Friday, December 1, 2017

Book Review: Hillbilly Elegy

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance is a fascinating story. The author grew up in Ohio in a family with strong ties to Appalachian Kentucky. His childhood was filled with upheaval and emotional uncertainty, with violence and poverty, but also with grandparents who believed he was capable of what he eventually achieved: a degree in law from Yale University.


In telling his own story, Mr. Vance offers insight into the culture of the working poor: domestic violence, shame, temporary escape through drugs and alcohol, and adults who celebrate their vices. While explaining how he "made it", he also illustrates how the deck is stacked against others wanting to follow his example.

The book does not offer answers on how outsiders can step in fix things. Mr. Vance's perception of the situation is that change must come from within, despite the difficulties in achieving that goal. As I read it, I was struck by the similarities between the white working poor, left behind as manufacturing jobs die, and the black urban poor. I think both cultures have a lot of overlap in the systemic problems they face.

The book is written by a man who has lived in a variety of cultures and classes, so contains better insights than most of us could develop. If you decide to read it, though, remember that this is one man's experience and so should not be used as an explanation for every action of people from his home culture.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Book Review: Love the House You're In

I have recently read a handful of books that I really enjoyed, so I'm briefly back to blogging. I want to get the word out about them and have a handy place to look them up when it's been a couple years and I'm thinking, "What was the title of that one again?"

Love the House You're In: 40 Ways to Improve Your Home and Change Your Life

Love the House You're In is a home improvement book like no other I've seen. It is not full of fancy pictures and "one afternoon" projects. Rather, it's all about you. Paige Rien, the author, has crafted a book about learning your own story so you can write it using your home. The first section of the book invites you to think about what is important in your life, where you've come from, and what you want from your house. The next two sections walk you through getting that off the page and onto your walls, so to speak.

I enjoyed this book not just for the content, but also the author's voice. She worked for HGTV for years, but was discouraged that people saw those houses as impossible to achieve. She understands that homes are sacred spaces. She has young children, so she speaks from experience on the balance of kid- and adult-friendly. She quotes Fr. (now Bishop) Barron! :-) It is very readable.

By choosing to read the book, I reveal my own interest in interior design, so I'm a bit biased. However, Jeremy has also been reading and enjoying it, coming up with projects of his own! It's an excellent book. If you're local, you can get it from the Monroe County library system. Or splurge and buy a copy!

Thursday, June 22, 2017


I dreamed last night that I was grieving the loss of Fr. Jerry Appleby, a dear pastor of mine who died recently. In the dream, I was still in college, and I knew you were working an event at the library, so I went to see you. I didn't even plan to tell you about Fr. Jerry; I knew just being around you would bring me joy. You always love so fully, always finding a way to care for your friends. There were a few lines, but I caught sight of you at the head of one, in your black CAS tshirt, bracing your hands on the counter with that smile, as if you were just about to get into mischief.

And then the whole dream froze, like pushing pause on a movie. Just a still frame of you, grinning at the customer you were helping. And even in my dream, reality came crashing back in, that you weren't there and never would be again.

I miss you.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Our School Room

I used some of my Christmas money to finally complete our school room, adding accessories to the steel pegboard. I'm sure it will change as the kids get older, but for now - perfection! 😊

Mostly Mommy's corner: filing cabinets, printer, laminator, Marvel placemat to keep papers from falling into the crack between the cabinets, pencil sharpener, bulletin board, steel pegboard.

Very pleased to have glue, scissors, etc. out of reach of the children!

Board games; boxes of stencils, coloring books, and other activities; nature table (including our terrariums from Jardin Terrariums!); rainbow drawers for various types of paper, manipulatives, math tools, etc.; blue drawers of Play-Doh, stamps, and water paints; leaning tower of play sets; the kids' desk - with masking tape down the middle because we needed that; their top three favorite art projects on display.

The IKEA shelves (yay Craigslist!) hold picture books shelved by genre and board books on the bottom two rows, oversized books, seasonal supplies for our altar, and a basket of ABC Saints in the middle row, ongoing projects in the fourth row, and possibilities in the top row. The very top has various kits and tools along with the beginning of Jeremy's map collection until he finds a better place for it.

The china cabinet may miss its days as a dedicated china cabinet, but is much more useful as a holding place for miscellaneous school things. I did let it keep one shelf of figurines and such to remind it of its former days of elegance. The hopscotch mat is good for exercise and math problems. The little desk ideally is for Rose while the other two use their desk, but in reality it stays empty and Rose tries to pull their things away from them. Hiding under the huge globe are our puzzles, above it is my trusty unkillable Christmas cactus.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Divine Mercy Sunday

I know, it's been way more than a month. Here is a post to satisfy those of you who have been reminding me of my slacking. :-)

The Sunday following Easter was Divine Mercy Sunday. One of the prayers from the Chaplet of Divine Mercy asks God to "have mercy on us and on the whole world." To celebrate, I gave the kids blueberries and grapes to make and eat a world. They had a lot of fun and a healthy snack!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Life on the Tundra

Well, I did say check in once a month or so. It has been a month, so here's a little news from our part of the world. 

February was the coldest month on record in Rochester with roughly six hours of temperatures above freezing. That's right, six hours. I generally don't mind winter that much and am not unduly bothered by the cold, but it was tough keeping the kids happy inside so much of the time. Thankfully, church is not very far away and has a gym we can use during the day to burn off some energy. Even one block can be a long walk with -20* wind chills, so on the worst day we made a mobile tent for the kids.

We were telling Peter about the Presentation and how Anna and Simeon recognized Jesus as the Messiah, even though he was just a tiny baby. He replied matter-of-factly, "They probably just saw His halo."

My brother Shane got married in mid-February; a fantastic time was had by all. As favors to thank us for having some "good clean fun" with them, he and Amy gave out scented hand soap. Shortly thereafter, I replaced the soap in our bathroom with our new gift. The first time I used it, I took off the gift tag, tossing the twine in the garbage and setting aside the cardboard tag to recycle. After washing my hands, though, I forgot all about it. It struck me as pretty funny when I returned to the bathroom later to see a little sign perched on the back of the toilet, "Thanks for celebrating with us!"

Both Mr. Corbin Zane and Miss Mary Christine made their arrival this week. Welcome, little ones! I got to meet Miss Mary at all of one day old! Mr. Corbin lives near Dallas, though, so it will be awhile before we get to meet in person.

We made a trip to Boston a few weeks ago to visit my brother and sister-in-law. Aunt Jennifer has edged out Uncle Keith as favorite person by being willing to play Mario video games. Uncle Keith kept the race close, though, by building a snow fort for Peter and playing outside for hours.

Future DJs at the Museum of Science

Petting a lobstah

The kids are both getting excited about The New Baby, especially as I get more visibly pregnant. For awhile, Anne seemed convinced that the new baby would be taking either her place or Peter's, depending on gender, but she seems to have gotten over that fear. Now they enjoy playing baby. Here's Peter holding Baby Anne.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Kid Quotes

me: What song do you want next?
Anne: Bitty stinkster.
me: "When I was but a youngster?"
Anne: Yes.

Peter: Mommy, I don't remember, do donkeys have one leg or four?

Reasonable question

me: What a ridiculous Anne! Peter, where did we even get such a ridiculous Anne?
Peter: Wegmans doesn't sell good Annes; we shouldn't shop there again.

me: Mrs. O'Leary, how did this fire start?
Peter: The cow kicked the lantern over. I'm going to make her into beef and eat her so it doesn't happen again.

Anne: Daddy, how many points me?
Jeremy: 400
A: How many points Peter?
J: 12000
A: How many points Daddy?
J: 28000
A: Wow and wow.

Peter: Oh no, Mommy! I hear the Grinch! He's coming to steal Ordinary Time!

Peter: I miss Hawaii.
me: How can you miss Hawaii? You've never been there, silly goose!
Peter: Yes we did, we went in the summer.
Jeremy: It is warm there, like summer, but we've never been.
Peter, confused now: Where did we go with Grams and Papa? In the summer?
me: To Wisconsin?
Peter: Yeah, Wisconsin. That's what I meant.