The Memory Keeper’s Daughter #BookReview

Simplemama Book Review Video

Time to catch up on some book reviews. First up,

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter: A Novel

I read The Memory Keeper’s Daughter this summer while on our summer vacation. 

I liked it well enough, it was a good fiction fix and light vacation reading companion. I think it could have been MUCH better, it started out with great potential but it didn’t quite live up to my hopes I had when I picked it up and started reading. Then again, I may be a little spoiled after reading novels like Hannah Coulter and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

That said, despite how much it lacked (and it was a lot!) there are three main themes in the novel that deserve closer reflection and helped me appreciate the book more:

Grief (especially unresolved).

The destructive effect of unreconciled guilt.

The subject of our society’s history with people with Disabilities and Differences.

First, the various experiences with the trauma of grief woven through each character was something I could definitely relate to. I’m not sure if I would have liked this book, or at least understood it, as well if I hadn’t recently experienced a close personal grief of my own.

I think the author really did a good job demonstrating how powerful grief is and how, when it goes unresolved, it can cause so much more pain. Characteristic to that time period, each character held their grief in instead of talking about it together or seeking outside help and, instead, they looked for “escape” from their grief instead of mutual consolation with those closest to them. This of course led each character on a path of destruction and pain and not healing and joy.

Then there’s the Guilt. This is a somewhat taboo word in this current time as the popular trend is to “do what makes you happy” and not feel bad about it. But, with Dr. Henry’s one pivotal choice, we see how much one choice, kept a secret, can affect one’s life and the relationships so irreversibly. Guilt, gone unreconciled, can grow like a thorny bush, blocking out all the joy and good of life from yourself and those around you.

Lastly, I was intrigued with how the author demonstrated how people’s perspective of those with unique needs and disabilities has evolved over the years starting with the idea in the 1900’s into the later 60’s and even 70’s that “people like that” had to be “institutionalized” or even gotten rid of altogether – an idea that still lingers even into our own modern culture.

So, while the book didn’t live up to my hopes and maybe could have been developed differently I still enjoyed it for the important thought-provoking themes that will probably mill about in my mind for a while.

Have you read The Memory Keeper’s Daughter?

What did you think and why?


Running Achievements, What Ifs, Books & Movies, Space Room, and other Fun Updates {7QT} 8

It’s been too long since I’ve blogged again, time for a 7 Quick Takes for a fun little update on fun and exciting things.

One

Let’s see, I’ll start with talking about my kids – since that’s what moms do when their kids aren’t around.

This is our daughter’s second year of running middle school cross-country and she has PRed (set a new personal record) twice and been awarded two medals this year! She has been happily surprised by this and it’s been fun as a parent to see her challenging herself to try just a little harder each time.

I really love the Cross Country sport. It’s about self-accomplishment and teamwork. It’s so great seeing all the kids trying their own best while also cheering on their teammates to also set personal goals and work hard to do just a little better each time. Her school doesn’t have its own team so all the area Catholic schools got together to create a full team, it’s been a great way for them to get to know other kids from other schools that they might eventually meet in high school…in just a couple years. (gulp!)

Two

I’ve really enjoyed getting back into a good exercise routine and running again. There are many mental challenges to overcome but there are also so many benefits for my physical and my mental health.  I’m still working on uniting my fitness life with my spiritual health too. A friend recommended this book I’m hoping will help: Fit for Eternal Life. Any other good resources out there?

I’ve been picking at the idea of running in a 5K race and that idea has migrated from the back of my head slowly up to the front. So, there’s one going on next Saturday. I’ve been running 1 to 2 miles when I do and did run a cumulative 3 mile run with my husband a few weeks ago (which was so awesome to do together btw!).

So today I made a decision. I’d get out and see if I could run 3 miles straight through. If I could, I’d register for the 5K next Saturday. In order to help me stick to this plan, I had to gather up the courage to tell a few other friends and my husband that I was going to do it this morning. I asked them to ask me how it went when they saw me later – because I knew I’d hate to admit I wussed out.

So guess what?

I did it! I ran 3 miles straight through and even kept up my regular 12 mpm pace!

So, 5K, here I come!

Three

We like to play different table games at dinner – like “I Spy” or “Guess Who I am”.  Last week, I started a new one by asking the kids What If questions like,

What if…there was a Tiger in our backyard, what would you do?  

It’s been fun to hear the responses that vary from logical to just outright ridiculous. It’s also been a good way to talk about personal safety and what to do in emergency situations.

The four-year-old likes the game so much that he asks me What If questions almost all day. Even as I’m trying to put him to bed.  I cracked up at a silly one he asked me a couple days ago:

What if there was a giant cookie monster in our backyard?

Me – I’d give it cookies.

He pauses and thinks about that then asks while giggling,

What if the cookie monster was a COOKIE?!

Me while chuckling – Well, then I guess I’d go eat it! What you would do?

I’d eat it’s tongue!

Me – Ummm….ok….

Not sure why he picked the tongue? Should I be concerned?

Four

It’s almost the end of the month and I have to say that so far the school year has been going pretty well! For which I am incredibly thankful. I’ve done a few different things this year to try and make things go smoother before and after school especially – because those are our most challenging times of the day ever!!!!

Anyway, I wanted to share one thing that’s been made a big difference:

15 Minutes of After-School Quiet Time

It’s funny how such a small thing can make such a big difference but, like I shared in the article about it on CatholicMom.com this week, it really has changed our family’s life!

Five

I’ve read a few books and seen a few other good movies the past few months that I really want to share about.  For now, I’ll just share the list and hope to get a chance to come back and share more about soon.

Books I’ve read:

Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion

Out of My Mind

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter: A Novel

Currently reading:
Man’s Search for Meaning by Vicktor Frankl

Following Ezra: What One Father Learned About Gumby, Otters, Autism, and Love From His Extraordinary Son

And of course the Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion with daily reflections!

Movies:

Room

Of Gods and Men

The Fundamentals of Caring

Six

I’ve started my next room renovation project – Operation Space Room!

Our nine-year-old (almost 10!) has been sleeping in a room with cute puppy wallpaper for too long and it’s time. Time to get the scraper out and get rid of those cute little puppies.  Our son – like his daddy – is fascinated with space, especially black holes! He said he wants his whole room to be space. Well, I can’t make it be real space in the room, I can at least try and make it look kind of like space.

The challenge will be how to make a room look like space without making it too dark….hmm, not sure if that’s possible?

For now, I’m working on getting the wallpaper off first before going beyond to where no Mom has gone before.

Seven

Another exciting thing – I got a gig creating social media images for EpicPew! It’s a cool site that offers interesting and relevant Catholic-related topics with a great sense of humor to go along. I’ll be working up images for Saint feast days each week, it’ll be good way to learn more about awesome Saints while using my Canva-designing addiction for some good too. I’ll even have a good excuse to have a little “gif” fun too.

Today ,we remember St. (Padre) Pio of Pietrelcina. Check out EpicPew’s social media sites and follow along – you might learn something new and have some fun while you’re at it.

 

That’s all for now folks. I hope to come back again soon! Be sure to check out other 7 Quick Takes on this fine Friday.


And the Catholic Mom’s #PrayerCompanion Giveaway Winner Is…

and the winner is...

Thanks to everyone who participated in the Giveaway for the The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion, A Book of Daily Reflections! I wish ALL of you could win one because I know everyone will like having this book as their prayer companion. For today, Ave Maria Press is gracious enough to let me offer ONE and so, the Random Rafflecopter Winner is…

Amanda B!

I have had the pleasure of getting to know Amanda personally and am excited she’ll get to enjoy this book! It will be a very “edifying read” to have before going to bed at night or upon rising before an early morning start. 😉  Amanda is a beautiful, kind, and loving mother and I’m thankful to call her a friend. She has inspired me in many ways, especially in the way of encouraging and motivating me back to a regular exercise routine! She’s also an AMAZINGLY TALENTED artist! I hope I get to show off her magnificent talents in another book project we’ve been collaborating on together that is getting close to completion (pray for us to find the right publisher!!)

Again, thank you to all who participated in the Giveway! Though I can’t offer another free book today, you can order The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion at any time by clicking on my Amazon affiliate links in this post. If you’d like to order directly through me, I can offer a 10% discount (before shipping) – I’ll even sign it for you! Contact me through the “Let’s Connect” page if you’re interested.

Also, check out Allison Gingras’s week-long series on The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion including podcast episodes with some of the The Prayer Companion‘s contributing authors!

CM Prayer companion book cover


Shawshank: Hope Lies Within 3

The Catholic Community Cinema Society

Up next, for our second movie in the new and exciting Catholic Community Cinema Society, we picked The Shawshank Redemption!

The Shawshank Redemption is more than a movie – it’s a work of art: man’s ultimate search for meaning is the canvas; hope the medium.

Though I admit I had forgotten about the prevalence of crude language and rough prison scenes (definitely not one to watch with young kids), watching Shawshank again after many years stirred up all the same deep feelings about life, suffering, desperation, hope and redemption – feelings so deep there are hardly any words to fully express how I feel when I watch this movie.

Bear with me while I at least attempt to put some of those deep “wordless” thoughts into something like words.

When I think of this movie, I immediately think of my husband. I remember this was one of his first “favorite things” that he shared with me. I think I had watched it once before but watching it with him again after we started dating gave me a special glimpse into the interior of my husband’s mind and heart. For all the good he saw in Shawshank, I also saw in him and knew he was an honorable man of integrity, respect, and true justice.

Though the Tree of Life has surpassed Shawshank as his #1, Shawshank remains a tight second. When I asked him what makes it one of his favorites, he said,

…It shows how, despite drastic odds, people in prison who seemingly have no chance at a normal life ever again or who have maybe committed the worst of crimes – that they are still human beings.

(How could I not love this man after hearing that? #heartswell!)

He admires how Andy, who knows himself to be innocent but with no chance of release, takes his future into his own hands and breaks rules to unbreak the  injustice that got him in there.  Hence the famous line:

Andy: Get busy living or get busy dying.

If there was one line to describe Andy, I suppose this one might do:

Red: Andy Dufresne – who crawled through a river of shit and came out clean on the other side.

My husband knows there’s something more to this movie than an innocent man and his inmates stuck in jail, something deeper beyond words.

Hope. 

He knows the underlying meaning is about the power of hope within man – something greater than himself…that theme is played out throughout whole movie, nothing can take that away from a man…if they do, they take your life and there’s nothing left after that. In the midst of all the bad, hope still rises to the top.

Like my wise husband, I too latched onto Hope in this movie. It’s also a movie about finding meaning in suffering (I know that theme keeps popping up with me!). I’m slowly musing my way through Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, a psychological “analysis”, if you will, behind the psychology of the concentration camp victims from his own personal experience and those he observed. I picked up on many parallels between Frankl’s psychological observations of the concentration camp victims and the inmates at Shawshank.

Like Andy, Viktor too discovered the secret of surviving in “captivity”.

The consciousness of one’s inner value is anchored in higher, more spiritual things, and cannot be shaken by camp life. Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

And this is the same realization Andy came to. He clung to his “inner value” and kept hope nestled safely in the depths of his heart, providing him strength and reason to withstand the harsh living conditions and experience of prison life. And that’s why this is my favorite scene:

Andy rejoins his inmates after spending a month “in the hole” of solitary isolation as a consequence of playing a record of beautiful music over the prison’s speaker system and his inmates wonder how he survived it so well. Andy answers solemnly, as if telling them the secret of life’s meaning,

…there are places in this world that aren’t made out of stone. That there’s something inside… that they can’t get to, that they can’t touch. That’s yours.

I know this movie isn’t “easy” to watch and can even be disturbing in some parts. But when I think of what a good “Christian” movie should be, Shawshank is one of the greatest examples. It’s harsh, but it’s reality. And, in my opinion, a truly “Christian” or “Catholic” movie is not a theatrical performance of cliché bible verses or righteousness thrown in your face. Like Joel wrote in his review,

The movie is honest. It is not cheesy or censored or saccharine. It has real characters that make real choices and face real consequences.

A really good Catholic Christian movie happens when the vines of goodness, beauty, and truth intertwine with the grinding harshness of suffering, desperation, and injustice – and the good triumphs. 

There are so many good and solid Catholic values and teachings woven into the movie concerning the dignity of life and the right treatment of prisoners.  Though fictional, Shawshank offers a poignant exhibition of that time period’s (1940’s – 1960’s) prevailing attitude towards criminals and “social outcasts”.

Though I’d like to say attitudes and mindsets have improved significantly since that time, I know that would be more than a little naive. Although, one thing I did notice: even though treatment towards the prisoners by the warden and guards may have looked worse than we might see (on paper) nowadays, I was almost wistful for the old-school-boy friendships of Red and Andy and of characters like Brooks. Though I haven’t spent much time in modern prisons (not any actually), I’d be highly shocked to find any type of friendships among inmates like that, unless there was something in it for them when they got out.

The world went and got itself in a big damn hurry.  – Brooks

On the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops page for the document of Responsibility, Rehabilitation, And Restoration: A Catholic Perspective On Crime And Criminal Justice, the Bishops take a strong stance in defense of the rights of every human being – including those who have committed crimes, even against their own fellow humans.

It is time for a new national dialogue on crime and corrections, justice and mercy, responsibility and treatment. As Catholics, we need to ask the following: How can we restore our respect for law and life? How can we protect and rebuild communities, confront crime without vengeance, and defend life without taking life? These questions challenge us as pastors and as teachers of the Gospel.

I understand, or at least I can guess, the subject of crime, punishment, and the rights and responsibilities of and toward criminals is a very complicated one that we are very far from grasping the answers to. As St. Pope John Paul II says,

We are still a long way from the time when our conscience can be certain of having done everything possible to prevent crime and to control it effectively so that it no longer does harm and, at the same time, to offer to those who commit crimes a way of redeeming themselves and making a positive return to society. If all those in some way involved in the problem tried to . . . develop this line of thought, perhaps humanity as a whole could take a great step forward in creating a more serene and peaceful society.

Lastly, if you don’t love the movie for all the reasons I’ve tried explaining, love it for the music.

Andy: That’s the beauty of music. They can’t get that from you… Haven’t you ever felt that way about music?

If you’re feeling hopeless and desperate about your life or current situation, let the Shawshank Soundtrack (and other Thomas Newman masterpieces) breathe into your ears and seep into you soul.

My husband’s favorite song: The Stoic Theme and the End Title songs


A Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion Book #Giveaway! 3

Do you ever wish you had a little friend who’d sit on your shoulder and whisper words of affirmation, encouragement and hope into your ears throughout your days as a mother? Or maybe you’d like to spend more time in prayer but don’t know how or where to start? Maybe it’s hard to carve out too much time in the day for anything too long?

I’ve got just the book for you!

CM Prayer companion book cover

The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion, A Book of Daily Reflections is the perfect bite-size daily portion of reflection, prayer, and something to ponder on and nourish you throughout the day. Not too long, not too short, just enough to plant seeds of thought and prompt the soul to go deeper.

Whether it be a few minutes before everyone wakes up in the morning or before going to bed, during a short afternoon break, or while I sit in the van at school pick-up time, I’ve enjoyed all the reflections and I look forward to reading the next day’s.

I’ve been part of the CatholicMom.com community of writers since 2010 (I think?) and it’s been so fun to see how we’ve grown over these years. As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve always dreamed of becoming a real true published author so even though I only contributed 4 daily reflections for the year (hence the 1.10% published author stat) I feel humbled and grateful to be a part of this book with so many other great authors and Catholic moms (and dads!).

I’ve read every day’s reflection so far since I received my book and am amazed at how the Holy Spirit works – every day, the reflection is about something I’m either currently struggling with or have been silently mulling over for some time.

Jeff Young (aka, ) reminded me that suffering with Christ is a whole lot better than trying to suffer alone without Christ.

Chaunie Marie Brusie (blogger and author of Tiny Blue Lines) challenged me to humble myself and accept my husband’s help instead of trying to do all and be all to everyone all.the.time.

Susan Bailey and Deanna Bartalini called me out and got me to stop focusing so much on my weaknesses and failures as a mom and wife and instead love myself and allow God and my husband and children to love me for my strengths.

I need this. I need these daily reminders that cheer me on and tell me –

“You’re doing a good job! Stay positive!”

I know motherhood is hard and your kids are driving you crazy and you feel like an awful ugly mother today but, truly, you love your family, they love you, and because of this you are a beautiful and GOOD mom. You CAN do this! 

I hope this book can become your “little friend” on your shoulder (as creepy as that actually sounds) cheering you on throughout your days and challenging you to go deeper, better, stronger as a mother and in your prayer life.

I’m excited to work with Ave Maria Press to offer a GIVEAWAY of one The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion, A Book of Daily Reflections to one blessed mom!!

You can order a book for you and then, if you win, give it to a friend! As an author, you can purchase the book with me for a 10% discount, just fill out this form or email me through my “Let’s Connect” page.

Blah, blah, blah, now for the Giveaway part!

To enter for a chance to win one The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion, A Book of Daily Reflections, simply enter this Rafflecopter Giveaway form below! (Update:  I added “Follow me on Instragram” as an entry, too.”

CM Prayer companion image

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

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