, what I came away with was how important the independence issue was to the people being called in to. It was stressed over and over that children need to learn to live on their own, make their own decisions, fend for themselves etc. It just rubbed me the wrong way. Sure, that is all true to a certain degree. You don't want them constantly having to look to their parents for assurance. But I think that you can give your children the tools they need to be able to buy a car, get housing, make daily decisions etc. without them having to be pushed out of the nest completely. It's very much a cultural issue. In many cultures children live at home until they marry or even after they marry. And they seem to be well-adjusted. It's all in your attitude.

If my older kids want to move out and get their own place, I'm happy to help them in that transition. But I'm just as happy to have them here having new experiences outside the home, but with the reassurance that there is always a safe haven to come back to. It's almost guaranteed that they will be on their own SOME DAY - why do we think that it has to be immediately that they reach that magic age of 18 or 19?

Monday, January 15, 2007

Getting the hang of this....slowly

I seem to have figured out how to make my way around my Sunday School site - getting comments in, links in and photos uploaded. So I'm going to try that over here as well. Today was very productive at home - and we got the final inspection done on the renovation! Hurray! Now we can start moving stuff in - officially. When it's all looking neat I'll try and post a picture. In the meantime, I'll begin with one that I already have on file.....I hope. [a few minutes go by] It worked! This is me with my daughter at a Mary Kay makeover dinner. Do I look glamorous?