Book Review: The Sparrow

Since arriving here in the great northern part of the country that I fondly refer to as “being on vicarage,” I have had much more time to read.  Consequently, I have felt inclined to reread some books that I initially read in college.  I most recently finished reading The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell.

A science fiction novel with philosophical and theological undertones, The Sparrow takes us to the near future when humans finally contact an alien race.  We journey with a group of Jesuit priests and their friends who pilot the first mission to this new planet and experience their joys and horrors as they live among “God’s other children.”  Simultaneously, we follow the sole survivor of this mission as he struggles to find God’s will in his nightmarish experiences on the new planet.

Now, I’m not saying this is a great Christian novel full of good Lutheran doctrine.  My copy of the book had an author interview printed at the end in which I discovered Ms. Russell was raised Catholic and converted to Judaism.  There are lots of talk about spirituality and God but she doesn’t talk about what makes Christianity different from other religions–the death and resurrection of Jesus.  In her presentation of religion, “God” can be found in many religions.  Likewise, the story is full of dark horrors, so if you prefer not to read depressing books (which I totally understand) don’t read this.

However, what  I enjoy about The Sparrow is how the story is told with two timelines:  the time after the failed mission and the preparation/execution of the mission.  Despite the fact that the reader knows the crew’s fate at the end of the first chapter, the story is so driving that the details must be known.  Likewise, the characters became real and lovable to me almost immediately and I found myself caring about them even when I knew that there were no happy endings for them.  It also brings up the question that so many of us have:  Where is God when bad things happen?*

In summation, The Sparrow provides bad theology that you should disregard (or just log it away for reference–it never hurts to have a defense prepared for your beliefs) but also a driving plot, interesting timeline, and wonderful characters.

*Not that this question should be answered using the book.  I would recommend asking a pastor/using the Bible for answers.  : D


I’m a Working Woman Again!

My prayers were answered this week–I’ve started a new job!  There are some similarities between my last nanny position and this new job.  I’ll take care of the kids; I’ll help with household chores and errands.  However, this job is only part time and like with any new job, I need to figure out what expectations my boss (aka–the father) has for his employees.

Whatever the uncertainties, it’s still great to say, “I have a job!”  Now if I could only figure out how to get through church without looking like a rabbit ready to bolt, life would be peachy.

That Awkward Moment When You Forget Where You Live

Yesterday a young couple approached me when I was walking though a parking lot to get to a coffee shop.  The conversation went as follows:

Woman Stranger:  Excuse me, are you from around here.

Me:  Uh, no.

Man Stranger (to Woman Stranger):  Oh wait, her plates are out of state.

Me (realizing they weren’t asking where I was originally from but whether or not I lived in the area):  Oh wait, I do live here!  Do you need help?

Woman Stranger:  We were just wondering if you knew of a good place to get pizza.

Me:  Uh, I’ve heard of a place but I don’t remember what it is called. . . or where it is. . . . . . I’m sorry, I just moved here a month ago. *rushes away from really awkward conversation without saying goodbye*

Woman Stranger:  Well, thanks anyway. . .

The Secret First Month of the Vicar’s Wife

Yesterday marked one month since my husband and I moved into the vicarage house.  Not to sound cliche, but it’s hard to believe it’s only been a month.  The life we had at the seminary seems like something that happened long ago; yet it also our future because in eleven months we will pack up our new home so that we can return to our old home.  Talk about a bunch of confusing transitions.

At any rate, my expectations for the first month of vicarage has always been formed by what was left unsaid by other sem. wives.  Very few wives talked about being lonely and even fewer talked about the frustrations of trying to find a job for “only a year.”  No talks about how to form acquaintances within the church and no one talks about how to fill the days after your husband leaves for work.  Granted, every vicarage is different and every wife’s perspective on vicarage is different, so there cannot be a set method on how to survive the first month.

Likewise, I’ve learned why wives don’t talk about the first month–it’s because there isn’t much to talk about.  Yes, it’s lonely.  Yes, my husband is gone a lot.  Yes, I’m having trouble finding gainful employment.  What is anyone going to be able to do about that?

Consequently, I fight a bitter battle with myself by myself.  I clean the house.  I do the weekly errands.  I occasionally bake some goodies.  I have dinner ready when my husband comes home from work.  I diligently search for a job.  All the while a little voice says, “Ah, well, aren’t you so useful, trying to keep busy.  But you know that ‘keeping busy’ is just a nice way of hiding the fact that you’ve lost your purpose.”   I try to point out to the voice that I am looking for a job, a new sense of purpose beyond the house.  I also try to argue that a good wife learns how to sacrifice the things she wants for her husband’s well being.  But the cunning little voice retorts, “It’s not much of a sacrifice if you do it so unhappily.”    

The final blow comes on Sunday mornings when after a six days of near solitude I’m expected to turn into a social butterfly, to smile and talk with the congregation of strangers.  Then the strangers are befuddled that the vicar’s wife doesn’t want to chat with everyone, that all she wants to do is hide from the hundred pairs of eyes staring so inquisitively at her, that their friendliness isn’t enough to make her happy.  At that time I don’t even need the belittling voice to tell me I’ve failed again.

And that, friends, is the secret first month of this vicar’s wife.

Remember Kids, When You Judge Someone Based on Something They Can’t Change It’s Called Being Prejudiced

My entire life I have been mistaken as being younger than I actually am.  My first day of junior high another student asked me if I had gotten lost on the way to elementary school.  My senior year of high school the weight lifting coach demanded to know why a freshmen was lifting with the seniors.  The summer before my senior year of college one of my co-workers mistook me for a senior in high school and asked if I had started applying to colleges.  At my last nanny job I had several people mistake me for my employers’ daughter.  So goes my growing up, little mistakes here and there of how old I am, followed by an awkward, “Really?” when I correct them.

For the most part the age confusion doesn’t bother me as much anymore as long as people treat me as an adult.  However, I was reading a blog post on the caretaking website I recently registered on and was shocked when discovered how harshly people judge young adults.  The focus on said post was asking parents if they preferred older or younger nannies.  I was flabbergasted by the number of comments from people insisting that younger nannies (often falling in the 18-24 category, but sometimes going all the way through late 20s) were lazy, irresponsible, inexperienced, self-centered, and immature.  Often these people had a bad experience with a younger nanny but they then felt inclined to toss every young caretaker into the “bad nanny” category.

Needless to say, I’m insulted.  I may have many flaws but the aforementioned faults are not found in my work.  Likewise, during my time at the seminary I have met many women who are my age and are incredibly hard working and responsible.  To assume that we are a certain way because we are young adults is called ageism and it is wrong.  It makes me wonder how many people are passing me over because of this prejudice toward young people.  Good grief!  

You Know. . .

You know you are the wife of a vicar (or pastor) when your husband is at the monthly Ladies Guild meeting and you’re not.

It Is So On, Smoke Detectors

Saturday morning I was merrily minding my own business at home when I hear a loud chirp from the basement.  I stopped in the kitchen to try to decipher where the sound was coming from.  After minute, I heard the chirp and placed it to be coming from the basement smoke detector.  After last Sunday’s smoke detector fiasco I’m a little wary of the alarms.  After eyeing it for a moment I decided it was chirping because the battery was dying.  I pulled the battery out and went to check on the laundry.

When I walked into the laundry room (which is also the bathroom with a shower) I was surprised to be hit a surprising amount of heat.  “Huh,” I thought to myself, “Usually the heat from the shower doesn’t linger this long.”  However, when I went to put another load of laundry in the washer I realized that the detergent I pulled from the cupboard above the washer and dryer was hot.  Likewise, there was lint flying everywhere in the aforementioned cupboard.  Really confused at this point, I quickly discovered that the pipe that pulls the heat from the dryer was no longer hooked up to take the heat to outside the house.  Instead, it had fallen in the cupboard and simply kept the heat into the laundry room.  Now mildly irritated that I didn’t have a way to dry the clothes I heard IT again.  The insistent CHIRP from the basement smoke detector that I had already removed the battery!

I stomped upstairs to dig through our extra battery stash in hopes of finding an extra 9-volt battery.  Lots of AA, no 9-volts.  Meanwhile, I could hear chirps coming from the detector.  In a fit of rage that I couldn’t turn off the smoke detector for the second time in a week I called my husband at the church to see if there was an extra battery there.  Dear husband could tell over the phone that I was upset (or it could have been me ranting about incompetent detectors and worthless dryers), so he wrapped up his work and headed home.

As my husband returned home my father-in-law pulled up to our house.  Both men stood underneath the offensive smoke detector for about two minutes when suddenly every alarm in the house started going off.  All three of us were completely flabbergasted by this turn of events and despite better knowledge from the previous Sunday’s escapade we still tried pulling batteries out from the detectors to silence them.  It still didn’t work.

After about three minutes of the alarms screaming throughout the house I grabbed a flashlight, went downstairs to the breaker box, and flipped the main breaker.  Silence and darkness now encompassed the house.  I yelled upstairs that I had cut the power and told my husband and father-in-law that I was going to turn it back on.  For a brief moment after I flipped the breaker on there was nothing but normal electrical functioning.  Then the alarms kicked on again.

For a second time that day the three of us raced around the house trying to figure out how to silence the detectors.  We still weren’t successful.  After another five minutes of listening to the blaring alarms, I decided it was time to cut the power again.  The house was again encompassed in silence and darkness.  At this point I told my husband that he needed to call the trustees of the house.  As he called my father-in-law explored our new house.  “This is a really nice place,” he said.

“Thanks, it’s even better when we have electricity,” I replied dryly.  After a few minutes, on of the trustees returned my husband’s phone call.  We were told to first see if there was a separate breaker for only the alarms.  The trustee also told us that the detectors could be triggered by excess condensation in the basement.  Due to the ill-performing dryer, the heat in the basement had fogged up all the windows–most certainly extra condensation down there.

Since there wasn’t a separate breaker for the smoke detectors, we then started opening the basement windows.  After a few minutes the fog had cleared and we decided to try turning on the electricity again.  I flipped the switch and held my breath.  To our relief the alarms stayed off.  However, for the next hour they occasionally chirped for some unknown reason.

I don’t know what the smoke detectors’ problems are and why they refuse to silence.  All I know is that I am now at war with them.  The next time they insist on going off unceasingly, they may very well find themselves pulled from the ceiling and chucked into the street because it is so on.   

Not As Black and White As We Would Like

Yesterday was the day that the affordable care act stretched to cover women’s preventative care–specifically the birth control controversy.  In the midst of the Chic-fil-A hullabaloo, this change that had people raging about freedom of religion and women’s rights in February officially went into effect relatively unnoticed (at least within the spheres of my social group).

Today I happened upon this, a description about what is being provided with the changes implemented yesterday.  While coverage for contraceptives is included with this aspect of the law (and those leading the way with this change are still claiming the contraceptives don’t provide abortifacient drugs, which is debatable), there are many other aspects of this act that are undeniably good for women’s health.  Good things like well-women visits, breastfeeding support, and domestic violence screening.  What would happen to these services if the women’s preventative care act were to be overturned?

Questions like these pop into my head whenever anyone talks about Obamacare.  I have health insurance through my parents’ plan until I’m 26, something that wasn’t allowed until the new healthcare laws started being implemented.  After my husband and I got married, I went four months without health insurance because we couldn’t afford to pay for both his Concordia Plan insurance (insurance that the seminary requires him to hold) and any sort of insurance for me.  During this time span I had to go to the E.R. and the cost for that visit was astronomical.  On a similar note, my brother has Type I Diabetes.  Affordable health insurance for him was a bit of a pipe dream until the affordable care act started taking effect.  If this act were to be overturned, what would happen to all of the young adults receiving health insurance through their parents’ plans?  What would happen to my brother?    

I’m not saying that the good this act provides outweighs the bad it is enabling.  Likewise, I’m not even going to pretend that I understand the political and financial ramifications of the entire act.  The point I’m trying to bring forth is that this healthcare mess isn’t as black and white as some people like to pretend it is.  Admittedly, the contraception aspect of this act makes me very nervous.  What sort of implications will it bring in relation to the definition of religious freedom?  However, I cannot in good conscience pretend that this act hasn’t helped my family; I cannot pretend that it is a completely evil thing without any merits.  Such claims would make me a hypocrite.