Thursday, March 26, 2015

Miss Brenda and the Loveladies by Brenda Spahn and Irene Zutell



A disclaimer:  this is now how my my book looks, but it seems to be the same story.

This is the story of how one took on the Alabama justice system and against all odds established a whole way house for women newly released from prison with nowhere to go.  The prison system doubted her success and the first group of women they sent to her were label as unrehabilitateable (yes, I may have just made that word up, I'm not sure).  They were a hard group of women led by an angry lady named Shay who was convinced they were going to be forced into a maid's uniform and become slaves to this rich lady.  The book is laugh out loud funny, such as the description of their first trip to Walmart, but it is also extremely sad as you listen to some of these ladies stories and their childhood: the abuse, the lack of love, the exposure to drugs. Heartrending.

While I may not be in agreement with all of Brenda's beliefs, I believe she has a heart for God and a love for these ladies.  After getting kicked out of their original house because of upset neighbors, they bought an old hospital, renovated it and today, the Lovelady Center is the biggest and most successful nonprofit transitional center in the country.  They serve about 450 women and children a day.  It's amazing what one person can do when fully committed to God.

I would recommend this book for reading, though I would also recommend caution because some of the descriptions are a little graphic.  Let's say I wouldn't let my children read it until they were in at least their upper teens.

This book was given me by Blogging for Books for the the purpose of reading and writing a review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

Monday, March 23, 2015

By Your Side by Candace Calvert

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This was a good chick flick.  The normal romance: girl with a tough past meets heroic police officer who helps to save her life at least once.  They fall in love and live happily every after.

However, I did enjoy the writing style and enjoyed the feel-goodness of the story.  While I am well aware that real life is not so cut and dried and not always so dramatic and definitely doesn't always have such a "happily ever after" feel, it was a well-written story.

I especially enjoyed it because of the medical aspect of it.  I enjoy reading stories about nursing even if they aren't true stories.  Candace was an ER nurse, so I felt that the medical side was portrayed pretty accurately.

As far as: what can I take away from the story and apply to my life? I think the one thing would be to be thankful for parents, for having a home.  Macy was a foster child after her mother died.  Before that they lived in the car.  Her dad wanted nothing to do with her and wrote her off with a substantial check.  It makes me grateful for a nice home to grow up in.

I am looking forward to reading the other two Candace Calvert books I have that I haven't read yet.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Henry Hodges Needs a Friend by Andy Andrews and illustrated by Colleen Madden



Let me say first and foremost: I loved, loved, loved this book.  It's a children's book about a little boy who lived at the end of a "long dead end street" and had no friends to play with.  His parents promised him a pet that was going to be one of a kind just like him.  He commenced to dreaming about the kind of pet that would be unlike any other.  In the end, he finds a puppy who looks just as lonely as he feels.  It's a fun story written in rhyme that reminds me just a little of Dr. Seuss.  I read the story to my 3.5 week old daughter, but I don't think she got too much out of it, though I'm hoping to fuel her obsession with books as young as possible!! :) :)  I would say this book would be for toddlers and up to maybe 1st or 2nd grade?  I'm not real good with when a story like this would no longer be interesting.

The message of the book was summed up in the last line, "just like your friend needs you." I would take the message to be that everyone needs a friend.  The illustrations were amazing.  Henry dreamed of funny animals like skating hippos and short necked giraffes and Colleen did a really good job of illustrating them in a kid-friendly manner.  I loved the pictures, they went perfectly with the story line for each page.  I wouldn't say there was a strong spiritual message in the book, a few lines toward the end, but it was a good, solid book that I would definitely recommend to others.

This book was given to me by Book Look Bloggers for the purpose of reading and writing a review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Today was the Day

Last May, when we moved into this house, I used the top part of our china hutch and created a Nicole spot, full of things that memorialized her--her footprints, handprints, books, teddy bear, etc. etc.  I liked it, but I imagine for some people it was a little weird to see in a living room.

Well, now we have two daughters and somehow it didn't feel right to me to leave that spot like it was.  The difference is Amber Hope fills our living room-- there are baby blankets and burp cloths and a car seat and a pacifier and a baby hat, etc. etc filling our living room.  And, if you come at the right time, there is this adorable little girl sleeping on the couch.

So today was that day to take down her things.  The swirling of emotions that ensues with something like that is hard to reconcile.  On one side, the tears were flowing as I looked at the book my co-workers gave in memory of Nicole and read the card given by a very good friend.  On the other side, my second daughter screamed for attention. I picked her up and she was instantly quiet, but this mama just needed her, so I wrapped her in her Moby and we bonded for a bit.

I know I've dwelt on this before and I don't want to become a stuck record, but this is my life right now.  I love Amber with all that is in me and so far am totally loving being a mom, though today was a bit stressful.  But, when I get pics of Nicole's grave and I look at her things and I think about her, I really, really, really miss her.  And so, for the rest of my life, I believe these two emotions are going to coincide and I don't know or understand how they mix, but somehow they do and it is right and it is good.  I can't have Nicole here and so I am going to love Amber with all the unrelinquished love that's been building up in me for the last 14 months.

I do know this-- I love Amber more fully because of losing Nicole.  I am working hard to treasure the moments because of the moments I never got.  A common phrase from me these days is this: "She's so cute. We are so blessed."  And that is how I feel.  Pain and grief have somehow opened our hearts to a greater intensity of love.  I don't say that those who have never lost cannot love like we can.  I do not mean that at all, but I think the kind of love or the way or something is different.  I don't know. Feel free to correct me on that.

Someday, I will do a picture post whenever I get my pictures uploaded from my camera.  It's on the to-do list for Thursday or Friday, I think, so maybe next week, I'll get some on here.


Saturday, March 7, 2015

Bella's Gift by Rick and Karen Santorum with Elizabeth Santorum



Bella's gift is a beautiful story of love. Bella is a Trisomy 18 child.  The diagnosis of Trisomy 18 is generally equal to a death sentence, but the Santorum's set out to prove the statistics wrong.  They fought the odds including many medical personnel who viewed Bella as an unsustainable liability, which is very sad.  Bella is now almost 7 years old and while she is completely dependent on her family for every basic need she is full of joy and love and laughter.

This is a well-written book about the challenges and joys of a special needs child.  It addresses the challenges and struggles to accept the role of a parent with a special needs child, but I believe the Santorum's have embraced their role wholeheartedly and are enjoying their little girl to the fullest. The book also describes some of Rick's campaign for Presidency, but it isn't a huge factor in the book except where it affects Bella and the responses of people when they heard about her.  I believe the Santorum's are dedicated Christians and I feel the book is a great testimony to what Christ does in a life.  To love selflessly, devotedly, and cheerfully through stress and sickness and 24 hour high-energy caring requires a Higher Power and the Strength that only comes from faith in Jesus Christ.

I would definitely recommend this book to others.  For me, it was especially interesting-- I have known parents who have had Trisomy 18 children, but I know no living Trisomy 18 children. Being a nurse and knowing the statistics, this book was especially interesting to me.  Rock on Bella!!!

This book was given to me by Book Look Bloggers for the purpose of reading and writing a review on it.  All opinions given are my own.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Amber Hope

WARNING: This post is full of idealisms and joy and love and perfection and gushy, mushy stuff.  It may or may not actually reflect true reality as felt in the next weeks and months!!!!!!!!!!

INTRODUCING:


Amber Hope Glick
Born: February 20, 2015
Time: 10:51 AM
Place: Hayward Area Memorial Hospital
Weight: 7 lb 7 oz
Length: 20.75 inches
Features: Completely angelic




Here she is at about 23 hours old: alert and attentive and taking life in. 


Here she is 23 hours and 2 minutes old and is reciting back to us what we had just told her :) :)


This is at 2.5 days old looking sweet and angelic.  The blue and white striped shirt you see was worn by her cousin who is almost 6.  This picture is all innocence in more ways than one because you really need to see the expression on the face of her cousin.  It was not innocence--it was gleaming with mischief and teasing as he played with her hat, putting it on his head and then on her head and just overall giving his little girl cousin a hard time.  She remained oblivious to it all and kept sleeping. Good girl--that should put her in good stead for later on in life.

I have more pics I could post, but I am way too lazy to go and get my camera bag and find the SD card converter, etc. etc.  So maybe later.

One of the meaning for Amber that I found was "precious jewel".  That meaning really cemented the name choice in my mind.  And Hope?  What explanation does that need?

We have been in awe for the last couple of days.  I am still not sure reality has set in, that this really is our baby and we get to keep her.  Nobody is going to come and pick her up in a couple days and remind us that we were just temporarily babysitting.  I am going to be the one to feed her and change her diaper (her father runs fleeing the room at the slightest hint of a problem in that department), comfort her when she cries and try to teach her and train her to love the Lord with all her heart.  It feels like a huge responsibility and yet right now it is nothing but sheer joy.  

Yes, I am tired; yes, the nights have not been one solid sleep, but they hadn't been for weeks already anyway.  But last night, I could get up and smile through the yawns and rock my baby and tuck her into her cradle that her grandpa made for her mother many long years ago.

Last night, I sat in the recliner in the living room holding her and the tears just came, just like they are coming right now.  People talk about how when they see their baby for the first time, they just have this maternal love that overwhelms them  and they are just sucked in.  I can't completely identify with that.  I loved her when I saw her, but mostly I was relieved that the long months of sitting around and waiting were over.  I had loved her from the start, but I still felt bad that I didn't have the instant mental acknowledgement.  Not to say I wasn't happy; I was completely overjoyed to see and hold and touch my baby.  But when the nurses wheeled her out of our room to take her to the nursery, it felt like a piece of our hearts had disappeared and you wondered if everything was going to be okay with her until she came back.  But back to last night: I sat there in the rocker and the tears just came: tears of overwhelming joy and gratitude for the gift of life, for my healthy, screaming, completely adorable little girl. The tears of such a different nature from a year ago and it was good.  We are so blessed.

Things are so different now: the Facebook comments, the gifts, the care, the tears-- everything is happy filled now.  Yesterday morning, I was taking a shower and thinking back to 13 months ago when I was also taking the first shower since I was home from the hospital, but after that shower I had to put on a black dress and go to a funeral, a funeral for my little girl I never had the chance to hold and love. Yesterday, I put on comfy clothes and I went downstairs and I held and loved and showered my little girl with love and affection.  And it felt right; it felt good, really , really good.  

And so this morning, I sit here holding my sleeping baby girl and I rejoice in the gift of life.  Yes, I am holding her while she sleeps and yes, some would say I am spoiling her, but that is all right.  We have waited a long time for this moment and I want to enjoy every single moment of it, to capture the memories and hold them close in my hear.  Today, my agenda consists of two things: feed the baby and sleep.  And if I get nothing more than that done, it will be okay.  I will likely have to repeat that to myself over and over today, because there is plenty of things I could be doing, but today isn't about that and I hope my scheduled brain will be able to remember that over the next weeks and months.  

This song has been running through my head over the last couple of days:



Photo credits go to Heather Kuhns and Hannah Glick

Monday, February 16, 2015

Blindsided by God

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by Peter Chin

This book has all the makings of a horror story: failed church plant, broken in house, breast cancer, unexpected pregnancy, lost health insurance and so on. Peter is a pastor who moves his family to Washington D.C. because he feels God has called him to start a church plant. In the first year, all of the above happens.  On the day his wife is scheduled for her mastectomy, the Dr. discovers she is pregnant and contrary to what a lot would expect, the Dr. expects them to keep the child and not abort him.  They do keep the baby and he goes through the surgery and all the chemo and is born a beautiful healthy normal child.  The lost health insurance was a scam from the health insurance company once they realized Peter's wife had cancer, they tried to figure out a way to drop her off their plan by saying there had been a lapse in insurance and therefore her need existed prior to their current health coverage.  When they sent the proof that there had been no lapse in coverage, the insurance company had no choice but to cover the cost of the treatments.

The book chronicles their journey through that very tough year, but it does more than that. It gives the journey of Peter as well and his struggle to accept what God had allowed to be placed in his lap.  It describes his struggle to hold on to faith as he was tested in the areas most precious to him: his wife and his church.  He came through and he discovered that because of his suffering, the church drew in suffering and hurting people as well, and even though the church eventually closed down, I believe there was a purpose behind it.

Peter is a good writer: has a bit of sarcasm/humor that he inserts here and there to keep your attention.  His story does have all the happy endings; not only does his wife survive the breast cancer at 4 years out currently, but the chemo didn't make her infertile and they have had two more children since the chemo and in his studies, Peter discovered that pregnancy seems to provide a better chance to breast cancer victims and survivors.  I haven't done any research myself to verify this; just saying what he said in his book. The question he addresses in the epilogue is "What About my Happy Ending?" Peter realizes that not everyone gets the happy ending and he doesn't have pat answers for that, but he's willing to listen and care.

I would recommend the book; it's not the best I've ever read, but it is a good story and it is encouraging to hear happy stories with happy endings in a world filled with tragedy and sadness and death.

This book was given me by Bethany House Publishers for the purpose of reading and reviewing. All opinions expressed are my own.