Category Archives: Books

A Mother’s Views on Parenting Autistic Children

With 1 in 110 children being diagnosed with Autism, it’s hard to find a family that hasn’t been effected by this complicated and confusing disorder. Diane Mayer Christiansen knows the difficulties of parenting such a child firsthand. She recounts her experience in Planet A: A Mother’s Memoir of Autism Spectrum Disorder. This excellent book provides a real-life take on anger management, social conflict, inability to understand/relate to peers, sensory overload, and so much more that Autism families must cope with every single day.

She was also kind enough to provide the following insight:

When my son, Jackie, was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) right before second grade, I wasn’t shocked. I had known that something was different about him. He began his life with sensory issues that expanded into social and anger problems. He was unable to understand the basic pieces of the social game and became angry as he constantly felt misunderstood by the world around him. I, too, felt misunderstood by those around me. My parenting had to change to adapt to Jackie’s brain and what he could and couldn’t understand. In the beginning, it was tough. It took a lot of research to figure it all out and I’m still not always thoughtful in my response to him.

Now fourteen years later, I feel as if we have come a long way. Planet A is the journey of high functioning autism from diagnosis through middle school. Two things inspired me to write Planet A: First and foremost, I am a story teller. As I speak to parents and educators about it, personal stories like mine are what inspire the “typical” world to want to learn more. There is unique something about hearing what autism really looks and feels like from those who live it. 

The second thing that really pushed me in the Planet A direction was my visit to the many ASD parent online chat rooms. The struggles that many parents face today are the same struggles that Jackie and I faced. I found myself reading many of the posts and nodding my head in agreement, saying: “Yes, I remember that problem!” So, Planet A is also for those who are going through the same issues with ASD. I want them to know that they are not alone.

The biggest lesson that I have learned from parenting an ASD child is patience. Patience to be a better listener, for being understanding, not only towards Jackie but towards those who do not understand him. In our journey together, I have also realized that love and kindness are really all it takes in this life. Jackie has struggled with bullying, feelings of inadequacy and the fight to fit in somewhere. In the end, the lesson of learning to celebrate who we are as unique, individual people is the greatest of them all. We’re almost there.

Find Planet A: A Mother’s Memoir of Autism Spectrum Disorder and more of Diane’s books on her web site.

Books I Love – Complete Guide to Bible Journaling

I’ve always believed that every person has a spiritual side. Some of us feel comfortable identifying with a particular religion, but there are many more who reject traditional methods of observance. In the Jewish community, it seems like people are disengaging left and right, in search of alternate ways to practice their faith.

If you hate performing rituals, never attend temple, and don’t pray on a regular basis, but still yearn to grow spiritually, The Complete Guide to Bible Journaling should be on your book shelf.

By focusing on art, which is something most ladies enjoy, it’s easy to explore the Bible in a less structured way. As someone who already has a strong faith, I liked reading the pages first, then going back and creating. For my sister, who is not religious at all, it was the opposite—she simply enjoyed coloring. Even though we’re on different ends of the spectrum ideologically, we both had fun doodling, taking away different things from the experience.

With over 150 paper designs, 270 colored stickers, and 60 designs printed on translucent vellum, we sure had a lot to choose from! There is so much versatility, too, since the designs can be used like a regular coloring book, traced, used as Bible margin art, or as bookmarks.

The Complete Guide to Bible Journaling is divided into six sections:

  • Getting Started – How to begin and how to choose the best Bible for you
  • Tools and Techniques – 12 different methods, including page prep
  • Artist Profiles –  Shares the individual stories of contributing Bible artists
    Shanna Noel, Karla Dornacher, Valery Sjodin, Sephra Travers, Valerie Wieners-Massie, Rebecca Rios, Tai Bender, Krista Hamrick, Jennifer Rydin, Rebekah Jones and Christina Lowery 
  • Gallery – Showcasing examples out of the Bible, in the Bible, and different styles
  • Resources – Artist websites, various social media groups, & other ways to connect
  • Bonus section – This was my favorite! It’s filled with the tabs, stickers, traceable patterns and more. 

No matter which medium you prefer, this book has it covered: lettering, drawing, coloring, painting, embellishing, stamping, stenciling, and so much more. I don’t have much artistic ability, but I sure know how to go wild with a box of Crayola!

The Complete Guide to Bible Journaling combines faith and creativity into one neat package with lots of appeal.

Books I Love – The Kiddush Ladies

Throughout my life, no matter what I’ve struggled with, I’ve always been blessed with dear friends who comforted and supported me. Most ladies would agree that it’s our female friendships, not our romantic relationships, that truly nurture and sustain us. Because those friendships are so vital, it can be devastating when they sour.

Author Susan Sofayov tackles this heartfelt topic in her new novel, The Kiddush LadiesIt  centers on heroines Becky, Miriam, and Naomi—3 ladies whose shared faith and many years of camaraderie should’ve created an unbreakable bond. As each one endures her own difficulties, their lifelong friendship splinters: Naomi’s husband has left her for a man; Becky’s son wants to marry a Catholic girl; Miriam’s upbringing as an only child leaves her unable to attain the close family connections she craves.

While all of the characters were multi-faceted and believable, Becky’s story was the most interesting to me. Every Jewish mother has a fear (often kept secret) that their child will marry a Christian, that their grandchildren will become Christian, and generations of customs and beliefs will be lost forever. Becky’s intense bewilderment and displeasure at her son’s choice is portrayed very honestly.

While some may find The Kiddush Ladies to be slightly dark reading material, I enjoy “Chic Lit” about imperfect people, thrust into difficult situations not of their choosing, and seeing how they react—rightly or wrongly. This is not an uplifting book, but it will be relatable for most of us who have experienced the unexpected craziness that life has to offer.

In the end, we have to accept others as they are, not how we want them to be. That can be an exceptionally bitter pill to swallow, but nobody ever said friendship was perfect.

Books I Love – Jewish Treasures of the Caribbean

One doesn’t often think “Jewish” when they hear the word “Caribbean,” but Photographer Wyatt Gallery has captured a nearly-extinct world of wonder in his remarkable new book, Jewish Treasures of the Caribbean.

In modern times, the Caribbean is viewed mainly as a vacation and Honeymoon spot, but hundreds of years ago, it was a safe haven for Sephardic Jews fleeing persecution. They established communities in Aruba, Barbados, Curacao, Jamaica, St. Thomas, St. Eustatius, and Suriname, which thrived for centuries and are home to the Western hemisphere’s oldest synagogues and cemeteries.

Thumbing through the colorful pages is a true delight, allowing the reader to journey through time, back to a world filled with brightly painted buildings, ornate gravestones, sand-strewn floors, and candlelit chandeliers.

One of the things that surprised me most was the extravagance on display. Neve Shalom Synagogue in Suriname has eleven Torahs (rare today even in the wealthiest American congregations). The obvious pride and love for Judaism is so touching!

Sadly, modern “progress” has taken over in unexpected ways, demonstrated perfectly in this photo, taken in Curacao: an oil refinery was built adjacent to the Beth Haim Cemetery, corroding many of the stones from pollution.

Without preservation, what’s left of these dwindling communities could disappear forever—a true tragedy. Only five historic synagogues remain left in use, and many of the cemeteries have been damaged or lost as well. 

Should the worst come to pass, when nothing is left standing, Jewish Treasures of the Caribbean will serve as a moving tribute to these extraordinary landmarks, creating a photographic legacy of a little known Jewish experience. This book should be in the collection of every history buff.