Effort & Illness: The Confusing Habits of Sick People

Since I surround myself with people who know better, no one’s yet given me the dreaded words You don’t look sick. Even people who do look sick often don’t look as bad as they feel*.  As Jen Fulwiler explained it last year:

I feel self-conscious that I’ve been doing better, and have no visible symptoms of being ill. . . . I worry that the folks dropping off the food are starting to suspect this is some kind of scam. The other day a super sweet lady from the parish came by with a steaming gourmet dinner for our entire family, complete with appetizers and dessert. I had just gotten back from a doctor’s appointment so I was dressed up and wearing makeup; I’d been resting most of the day so I was unusually energetic. She seemed tired from having worked so hard to cook for our entire family in addition to her own, and I used my Neurotic ESP to determine that she was wondering why I wasn’t cooking for her.

I told Joe that I should get some crutches for when I answer the door for people delivering meals, as a symbolic gesture to assure them that their efforts were not wasted. He looked at me like I was insane, and pointed out the obvious fact that my problem is with my lungs and that I would have no use for crutches under any circumstances. I said that I know, but they sell them at the grocery store, and I didn’t know where to get my hands on a ventilator — and, again, it’s all for symbolism anyway. He backed away from me slowly and went to pour himself a large glass of wine.

Yes.  This. I put a short section in my catechist book on invisible disabilities, because it’s something that comes up in religious ed more often than you’d think.  Mostly among catechists, but among students as well.  That one chapter is the one I get the most thank you letters about.

You can be seriously ill without being 100% incapacitated.

It’s pretty rare for someone to be completely felled in a single blow.  This causes confusion, because you see people wandering WalMart who look like they’re going to collapse any second now.  So if your sick person still has good balance and coordination, and manages to answer the phone in a cheerful manner, you think, “Must not be that sick.  There are people at WalMart who look much, much worse.”

The people at WalMart might be worse.  But that doesn’t cause the sick person to be less sick.

Some people are good at putting on.

I knew a lady once who would answer the phone cheerfully even if you woke her up at 4AM.  It wasn’t that she wanted you to call then.  She just had excessively good phone manners.  And thus the Perceived Illness Paradox: Some people complain a lot, other people don’t.  Some people are good at masking their symptoms, other people aren’t.  Some people are good at coming up with clever work-arounds that keep them high-functioning, other people aren’t.  You really can’t judge how someone feels inside by how they’re acting outside.

Rest makes a difference.

Anyone who races knows you manage your training schedule so that you peak when it counts.  There are days when you can ride hard and fast, no problem, and days when you can’t.  Depends on how much sleep you got.  What you did the day before.  What you did the week before.

Illness doesn’t change that, it just changes the scale.

Figuring out an unpredictable body is exhausting.

Normal people spend most of their time operating well within the margins of their abilities.  If you knew you had to ride 100 miles on your bike sometime soon, you’d have to plan ahead to make sure you could do it.  You’d strategize how to make it happen with as little trouble as possible.  But you wouldn’t feel the least bit of guilt if you misjudged: “Wow, that was easier than I thought it would be, why did I make such a big deal out of it?”  Or conversely, “I knew it would be hard, but I didn’t realize how hard!”

Sick people have to figure out the 100-mile ride about everything they do . . . and then get in trouble if they misjudge.  “Why’d you spend half an hour answering e-mails? You should have rested up so you could talk to your mother on the phone!”  Or “Why’d you put off that phone call, look, you talked for twenty minutes, no problem!”

It’ll make you bonkers.  You hear the mail truck go by, and you think to yourself, “Should I walk to the mailbox?  Or get a kid to do it for me?  What’s the best thing here? How will this decision impact my family life?”

What you like is easier than what you don’t like.

Sick people are confusing because their gifts don’t go away.  Okay, if your gift is watching football on TV, everyone will think, “Look he spends all day watching football games, he must be sick.”  But what is hard for you is effortless for someone else. What is easy — even fun — for you is difficult for someone else.  It’s not about the sheer physical energy required.  It’s the mental energy.

So my son might say to my daughter, “I see you have plenty of time for scrapbooking.  Why don’t you research computer components?  What’s wrong with you?  Just lazy, I see.”  And she’d point out to him that he received a photo album for Christmas, and he’s supposed to put his photos in it.  He had time to build a computer, and even more time for playing computer games . . . why so lazy with the photo album?

Everything costs.

There’s service to your fellow man, and then there’s letting your fellow man turn you into his servant. We live in a hyper-critical age.  What you wear, what you eat, what your hobbies are, how you spend your money — all of it is subject to the approval of seven billion self-appointed guardians.  That doesn’t change when you’re sick, it just becomes harder to please the seven billion, because you’ve got less to please them with.

Normal people might say, for example, “Is it worth it for me to give up an hour of my time to visit my crotchety uncle who invited me for dinner tonight?”  When you’re sick the question becomes, “Is it worth it for me to set aside an entire afternoon to rest, and give up getting any chores done, at all, the entire day, so that I can physically pull off the feat of visiting my uncle for an hour?”

In normal life, a dysfunctional friend is the one who makes inordinate demands on your time and energy.  In sick life, everything is an inordinate demand.  But some of those demands are very gratifying, so you organize your life to make them possible. The chief sin of sick people, I suspect, is in gratifying too many whims.

Order in all things.

Sick people are confusing because of the scale change.  With so little room for covering-over, it becomes obvious what the sick person values most.  It becomes obvious where the conflicts lie, because there’s no margin where you can quick slip in a nod towards other people’s priorities.  As in academia, the rivalries can be so bitter because the stakes are so small.  “Just a few minutes of your time” is now also, “all your time”.  How are you going to spend all that time? The way you want?  The way I want? Something in between?

The Darwins have a novena started on just this question.

*Sometimes things look so bad that you assume the other way, “It’s not as bad as it looks, I hope?”  To which I’ll observe: A badly scraped knee looks horrible.  But it feels even worse.

Jesus and the Laundry Fairy

Two weeks ago I was still ostensibly the person responsible for doing laundry, though I’ll allow that a party of alpinists had contacted us about permits for ascending Mt. Foldmore.  But let’s harken back to the days of old, when it sometimes happened that a person could toss his clothes into the laundry hamper, and a few days later find those clothes clean, and folded, and waiting in the drawer or closet for their next use.

There’s was something of cycle to it, though, and often the sock and underwear drawers would get perilously empty.  And then one day, just when things had gotten very grim, a certain SuperHusband would wake up and discover his drawers were restocked, and he would proclaim, “Behold! The Laundry Fairy has come!”

And I would remind him that there is no Laundry Fairy. That was your wife who did that for you, thank you very much.

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This morning’s Gospel is one of those miraculous feedings of the crowds.  (Mark 8:1-10).  What caught my eye today wasn’t the Jesus part, it was the people part.  Our Lord observes, “They’ve been with me three days now, and have nothing to eat.  If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will collapse on the way, for they have come a great distance.”  The disciples up the stakes: “Where can anyone get enough bread to satisfy them, here in this deserted place?”

Those are the miracle conditions.  You’ve stuck around with the Jesus Person until you’ve run out of food and have no way of getting more.  You didn’t bail even as you approached the point of no return.

You’ve let yourself get desperate.  Empty-handed.  No way to make it on your own.

–> There’s an aid to faith here, by the way, if you can stick through the tempting part, the getting-out-while-you-still-can.  Once your case is hopeless, there’s really not much point in trying to turn elsewhere.  Makes it easier to stick the final corners.

And that’s when the miracle shows up.  Not before.  If there’s something consistent in the Gospels, it’s that desperation.  Joyful, hopeful?  Sometimes, yes.  But unequivocal: Jesus isn’t one more tool in the portfolio. It’s got to come down to Him being the only way.

(And yeah: You’re left as your only hope with Someone who’s idea of goodness involves self-sacrifice and an eternal outside-of-time-frame.  If what you want is a patched-up Old Earth, you’re fresh out of luck.  That’s not what He does.  Not how He does it.)

Of course God sends us thousands of natural helps every day as well.  Our very existence — in this life or the next one — is only by virtue of Him keeping us here.  But either way, whether in the day-to-day miracle of ordinary life, or the big moments of divine intervention on this side of the grave or the other, there’s a consistent theme: No Laundry Fairy.  That was Me, thank you very much.

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Back to practical stuff: SuperHusband’s taken over the mom-jobs like groceries and meals and laundry, but in a pared-back way that makes it not so overwhelming.  Our friends and family are totally showing up to do all the extras, like getting kids to activities, or whipping out dinner when we’re way late getting home from doctors appointments. I had three different people offer to step in and get the girls their valentine supplies. All that makes the load on Jon much, much lighter.

But something specifically laundry-related that we did was to give me a basket in the bedroom where my clean laundry lives. So no one ever has to put my laundry away in drawers and closets, only to have to pull it back out again. The nice thing about my particular state of decrepitude is that it isn’t fashion-intensive*. A pair of jeans to wear and one to wash.  Ditto on PJ’s.  Underwear, socks, a pile of t-shirts, a jacket.  That’s it.  You can store all that in a single laundry basket, no problem. None of it really needs to be ironed.  Works great.

*In contrast, in normal life on any given day I might have:

  • Work clothes for doing stuff in the yard
  • Normal less-grungy clothes
  • Church clothes
  • Possibly something business-y, or business-casual.
  • Usually not workout clothes, because normal stuff works for that, but maybe yes, depending.

Completely different game.

And as long as we’re playing the gratitude game, you know whom I really appreciate? The people who’ve picked up slack for me on stuff I could do, but they could do instead.  It is remarkable how much fortitude gets consumed on accomplishing very very little.  I’m massively thankful for the slack I’ve been cut in a few places.  Pure luxury.

Prayer, Fasting, Birthday Parties

Dear Pope Francis,

You have vastly simplified the menu for my birthday party.  Thanks!

Jennifer.

PS: I suppose you will not be amused if I get medieval, and suggest a beer fast? To combine both events into one?

PPS: Another possibility: Since I invited everyone I know, most of whom are not Catholic . . . Maybe I’ll put out food, and put a sign up that it’s for non-Catholics only?

PPPS: Or we could get canon-lawish, and excuse ourselves. But then what would that say about us?  Other than, “sent out invitations before day was announced”?

PPPPS: How about if I quick invite some people I *don’t* like, and thus convert it into a penitential event that way?

PPPPPS: Having a hard time thinking of many.  Plus, would they even come? Or would dread alone make it penitential enough?

PPPPPPS: Or what if I plan to host a children’s birthday party in the morning, prior to my party in the evening?  For two children?  Yes?  How would that be?  The parents coming are all Catholic, so we’d be set, then?  A morning of penance about the time you’re busy praying in Rome?  Yes?

PPPPPPPS: Yes, you caught me.  We’re cheating by hosting the kids’ party off-site, so someone else has to sweep after.  Plus, tiny event, just a few friends.   It would have been commendable to host both parties at my house on the same day, with the usual massive number of guests, instead of just a couple.  I’m not so commendable.  Hence my note.

PPPPPPPPS: It not necessary to call and chat about this.  I’ll figure it out.

NFP Misery Awareness Week

Check it out . . . even the Pope has doubts about those glowing reports of NFP Joy:

“Surely in no way do we wish here to be silent about the difficulties, sometimes serious, which the life of Christian husbands and wives encounters. For the, as for each of us, ‘the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life.’…..Therefore let married couples freely take upon themselves the hardships destined for them, strengthened with faith and that hope which ‘does not disappoint: because the love of God has been poured forth in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.’ With persistent prayer let them beg for Divine help. And especially let them draw grace and charity from the unfailing font of the Eucharist. If, however, they are still held back by sins, let them not be discouraged, but as humble and resolute people take refuge in the mercy of God, which the sacrament of Penance dispenses abundantly.

Pope Paul VI,On Human Life (Humanae Vitae)

Stolen from my Family Honor course work, where I’m getting piles of good pope-quotes.  Of course now my instructors, if they are goofing off here, know exactly how far behind I am on my homework.  But I’m catching up! I am!

For those who want awareness of my thoughts on NFP, here’s “Should NFP be Easy” over at my friend Sarah Reinhard’s place, and here’s another post on NFP vs. Contraception, which look, Bearing says you should read (and she adds helpful comments that cause it to make more sense).

Now back to homework catch-up time.

How I Fell Off The Internet

Mid-May update:

Latin Happiness.  At CatholicMom.com: In which I explain how I went over to the dark side and paid for flashcards, AND monkey-themed Latin-Lite videos. Also found some other digital person to teach grown-up Latin to the boy and I, and no surprise, all are happier for it.

Shiny happy feeling inside this author: The reprint is at Catholic Lane.  (Yay!)

A well-licked baby rat is a happy baby rat.  SuperHusband & I have been taking Family Honor’s summer course on Catholic Sex-Ed.  (It’s not called that.  “Cultural Implications” or something like that.)  Astute observers would have predicted: I’m really enjoying the class, whenever I set aside my natural dread of deadlines and obligations, and sit down to do the work.

Double-enjoying it once I realized I didn’t have to sit still and listen to the lectures, because hey, long stretchy headphone cords . . . I can workout while I listen.  Score one for online courses.

Right now I’m reading this, of which you can download the executive summary at no charge:

Hardwired to Connect

Encouragement for those of us who sometimes doubt whether all this parenting effort is going to have any effect in the long run.

Forming Intentional Questions. The other reason I’m hiding from the internet is to churn out a set of discussion questions for Sherry Weddell’s Forming Intentional Disciples.  Because I’m going to be part of a book club.  And so are you. Bwahahaha . . . more news soon.   Questions are written, and now need to be purged of typos.

Have a great week.

BADD 2013 + Theology of the Body for Every Body

Theology of the Body for Every BodyIt’s BADD time again, May 1.  Of course I forgot, again, even though I knew it was coming up.  But look, over at New Evangelizers, I reviewed Theology of the Body for Everybody. Which hits on exactly this topic. The whole living-in-a-body experience we human persons get to enjoy.  Go look.

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Blogging Against Disablism Day And now you’re back, and here is my annual BADD comment, 2013 Edition:

People don’t want to be treated like dirt.

Profound, I know.  (Hence Leah Perrault’s whole book on the topic.  See “book review” above.)

When you read around at crotchety disability-rights sites, there’s a lot of conversation about how to think about disability.  Something that confuses bystanders is the insistence that it’s not about the medical condition.

Which puzzles, for several reasons.  The first is the happy-sad problem.  Given the choice between hearing and not-hearing, seeing and not-seeing, walking and not-walking, everything else equal, we go for the ability every time.

Now someone might say, “I’m so glad I had this stroke, because it caused me to learn so much about __{insert profound revelation here}__.”  And what they mean is typically not, “I always wanted to know what it was like to slur my speech!”

Rather, the “I’m so glad” is usually code for, “I discovered there was this whole part of my life I’d been ignoring, and now I’ve grown in ways that matter far more than any physical ability, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”  People say that, and they mean it.  For good reason.  But still, if they could have the spiritual growth and the ability to remember words on command, yeah, they’d take both.  Nothing wrong with being able to talk.  We know this, instinctively.

But here’s the other thing we know instinctively: Humans deserve to be treated with respect.  And the disrespect of disablism falls into two big lumps:

1. Can’t be bothered to have you around.  Too much work.  So terribly haaaaaarrrd to put in a ramp.  So coooooomplicated trying to have one Mass, anywhere in the diocese, ever, with an ASL interpreter.  So very, very overwhelming, having to change the seating arrangement, or modify the assignment, or find one more volunteer to assist the kid who needs assistance.

The message is pretty clear: It’s not that we don’t love you.  We just don’t love you enough to go through any inconvenience for you.

2. Your kind of suffering is not my kind of suffering. This is straight out of the eugenics playbook.  It’s no surprise that the recent fashion for killing off disabled children before they see light of day is always couched in terms of “avoiding suffering”.  Better to be dead than to be you.

The feeling may well be mutual, but that’s no solution.  The solution is to quit being such a wimp.  To quit dividing the Fates of Man into a two-part list, labeled Normal Problems and Pitiful Freaks.  This isn’t 1930.  Get over that nasty notion that you must be ranked among The Fit in order to deserve life and respect.

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And since BADD is the annual day for airing our pet peeves, I’ll share one with you: If you never really appreciated your kid-job-marriage-finger-toe-brain until it was gone . . . could you keep it to yourself? Or just let everyone know you have a gratitude-deficiency-disorder. I guess I could cultivate some compassion for that.

See all the BADD entries, which are by no means Catholic nor genteel, here.

Book Review: Getting the Marriage Conversation Right

(There’s a book review coming at the bottom of this, but I need to lay out some preliminary matter first.  And this is a post concerning sex.  Not for children.)

To be Catholic is to be aware of a long list of my own faults.  Let’s review a few of them:  I goof off too much (not just on the internet, everywhere).  I lack patience for the most trivial of inconveniences.  When I’m irritated, I use my verbal powers for evil and not good.  I spend way too much money on myself, and far too little on the poor.  I procrastinate.  On any given day, there’s a decent chance I spent the time I meant to spend praying (not an exorbitant quantity) doing some other more entertaining and entirely optional thing.  For those who are familiar with the Little Flower, we could safely describe me as the Little Weed.  The anti-Therese.

And that’s just my public sins.  For every one you see on the kitchen floor, there’s a hundred more in the walls. If Therese is one of our few Doctors of Church, I’m guaranteed a spot among the vast number of Patients of the Church.

So be it.  Some people talk about so-called “Catholic Guilt”, and those people are invariably the ones who missed out — in whole or in part — on the real deal: Catholic Mercy.  If I don’t crumble in despair at the state of my soul  (and yes, actually despair is one of my sins as well), it’s because there’s hope for me.  Not hope that I’m going to wake up one morning suddenly meriting Heaven.  But because Someone Else has gone ahead and opened Heaven for me.  He loves me with His whole being, and will do anything — anything — to give me an shot at eternal happiness, mine only for the asking.  And not just me — He loves everybody that way.

My experience with evangelization is that few of us are converted because we suddenly discover how wretched we are, and thus desire to jump into the cosmic shower.  Quite the opposite: We long to know God, and having been drawn to Him, we begin to see, bit by bit, what life in Heaven looks like.  And what kind of baggage we’ll be leaving at the door when we get there.  Some things we drop like an old stinky garbage bag, in a flash of horrified understanding. Other things we keep stuffed in our pockets, sure they are part of us, or sure that these are little treasures we can sneak through eternal security . . . and it is only late in this life, or at the beginning of the next, that we catch on to the fact that, oops, we’ve been running around with the spiritual equivalent of a moldy rotten banana shoved in that coat pocket.

I’ve got rotten bananas in my pocket. (Usually only spiritually, though there was that one time I waited a month to clean out my tote bag . . . ick.)  But if your argument consists of, “Jen, you stink!” my response is, “Um, why yes, I do.”

I hate the topic of Gay Marriage.

Hate it.  Let me count the ways:

1) Because I know that the people who favor gay marriage do so for entirely understandable reasons.

2) Because I’m not an idiot.  I’ve known plenty of folks who favor same-sex unions, and who are, put simply, better people than me.  And they’re far and away better people than some of our rotten-to-the-core unrepentant clergy who’ve spent decades hiding despicable offenses.

3) The division concerning gay marriage doesn’t have its roots in questions about homosexuality.  For the last fifty years, the going cultural norm has been that whatever I desire, sexually, should be acted upon.  That marriage vows are no vow at all.  That children and marriage have nothing to do with one another.  That children have no particular need to be raised in a home with their mother and father.  That any parent-type figure will do just fine.

An aside: People have a hard time accepting that adopted children feel a genuine grief concerning their biological parents.  That very illusion — that your parents were unable to care for you, but hey, you have nothing to cry about — feeds into the destruction of marriage.  Something my dad said to me very plainly when he remarried after my mother’s death — I knew it, but he was absolutely right to lay it on the table  — was, “Your stepmother is not a replacement for your mother.”

It is a beautiful and wonderful thing when some loving person can step in and fill some portion of the blank left by the loss of loved one.  But it doesn’t erase the loss.  Acknowledging the loss makes it possible to delight in the sheer gift of this new and full and lively relationship, because we can accept it on its own terms, not pretend it is the other gift now gone.

4) A significant portion of the so-called Christian world doesn’t even acknowledge the horror of abortion.  An even larger chunk, including many people whose genuine faith in Christ I don’t doubt for a moment, think sterilization and contraception are AOK — desirable even.  And I don’t want to contemplate the numbers in the Church who approve or encourage the sin against purity we used to discreetly but emphatically call “self-abuse”.  Before you start citing the ancient Jewish law concerning homosexual acts, review the details concerning Onan, eh?  Struck dead on the spot?  Actions speak louder than words.  Disapproved.

5) I know that condemnation is the way of the world.  To ask for so-called “mercy” in the wider world is to heap condemnation upon yourself.  So I know that for many people dear to me, if I ever say, “Well, actually this one thing you’re doing is wrong,” those people I love will hear my words as code for, “Actually I hate you and I was just faking nice.”  Which isn’t true.  See my sins above — faking nice is not one of my virtues.

So to discuss gay marriage, at all, is to be accused of hatred.  I can discuss contraception, and people just think I’m a little daft.  I don’t mind that.  But I dislike the fact that to open this topic is to have a number of people I respect, admire, and count as friends, be tempted to assume the worst about me.  Well, the worst about me lies elsewhere.

[For the record: People hate you just as much if you talk about modesty in any specific terms.  Which I will be doing at NewEvangelizers.com in a couple weeks.  I’m racking up the voodoo rays this month.]

On to the Book Review

Getting the Marriage Conversation Right: A Guide for Effective Dialogue by William B. May is a short, readable booklet, written for a Catholic audience who wants to defend the sacrament of marriage, but suffer from poor rhetoric.  The assumption is that you the reader agree with the Catholic teaching, but perhaps you articulate it poorly.  You may even be currently basing your arguments on any number of details that simply aren’t Catholic.

Or you may be a Catholic who wants to follow Church teaching, but doesn’t understand why the bishops are so adamant about not allowing civil unions as a peaceful live-and-let-live alternative.

There is a single refrain that explains the disconnect between reality and popular culture.  The going definition of marriage in our society is this:

“Marriage is the public recognition of a committed relationship between two adults for their fulfillment”.

And let me observe right now: If this is your definition, it is logical to accept gay marriage.  Trouble being, that’s not what marriage is.  It is what civil marriage has become.  But it’s not what it is supposed to be.  Here’s the Real Ale definition of marriage, the one the Church is trying to defend, too little too late:

“Marriage unites a man and a woman with each other and any children born from their union.”

This is the radical reality that animates the entirety of Christian thought on marriage and sexuality.  Each child has a need to be raised by his mother and father.

Sometimes bad things happen — death, or serious sins such as an abusive parent, or a rapist father — that make this need impossible to fulfill.  When that happens, we have no choice but to go with the next best thing, whether it be single parenting, or remarriage, or adoption.  The next best thing, in the context of a response to tragedy, becomes the very picture of self-giving love.  Anyone who steps into fill the void for a child who is unable to be reared by both his mother and his father?  A true hero.

We live in a fallen world, and marriage faces countless obstacles.  Getting the Marriage Conversation Right addresses each of these difficulties in turn, and explains how we are to understand a proper response to _______ problem.  The book repeatedly admonishes us to avoid the temptation to condemnation, and maintains a thoroughly Catholic — that is, merciful — response to the many problems that individuals may face.

No hate-spewing.  No tsk-tsking.  No “they deserve what they get”.  None of that.

Who Should Read This Book?

The audience is those who accept, or wish to more fully accept, Catholic teaching on the sanctity of marriage.  If you aren’t interested in being convinced, you won’t find this book convincing. It’s a book of explanations for why the Church teaches as she does, and how to effectively communicate that teaching to others.

The reading level is all-adults.  The tone is conversational and the word count is short and to-the-point.  This is an excellent resource for a parish study group.

Helpful for Outsiders?

If you are in favor of same-sex unions, will this book help you understand the other side?  A lot depends on your mentality.  This is an unabashed defense of the Catholic teaching, written by and for those who want to agree with it.  There is no effort to create, within the book, an apologetic geared towards the worthy opponent. Yes, if you read the booklet with a desire to understand, in the spirit of true dialogue, why people oppose same-sex unions, you will in fact learn why people oppose same-sex unions.

But if it’s going to make your blood boil to see anyone lay out a defense of a position you abhor, then yeah, it’s going to make your blood boil.  No way around it.

Summary: Good book.  Short, readable, gets straight to the heart of the matter.  This is the first title I’ve read on this topic, and it does a good job at what it does.  For those who oppose same-sex unions, but don’t really know why, or how to explain their position, this book makes a good start.

Boilerplate:This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Getting the Marriage Conversation Right. The Catholic Company is the best resource for all your seasonal needs such as First Communion gifts as well as ideas and gifts for the special papal Year of Faith.

Catholic Mother’s Companion to Pregnancy – Book Tour & Giveaways

Welcome to Sarah R.’s stop at my place on her book tour!

Click to Enter the Nook Giveaway

We’ll start with some info from the publisher and from Sarah:

To celebrate the launch of her new book, A Catholic Mother’s Companion to Pregnancy: Walking with Mary from Conception to Baptism, Sarah Reinhard invites all of us to spend her blog book tour praying the rosary together. Today, she shares this reflection on the Nativity:

The cave in Bethlehem probably isn’t what Mary had in mind for her Son’s birth. Straw as bedding and oxen as companions, with shepherds and townsfolk dropping in to wish her well?

Maybe it wasn’t so shocking to her, after being told she would be the Mother of God, that it didn’t go at all how anyone would picture it. Even so, I’m sure it wasn’t that comfortable even by standards of the day. She gave birth with animals all around, in the chill of winter, in a town far away from home.

So often, things don’t go the way I plan. I struggle with my knee-jerk reaction to the wrenches in life, to the natural temper tantrum I want to give in and throw. It’s hard to see God at work in the up-close of a situation turned differently than I think it should be.

But he is at work. Jesus being born in the most humble of circumstances made him accessible to all of us. It also makes Mary someone we can all turn to for comfort: if anyone knows what it’s like to go with the flow, it’s Mary.

As we pray this decade of the rosary, let’s hold all those brave women who have said yes to difficult and challenging motherhood in our intentions in a special way. Don’t forget, too, that we are praying for an increase in all respect life intentions as part of our rosary together this month. (If you’re not familiar with how to pray the rosary, you can find great resources at Rosary Army.)

Our Father . . . 

10 – Hail Mary . . .

Glory Be . . . 

O My Jesus . . . 

You can find a complete listing of the tour stops over at Snoring Scholar. Be sure to enter to win a Nook (and any number of other goodies) each day of the tour over at Ave Maria Press.

***

And a few quick comments from me:

  • This is an excellent book.   (Yes, I wrote five paragraphs of it.  But all the paragraphs are good, not just mine.)
  • When you’re pregnant, you naturally turn towards spiritual things.  This is the book that meets that need for Catholic moms.
  • It’s absolutely devoid of the drivel-n-feel-good nonsense of other pregnancy books.  Tackles the hard topics with maturity and clear thinking.
  • From here on out, it’s my go-to book any time I know a mom who could use it.

And for those of you local to the Diocese of Charleston, SC, we’re up to four copies for the giveaway from the Office of Family Life this coming Sunday, October 14th, at the Blessing of the Unborn Mass in Columbia, SC. See you there!

(For internet friends, check out the other stops on the book tour, there will be giveaways all over the place.)

 

My vote for Most Important Book of 2012

I just spent 3 days in the largest Catholic bookstore in the world.  I bought one book.  This is it:

Then I was stuck in an airport for five hours.  Perfect timing.

What it is:  Tiến Dương is a real guy about your age (born 1963) who is now a priest in the diocese of Charlotte, NC.  Deanna Klingel persuaded him to let her tell his story, and she worked with him over I-don’t-know-how-long to get it right.  Fr. Tien is a bit embarrassed to be singled out this way, because his story is no different from that of thousands upon thousands of his countryman.  But as Deanna pointed out, if you write, “X,000 people endured blah blah blah . . .” it’s boring.  Tell one story well, and you see by extension the story of 10,000 others.

The book is told like historical fiction, except that it’s non-fiction verified by the subject — unlike posthumous saints’ biographies, there’s no conjecture here.  It’s what happened.  The reading level is middle-grades and up, though some of the topics may be too mature for your middle-schooler.  (Among others, there is a passing reference to a rape/suicide.)  The drama is riveting, but the violence is told with just enough distance that you won’t have nightmares, but you will understand what happened — Deanna has a real talent for telling a bigger story by honing in on powerful but less-disturbing details.  Like, say, nearly drowning, twice; or crawling out of a refugee camp, and up the hill to the medical clinic.

–>  I’m going to talk about the writing style once, right now: There are about seven to ten paragraphs interspersed through the book that I think are not the strongest style the author could have chosen.  If I were the editor, I would have used a different expository method for those few.  Otherwise, the writing gets my 100% stamp of approval — clear, solid prose, page-turning action sequences, deft handling of a zillion difficult or personal topics.

Why “Most Important Book?”

This is a story that needs to be known.  It is the story of people in your town and in your parish, living with you, today.  And of course I’m an easy sell, because the books touches on some of my favorite topics, including but not limited to:

  • Economics
  • Politics
  • Diplomacy
  • Poverty
  • Immigration
  • Freedom of Religion
  • Freedom, Period
  • Refugee Camps
  • Cultural Clashes
  • Corruption
  • Goodness and Virtue
  • Faith
  • Priestly Vocations
  • Religious Vocations
  • Marriage and Family Life as a Vocation
  • Lying
  • Rape
  • Suicide
  • Generosity
  • Orphans
  • Welfare
  • Stinky Mud
  • Used Cars
  • Huggy vs. Not-Huggy

You get the idea.  There’s more.  Without a single moment of preaching.  Just an action-packed, readable story, well told.

Buy Bread Upon the Water by Deanna K. Klingel, published by St. Rafka press.

Fortnight of Freedom June 21st – July 4th

Check out the many events around the country planned for the Fortnight of Freedom June 21st to July 4th.

Over at the Catholic Writers Guild blog, I just queued up a good troll-baiting guest post (Not mine! For once I’m mostly innocent!) to go live first thing in the morning.  And I gave our regularly-scheduled bloggers a private talking-to about how EASY it is to write on this topic.  So we’ll see how they do.

I’m going to keep this post sticky for the next two weeks, so if you post something on the theme of freedom, or have an on-topic link you’d like to share, feel free to put it in this combox.