Monday, May 25, 2015

Growing Up By the Book

Growing Up By The Book, Patricia Weerakoon

I have previously reviewed Patricia Weerakoon’s The Best Sex for Life, and alluded to her book for teenagers in a series on teaching children about the facts of life.  In that series I talked about 2 books we have read with our kids in the pre-teen stage (What’s the Big Deal? and Facing the Facts).

Now Weerakoon has released a book on puberty available for pre-teen children, Growing Up By the Book, and it is an excellent addition to other resources in this area. I read it in almost one sitting, and found it to be very good, very detailed and very strong on God’s word.

It is divided into 2 parts, the first of which has 4 chapters covering:
  • God’s word on sex
  • Your body different and special – this provides detailed information on external physical changes that occur in puberty
  • Your brain – how it changes and forms over this time
  • Knowing who and whose you are – here she looks at what the world will tell you vs what God says.

These are all really helpful.

Part 2 is an A-Z of issues and questions. It’s quite detailed on everything kids this age might ask, and some things they might not have heard about yet. She provides clear, honest, age-appropriate information. I think many parents shy away from being too honest and open in this area, but we all know that kids will ask Google to answer their questions if we don’t, so we need to be pro-active!

The book’s structure is aimed entirely at getting parents and kids talking about these topics. So in every section there is an “Ask Mum or Dad” box, to which they are supposed to come and ask you questions and get your opinion, or talk about your memories, experiences, etc. As such, parents have to read it before they give it to their kids, so they can readily, openly and willingly talk about anything that comes up. She also has clear “Think Spot” sections as we as “Alert” sections to raise issues of potential concern.

While aimed at age 10-14, when you would choose to give it to your children could depend entirely on where they are on the ‘puberty spectrum’. She covers 5 stages of physical signs for both boys and girls, all of which you would want them to be aware of before any changes start, or at least as they are starting. So while all kids 12 and over are probably ready for it, and perhaps should have this information now; some 10 years olds are clearly a little way off any changes starting, while other 10 year olds are getting well under way.

This is a great resource, and while it’s a lot more open and frank than anything my generation was ever given to read on this topic, it meets the needs of today’s youth clearly and helps them to think about how to live as God’s children in the light, while living in the reality of the 21st century world.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Lila

Lila, Marilynne Robinson

I was avidly awaiting this book, the third in a series.  Gilead is one of my favourite books and I very much enjoyed reading it again, as well as Home, in preparation for Lila.  On the second detailed read of Gilead I found much more humour in it than that first time, indeed I had not realised how funny it was; and I also enjoyed & understood Home so much more on the second read.

Lila is the Reverend John Ames’s wife.  In Gilead and Home her past is only alluded to, although it is clear it is a very different background than that of Ames.  He only ever speaks of her with adoration and respect, which tells of his deep Christian character and conviction yet also clear love for this woman who had graced his later years.

There are at least three timeframes covered in Lila: firstly, her childhood of poverty & young adulthood.  Despite all she lacked in money and education, there was a woman, Doll, who loved her and cared for her.  They travelled around the country with others looking for work and she was part of a community.  The second part details how she arrived in Gliead, met John Ames and how they came to be together.  Here the pieces of the other books start to come together as you see some details from her perspective rather than his.  The third part is a little later in their marriage when she realises she is carrying their son.  So the whole book is timed prior to that of Gilead.  As such, since you know how the story there will progress, the real interest is in Lila herself and how she slowly comes to adopt the faith and figure out how to reconcile her past with her present. Her real struggle is that if she comes to faith and believes in salvation through Christ, what happens to those loved people of her childhood who never believed?

In raising this issue, Robinson deals with something many of us with faith struggle with: how we believe and trust knowing at times that means others are condemned.

Yet again, Robinson’s writing shines through beautifully, and she deals with topics that make you keep thinking about them long after you finish the final page.

I truly hope she writes another book in this series.  I would love to hear from Della's perspective, Jack Boughton's wife.  

Monday, May 11, 2015

De-skilling or up-skilling

I have been made aware in the last few years how easy it is for married people to deskill, especially women.  If you have a husband who very competently manages finances, travel, online issues, phones and computers, servicing the car, and other details, you come to realise that you could easily lose the skills and confidence to do them yourself.

It is something I have watched newly widowed or divorced women realise - skills they once had, or confidence to try new things, has diminished over time.

I have also realised there is a risk that I could be the same.  Husband takes care of many things, something I greatly appreciate.  One reason I really enjoyed going to Dubai was the chance it was to prove to myself that I can manage on my own - international travel, bookings, metro systems, all the things you do while travelling.  I have also taken over much of the maintenance management in our home, so I am the one learning about how to replace locks, change tap washers, and restore and revarnish wood.

I suspect all of us should make sure we put ourselves a little outside our comfort zone, learning new skills and maintaining old ones.

It's not a particularly profound thought and probably a rather obvious one, but something to keep in mind as the years go on.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Hello Dubai

Hello Dubai, Joe Bennett

It was a treat to discover this book at the library for the usual 50c a few months ago.  Knowing that I was on my way there, I snapped it up and starting reading it on the flight over.  I have enjoyed Bill Bryson’s travel writing over the years, but have not read many other travel authors.

Bennett has a similar style to Bryson, that is, he can present history, facts & situations well, with insightful analysis as well as humour.  It's not a book I would have bothered reading if I was not going there, but since I was it was very interesting and instructive.  What I realised upon arriving in Dubai was that I have absolutely no knowledge or experience of that part of the world.  To I be honest I had to look up exactly where it was on a map to show my kids because I was not sure.

As such, I have no understanding of the region or much of Arab history, and no knowledge of the Emirates or Emirati culture, let alone all the people who live here from so many countries of the world. Bennett claims that only 5% of the population are citizens, the rest are guests.  Over 60% are from the Indian subcontinent, the rest from everywhere else, my estimate would be another 30% would be from Asia.  As such, there are almost no old people in Dubai. You go there to work and then you go home.

I am unable to test anything Bennett said or claimed, but from my incredibly limited time there and conversations with people living there, much of it rang true.

So I am glad to have read it and learnt just a little bit more about the United Arab Emirates, especially Dubai.  I left the book in the hands of friends there, I imagine they will now have much more use for it than I do!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

A big trip

In April’s status report I alluded to an upcoming exciting trip.  It has been and gone (which could also explain why I completely missed May’s status report!) and so now I will tell you about it. I went to Dubai for 11 days to meet a friend, S.  She is an aid worker in a nearby country and so we decided to holiday at a location that was easy for both of us to get to.

For me, there was also the extra attraction that other old and dear friends including our lovely god-daughter also live there so I would be able to spend time with them.

We had such a wonderful time and we able to explore a city I had never been to before and did not know anything about. Some of the highlights were:
  • Spending time with S and talking about many things, important and incidental
  • Seeing our god daughter in a starring role in the musical Annie, a full proper production that we loved every minute of, and had eyes only for her whenever she was on stage
  • Catching up with our close friends who live there, and finding other old friends along the way
  • Enjoying the warm weather and beach
  • Going to the church fellowship there twice and seeing what ministry for our friends is like, and appreciating his preaching
  • Exploring a city that was entirely new to me, and seeing many interesting and amazing sights. Highlights were the tallest man-made structure in the world - the Burj Khalifa; touring the older markets including the spice souk; exploring the various parts of town - including the very rich and expensive Palm Jumeirah; and enjoying the lovely area where we were staying near the beach.
Of course such a marvellous time could not have been remotely possible without the wonderful support of Husband, who encouraged me to go, made it happen and managed everything while I was gone. It was a long time to be away from the family and we all noticed it, but it was worth it for many reasons.