Zombie letters

So, yeah, I’m reading zombie letters {in all my spare time, bwah ha ha}.

Surprise? Maybe.  But you know, that’s just how I roll.  At least, when it’s about a catholic/zombie apocalypse!  That’s right, I’m that hip.

I’ve found the weirdly entertaining epistolary novel, “Ora et Labor et Zombies.”  And while I wasn’t expecting much; because really, Catholic, apocalypse and zombies??? How many things can go wrong with that? Right, that’s what I thought too.  But Julie sparked my interest with her review and so I clicked over.  I love the concept, it’s fun and different in an “everything old is new again kind of way.”  Ryan Charles Trusell has gone all in for his big idea of this little book.  I like that.  I decided to order just the first letter, just because I loved the concept. And, I figured I’d see pretty quickly if it was worth investing any time or money into.

So, first: the letter arrived quickly and was immediately engaging.  It made me want to read more.  Yeah, that surprised me too. I knew I was smitten by the actual form of the letter/book, the tangible hands on craft of it. The artist side of me was pleased by the hand printed cover to the letter, the font, the paper, the idea of it.   But I’m a reader above all, so I reserved my judgement til I started reading…and happily, the writing drew me right in!  Now, it’s an odd position to find myself in: I am charmed by the zombie letters.  Yes, now you know I’m a freak with very eclectic reading tastes!  I guess.  But I am, I’m anxiously awaiting each letter of this book in the mail. It’s fun.

The concept of an old fashioned epistolary novel so appeals to me!  You know I have a new appreciation for the art of letters now, after writing to my son in the novitiate for a year.    I have loved a number of novels written in letter form, it can be a charming device (or a mess.).   And, weirdly, this novel works.  You wouldn’t think, but it does. And you all know, that, for me, it’s the Catholic hook that draws me in and snares me.  But it’s not overloaded Catholic, if that makes sense.  It’s a natural weave of it (as Catholic is, truly, by it’s essence).  At least so far, I”m not finished yet and I’ll let you know if it falls flat as it wraps up.  But, it starts with a bang, with the husband, Tom, writing to his missing wife Ava.  The action picks up from there as the mystery of what is going on unfolds.  I would tell you more, but I am not finished yet, myself.

Now, let me say, this is a real book.  It is written in letters and arrives in  your mailbox, on real paper, via the postman, one to three letters at a time (your pick).  That form, this old fashioned way of reading a novel (think Dickens), is actually working for me right now with my overdrive swamped time of late.  I’m not tempted to ignore the kids and duties and just keep plowing on through the book (which I might do if I had the whole lot in front of me, I get sucked in that way.) Not a cheap read, either, to say the least.  This is what Mr Trusell has to say:

“ON PRICING:   Anyone who is both familiar with the concept of Ora et Labora et Zombies AND good at math has no doubt thought to themselves: $3/Letter x 72 = A Lot Of Money For One Book. 

  Believe me, I’ve thought it myself a few times throughout all the planning and number crunching leading up to its publication. However, the price of each Letter does include postage, and the quality of paper plus the 4-6 page length of each Letter require me to use a 65¢ stamp, this in addition to stationery and printing costs. 

  I think of it as providing a unique reading experience to people for the weekly price of one gallon of gas (maybe) or one cup of coffee (maybe)..”

I agree, it’s pricey….if you’re considering the book as a whole.  True.  But, again, consider it another way: it’s less than the weekly guilty pleasure of that latte and/or the grocery magazine.  It lasts longer and is supporting the arts, in another quirky and yet appealing way. My teen daughter was hooked with the first letter too, so it’s not just this old fogey who is having fun.  This is a retro and clever find in our pervasively digital world.  I’m surrounded by books, both E version and real spilling out of my bookshelves.  But this, this has it’s own original charm and pleasure to it.  I can support the small artist AND writer in an almost personal way…and have a fun read to boot.  What’s not to love?

So, how many things can go wrong with the idea of a catholic zombie apocalypse?  Too many to count.  How many things have gone right? The important things: it’s original, charming, pleasing to the touch and eye and engaging. A simple pleasure.  Fun times.  Zombies.  Who knew?

“What’s your love language, Mrs G?”

That’s the question of the summer, I think.

My summer, in a way, was started with that question.  In May, a lovely young woman asked me that question at a “Theology on Tap” evening.  I kind of blinked.  I said, “I don’t know….” and then I rambled a bit, thinking out loud.  She, being young and smart and quick, said, “Oh! You’re ‘Acts of Service’!”  And I said, “Hmm…maybe….

Thus, I knew I’d better finally go and read the book.  Nothing like being stumped by a twenty-something to light a fire under me.  And so I did.

This book, it’s been around for a bit.  I knew of it, and it’s companions.  But I’d not taken the time to sit and read it through, even though it was not long.  Frankly, I kind of blew it off.  There are SO many theories and modes and ways to approach parenting stuff that it’s simply impossible to be on top of it all.  I’d been absorbed in the therapeutic parenting realm for a good while now and this seemed so simplistic that I could get a good gloss from the title; more excuses, not my mode, and so on.

But her question made me think I might need to give it another chance.  What I found was this: there is quite a bit there worth thinking about and, more, worth applying.  It’s not the be all and end all answer to everything.  But it’s another very good set of tools in the toolbox and I’m all about that! I’ll take every tool I/we can get!

So, to put it in the short gloss here: love languages are the modes that we each have, instinctively, naturally, in which we understand, give, and receive love.  It’s how we communicate love.  Sounds drippy? Maybe, but it’s got some real substance and value to consider.  We are all about communication in our  house.  We have one kid who is language impaired.  We have others who just don’t have great communication skills.  Plus, we have multiple teenagers….talk about communication snafu’s! Ok, kidding, kinda, maybe not so much…..  So, if I can find ways to their love languages, and speak to them more clearly???  What’s not to love?

The five love languages, as put forth by Chapman and Campbell, are, in no particular order: Touch, Time, Words (of affirmation), Gifts, and Acts of Service.

First, as it’s always all about me…I realized, that savvy young gal was right.  My love language IS Acts of Service.  Which explains so  much.  It’s why I DO for my family (Which works out well, as there is SO MUCH to do.  God’s no dummy).  It’s why I am tickled pink to cook favorites of returning college boys, and to give second helpings to guests.  It’s why I get so bent when I return home from the market and the kitchen has been trashed even though I asked to have it tidied.  It’s why I get my feelings hurt when no one, ever, sees the laundry bucket on the stairs and takes it up, and why the rogue shoes are no big deal until they make me come unglued.  {Why yes, I’m just all that petty, thanks for asking.}  But now I know, the temper is because I feel like no one is caring about me enough to do for me…when the reality is, they just don’t speak my love language.  All this time it’s like I was talking to them in Greek and they were just smiling and nodding because they couldn’t understand anyhow.  So I’d get bent and upset and they’d be dismayed  -wondering what was my problem and why I was so upset?  Because they didn’t/don’t understand my love language and I didn’t even realize it was mine.

That very insight made me realize I’d better figure out theirs, and quick.  Because no one likes being misunderstood and/or feeling unloved.

So, I’ve been evaluating and testing it out.  And I’ve got folks across the spectrum of love languages, no surprise.  I’m the only Acts of Service (bummer, but best to know).  I’ve got 4-6 Touch, 3-4 Time, 3 Words, 2 gifts.  If that math doesn’t seem to add up, it’s because you can have more than one love language.  And of course, there is overlap of for us all and everyone needs all of them…but the primary language is one that is WELL worth finding.  And using.

WIth this new perspective, I’ve (we, tom and I) have been trying to speak the languages of the kids, and each other.  The love languages.  Not that we didn’t before, but intentionally, more consistently.  It’s a work in progress….

But here is what we’ve noticed.  I’m not gonna go into each kid, privacy and all, but a few high points: Gabriel, who has moved into a phase of whiney and difficult over the past number of months…..is a total Touch speaker.  It explains why he has taken to careening into us and he must DIVE into a lap if it’s available and even swifter if it show signs of occupation by any other kid.  His way of getting that touch has been to bump and thump and push us around, literally, in his five year old rough and tumble way of learning a language of love.  Discovering this, we’ve ramped up the cuddles and hugs and he has been simply blossoming under it.  Not that we didn’t squeeze him and tell him we love him before, but we have stopped fussing about his careening around into us all and instead directing it toward more functional touch.  On his part, he has ramped up the affirmations and is visibly relishing the cuddles.  He crawls into my lap in the rocking chair and says “I want to rock with you forever.”  He says, “I love you you,” more and first.  His attachment needs are being met, better.  Age and stage? Maybe? Better communication in his love language? Oh yeah.

The others too, they are noticeably responding to the touches on the shoulders, the passing hugs.  They open up with the time and words, focused.  The gifts is a tricky tricky thing in a house of hypervigilant kids (with a sharp eye for equity)..but we are brainstorming on meeting that need and seeing their gifts to us when they happen.  Marking them.  The intention to speak each kid/person’s love language is a very helpful tack; it opens up paths that were narrow, makes them wider.

The defensive side of me wants to say that we’ve done all these things, the touch, the words, the time spent.  We did. We do.  But when you KNOW it’s the language that your kid receives and give love…it takes on a different depth.  And intention.  And that makes a difference.  Is our house filled with rainbows and unicorns now? Um, no.  But is there more growth in the garden of connections and is communication a bit easier to acheive? Yes, I think so. It’s all a continuum, of course.  Teens are still prickly, but might be a tad easier to soothe, to reach through the static.  Those kisses and  hugs and hand holdings are even more meaningful…what’s not to love?  The trash waiting to go out and the rogue shoes? They are still there, but now I can remind myself that it’s just that I speak greek, and not that they don’t care.  And I can switch to another language instead.

Becoming multi-lingual….it’s paramount in my big family.  Even now, I’m learning.

Top three books about ADHD

Whew, so the week got away from me! We’ve had a fair lot of kid fallout this week, mostly with one dis-regulated, stressed out teen.  So, the posting took a back seat to dealing with all that.  However, I’m here now and so I want to post this quickly.

On this post, here, I wrote about ADHD for the first time in my blog.  I wrote specifically about the stigma attached to the label.  I did not write about all the many layers to ADHD and the different aspects that go hand in hand with consideration of it: the diagnosing of it, the approaches to it, how it works in school and the family and life in general.  You see, if I was going to address all my thoughts on all those things, I’d have to write a book!  But,  happily for you all, there are many, many books out there already.  Great resources abound! Not so great ones do too…so read wisely.  But, do read.  Do the homework.  ADHD is worth a little effort.  Whether you live with it yourself or love one who does, it helps so much to learn a bit about it.  It makes it just a little easier to understand; and that understanding, every drop of it, is critical to overall quality of life.

To that end, I’m listing MY top three resource books on ADHD.  This is MY personal list, my choices.  There is NO official list, anywhere, of the best of the best of these.  Believe me, I’ve looked. I’m a consumate researcher, perhaps even a compulsive one.  That urge to research and find out all that I can about anything I’m dealing with is perhaps my own control freak urge…but it works for me.  Thus, I now have a mini library on quite a few topics.  ADHD has been a topic of research in our library for eight years.  I’ve read many many theories and help books.  I’ve even seen shifts in the theories.  All told, it’s an overwhelming crop of resources.  Check for yourself, google it.

So, for what it’s worth, these three books, below, are (IMHO) the best sources for getting a handle on ADHD: the good and the difficult, the whole bag.  They have a breadth and an easy to understand way of explaining what ADHD is and why; but they don’t talk down to you or oversimplify either.  They have a good scope – addressing ways that help and ways that hinder.  No one has the time to read everything, facing that flood of information can instantly stop many in their tracks.  So, for me, these three books are the top three, most helpful books I’ve read over eight years of dealing with ADHD in my family.

Check ’em out (and if you click on the picture it will take you to Amazon):

This book, ADHD, Living without Brakes, is a great concise overview of ADHD.  It explains the behavior(s) of those with ADHD in an easy to grasp and remember kind of way.  This book gives a great overview that pulls lots of research together and goes over it simply.  It’s sort of the best primer on ADHD that I’ve found.  It’s positive but not preachy; it’s realistic but not a stigmatized downer.  It’s pricey for it’s size, but it packs a worthwhile punch in information.  It’s sort of ADHD 101.  (Also good for handing out to teachers and/or family members who cannot figure out why your kid does what he/she does).

Next:

This book, Scattered, by Gabor Mate kind of took me by surprise.  A good friend had recommended it and I’d kind of stalled her on reading it.  I was busy, I didn’t think it really was going to be anything I hadn’t read before, etc etc.  Then she mentioned that the author also co-wrote this book, (which I also HIGHLY recommend for parenting kids as they grow, especially into teens, most excellent).  So, with that, I figured it was worth a look.

Turns out, it was SO much worth that look that I ordered two more copies of it, gave one to my son’s teacher and also ordered it on audio download so my husband could listen to it in the car. Yeah.  That good.  And kind of radical in that this was an approach that jived up with my recent sea changes in parenting.  This book goes into the physiological underpinnings of ADHD, in depth, but then it pulls out and explains (from the author’s first hand experience of having ADHD  himself) the hows and why’s of many behaviors and also gives real suggestions on how to work to address the child/adult as a whole  person with this way of functioning.  Meaning, if you can understand some of the whys underlying the behaviors, it’s easier and more targeted to get to either working with them or through them; conversely it’s an eye opener to appreciate some of the remarkable traits common to ADHD as well.  Instead of trying to parse out only the tough symptoms and treat each one, it takes the bigger view of what’s underneath and why.  Because that, the source, is where a more comprehensive approach needs to start.

And, yup, a good part of it comes down to attachment.  Go figure.  Not in every aspect.  But in  more than has been discussed before.  Which then leads me to my next book, one of my top parenting books, ever:

This book, The Connected Child,  is one of the best parenting books I’ve got.  And I’ve got  a LOT of great parenting books.  It is most commonly known, I believe, in adoption circles, and in the land of therapeutic parenting.  Who knew that it also applied to ADHD?  Well, it doesn’t list ADHD as it’s topic.  So don’t be all confused if you get the book and look in the index for ADHD…  But, if you have a child with ADHD, this book can make a huge difference in your understanding of that child.  Whether biological or adopted, this book can help you connect to your child.  Sounds simple…simplistic even?  Au contraire!  Not at all, and it is an intentional way of parenting that can do wonders for any child, biological, adopted, with needs or not.  So, this is not officially an ADHD book.  But it totally jives up w/ Mate’s book, Scattered, above, and it so IS an ADHD book.  In fact, the two rather function as a set, in a way, they complement each other…particularly as applied to living with ADHD.  So it’s on my short list.

Last note: None of these books advocate or oppose any one way of working with ADHD.  There is no ONE approach to dealing with it.  It is a complex thing, goods and toughs,  and takes a multi-layered approach.  And, {now stepping up on my own personal soapbox} anyone who says it’s “this way or the highway“?  Run, don’t walk, from that.  There is no one way to address this.  No magic bullet.  It’s an individual approach to dealing with things that need some help.  Some things work, some don’t.  In fact, it’s moving target…because things change.  So, best to read as much as you can so you’re informed and know options and some whys and hows.  Information is always better.  Try the books!

>Lenten book & movie blogorama

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So many posts rattling my head, so many topics (Lent, adoption, adjustment, family life, art, cooking) so little time. So I’m keeping it kinda thematic today. Because, of course, Lent is on our doorstep and we are paused,  about to step through the threshold.

In that vein, while I’m still finalizing my Lenten observances and plans….I thought I’d toss up some of the possibles in the media realm.  Take a look and see if any catch  your eye.  Yeah, I know, there are those of you out there who do the whole ascetic Lent thing.  But I’m a media gal in so many ways and I LOVE books and I LOVE movies…so I’m gonna make a short list here (So that I remember it and so that you might see some new treasures too).

Books first, in no particular order:

 This is my most scholarly attempt for Lent.  It’s been getting great reviews and I think it might be good to deepen my understanding and appreciation of the Eucharist; because it can never be enough, that appreciation, even when it feels like it’s all. 
 These are my own personal Triduum, of sorts!  Yeah, it’s Flannery.  I’ve always had a very very hard time w/ Flannery O’ Connor’s stories.  They have always been lauded as one of our country’s great southern writers, one of the great great Catholic writers, etc etc.  I have read some, not all of her stories, long ago and a while ago, trying again and again….but each time I vow to “never again” because they are SO hard.  I feel like disemboweling myself in my living room might be less painful.  Really.  
But I suspect, now, that, once again, it’s my own shortcomings….that I’m just not getting it.  I’ve been reading a bit of her Spiritual Writings (up there to the left) and her faith and intellect is impressive.  Profound.  Which is guess what everybody’s been talking about for oh these past many decades.  So…for lent, I want to finish her Spiritual Writings book, try to  make it much of the way through Habit of Being, and then take a deep breath and reread her classic short stories with a new appreciation (I hope) of what she was getting at in her hard, often brutal stories.  Rereading them is penitential for me, but hopefully it will also be a way to deepen and enrich my faith as well.  
Besides all that: she has cool glasses..

What is Lent without the Stations of the Cross? It’s not Lent for me, that’s for sure.  This is the classic version, one you are probably familiar with if you’ve one who prays the Stations regularly, or, erm, Lenten-ly.  I might do Stations posts…or I might not, depends on the busy factor, as usual.

And for you really plugged in types (me too), here is an Iphone app for the Stations of the Cross, written by the late Michael Dubruiel and his wife, Amy Welborn and illustrated by the very cool artist Michael O’Brien.  These stations are not the traditional Liguori version, above, but rather based on Pope John Paul II’s biblical Stations of the Cross, and more modern lingo and prayer rhythm.  So, it’s another option based on taste and time.  Even better, it’s free! Definitely worth a look for those of us on the go, even during lent.

And, last for this round up, but not least, what is this blog or my musings without consideration of food!? Nothing! And yeah, Lent has all that food – to eat or not to eat – element to it.  So, Father Leo might just be the ticket.  He’s great faithful priest, fun, cheery, and a good cook to boot.  Plus I’m a big believer in the whole “family dinner” gig.  I’m gonna look at this book, new to me, and see if I can get inspired for some Lenten mindfulness regarding the family Lenten table.  I’m also planning on cooking down the pantry, keeping it leaner, more soup {I can hear the groans of the kids now, but I love soup – so no penitential effort there for me, but still all good}.

Ok, enough books.  Now to Movies! Why movies during Lent you say? Well, first, because I LOOVE movies.  Second, because, let’s face it, we live in a mass media age and movies are a big deal and a way to tell great stories and also, when they are done very well, help us expand our horizons, thoughts, minds and hearts.  So, with that, here are a few to consider, or that I’m considering:

Of course there are the obvious ones, certainly:

 This is the most obvious one, I tend to watch it sometime in Holy Week, usually during the Triduum – Holy Thursday or Friday.  It tears me up, every time.  You all know it’s hard.  It is.  But, well, apropos of the season, of course. 

This is the one I watched every year as a kid. Robert Powell as Jesus and Olivia  Hussey as Mary become pretty much iconographic to me as a kid.  Now supplanted by James Caviezel and Maia Morgenstern, but still.  A classic for Lent, really. 

There are also some that are worth thinking about, not so obvious, that I’ve been meaning to see, but I haven’t seen them all.  So, let’s be clear.  This isn’t a “must do” list, it’s an I’m looking into these list.  Andiamo:

Tom and Marta watched this one yesterday afternoon, while I was cooking.  It’s in Russian but  has subtitles.  That didn’t seem to bother either one and Tom said it was very interesting and very much worth watching.  So, I’m putting it up. 

This also is a great film. Hard to watch if you tend to fall asleep, as I do, because of course, it is largely silent. But it is beautiful and compelling at the same time.  If you are in the doldrums or feel like throwing yourself a pity party due to the difficulty of Lent, pop this in the dvd or netflix que and get a reality check on what living a more austere life really can be.  Then look around you and see how attached you really are to material goods…..ok, ME.  Sigh.  Good film though!

I think this is an oddball charming film about faith and life and do we, can we, really believe in miracles?  Can or do they happen in our own little mundane cookie cutter lives?  I really enjoyed this movie, fun and good for lent perhaps even more because it’s cheery. 

Oh, I love this book and I love the movie. I think I love the book more than the movie but most of you won’t ever even try the book but you might the movie, so here it is.  And Dianna Rigg is always lovely to watch anyhow.  But this is a great story of trying to live in faith, how that plays out, the challenges and beauty.  It’s layered and it stays with you.  Get the book, or the movie….it’s worth the time.

This was an odd, popular, quirky movie that I liked.  And I’m putting it in  here because it ultimately calls us to think about our lives and what defines them, who we are living for and how.  And it’s just a fun way to put those ideas out there, with a terrific fun turn by Emma Thompson.  You’ve probably seen it, but we aren’t supposed to be dreary all through Lent, the best approach is to smile through it.  Not always easy, that, so this might be a  help. 

And also these three from the terrific “Happy Catholic” blog (I trust her recommends and I have many overlaps):

 Haven’t see it yet, because I know it’s violent and hard. But she says it’s most excellent so I think I’ll que it up for this season.  Here is her one take on it: “Redemption, sacrifice, humanity in it’s worst and best are all mingled and shown here.” Sounds like it should be on the short list for Lent. 

Also, this one. On my list to see for years, literally. We Catholics love a feast and a fast both, which sums up Lent nicely.  So, too, I’ve read does this film.  So, in our time of fasting this film of feasting abundance might be a good reminder on how that works when it’s at it’s best.

This is a film that “got away.” I always meant to see it and I didn’t, and now I think I’m lining it up for Lent. Obviously, this one hits very close to home.  Direct hit.  It’s about living for another, instead of ourselves.  Which really, is the uber message of Lent, no? Of course it is.  And on this blog, in my head, that’s what I have to learn to do better and better every day.  Happily, this season of 40 days is an intensive inservice in that one.  Hence, I’m watching this movie!

That’s it for now.  Let me know what  you think or add any other ideas, books or films, in the comments box!!

>Mamalita

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I was recently sent this book to read and review, go figure, and yeah it surprised me too that they approached me.  I guess they figured that we adoptive mom’s can relate…and we can; although we don’t always agree of course.
I think I was supposed to pound out this review in a much more timely manner, sorry Ms. O’Dwyer and publicist.  Life got in the way.  As a mom, much less an adoptive mom, I know you understand that.
However, in the spirit of ‘better late than never,” here it is:

I got the book in the mail, after promptly forgetting that they were sending it to me:
Mamalita, An Adoption Memoir, by Jessica O’Dwyer.

So, when I opened the mailer, it was a happy surprise; who wouldn’t be happy with a new book in the mail?  I got the pleasure of anticipating sitting down to read and hopefully savor this book.  Here is the jacket description:

Mamalita is the true story of an ordinary American woman’s quest to adopt a baby girl against almost insurmountable odds in Guatemala.”   

Now, to be honest, I wasn’t sure about this book to start.  Obviously, I am an adoptive mom and have adopted here in the states as well as internationally, from Ethiopia.  That makes my family a multiracial, multicultural blended up  mix of people.  It also makes me place adoption and adoption issues pretty high on my personal radar.  All this is to say that I had kind of tangentially followed the roller coaster of the adoption world in Guatemala over the  years, but from afar (no pun intended), and I was a little hesitant to read this memoir.  I feared a skewed perspective or an unfair or romanticized treatment of what was and is still an extremely complicated, layered, and challenging topic.  International adoption is not for the faint of heart, nor is it for the unscrupulous.   You must have hard eyes to see and hold a steady gaze at the roller coaster of process; making sure along the way that your desires are jiving with foundational ethics, preferably those laid out by the Hague Convention.

So, with that disclaimer and mindset, I began.  I found this book honest and compelling.  I didn’t find it a read that I wanted to shout to all my friends to go pick up, quick.  Because I was and still am kind of conflicted about it, the whole seamy side of adoption and the pervasiveness of it in Guatemala.  It took me a bit to come to a kind of reading rapport for the author, largely due to my aforementioned guard regarding Guatemalan adoptions.  However, as the story continued I found myself appreciating her honesty and the clear eyes she used to see and describe both the beauty and the hardships in Guatemalan adoption. 

Many of her feelings and lurches and loops are common ground within the adoption world; they mirror my own and most other mom’s passion and desperate need for information, control, and the worry as well as the exhilaration.  What I found most compelling was Ms O’Dwyer’s choice to move to Guatemala, to stay with her daughter and  make sure the process not only proceeded rather than stalled, but to find the cracks in the process, to get the paperwork done through the ever-changing officials, to track down her daughter’s birthmom.

Adoption is a system that can lend towards corruption; it only takes a few greedy unscrupulous souls to get involved.  This book exposes that seamy side and, as well, exposes how near we all can come to it, even unwittingly, if we but close our eyes with fatigue and temptation. O’Dwyer was willing to dump her facilitator, ask hard questions about her daughter’s story, and learn how to finish the job through the shifting channels, willing to live in country and care for her daughter as long as it took.  She didn’t live completely immersed in the culture, she was part of an oddball subculture of PAP’s, potential adoptive parents.  I’m not sure how she, as a white female foreigner, could have done anything different.  It’s not possible to blend in,  and O’Dwyer’s navigation of these tricky cross cultural waters are some of the most interesting parts of this book.  She came to a depth of appreciation for her daughter’s country and culture that few adoptive parents actually do; even as she missed her  home and life in the States and endured frustration and difficulties as a foreign woman, living alone. 

Mamalita is an honest, frank retelling of the Guatemalan adoption process: the good, the bad, the ugly. It is a book that might well engender some controversy in this heated climate of international adoption.  If only because of that, it is worth a read.   It shows us the near precipice where desire, desperation, and truth stand and take stock of each other. I still think about this book because it reveals the complexities of this difficult process, adoption, and it’s not a comfortable thing; nor should it be.  O’Dwyer shows us the heart of a mother, in this case, an adoptive mother and how she will literally go the distance and move the map of her home to go get her child.

>Books, Books, Books!

>Just finished this book, by one of my favorite bloggers, Mary Ostyn, aka “Owlhaven.” This book, “A Sane Woman’s Guide to Raising a Large Family” is like a cross between a long conversation with her and an in depth extension of her blog.

Mary has long been one of the women/blogs I check in with, daily, if possible. Her family is a great example of a successful large household. Even better, they are a family built by birth as well as adoption and she too has a love for Ethiopia. So, no surprise, great connections for me there. But the bigger picture is that Mary is a real mom. One who has the normal ups and downs and successes and failings, one who I can relate to. She says she’s not a “supermom” in the usual tabloid sense of the term. And maybe she’s not. She’s better. She’s a real mom, who is in the trenches, trying her best and has been for a good while….and therein lies the charm.

This book is an easy breezy read. It is not fluff though, it is full of good ideas, many I hadn’t thought of before. Yes, she is extra good at putting in a huge garden (Which both inspires me to find my spade and also to a bit of jealousy) and then canning it all up. So, maybe a bit of that is just not gonna happen here in my house…. However, the low key practical, thoughtful ways of running her home and caring for, loving and living with her big family is very much an inspiration for me. I am thinking about good new solutions around here in our busy house as well.

The book is organized into easy to find chapters, you could skip around if you prefer that mode. But I read the book straight through in a day (ok, I’m a pretty darn fast reader). It is not only tips and tricks, it is also thoughtful reasoning behind her stances on issues and ways of doing things. Helpfully, she admits that she is not an uber organized gal by nature, which makes me like her all the more. I tend to drop books by uber organized gals by nature, since I am alien to them and will never be that. But she has found a middle ground and that is where the treasure lies in this book. It’s for real moms. And not only real moms of very large families (And I admit, I am sliding into that category, but still, I remember the smaller days), any size family can find some connection moments in this book.

It’s an easy happy read for the start of spring. Pick it up, be inspired, get a deeper glimpse into a popular blog mom’s real life: the how’s and why’s, the what worked, what didn’ts. It might inspire you to try something new….for me, I think I might need to learn a few new card games. And this might just be the year to really put in a garden, I’ve been dreaming about one….
She says she is no “Supermom”…but I suspect she’s got at least a cape in her closet somewhere!

>Books books books

>

Section of tryptich, Roger van der Weyden, 1448

I love books.
I mean it, I love books and always have.
I could’a called myself “bookmom”, but somehow it doesn’t have the same panache as “coffemom,” does it? I didn’t think so either.
To play this out just a bit further: coffee and books go hand in hand, preferably with a nice (bunch of) Pepperidge Farm Raspberry Chantilly cookie (best cookies ever!) in hand too. But, I digress.

by Daffodilus, on flikr

Anyhow, this is a roundabout way to say that I love to read, always have, always will. That has lately been supplemented by reading blogs. More than a year ago I started reading the Bottomly’s blog, as we too began the process of adopting from Ethiopia. So I was pretty happy to see that they had turned one of my guilty pleasures, blog reading, into one of my favorite things in general: a book.

That’s the book, From Ashes to Africa, below.
Frankly, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I am not only a book maniac, I am funny about them. And by “funny about them” I mean picky. You might not be able to tell that from looking at the exploding shelves and stacks of books all over my house….but it’s true. I am picky about what I read. My sister calls me a snob, but I disagree. However, I am picky because my time is at a premium. I am not one of those purists that will finish any book they start, come hell or high water. I mean, c’mon, life is too short. If the book is dreck, it’s gone, I’m done. I won’t waste my time.image by austinevan, flikr
{above: my hallway…kidding, mostly}

So, this is a roundabout way to say that my curiosity got the best of me and I got this book: From Ashes to Africa. I opened it and read the whole thing. And I read it in just over a day, and that’s with standard mom duties (though not school, it was the weekend, full disclosure).

It’s good.

I was surprised in a way (no offense Amy and Josh!), as you just never know, you know (and I’m picky)? But it’s good because it goes deeper and further than most are willing to go. In this blogworld, it’s rare to find a blog that lays it all out on the line. We might say we do, but really, maybe not so much…we all edit. Despite the relative anonymity online, its not total and so we edit – so as not to hurt or embarrass loved ones or ourselves. No one really wants to know how moody I am or that I can yell so loud that my throat is sore, do they? No. (And, no, I’m not going on record…that’s just a ‘for instance’…yeah, that’s it.).

But this book goes further into the back story that drove this couple to the new place they now live: where their hearts a bit shredded, permanently, for these orphans. They have new eyes to see now. But it takes quite a bit to get those eyes really opened. That is what this book is about. They lay out their hard walk through infertility with scathing honesty about the tears it causes in a marriage. I walked that road too. It was some of the most excruciating and lonely times I have lived through, and it was kind of unspeakable at the time, a dark hard lonely place (for each of us). The Bottomly’s open this up to the light; bravo for them, that takes some courage. And it’s this rocky hard road that brings them to their new world, their new eyes, their sweet son.

The purpose of this book is to raise awareness of a bigger worldview, one close to my heart. So I am biased. I’ve been through the excruciating infertility games, and I am a fairly obvious cheerleader for adoption. This is not an academic text, nor a long annotated social history and commentary. It is not a detailed fictional epic a la Dickens. It is a real story. It is personal. It is a memoir with a periscope of the heart.

This book is worth a read for the basic human story of it. That very same central common part of each of us, what makes us human, is exactly what makes it good.

Buy it, support a good cause, and read it, feel your heart stretch a little wider.
Grab some coffee and a cookie; it is a quick short read, and will be time well spent.
It occurs to me, after yapping on about this book, that I might throw out a book here and there. Because I’m all about opinions, they are simply spilling out of me most of the time. So hey, why not post ’em on the blog?
So, more to come later. More books book books!
Fair warning.