My Book Addiction and Reviews

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In case I haven’t told you before now, I am a bookaholic. I’m also a sugarholic, but that’s another story. However, there is something that the two have in common. The sweetness of both reading and savoring a piece of chocolate draws me in. I have a very difficult time leaving them behind. The more I read good books or eat sweets, the more I want them. I work hard on my sugar addiction, trying to control my cravings. But I can’t seem to control my hunger for books, and since it isn’t affecting my life negatively, I don’t worry about it much.

Even as a kid, I loved books. The best days were those when I went to the library and chose two or three new ones to bring home. I lived inside their covers, following stories that I was sure were written just for me. These days, though, I want to own the book I’m reading in case I want to make notes in the margins. Books are companions that I want to keep nearby. If the book and I don’t connect then it goes in the box that I send off to the library book sale or give it to someone who might like it.

For the last couple of years my actual reading time was minimal, due to work on my own book and the plethora of other things I had to do. But the the stack of books by my bedside and on the bookcase across the room just kept growing taller. This past spring when my memoir was well on it’s way to publication, I slowly began taking one book at time and opening its pages, bathing in stories and language. At first I felt guilty for not “working.” Surely I should be doing laundry, filing away the stacks of papers in my studio, or unpacking a few boxes that still haven’t been emptied since our move here six years ago. But then I remembered that part of a writer’s work is to read.

Back when I was writing mostly poetry, the easiest way for me to get moving with my writing was to pick up a poetry book and read for at least thirty minutes if not an hour. At the end of that time, I’d be so inspired by the power of words and how they were put together, that I’d sit and write for hours. These days are no different. I get inspired by reading prose, whether it be fiction or nonfiction. And the stack of books I mentioned above is slowly, yes, slowly dwindling. I guess the slowness is because I keep adding one or two whenever I see ones that I MUST read. And there are plenty of those. The two books I’ve reviewed below are those that just recently took their places on the stack.

FASTEST THINGS ON WINGS, Rescuing Hummingbirds in Hollywood, by Terry Masear, is a goodie. It is a thriller. Not in the sense that is has murderers or spies in it, but in the sense that I have always loved those tiny winged creatures, and wanted to know more about them. I was thrilled to learn about the mysterious lives of these pinky-sized wonders. This book, however, goes beyond the facts about one particular bird.  It also tells the story of a compassionate woman who gave her life over to saving the lives of thousands of hummingbirds. It’s about her special relationships with those who spent time recovering from near death under her care. I call it a “Thriller/Memoir.” I don’t think those who love nature, memoir, and especially birds, should miss this one. It’s a delight.

THINGS UNSAID, by Diana Y. Paul, is a novel that could be a memoir. It is the universal story of a dysfunctional family, how they tear each other apart, and how if not stopped, their instability could bleed down through generations to come. It is a story of the conflicts between a set of elderly parents, their three grown children, and their granddaughters. All of them soaking in the sour brine of relationships gone bad. In today’s world of Baby Boomers taking over the care of their aging parents, it’s a thoughtful tale we can all  learn from. Do we give our all to those who brought us into the world despite their toxic behaviors? Or do we need to let them go their own way in order to preserve our own lives and those of our children? Every caretaker story is different, but this one holds a bit of everything that could go wrong and then some. Highly recommended to me by several other She Writes Press authors, I found it hard to put down.

I’m still choosing which book to begin next. I used to split up my days reading two to three books at a time, but I can’t seem to do that anymore. My brain is telling me I can’t multitask anymore. So now only one book at a time has to do. At the moment I’m being drawn to The Art of Work, A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant To Do, by Jeff Goins. I think that being in my seventies, it’s high time I figure out what I want to do with my life. 🙂

Confessions Of An Ex-Catholic


May 30, 1950.  My first Holy Communion

May 30, 1950. My first Holy Communion

 I ADORE Pope Francis. In just one week he has changed the atmosphere in our country from one of intolerance, hate, and bigotry, to one of love, and compassion. Oh, yes, I’m aware that there are still people out there, including some politicians, that haven’t seen the light. I heard that one couple chose not to be part of the crowd surrounding the Pope because he’s chosen not to wear the standard red, Pope shoes. Like him, I prefer to be living in my old and faded stretchy shoes than the uncompromising, iron-clad boots the nay-sayers wear.

I wish this Pope had been around when I was a vulnerable ten-year-old and my parents were thrown out of the church because they were married by a justice-of- the-peace the night before my dad shipped out to fight for his country in World War II. According to the priest who made that decision, my brothers and I suddenly became something called bastards. I had already been baptized in the church and had received my first Holy communion. I was confused. I didn’t understand but it affected my spiritual life for many years until I recently wrote about it in my memoir.

This excerpt from the book describes what I was feeling:

The church’s rejection shook me to the core. My brothers and I would go to limbo instead of heaven. I felt that the church had taken on the role of abuser to all of us. God, who I was lead to believe was the world’s hero, the force that always protected everyone, was no longer there for me. He didn’t recognize my family members or me as worthy souls. He’d simply ditched us on the side of the road.

Even as an adult, I was afraid to go into any Catholic Church. I wanted to refuse when my cousin, Mary Anne, asked me to be a bride’s maid when she was married in the Catholic church. But my mother told me that I couldn’t let her down. My knees were shaking as I followed the procession down the aisle, praying that there would be no explosion of thunder and lightning over the scene because God didn’t want me there. And on Bill’s and my honeymoon in Europe, I didn’t want to visit the Vatican in Rome, simply to see Michelangelo’s magnificent works. I went anyway and in the end was glad that I did.

My First Holy Communion Certificate, received in 1950

My First Holy Communion Certificate

Today I’m comfortable inside churches of all denominations. I’ve found forgiveness and compassion for those religious zealots who trampled on my world. I strongly believe that God is not a punishing deity and that I am worthy to be called a child of God.

I’m not about to rejoin the church. I prefer to believe in a higher power in my own way. I find God in in the star-lit sky at night, in the fiery reds, hot pinks, and golden sun-struck clouds at sunset, in a bed of tall ferns and soft mosses beneath a canopy of towering oaks, a child’s smile, and in the song of the wood thrush.

I disagree with Pope Francis’ take on same sex-marriage, the role of women in the church, and abortion. But because of Pope Francis’ visit to this country, I feel ever so much closer to God and my belief that we can make our world a better place for our children and all of the people and creatures that we need to protect as global climate changes rips what we’ve considered normal into shreds.

I am grateful for the peace that Pope Francis has brought to so many people while he was here and pray that the serenity and faith that he’s left us with will not be swept away too soon as we make our way through the work of finding a man or woman suitable to become our next President. Politics is often a dirty game. Let’s help keep it clean. Let’s make room in our lives for everyone, no matter their skin color, religion, or ethnicity.

What is your takeaway from the visit of Pope Frances?

My Garden Buddy

Mr. Robin May 1, 2015

Mr. Robin May 1, 2015

A member of the thrush family, American Robins are our most common birds. When they return from their winter travels we know spring is on it’s way. Here in Virginia they only seem to disappear for about a month or two in January and February. There are usually one or two that hang on even in the coldest months and I’ve often wanted to knit little jackets for them. I don’t put bird feeders out because I have a cat. I don’t think they eat many seeds anyway.

This year, when they returned from where ever they go, they came in huge flocks. The neighborhood was filled with their sharp clucks and trills and as the days passed some moved on further north. They’re found on most everyone’s lawn, digging about for juicy worms and grubs. They are as American as apple pie, baseball, and the Big Mac.

When I was about ten years of age, a robin became my pet for the summer and when he died later in the fall, I was heartbroken. You can read that story here. This year one of the Robins that frequents my garden and its numerous birdbaths, has become my gardening buddy.

He’s a handsome guy, with a black head and tail feathers, charcoal wings and a bright orange breast. He started hanging out with me a couple of weeks ago when I started digging up plants that needed to be relocated. Once the plant was out of the ground and I was planting it in it’s new spot, Mr. Robin dove into the soil I had just disturbed. He quickly downed the worms that were trying to wriggle their way back into the damp dirt and out of harm’s way. He’s very quick and gets quite a few out of every hole I dig.

Mr. Robin May 1, 2015

Mr. Robin May 1, 2015

When I start talking to him about how lovely the day is or ask about his family who must be nesting nearby, he stops digging, tilts his head to one side, and stares at me. Over the past few weeks he’s gotten closer, maybe two feet at times.

When I told a friend about him, she was worried that I wouldn’t have enough worms in my garden to keep it healthy, but I’m sure there are plenty to go around and I don’t mind sharing the bounty. The whole idea of keeping a garden is to relax among the plants and attract wildlife whether it be a plain old robin or a rabbit looking for a carrot patch.

The other day when it was raining and I chose not to work in the garden, I found Mr. Robin out on the patio near one of my french doors. He was looking right at me through the glass, chirping up a storm. Was he calling me to come out and dig a few holes for him? Maybe not, but with my creative imagination, I had to wonder. There are other numerous robins about but they all fly off as soon as they see me. This robin, however, is usually not visible until I start pottering about the yard. He hops about, inspecting the soil where I’ve just been working, gathers half-a-dozen or so juicy worms and flies off, returning a few minutes later. I presume he is feeding Mrs. Robin, who is keeping their light blue eggs warm.

Miss Liiliput

Miss Liiliput

Oh yes, what about the cat you ask? Lilli is getting on in age and stays in the house most of the day. Though she still stalks birds, she goes out later in the afternoon when the air has warmed up nicely, but by then it’s too warm for me to be gardening and Mr. Robin is hanging out elsewhere. When summer heats up, Lilli will be out and about more than she is now, but I will be done with the digging and planting by then. Mr. Robin will probably go off into another garden where no cats wander about.

The Silence Of Snow

DSC01864I just returned from a writing retreat with four wonderful women. It was a week of hard writing, sharing, nurturing, and laughter. I’ll write more about it next week. But for now, with a good portion of our country sleeping beneath a heavy blanket of snow, I leave you with the following poem.

The Silence of Snow

I shift beneath blankets
warm from nightly wandering
the only sound my thoughts
percolating through misty dreams
unspoken words muffled by snow
pillowed on pines  plump sculptures
thick as feather beds conceal
the garden that yesterday lay
barren and scarred

No birds call  leaden geese in silhouette
glide the river thickening with winter chill
I slip back into dreams  a mummy wrapped
in sheets of white  the slow dance
of cranes in a sea of frozen fog
drift in and out numbing my bones
awake once more I wonder if death
is as still and pure as
the silent snow


What questions do snow and silence raise for you?

Changing With The Seasons

IMG_0490Here we are again, in that beautiful time of year when leaves start to change their colors, nights call for soft blankets, and chilly mornings make me run to the attic to unpack a few cozy sweaters.

I LOVE this time of year. Though spring is always magnificent here in Virginia, with it’s colorful blossoms and the promise of new life, summer, usually leaves me exhausted with its busy pace that eventually drains my energy. The best parts of summer for me are those sun warmed tomatoes picked directly from the garden, and sweet, juicy peaches that make my hot weather breakfasts of yogurt, fruit and nuts, especially delicious. Now the peaches are getting scarce and when I can find them they’re mealy in texture. So I’m turning over with the season, moving to warmer breakfast foods like left over soup, bowls of hot cereal, or eggs and bacon.

DSCF0621My writing muse is fighting with my garden genie, which is calling me to spend more time outside amongst my plants. I’ve dozens of baby hellebores that need to be dug up and moved, lots of weeding, and the roses that have gone wild over the warmer months need pruning. In the summer, working in the garden is an early morning affair, but now cooler temperatures lure me out all day long. Thank goodness both are creative activities.

The arrival of autumn encourages me to slow down and get ready for the cold months, when I spend most of my time indoors writing, and reading. When I’m cold, I like nothing better than a long soak in my big tub filled with bubbles and the scent of lavender. Hot steaming cups of tea that include warming herbs and spices, like cardamom, ginger, and cinnamon, sipped in front of a crackling fire also will do the trick. I’m going to bed earlier now, and get up later, with the sun. I’m yearning to cook stews, braises, and soups with root vegetables like parsnips, beets, sweet potatoes, and carrots that warm my soul.

On my morning walks, I notice squirrels stashing acorns away for the winter. Birds are fewer and quieter than they have been. Lilliput, my cat, is playing her seasonal game of in and out, unable to decide if it is more pleasant inside or out in the yard. The dogs walk at a much brisker pace cutting our walk time from about twenty minutes to fifteen. Once the real cold arrives they’ll walk even faster, wanting to come back in the house to warm their small bodies, in five minutes. Lilliput will go out to do her business and perhaps stalk a blue jay, but will be back in a flash if no bird are about.

Change can be hard. As a child I moved with my family from house to house, like a gypsy, as fast as my father could build them and sell them. I had little sense of what home really was. I’m ready to stay put now, especially at this time of year, when my feather comforter and warm wooly socks invite me to curl up on the sofa with a good book.

Do you enjoy the change of seasons? What is your favorite season and why?