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A few months ago, I was honored to be chosen as an “Off the Shelf” reviewer for Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City.  Y’all may have noticed by now that I love books.  So why wouldn’t I be thrilled to have the opportunity to read quality books (for free!) and talk about them here?  My first review follows.  My only compensation was the book itself, and the opinion is my own.

book cover

A Story Unfinished:  99 Days with Eliot is the story of every parent’s worse nightmare–the death of a child.  And even more tragically,  about knowing that death is inevitable before in the eyes of the world that child’s life has even begun.  It sounds sad, and of course it is.  But reading it will lift you up, not drag you down.

At a 30-week prenatal appointment, Matt and Ginny Mooney learned that their unborn child had a genetic condition–Trisomy 18–that would result in his death within hours or days of birth, if not before.  But baby Eliot defied the doctors’ expectations and lived for 99 precious days.  His parents chronicled his brief life in their blog, and those entries make up a portion of the book.

Knowing only that their time with their son would be brief, the Mooneys took full advantage of it, cherishing every moment.  The shortness of Eliot’s life seems like a tragedy, but having feared he would die in the womb, each of those 99 days felt like a gift to the Mooneys and was treated as such.

This isn’t your typical biography.  For one thing, you know in advance how the story ends–or at least how THIS part of the story ends.  You know going in that Eliot dies in 99 days.   And the story isn’t told in a linear fashion.  Matt mixes the story of Eliot’s life with flashbacks and previews, and adds his insights.  This was a little disconcerting to me at first because I didn’t expect it, but I think it works well for what he is hoping to accomplish with this book.

Because it’s ultimately not just the story of a baby’s life; it’s about what his parents took away from the experience, and what we all can learn from it.  Yet I don’t want to make it sound preachy, because it isn’t.  Matt believes in the goodness of God and the redemptive value of suffering, but he doesn’t sugarcoat the pain:  “We do not get to pick the ways in which God chooses to reveal himself.  Please understand what I am not saying.  The loss of Eliot is bad, big-bucket Bad, and I make no attempt to tie a bow on our own experience nor the immense pain I come across in the lives of others.  I miss him every day.”

People debate whether God causes bad things to happen, or ask why He doesn’t prevent them, or say that is He doesn’t prevent them, it’s just as bad as if He causes them.  Some people believe that every death and every tragedy is part of God’s plan, and directly willed by Him with a purpose that we cannot hope to understand.  Certainly all of us know that sometimes good things come out of bad things.  Matt writes about this toward the end of the book, in talking about his journey to pick up his adopted daughter, abandoned in a Ukrainian orphanage because she was disabled.  This was for me the most profound moment in a book that is overflowing with profound moments: “But for losing my son, I would not be in this car.  I would not be in Ukraine. . . . If Eliot were here, I would not be here.  The absolute worst thing in each of our lives was the thing that brought us together.  Without walking a road of pain and misery, our paths would never have crossed.  But they did.  Lena is my daughter.”

Off The Shelf-V3

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Junk food is as addictive as cocaine.

That’s a pretty provocative statement, and it comes straight from the press kit for Diet Rehab, a book by Dr. Mike Dow, the cohost of Freaky Eaters, which would probably impress me if I watched t.v.  I don’t know yet whether I believe it or not, but I am getting ready to find out.

That’s my copy of the book, which I now disclose to you that I received for FREE in return for reviewing it.   I have not read it yet.  But I’m going to have a little fun with this.  If it makes any sense at all, I am going to do what it says and share the results with you.

I know one thing I like already:  that blurb at the top stating that “You’re addicted to bad food and it’s not your fault.”  For someone who has spent most of a lifetime feeling guilty about every morsel consumed, that’s a refreshing message.  More on that later.

So the plan is that I will read the book this week, then start following the “28 days of gradual detox” the following week.  Once a week–let’s say on Mondays–I’ll share with you how it’s going. (This will definitely not involve any scales.  A tape measure MAY be used.  We shall see.)  At the end of the four weeks I will pronounce judgment on the book.  I’ll explain the theory and the procedure as we go.  If anyone wants to join in, let me know and I will send you instructions!

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Value Vision

This is a SPONSORED post.  What does that mean, exactly?  It means that I received–for FREE–the item that I am writing about in exchange for posting a review of it here.  The good news is that I was going to write a post on this topic anyway, so it’s not going to sound fake like some reviews I have read.  Also, you know I wouldn’t lie to you, even to get freebies.

A couple of years ago I started to notice something strange–if I needed to read the dosing information on a medicine bottle, I had to hold it farther out from my face to bring it into focus.  Sometimes by the time I got it into focus, it was too far away to read!  At church, too, I started holding my hymnal out at arm’s length.  Now, I had an inkling of where this was heading, but I wanted to ignore it.  It wasn’t that big of a problem anyway.

But then I started having more and more trouble driving at night.  I can’t really explain what the problem was–I just couldn’t SEE.  If I was somewhere unfamiliar I had difficulty finding driveways and making turns.  My vision problem was becoming a safety issue.

Why did I put off getting glasses for so long?  It’s stupid, really, to have always been so proud of my 20-20 vision.  It’s not like I earned it.  But to me, more than anything else that age has done to my physical self, glasses seemed like a tangible admission that I am no longer as young as I once was.  I can color my hair, I could lose weight if I really wanted to, but I can’t correct my vision.  (Yes, I know about Lasik.  No, I am never letting anyone near my eyeballs with a laser.)

For a while I was extremely depressed about all this.  What with everything that’s happened since, it seems silly now.  But at the time it seemed like a terrible milestone.

The eye examination itself wasn’t so bad.  I hadn’t seen an eye doctor in 20 years–my husband made me go when we were first married–so I was pretty amazed by the technology.  Last time I had my eyes examined, I was looking at 3D pictures of flies.   So that part was fun.  And our eye doctor has an iguana in his office, so that was pretty cool.

Two parts of the trip to the office pretty much sucked, though.  The first was trying on the glasses.  Having never worn any before, I did  not even know where to begin.  And because I have a fat and doughy sort of face with no bones to speak of, none of the glasses looked good on me.  The only ones that did are enormous 80s style glasses and I guess I will just have to wait for them to come back in.

The other part was the price. Oh my goodness.  My husband and I both had exams and got glasses.  I was having an eye allergy too so I had to get two kinds of exams.  And we had a balance of $60 when we got there.  But our total bill was almost $1,000.  Believe me, it was just a fluke that we happened to have that kind of money that day.  But we did, so we took care of it.  My husband has worn glasses for about 30 years, so his are essential, and as I said, for me it was becoming a safety issue.

Here I am the first day with my new glasses.  Don’t I look happy?  Lorelei told me they were hysterical.

Not knowing what I was doing, I let them give me bifocals.  I SHOULD have gotten one pair for the driving problem and one for the reading problem.  The optician told me to wear them all day for awhile to get used to them, and then I could just pull them out when I need them.  I couldn’t stand that.  I felt too tall when I wore them (don’t know how else to explain it).  I was dizzy and whenever I looked down I felt like I was going to fall because I could not judge my steps correctly.  I ended up leaving them in the car (where they do help immensely for night driving) and continuing to hold things at arms length to read them.

The reading problem has been getting worse.  Some of my books had print so small that I could only read them in bright light.  I wished I had the reading glasses but I could not afford another pair.

Enter 1800specs.com.

“1800specs aims to make stylish prescription eyewear affordable for everyone. The average pair of glasses in the US sells for $150–and that’s including the Cosco’s and Walmarts of the world–and of course many of us pay several times that. It’s outrageous, there’s no reason glasses can’t be made available for as little as $20 a pair. It’s a necessity, a question of health and often the ability to support yourself. It’s just wrong to make people overpay like that.

What is 1800specs.com?  It is a website where you can order your glasses yourself, way cheaper than you can get them from the optician at your eye doctor’s office.  I’m not kidding; the cheapest pair is $20 and they are not ugly–they are the SAME ones from the optician, just at a better price.

Did you know that your prescription is your property?  It never would have occurred to me that I could take it somewhere else; I think most of us are conditioned to take it to our doctor’s onsite optician or to whichever one he works with.  I had no trouble at all getting mine, but some other people who were trying this service had to fight with their doctor’s office to get it.  That’s not right, and it’s not fair.

Once I had the prescription, I looked at it in confusion.  It made no sense to me.  I wondered how I was supposed to convey this information to the people at the website.  Would I have to scan it and fax it?  I needn’t have worried.  The site is so easy and completely self-explanatory. It asks you if you have your prescription and then little boxes just pop up for you to fill in the numbers.  After that, the screen pops up with the frames that will work with your prescription.

Perhaps you might expect a few basic choices?  You would be wrong.  There were probably hundreds of choices.  I was overwhelmed by them all, because I am such a novice at this that I have absolutely no idea what is in style or what looks good on me.  They have a solution for this–a Favorites feature so that you can save and compare your top choices until you make a decision.

The ordering process itself was as easy as it should be on any website these days.  I ordered my glasses on October 17, and they arrived today.  Had I been paying, my cost would have been $50 plus $6.95 for shipping and handling.  Not bad, huh?  I can only get one free pair but I am so pleased that I will probably order a $20 pair with the other half of my prescription so I won’t have to deal with those bifocals anymore.

Now some of you might be wondering about the fit of your glasses.  Mine fit fine, but I am told that any optician will make minor adjustments to your glasses for free if fit is a problem.  And did I mention that 1800specs has a 365 day return policy if you are unsatisfied in any way?

I am so excited to have my reading glasses, and I am thrilled to be able to share this great money-saving service with my readers who wear glasses.  Please share this post with anyone who you think would benefit from it, and tell me in the comments if you are going to give 1800specs a try!

My Glasses

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