Thursday, August 31, 2017

Breastmilk or formula: does it really matter?

Breastmilk versus formula. One of the biggest debates and hottest issues between mothers. In my experience, the loudest and often most opinionated voices are the breastfeeding advocates. So much so that mothers who formula feed are often ostracized and shamed for daring to feed their precious child such garbage. But is it really garbage? As a mother who tried to breastfed and failed, it was heartbreaking to turn to formula in order for my daughter to thrive. Does it really matter? I will discuss the pros and cons of bother breastmilk and formula as well as personal experiences and thoughts on each.

There have been many studies which claim that breastmilk is the only healthy option. Breastmilk is touted as the great elixir to help your child be smart and healthy. According to one article, it is a classic chicken-and-egg dilemma (Tatar, 2016). Mothers who breastfeed are usually more educated and have higher IQs and less likely to smoke and other harmful activities. They also tend to live in areas where the exposure to illness is less. Whereas mothers who tend to use formula are poorer and live in areas where the risk for illnesses is higher. Are the breastfed children’s IQs higher and their health better due to the breastmilk or the enriched environment? In Tatar’s article, he discusses a study in which two groups of moms were studied. One group received extensive breastfeeding support and education and the other group did not. At the 3 month, mark the group which received extensive support were still exclusively breastfeeding (43%) while the other group only 6% were still breastfeeding. Nine percent of the breastfed babies had at least one illness with diarrhea versus 13% of the formula fed babies. Three percent of the breastfed babies had eczema versus 6% of the formula fed babies. And there was no difference between the breastfed babies and the formula fed babies in terms of the number of common colds. The conclusion? Breastfed babies do suffer less from illness than formula fed babies; however, it’s by a relatively small difference.

There are many pros and cons with breastfeeding. First pro is it’s free with no bottles to wash and prepare. Second, breastfeed can help the mother burns calories and lowers her risk for certain cancers. Third, breastmilk can help strengthen the baby’s immune system and lowers his or her risk of SIDS. The first cons is that it’s time consuming. A baby will feed every 2 to 3 hours for an average of 20 to 45 minutes. That’s an average of 35 hours a week! Second, only mom can feed (unless she pumps). Moms must worry about medications, foods and drinks she consumed that can pass through her breastmilk to the baby. Third, mothers can develop mastitis, an infection of the breast tissue from clogged milk ducts. It is extremely painful and can result in hospitalization and surgery if not treated quickly. Lastly, there is no way to really tell how much the baby is eating with breastfeeding unless, of course, it is pumped. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and encourages continuing breastfeeding until one year of age as long as the mother and child are willing. I think the key word is “willing” and I would add “able.”

There are many pros and cons to formula too. First pro, anyone can help feed the baby at any time which can help mom rest or even take a shower. Second, feedings can be easily scheduled, tracked and controlled as most formula fed babies do not need to eat as often. Third, Moms do not need to watch her own consumption of medications, foods and drinks. The biggest con for formula is cost. A can of formula, on averages, costs about $21 and a baby can easily go multiple cans in a week or so. Second, time to prepare the formula. However, to me, this isn’t really a con because water can be poured ahead of time and you simply need to add the formula powder and mix. Or what I did, I prepared the formula and store it in the refrigerator until my daughter was ready to eat. And no, I didn’t need to warm it up because despite common belief, it doesn’t have to be warm. My daughter actually preferred it cold. Third, formula doesn’t provide the same immunity benefits as breastmilk. Lastly, some babies may need special and more expensive formula like soy-based or lactose free formulas.

My sister is the mother of an 11 ½ month old boy and she has been able to exclusive breastfeed. For this blog, I asked her experience with breastfeeding, education and support she was given throughout the entire process. The biggest pro for her is that breastmilk is free. She also enjoys the bonding and connection time with her son. “There’s something about the way baby looks up at you” (personal interview August 27, 2017). She likes the health benefits for both herself and her son. Her son has not been sick. Although, many women claim breastfeeding helped them lose the pregnancy weight, it didn’t for her. Her biggest con is pumping at work. She often stressed out when she was only pumping a couple ounces at a time and was worried her son wasn’t getting enough to eat. In terms of support, she had a lot of support from the hospital both prenatal and postnatal as well as online communities and friends who have breastfed in the past. She admits that the first few weeks were difficult. Pain and discomfort were common as both she and her son found a position hold they both felt comfortable with. She had a few issues with blocked ducts but many home remedies worked for her to clear the issue. “I think education and support is key. If you don’t have that you’ll have a hard time getting through it” (personal interview August 27, 2017).

I dreamed of being a mother practically my entire life. I would cuddle my baby dolls and pretend to breastfeed them as I saw my mother do with my younger siblings. You can imagine my devastation when it was extremely difficult for me and my daughter. I struggled for six weeks to breastfeed. One day at my daughter’s doctor’s appointment, when she had dropped weight again, her doctor recommended I start supplementing with formula. I was heartbroken and felt like such a failure that I couldn’t provide breastmilk for my baby. So I started formula and my daughter thrived. She was a happy and healthy baby. She has only had one ear infection her entire life. She rarely gets sick and when she does, it usually doesn’t last for long. She is extremely smart and quick witted. The things she says and does often amaze me. She is bright and picks up things quick. I was willing to breastfeed for as long as I could, I just wasn’t able. I CANNOT stand the shame mothers get for using formula especially from women who do not know their story or their reasons for choosing to do so. I do not regret my decision to stop breastfeeding and start formula because ultimately it is about what is best for my child and me. I think mothers are often forgotten in the breastfeeding-formula debate. 

In conclusion, in my opinion, ultimately fed is best. If you can breastfed and can meet its challenges, great! I’m proud of you and keep up the great work. However, if you tried and cannot breastfeed for whatever reason, feed your baby formula with confidence. Your child can still be healthy by providing a healthy environment. Your child can excel in school when you provide an enriching environment by reading, exploring the world around you and encouraging your child to learn all they can. There is so much in life which is influence by many factors that just one doesn’t determine a lifetime. Education and support are a major key. The difference between my sister’s experience and my own is support. I only got support while I was in the hospital but once I was sent home, I didn’t get any information about further support. Hospitals need to get better at providing this information for moms. And moms, if you do decide that despite education and support, that you cannot breastfeed, it’s okay. Only you can decide what’s best for you and your baby. Don’t let anyone else, bully you into thinking you are doing something wrong or dangerous simply because they do not agree. The last picture is one of my daughter and my nephew. Both are happy and healthy children. One was formula fed and one was breastfed. If I didn't tell you who was fed what, would you be able to tell me? You couldn't. So don't judge a child's future by the method his or her parents chose to feed him or her. There are too many factors that go into a child's health and future than just breastmilk or formula. 


Tatar, Emiliano Breastmilk vs Formula: What do the studies really tell us? April 20, 2016. Retrieved August 27, 2017.

Monday, August 28, 2017

The Books of Joel, Amos and Obadiah: Minor Prophets with a Big message

This month, we are looking into the books of Joel, Amos, and Obadiah. These Minor Prophets continue God’s call for repentance and warnings of coming punishment for their sinful ways. Throughout the book of Joel, God calls his people to repentance. However, the repentance he desires is an inward act, not the outward display of penitence (Joel 2:13). In the book of Amos, it is a warning for the desire for the day of the Lord for it will be justice and judgment many are not ready for (Amos 5:24). In Obadiah, it is the reminder that your deeds will come back (verse 15). However, there are signs of hope in the words of doom.

My favorite verse is Joel 2:28a, “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.” In this verse, God tells us that His Spirit is available to all who calls on him. Joel 2:32a “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” His Spirit is no longer just for the prophets, kings and judges. Ezekiel also spoke of an outpouring of the Spirit in Ezekiel 39:29 when the Lord says “I will no longer hide my face from them, for I will pour out my Spirit on the house of Israel.” This reminds me of how the printing of the Bible by Johannes Gutenberg in 1454/55 helped bring the Word of God to the masses rather than the learned few. Peter quoted Joel 2:28-32 in Acts 2:16-21 where the outpouring of the Spirit occurred after Jesus’ ascension into heaven.

In Amos, God gives the message of the coming punishment to Israel who has not listened to the warnings from his prophets. However, God wants to redeem, not punish. In Amos 9:8, the Lord says “Surely the eyes of the Sovereign Lord are on the sinful kingdom. I will destroy it from the face of the earth—yet I will not totally destroy the house of Jacob.” In this verse, God tells us that punishment is not permanent. When punishment is necessary, he will not withhold it. Like a loving father, God will discipline those he loves in order to correct them. Although punishment is never fun and we didn’t like it as kids but it was necessary in order to show us the correct way to behave. Therefore, God’s discipline is a sign of his love. When the punishment is over, God promised to “plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them” (Amos 9:15). God will restore what he has taken away with something better and permanent.

Very little is known about the prophet Obadiah. The book attributed to him is only 21 verses; however, the words carry a great message. The main warning is against the kingdom of Edom which had descended from Esau, Jacob’s twin brother. The animosity between Edom and Israel stems from Esau’s hatred for his brother who stole his blessing (Genesis 27:1-36). Even though the brothers reconciled and parted ways in peace (Genesis 33), the descendants continued the animosity as Edom had participated in and relished in the destruction of Jerusalem and the slaughter of Judeans during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II (Psalm 137:7, Jeremiah 49:7-22). God promises that the house of Jacob will be uplifted while the house of Esau will be destroyed (verses 17-18). At the time of the prophecy, it looked like Edom would survive more than Israel would; however, by the first century CE, the nation no longer existed. 

In conclusion, while Joel, Amos and Obadiah were Minor Prophets, they still carried a great message from God. The message of repentance and returning to God is the main theme of Joel’s message but deeper reading shows that God hid messages of hope too. In Amos, God reminds us that he is a loving parent who punishes when necessary but wants to build up and restore rather than tear down and leave his people in ruins. Obadiah carries the message to those against God’s people: you will be destroyed. What does this mean for us today? It is a message of hope despite the hard times. It is a lesson to learn from past mistakes and punishments. It is a message to hatred and animosity against God’s people will be met with his wrath. 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Rules of Magic: family, history and a curse

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman is the prequel to her 1995 bestseller Practical Magic. It is the story of three siblings: Frances “Franny.” Bridget “Jet,” and Vincent, the only son born after centuries of daughters. Their mother, Susanna, is a part of the Boston Owens family who have been accused of being witches for centuries. She ran away from home and married a psychiatrist and settled in New York City. She gave her children very specific rules to follow and as the children got older, one by one the rules were broken. One summer, when Franny turned 17, the siblings went to stay with their Aunt Isabelle in Boston. There they learned their family’s history and discovered their own unique powers. When they return home, they know that life as they knew it was over and the three, in their own way, deal with their new knowledge. Until one day, tragedy strikes and the siblings have a choice before them. Do they fully embrace their heritage or do they hide and deny their history?

I was invited to read The Rules of Magic because I have reviewed two of Ms. Hoffman’s books before. While I have never read Practical Magic, I accepted the invitation because I had enjoyed Ms. Hoffman’s books. Unfortunately, I did not enjoy The Rules of Magic. I felt it was drawn out with pages and pages of nothing. At first, I was intrigued and eagerly read as I was introduced to the family and their abilities. However, the constant hints at why the family has been ostracized in Boston and why a certain family draws fear in some of the Owens family. I had enough. I could not finish it. I no longer cared about Franny, Jet or Vincent. The book did not intrigue me enough to seek out Practical Magic. I read other reviews and many gave this book a glowing review and I’m not sure what I missed. If you are a fan of Practical Magic, you may enjoy the Rules of Magic. However, if you are not a fan, I do not recommend The Rules of Magic.

The Rules of Magic
will be available October 10, 2017

at all major booksellers

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Myers Briggs Type Indicator: the origins, the structure and its criticisms

The Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a personality inventory which is designed to measure how an individual perceives, thinks and processes information around them. It is often used in the business sector as well as career counseling as it can give an individual an idea about the career which is best suited for their personality. Recently, I saw an episode of the TRuTv’s Adam Ruins Everything show which he discusses the inventory as basically a fraud that it does not truly measure what it says it does. So I was curious. I studied the test as part of my psychology degree and I’ve taken the inventory many times. I wanted to look deeper into the history of the MBTI as well as the criticisms surrounding the inventory.

The Myers Briggs Type Indicator was developed by mother-daughter team of Katherine Cook Briggs (1875-1968) and Isabel Briggs Meyers (1897-1980). Katherine Cook Briggs was a psychologist theorist who researched personality types when she read Carl Jung’s book Psychological Types (1921). Isabel Briggs Meyers joined her mom and together developed the inventory. While neither woman had formal training in psychology and were self-taught in the field of psychometric testing (which was one of the criticism featured in Adam Ruins Everything), this could said of many of the early psychological theorists. Even Carl Jung’s early theory wasn’t based on any controlled scientific experiment but instead through clinical observations. This was the norm until the scientific method become standard when applied to psychology in the 1940s with BF Skinner’s operant conditioning experiments. Jung’s theory contained four cognition functions: thinking, feeling, sensations, and intuition and one of two polar orientations: extraversion and introversion.

The MBTI takes a structured approach to personality assessment where an individual would score on one of two categories on the four scales. First, interactions with others in the form of extraversion or introversion. An extraverted person would processes new information by talking and interacting with others. An introverted person would prefer reflection and privacy to process information internally. Second, attention focus in terms of sensation or intuition. A sensing person prefers a learning environment in a detailed and sequential manner. They will often focus on events occurring in the present and can move to abstract after a concrete experience is established. While an intuitive person prefers a learning atmosphere with an emphasis on meaning and association. They place higher value on insight than careful observation and pattern recognition occurs naturally. Third, decision preference through thinking or feeling. A thinking person using objective truth and logical principles and is natural at deductive reasoning. A feeling person places emphasis on issues and causes that can be personalized while considering motives of others. Lastly, complexity in the form of judging ot perceiving. A judging person thrives when information is organized and structured. They are motivated to complete assignments on time in order to gain closure. A perceiving person flourishes in flexible learning environments and may be late and or procrastinate.

The inventory has been criticized on the grounds poor validity and poor reliability. In terms of validity, many critics claim the inventory does not measure what it purports to measure. With reliability, critics claim the inventory does not give consist results for the same individual. It has been estimated that a third to one half of all published material supporting the MBTI had been funded by organizations backed by Myer Briggs advocates thus creating an argument that the studies reflect a lack of true critical scrutiny and studies supporting the MBTI were methodically weak or unscientific. According to psychometric specialist, Robert Hogan, most personality psychologists view the MBTI “as little more than an elaborate Chinese fortune cookie” (Hogan 2007). However, the MBTI has correlated with four of the Big Five Personality Traits. The four traits are openness to experience (inventive/curious or consistent/cautious), conscientiousness (efficient/organized or easygoing/careless), extraversion (outgoing/energetic or solitary/reserved), and agreeableness (friendly/compassionate or challenging/detached). The only Big Five personality trait the MBTI does not measure for is neuroticism (sensitive/nervous or secure/confident) which is a predictor of depression and anxiety disorders. The MBTI does depend on honest self-reporting. It does not use validity scales to assess exaggerated or socially desirable responses unlike the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI). The test-retest reliability studies have shown 37-76% of respondents will obtain a different type of classification when retaking the test after five weeks.

That being said, I will discuss my scores. I first took the MBTI in 2000 when I was 21 year old. I received a classification of ISFJ: Introverted, Sensing, Feeling and Judging. When I took the test, my results showed strong preference in each scale. However, while researching for this post, I took the test again, at 38 years old, I received a classification of INFJ: Introverted, Intuition, Feeling and Judging. While only one scale changed, the preference in each scale changed too. My results indicated that I had a moderate preference for introversion over extraversion (31%), slight preferences of intuition over sensing (6%), feeling over thinking (19%) and judging over perceiving (6%). So what does this mean for me? Is the inventory wrong? No, I feel the differences between tests is an indication of growth on my part. When I was 21, I was strongly introverted and now after graduating college, getting married, having a child, and just day to day living, I have learned to experience the world. I do feel this inventory helps me understand myself and why I like to do things a certain way and why I have a hard time with certain situation. Does that mean I can’t function in situations different from my preferences? No, it just mean that I will have to work harder to accomplish what needs to be done in challenging situations outside my preferences.

In conclusion, the MBTI is one of many tools that psychologists use to gain a picture of who each individual is and it shouldn’t be used as an absolute indicator. Humans are fluid who grow throughout their lives. While some aspects of who we are stay static, others will mold and change as we age. Katherine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers may not have had a formal education in the field of psychology; however, many did not in the early 20th century and the early pioneers of psychology were actually trained in the field of medicine or even philosophy. To criticize an inventory simply because the writer would not formally trained is unfounded as the critic may not understand the true history of psychology. However, it does not mean that every psychological test should be accepted without scrutiny.

I will leave you with little tidbit. According to the MBTI, as an ISFJ, I am “quiet, friendly, responsible, and conscientious. Work devotedly to meet you obligations. Lend stability to any project or group. Thorough, painstaking, accurate. Your interests are not usually technical. Can be patient with necessary details. Loyal considerate, perceptive, concerned with how other people feel.” With my new results, as an INFJ, I “succeed perseverance, originality, and a desire to do whatever is needed or wanted. Put your best efforts into their work. Quietly, forceful, conscientious, concerned for others. Respected for their firm principles. Likely to be honored and followed for your clear visions as to how best to serve the common good.” While both description have some overlap; but I think my family and friends would say both accurately describe me.

If you would like to take the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, there are a number of website who offer it online. The links before are just a few:


Hogan, Robert (2007) Personality and the fate of organizations. Mahwah, NJ; Lawrence Eribaum Associates, pg. 28. 

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Stolen Marriage: the twists and turns of a sudden detour in life's plan

The Stolen Marriage by Diane Chamberlain is the story of Teresa “Tess” DeMello and how one night’s mistakes leads her life on a different plan than the one she had planned. The story opens in June 1944 where Tess is married to Henry and his mother, Ruth, his sister, Lucy, and most of the town of Hickory dislike her. Lucy asks her for a favor, suspicious but wanting to connect with her sister-in-law, Tess agrees. It ends in a horrific event where the reader is left wondering their fate as the story rewinds to August 1943. Tess is a nursing student and engaged to Vincent Russo, a childhood sweetheart and doctor. While Vincent is in Chicago helping with a polio epidemic, Tess and her best friend, Gina, take a trip to Washington DC. There Tess meets Henry Kraft, a businessman from Hickory, North Carolina. After dinner with too many drinks, the two have a sex which leads to a pregnancy and a dilemma for Tess. She finds Henry and he suggests marriage. She agrees, leaving everyone behind with a false story for her sudden marriage. Once in Hickory, she is met with hostility and strange events. Once a polio epidemic occurs in Hickory, Tess is able to throw herself into helping the sick while she discovers her husband has terrible secrets. Will she be able to leave her marriage and this town?

The Stolen Marriage is a fast paced story with the backbone of a real life polio epidemic in Hickory, North Carolina and the amazing efforts the community took to help the sick. The story was wonderful with heartache and tears. There was one chapter that had me in tears. I was able to read this book in a few hours as I could not put it down. There were twists and turns, questions that I asked myself as I read. I highly recommend The Stolen Marriage. It is a story of secrets, betrayals, prejudices and the power of forgiveness.

The Stolen Marriage
will be available October 3, 2017

in hardcover and eBook

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

We were Strangers Once: a touching immigrant story

We were Strangers Once by Betsey Carter is the story of immigrants in America. A story told in three parts. Part 1 opens in the Old Country, Germany 1890 with 21 year old Elisabeth Arnstein meeting with Professor Rudolph Schneider about an illustration job for his books. The two eventually marry and have their son, Egon. Egon grows to love animals as his parents do but when it’s time to head to university, he decides to study medicine. At university, he meets his roommate, Meyer Leavitt, who is there to be a writer. As Egon graduates and establishes his practice, the outside world starts to intrude. It soon becomes apparent that it is no longer safe for Egon to be in Germany. He leaves in 1928. Part 2 opens in the New Country, New York City 1904 with Rose McFadden in Hell’s Kitchen when she meets Ryan Walsh. They are both Irish immigrants from County Mayo. They marry and have four children which only two survives. Ryan soon finds himself unable to care for his young family and he leaves for Chicago never to return. Rose now must raise her children, Catrina and Kiefer, on her own. Catrina grows up head strong and her path of failed love, she meets Egon. Part 3 opens as the war in Europe is raging but America has yet to join the fight. Catrina, who was born in America and Catholic, and Egon and his German friends, who are recent immigrants and Jewish, learn to interact and live in the land of the free. Some find it hard to assimilate and find the anti-German, anti-Semitic sentiment become too hard to endure. When Egon is threatened to be deportation and returned to his certain death, friends of all races and religions band together to fight to keep Egon in the country. Will they be successful? Will Egon have his American Dream?

I thoroughly enjoyed We were Strangers Once. While reading it, I will guarantee you will be on a roller coaster of emotions. Sadness, fear, elation but the one I felt the most was anger. Anger at the horrible attitudes Egon and his friends experience as they try to rebuild a life in American after the horrors they left behind. However, I feel it is an accurate depiction of what immigrants experienced as they came to the land of the free with dreams and promises of opportunity. Their fight is real and the tensions are high. But somehow the different cultures learn to come together when it matters. The story ends in June 1941. I would have liked to have seen the characters’ reactions in the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attack. I highly recommend We were Strangers Once

We were Strangers Once
will be available September 12, 2017

in hardcover and eBook

Monday, August 14, 2017

Multigenerational households: pros, cons and questions to consider

According to the US Census data, roughly 16% of Americans live in a household with at least two adult generations. The highest level in 50 years. Although the practice is familiarly common in many cultures around the world for centuries, it is growing in the US. More and more people are living in multigenerational households for various reasons and the living arrangement carries a variety of pros and cons. I will discuss each of the pros and cons as well as questions that should be discussed when considering living in a multigenerational household. Is a multigenerational household a treasure or torture or a bit of both?

There are a number of benefits of living in a multigenerational household. First, kids and grandparents have daily access to each other. The relationship between grandparents and grandchildren can grow stronger as they can share in the day to day life experiences. For example, when a child gets an award at school, the grandparents can easily share in the accomplishment as the child comes home and talks about rather than hearing about it secondhand. Second, the adults can share living expenses and thus savings costs on various bills. Expenses such as groceries and utilities can be divided among the adults to ease the financial burdens. Third, with older parents living in the households, they can provide more support in the way of child care and saves time finding a babysitter if an emergency arises. Lastly, adult children will have the ability to provide in home care and keep an eye on aging parents especially when one or both parents loses the ability to living on their own.

There are also a number of cons to living in a multigenerational household. First, the loss of privacy and alone time for everyone in the household. With more people in a household, finding a space where you can be alone and unwind may become harder and harder. Second, more pressure on the main income earners. Especially if the old parents are retired and living on a fixed income and expenses rise, the main income earners may feel the pressure to keep everyone afloat. Third, personality conflicts and clashes with habits and behaviors. With older parents being used to being the parents, there may be conflict over parenting the younger children. Or the constant reminders of “that’s not how I used to do it” when an older parent sees the adult child do a chore or prepare food or even discipline the young children. Lastly, feeling like a permanent guest or host. The constant feeling of not really being home or having to entertain can quickly wear on the adults in the household.

When considering a multigenerational household there are a number of questions to consider. Because with even with the best of intentions, it is a situation that cannot be entered into blindly.

1. Will the move be short term, long term or permanent?
  • Considering the terms of the stay can elevate the possible cons or prepare everyone for the possible conflicts that may arise.

2. Is there enough space for everyone?
  • Trying to fit adults and children in a tiny space will ultimately lead to conflicts and other issues.

3. What will be the rules, roles and boundaries? How will they be decided and moderated? What procedures can be established to resolve conflicts in order to avoid resentments and tension?
  • Establishing boundaries beforehand is an excellent way to avoid conflicts from the beginning. For instance, stating that an individual’s or a couple’s bedroom/bathroom be off-limits to everyone else can help with the privacy issues.

4. Do you offer family meetings to discuss conflicts, concerns or issues that may arise once the move-in is complete? How often should they be held?
  • Monthly meetings should be considered to discuss any issues such as budget and changes in schedules, etc. Discussion on how chores should be divided so everyone knows their responsibilities in the household.

5. What items will or will not be shared? Will food be shared or will certain items be off limits?
  • It may seem like a non-issue; however, frustrations could arise if someone buys something as   a treat for them and everyone eats it before he or she can enjoy it.

6. How much of daily life and events be shared or separated? Will meals be together or separate? Will vacations and outings be together or separate?
  • The answer to this questions probably boils down to schedule and if the family is together during meal times. As for vacations and outings, I would anticipate some to be separate as well as possible family vacations together.

7. What are the guidelines for inviting guests? Do you consult each other when you want to invite a friend over or is everyone free to invite guests over without consultation?
  • It is a sign of respect for those you live with when you consult others about if and when visitors will be invited and at the residence.

In my research, one site suggested that two questions should be answered. First, do you and your parents get along? I think regardless if you and your parents or even your spouse’s parents get along, living together is an entirely different situation than just being able to get along at functions and other get-togethers. Could the living arrangement bring up childhood issues? Can you live with your parents’ characteristics and behaviors? And can they live with yours? Second, are you and your spouse agreeable with the arrangement? Even if you get along with your parents, the bigger question is does your spouse? Having one or more parents living with you can cause tensions in any relationship especially a marriage. Abstain from directing anger at your spouse and guard your relationship as the center which holds the household together. I think the questions I’ve listed above are a good start in starting the conversation about living in a multigenerational household. Some situations may have more or less questions depending on the individuals involved.

In conclusion, even with the best laid out plans, as the new household learns to come together, it would be wise to expect conflicts, frustrations, restricted freedoms, role confusion and loss of privacy until everyone can learn the rhythm of the arrangement or until the arrangement ends, if in the short term. The most important thing to establish is the expectations of everyone in the arrangement. And keep those expectations clear in everyone’s mind as time goes on. Open communication is also key (and it is key in any situation regardless of living arrangements). If you are considering a multigenerational household, list your questions and concerns to be discussed with everyone beforehand. 

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Girls made of Snow and Glass: an excellent retelling of the Snow White tale

Girls made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust is the re-envisioning of the classic Snow White tale. Told from two perspectives, Lynet (the Snow White character) and Mina, her stepmother (the Evil Queen character). Lynet is the spitting image of her mother who died when she was born and everyone treats her with kid gloves as if she was so fragile, she would break. Mina came into her life when she was a young child when her father, Gregory, a magician and alchemist, came to live at the castle at Whitespring from the south. Lynet’s father, King Nicholas, marries Mina and she and Lynet become close as a mother and daughter. Until a terrible secret is revealed to Lynet and everything she believes to be true is all a lie. Who can she trust now? When a promise is broken to Mina and a tragedy occurs, Lynet and Mina are pitted against each other. Will they become bitter enemies? Or will they join forces when a greater enemy reveals itself?

Girls made of Snow and Glass is an excellent story with a new twist on Snow White. Lynet and Mina are both strong character who aren’t the typical female characters. They are both a bit of damsel in distress and strong females who don’t need a man to rescue them. It was filled with action and surprises at every turn. I could not put it down. There were a couple questions that came up that I feel the story doesn’t answer. However, the book is a great story and young adult and adult readers will enjoy this new Snow White story. I recommend Girls made of Snow and Glass.

Girls made of Snow and Glass
will be available September 5, 2017

in hardcover, eBook, and audiobook

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Girl in Snow: a murder mystery in a small town

Girl in Snow by Danya Kukafka is the story of a murder in a Colorado small town. Lucinda Hayes was a pretty and popular girl in the small town of Broomsville. She is found cover in a light blanket of snow at the high school’s playground. Suspicions immediately fly about who could have killed her and why. The story is told from three perspectives: Cameron, a loner boy who watched Lucinda from afar, Jade, the outcast girl, who secretly harbored hatred toward Lucinda and Russ, the local detective assigned to the case. Cameron must fight the past as the town has not forgotten what his father, a former local cop, did and subsequently disappeared. Jade tries to befriend Cameron and help him with the scrutiny he’s under as several fellow students accuse him of killing Lucinda. Russ, troubled with the past as his former partner was Cameron’s father, must find the truth among the accusations and innuendos. Who killed Lucinda Hayes?

Girl in Snow is an excellent book. The gripping drama with past and present intertwined as the mystery behind who killed this girl is revealed. I couldn’t put it down. I had to finish it. I had to find out after all the twists and turns who killed Lucinda Hayes! There are so many details that I cannot discuss as it will ruin the reveal of the killer. The story gathers the usual suspects and as one by one is cleared or you think they are, it leaves you with more and more questions. Everyone has something to hide in this small town. I will say that Ms. Kukafka writes a story so gripping that you are on the edge of your seat from page one! I highly recommend Girl in Snow!

Girl in Snow

is available in hardcover and eBook

Friday, August 4, 2017

Everything We Left Behind: what happens one man recovers his memory?

Everything We Left Behind by Kerry Lonsdale is the sequel to Everything We Keep. At the end of the first book, James wakes up from his fugue state confused and with no memory of the prior years. Everything We Left Behind picks up right after the first book with James trying to figure out who he is. Is he James or Carlos? The point of view switches back and forth between James in the present and Carlos in the past, as he tries to rebuild his life once again. But now he has two young sons who only know him as Carlos and a sister-in-law whom he has falling in love with…as Carlos. James must also learn how to let Aimee go, who has moved on with her life. Meanwhile the threat of his brother, Phil’s, release from prison is hanging over his head. His other brother, Thomas, is trying to unlock his memory, convinced that he has very important information locked in his brain somewhere. Will Phil try to come after him? How can he protect his sons? Will he ever remember what happened? Will he be able to rebuild his life?

Everything We Left Behind wasn’t as exciting as Everything We Keep. I waited for the drama with Phil and Thomas which didn’t live up to my expectation. However, I enjoyed the drama and struggle as James/Carlos struggles with his memory as he comes to terms with his life. I only know the basics of how fugue states function, it was interesting to see how Ms. Lonsdale portrays it in this book. Your heart breaks for James as he comes to terms that the life he knew is gone forever and it breaks for Carlos as he knows that he may cease to exist and memory of his life in Mexico will be erased. The story was dramatic and intense as the family must rebuild itself. The end of Everything We Left Behind gives a hint that this story isn’t quite over yet. I look forward to the third book, Everything We Give, which is set to be released next summer. I recommend Everything We Left Behind. If you haven’t read the first book yet, I highly recommend you read it first. You will not be disappointed.

Everything We Left Behind

is available in paperback and on the Kindle

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

What does it truly mean when Jesus says "judge not"?

Lately I’ve been hearing people say “You can’t judge me. Only God can judge me” as if to say my opinion doesn’t matter and they have the right to behave in a certain way. Yes, God is the ultimate Judge (1 Corinthians 4:3-5); however, I don’t think people truly understand when Jesus says “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Matthew 7:1). To paraphrase Inigo Montoya from the The Princess Bride, you keep using that phrase, I do not think it means what you think it means. Many people quote verse 1 and forget the 4 following verses.

First, Jesus says in Matthew 7:1-2, “Do not judge, or you too will be judge. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Jesus is telling us to examine our own motives and conduct instead of judging others. The traits that bothers us in others are often the habits we dislike in ourselves. Romans 2:1 warns us about judging others in this way. Paul writes “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” It is a warning against rash, hypocritical and unjust judgments. In Luke 6:37, Jesus says “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.” Therefore, we are to judge ourselves first. Do we deserve the same criticism? If so, come clean before God and then lovingly approach others about their behaviors or sins.

Second, Jesus continues in verses 3-5, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own eyes? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” “Do not judge” is against the kind of hypocritical, judgmental attitude that tears others down in order to build oneself up. It is also not a blanket statement against all critical thinking. This is how many people are using it. However, it is a call to be discerning rather than negative. To be discerning is to have and show good judgment. Jesus said to expose false teachers (Matthew 7:15-23) and Paul writes that we are to exercise church discipline (1 Corinthians 5:1-2). So how are we to do this without judgment? With God’s guidance.

Third, in verse 6, Jesus says “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.” In Jewish tradition, pigs are unclean animals, according to God’s law (Deuteronomy 14:8). When Jesus uses the illustration of pigs trampling pearls under their feet, he is saying we should not entrust holy teaching to unholy or unclean people. It is futile to try to teach holy concepts to people who don’t want to listen and will only tear apart what we day. However, that doesn’t mean we should stop giving God’s Word to unbelievers. It means we should be wise and discerning in what we teach to whom, so that we will not be wasting our time.” It also means that we should be careful to whom we dispense advice to because someone who doesn’t want to listen will tear apart your advice.

Therefore, what does this all mean? People use verse 1 as a way to shut others up about what they would deem to be intolerance by giving it a meaning that was never intended. When Jesus says to “judge not” he does not mean that Christians do not deal with sin in each other. It does not mean we are not to correct with respect to God’s Word. If you see someone behaving in direct violation of God’s Word, are you just supposed to let it slide? No. It also does not mean that we cannot make value judgment or assessments on situations. The verses do mean that we are to be careful not to become a fault finder and to eliminate the spirit of criticism. We are to look for the best in people while lovingly correct when correction is warranted. And again, recognize that God is the ultimate Judge and he assesses the motives of the heart that we cannot see.

In conclusion, we have become a society where being judgmental has become a negative word. Yes, many people will form an opinion or view of someone based on very little information. And that is wrong. However, bottom line: when we judge, we need to do so in truth and love. If we judge in the spirit of jealousy or hatred or an overall critical spirit, we are being judgmental and need to seek God’s guidance before continuing. Jesus loved people enough to call people out on what was wrong and speak the truth. The difference between judging someone and being judgmental is love.