“Confessions from an Arranged Marriage”

I will admit, when I picked up this book, I figured that “arranged marriage” meant that they had been intended for each other since birth.  A few pages in, and I realized that wasn’t the case.

Then I thought, “Ok, maybe she secretly loves him and will trap him into a marriage.”  Again….not the case.

So then I decided to just go along for the ride and stop trying to predict how the book was going to go.  I’m glad I did.

Minerva doesn’t like the Marquess of Blakeney.  In fact, he is treated kind of as a laughingstock by her.  He was previously engaged to her sister, and she was subjected to unending stories about horses and hunting.  After the engagement failed, he left London for a few years.  They become reacquainted at her coming out ball, which is being held at his parents’ house, due to the close relationship between the families.

However, things don’t go according to plan.  Partway through the night, Minerva has a migraine, takes some medicine, and lays down in the library.  An intoxicated Blakeney decides to play a trick on a friend, and thinks that Minerva is someone else when he begins to seduce her.  Minerva wakes up as an audience appears in the library door. This means that the incident can’t be hidden and the two are forced to marry.

For Minerva, this is worrisome.  She doesn’t know Blakeney well, but her impression is that he is lazy and probably not very smart, even though he graduated from college.  Blakeney doesn’t think much of Minerva, especially since she is passionate about politics, which is one thing his family does well – even though he doesn’t have any interest in it.

However much these two individuals don’t see eye to eye, they must learn how to live together and create some sort of relationship.  Add the following to the mix – a “best friend” who seems a little slimy and untrustworthy, the death of a father, spies, secrets that have been hidden since school, and families who don’t trust the new spouse – and you get an interesting story that brings you in to the characters’ lives so you feel like you are there with them.  That makes for a good story.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own.

Searching for Meaning

What does the Mass mean to you?  To some, coming church is what they are expected to do at Christmas and Easter.  To others, it’s where they go on Sundays because that’s what they’ve always done.  Yet to others, coming to church is a way to be a member of a living, breathing entity that has existed for over 2,000 years.  There’s no right answer to this question, because a person can have each one of those opinions at different times in their life.

The Catholic Church is all of the above.  It is a body of worshippers who come together to celebrate the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.  It is a venue for fellowship and socializing.  It is a place to go when you are seeking answers.  It is a family brought together by a common purpose, a common faith.

The central point of our mass is the Eucharist.  To Catholics everywhere, the Eucharist and wine are the body and blood of Christ – it’s not a symbol – it is Christ’s gift to us every time Mass is celebrated.  It’s part of what unites us as Catholics.  Our mass is where we come together.  We gather with our friends, family, and neighbors.  We are joined by the communion of saints to proclaim our unity with each other and to share in the Eucharistic feast at the Lord’s table.

Sister Cheryl is leading a book study on Ron Rohlheiser’s book Our One Great Act of Fidelity: Waiting for Christ in the Eucharist.  It’s an easy read and discusses the author’s journey in discovering what the Eucharist means to him.  I have found it to be a very powerful book and it has given me many opportunities to think and to figure out my relationship with the Eucharist.

I have been on my own journey to rediscover/reaffirm/understand my faith.  I’m in no way perfect, or an expert on how someone should go about doing this.  However, I have a questioning spirit and am always seeking answers.  I have been attending the classes offered by our parish staff during this Lenten season.  These classes have afforded me the opportunity to learn about the beginnings of the Catholic Church, the mysteries of our faith that I didn’t learn earlier in life (or learned and have forgotten), and the opportunity to talk to other members of the parish who are willing to share their knowledge and experiences.  This is invaluable to me.

My challenge to myself is to truly ponder what the Eucharist means in my life.  I am trying to take the time to think about the beauty and history reflected in our Mass, and to think about what the Church (as an organization, as a body of worshippers, as a faith) means to me.

I invite others to join me on this journey.  Learn everything you can.  Ask the questions you need to when you are unsure.  Become involved – attend classes, discover adoration, come to Communal Penance.

Posts in My Head

I know I have been absent from my regular posting for a while.  It’s not for lack of ideas…it’s just because life has gotten in the way a bit.  I have book reviews lined up for the next few months – the reviews are written and scheduled, but you all can’t see what’s coming.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately.   I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately.  I’ve been doing a lot of “doing” lately.  All of these will end up in blog posts that are coming. 

If you want to see something I’ve been working on, go to www.muscatinecatholiccommunity.com.  It’s a work in progress, but it’s mostly done.

If you want to see what a friend of mine has been writing, go to http://ctsteinbach.wordpress.com.

I promise, I’m coming back.  It’s just taking some time.

 

“The Shadow of Your Smile” and How Important Are Your Memories?

I have read some of Susan May Warren’s books before and liked them.  “The Shadow of Your Smile” is one of her Deep Haven novels, which luckily for me, can be read independently and still understand the stories.  Noelle and Eli have been married for 25 years.  They had 3 children, one of whom died in a robbery 3 years prior to this book taking place.  Ever since then, their marriage has struggled…as Noelle buried herself in grief, Eli buried himself in fishing, hunting, anything to take him away from their house.

On a wintery day, Noelle is on her way home from a mysterious meeting.  She stops at a shop for a coffee and while she is there, interrupts a robbery where the cashier dies.  As she is running out the door to catch a passing trucker, she falls, hits her head, and is knocked unconscious.  When she comes to in the hospital, she has lost 25 years of her life.  She doesn’t recognize Eli, her sons, her best friend, her home.

What ensues is a journey for Noelle and Eli.  A journey back to why they got married in the first place.  A journey to work through their grief of losing their daughter…this time as a family.  A journey to re-discover what is important to them and what they each may have given up as they moved through life together.

A question (in various forms) appears throughout the book – “Should Noelle get her memory back?”  Does Noelle need to regain all 25 years of memories in order to move forward with her life?  Does Eli want Noelle to regain those memories?  If those memories return, what happens to the relationship they have built since she lost them?

How important are memories as you go through life?

I received this book through the NetGalley system.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions are my own.

My “Farewell to Fat” Tour Continues…

Maid Rite (from the Marion, IA restaurant)

I’m a fan of cheap, kitschy restaurants that serve greasy food.  Yep, I know it’s not good for my heart, but they are still good.  There’s just something about a local greasy spoon restaurant that makes me happy.  And if I can get fried vegetables there and eat outside, even better.

 

If you know me, you know that I can be found about once a week at a local restaurant called El Allende.  They have the best Mexican food in town (really – no lie).  The problem is that their tacos, while delicious and filling, can be sooo greasy.  So invariably, while I enjoy my meal while I eat it, I spend the rest of the afternoon in a taco-induced coma regretting that last bite because I am so full.

As part of my “Farewell to Fat Tour”, I am visiting my favorite local restaurants one last time over lunch.  I am also allowing myself to eat whatever snacks I want.  But I am paying the price.  I can literally feel my body screaming out in protest.  Have you ever gone to a really restaurant, had a good meal, and later you could feel your arteries hardening or your liver screaming at you?  That’s me right now.

Why am I allowing myself to do this?  Here’s part of my thinking….if I can eat my fill of the stuff I know I will crave once the diet starts, then I won’t want it later.  I had a friend who decided to quit smoking once.  She decided she was going to smoke until she couldn’t smoke anymore.  Basically, she was going to chain smoke until her body rebelled and even the thought of smoking turned her stomach.  In a way, I am doing the same thing.  Yeah, it probably doesn’t make much sense, but I have burned myself out on restaurants and foods before (Mac & Cheese, I’m talking to you), and I’m hoping for the same thing now.

I’m not being completely stupid about it.  It’s not like I am on a 3 week binge where I am eating every waking moment.  I’m just eating those things I want and those things I know I will miss. 

I know that this weight loss program is only going to work if I give things up.  If that means no more El Allende tacos, then that’s the way it has to be.  If that means that I allow myself Cheri-Top drive-in once over the course of the summer, then so be it.  If it means I can’t darken Maid-Rite’s door, then farewell to a Muscatine institution.  Will I miss them?  Probably.  But this has gone on too long and my body is paying for it, my sanity is paying for it, my wallet is paying for it, and IT IS GOING TO STOP.

So I am asking for my body’s forgiveness as I go through my own mourning process.  Mourning the loss of foods that I like, but that I know are not healthy;  mourning the lack of grease; mourning the loss of atmosphere.

So long……

My Pants are Going to Stage a Walk-out

A few weeks ago, I decided to put together a team for a local weight loss competition. I found 3 other people who are all motivated to lose weight. A few of us decided that during December, we weren’t really going to worry about watching what we eat, working out, etc. We were just going to live and eat what we wanted. It’s not like I am going on an eating binge and eating all of my favorite foods that I know I won’t be able to eat once the competition starts, but I kind of am.

I haven’t been too worried about my health. Sure, my family has a history of heart disease, blood pressure issues, strokes, heart attacks, and cancer. (Ok, so that list sounds REALLY BAD.) But I wasn’t going to let myself stress over it – December is stressful enough.

But here’s the thing. As I go on my “farewell tour” of my favorite foods and restaurants, I have begun to realize that they don’t all taste as good as I want them to. I know this is a good thing, but I guess I wasn’t expecting it. It’s like I can hear my body say “Enough is ENOUGH!….Fix us already!!” (Ok, and I also hear my pants saying that they can’t take it anymore….one of these days, they are going to stage a walk-out and I will be stuck wearing track pants to work.)

So on January 3, I start a new journey. One I have tried before. One I have failed before. What will be different this time? Me. It comes down to me. It doesn’t matter that my husband is super supportive. It doesn’t matter that I will be cheering my other team members on (because I will). It matters that I want to do it. That I am tired of being out of breath. That I am tired of not fitting into clothes. That I am tired of seeing large numbers on the tags of my clothes. That I am tired of not wearing the clothes I think are cute because they don’t look right on me.

By the time I go to Tennessee in May, I want to have run a 5K and be signed up for another. I want to be in a smaller size of clothes. I want to crave healthy food, not crap. I want to know that I can eat things I like (popcorn, chocolate, and Pepsi – I’m talking to you!) in moderation and without feeling guilty about it later. I want my sister-in-law and her family to ask my husband when he got a new wife. I want my daughters to be proud of me.

I want to live. I want to be me.

“The House at Tyneford” – A Story About Life Continuing On, No Matter What

I am very interested in World War II-era stories, especially stores of those affected by the Holocaust.  This book starts at the beginning of WW2 in Vienna.  Elise and her family have a good life in Austria .  Her father is a novelist, her mother is a musician.  The problem is that they are Jewish.  The family is trying to get everyone out of the country, but they are having problems getting visas.  Elise is able to leave the country because she is being sponsored by an English family to come and work as a house servant.  Being the youngest in the family, it’s hard for her to leave, but she does so with the understanding that her family will send for her when they get to America.

Elise has never truly worked.  Everything has always been done for her, so when she arrives in England at Tyneford, she is in for a rude awakening.  Housemaids work from before dawn to after dark.  There is never a moment’s peace.  And it’s even harder when you don’t speak very good English.  Luckily, the squire (Mr. Rivers) is a kind man and has read Elise’s father’s books.  Kit Rivers, the squire’s son, is not around much, but when he is, it brings life to the house.

Elise has to work through a number of things – learning English, being away from her family, seeking information on her family, as well as just adjusting to a different way of life.  She is a source of suspicion from those who visit the house, a source of frustration to the head butler and housekeeper, and a curiosity of sorts for the villagers, Mr. Rivers, and Kit Rivers.

The novel follows Elise’s life throughout her time in England.  I found it interesting to read about what her life was like as a Jew in England and how much faith it took to continue to exist while her family was in such dire straits.  Her relationships with the Rivers men are interesting, if unsurprising.  My heart ached for her – wanting to know what was going on with her family, trying to find her way in England, and yet dreading the information that could come at any time.  But each day, she got up and continued on with her duties and responsibilities, knowing that she is trying to make her parents proud.

One thing I found a little distracting was the fact that Elise doesn’t refer to her parents as Mom and Dad, it’s Anna and Julian.  Maybe that’s because they were such public persons and she didn’t relate to them as Mom and Dad.  But it was something to get used to.

I really liked this book and would definitely recommend it.

I received this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions are my own.

What I am Thankful For – Day 14

Today I am thankful for music.  Music has always been a part of my life – listening and performing.

  • I thank my Grandma for my education in classic musicals and 40s Big Band music.
  • I thank my parents for buying a piano and paying for lessons for a number of years.
  • I thank them for my clarinet, clarinet lessons, and coming to my various band concerts.
  • I thank my two jazz band teachers in college – Jay Hauenstein and Joe Mailhot for two completely different approaches to jazz and music in general.
  • I thank my choir director in college who, even though we were a small choir, accepted everyone and taught us to stretch our comfort levels.  From that choir I began my love affair with Vivaldi’s Gloria.
  • I thank the two church choir directors with which I am currently involved.  I love how I can go to choir practices and I know that I am going to learn something different each night.  One director teaches chant and I learn little tidbits about the history of the music of the Church.  The other director shows us how current music (or more contemporary than 1850, in some cases) can be incorporated in our beautiful Mass.  She stretches us to look beyond the notes to the words of the songs we sing so that our parish will feel the meaning and so that we can enrich the Mass.
  • I thank Pandora for going back to unlimited listening, and Apple for inventing the iPod and iTunes.

Without music, my life would be a lot quieter, a lot less vibrant, and a lot poorer.  Music allows people to speak beyond words.  Music is that final expression of beauty that makes life worthwhile.  To everyone who has impacted my life through music, I thank you.

What I am Thankful For – Days 11, 12, & 13

Here is what I have been thankful for the last few days…..

Day 11: My husband who served in the Army for four years.  He spent a year in Korea, serving at Camp Casey.  The remaining three years were spent at Fort Lewis, Washington.  He came hope from Korea, we were married a week later (on a Friday), and then moved to Washington on Sunday.  Those three years we spend in Washington weren’t always easy, but I was proud of him for his service.

I have a lot of family members who have served in the Armed Forces, both in war and peace.  It’s not always easy being the person at home, but it’s our way to serve.  I’m reminded of a paragraph in the Patriotism lecture in Rainbow:

Hers is the first battle, and hers is the first victory. It is the sister that kisses the brother good-bye, placing her sweet benediction upon his lips. He marches away under flying colors to the sound of martial strains; but she, in the silence that follows, fights the first battle. Womanhood stands back of the ranks and holds up the Flag at home, for if it were not for Womanhood and the love that is centered in her realm, there would be nothing to incite him to deeds of bravery on the field of battle.

That paragraph didn’t have the same meaning until I was that person at home, even though he wasn’t going into battle.

Day 12: I am thankful for my family – immediate and extended.  It is family that gathers around for special occasions – birthdays, holidays, weddings, funerals – that makes life worth living.  Family gives you something to look forward to, people who love you no matter what happens, and people who rally around when things aren’t so wonderful (most of the time).  In the end, it is all that matters.

Day 13: Today I am thankful for naps!  Yesterday, we had two little girls who didn’t want to rest and take a nap.  That led to a very frustrating evening.  They got up too early this morning, so naps it was for the afternoon.  They must have been tired – they slept for over 3 hours!  Now, we have two little girls who want to snuggle and are well rested.

What I am Thankful For – Day 10

I am thankful for the opportunity to spend time quietly in adoration today.  I took an early lunch and spent an hour at church this morning sitting quietly in adoration of the Blessed Eucharist.  I don’t usually sit in adoration, and although I like doing adoration at night, it was nice to be able to take time out of my day and relax.

It allows me the opportunity to refocus.  Today, I read The Lucado Inspirational Reader while sitting in adoration.  It gave me an opportunity to reflect on my relationship with God and prayer in general.  There were lots of times I just sat and thought about particular passages.  I know that the other people at adoration tend to sit and pray the rosary, but I am not comfortable doing that, especially since I haven’t prayed the rosary in such a long time.

I am trying to learn and trying to re-evaluate certain things in my life.  This is not a fast process by any means, and I am thankful that I have the opportunity to explore my faith.