Thursday, December 24, 2009

Musings on Job and Talent

The other day at work as I was walking down the hallway, I was thinking. Writing is what I love, but I really do like what I do at work, too. The two are very different. What I do at work uses my left brain. Writing uses my right brain.

When I was a child, I had a book I treasured, which we also read to our own children. I can't even remember the name now, but as the children marched to school, their school clothes changed to professional clothing, a nurse, a policeman, etc. as they dreamed about what they wanted to do when they grew up. And as they marched, they chanted, "Left foot, right foot, hay foot, straw foot".

That day, as I thought of my job and my writing passion - using my left brain and my right brain - I thought with a smile, "Left foot, right foot, hay foot, straw foot."

I think this is the case for many of us who go out to work. Often what brings us an income is not the the only thing we like doing, and perhaps there is something else that is more of a passion...but that's okay. Maybe we wouldn't enjoy the passion as much if we did it as a living. Maybe we would. But maybe God wants us to serve by doing both.

And perhaps we are happiest when we are open to more than one type of work in our lives. Even if our primary "job" is being a stay-at-home mom (as mine was for many years), we still may have another avenue of service and enjoyment, be it teaching Sunday school, singing in the choir, sewing, writing (naturally I'd think of that), or a myriad of other possibilities.

Whatever you do for love or money, may it bring you joy and satisfaction in the coming year!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

What are You Most Thankful for?

"What are you most thankful for over the last year in your life?" asked one of my favorite bloggers, Trent at The Simple Dollar.

Right now I'm thankful that I woke up in time to go to Mass on Thanksgiving, as I was hoping to do...and I'm thankful that I will hopefully be able to get the headache I woke up with under control in time to go. I'm thankful - considering waking up with a bad headache - that we don't have 20 or so people coming here for Thanksgiving dinner as many people do (not that I wouldn't enjoy the people if we had them coming). But I'm also thankful that we still have five of us living here to enjoy dinner together...and that the one who works today gets off at 4 p.m.

I'm thankful for holidays past, with all eight of us, and I'm thankful that we are in touch with our other three, and that we can be so proud of all of our children.

I'm grateful for a loving husband, who works hard and long at his job, and then comes home and helps here too. And I'm grateful for a part-time job that I like...working with people I enjoy.

Recently, I've been thinking how grateful I am that for so many years I was able to stay home with my children, and also that for nearly three decades I was able to do the teaching and writing that I love.

For a new and wonderful homeschool group for our youngest son and me, and an evening teen group for him, I am truly thankful...and for the new friends we have met. I'm also thankful that I'm getting the opportunity to help a friend who is teaching a writing class in that homeschool co-op.

Here in my middle age, I am thankful that someone posted a picture entitled "Thanksgiving around the Ping-Pong Table" and that it took me way back to my young childhood. Sometimes I tend to remember the less-than-happy memories of my young life, so it was good to remember the happy times with the immediate and extended family all gathered around one big table.

I am thankful that through the adversities of life that have come our way in the past years, God has taught me so much more about trusting in Him.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Telephone Solicitations

I just stumbled upon this enlightening post about telemarketers...taken from a telemarketer who shared anonymously to protect his or her job.

Personally, I've never had a problem telling telephone solicitors that I'm not interested...but I know some do, and here is everything you need to know.

I especially liked the points at the end that these are real people with families and bills; they are making minimum wage doing this job; and they probably took the job out of desperation.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Counter-Frugal...or Not

Recently, I posted a comment on my Facebook page that I'd decided using a disposable camera is counter-frugal. (And no, I can't find that word in the dictionary.)

Why? When my digital camera began to malfunction, I began buying disposables for family gatherings: Christmases and graduations. One day my son needed a picture for his homeschool co-op, so off I went to buy another camera (complete with developing costs)...and on top of the expense, my pictures of him didn't turn out very well. That's when it dawned on me that in the past few years I had spent the price of an inexpensive digital camera on buying disposable cameras and paying for developing the pictures...and that I had the money - at the moment - to buy an inexpensive disposable camera.

You could apply that same principle to my car. I drive a 1993 minivan with 193,000 miles...and we spend close to an average of $300 a month in repairs to keep it on the road. That's not to keep it perfect! (My windows won't even open at this writing.) People often tell me I could be making a car payment with that money. Talk about counter-frugal!

So what's the difference? And what's the similarity? When I bought the first disposable camera, there were more urgent uses for the money it would cost to buy a digital camera. More honestly expressed, there was no way I was going to spend a hundred dollars on a camera at that time. Later, that changed, and a few weeks ago I got my digital camera.

My car, on the other hand, gets me from Point A to Point B (when it's not stopping off at the shop), without the commitment of an auto loan, with low insurance payments, and without having to combine monthly payments with warranty or maintenance costs. A $300 car payment is never really just $300; there is always more. There's no way I'm going to buy a car at this moment in time. When the time comes that we are ready to replace my car, hopefully we will know it, like I knew it was time to buy a camera.

One more example where we can be counter-frugal...or not, depending on finances at any given in renting an apartment vs. buying a house. People say, "If you rent, you are throwing money down the drain." Well, first of all, if it's a home (the place where you live and love), it is never wasted money. Secondly, while owning your own home has wonderful benefits, renting can be simpler in some ways, too. When the plumbing acts up, we call maintenance. When the dryer acts up, we call maintenance. When the lawn needs mowing, we don't even need to call anyone. With my husband sometimes working as many as 60 hours a week, and with me working 20 hours and homeschooling, it's nice to not even worry about the yard.

Are there ways that you are frugal that might seem at first to be counter-frugal? Are there old ways you are clinging to that you might be able to change and actually save money? When is it time to scale down - and when is it more frugal to spend a little more and save in the long run? Key to these decisions, I think, is to question the so-called "principles" that we've heard about finances and frugality...and then to question, not once but periodically, whether what we did last year is good for this year.

What do you think?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Blog Leans on Website

ADDED IN AUGUST OF 2012:  The Little Saint Therese book is now available as a bound book, with a little black and white picture to go with each little story!  You can read the sample chapter here. I have also added a couple prayers and a list of suggestions of other books about Saint Therese for children and adults.

You can now buy the book for $5.39 from Amazon. 

The following is the past post  about the free pdf. You can still obtain that file, but it does not have the pictures, nor does it have the added prayers or book lists.

Hello, Friends,

My first foray into online publishing was my (late) website, "Mothers Almanac". When I started blogging, I used the website to post pictures onto my blog. Then Geocities decided to close their free websites, but I decided not to proceed with moving my website. (I did copy and paste most of the content onto my computer.)

So...Yahoo shakes the magic Etch-a-Sketch to erase my website and the pictures on my blog are gone. Whoops! I kinda' knew this would happen, but I kinda' got busy and forgot. I also "lost" the hosting site for my Little Saint Therese book.

Soon, I will get the website pictures back up! (Hopefully, depending on the technologies involved).

As for the Little Saint Therese book, I'm still working on what I will do with that, but in the meantime, if you'd like a free (pdf) copy...

ADDED LATER, here is the link to the free pdf file (without the pictures that are now available in the bound book).

But, if you are looking for the bound book, with little pictures, prayers, and a book list, you can now buy it here from Amazon.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Online Course for the Job Search

Most of us know someone who is looking for a job...not an easy task any time, but especially during an economy where there are so many lay-offs. Yet there are jobs still out there. People quit their jobs for various reasons (a move to a less expensive city, spouse being relocated, etc.), and many of those jobs really do need to be filled.

Career Search Skills: Beacon of Light in a Dark Economy
is a reasonably priced, three session online course to help your friend or relative (or yourself) land that job.

Click here for more information about this course.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Posting about Posting (or Not)

Daily posts, where did you go? Weekly posts, that's good enough, she shrugged. Over a month? My loneliness for you, my readers, pierces my heart.

I need to write. I've been too _______ (multiple choice. Your guess is as good as mine: busy, tired, distracted, confused about what to write).

Outside of the blog world, I've been trying to decide whether to write an autobiography or a fiction book, or just what to write. (If you have any thoughts, I'm open to hearing them.)

Of course, I've been writing a few emails...and occasional brief facebook posts. And I've been busy with other life stuff. But I need to write...if only I can figure out what, and find the time and energy.

Life changes. I've noticed that a few of my favorite blog friends haven't been blogging much more lately than I have. Is it simply a matter of their kids getting older or is it also the challenges of dealing with a difficult economy? Maybe that thought sounds crazy, but hey, some of us are working more, giving moral support to more people, working harder at spending less money on the necessities. Even the blogs I've been reading the most lean more to frugal blogs these days.

Would you be interested in reading my thoughts and findings about frugality here?

Praying for you all, and hoping the best for your families and dear ones.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Resolutions of a Soda Addict

(With my apologies to Dr. Seuss)

I do not drink soft drinks and coke.
I do not drink them. Nope, nope, nope.

I do not drink them from a can.
I do not drink them from a cup.
I do not drink them sitting down.
I do not drink them standing up.
I'd sooner eat green eggs and spam
Than have some soda from a can!

I do not drink soft drinks and coke.
I do not drink them. Nope, nope, nope.

I do not swig a bottle down.
I do not drink it, like a clown.
I do not take it from a boy.
I do not drink it out of joy,
Nor do I drink it 'cuz I'm weepy.
I do not drink it 'cuz I'm sleepy!

I do not drink soft drinks and coke.
I do not drink them. Nope, nope, nope.

P.S. If you ever see me with a pop, please don't try to make me stop. I might just listen instead of pout if you simply suggest I throw it out.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Sometimes it's Just the Litte Things

The other day we helped a friend with the tail end of a move. It reminded me of our own move about a year ago.

Although I knew for a couple of months that we were moving, I had no time to pack. I had only recently begun a new job. So, I was working; I was homeschooling; I was talking with our adult children on the phone. I had to take a nap - or get on the computer - to de-stress. Always, I had some reason that I didn't have enough time to pack up all the clutter that I wanted to hang onto (that was stacked on every kind of table) into boxes.

But I had a plan. I would take an extra day off from work to pack, and that should do it. But our moving plan got changed and the "extra" day turned into our first moving day...and I hadn't packed much of anything (fortunately, my husband had, but he couldn't be expected to pack up all my personal papers and "stuff"). If I had had that one day that I had planned to have, would that it have been enough? I kinda' doubt it now, looking back, but I never had a chance to know. We and our three boys (in Baltimore) moved ourselves...with moral support from a dear friend, and moving help from a friend who helped bail us out on our third and last day...but I'm getting ahead of myself. On the second day, when I was surely going to finally pack all those little odds and ends up into boxes while the guys got more of the furniture, I ended up (unexpectedly) stuck on the phone all morning with utilities people, then waiting in the afternoon for the cable guy to come.

Long story short: I never did get to pack up the odds and ends. They came over in bits and pieces, or were thrown into boxes by my patient husband, bless his heart.

I watched our generous, manly boys - who had offered to do the moving instead of us hiring someone - haul all those odds and ends into our apartment, along with huge "storage units" for all our stuff - including two four-drawer-file cabinets and three nearly-to-the-ceiling bookcases. And I said to myself: No more moves like this. We are going to get rid of some of this stuff! Beginning now. Next time I will be organized. We are not going to live with clutter stacked on the computer table, and the coffee table, and the telephone table, and, worst of all, the unoccupied end of the dining room table (where our three oldest used to sit). I am going to get rid of enough papers to get rid of one file cabinet. I am going to get rid of binders full of old papers. We are going to find good homes for some of our books.

Fast-forward a year. I have given away a few books (and accumulated a few more). I do think I'm a tad-bit better about the odds and ends on tables (except for the dining room table, and I do whittle it down to size frequently). But I realized yesterday that the project of sorting through papers in the file cabinets and binders had come to a halt...not a screeching halt that one would notice, but a meandering halt. I realized something while I was sharing this discovery with my husband. I discovered that this is what happened:

I stopped sorting through papers because I stopped shredding.
I stopped shredding because I didn't want to empty the shredder.
I didn't want to empty the shredder because it was surrounded by odds and ends.

If someone had asked me why I'm not sorting anymore, I would probably have said, "Procrastination" (but I'm not the procrastinating type; it's always more about priorities). Or I might have said, "I'm too busy with work and school" (which would be partially true but I've adjusted to working outside the home enough now to make some time for household organization).

In reality, the only thing that was standing between me and sorting through the papers were a few coins, paper clips, bookmarks, and out-of-date coupons.

Are there "odds and ends" of life, that you're not even aware of anymore, that keep you from reaching your goals, too? Sometimes we don't even notice. At least I hadn't until yesterday.

Monday, August 24, 2009

What Are Your Gifts?

Now and then I find myself comparing myself with someone else. A mom homeschools with more enthusiasm than I do, or another one gets more writings published than I do, or someone else is a better all-around homemaker than I am. Have you ever found yourself comparing yourself to someone else...or maybe feeling inadequate when you look at another person's life?

As I've browsed various parenting and homeschooling blogs, I've sometimes seen people leave comments about "How do you do it?" When my children were younger, people used to ask me that, just about raising my children (just because I had three children; never mind six or homeschooling). Sometimes the answer is that it's more about the why than the how. We can do an awful lot when we are motivated. But that doesn't mean we - or the friends we observe - can do it all; and it certainly doesn't mean that we - or the people we see - do it perfectly.

So tonight when I saw this post "How to Do It All...Secrets from a Perfect Wife and Mother", I just had to share it with you. This mother points out that it's not just about what she does, but also what she does not do. I soo agree with this. Each one of us only has 24 hours in a day...and we have to use some of that time for sleeping. So we can do a lot, but there have to be some things that we don't do.

Have you ever heard the admonition, "Don't do a half-way job"? For some areas of life, that's true and important. But in many areas, my philosophy is a little different: "Better to do a half-way job than no job at all". For example, maybe I intend to vacuum but it turns out that I don't have the time I thought I would. I can't vacuum the whole apartment that day, but I can vacuum the heavy traffic areas. Maybe I would like the house straightened up and I don't have the time to straighten the whole house but I can straighten one room or one counter-top. If you are a better housekeeper than I am (there goes that comparison-thing), you might be shocked or chagrined by my examples. But maybe there are other things that you do not do in order that you can have a "white-glove" house...or whatever is your own gift, in other words, in order that you can do all that you do feel called to do.

And that, after all, is the key, isn't it? To do what we feel God wants us to do. To do our best, yes, but also to rest peacefully in who we are and in the gifts God has given us to rest only in the gifts he has given us the time to do today, which might be different from the gifts we used in the past, which might be different, also, from the gifts we may use at some time in the future.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Reluctant Readers and Low Vision Students - Resources

Where, oh, where do I begin on today's post? How did I get started on this quest to share so much information on such a broad topic? Oh yes, it started with sharing our curriculum for the year. A couple of people then asked me if I had ideas for low vision children in the primary grades. I had intended to provide tangible help...but, until this post, I have shared only general ideas and methods. But honestly, it was those general ideas that kept me calm and confident when my son suddenly became legally blind at the age of nine and we could no longer keep up with the type of curriculum I had used with my older children.

Perhaps your child doesn't have vision issues. I will include resources about Braille and low vision, as that is where my experience is, but they will be last in the list; and, most of the other ideas and resources should be very helpful for reluctant readers, as well. Also, I am Catholic so some (though not all) of my resources are by Catholic writers and some (but not all) of their resources may be Catholic resources. So, if you are not yourself Catholic, not to worry; there is still plenty here for you. I used to hear that the first rule of writing is "write what you know". I am writing what I know and love, and what I have dealt with. I am sharing with you what I have found in case it might help you in any way with what you are dealing with. And if your children are neither low vision students or reluctant readers, frankly, much of what is here could still be helpful.

If you are coming to this post without having read the three previous posts, I would like to invite you to scroll down (now or later), below my signature, to links where you can read those posts.

What Drew Me to a Charlotte Mason Education by Karen Andreola

Free Homeschool Curriculum (Charlotte Mason) - Ambleside Online

A Free Online Catholic Charlotte Mason Curriculum - Mater Amabilis

Free Books Online!


A Picture Perfect Childhood by Cay Gibson
Includes many lists of beautiful picture books to get from your library or for your own person library, even including a list for "Teenaged Readers and Reluctant Readers"
Read an Amazon review of this book here.
For the Love of Literature by Maureen Wittmann
Includes lists of whole books for history, science, art and other core subjects.
Read my Amazon review of this book here.



While I'm generally in favor of reading primary sources and "the real thing", sometimes it can be good to get the flavor of a writer, such as G.K. Chesterton, or the culture of a writer, such as William Shakespeare.
Easy-to-Read Shakespeare
Although I have not read these graphic novels myself, the Timberdoodle people recommend them. The caveat they offer is that although the books are written at a fourth-grade reading level, Shakespeare's topics involve humanity at its best and worst. I am thinking we might try these next year in our senior year of high school.
Tales of Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb
This can be a great way to get a simple overview of the story lines, although it's not a substitute for hearing the language of Shakespeare himself.

Chesterton's writings are difficult for many adults (myself included). However, his Father Brown mystery stories, such as The Innocence of Father Brown, provide an interesting introduction.
The Father Brown Reader by Nancy Brown
Provides three of Chesterton's Father Brown stories, adapted for children (and interesting for adults, too!).
Read my Amazon review here.


Children with low vision sometimes find it a lot of work to read with magnification. For some, it might always be work and might fatigue the eyes, but for some it's just about learning how to track, and getting comfortable with the adjustment. Some of this might depend partly on what the particular eye condition is.

Personally, I think it's great to let students do the fun things they want to do, and let them work up to doing the "school" things you want them to do in tiny steps. (Remember that you can always read to them, or let them listen to tapes, for content subjects.) My son learned to track with his CCTV (video magnifier) by using it one summer so that he could play Gameboy like his brothers and friends. He learned to use his hand magnifier when he wanted to look at Lego instructions in his bedroom (the CCTV being in the living room). He is improving his reading by reading articles in Sports Illustrated. One of my mottoes is: Whenever possible, let them learn skills by having fun.

All Children Have Different Eyes, Learn to Play and Make Friends by Edie Glaser and Maria Burgio, Ph.D.

This is a cool, colorful book for children, perfectly suited both to the low vision child and to other children so they will understand, in a positive way, the needs of people with low vision.
Read my review of the book here.

When you think of Braille, perhaps you think of blindness, not "low vision". Actually, there is a fine line between "low vision" and "blind"...or more accurately, there really isn't much of a line. At any rate, I am glad that my legally blind son and I took the time for him to learn how to read Braille, even though it has not became his primary reading medium. I recommend it, so that your child can read restroom signs, labels on tapes, and so on. And if there is any chance that he or she might lose more vision, learning Braille now will make it all the easier for him or her to become proficient with it if it ever becomes necessary.

Kester Braille
A great introduction to Braille for the young child...and especially friendly for parents who do not already know Braille themselves. Developed by a retired Braille teacher.
Read my review here.

Patterns: Primary Braille Reading Program
If your child is legally blind, you should be able to borrow this book on Federal Quota funds. If you don't know what I'm talking about...or if you want any other information on homeschooling blind and visually impaired children, I would suggest joining the Yahoo group where you can ask questions and there's always someone there to help:

Post 1 on Reluctant Readers and Low Vision Students - Reading Readiness is Not Just for Preschoolers

Post 2 on Reluctant Readers and Low Vision Students - Reading Aloud is Not Just for Kindergartners

Post 3 on Reluctant Readers and Low Vision Students - Writing What a Child Dictates is Not Just for First Graders

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Reluctant Readers and Low Vision Students - Writing What a Child Dictates is Not Just for First Graders

When I was a little girl, I remember the teacher passing around this cool newsprint with widely-spaced lines on the bottom half and, on the top half, a big blank space for drawing a picture. She would talk us through making up a story, and then she would write it on the chalkboard. We were then supposed to copy it onto our paper and draw a picture to go with it.

When my youngest son became legally blind at the age of nine, I didn't expect him to do much writing by hand, as we struggled with his magnification needs. But he didn't yet know how to do keyboarding either. So while we taught him keyboarding as one subject; as part of another subject, I would sometimes sit down at the computer and ask him to describe for me a book-on-tape that he had just enjoyed. While he narrated the story, I would write it down for him. Then I could read it back to him, as well as put it in his school portfolio to demonstrate that he had both read and understood the story.

As my son grew older and mastered keyboarding skills, I would sometimes give him a writing assignment for literature or history. He would be discouraged, trying to combine his great ability to explain and describe something with his slowly-growing writing skills. The one was no match for the other. So I told him to just write, not to worry about capitalization, punctuation and spelling for now. After he finished writing, I would read and grade it for content. Then I would clean up the "mechanics" and let him read the polished version. At another time of the day, as part of an English class, he would be studying capitalization, punctuation and spelling. This has worked very well for us.

The other day I was telling one of my college graduate sons that when I grade a paper for history or religion or science, I grade that paper solely on content. Is it comprehensive? Does it show an understanding of the topic? Does it show that the student is really thinking about it? I save grading the English mechanics for English class. My son told me that most of his college professors did the same thing...not all of them; a few might grade on spelling and punctuation for a history class. But he said that most of them graded based on the class subject.

So, again, as with reading, my suggestion for teaching children to write is to have two separate classes (the younger the child, the shorter the classes). In one period, the child is learning how to write, whether it is handwriting or keyboarding, whether it is structure or mechanics. In another period, he is dictating about some topic of interest, while the parent or a mentor writes for him what he says, or writing without worrying too much about the mechanics, and someone helps him with that afterward.

In this way, the child can learn at his own pace how to write, while at the same time experiencing the joy of seeing or hearing his intelligent thoughts expressed as written words.

Post 4 on Reluctant Readers and Low Vision Students - Resources


Post 2 on Reluctant Readers and Low Vision Students -
Reading Aloud is Not Just for Kindergartners

Post 1 on Reluctant Readers and Low Vision Students -
Reading Readiness is Not Just for Preschoolers

Reluctant Readers and Low Vision Students - Reading Aloud is Not Just for Kindergartners

When each of my children learned how to read to themselves, I stopped reading aloud to him or her. You might be nodding in agreement or you might be shaking your head. Neither response is wrong, exactly...and all of my grown children have gone to college...and still love reading. So I don't look back and feel that I short-changed them. And yet...

Yet, I am more and more convinced that the philosophy of reading to your children at a level substantially ahead of their reading level can be a great thing. Here's how it works. When your child learns to read at a first grade level, he can read little first grade readers and maybe some picture books (some picture books are easy to read; others are not). When she can read at a second grade level, she can read second grade readers and maybe little chapter books. Personally, I found that the Boxcar Children and Magic Tree House series of chapter books were interesting and simple enough to get many second or third grade kids to enjoy reading on their own. "Simple" is good when it comes to the child decoding and understanding the words on the page - and delighting in his or her ability to do so. But "simple" isn't everything. It doesn't always stretch the mind and lift the heart, and provide the depth and breadth that we can soak up from really good literature.

Enter the "read-aloud-to-your-children" philosophy...a thing I had mistakenly thought was just for preschoolers and kindergartners. Busy moms might say, "I already don't have time for everything." The beauty of this is that you can read while nursing or sipping a cup of tea. Older siblings can read at their older level of reading. Grandparents can read. And, although the child can't snuggle up to an audiotape (or CD), he can listen to someone who has read and recorded the literature. Listening above the child's own reading level can provide a depth and breadth of literature that can help give him or her a love of reading, a love of learning, and a love of creation.

For children who are still struggling to learn how to read the words on a page, or who may be slowed by issues of low vision or other reading challenges, enter the read-aloud-philosophy. If this is great for the young reader who is reading "on schedule" (whatever that is, and not to worry, half of my children did not, and yet became great readers)...if this is great for the average child learning to read, think how great it can be for the child who has not yet learned to read and the child who is struggling to learn to read.

I do not advocate auditory reading as a substitute for learning to read for oneself. I think everyone should learn how to read, even if the process develops slowly over a number of years, or even if it has to be done with magnification or in Braille, depending on the challenges of any particular student.

The two different processes - listening to someone else read great literature - and learning how to comprehend the written words on a page - can work side by side, not interfering with one another but complementing one another.

Post 3 on Reluctant Readers and Low Vision Students -
Writing What a Child Dictates is Not Just for First Graders

Post 4 on Reluctant Readers and Low Vision Students - Resources

Post 1 on Reluctant Readers and Low Vision Students -
Reading Readiness is Not Just for Preschoolers

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Reluctant Readers and Low Vision Students - Reading Readiness is Not Just for Preschoolers

After my post about our curriculum for the coming year, I received requests. In essence: "Do you have suggestions about homeschooling low vision children who are younger?" I do. I always have ideas when it comes to educating our children. And I know that if you are homeschooling - or parenting - you do, too. And I think that if I share ideas with you, it might trigger additional ideas of your own.

Unbelievably, it has been a month since that post. (I'm so sorry.) I've jotted notes on various scraps of paper (Where are they?). I've thought about how I can combine low vision with other reading difficulties. (Will it be too cumbersome?)

I've struggled to figure out just how to write this. So I am going to stop hemming and hawing, and just begin. So here goes...

First of all, I feel badly that we are getting closer and closer to a new school year and here I am finally writing this. However, I don't endorse any one particular curriculum as having all the answers, anyway, so it's not like I'm "too late".

Reading Readiness is Not Just for Preschoolers
Learning is about life and life is about learning. Children with low vision, and children in general, comprehend more of what they read or study when they have some familiarity with the topic. Let me go a step further and say that this applies to all ages. The books I enjoy the most (both fiction and nonfiction) usually have some aspect - whether geography, characterization, history, philosophy, or whatever - that I am already familiar with.

My #1 recommendation: Saturate your children with wholesome "life experience".

Our children have always - from "babes in arms" through high school (and sometimes the college students) - gone with me to do the weekly grocery shopping. I have never made a contrived teaching experience out of it, but what a great place for intuitive learning! Just a few of the things that can be learned in the grocery store include: thrift; marketing and advertising; math; foods from different countries; seeing (and sometimes talking with) people of different cultures (especially if you live in a big city); seeing different kinds of work...not just the cashiers, but the managers, butchers, bakers, and the custodians. As my children see me treating the person who runs the store and the person who cleans the store with the same friendly respect, they learn a lesson I could not teach them from any book.

I might be spending too much time on one facet of my family's education. (Maybe I should be writing a book instead of a blog post.) But the fact that this one thing has been important in our lives fits with something I feel strongly about: What is important in your lives? What do you do well? What do you love? Music? Crafts? Gardening? If you can, share that with your children. Don't force it on them, or expect them to love it as you do (some will; some won't). But share it with them; give them opportunities.

What do you or your husband do that you don't particularly love but that you do well or often because it needs to be done? Home repairs? Cooking? Sewing? Share it with your children...and you may even find that one of them does love it. (Ah, and the serendipity of it is that now you might not have to do as much of it anymore.) For me, cooking has always been something to do because I like to eat...and feed my family, but definitely not my hobby. However, I always let my children help - from the time they could stand up on a chair at the counter - and not only did it increase their math and reading (without any intentional "school-type" lessons), but some of my children love to cook (thank you, thank you).

What about field trips? It was not until this past year that my son and I went on field trips with a homeschool co-op. That was great and we enjoyed it a lot...but anything can be a field trip. Over the past 25 years of educating our children, most of our field trips have been with Dad on the weekend or on a family vacation. What's in your area? What's enroute to Grandma's house? Your child (and you) can become fascinated with nature, history, you explore parks and museums...and even as you just take walks in the neighborhood or work in your backyard.

What in the world does all this have to do with reading?...or with educating a child who is low vision or a child who is a reluctant reader? Well, first of all, although I am an avid reader myself, and a great believer in the importance of reading, I have learned that reading is not where all learning comes from. Secondly, I believe that life experience is the best preparation for both life and learning.

I will write more - and cover some other aspect of learning, some aspect of teaching reluctant readers and low vision children - in another post. Hopefully, we won't have to wait a month for the next post. I say "we" because I have enjoyed writing this and sharing with you. I hope that you have enjoyed it, too.


Post 2 on Reluctant Readers and Low Vision Students -
Reading Aloud is Not Just for Kindergartners

Post 3 on Reluctant Readers and Low Vision Students -
Writing What a Child Dictates is Not Just for First Graders

Post 4 on Reluctant Readers and Low Vision Students - Resources

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Plan Next Year's Homeschooling - Check!

After weeks of research and contemplation, I think it's finally done! I put in my last orders this morning. I'm a bit taken aback by all the money I have spent, but as an old friend in California once said to me, "sometimes you have more time than money and other times you have more money than time". Not that I have so much money...but since I am now working a job, I can squeeze a little more out of the budget to get materials that my son can use a little more independently...which is good for both my schedule and his development. And since he's going into his junior year of high school, his development is becoming more and more important.

"What to do for U.S. History?" has been on my mind a lot these weeks. This past year, his primary resource for what I call "World History and Culture" was movies (from Netflix). I used the book, Learning with the Movies, by Beth Holland to get ideas, along with doing a bit of research for myself. We discussed the movies, discussed time lines, discussed world events...and he wrote essays. I'm really pretty pleased with our "program"; however, for U.S. History, I wanted to be a little more comprehensive and cohesive in presentation of material. Because my son is legally blind, it isn't easy for him to read very much at a time...and I didn't really see anything in auditory format. So I was delighted to discover the Graphic U.S. History series. Somewhat like comic books in appearance, they are written at the level of a newspaper (easy to read but interesting for all ages), and it looks like they provide lots of great history knowledge...and in timeline order. We will continue to use movies and essays, as well.

Most difficult to decide was what curriculum to use for Spanish, simply because I had a hard time bringing myself to pay the cost. However, we finally decided to get what I hear and hope is "the best"...Rosetta Stone. There is even a homeschool edition with tracking capabilities. I ordered ours through Timberdoodle, a homeschool supplier in Washington State (the same company where I discovered the Graphic U.S. History). Why did I go through Timberdoodle for the Spanish? ...because their catalogs have helped me find such great materials over the years...over the decades...and, of course, it doesn't hurt any that they're from my home state, either. :)

For Algebra 2, we will continue to use Teaching Textbooks, which we already possess from the next older son having used it. As I have watched newer and more homeschool-friendly materials develop, this has been my very favorite. The kids just pop a CD-Rom into the computer, watch the problems as the authors discuss the lesson, and then work the problems in the book. Peter has used this for Algebra 1 and Geometry, and done beautifully (it might not hurt, either, that math is his "thing").

For English, I went the "spend time rather than money" route. I don't know if there's any other way to go for composition, anyway, than to spend time with the student and their work. Well, you might think I can easily teach writing, since I'm a writer, but the one doesn't necessarily follow from the other (especially since I pretty much "play by ear" when I write). What I have been wanting, I think, for teaching writing, are the right materials. I hope I have found just that in Jensen's Format Writing, which I ordered from Catholic Heritage Curricula. This book can be used in one high school year or two, and covers single paragraph formats, five paragraph essays, business writing, major papers, and etc.

This past year for science, we used Biology 101 by Wes Olson and I was very pleased with the program, which provides hours of interesting, basic instruction on DVDs, accompanied by a guidebook for adding reading, field trips and labs to accomplish enough learning and hours for an accredited course.

Chemistry was my son's next choice for science and I did a lot of research to try to find the right program for us. This might be another subject where I will have to put in a little time - and I'm not a "science person", but Friendly Chemistry looks very...well, friendly. I emailed the authors some questions about our special needs and they emailed me back promptly. Also, I liked that there are experiments which use materials that are readily available.

Last night I finally decided what to do for religion. I ordered the Catechism of the Catholic Church on CD-Rom as reference material. He also has the New Testament on tapes. For the meat and potatoes (and dessert), I plan to join Pius Media, online Catholic DVD Rental Club...which appears to work a lot like Netflix. I had fun last night browsing the selections, where it looks like we should be able to get talks on apologetics and doctrine, as well as both instructional and devotional Bible presentations, along with stories of great people and what they have done.

I'm not sure where in the world he will find the time for this last item, but I know it's important. We have a CD-Rom for preparation for the S.A.T. pre-college exam, which we obtained for the cost of shipping as members of Homeschool Legal Defense Association.

If you have read this far, I am guessing you either have a high school student or you are a family member or friend interested in how I do it (including a cyber-friend? ). If you reading this simply because you are my friend or relative, thank you for your interest! :)

If you are reading this because you yourself are trying to plan your own homeschool curriculum, and if you happen to be a Catholic homeschooler, I'd like to recommend one more resource for you. You can listen to a Homeschool Connections webinar given by Alicia VanHecke on June 10th about "Choosing Worthwhile Homeschool Materials". Homeschool Connections, founded by Walter Crawford and my friend and homeschooling colleague Maureen Wittmann, presents free webinars for homeschool parents, as well an interesting offering of webinar classes for teens.

And now, please excuse me while I go work toward finishing up this past year's schoolwork...

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Fourth of July in the Baltimore Inner Harbor 2009

We so appreciate the Baltimore Police who - by their presence everywhere - helped to make the Fourth of July Fireworks at the Inner Harbor a safe event. This morning I visited a Baltimore news website to read about the fireworks I attended last I was curious as to whether anyone had estimated how many people were there. But all I saw was the bad news of the day, no mention of last night's fireworks so far. So I decided I would blog some good news about last night, however few people may read it.

By 9:30 p.m., the sidewalks were so crowded, you could hardly move. Crowds scare me for a lot of reasons...the din, the uncomfortable possibilities, my being a bit claustrophobic. Were it only up to me, I might have just stayed in my comfort zone at home. But for my family, I went. And I was glad I did!

We arrived around 6:30 p.m. and parked in a garage that was labeled (gasp) "$20 all night". We decided to eat the cost rather than have to walk the distance to the garage my husband's company uses...and especially to have to walk back there again, late at night and tired.

As we walked along the harbor, we discussed where to eat. Five Guys, Cheesecake Factory, Subway? Our quietest son, who usually defers to the rest of us, spoke up that he would prefer to eat at Subway. So we all decided that Subway it would be, and we headed to the appropriate mall. I was secretly happy that Subway would be the best for our budget too.

As we entered the thronged food court, we found a plethora of policemen and policewomen eating their Subway dinners. But they had already ordered and we were able to order our food right away...however, finding a place to eat was another matter. We walked all around the food court, circling the interior of the mall. People were seated everywhere, and people were walking and standing just about everywhere, too. I was glad we had food in bags rather than on trays. We finally found ourselves back at the Subway area, where the policemen had just finished eating - standing up to an empty counter. We ate there as they had, standing. At least it gave us a place to put our food, and space to breathe.

While we ate, and while - since I don't eat as much at a time as my guys do - I waited for them to finish theirs, I watched the people...and I soaked in the atmosphere. It was a happy, family-party type atmosphere. Not everyone there was with family but - crazy as it sounds - I felt like we were all one big, of course, we really know?

Outside, we found a place on the grass to sit, wishing we had brought a blanket. I usually say that I "don't do" sitting on the ground, but I found out that I do. It's funny what you do when you have certain choices (like stand for two hours? No thanks.). I just needed to keep changing position, and occasionally standing up to stretch, and it worked just fine.

Watching the crowds walk by was better than watching a movie. The diversity particularly fascinated me. Not only was it racially diverse: black, white, Hispanic, Jewish, Asian, Middle Eastern...sorry if I left anyone out. But the diversity seemed to be of local origin as well as national and international. There seemed to be city people and country people, rich people and poor people...and, of course, everyone in between. There were dreadlocks and there were mohawks, and there were tattoos, and there were designer clothing and semi-professional garb. There was even the occasional evening gown (on their way to the cruise on the bay?). There was a woman in the poorest of clothing, with a black garbage bag slung over her shoulder (all her earthly belongings?), and I saw a few other men and women who looked similarly. I prayed for them, but I also rejoiced with them that they could enjoy not only this great entertainment, but also this big "family" gathering.

I saw a little girl, maybe two years old, riding on her father's shoulders, bouncing and dancing joyfully to the rhythm of the live band, as he danced to the rhythm while he walked. I saw a woman with a white cane and numerous people in wheel chairs. We saw two little girls in blond ponytails, looking identical from the back except that one looked taller than the other - until you realized it was because one was on the shoulders of someone taller than the person carrying the other girl.

And everywhere, we saw the policemen and women, mingling, walking in twos, sometimes gathering in small groups and then splitting up and walking on again, sometimes even text-messaging as they walked along, it seemed. Whatever they were doing, wherever they were, they were there, just quietly present.

The crowds had milled by endlessly, like a river; the band had played its lively, upbeat music for a long time; and the clouds had looked down on us and thought awhile and dropped a tear of longing to be with us, and then decided to keep their moisture in the sky. We had touched bases with each of our long-distance kids by cell phone. We had wiggled and stretched, and chatted and laughed. And finally it came time for the fireworks. The band continued to play, mingled with the happy sounds of the crowd. The only song I really heard after that was "Proud to be an American" - and I was.

Out in the bay, but off at some distance to our right, the show began. Very pretty. But I was a little disappointed at how far away the display was. Weren't they going to have them in the bay in front of us? And then - all of a sudden! - fireworks shot up high and bright and loud, right across from us, and there was a collective gasp of appreciation. After that it was a three ring circus of entertainment, as the ones off to the right would go up...very pretty...and as far away as they were, they yet reflected on the glass sides of the tall office buildings in the harbor, adding another dimension of beauty. Before a set of fireworks from the right had finished, the ones in front of us would shoot up...astoundingly forming fountains and flowers in sustained beauty and depth. Truly moved, I thanked God for the wonders He has given to man to use, for the beauty that He allows us to create. And thank you, God, for the love and joy that I felt there, that so many of your people could come together in peace.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Zoo Trip

Our homeschool co-op met at the Baltimore Zoo on Thursday. I hadn't been to a zoo in years, it seems...which means, of course, that Peter hadn't either. So I was looking forward to this opportunity for both of us.

Noon had been our scheduled arrival time, but one of the ladies suggested we go an hour earlier. How glad we were that she did, because we got to see the baby elephant just before he went inside for his nap. While we watched the elephants walk around in their woodsy, natural environment (no "concrete jungle" here), an enthusiastic employee joined us to us to show us a model of an elephant's tooth. She explained many things and answered all our questions. This stop alone was worth the trip.

After seeing a few other exhibits, I thought we were done and I was a little surprised...maybe even a little disappointed at first, having visited such zoos as Portland, San Diego, and Cincinnati in my past, where there were always tons of wild animals. (I want to say "no pun intended" but I'm not really sure about that.)

But then we went to the so-called Children's Zoo. I say "so called" because it was definitely interesting to the teenagers and adults! Petting the goats, I think, was a highlight of the day for most everyone.

At the end of the day, I mentioned something to my son about how few wild animals were there, and he said, "Quality is better than quantity." You know, I think my father would agree. He used to object to the way all those animals were kept in cages and concrete. I'll bet he would be happy to see the natural environment at this zoo.

While I missed certain animals and I missed all those past trips with our whole family, I have to say that, truly, this zoo is a unique and fascinating place.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Thrift Shop Shopping

I don't shop at second-hand stores very often, and that made going all the harder. But it isn't really that much harder than going to a certain inexpensive chain store that isn't always all that clean and tidy.

The thrift store I visited is a brand name thrift store (not mentioning any names here), which is not one of my favorites because of the high prices (the prices are sometimes as much as that chain store I wasn't mentioning).

But that old love of the hunt struck me this morning. So off I went, treasure hunting. I was recently wanting a new lampshade for my living room floor lamp, and guess what I found? Sometimes I wonder if someone is tapping me on the shoulder, whispering in my ear, when there is treasure waiting for me.

If you visit thrift shops regularly, you might wonder at my hesitation. If not, you might wonder why I go. As I said, it's the love of the hunt (not to speak of the savings)...and it's a treasure hunt.

I walk in and I get a not-so-good feeling as I look around at tired, worn, faded items. But then I tell myself it's okay; I'm not getting any of those tired, worn, faded items (heaven knows, I have enough of them at home already).

And then something catches my eye, that looks brand new, that's just what I need. Or else I leave, empty-handed, not any worse for having taken a few minutes to look.

It's funny that going to a second-hand store used to be seen, by some, as a sign of poverty. But when I think about all the "hoopla" about being "green", I think that this is among some of the best ways to do that. As I happened to read somewhere recently, people say "Reduce, reuse, recycle", but they often forget the "reuse" part of it.

As I write this, I look gratefully over at the beautiful, clean lampshade, woven with a slightly-knubby texture, and having a gentle slope. It's "just right"...and I didn't have to pay a mint, go from store to store, or even wait for shipping.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Never Say Never (or "Enjoy the Little Things")

I have lived in different regions of the country, from the Pacific Northwest to Southern California, from the Midwest to the East Coast, and also in different types of areas, from country suburban to very city suburban, back to very country suburban and back again to city suburban.

Over the years, we have traveled much of our beautiful country. On our recent trip back to Kentucky, I caught myself saying something that I've said so many times, "Look. Those people live so close to the freeway. I wouldn't want to live so close to the freeway." Only one problem with that comment: We do live "so close to the freeway".

When we discovered this apartment community last spring, it was everything we wanted and didn't have at our then-current apartment complex: convenient to public transportation, church, library, stores, so we signed up for the waiting list...and soon were accepted. And then I looked it up on the map and realized that we had overlooked that dreaded thing...a freeway. We are probably the equivalent of one to two football fields distance away from a steady stream of trucks and cars, flowing by all hours of the day and night and all seasons of the year...just far enough not to identity and admire the makes, just close enough to be annoying.

However, we have a veritable forest of deciduous trees between us and the freeway. This means that in spring and summer, if the weather permits us to open the windows for fresh air, we can only hear the traffic, not see the vehicles going by. In fall and winter, though, we can look out and decide if we want to join the flow...or take a different route. And I can look out from my balcony and dream of traveling.

But that's not all we can hear and see from our balcony. We can sometimes hear geese...and I have seen my favorite childhood birds, the robins; pesky starlings; my favorite winter birds, the red cardinals; and, the other day, I saw a hummingbird. Last summer I was thrilled to see fireflies, which I hadn't seen for a couple of years, and which had so delighted me when we moved from the West to the Midwest. So...they live in the East, too, I marveled.

Squirrels proliferate at any time and I see plenty of deer in season, especially in the wee small hours when I am taking one of my sons to work. I've seen a few foxes; spotted a couple of raccoons, foraging near the dumpsters; and I've seen something low and chubby that I couldn't identify, with a big tail...could it be a beaver?

Today, wonder of wonders! I saw a flying squirrel! I was so excited! And yes, Virginia, there really are flying squirrels. They simply don't live in the West (at least as far as I know.) Well, after my sighting, I looked up flying squirrels on the internet and yes, that's what they are called and no, they don't exactly "fly". They glide. Yes, that is what it was doing! It was gliding - with its feet out like wings and its bushy tail floating out behind him.

I still sometimes wonder how people can live by the freeway. If you have the windows open or step outside, the noise just never stops. My dream is not to live here for the rest of my life. But it works for us for now, and I enjoy the little things about where we live. Come to think of it, maybe they aren't even so little. Some of you know that I get very excited when I see beautiful classic cars. However, I got even more excited today than I would seeing a great Corvette or Thunderbird. Human engineers can make great designs. But only the Great Engineer could make a flying squirrel.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Paul Graduates

Last weekend we returned to our homeland (of 13 years) for the college graduation of our third child, our second son, Paul.

To my way of thinking, graduating from college is quite an accomplishment. Perhaps it seems greater to me in view of the fact that I never attended college...except for one course in medical terminology a few decades ago. Of course their Dad is a college graduate, but I was the primary teacher of my children until they went to college. No, come to think of it, I teach them to read and to teach themselves, and after that they are mostly their own primary teachers. I select curriculum, check their work, help them when they need it. I would say I am more the "mentor"...though I do love those "teachable moments", too.

I think Paul's graduation is a greater accomplishment in view of the fact that he was left behind - early in his college career - when we had to move away to Baltimore for my husband's work...and then his older brother and sister had to move away to pursue their work. We are all most grateful to everyone who was there for him in so many different ways.

I think it was an even greater accomplishment in view of the fact that Paul went from 20/20 to blind in the course of a few months - in the middle of his college career. So...he went on with his life. I'm sure it wasn't easy. I'm sure he had his moments. But he finished college and ended with a good grade point average and a chair award in his major.

Paul didn't only learn how to navigate to school and to classes in all kinds of weather and how to use an adaptive computer. He cooks for himself and sometimes his friends. He was a president of the Newman Club on campus. He was a senator of the student government association. He is a chancellor of a Knights of Columbus chapter.

If you were one of the ones who has prayed for Paul in his journey, I want to thank you from the depths of my heart. I would also like to ask you to keep those prayers coming as he pursues his career as a writer. He can write both non-fiction and fiction, and is currently looking for a writing job. As someone I met on campus said, "He is a brilliant writer." I was trying to pick up some writing tips from Paul this weekend about writing fiction. He told me there are many different ways, that there is no one formula. And then I learned that he "sees" a story in his head like a movie, before he writes it down.

On the Friday evening before graduation, an animation short film that Paul and his classmates put together premiered in a little theater on campus. Some members of a production company came to meet the class and see the film. When it came time to walk over to the theater, the professor asked someone to lead the way, but she didn't know where the theater was. So Paul, with his guide dog, Chicago, led everyone to the theater.

You can visit the website for this short film, see the producers and writers, even hear round-table discussions about the production.

If you have nine minutes, you can even see the film itself.

Just click over to Linus and Nigel. Enjoy.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Take Charge of the Little Things

Sometimes spending a little time or a little money can save a lot of time or a lot of money. Here are just a few ways I've found to spend a little time or money to save money.

Working in the billing office of a medical practice, the most important thing I've learned is how crucial it is for a patient to have a valid referral if the insurance plan requires it. If your plan requires referrals from your primary care provider, I suggest you personally make sure the referral gets to the specialist in time for your appointment.

Driving a 16 year old minivan with almost 190,000 miles, I think the single most important thing that has helped keep this vehicle running strong is getting the oil changed. "How often?" is another question. The quick-oil-change places say to change it every 3,000 miles. My manual says to change it every 7,500 miles for normal driving. Since the car is older, and has to work harder, we compromise and get it changed about every 6,000 miles.

Keeping a budget in hard economic times keeps many of us on our toes these days. Recently my sister told me how she cut a little here and a little there from her monthly bills, and it's surprising how it all added up. Sometimes taking that half hour to shave a few dollars from the budget - make a few phone calls or a few small decisions - can make a difference in being able to balance the budget or in buying something that is more important to us, or perhaps in paying off a debt.

Paying off debts, I have found that taking a little time to make a plan keeps me positive. I almost enjoy writing that check and I rejoice as I see the balance diminishing. It's been kind of fun to take the time once in awhile to tweak the debt repayment plan. "If I paid this much more per month on this bill, how much sooner could we get it paid off?" My favorite calculator for this is provided (free) by CNN

I'm sure you have your own ideas. That's the beauty of brainstorming. If we just think positively and freely, we can often think of ideas to spend a little and save a little...and sometimes we might even hit the jackpot and save a lot.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter!

May you all have a very blessed and happy Easter!

And remember, it is not just one day, not just one week, not even just one Easter season, but a lifetime, followed by an eternity. May you live in peace, the peace that passes understanding.

May Our Lord grant you His peace and joy today and always.

Christ is risen!
Indeed He is risen!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Rebound Exercise

Until a spring broke in one of the legs of our mini-trampoline, I hadn't realized how much I depend on it. Actually, until then I had felt guilty that I didn't use it more. As I frequently look over at our mini-trampoline as it lies helplessly on the ground, I realize, now, how often I must have gotten on it for a few minutes here, and a few minutes there. And my recent achy legs have been telling me that those few minutes had all added up to something good...something that I miss.

Have you tried rebound exercise? Have you read about it? We first learned the value of it from a book we had many years ago called The Miracle of Rebound Exercise by Albert E. Carter. Visiting this topic on Amazon just now, I see that he wrote the book as long ago as 1979, but that he has written a follow-up as recently as 2005, called Rebound Exercise: The Ultimate Exercise for the New Millenium.

We bought our current mini-trampoline a year or so ago - second hand - through Craig's List. It's an Urban Rebounder and has a balance bar. The spring that broke was in the leg that attaches to the bar and I think family members (who shall remain nameless) bent the bar back and forth absentmindedly (one too many times) -- not while using the trampoline, but while just standing beside it talking. Our new spring is in the mail.

Why is rebounding so great? I've been doing some searches on rebounding this morning to refresh my memory. From the various websites I've browsed, rebound exercise is good for the lymphatic system, the heart, the circulation, the bones, and so much more. It's good for healthy people and it's good for not-so-healthy people. I just read a review of Al Carter's newer book that says he talks about mitochondria. To me, that's exciting. You may have never heard of mitochondria and I kind of wish I hadn't, but hey, knowledge is power. I think I need to order the book. When I do, I will share with you what I learn, but don't wait for me. If you aren't familiar with this wonderful, convenient form of exercise, check it out for yourself.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Real Picture

Wanted to share with you an article about our "net worth"...being more than just financial. I visit a number of personal blogs about money, finances, getting or staying out of debt, being frugal. The Simple Dollar is one of my favorites. I wish I knew from whose blog I found it, so I could thank you. If you are reading this and you might be the one who directed me there, Thank You.

Here's the article, "My Real Net Worth". Thank you, Trent, for sharing these uplifting thoughts.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Just Busy

When was it that my daily blogging fell by the wayside? Perhaps when I started a part-time job? For awhile, I continued to blog fairly regularly, but it seems that lately I rarely get here. So sorry.

So what have I been doing besides working part time?

And besides trying to keep honing the budget in an effort to get out of debt in spite of the economy?

And besides homeschooling a high school son (who just happens to have a visual impairment)? And besides participating in a great weekly homeschool co-op?

And what else have I been doing besides keeping in touch with several kids (adults kids, that is) who live in various parts of the country?

And besides driving around the kids who live here at home?

And besides chatting with them and with my husband?

And keeping in touch with friends and sisters?

Sometimes I just can't figure out what I do with my time...

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Reflections from the March

Parades were never my thing. Crowds are just too difficult.

"I have separation anxiety," I laughingly say to my family and friends if we are out together. On a trip to the mall or even a very large store, I like to have a designated meeting place, and am grateful for the invention of cell phones.

Yet, here I was in Washington D.C., with our group of eight, in the midst of tens of thousands of people. We were four adults and four young people. Two of the young people were not ours. One of them I had never met before. And she was my angel because she took my arm as we struggled through the crowds. It gave me a feeling of security. As I said to her with a smile, "I have one less person to worry about." I always wondered if she, or Someone who sent her, wanted me to feel more secure, as well as her. And her having my arm probably helped keep me from falling when I'd turn around while walking, in order to count heads.

"One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight," just like counting the family, when we used to go to amusement parks...except there were more people surrounding us, and this was no more an amusement park than it was a parade.

Yet, it was more exciting and more fulfilling than going on a pleasure day. Here were all these people. Some were elderly; some had chronic health conditions. Some were young and healthy, but all were offering up various things to be there: the cold, tiredness, fear of crowds. But we soon forgot all that. We were here for the babies, for life, for God's right to give life where He will.

Reminders of our purpose were everywhere. Banners and posters held high, people of all ages and walks of life marched, ambled, squeezed through the throngs, pleasantly, optimistically, but with a purpose.

“N.Y. Rabbis for Life” one man’s sign said, and the woman next to him had a sign, “Jewish Women for Life”.

“Lutherans for Life” read another banner nearby.

Nuns and priests appeared frequently, scattered through the crowds.

A man in a Harley Davidson jacket and bandana explained his stand to a cameraman.

Scores of people walked with black signs stating, “I Regret My Abortion”. When we found ourselves in the midst of them, one of them gently suggested we might want to veer off, out of their group. They had such kindly smiles for us as we moved off to the left, closer to the schools and other families and homeschoolers.

The greatest numbers seemed to be the young people, especially high school and college students, who waved their signs, chanted, sang, full of hope, full of a love for live - their lives and the lives of others. And that, after all, is what it’s all about: our young people, and hope, and love.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


A couple of years ago, my son Peter read and loved the book Inkheart, by Cornelia Funke. He urged me to read it, and I liked it too. So he was excited that they've made it into a movie, and so was I.

Peter invited me to see it today to celebrate my upcoming birthday! We brought my husband along, as well, although he hadn't read the book.

Ed enjoyed the movie, and Peter and I were very satisfied in how the movie makers handled the story. We didn't mind the minor changes because the basic plot and theme remained. The characters were very true to...well, very true to character.

When some people read aloud, the characters come to life. No, I mean they really do come to life. Those characters may not want to be in this strange world...and then again, some of them do, though not all of them for the right reasons.

The movie is rated PG. I wouldn't recommend it for young children who scare easily although I don't think it's any scarier than, say, Wizard of Oz.

Good triumphs over evil; a character can re-script his own life for the good; and love and hope win in the end.

Friday, January 23, 2009

In God We Trust

What a beautiful post I just discovered this morning at Cay's blog "Cajun Cottage Under the Oaks". It's entitled In God we Trust, and I found it very uplifting.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

March for Life

Where, oh, where did the March for Life go? Where on the news, I mean! I have checked several sources and not even found a mention, so far. But "yahoo" for Yahoo on this one. Not that I liked everything they had to say, but at least they did feature it!

This year I had the great privilege of being there, along with my high school son. I so wish I had taken my camera! Oh wait, I don't have a camera. (The one I used at Christmas was disposable, you see.)

I don't know how many people were there, but the crowds were absolutely overwhelming. But they were pleasant, kindly crowds.

People of all ages were there, with an abundance of enthusiastic teenagers and young adults among them.

Our group found ourselves, at one point, walking near a very large contingent of people with signs that read, "I Regret My Abortion". Hopefully this will give a message to others that this is not the "solution" some might think.

The talks that were given before the March - as well as the atmosphere everywhere - were filled with hope and trust in God.

You can watch the EWTN coverage by checking their website for the schedule (scroll down).

Although I came home exhausted, I am so grateful that we were able to go!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

May We Be Hopeful

I would like to share with you, my dear readers, a response I wrote to an article, which I found posted to an online list that I am on. Although the article to which I responded had ended on a positive note, it was too painful for me to get that far. I had the same experience recently with a talk I heard. I'm sorry I can't share with you what I was responding to, as it was a forward rather than a link.

Below is my email:

Personally, I find articles such as the one you shared with us to be discouraging. Of course, I could always hit the delete button. But instead I would like to share a bit from my own life...a different perspective from a different middle aged woman.

In my senior year of high school (class of '71), I thought the world was indeed a gloomy place. My fellow classmates were being conditioned to accept abortion and euthanasia; my school was on a new academic system that I thought was designed to ruin education; and, in addition, I felt that my parents and I seemed to be living on two different planets.

Attracted to the Catholic Church, but not well grounded in its spirit, I was ripe for the plucking by a pseudo-Catholic cult. Its leader ranted about the problems in the country and raved about the problems in the Church. With reverently offered Masses, public Rosaries, and Benediction what more could one want? Although I left the cult after a couple of months, it took longer to realize more fully what had been missing there: Not only did they not have true unity with the Church but living, growing hope and charity seemed to also be lacking. And just what are hope and charity?

Hope is an abiding confidence that God will give us all the graces we need to go to heaven. But I believe that hope is also a daily virtue of confidence that God will always somehow bring good out of evil, that Our Heavenly Father will guide us and our loved ones through each day, come what may.

Charity is to love God above all, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Over the years I have come to feel that it also means separating the sin - which offends God - from the sinner - whom He loves, whom He loved so much as to give Himself on the Cross for him, yes, for each and every one of us individually.

I have observed over the years that if we focus too much on the problems, sometimes a temptation to pride arises, a temptation to think that we are special because we are the elite, the chosen few. If we are overly critical of people who make bad choices, then sometimes when young people grow into young adults and find kind, happy people who make the wrong choices, they decide - at least temporarily - that maybe the choices were not so bad, after all. I have noticed through the years that if we put too much emphasis on what is wrong with the world, we sometimes discourage our young people from pursuing what is right.

Change is constant. Sometimes the pendulum swings back and forth, as in a "conservative" or a "liberal" government. Some other changes occur for the worse and remain, but there are others that occur for the better, as well. In my lifetime, I have watched the evil of abortion become legalized. On the other hand, I have also watched homeschooling become legalized, and parents, both homeschooling parents and others, take a great interest in their childrens' lives. While I have watched homosexuality be encouraged as an alternate lifestyle, yet on the other hand, I have taken great joy in observing a greater respect for all God's children, without regard to race...just like in the Communion of Saints.

Good and evil exist together. And yes, these are indeed difficult times. Today, many of us know someone who needs health care and can't afford it, or we may have a family member who is looking anxiously for a job. I believe we need to pray for one another and encourage one another even more in these challenging times.

Do I think we should put our heads in the sand, like the proverbial ostrich? No. When I was that high school senior, I was writing articles for our high school newspaper, trying to alert parents to what I saw as flaws in the new educational system. My dad once told me that a couple years later they gave up the new system, due to pressure from parents. I think I was right to take a stand. But I think it was my mistake to put a chip on my shoulder, "looking for help in all the wrong places".

Tomorrow some of us will participate in the March for Life. Others will join us in other ways, or in prayer. Let us fight the issues we face, one by one. But let us also count our blessings, one by one.

As the song says, "Count your blessings. See what God has done." If we look, if our eyes are not darkened by discouragement, we will always find many good things that God has done.

May God bless us, everyone.

Margaret Mary

Friday, January 09, 2009

A Letter Off

It pays to read carefully before you report the "news". The other day, after I took one of my sons to work at 4:30 a.m., I told my husband that I saw that a local hotel is being sold. I was saying how bad the economy must be for them to sell this hotel.

The next afternoon, I drove by the same hotel and saw the sign again:
Hotel Fur Sale.

P.S. If there is anyone visually impaired, reading this with a screenreader, the sign said "Hotel F-U-R Sale".

Saturday, January 03, 2009

How Old is Your Car in People Years?

My beloved minivan is 94 years old in people years!

How old is your car? You can find out here.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Our Holiday Celebrations

We had a wonderful Christmas visit with our out-of-state kids here. We now have another year of memories, one more year of love filling our lives. No matter how much or little money we have at a particular time, no matter what struggles individual members have been going through, no matter whether there have been tragedies (none for us this past year, thankfully), no matter what, love always trumps it all!

If you now have a picture of a loving family sitting placidly around the table, re-set the lens. We are not very placid. Although our kids are basically all of the same Faith, there are many differences in political views, matters of opinion, and anything that could possibly be "up for discussion". The great thing is that everyone has matured to the point where the animated - sometimes a little bit heated - discussions draw to a close with no door-slamming and with everyone smiling. And then come the games: Monopoly and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire this year, as we only had a couple days before people had to return home. All of us here miss all of them, but we keep close throughout the year - through email and, mostly, by telephone.

New Year's Eve found me missing more than just the children who returned home, but our parents, our siblings (by birth, marriage and friendship), and other geographically-distant family and friends. But God provides...and kept me distracted and filled.

After going to my part-time job yesterday (and enthusiastically exchanging greetings with co-workers I hadn't seen, since I had taken time off for Christmas), I then picked up a few things at the store, fixed an easy light supper, and we headed out to a friends' house for a "Pre-New Year's Eve Celebration" from 6-9 p.m. We enjoyed hot spiced apple cider, appetizers, and companionship.

When we came home, I called my co-worker and neighbor to say "We're home now," because earlier in the day I had spontaneously invited her to watch the New Year arrive with us. She and a friend of hers joined us for a little champagne, a lot of sparkling juice, and some chips and dips, but mostly for lots of great conversation. We talked about many of the same things we had talked about at the previous party: fun or exciting stories about the area, traffic, neighborhoods, public transportation, and travel in other areas in the country.

Today we attended Mass, and are now relaxing, watching the rerun of this morning's Rose Parade.

I pray that you and your family may have a blessed, joyous, peaceful New Year, trusting in God for His loving care in your lives.