Review: The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth


I bought this book a few years ago intending to read it for Banned Books Week. It almost seems “quaint” now in this year of “gender fluidity” and California legalizing gender-less birth certificates to read about a teenage girl sent to Christian program to help teens to stop committing the sin of lust toward those of the same sex.

The Story

Cameron Post is a teenage girl in Miles City, Montana. She’s a swimmer and a tomboy who hangs out mostly with boys. In some, but not all ways, she identifies with young men, holding them as role models.

“Most of the girls on my team had a crush on Ted. I wanted to be like him, to drink icy beers after meets and to pull myself into the guard stand without using the ladder, to own a Jeep without a roll-bar and be the gap-toothed ringleader of all the lifeguards.”

She finds herself attracted to another girl just when tragedy strikes her family.  In the aftermath of the tragedy she immerses herself in videos as an escape. Later the decision is made to send her to a program for Christian teens that proclaims there is no “homosexuality” only sin.

While the students in the program are treated very decently and do willingly comply with much of the program they are expected to work to block feelings and fantasies of same sex attraction or drugs or whatever their “sin” is.  In Cameron’s case she is somewhat shamed for her parents giving her an androgynous name and is encouraged to embrace femininity. Students are assigned same sex roommate to begin to develop typical same sex friendships without lust and sexual attraction, which they find troubling. To program staff, Cameron’s roommate developed an unhealthy level of interest in the Minnesota Vikings and bonded in inappropriate, masculine ways, with her Dad  over football.

Parallels With Real Life

One boy, the son of a megachurch pastor, was sent to the program for being too weak and effeminate. Sadly, I was reminded of one of the Duggar boys on T.V.s 19 Kids and Counting or the current show, Counting On on TLC. That boy had been very sweet and caring and underwent a transformation that made me think he’d been to a program like this. [I have no proof of this, but he did attend their cult-like organization’s paramilitary training which stresses manliness). Also there is the oldest son’s brother-in-law (his wife’s brother-in-law) who is to most viewers very, very effeminate, but seems very controlling toward his wife. He throws himself into all sorts of “manly” activities on camera. This behavior, of course, proves nothing, but represents the sort of transformation the program in the book was trying to achieve.

So the sweet young boy at the onset of puberty who happily picked flowers for his grandmother is suddenly told  he must change and is now shown doing manly work in garage or cleaning out a trashed rental house. A courtship is hastily announced and canceled. But no more weakness, no more gentleness. He’s a manly man now. So, too, his tomboy sister is married off early, though she shows not the slightest interest in her wedding dress and is now show saying she’s put her tomboy days behind her. The brother-in-law who posts lots of photos of himself with another young man (who is also a young husband and father) throws himself into football games or wrestling matches or whatever to show his manhood on t.v. but seems more at ease with his male friend than he ever does with his wife in their “ministry” videos.

Why the Book Was Challenged

“I just liked girls because I couldn’t help not to.”

“…stop thinking of yourself as a homosexual. There’s no such thing. Don’t make your sin special. [Cameron responds] ‘you’ve built an entire treatment facility to deal with it. What I said out loud, though was “I don’t think of myself as a homosexual. I don’t think of myself as anything other than me.'”

The fact that teenage girls “make-out” (even though both date boys both of whom are active at church) is one of the reasons this book was challenged. The fact that Christian programs exist to try to change a person’s thinking and that the program is viewed as wrong is another reason Christian parents spoke out against the book.

[There is no homosexualtiy] “Do we say that someone who commits the sin of murder is part of some group of people who have that identity feature in common? De we let murderers throw themselves parades and meet in murderers’ clubs to get high and dance the night away and then go out and commit murder together?”

Then there is the presentation of Christians in the book, which many felt was blatantly disrespectful. I honestly felt the book was NOT demeaning of Christians. I attend a conservative church, but not one so conservative that it embraces this type of program.  I did get a chuckle that Cameron’s home church was called “Gates of Praise” or GOP for short (giggle). [Many people in conservative churches are not GOP voters but that always gets overlooked by election pundits].  That does not mean that the book in any way agreed with conservative Christian leaders who say that homosexuality is learned and not innate–it just wasn’t disrespectful or snarky in tone.

“…it’s not like being real at all. It’s plastic living. It’s living in a diorama.”

All the counseling students are given is on their sin. They are only allowed to discuss homosexuality or drugs or whatever in terms of sin. No exploration of fantasies or the reason for the attraction to someone is ever allowed. Cameron and the others have to struggle to go along with this. They are young people, at an age when everything is questioned.

“…how could it be expected to live in this new world without its past, without everything it knew from the world before from its place in it, tripping it up again and again?”

What they got from the therapy was “fake it till you make it.” Put on the appearance of a girly-girl if you are female or a manly man if you are male. No matter that they are taught…

“I will not pray for God to change me because God does not make mistakes and I am the one who is tempted by sin. Change will come through God, but within me. I must be the change. The opposite of the sin of homosexuality is not heterosexuality. it is Holiness.”

Christians and Catholics have long been taught to suppress ‘impure’ thoughts of all kinds. Many people over the centuries have found this beneficial to their happiness, like Reverend Rick in the book. Some don’t. It’s as simple as that. The program Cameron was in used this method to fight lust toward same-sex persons.  But a students made an important discovery:

“”Really? Adam said.

“Nobody’s ever passed the program or whatever? Gotten ex-gay enough to go back to normal high school??”

“Because it can’t be done,” I said.

“And because there’s no real test that could prove your transition anyway.”

“You can change your behavior, but if you don’t have [counselor] breathing down your neck, that will only last so long. Besides, it doesn’t mean anything else about you has changed, inside, I mean.”

And that is the crux of the thing: Is homosexuality innate or learned? Are people born that way? Are that transformed into this throw a tragedy? Are they willfully sinning?  Is it a sickness to be cured? Or is it, like red hair or blue eyes something that cannot be altered?

What I Liked

I liked that the students tried to do what they could with sincerity in the program.  Cameron does think and explore.  But not being allowed to look back and analyze why she was attracted to girls left her with no foundation upon which to build. The program was flawed in many ways. You can’t make a person try, you can’t make them believe and you can’t make them change. The teenage years are full of experimentation. Even a straight-A student, confident in his or her sexuality takes risks and experiments in some way. For some it might be as simple as not studying for a big text. For others it might be trying a same sex relationship. This was not acknowledged in the program as normal or healthy.

I also liked that the students could see when people did sincerely believe in the Bible and sincerely embraced the Christian faith. They did not tease or ridicule for this. They were at least outwardly polite and respectful, with a few typically teenage exceptions, to the staff and Cameron to her family. That was a good thing to see in a Young Adult book.

My Rating

3.5 Stars

According to IMDB this book is becoming a movie to be released in 2018. Here is a link to the cast list and other details.


Review: The Gray House by Mirian Petrosyan, translated by Yuri Machkasov


A Note

There is no way I can do justice to a book I am still trying to fully understand! But so many of the people who come here to read Top Ten Tuesday or Top 5 Wednesday posts LOVE this kind of book and may not have heard of it, so I’m posting what I can to get the word out on how amazing it is. My vocabulary for books that blur the lines between “regular” fiction and fantasy is too limited to give you a good idea of all that is superbly packed into this book.


The Story

A school/home for disabled students is a world unto itself with tribes, folk lore, fights, loves and much, much more.

What I Loved

I loved the way this world simply became REAL as I read it. There were all types of “students” in this house–those I could fully relate to, those I could tolerate and those I couldn’t stand. Their struggle to come to grips with, understand and conquer the seen and unseen barriers in their life reminded me of epics in folklore in their determination. The legendary leaders, their raisons d’etra, the motives of their followers all could be used in a political theory course as well as a literature course. I loved that as much as a the vividness of the setting and the masterfulness of the story telling.

Here is one great quote I shared in an earlier post:

They are always hostile, always hungry, always covered in spots from the sweets they consume to cheat hunger. They dye their hair and alter their pants with multicolored patches. Red is hopelessly older. Not in years, but in questions he asks himself. Young Rats are not concerned about tomorrow. Their life begins and ends today. It is today they need that extra piece of toast, it’s today they need that new song, it’s today they need to take the only thing that’s on their mind and scrawl it in huge letters on the bathroom wall. Rats suffer from constipation but they’d still eat anything anytime. And fight over food. And over who sleeps where. And after the fight is over they’d listen to more music and eat again, with even more delight. 

You see? The story is so vivid because both the writing and the translation into English are both “genius.” The wordsmith who translated this into English as deserving of an award as the author. Such marvelous prose! I also loved having my friend Sylvia’s Gray House Book Club posts to help me process all that I read. I am still “digesting” this books weeks later.(Her art choices for the club posts were equally “genius.”)

Finally I loved that the Guardian, once again nailed it, this is so much more than a “Soviet Hogwarts.” Brilliant! You can read their full review here.

What I Didn’t Like

I didn’t like learning how utterly “out-of-shape” I am for reading big books! The size books I used to devour routinely are now almost beyond me? No! Please No! The 300 page limit of most novels today often seems taxing now after 9 years of commuting with audio books. Time to do my mental Iron Man prep!

The Gray House by Mariam Petrosyan

Currently $3.99 for Kindle




OCC Shoebox Packing: Pack THIS, not THAT




I wish I had photos for all of these, but I simply do not! I’ve lived in Malawi and spent extended time in Ukraine (actually where I was is part of Russia now). My education, travel and Peace Corps training taught me a few things about cultural sensitivity. Here is my extended list of what to pack– and what not to pack.

No matter what have the WOW item. If that’s all you can do, then that’s great. A “Wow” item is a decent sized doll or stuffed animal or a soccer ball with pump or a bigger-sized toy car or something like that. Every kid doesn’t dream of a soccer ball but they are a good go-to item. Keep to traditional gender stereo-types though. The local culture dictates what kids can have and be–not American P.C. thought.

Just No

  • Deodorant
  • Kleenex
  • Wet-Wipes
  • Q-Tips
  • Tampons
  • Toilet paper
  • Crafts that your kids wouldn’t want
  • Things that look super homemade
  • Left over t-shirts or “stuff” from events [see below]
  • Left over soccer uniforms or other sports uniforms
  • Anything with a snake or skull & bones
  • Toy snakes or any kind
  • Those stupid golf tee games on a triangle of wood
  • Anything Poo-emoji
  • Stuffed animals that make noise or light up
  • Girls shirts meant to be layered–they won’t be
  • Boxer shorts with an unsecured fly. They will be shorts. Sew on a snap.
  • Anything that makes a girl “sexy”–girls are sold. Childhood is often ugly. Help her don’t hurt her. Plain “girl” underpants–nothing more grown up. No cut-outs. No tacky. They can up her street value.
  • American-themed items
  • St. Patrick’s Day and other holiday t-s or other items (see below)
  • Fast Food kids cups or birthday cups [I can “give in” on this one–better than none, but not very durable]
  • Fast Food toys–unless they are just “extra” in the box
  • Party Favors–unless they are just “extra” in the box
  • Toy Food
  • SEEDS [there are very strict laws on importing seeds do to plant diseases!]
  • Silly putty or similar–no one knows what this is and may eat it.
  • A cut-in-half Composition Book [too cheap for words]
  • Used items
  • Anything on this list.

Exceptions to Left-over Event or Holiday Merchandise

  • Sturdy drawstring backpacks or tote bags from events or advertising. [not the super thin ones]
  • Good quality water bottles from events or advertising.
  • Pencils and pens or notebooks from events or advertising.
  • Holiday socks if not too garish and no skull & crossbones, witches, spiders, snakes.
  • Lanyards, carabiner clips, Slinkys, nice toys or stuffed animals (can you remove the “ad”?) if EXTRA in the box–never the WOW.
  • Hand tools, sewing kits other similar
  • Good quality winter head bands or hats [not Dollar Store quality]
  • Golf tournament hand towel with small logo
  • Cosmetic company bonus bag–makes a great girls pencil bag.


What Can I Re-Gift from my kids’ room?

  • Any clothing that is deemed acceptable that has never been worn or washed is fine to me.
  • Toys that have never been played with or stuffed animals that went unloved are fine.
  • Duplicate small Lego sets or Polly Pocket-type sets (these can be repacked with the picture from the box in a Ziplock like a puzzle). Duplicate Matchbox or Hot Wheels that are new.
  • Shoes worn once or twice that they didn’t like at all used can been cleaned to look brand new are fine to me. These are not “used.”
  • Duplicate wordless board books in excellent condition.
  • Never-used baby blankets–fine for toddler boxes.

If THIS send THIS also

  • If sending ART SUPPLIES, send PAPER (it can be so expensive it’s sold by the page)
  • If sending anything needing batteries, send plenty of extras
  • If sending PENCILS, send extra ERASERS and a small SHARPENER. Students in many countries must use pens. Mistakes are not “good” so they do their work in ink.
  • If sending menstrual hygiene kits send extra soap, extra Ziplock bags and send this DISCREETLY in the bottom of the box. (Would your daughter want to open a gift of Kotex pads in front of people?).


My list of the Best Stuff to Pack In Any Age/Sex Box

  • Water Bottle
  • Flexible plastic cover Composition Book
  • Pencil bag and pencils, sharpener and pens
  • Woven or polo shirt [these are “best” because few if any will be washed in a machine and dried in a machine. Cheap t-shirts stretch out of shape easily).
  • Underpants. Underpants protect girls with one more layer and they give everyone dignity.


Good stuff for Ages 2–4

  • Baby blanket. They do not sleep in cribs and sharing a blanket gets old.
  • Toddler sized bowl, cup and silverware. This helps ensure a real serving of food for a small child who may instead be fed from mother’s plate or an older siblings bowl.
  • Wordless board book.
  • Very simple coloring book and crayons.
  • Don’t overdue the hair clips, bands, etc for girls. Nearly all of Africa shaves their head! Boys and Girls–especially as children.


Good Stuff Ages 5–9

  • Active toys like jump ropes and balls
  • Drawing paper and crayons or colored pencil
  • Puzzles (cut out the picture and put it all in a Ziplock



Good Stuff Ages 10–14


  • Simple tools or sewing kits
  • Solar calculators
  • Cotton Menstrual hygiene kits [packed at the bottom of the box]
  • Light weight fleece blanket


Remember that cultural taboos can be very real. Few parents in America want anything with the Poo emoji–some cultures dictate a hand to eat with and a hand for…well…the poo! Animals can have taboos as well. A stuffed animal that lights up or makes noise could terrify a little child. Sharing blankets and co-sleeping is romantic only when its a choice. As puberty begins separate is best.

Homemade is insulting in some circumstances. These boxes are sent from the wealthiest nations on Earth to the poorest. Just because you love making a craft doesn’t mean the recipient will like it or even know what it is! Getting something brand new and from the store MATTERS. They make do and make things all the time. They have to. Getting “junk” is what they see when they get many craft projects. An example I saw that left me appalled–a Youth Group had “destroyed” [to the local population] beautiful white sneakers by “coloring” them with Sharpies. This would most likely be insulting. They looked homemade and frankly….tacky.  Most kids’ “no sew” crafts are not going to be appreciated for the same reason.

If you want kids to learn to serve have them decorate the boxes and write notes or help at a packing party. Kids MAY also donate never-worn acceptable shirts or may re-gift a never used acceptable toy or collect party favors or Fast Food toys for EXTRA in a box. Children old enough to learn to sew or make paracord lanyards, or friendship bracelets or wooden toys or other things at an adult standard should definitely be encouraged to do so. Kids can also do things to raise awareness of the program like these rocks! [They do not need to be this fancy].


Photo: Operation Christmas Child


Some of the homemade toys are not understandable outside of the USA. Put in a photo “instructions.”  Recycled t-shirt tote bags or jump ropes or many other recycled or up-cycle gifts are another thing that can be taken wrong–that the sort of thing they use of necessity not because it’s fashionable to recycle.

If you want to craft look at the many ideas in my Pinterest board below. These are certainly NOT all the “good” crafts. Bags and dresses or skirts or shorts are great sewing projects. Warm hats or mittens in normal colors or washcloths are super items to crochet. Pencil bags are another excellent crochet item as are soap “covers.”  Wooden cars are a great toy to put in! They’re durable and run well across unpaved surfaces.

There are GREAT ideas for using the lid of the box as a toy–such as race track for Hot Wheels or making a very simple doll house of Foosball game from the box. Always include a PHOTO so they know what it is!

Last of all, remove as much packaging as possible. It will just float around the area as trash. Remember, too, that American packaging is horrendous if you don’t understand it. Want a child to have a headless Barbie from ripping her out of the packaging (well, trying to!)




Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 Yummy Foods Mentioned in Books



This week’s topic: Top Ten Yummy Foods Mentioned In Books. I’m taking this to mean books that aren’t foodie non-fiction.  And, I’m not even counting how many such “foods” I mention!

Two of my favorite book series for sheer food delight are Jan Karon’s Mitford and Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Gamache series.  Probably because I am currently listening to the newest book, the food of Mitford is on my mind! And, there’s an actual published cookbook of all the great Mitford food.

The OMC–the Orange Marmalade Cake. This is the one that nearly kills Father Tim–it’s that sweet! But boy does it sound fabulous!   Puny’s Cornbread and her Macaroni and Cheese!n the newest books, Dooley’s Deep Dish Pizza, always makes me want someThose Vanilla Muffins from the cookbook–I copied the recipe years ago from the library’s copy of the cookbook. We LOVE them.  While the OMC, Puny’s Cornbread and, who could forget it? liver mush are about the most mentioned, food plays a big role in this series as people gather together or live out ordinary lives or drop something off to comfort a neighbor. And it is all great-sounding Southern American food although they’ve eased up on the deep frying.


Scrambled eggs with brie. I don’t even really enjoy scrambled eggs but I bet brie would help the flavor a lot! Duck, Brie, and Fig Confit Sandwich –my mouth waters every time this is mentioned! Parsnip and Apple Soup with a Drizzle of Walnut-Infused Oil YUM!!!  Admit it, they had you, too, at the “drizzle,” right? Then there’s the chocolate-covered blueberries from The Beautiful Mystery.… swoon. Heck, I’d even take a Tim Horton’s doughnut!

Although it does not offer ALL the recipes, The Nature of the Feast can be downloaded here to help you enjoy Gabri’s wonderful meals.


Just about anything in the City Baker’s Guide to Country Living–including even the crock of Boston Baked Beans served with Brown Bread “spackled’ with real butter!


That subscription required, one-off dinner. All of it. Everything! Kitchens of the Great Midwest.

Top Ten Tuesday is held weekly at The Broke and the Bookish. Here is the link to the rules. 

You can read all of this week’s lists here.

Review: Wesley The Owl by Stacey O’Brien


The Story

Biologists Stacey O’Brien was working Cal Tech when she was given the chance to foster a Barn Owl. A dream job at the sound of it. Who wouldn’t want to cuddle that little ball of fluff? This is her memoir of the unique relationship she built with Wesley–as she named the owl.

What I Loved

I’m an animal nut so there wasn’t much I didn’t love! This is a great story which, if read aloud from the print version so the parent could keep an eye out for a couple of very “grown up” things , would delight anyone who loves birds. I also loved that her parents did not force her to conform and play soccer or whatever, but instead took her, at age 8, to a college lecture by Jane Goodall thus birthing her future career as a biologist. Stacey’s relationship with Wesley is so sweet and touching and the gains that she made in understanding barn owl behavior are a once-in-a-lifetime animal lover’s fairy tale come true.

What Was Funny

There are two scenes that adults will roar over. No spoilers, but do read ahead if using this book with your family.

What I Didn’t Like

There are  few well deserved comments on the animal rights people that could genuinely upset a sensitive, animal-loving child like I was.  I thought these could have been left out. I agree with her opinion entirely, but they were hard to read.  Be sure to really find those first if your child is like that! If you are hyper-sensitive, be aware that a such comments are in the book but are very, very short. They did not contain descriptions of cruelty though.  I also did not like hearing about Wesley’s food even though it was both appropriate and necessary to the book. I’ve never in 55 years been willing to touch a mouse alive, dead or fast-frozen. For me that was just ICK! But it did make me recall the fun my kids, their friend and I had dissecting a barn owl pellet years ago!

What I’d Like

I’d love to see a young person’s edition of this with more photographs and appropriate editing. It could even come packaged with a barn owl pellet.

My Rating


This is not “literature” but it is an awesome story.

Wesley The Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl by Stacey O’Brien.


If you enjoy Wesley’s story, you or your family, will likely also enjoy That Quail, Robert by Margaret Stanger



Here is more on Wesley the barn owl



Flashback Friday: Five Days at Memorial


This book is being devoured by book clubs, so I knew I’d read it eventually. I was apprehensive though–a hospital in the most bungled natural disaster in American history? Wouldn’t it be the ultimate in rubber-necking to read this? No. It was the ultimate in human experience–both the good and the bad kinds. I felt for most of the people in this book–most. I won’t say which ones did not earn my sympathy. But it does make all those deadly dull emergency planning meetings I’ve attended over the years seem worthwhile. And those emergency posters SHOULD be posted. Read this book and you WILL volunteer for the Red Cross and go thru their training and answer the call. Ditto FEMA classes (Did you know you can earn college credit for those?). This book is why I generally prefer non-fiction–this is REAL. It happened. These are real people. Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink.

Top 5 Wednesday: Favorite Spooky Settings

Hopewell's Public Library of Life

PBS Mystery Old Opening (Now Masterpiece Mystery)

A little something to get us all in a spooky mood!


I’m taking some liberty with this topic because I’m not happy when I’m scared. I prefer to have fun!

1. My favorite ghost


There is only ONE ghost in my life–Rex Harrison as Captain Daniel Craig. When widowed Mrs. Muir moves to the sea side she discovers her home is haunted by a very romantic ghost! For 1947 the special effects are good, too. The on-screen chemistry between Gene Tierney, as Mrs. Muir, and Harrison as her ghostly housemate and romantic lead make this picture truly unforgettable. The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.

2. My Favorite Scary Scene


Scarlett flees the Yankees, is abandoned by Rhett, and arrives home at Tara to find her mother dead. “Favorite” isn’t the word–“most viewed” sounds odd. Gone With the Wind.

4. My Favorite Creepy…

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Top Ten Tuesday: Books With Autumnal Covers


This week’s topic: Ten Books With Fall/Autumn Covers/Themes (If the cover screams fall to you, or the books give off a feeling of being Fall-ish)



Poetry for Young People: Robert Frost The cover just says “Fall in New England,” right? Love his work.

Keeping a Nature Journal In the fall I love to be outside and see the changing colors, feel the crisp cool air and, above all, rake leaves. I’ve never had so many trees that it was a burden, though, so don’t call me insane for that! So many happy memories raking leaves with my late Keeshund beside me. I also have great memories of “drawing” hikes with my kids inspired by this book. We’d take sketch books and colored pencils and go to a park and hike. Finally we’d decide on a place to sit and draw. That their drawings were much better than mine was always a confidence booster for them–and I wasn’t faking my no talent!

Freckles A Hoosier (Indiana) classic, by early-20th Century best-selling author, Gene Stratton Porter, this book is one of her Limberlost tales.

Headmaster’s Wife Here is my review from my old blog:
 “‘Do you have children?….Now imagine if, just to spite you, they do the exact opposite with their lives from what you hope they will.‘” (p. 107). 

Usually a story told in  non-linear fashion gets annoying to me–not so this time. There IS a method to the madness and it is to tell a very griping story. This books was MESMERIZING. I had to ration it–it had that great a hold on me.  In the last part f#-! became his go-to word and it cheapened the book unnecessarily, even if it was meant to convey the changing times or something else . That’s a very minor detraction though, from what is truly a work of art. The author is a gifted storyteller. I hope to read many more books by him.[NOTE: without spoilers I will say there is an event that, when taken out of context, may upset some readers.] 

October Sky (aka Rocket Boys)  My son and I both enjoy this book–and the wonderful movie adaptation, in spite of a crucial change. in the movie

Cold Sassy Tree There is so much to “love’ in this book about when Miss Love Simpson comes to town! Look out Will Tweedy! The movie is equally delightful.

Mayflower Thanksgiving is pretty darned Autumnal and this book’s cover has the look of an eerie late Fall day.

At Home in Mitford

Mitford is one of my favorite fiction series. Father Tim, Cynthia, and all the rest of the town are marvelous. Plus there are two adoption stories in here to warm my adoptive-Mom’s heart.

A Separate Peace

This was my favorite assigned reading in high school. I loved it even more than the Rocking Hhorse Winner (D.H. Lawrence). I think it may be the reason some older parents named boys Phin/Finn in the 1990’s and early 2000’s (I imagine there’s something newer that explains the rest of the name’s popularity).

It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.

How could we have Fall or Halloween without this one? Not possible for those of us in it’s first generation of fans.

Visit the Broke and the Bookish for all of this week’s posts!

And now, enjoy a seasonal classic…..





Christmas Shoe Boxes: How I do it


I love giving a box filled with hope! Children world-wide receive a shoe box packed with surprises and get a chance to learn about hope thru Christ through Operation Christmas Child.

Let’s be clear: No child is taught to hate any other group of people.

This is a child-appropriate program on God’s love and Salvation.

That’s it. A message of hope. A box of hope. A life given hope and changed forever.

How I Do This

Some years, while my children were growing up, I did one or two boxes and that was truly sacrificial giving. Today I can do more and am happy to do so. How do I pack 30 or so boxes? First of all, this is a calling–a labor of love. While I do not track at all what I spend, I do have “price points” I watch for and try not to exceed for most items. Over the years, after adopting my kids, I learned to to stretch money as only a single mother can. I learned to hunt like a truffle-sniffing animal the clearance isles and tiny pockets of clearance goods in all sorts of stores. But I always ask:

Would my child wear this?

I don’t mean “following a horrendous event like a hurricane while shivering naked, would my child be willing to put this on to be warm?” But would they be willing to wear it in real life?



37 pairs of girls’ cuffed socks for $7.00. Boys underpants for 50 cents per pair. A nice fanny pack for $2.00 to pair with a $1 girl’s red polo shirt. 25 cent bandanas? All tings my kids would have accepted (well, maybe not the bandanas–I line girl boxes with them).  I find the “deals” and grab them year-round. After back to school, solid color tees and polos are a big bargain. Walmart had stacks for $1 each. I prefer the polos because they hold up better to washing without a washer and dryer. Tees get so stretched. Why underwear? It’s about dignity. And, for girls, it’s another layer of protection. Sadly, girls are not valued in most of the world. Ad I write this the NYT ran a story this morning on child marriage. Enough said.


How I Keep Track of What is Still Needed



I use my bullet journal to keep track my shoe box inventory. The photos above show my set-up for last year of ALL that is needed so I can shop for bargains and the new page for this year’s item-specific inventory. I do boxes for both boys and girls and all ages, but try to do more older child boxes as the need is greatest there–especially for boys.

How Do I Sort and Store all of it

Sunday afternoon I reorganized to start the “hoarding” for the 2018 collection. I have a set of bookshelves and, thanks to the blogger I’m An Organizing Junkie, I learned “containerizing” to keep things organized.  A label maker and whatever baskets and empty shoe boxes I could spare were all I needed.



On the left is the entire IKEA bookcase. I still use the bottom two shelves for family scrapbooks and photos and misc (like that orange backpack that needs a home). The top shelf has hygiene, a pair of shoes for some future box, pens/pencils and pencil bags. In a later post I will share more on these.

The second shelf from the top is the boy’s shelf, below it the girl’s. There are baskets for shirts, underwear, and socks. Within the baskets–you can see this with socks–I have little children’s sizes and big children’s sizes in separate, labeled, Ziplock bags.

The final shelf [for now] has food/water items, toys, a box of sturdy shopping bags that I sometimes add to big girl boxes, and hair/jewelry items. As the year goes on, the scrapbooks will have to find a new home so I can add baskets for more stuffed animals, dolls and soccer balls.

I sort the items into baskets and keep things like stuffed animals or clothing dust free in grocery bags. As I build boxes I bag them as well. A nice aqua polo for a girl gets paired with an aqua or other coordinating bandana, a few pairs of underpants, socks and some fun things like jewelry. I don’t overdue the hair things because most of the girls in Africa shave their heads for school. But headbands work well with any hair style. Bracelets and earrings, too.



Picture: Water bottles are a great item to pack. And you can put little stuff in them for easier packing.

It’s not too late to pack a shoe box! There is still one month until collection day. Remember, this year neither toothpaste nor candy is allowed due to customs’ regulations in many countries. And, please? Don’t pack deodorant, Kleenex, tampons, wet wipes, q-tips and DO remove all the packaging. The big Rumpke truck doesn’t go to these places. That Barbie box will blow around forever (and Barbie may be maimed or destroyed when someone unfamiliar with draconian American toy packaging tries to rip her from the  box).



Six Degrees of Separation: Like Water for Chocolate



This month’s Six Degree’s of Separation chain starts with Laura Esquivel’s amazing Like Water for Chocolate. This book is a foodie’s romantic delight! I was sad to discover that I’d been on blogging breaks when I read several of these so I have no personal review to link to. You’ll have to make do with the link to Amazon, from which I receive no money.


The Easy Choices


The all-too-obvious first book that came to my mind was Joanne Harris’s superb Chocolat!

I made it thru the movie of this one, too!



The second book it brought to mind was Sarah Addison Allen’s wonderful Garden Spells–with it’s almost magical properties of food. Sigh, swoon, ahhhhh. Lovely.



The third book was a disappointing one. Here is part of my  review from my old blog:

I was very excited when I read the premise of this book–a girl can “taste” the emotions of the people involved in growing, processing and cooking her food. It made me instantly think of that little touch of fantasy or whimsy in Sarah Addison Allen’s fun novels. Sadly, this was not the case. In places it was just plain weird. While mostly “ok,” the prose often sounded like an over-reaching MFA student trying to stand out from the pack. Here are some choice examples:

  1. a pepper “PILLAR” instead of shaker or cellar
  2. “a purple-glassed” (votive candle)
  3. “during the babysit” or even “in the babysits”
  4. “[her] quicknesses”
  5. [cheeks or lips] glistering

. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender


The remaining books took more thought.



I can only say this is one that usually comes to mind when I think of Water for Chocolate or vise versa. How The Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents isn’t even from Mexico, set in Mexico or populated by Mexican people. They are from the Dominican Republic! It must be the very common last name in the title. Or girls growing up? Or the feel of the book? I’m going with the feel of the book.



Another coming of age story, this time with a fruit in the title. Not very original but that’s my brain this week. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros.



Finally, thanks to numbers 4 and 5, I recalled this one. It has been compared to House on Mango Street.  It was brought to my mind by the hurricane and has stuck in my mind. Many of you may be looking for a “Puerto Rico book,” so here’s a good one to add to your Reading the World list. You can read my review here.


Do you enjoy creating and sharing thematic lists of books? Then join in the fun each month at Six Degrees of Separation. Click here to get started. To read more of this month’s posts, click here.

Now, why not round off your weekend by reading one of these great books or at least watching one of the movies!