Friday, August 31, 2012

Montana Sky Christmas: A Sweetwater Springs Story Collection - Book Review

These short stories contain enough conflict to pull you in and keep the storyline moving along, yet they come to wholesome resolutions that made me smile in surprise or cry with joy.

Debra Holland's characters come to life, whether they are being mean or resourceful, unkind or endearing. The characters of one story often interact with characters of a previous story. Although each story in this collection is very different, you keep reading about old friends.

Whether for Christmas time or any time you want to fill your mind and heart with something wholesome, I highly recommend you read these stories.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Why Would We Leave the Kids in the Car?

It's not "should we?" so much as: "Why would we?" At least that's how I see it, as someone who was sometimes left in the car those 50 years ago, while my mom did the grocery shopping. I wasn't a toddler. I knew to just sit there, and not to unlock the doors, not to open the locks which apparently made my little waiting place an impregnable fortress. I was safe. That's why she left me in the car -- because I was young, so I wouldn't be safe at home alone.  I might get into something dangerous, I guess.

They were different times. I've talked to others my age and found out my mom was not alone. I've also done internet searches and found there are people who still do it. If the child is eight or nine, what harm is there? The danger is with infants and toddlers, right?   Well, I'm not so sure that's true. How long does it take a predator to get into a car?  How long does it take a car to get hot?  Does the child know when it's too hot, and he needs to get out and go find his mother?  And if he keeps the doors locked for safety, how will he decide whether he should get out or not?

But none of those thoughts went through my head as a child. I was safe...and bored and lonely. My mom left me in the car so she could get the shopping done, which was hard to do with me along, because I talked so much. Don't get the wrong idea. She was kind about it, almost apologetic. And as I said, it was common in my time. But I knew I must be a nuisance (although it didn't stop me from talking, every chance I got).  As a teenager, I looked back and got angry about it. Unfortunately, in spite of all my talking, we didn't really communicate about the deep stuff, so I never discussed it with her and cleared the air.

Most people, who don't like something their parents did, either repeat the pattern or go all the other way. Guess what some of my adult kids do for fun when they don't have money and they need to get out of the house?  They go to the grocery store!  They also know how to bargain shop and eat healthfully (they do better than I do).  

When my kids were children, even if they begged, I generally would not let them stay in the car until they were old enough to get a driver's license or permit...unless they were staying in the car with a trusted older sibling who was old enough to drive. I guess I had the opposite view from my childhood times about where they were safe.  My children were allowed to stay home alone - or were asked to babysit their younger brothers - at younger ages than that. So maybe 15 or 16 was a little arbitrary.  But you get the idea. I wasn't going to repeat that pattern.

But what were my decisions really about?  Safety, yes. But mostly, I didn't want them to feel they were too much trouble. I wanted my kids to know they were important. That doesn't mean I was never impatient with them, nor does it mean they were always by my side inside the store. Once I felt they were old enough, I let them go off on their own in the grocery store and explore if they wanted to, as long as they didn't leave the building; they knew where and when to meet me; and they knew if someone tried anything they should find me or find an employee.

And someone did try something once. A man wanted my then-11 year old son, who was browsing the toy aisle at a discount department store (no, not the big W, another one), to go with him to the restroom and then leave. No, it wasn't a mistake, because my son simply moved to another aisle to get away, and the man followed him and urged him more forcefully. My son found me, we reported to management, who got their detective. We never found the guy again, and I'm sure the experience was hard on my son. But there are no predators, right? Especially in safe, mid-sized, Midwestern towns, right?  Good thing there weren't any kids alone in the parking lot.

But again, as important as safety is, there was more to my decision to take  my kids with me to the store. I wanted my kids to know they were always welcome with me! I wanted them to know we conducted this family together. And yes, some Fridays, when Dad was able to get off work early, he joined us too. When my older kids went to college, some of them voluntarily - even eagerly - joined us when they could. We shopped together, we cooked together, and we ate together. It kept us together, even after the invasion of the e-world (internet).

So how did I keep everyone happy at the store?  Toddlers? I didn't always. Others? I have a dirty little secret:  At some point, I started "the two dollars".    When one of my older kids was taking half the shopping list and filling it, I told him he could buy something extra to share with everyone, something completely of his own choosing, something up to two dollars worth.  As the weeks went on, his younger siblings started trying to influence him and it got too conflicted, so finally I rewarded them for their arguing (oops, not my plan, but my plan worked to make peace).  I said that now each child could pick something to share with the whole family for up to two dollars per child.  With inflation, I sometimes shrugged if the amount was larger ($3 bag of chips?).  You see, I didn't buy junk food so, to them, it was a big treat. And it kept them motivated to enjoy the trip to the store. Even during the times when money was very tight, I continued "the two dollars".

So now you see that I bribed my kids to love grocery find inexpensive entertainment, to enjoy being together in another setting, to know how to shop for their own needs.

Involving my kids in the shopping trips started out as a way to break a pattern I had not liked as a child. But it grew into one of my best bargains.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

We Are All in This Together

We aren't living in the time of the French Revolution.  You know why I say that? Because we aren't divided into the wealthy nobility and the impoverished peasantry, although sometimes we might wonder - to hear people talk - if some people think it is "us" and "them".

Let me explain. Yes, we do have the very rich and the very poor. I fully acknowledge that. But we also have a whole rainbow spectrum of people in between those two points on the economic number line.

In part of that in-between spectrum, I know a few people who probably make as much as $200,000.  You might think the person making $200,000 is super wealthy...unless you look at their taxes and expenses. No, please, stay with me. Unless you are talking about a large corporation with huge loop-holes, the more someone makes, the greater percentage they pay to, not just the greater amount, the greater percentage, which means a greater-greater amount.  If someone has a business of their own, they also have to pay all kinds of expenses and overhead, and possibly pay employees and their benefits.

Or, if it's a high-paying job (rather than a business), employees often buy a house, lose a job, and in order to find another job, have to find another place to live in another state, but sometimes find themselves unable to sell the house in a bad market. Or maybe the company they work for transfers them to another state and they either have to take a loss on their house or commute to another state to work each week, going back home to the family each weekend. No, companies don't often pay for those expenses after the first few weeks.

Yes, it would be nice to make that kind of money...maybe. Maybe not.I haven't tried it but I've tried a variety of other places on the continuum.

People make all different salaries, including some of the people I met several years ago who worked at J.C. Penney as salesclerks in addition to their regular jobs.  Among them, I remember a teacher and an accountant, working two jobs because, for one reason or another, their families needed the money.  

And then there are those people for whom the salesclerk job I worked to supplement my family's income at the time - or some other, similar job - may be their only source of income. Some of them don't get enough hours. Some of them cannot live on the income they they seek aide, or roommates, or move back home with the folks...or some combination.  Some manage alone but it's always a struggle.

I've lived in various places on the economic spectrum. When we moved from California to Kentucky nearly 20 years ago, we were able to buy a five-bedroom house, on an acre and a half, with an in-ground swimming pool.  In California, we could not have afforded that. And I hoped that people, who might be tempted to be jealous, would realize that we had been forced to move and leave all of our extended family 2,000 miles away. Still, too, we had to cut corners and pinch pennies in other ways in order to maintain that home and make ends meet. And today we live in an apartment in a city even further from most of our relatives, and we had to leave our young adult children behind to come here for the work.

On another place in the spectrum, my last job when I was young and single brought me about $4,000 a year.  I just did a search and ran a calculation.  In today's dollars (in terms of food, shelter, etc.) that would probably be an annual income of about $13,400 (and yes, I had to pay taxes on that).  With that income, I never considered myself poor but thankfully I never needed medical care (I was without any benefits). First I lived with other people, and then I rented an inexpensive studio apartment that had formerly been a storage room. The walls looked like an unfinished basement, and I had a sink, stove and a mini-refrigerator, plus my own sparse furniture.  Although there were times when life was a tight stretch, making me feel relieved when pay day came so I could buy gas and food, I never actually went hungry. I even treated myself to a donut while I did my laundry...not every time, not every week, but now and then. I loved my job and I was happy.

If you're reading this on a computer, I'm guessing you are probably somewhere on this spectrum, somewhere in between those who might be homeless on the street and always hungry and those who make upwards of a million dollars a year.   

We're really all in this together.  It seems to me, and maybe this is just my perception of what I hear, but it seems that we need to stop either being jealous or angry of those who makes more money than we do or, conversely,  looking down on someone who makes less. I suppose sometimes, since most of us are somewhere in the middle, we may even be tempted to do both.

When we can, let's help those who need it, whether it's giving a homeless person some food or giving food to our local pantry, or whatever way we are able to do. If you are someone who needs help, I hope you seek it, whether it's from government, charitable organizations, or individuals. But at the same time, if a particular person won't help, don't assume they don't care. That person, as I know from personal experience, may already be helping with someone else's support, someone in addition to those living in their home...sometimes they are contributing on a regular basis to more than one relative or friend outside their home.  

Mostly, let's try to remember the respect that says "this person is valuable even if he or she isn't making much (or any) money right now, whether due to disability or the job market or for whatever the reason."  And let's remember the respect that says "it's okay that this other person is making more money than I do and doesn't seem to me to care about the poor. They may be helping someone in ways that I know nothing about, or they themselves may be struggling in ways I haven't even imagined." 

Most of all, let's all try to keep the love flowing among all of us, whatever our economic status at a given time, whether we are very rich, very poor, or somewhere within the myriad of economies in between those extremes; regardless of our religion, our political views, or our other differences and similarities.

We are all created and loved by the same good God.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Writing My Story

Sometimes I get a lot of projects going at once.  I've been working on promoting my newly published Little Saint Therese book. I'm working on producing my favorite project of all time, my Minute Psalm Retreats, which I've been working on for about 30 years. And I'm still trying to finish my Myers Family Cookbook.

But I've also started trying again to write my story. I've finished the first chapter, and it feels very good to get it all down on paper again. The last time I tried this, I still had too much unfinished business. I would never have admitted this to myself at the time, but the last time I tried to write it, I still had too much bitterness. Now I am able to see the good and bad, side by side.  

Besides that, I didn't know before how to approach the viewpoint. After some more trials (as in difficulties and griefs), some counseling, and reading a riveting memoir (Dawn Schiller's The Road Through Wonderland), I am ready to try my hand at telling my story once again...although it may be awhile before you are able to see it.

God bless you all in all your projects and endeavors.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Announcing the Winner of the Little Saint Therese Book!

The winner of the drawing for the Little Saint Therese book is Heather!...from the blog, Blessed and Busy. Congratulations, Heather!

Thank you to all of you who participated! 

If you would like to buy the Little Saint Therese book, you can do so at The Book Patch for $3.25 plus shipping and handling. Buy Now style 1 button

Friday, August 10, 2012

Little Saint Therese - First Chapter

(The color picture from which the gray-scale picture in the book was taken)

          1) Little Saint Therese Liked to Play

You probably like to play with toys and games. Did you know that the saints liked toys and games too?

The Little Saint Therese may have liked some of the same things you do. 

Out-of-doors she liked to swing and to skip rope. Little Therese also had dolls, a spinning top, a tiny wheelbarrow and other toys. 

Do you know what Saint Therese enjoyed most of all? She enjoyed setting up her little altar. She had little candlesticks, little statues and a little missal. She even had a tiny chalice, such as the priest uses in the Mass.
"Papa!" she would call, after she had set up her little altar. And how pleased she was as her father admired her work of art.


You can read my other sample chapter here...or buy the book here. Enjoy! 


Thursday, August 09, 2012

Why Did I Leave Out What I Left Out?

If you know the story of Saint Therese really well, you might notice something missing from my story about her.  Anyone know what it is? Yes, I did not include the fact that her mother died when she was only four years old. Yes, that was an integral part of her life story. So why did I leave it out?

As a young child, did you like to see those you love suffer?  Not that we "like" it at any age, but we can come to accept it a little better as we grow older. But even as a mature adult, I once put down a fiction book because the author introduced a character and then killed that character in the first chapter (okay, I'm a softie).

Yes, suffering is a part of life, and accepting it is a part of the Christian life, and Jesus died on the Cross.  But Jesus is Jesus, and a little girl is someone little boys and girls can identify with. And I wanted my book to appeal to the young children, to everyone, actually, but especially to the 7 and 8 year old to read it, and to their younger siblings to listen to it.

So if your child already knows that the mother of Saint Therese died, that's okay. I'm not criticizing that. But I just did what I felt was best for a book going out to many children, and that was to shield the young children from identifying with a young child and then finding out, right away that, horror of horrors, she lost her mother.

For those children who do, or have, lost a parent at a young age, by all means, share with them, if you like, that Saint Therese did too. Perhaps it will comfort them a bit. And for the rest of the children, if your child wants to learn more about Saint Therese, to do more reading about her, of course he or she will learn about the death of Therese's mother when she was so young. I just wanted to delay that a bit.  To let them get the strength for it first. And to let them feel the joys of her life and be attracted to her goodness. 

God bless us all.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Parents of St. Therese are Saints Too!

Did you know?   The mother and father of Saint Therese, Louis and Zelie Martin, were declared Blessed in 2008...the last step leading up to the official title of "Saint" in the Catholic Church, and a recognition both that they are in heaven and that they led exemplary lives worthy of imitation.

I'm trying to think of another example of both parent and child being recognized as saints by the Catholic Church.. Ah, Saint Augustine and his mother Saint Monica.  I can't think of too many other instances where both parent and child have been officially declared saints. (Can you? If so, please share.)  However, I'm sure heaven is widely populated with loving families!

You can read about Blessed Louis and Zelie here.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Book Give-Away - Little Saint Therese!

I am giving away two copies of my newly printed and bound Little Saint Therese book!

I will be giving one autographed copy through this blog and another autographed copy through my Facebook author page. You can add your name to the drawing by leaving a comment here, and you can also add your name to the drawing by going to my Facebook fan page and clicking "Like" or, if you have already "liked" my Facebook page, then to enter the drawing there, you can leave a comment there too. The comment can be very short and simple if you prefer, just enough to let me know you'd like to win the book.

One important note: With some blogs, I think the blog owner can check your email address if you leave a comment.  With mine, I can't do that, unless you tell me what it is. Even if you've signed up to receive my blog posts by email, I don't know; only Google knows. So... Please either email me your email address privately or else come back on the evening of the drawing, or the day after the drawing, to see who won.  

The drawing will be on the evening of Monday, August 13, 2012.  

You can read about the book at Little Saint Therese Sample Chapter and News or, for my non-Catholic friends and anyone else who might not be familiar with Saint Therese of Lisieux, you can read: Who is St. Therese and What is the Little Saint Therese Book?

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Who is St. Therese and What is the Little Saint Therese Book?

Many of my friends and family are not Catholic, and one of them who saw my Little Saint Therese book asked me, "Who is Saint Therese?"

Saint Therese grew up in a good family in the 1800's in France. She was very much into the love and mercy of God.  She became a nun at a young age.  She taught the novices, who were training to be nuns, to trust in God's love. Before her death at the age of 24, Saint Therese wrote her autobiography at the request of the superior of her convent. During her final illness Saint Therese said, "I will spend my heaven doing good upon earth."  Miracles of healing took place in answer to her prayers, and she was declared a "saint" by the Catholic Church in 1925.

People continue to read her autobiography and continue to pray to her.  In 1997, Pope John Paul II declared Saint Therese a Doctor of the Church for her teachings, one of only 33 people who have received this title of recognition. What did she teach?  Love. God's love for us. Our love for God.

In my young children's book, Little Saint Therese, I try to draw the children into her life as a very real child, who - as I show them - may have played with some of the same toys they like, and enjoyed some of the same pets. The story takes them through various aspects of her life...through some of her schooling at home; her trip to the seaside; the happiness of her first Confession and the joy of her First Holy Communion; her visits, first to the bishop and then to the pope, to try to become a nun at an early age; and then her life as a nun.

Through it all, shines love: the love that her family surrounded her with, her love for her family and for God, and God's great love for all of us.

So, even if you are not Catholic, if you would like to share with your children about life from another culture, perhaps you might like to consider the Little Saint Therese book.  And if you are Catholic and you don't have young children, perhaps you might like to get the book for a friend's child, or godchild or grandchild or niece of nephew, as a gift. You might even enjoy reading it yourself before you give it away. Buy Now style 1 button

Friday, August 03, 2012

The Other Side of the Labor Coin

My previous blog post was about customer service, but lest I implied anything I didn't want to, let me add something about the other side of that coin.

 Sometimes, some people say that because a company doesn't treat their employees well, therefore they will not support that company.  Now, I do understand that philosophy if we're talking about true slave labor.  Slavery in any form is wrong and an injustice, and I often buy fair trade coffee from Trader Joe's in the hopes of not supporting slave labor.

However, if we're just thinking that a company treats their employees with poor wages or hours, little or no benefits, etc., and therefore we decide we won't support that company, what's the alternative?  I don't mean what's the alternative for us. I mean what's the alternative for the employees?  'Tis better to struggle and live than...well, you get the idea, right?

What I wanted, in my post about customer service people, was for us all to stop and think (and I say "us" because I need to remind myself, now and then, too). I wanted us to remember that service employees sometimes have it pretty rough, and to give them a break...most of all, to show them respect and courtesy.  They work hard and that's what our country was made of, hard work. But no, I do not say that because a company doesn't treat their employees as well as we might think they should; therefore I won't shop there.  I would not take away their jobs for anything in the world.

In fact, that's why I often choose to stand in a line rather than use the self-scan registers...not always, if I'm in a big hurry...but especially when the service lines are short.  Because it's quite possible that tomorrow's or next month's or even next year's hiring may be based on how many people use those registers today.

That's why I sometimes make it a point to buy in person rather than online, again, not always; it depends on what I'm buying.  But sometimes I will even research the item online, but then buy it in the store, just so I can support the local store. Even if it's part of a major chain, it's still a local store and it's operation is definitely affected by local buying habits.

So, while my recent post was about the plight of those who work customer service, who sometimes receive too little money and too few hours, it was really about being kind to them, and that applies both to showing them the respect they deserve for their hard work and to helping them continue to have a job to work.