Thursday, January 31, 2013

Five Books That Became My Best Friends

At the end of each day I turn to reading to decompress and let go. For me, good books are like returning to an alternate universe, nightly. The writers and characters become my friends. I especially love books with awkward situations, like real life has, and good humor. The books below have that. These are just five of my favorites, two of which I have read for a second time!

 Good Grief by Lolly Winston

Good Grief

Winston's portrayal of thirty-six year old Sophie Stanton, in the dense fog of grief over her husband's death, is rendered in sharp-witted form. At times the details and descriptions are hilarious.  Lost and alone, Sophie stuffs herself with sweets, absentmindedly shows up to work in her pink bunny slippers never noticing, crashes into a stupor that lasts for weeks--on a blow up mattress in her living room, and sleeps with her deceased husband's sweater. She then reluctantly gets back up one day and rebuilds her life. All 286 pages will have you cheering for Sophie, and by the end Sophie will be your new best friend.

Belong to Me by Melissa del los Santos

Belong to Me

From the minute you meet Cornelia Brown, meticulous, educated, yet still insecure, you want to get to know her better. Del los Santos has a way with words, her writing is developed and facile. Her characters are passionately crafted, their stories engagingly laid out. This book contains the trials of redefining marriage, friendship, career, parenthood and ultimately lifestyle, with many surprising pivots and yanks.

Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos

Broken for You

Kallos depicts two women's parallel journeys of emotional and physical trauma, and healing. Aging and ill, Margaret is nearing the end of her life; Wanda is a young displaced actress trying to build one. Margaret places an ad for help in the local newspaper as she knows she will eventually need it. In her rambling, stately, old home, inherited from her parents, she is alone. But that is not all Margaret inherited, the home is replete with prized porcelain, gifted to her piece by piece throughout her childhood into her adulthood by her now deceased father. It is only in her later years that Margaret figures out that the exquisite collectible figurines, in childhood she so held precious, were stolen from Jews during World War II in Germany, and purchased by her father through the black market. Now, what were symbols of a love between father and daughter, have become the bane of her existence. All of that changes when Wanda responds to Margaret's newspaper ad, what transpires is an utterly magical transformation, mending what had become weakened, by breaking it all. Reading this will inspire you to change an old pattern and create something anew.

 She Got Up Off the Couch by Haven Kimmel 

She Got Up Off the Couch: And Other Heroic Acts from Mooreland, Indiana
This is an uplifting, drolly written, memoir about Kimmel's childhood growing up in the sixties in Mooreland, Indiana, a town of three hundred, she tells us. Told in jocular fashion, her story centers around the journey of her mother from a stay-at home, pork rind-crumbed, couch potato, taken to looking for signs on television commercials, to accomplished college professor of English--it's a journey you don't want to miss! You will love Kimmel and her self deprecating way of expressing her viewpoint of her often zany world--I guarantee that you will relate to something in this story!

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

The Language of Flowers
It is wonderfully inspiring watching the way Victoria triumphs as she evolves from an abandoned adolescent, who comes of age after living in foster homes, and finally a group home for teens, to a self-sufficient young woman on her own. But this story is not told in simple, flowing fashion. Diffenbaugh takes you on a spiraling path of entering the rite of passage into the adult world while living in a public park, and then a crawl space, as Victoria learns to stand on her feet and bring her passion, the language of flowers, to life. But before she gets her footing, she falls deeper than she ever has. Flowers tie her whole mismatched existence into one cohesive garden of experience that will have you rooting for her and glad for the strength of the human spirit.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Dream Catcher Soup

I was rambling around the grocery store, my heart, but not my head, really in it, trying to 'discover' what would be for dinner. I wanted to find something suitable for my family, as well as my neighbor, and my brother's family, all with different tastes and requirements. I was hoping to come up with a soup, but could not think on my feet. I whipped through the freezer section and blew by some frozen tortellini and almost got a little motivated, but couldn't formulate a healthy version in my head. I walked to the end of the isle but then did an abrupt about face and headed for the glass door with the tortellini behind it, drawn to it for some reason. (I have a gluten allergy so am not supposed to eat pasta.)

As I arrived I noticed a woman with a salt and pepper hair in a bun standing directly in front of my door. I sidled up next to her and slipped the door open as she seemed to glance to the next door. Furtive, I grabbed a bag of tortellini, pondering briefly whether it should be meat-filled or cheese-filled when she looked at me and said, "I put those in a delicious soup I make." My stress melted away as she faced me and looked me in the eye as she spoke, giving me each of her soup ingredients, and telling me when to add them.

Of course I knew this woman had been sent to me, but the best part was when she told me she made the soup for pow wows and that she also made dream catchers and moccasins. She was Native American! How cool is that? I hope I bump into her again, but in the meantime I have her soup to feast on. And everyone who has tasted it told me they liked it.

Dream Catcher Soup

One bag of frozen tortellini (meat or cheese filled)
One bag of frozen stir fry vegetables
One 32. oz. carton of beef broth
One package of beef stew meat
One chopped onion
1/4 cup of tomato sauce

Saute the chopped onion in some olive oil. Cut up stew meat into bite size pieces and add to translucent onions. Add a cup of beef broth and the 1/4 cup of tomato sauce, simmer for an hour to break the beef down. Add the bag of veggies and the rest of the broth. Simmer for 20-30 minutes, add tortellini, simmer for 10-20 more minutes. (I can take a cup of soup out for me, before adding the tortellini.) Serve. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

No Thing

In the beginning of each year, for the past several, I have chosen a word to become my theme for the year. Last year the word was self-love and out of it came a project to make a heart each Monday.

This year, as I have walked, I have considered various words and possible projects for the new year, but nothing has felt right.

So I have decided this year, the word will be "nothing". However, I think of it more as "no-thing." As in I need not focus on any particular thing, instead whatever comes up, is where my heart will be.

My heart right now is in supporting my brother through chemotherapy and radiation treatments for cancer. Every day on my walks I send him a prayer.

This is today's prayer, for Rich~*


Monday, January 7, 2013

Monday's Heart 52, Best Part

"Anyone who thinks gardening begins in the spring and ends in the fall is missing the best part of the whole year; for gardening begins in January with the dream."  

{Josephine Nuese}

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


  Each January I become a trailblazer, seeking to discover some untouched aspect of myself.
Walking through passages. 
Portals to a pristine kingdom.
A world unmarred.
I transform as I move through them.
My perspective shifts.
Sometimes I am birthed through the doorway altogether, to the unaccustomed state of no thought, no thing, just being.
Reuniting with some unspoiled region buried deep within.
Each January I become a trailblazer, seeking to discover some untouched aspect of myself.
 And I find passages out of the darkness and into the light.