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I’m a day late, but hopefully not a dollar short, to Five Favorites, hosted by Mama Knows, Honeychild.

five favorites

Let’s talk books today.  I don’t know how I would go about making a list of my five favorite books ever, so instead I will call this Five Favorite Books that have changed my life.  And if that sounds like an exaggeration, it’s really not.

1.  Humanae Vitae

If you are Catholic, this book should need no explanation.  It SHOULD.  But sadly it probably does.

This is the papal encyclical issued by Pope Paul VI which confirmed the Church’s condemnation of artificial birth control.  But it doesn’t just condemn; it also explains, and does so beautifully.

Of course I grew up knowing that the Church was against contraception.  But in spite of 12 years of Catholic school, no one ever once explained WHY.  I went into college thinking that this was just some sort of old-fashioned and unimportant idea that I should feel free to ignore.

Then I took a Christian marriage class at Georgetown and read this book, and my life was changed.  And the change went deeper than just my understanding of this one issue; it also affected my relationship to the Church.  Because it was in reading this that I realized that Church teachings have explanations, that they aren’t just pronouncements from on high.  I decided right then that before ever disagreeing with the Church, even in matters of conscience, we must first read and reflect on its teachings.

2.  Let’s Have Healthy Children

When I found out I was pregnant with Emily, the first thing I did was go to the library and look for books to check out.  This was in the first batch, but I soon bought my own copy and annotated it heavily.  Adelle Davis’s findings remain a topic for debate today, but I remain convinced that the regimen of vitamins that I took while pregnant and breastfeeding are responsible for my children’s vibrant good health.

When my kids were babies I introduced foods to them the way Davis suggested too.  I have continued to believe that nutrition is the key to good health even when I didn’t always follow Davis’s guidelines.  The effect of the dietary changes I have recently made on my health confirms this belief!

3.  Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing

Besides the practical advice Kippley provides on breastfeeding, her stance on mother/baby togetherness formed the way I parented my children.  I didn’t know then what attachment parenting was, but Kippley told me that babies should be fed on demand, that nursing wasn’t just about food, that extended nursing was normal, and that mothers and babies shouldn’t be separated.

Before I read this book I thought of breastfeeding as something you did to give a baby a good start before weaning to the bottle at six months or so.  I would never have imagined myself nursing children until three or four years of age, and I wouldn’t have understood the parenting aspects of breastfeeding that go far beyond nutrition and shaped my mothering as well as my children.

This book also changed my life because it turned me into a breastfeeding advocate, which led me to develop online friendships with like-minded people that endure to this day, after our breastfeeding days are done.

4.  Childbirth without Fear

I never did have the all-natural childbirth I dreamed of when I first read this book, although I got closer each time.  Still, this book changed my life by influencing the way I viewed childbirth, by encouraging me to be skeptical of all interventions into this natural process, by leading me to read further (Painless Childbirth; Thank You, Dr. Lamaze; The Experience of Childbirth; Open Season), to take Bradley and Lamaze classes, and to become an advocate for myself in this area.  This book set me along the road that led to two successful VBACs after three C-sections.  It led me to connect with others who felt the same way who were a support for me and taught me so much.  And it contributed to my attitude toward medical intervention in general, because it became clear to me that doctors can be life-savers but that we have a responsibility to learn about our own health and advocate for ourselves, not just blindly follow medical advice “because doctor said so.”

5.  Kids Are Worth It!

If you’ve read this book, and you know me, you’re probably thinking, “What’s she talking about?  She doesn’t parent her kids anything like what this book says!”  And you’d be correct.  But we all need something to aspire to, right?  I know that this is the best parenting book I’ve ever read because I keep coming back to it and quoting from it.  I don’t disagree with one word in it and I only wish I’d read it before I had so many kids and was already overwhelmed and making every possible mistake!

Still, even when I don’t follow the principles of this book, I can see where I’ve gone wrong and why, and that’s something, isn’t it?  There’s always hope.  And especially as my kids have gotten older I take comfort and advice from this: “Is it life-threatening? Is it morally threatening? Is it unhealthy?”  That’s helped me pick my battles.  Now that William is 13 I probably should re-read the teenage section of this book and see how I can improve this time around. :-)

That’s it for this week.  If there are any books that have changed YOUR life, I wish you’d tell me about them in the comments!

what we're reading

Participating in What We’re Reading Wednesday has shown me how boring I am.  Every week the other contributors post reviews of intellectual or inspirational reads, and I just keep on reading the same old stuff.  Which is why I skipped last week, because I figured y’all were tired of hearing about Patricia Cornwell.

So to spice things up a bit, this week I will tell you what I SHOULD be reading, and if all goes according to plan in a few weeks I should be able to tell you a little more about the books below.

 

OK, y’all, I have zero interest in reading this book.  But Nelson DeMille is a favorite of my next-door-neighbor, who runs the book club, so this is what we are reading for Monday.  It’s about a million pages long, and I haven’t started it yet.  But that doesn’t matter because this is a cool book club and if I don’t read it I’ll look it up in Wikipedia or something so I can throw out a few intelligent-sounding comments before I drink too many glasses of wine.  Seriously, we’ve already read one of his books, and I didn’t hate it; it’s just not my cup of tea.  But no one liked the one book I’ve had us read so far, so I will just be good and quiet and do what I am told.

I just got this one in the mail from Beacon Hill Press.  I’m an official Off-the-Shelf blogger for them, which means I get free books to write reviews about.  I have 90 days to read and write, but will probably try to do it this week.  I’m excited about this one!

Here’s another I’ll be reviewing for Beacon Hill.  Unfortunately only an e-book was available, not my favorite way to read at all, but I’ll manage.

I’m really excited to read and review this one, since I have three adult children in various stages of launching.  This is another Beacon Hill Press offering.

Everybody has been talking about this Paleo thing for awhile now.  So I’m excited to read this and to see how its advice conforms with the changes I’ve already made to my diet.  I’m getting my copy of this through Blogging for Books, a new venture for me.

Finally, here is what I am ACTUALLY reading. :-)  I continue to make my way through Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta series, in chronological order.  Having read them all and knowing what comes later adds another layer to the experience.  Without giving anything away, this one in particular, which largely focuses on Kay’s grief over the gruesome murder of her lover, Benton Wesley, is hard to see in the same light now that I know the eventual resolution of this story arc.

Reading about Scarpetta always puts me in the mood for good food, since she is an Italian gourmet cook.  I had meant to check out the following for awhile, and had one of those late-night Amazon moments, found they were cheap, and now they are on their way to me.

I’m not a huge cookbook person–I cook mostly out of my head–but I’m going to enjoy these because the first weaves in a story about the characters and the second showcases recipes that are actually mentioned in the books.

For more of what people are reading, check out the linkup at Housewife Spice!

Many thanks to RAnn of This That and the Other Thing who invited me to link up with Sunday Snippets!

This hasn’t been my most prolific week because of 1) William going back to school and 2) Lorelei starting homeschool.  Here’s what I’ve shared:

I started off the week with my contribution to the Answer Me This linkup!

I followed that up with writing about marriage, in honor of my 25th wedding anniversary.

wedding couple 8

I continued the marriage theme with my post in the Five Favorites linkup, where I shared five marriage tips.

Question of the Week: What did you do on your summer vacation?

Not nearly as much as we had planned, I’m sorry to say.  We started off strong with our trip to Georgetown for my 20-year college reunion.   And there was one other trip, this time for a family reunion.  I let myself sleep until 8:30 every morning.  We watched two episodes of The X-Files every night.  The little kids engaged in their favorite pastimes of watching The Disney Channel (Lorelei) and playing on the computer (William).  I feel bad that Emily and I did not take them out to have more adventures, as we had planned to do, but I don’t think the kids minded.  Working at home is hard, is all I can say.

Be sure to check out the linkup above as a way to find more great Catholic blogs!

Answer Me This #17

And now for the weekly Answer Me This!

cda21-answermethis3

1. What is your favorite room in the house?

I love my bedroom.  It is a sanctuary for me.  It is almost always clean and neat compared to the rest of the house.  It is cool and attractive and quiet and most of the time no one bothers me when I am there.  All it needs is an easy chair.  I’m working on that.

my bed

2. Do you subscribe to any magazines or other periodicals?

Not any more.  There are a number I would like to read, but since the internet became so all-consuming even my favorites tended to go unread.  There was a time when I would be very excited to receive an issue of Mothering, or The Compleat Mother, or Southern Living, and many others, back when I had little kids and no Facebook for company and entertainment.

3. How do you feel about the sign of peace in Mass? Enriching? Awkward? Overdone? Just right? Some combination of the above?

We sit in the second row so oftentimes we have only ourselves to shake hands with. :-)  I can’t say I have a strong opinion about it one way or the other.

4. What is your least favorite sound?

Oh, something boring and predictable like nails on a chalkboard I suppose.  Or several shrill voices calling my name (that would be “Mommy” or some variation thereof) all at once.

5. What was your favorite TV show (or shows) growing up?

Like most kids of my generation, I watched a lot of t.v.  I don’t know that I can remember what I thought my favorite was at the time (I watched it all, from game shows to soaps to sitcoms), but I have fond memories of The Carol Burnett Show in particular.  My family gave up t.v. for Lent when I was in the 8th grade.  I realized I didn’t miss it, and have never again gotten into the habit of spending long hours watching television.

6. What are your favorite TV shows now?

I really, really don’t watch t.v. now.  The last show I watched regularly was, I kid you not, The X-Files.  (Well, there was that unfortunate period where Emily got me interested in The Secret Life of the American Teenager.)  Right now we are re-watching The X-Files one or two episodes at a time every evening and having great fun with it (although the fun is about to end as we are starting Season Eight and if you are an X-Phile you will know exactly what I mean!).  However, Emily wants me to watch the new Outlander series with her.  It just started last week, and we watched the first episode.  She will be taping them so that I can watch with her when it is quiet and no kids are around.

And that’s all for this week!  For more answers, check out the linkup.

FD 1

Yesterday morning, before embarking on our usual Saturday walk, Emily and I did something different: we engaged in a little community service. Along with some other folks, we spent an hour picking up trash at Fort Dickerson Quarry.

This cleanup is a monthly affair–the third Saturday of every month, from 11 to 12–sponsored by South Knox Alliance, a group of local business owners who promote South Knoxville and who have adopted part of the park.

Although I was a South Knoxville resident–our first home was in the Lake Forest neighborhood–for six years, it’s been 13 years since we lived there. So what were Emily and I doing picking up trash south of the river? Well, we were invited by a dear friend, Antoinette Fritz, who is a long time South Knox resident, a business owner (Myrtle’s Mess), and a tireless promoter of the area.

I have known Antoinette since I met her in the kindergarten pick up line when her Andie Rae and my Emily were five-year-olds at St. Joseph School. As they say, we go way back. In those days we bonded as pretty much the only South Knoxville residents with kids at the school. Back then I used to think how much I wished I had a venue in which to write about Antoinette, who is one of the most interesting people I have ever come across. She had a small antique/junk store at that time, which just happened to be on our way home from school, and we spent many afternoons there browsing her wares and just hanging out.

Before I lived there, South Knoxville was primarily a place I drove through to get somewhere else (i.e. the mountains). I had no clue that it held such wonders as Fort Dickerson and its quarry lake. When we moved there, Fort Dickerson had an unsavory reputation but I was too naive to know anything about that, and drove up there one day out of curiosity. It was then I got my first glimpse of the quarry–which was supposedly off-limits at that time, although I’m sure it had its share of intrepid teenage swimmers and perhaps murderers looking to hide bodies.

FD 14

I was amazed by that first glimpse–could this be Knoxville or had I somehow stumbled through a rip in space? I could not believe that such an incredible sight was right here, a mile or so from downtown, and that no one who didn’t live in South Knoxville knew anything about it!

Things have changed in South Knoxville since those days, as you will know if you’ve read any of my posts on the Urban Wilderness and its trails, or as you may have heard on the news regarding the plans for the riverfront. Fort Dickerson and the quarry lake are part of all those plans–they will one day be included in the trail system though I hope not before Emily and I finish walking the current 40 miles and get our badges!

Antoinette has been excited about and supportive of the writing I’ve been doing about the trails, and she has been inviting me to come to the cleanup for awhile. Yesterday’s outing was co-sponsored by Trek South, and promised a picnic, so we decided to include the quarry in our weekly South Knoxville excursion.

We were supplied with gloves, trash-picking-up devices (is there a name for those?), and garbage bags by Carl Hensley, organizer of the cleanup. We just about filled ours with beer and soda cans and bottles, cigarettes, and assorted discarded clothing, among other things, as we walked along the partly-paved trail from the parking lot to the quarry. Along the way we enjoyed close-up views of the kudzu that threatens to swallow South Knoxville whole punctuated by wildflowers.

FD 11 FD 12 FD 5 FD 13 FD 10 FD 9 FD 8 FD 7

We were rewarded at the end of our journey by views of the quarry itself, and then the aforementioned picnic. Only this wasn’t just any picnic, because it was planned by Antoinette. So there were table cloths and flowers, and Salade Nicoise and french bread were served alongside more typical picnic fare.

FD 2 FD 4 FD 3

If you or a group you are associated with is looking for service hours, feel free to just show up and join in the efforts to keep South Knoxville Beautiful. And if you are looking for a beautiful spot to hike or picnic, add Fort Dickerson Park to your list.

FD 6

For more information on places to hike in South Knoxville, see these previous posts:

Walking in South Knoxville I

Walking in South Knoxville II

Walking in South Knoxville III

Walking in South Knoxville IV

Walking in South Knoxville V

Because today is Tuesday (Five Favorites day) AND it’s our 25th wedding anniversary, it seems like the thing to do is to post five marriage tips.  Because 25 years qualifies me as an EXPERT, y’all.

five favorites

1.  Never ask “whether,” only ask “how.”

This one comes straight from the homily at our wedding, and it’s the one thing that John and I both remember.  To expand, Father Spitzer said that once you are married, you should never question whether you should have gotten married, but only ask how you could STAY married.  That advice has helped us stay committed through some difficult times.  Whether is a pointless question if you want your marriage to last forever.

2.  Grow together, not apart.

So how do you do that?  Most important, make time to be together.  Don’t tell me it’s impossible.  We had three kids in four years, and we got a babysitter and arranged to go out regularly.  When I had a nursing baby, we just brought him or her along.  Our life as a couple did not end when we became parents.  We’ve made it a point to celebrate not just our wedding anniversary but also the anniversary of our becoming a couple.  We hold on to little rituals and traditions.  But at the same time we don’t just cling to the past.  We make it a point to be involved in each other’s lives, so that even as we have separate friends and pursuits, we each know about and are interested in each other’s passions.

john and leslie

3.  If you are really mad at your husband and you need to vent, call his mother.

Maybe you are laughing as you read that, but I’m serious.  Complaining about your husband to your friends and family can be very destructive to your marriage, and to the relationship you want your husband to have with the important people in your lives.  But your mother-in-law is going to love your husband no matter what he does.  And if you have a really good mother-in-law like I do, she’ll fuss at him on your behalf.

4.  Communicate

Well, duh, right?  What do I mean?  Talk about everything, good and bad.  And if you are having trouble with this, don’t be ashamed or afraid to seek professional help with your communication skills.  Problems don’t just go away if you don’t discuss them.

5.  Endure

It’s hard, hard work to live day in and day out with another person, someone who is not your blood relative and who you are bound to by choice.  There are bound to be times when you don’t get along at all.   But check this out:  “on average unhappily married adults who divorced were no happier five years after the divorce than were equally unhappily married adults who stayed married when rated on any of 12 separate measures of psychological well-being. Moreover, two-thirds of unhappily married people who remained married reported that their marriages were happy five years later. Even among couples who had rated their marriages as very unhappy, 80 percent said they were happily married five years later.”  So hang in there!  Chances are, things will get better, especially if you are using tips 1-4.

Those are my top five–at least today!  For more favorites, visit the linkup at Mama Knows, Honeychild!

 

Twenty-five years ago today, which would have been a Thursday night, John and friends were having a bachelor party (and the less said about that the better!) while my friends and I celebrated more sedately at the family home of one of my bridesmaids.  We were married two days later, on August 12, 1989, which means that we are marking our silver anniversary this week.

Yes, we have been married for a quarter of a century.  It sounds even longer when you put it that way, but no matter how you put it, it is an accomplishment, and nowadays it seems like a rare one.  John and I both have definite ideas about the importance of marriage and commitment and what has to be done to maintain that, and luckily those are issues we agree about strongly.  I told John I would probably be writing a “marriage tips” blog post some time this week, and asked him for his input, and I didn’t disagree with anything he said.

Sometimes it seems like it’s been more like half a century, and sometimes it feels like we were married yesterday.  No one going in truly understands what “for better, for worse,” really means.  Like everyone, we’ve had joy and sorrow, bitter arguments and harmonious agreement.  There have been long stretches when we couldn’t stand each other, when love was something we DID, not something we FELT.

You love your kids unconditionally from the moment of their birth.  That’s biology.  Loving the person you are married to is a decision and a commitment that you must renew every day.  You might know that intellectually when you get married, especially if you’ve been lucky enough to undergo some kind of marriage preparation, but you can’t and won’t understand what that’s like until you are in the middle of it.

I vividly remember saying to John, when we had been dating all of six months, that it didn’t seem like enough just to SAY “I love you,” anymore:  I wanted to LIVE it.  That’s what marriage is, and we didn’t know how hard, or how rewarding, it would be.  Those romantic early days were wonderful.  I love remembering them.  And I’m happy to say that we still like romance and spending time together and that spark has never gone out.  But love sustained and nurtured over twenty-five years is  stronger and richer and deeper and profound in ways we could not have understood back then.

John and I were only 22 and 23 when we took this life-altering step, when we yoked ourselves together forever.  We were young and we didn’t know a lot of things but we knew that we believed in marriage and that no matter what happened we would not break the vows we made.

Just see how young we were:

Wedding Couple

And we were surrounded by friends who were just as young, almost all of whom are still important parts of our lives:

wedding group 1

wedding group 3

wedding group 2

The Entire Wedding Party

 

And of course by family, many of whom are gone now:

wedding group 4

Emily and I were talking yesterday about why Catholic wedding ceremonies are supposed to take place inside a church.  I’ve been to some lovely outdoor weddings but as I sat this morning at Mass I was thinking how grateful I was that I still attend church every Sunday in the building where my parents were married, where I was baptized, were we were married, where four of our kids were baptized and two have been confirmed.  That’s a blessing.

wedding couple 7

wedding bride

wedding couple 6

wedding couple 4

wedding couple 8

We haven’t decided yet exactly how we will celebrate on Tuesday.  There probably won’t be dancing:

wedding couple 5

wedding kids

But there may be cake!

wedding cake

 

 

 

 

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