Sunday, June 28, 2015

Book Recommendations: Cobbled Court Quilts Novels

I read about the Cobbled Court Quilts Novels by Marie Bostwick on another blog and was eager to try them out. As someone who loves quilting and good fiction, I'm always on the lookout for leisure reading that combines the two. I started the series at book three. That wasn't intentional - it just happened to be the one that came in first on the library holds. I was able to pick up the series with no problem. While the books do go in chronological order, each one is a self-contained story with the Cobbled Court Quilt Shop and quilting as part of the story and can be picked up without having read the others.

The first two books in the series are A Single Thread and A Thread of Truth - Once again, I haven't read these two, but judging by the rest of the series, I have no reason to not think they would be great.

In A Thread So Thin , Liza is an adult orphan, whose Aunt Abigail has taken on the role of her guardian. is very rich and very used to getting her own way. Liza is a senior in college who has become engaged to Garrett, but she has also been given a once-in-a-lifetime job offer. Meanwhile, Abigail has taken over her wedding, planning every detail. Liza's always been a strong woman, but now she doesn't have a clue what she wants out of life. Can she figure it out before it's too late?

Tessa and Madelyn were best friends as children, but they had a huge fight and their lives went in radically different directions. Four decades later, they are both back in their hometown trying to start new businesses and new lives. Can they repair the damage from all the years before and find a way to move forward? Threading the Needle is all about the power of female friendship.

Ties That Bind centers on Margot, a forty year old woman who has been searching for a man to complete her for as long as she can remember with no luck. Now, she has made the decision that she doesn't need one. Plus, there are much bigger matters for her to contend with. Her estranged sister died in a car accident and left her six-year old daughter Olivia to Margot. Olivia's grandparents are contesting the last minute will, but Margot is determined to carry out her sister's wishes, even if an angry Olivia isn't talking to her.

In addition, there are two newcomers to town. Phillippa is the new minister who isn't at all what the board of the Church expected and Paul is a single father all the unmarried ladies now have their eyes on. This book is all about letting go of one's plans and accepting God's.

(Please note: this book does feature artificial insemination)

In Apart at the Seams (Cobbled Court Quilts), Gayla accidentally finds a memo on her husband's computer saying that he had an affair and wants to divorce her after 26 years of marriage. She flees their New York home and heads to New Bern, CT where they have a much-neglected vacation home. There she encounters the Cobbled Court women and starts to rebuild her life. Meanwhile, her husband, who assures her that he is incredibly sorry for the short-lived affair and that he had deleted the memo, sets out to win her back.

 The other major story line features Ivy who is facing the bad news that her abusive ex-husband is getting out of prison and wants to have visits with their children. She also has a new love interest and is trying to figure out what to do about her education, or lack thereof. This book's theme is forgiveness.

Between Heaven and Texas (Cobbled Court Quilts)
 is a prequel to the Cobbled Court Quilt Series. Fans of the books will recognize Mary Dell as a big-time quilt instructor from Texas who is friends with Evelyn, owner of Cobbled Court Quilts, but you don't need to know that or to have read any of those books to enjoy this one. It follows Mary Dell as she grows up in Texas on a huge ranch in a town called Too Much.  She faces her share of adversity, but she is a woman with pluck, personality and fashion sense as big as the state she calls home. You can't help but want her to succeed. This is a great book to read when you feel like life is giving you too much to handle. It's theme is making the best of what you got and the importance of sisterhood.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Being Happy for Others Can Be Hard to Do

This is an excerpt from the reflection for today in Living Faith:

That I may . . . rejoice in the joy of your people . . . Psalm 106:5

Sometimes it's hard to be happy for another person. If we have longed for something for ourselves but fail to receive it, our heart can struggle with feeling envy or resentment when we find that in another person's life. . . It takes a generous heart to let joy for someone else enter in when that joy has been denied to oneself. To genuinely wish another well without self-pity or sorrow takes a big heart, one that leans strongly on the One Great Love who understands our pain. - Sr. Joyce Rupp

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Book Review: Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots

Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots: Gardening Together with Children

by Sharon Lovejoy
New York: Workman Books, 1999

The first thing one notices about Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots by Sharon Lovejoy is how beautiful it is. Lovejoy's watercolor illustrations add so much to this book, making it inviting and a joy to peruse. It's a book about gardening with children and even those too young to read the words will love to look at the pictures.

Lovejoy offers a list of easy-to-grow plants for children and suggests theme gardens, such as the pizza patch, a sunflower house, and the flowery maze. There are also ideas for interesting containers to grow plants in. She also provides many practical, organic tips on helping your plants to grow.

Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots will be enjoyed by anyone who loves to garden, but especially by those hoping to instill a love of gardening in their children. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Book Review: Images of America: Baystate Medical Center

Baystate Medical Center (Images of America Series)

by Thomas Higgins, MD and Linda S. Baillargeon
Charlestown, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2015

I've always been a local history buff and so I was excited to see this new edition from Images of America focusing on Baystate Medical Center, the largest medical facility in the Springfield, MA area. The roots of the medical center go back to Springfield City Hospital which opened its doors in 1870 in a farmhouse. It is interesting to read the historical text and view the images of the various institutions, buildings, and charitable donations would ultimately lead to the medical center we know today, which is still always in a state of change, evolving to better care for patients. The number of transformations also explains the various wings and configurations of the hospital, a building I get lost in every time I visit!

The medical center also has a storied history as a center for nursing and medical education. Images of the students and their dorms are also very interesting. One might be surprised to find that many of the doctors and nurses are photographed with a cigarette in hand - a sign of very different times!

This book would be of value to anyone who enjoys learning about Massachusetts history as well as to those who are interested in the evolution of medical care.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Book Review: Inside the O'Briens

Inside the O'Briens: A Novel

by Lisa Genova
New York: Gallery Books, 2015

Inside the O'Briens is not the type of book I usually review. Focusing on an Irish Catholic Boston family, there are passages in this book that are so anti-Catholic they made my blood boil. In addition, the f-word is used so often, it almost becomes part of the background of the novel. There is also lots of premarital sex going on (although only one semi-graphic depiction). So, why am I recommending it? Because at the end of the day, this is an incredibly powerful pro-life novel about the value of life at all its stages and in all its circumstances, even the ones that are most painful to imagine.

Lisa Genova is a Harvard educated neuroscientist best known for her novel, Still Alice, about a woman suffering from early-onset Alzheimer's. In "Inside the O'Briens," she paints a portrait of a Boston cop suffering from another disease, this one much less well-known, but no less devastating. Huntington's Disease, which I admit I had never heard of before reading this book, is a way of life for 37,000 people in the United States. It is a genetic disease which means that children of someone who have it have a 50% chance of developing the disease.

Inside the O'Briens focuses on the cop himself as he faces life with this disease, and on his youngest daughter who struggles with making the decision of whether to find out if she carries the gene. There are also three other children who play less of a role in the story, and the mother, a devout Catholic, who has her own struggles facing this new way of life.

This is a well-woven story that educates and makes you think at the same time. It would be a great book club choice that would foster much discussion. Genova is hoping to raise awareness and money for Huntington's research through this book.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

For Those Who Struggle with Fear

I was going through my pile of things to be read and came across an issue of Guideposts magazine from May 2014. In it, I came across an article about actress Sarah Drew (Grey's Anatomy, Mom's Night Out) whose father is a minister. He offered this advice to her about struggling with fear and anxiety and it seems like good advice for all of us (if not always easy to put into practice all the time):

While it is good from time to time to imagine the loss of things that are precious to you, it is not good to dwell there. God will give you want you need when you need it, not before. Practice aggressive thanksgiving for what you actually have now. The losses you fear may never come, so what's the point in thinking about them. Rather than letting fears about a future you cannot control fill your find, aggressively fill it with thanksgiving and good things.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

In Thanksgiving for Prayers Answered

Several years ago, I met a young woman named Audrey at a friend's house who was thinking about entering religious life. There is a prayer for vocations that I say every day and I have added a special intention for her every since. The past couple of years, I've also added an intention for my friend's son, Michael, who was considering entering the seminary and who recently completed his first year.

Just recently. I was wondering about Audrey. Did she ever enter religious life? Did she stay? Should I keep having an intention for her? Well, today my friend posted a photo of Audrey taking her first set of vows. She is now Sr. Mary Elizabeth of the Holy Family. Thank you, God, for young people answering the call to religious life, and thank you for letting me know that my prayers (and no doubt the prayers of many others) were answered.

Please keep Sr. Mary Elizabeth and Michael and all people pursuing religious vocations in your prayers!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Book Review: Last One Home by Debbie Macomber

Last One Home: A Novel

by Debbie Macomber
New York: Ballantine Books, 2015

Debbie Macomber is known for her series of books, but in "Last One Home" she decided to write a stand-alone novel focusing on the relationship among three sisters. Karen, Cassie, and Nichole were very close as children, but then Cassie ran away from home at age 18 to marry a man their parents did not approve of. This broke their parents' hearts and destroyed the relationship the sisters once had. Fast-forward thirteen years and Cassie is now a single mother trying desperately to build a new life for herself and her daughter after leaving her abusive husband. Karen and Nichole, meanwhile, have married and have children of their own. Left alone to deal with their parents' deaths, they split the inheritance, keeping only a few pieces of old furniture for Cassie if she wants to come get them.

"Last One Home" is about the power of sisterhood and forgiveness as well as second chances. There is a romantic element to the story as Cassie develops a relationship with Steve, a widower who lost his wife to cancer. He's a good man, but Cassie isn't sure if she can trust her heart.

"Last One Home" is a great, relaxing read to indulge in. It would make a great book to take with you to the beach over the summer.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Pope Francis Proclaims Jubilee Year of Mercy

Mark your calendars! The Jubilee Year of Mercy begins six months from today on Decemeber 8, 2015 - the feast of the Immaculate Conception and will last until November 20, 2016.

The following is excerpted from

Jesus Christ is the face of the Father's mercy. These words might well sum up the mystery of the Christian faith. Mercy has become living and visible in Jesus of Nazareth, reaching its culmination in him.

Reason for proclaiming Jubilee Year of Mercy
We need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy. It is a wellspring of joy, serenity, and peace. Our salvation depends on it. Mercy: the word reveals the very mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. Mercy: the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us. ... At times we are called to gaze even more attentively on mercy so that we may become a more effective sign of the Father's action in our lives. For this reason I have proclaimed an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy as a special time for the Church; a time when the witness of believers might grow stronger and more effective.

Reason for starting the Jubilee Year of Mercy on the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.
The Holy Year will open on 8 December 2015, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. This liturgical feast day recalls God's action from the very beginning of the history of mankind. After the sin of Adam and Eve, God did not wish to leave humanity alone in the throes of evil. So he turned his gaze to Mary, holy and immaculate in love (cf. Eph 1:4), choosing her to be the Mother of man's Redeemer. When faced with the gravity of sin, God responds with the fullness of mercy. ... I have chosen the date of 8 December because of its rich meaning in the recent history of the Church. In fact, I will open the Holy Door on the fiftieth anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. The Church feels a great need to keep this event alive. ... We recall the poignant words of Saint John XXIII when, opening the Council, he indicated the path to follow: "Now the Bride of Christ wishes to use the medicine of mercy rather than taking up arms of severity."

Mercy as a key word that indicates God's action toward us.
As we can see in Sacred Scripture, mercy is a key word that indicates God's action towards us. He does not limit himself merely to affirming his love, but makes it visible and tangible. Love, after all, can never be just an abstraction. By its very nature, it indicates something concrete: intentions, attitudes, and behaviours that are shown in daily living. The mercy of God is his loving concern for each one of us. He feels responsible; that is, he desires our wellbeing and he wants to see us happy, full of joy, and peaceful. This is the path which the merciful love of Christians must also travel. As the Father loves, so do his children. Just as he is merciful, so we are called to be merciful to each other.

Mercy is the very foundation of the Church's life.
Mercy is the very foundation of the Church's life. All of her pastoral activity should be caught up in the tenderness she makes present to believers; nothing in her preaching and in her witness to the world can be lacking in mercy. The Church's very credibility is seen in how she shows merciful and compassionate love.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Unleashed Book Club on is starting a new 9 week book club - this one featuring Unleashed: How to Receive Everything the Holy Spirit Wants to Give You - A Catholic Woman's Walk with Scripture by Sonja Corbitt.

In this week's installment, Lisa Hendey interviews Sonja on the story behind the book. I invite you to pick up a copy of the book or to simply read the on-line reflections.

Lisa's interview with Sonja:

To order a copy of the book: Unleashed: How to Receive Everything the Holy Spirit Wants to Give You

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Prayer to Mary, Undoer of Knots by Pope Francis

Mary, Undoer of Knots, Pray for Us.

Through your grace, your intercession, and your example, deliver us from all evil, Our Lady, and untie the knots that prevent us from being united with God, so that we, free from sin and error, may find him in all things, may have our hearts placed in him, and may serve him always in our brothers and sisters. Amen.

Making the Most of <i>Menopause Moments</i>

  When I unexpectedly got in a review copy of Menopause Moments: A Journal for Nourishing Your Mind, Body and Spirit in Midlife , I must adm...