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.