Thursday, May 26, 2011


I'm not much of a drinker. I had a drink here and there in college, and a series of them once in a misguided attempt to fit in with people I would never see again. After that I gave up alcohol as more trouble than it was worth. I'm generally just as happy to drink a caffeine-free diet Pepsi as anything else.

That said, when I got to my childhood home and started preparing to move my father home with hospice, there were moments when a drink or two sounded like a fantastic idea. At first it was a joke - "This trip is going to require a lot more diet Pepsi, if not something stronger." But the more I thought about what I am facing, the more tempting the idea was.

I ran to the grocery store after I got to town in order to get some food to eat while I am here. For a minute, I wondered if a four-pack of wine coolers would go with my bagels and peanut butter. After all, I had a couple nights to myself at the house before I would be totally responsible for my father's care.

I don't have a moral objection to alcohol for adults of legal age who can use good judgement in their indulgence. And I didn't walk away from the beer aisle because I thought buying it would be a moral failing. I walked away because I knew the drink(s) wouldn't change my reality and could cause more harm than good. I walked away because I knew that would be the first step down a slippery slope of complications - and I don't need more complications in my life.

Today, when the hospice social worker was quietly asking me how I was coping (a conversation that is really best had away from the identified patient in my opinion), she mentioned that caregivers with a history of depression, anxiety or substance abuse need to be watchful for signs that the role is wearing on them to the point of needing additional mental health assistance. 

My mind immediately went back to the internal debate I had. I felt a wave of guilt, like I had been "caught" just thinking about drinking to numb the stress. Once she left, I thought some more about the whole thing and felt affirmed in my judgement to stick with diet Pepsi. My wiser self had prevailed in that moment. Stressful circumstances like these are breeding grounds for pain-numbing activities and too many of those just lead to more pain later on.

If you want to know a simple way to help during these days, pick up some caffeine-free diet Pepsi for me. It's my drink of choice for this season of life!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


My father has been moved home for hospice care. This has changed so many things for me, I hardly know where to start. But one thing that has changed would be priorities. Things that seemed so important a month ago - or emails or tweets or whatever - are things I don't have much time or energy for these days. I am getting a crash course in simplifying to the essentials.

I am trusting that some day I will look back on this season and be able to see the learning that comes from it. Today, I am just tired.

Saturday, May 21, 2011


I confess, I am a re-reader. I like to read books again that I enjoyed the first time.

A lot of people look at me like I am strange because I spend so much money on books "you'll only read once." Because I am a fast reader, skimming at times even through books I enjoy, I can re-read something and not feel like I just read it and know what is coming. And when I do read a book often enough to know what is coming (Harry Potter), it can add to the enjoyment because I know "one of my favorite parts" is coming up.

I have been thinking about re-reading a lot lately. My life is so chaotic these days I am having trouble digging into a book deeply enough to keep reading. My mind is racing. I am staying up past midnight to get things done and the next night falling into bed at 9pm trying to make up for all the lost sleep.

In the back of my mind, though, is the idea that I could pick up an old (or new) favorite - a book I don't have to work to engage with or enjoy. The idea of falling into a story like that appeals to me.

Here are some of my read-over-and-over favorites:
The Amber Photograph: Newly Repackaged Edition
Harry Potter Paperback Box Set (Books 1-7)
Touched by an Alien

That last one is a new favorite I reviewed a few weeks ago on my other blog. That is the one I keep looking at and thinking of longingly. If I do a re-read this weekend, that will likely be the book I pick up. The author's voice is fantastc, the characters are outstanding, and I get inspired by the heroine's kick-butt nature. I need a little kick-butt attitude in my life these days!

So, do you re-read? What are your go-to books when you want to read something fantastic and familiar?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Lacking inspiration

I try to blog in batches. I write things that I want to share, schedule them out and hope that inspiration strikes for another batch while those things are already in the pipeline. But life these days isn't feeling too inspiring. Overwhelming, impossible, exhausing? Yes. Inspiring? Not so much.

I can feel the anxiety in the pit of my stomach. It's the waiting-for-the-other-shoe-to-drop kind of anxiety. Each time my phone rings, I wonder, "What now?"

And it feels like pain is swirling around me in the lives of others - parents dying, children dying, surgeries, tumors, job loss.... It seems like the world is falling apart. Maybe in my own pain I am more aware of the pain of others.

Whether things are really that depressing or if it just my own sensitivity, it's ovewhelming. I know it is bad when I hear the "reports" on the news about the group saying the rapture is coming on Saturday and I find myself thinking, "Wouldn't that be nice?"

I know this is a season - a crummy one, true, but it won't go on forever. Another season will come. I'm hoping for a sunny season next.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


I have been doing a little of this and a little of that lately. Here and there that has included being crafty. Here are some of the latest creations.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

My favorite notebook

I am a notebook fanatic. Yes, fanatic.

These are some of the notebooks I encounter each week, if not every day:

  • Small Vera Bradley "Pocket Pals" in Boysenberry - for scriptures that are speaking to me or that I want to memorize
  • Yellow, single-subject spiral - blog and essay drafts
  • Small re-covered (camping paper) spiral blank journal - book reviews by month (this is actually my 3rd notebook for book reviews)
  • Boynton calendar/notebook - blog schedule
  • Large spiral blank book with black cover - self-discovery and personal mission statement workbook
  • A second large spiral blank book - inspiration book (pictures from magazines, notes, etc)
  • Spiral-bound blank journal  - "The January Book" - my journal (It's call the January book because I am usually better about writing in a journal in January than I am any other time of year!)
  • Red, single-subject spiral - character analysis from a favorite series of books
  • Small Vera Bradley journal (Simply Violet) - My book book where I track what new books are being released when.
  • Set of three spiral notebooks - I use these to record the titles of books I would like to read some time (actually, this is the second set of three books I have created. The first set is full. There's one book for adult fiction, one for non-fiction and one for children's and young adult books)

See what I mean? I am crazy about notebooks. Want to buy me a present? You can't go wrong with a notebook!

But my favorite notebook right now is a small, lined journal covered with purple floral material. I don't even remember where I found it, but I wish I did so I could buy more for the future.

I love this notebook because it has come to represent a snapshot of my life. This is the notebook where I jot quotes or websites or Bible verses I come across that I don't want to lose track of or that speak to me at that moment. I write down nutrition information, recipes, writer guidelines for magazines, and encouraging thoughts for the day. I write down blog or essay ideas. 

This little book is my memory - my archive - of life today. I don't know what I would do without it.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Most Influential Books - Part 4 (final)

 Well, it's time for my final 5 books. 

As I have compiled this list, I have noticed that, for me, the books are only seldom influential because of their content. More often, they have been influential because they have made me appreciate good writing and good storytelling. These books are the foundation for my love of reading. The hope of finding more treasures like these send me to the library and book stores week after week.

5) The Baby Whisperer - This book was a God-send when I was home with my newborn and wondering if either of us were going to survive to his first birthday unscathed. This is the book I recommend to all new moms. Secrets of the Baby Whisperer: How to Calm, Connect, and Communicate with Your Baby

 4) Deadline - I tire of Christian fiction at times. The stories seem repetitive and often don't even grab my attention enough to pull them off the shelf, much less buy them. But Deadline is something special. I didn't even connect with the sequels as much as I connected with this one book. I read it over and over and over. The descriptions of Heaven are encouraging and inspiring. The character development of Jake over the course of the story is fantastic. Deadline

3) The Amber Photograph - This is another piece of Christian fiction that rises above the crowd. I read this one over and over, too - usually when I want to connect in a deep, emotional way to a story. The emotions are so well described and the characters are deep and delightful.
The Amber Photograph: Newly Repackaged Edition

2) The Harry Potter series - I resisted reading these for a long time, but when I finally read them, I fell in love - with the characters most of all, but also with the world and the complete story arc. I have so many "this is my favorite part" moments in the series. Harry Potter Paperback Box Set (Books 1-7)

1) The Bible - I wish I could say I was the sort of Christian who had read the Bible cover to cover, studying it and pouring over it. But I am not. The Bible is a source of comfort and encouragement to me, time and time again in my life. It is a foundational book for life.

[I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click to Amazon from one of my blogs and buy something, I receive a small percentage of the purchase price.]


 Okay - that's my list. What books have been an influence on you or on your reading life?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Most Influential Books - Part 3

And the list marches on. Here are numbers 10 through 6.

10) 32 Third Graders and One Class Bunny - I discovered this author and this book the year I taught second and third graders part time. It completely normalized my experiences in the classroom and inspired me to keep showing up, day after day. 32 Third Graders and One Class Bunny: Life Lessons from Teaching 

9) Please Understand Me - I love the Myers Briggs. It has its critics, but I have found it to be a useful tool for groups as well as self-discovery. I use the principals of the Myers Briggs, and also the temperament theory Keirsey outlines in this book, every day as I learn about myself and relate to others. Please Understand Me II: Temperament, Character, Intelligence 

8) The Westing Game - Brilliant mystery. Amazing plotting with an abundance of twists and turns. My husband and I each brought a copy into our marriage. I can't wait until my son is old enough to enjoy it.

7) The Phantom Tollbooth - Another favorite book from my childhood. I loved the puns, the word play and the fantastic world Juster devised. My favorite version, though, is the audio book done by David Hyde Pierce - perfection! The Phantom Tollbooth

6) Grime and Punishment - One of the first cozy mysteries I ever read. It was the beginning of a delightful journey of reading that led to Mary Daheim, Tim Myers, Kate Collins, Donna Andrews, Joanna Carl, Joanne Fluke and many, many others. Grime and Punishment (Jane Jeffrey Mysteries, No. 1)

[I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click to Amazone from one of my blogs and buy something, I receive a small percentage of the purchase price.]

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Most Influential Books - Part 2

I mentioned Thursday that I was going to highlight some of the books that have been influential in my life. Here are numbers 15 though 11.

15) The Sword (Book 1, Sons of Destiny series) - Yeah, I know. This is the sort of book that you carry through the library surrounded by other books because it looks like one of those books. And truly, it is steamier than my usual reading fare. But I was completely entranced by the world the author built and the story of this family of brothers that she created. This was a series I was reading from the library, but when it got to be too long of a wait to get the next book in the series, I went out and bought the whole kit and caboodle for myself. The series is another great example of plotting over individual stories as well as a larger story arc for the series.  The Sword (Sons of Destiny)

14) Clean and Simple Scrapbooking - This book was written by one of my favorite scrapbookers. Cathy is sassy and fun, and her design style is simple and classic. This book, and its sequel, really spoke to me and affirmed my simple, linear style of scrapbooking as well as helped me with design ideas and principles. Clean And Simple Scrapbooking: Ideas for Design, Photography, Journaling & Typography 

13) PS, I Love You - I read this book as a teenager - you really have to work at getting copy of it anymore. I don't remember much about the plot, but I remember how much I loved it. I read it over and over and over again. I thought it was beautiful and perfect. I would love to write things that connect with kids like this book connected with me. PS I Love You (Sweet Dreams Series #1)

12) The Monster at the End of this Book - This was the one book I insisted my son have in his library. I remember it fondly from my childhood. I love books that engage the reader and also ones that are funny. This book is still a favorite. The Monster at the End of this Book (Sesame Street) (Big Little Golden Book)

11) The Three Musketeers - I never read books like this. Never. I avoid anything labeled "literature" or "classic." But I read - and loved - all of it (and it was the unabridged version, so there was a lot to love!) This challenged me to be more open-minded about what I read. The Three Musketeers (Oxford World's Classics)

[I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click to Amazon from one of my blogs and buy something, I receive a small percentage of the purchase price.]

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Most Influential Books - Part 1

I recently read a tweet about the "50 Most Influential Books of the Last 50 (or so) Years." Of the 50, I had read five. (Hitchhiker's Guide, DaVinci Code, Seven Habits, Harry Potter and The Purpose Driven Life) The post got me thinking. If I haven't read most of those books, what books have been the most influential to me? I came up with 20. I'll be covering them over several days, five at a time, starting with #20 (although they aren't really in a particular order).

20) The Bobbsey Twin mysteries - you would have rarely seen me as a kid without one of these books in my hand. I read them over and over and over. They started my on my mystery-loving path and eventually led to Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden. Bobbsey Twins Complete Series Set, 1-12

19) Six+One Traits of Writing - This book was part of a life-changing master's level class I took a couple years ago before starting Creative Writing Club at my son's school. I learned so much from that class, and the book still has more to teach me. 6 + 1 Traits of Writing: The Complete Guide (Grades 3 and Up)

18) Looking for God in Harry Potter - This book introduced me to the symbolism in the Harry Potter series and convinced me that reading the series wouldn't be a sin. Looking for God in Harry Potter

17) The Candymakers - A recent discovery - brilliant example of good storytelling and plotting. Part of one of my favorite memories of this school year with my students. The Candymakers

16) Big Picture Scrapbooking - This book was the precursor to the Library of Memories class taught by Stacy Jullian. The premise is to move away from chronological scrapbooking and the quest to be "caught up" and  tell the stories you long to tell and make connections between moments that help tell those stories. The Big Picture: Scrapbook Your Life and a Whole Lot More.

[I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click to Amazon from one of my blogs and buy something, I receive a small percentage of the purchase price.]

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Denial Is My Friend

People cope with the trials of life in different ways.

Some drink. Some do drugs. Some go shopping. Some head for the fridge. Some people become angry, some become obsessive, and others become depressed. I have tried various coping mechanisms in my life. My personal favorite, though, is denial.

My brain seems to have a switch, and when things are bad enough, that switch gets thrown. At different times that might mean
  • I convince myself that I misunderstood and the situation isn't as bad as I thought.
  • I feel like the situation isn't really part of my life - it's like it is happening somehow separate from me.
  • I tell myself that I don't have to deal with the problem now. It might resolve itself, somehow, later, or I can deal with it when the rest of my life slows down.

Denial is rarely a conscious choice for me. My mind sort of moves there on its own for self-preservation.

As I have gotten older, I've learned to recognize denial when it creeps in. Sometimes I will notice physical signs that I am stressed when I am not conscious of my anxiety or worries. I recognize that it helps me over extreme circumstances until I am better capable of dealing with them... or until I just can't ignore them any longer. 

Denial gets me through seasons of waiting. I embrace it as a tool, knowing it is just that - a temporary means for survival and peace.