ENDING THE YEAR WITH A BANG – DECEMBER’S READING

I did end the year with a bang – topping 100+ books! Before you get all gushy and start congratulating me, I have decided to read LESS next year. Yes, read LESS. I am going to make an effort to not read prior to 8PM during the week, and only 30 minutes in the morning. I have decided to read a few classics that have eluded me over the years. However, here are the dozen books I read in December 2016.

THE HUNGRY TIDE by Amitav Ghosh – Currently I am in a reading challenge to read a book from each continent, and this was my choice for Asia. Set in the Sandarbans, which is located on the eastern coast of India and Bangladesh (see map below). I’d never heard of this part of the world, and I loved learning about it. Piya Roy, a  American marine biologist of Indian descent, and is in search of a rare species of river dolphin. She enlists the aid of an illiterate and proud local fisherman and a translator she met on the train. Reading this book is one of the reasons I love reading challenges, I wouldn’t have found this book otherwise and learned of a new world.

BIRD IN HAND by Christina Baker Kline – On the way home one rainy night, Alison hits a car that ran a stop sign and a death occurs. Everything changes in the blink of an eye. This is a story about four people, two marriages that are changing. It is a page turner.

RECKLESS by Susan Kiernan-Lewis (Mia Kazmaroff Mysteries) – I picked this up as it looked like a quick read set in my hometown of Atlanta. Mia has a paranormal gift and teams up with an ex-detective to solve a mystery. It was a quick read, but pretty much forgettable. Also she had some of the geography wrong for Atlanta – irritating, especially from someone that used to give historical tours of the city.

BASQUIAT – A QUICK KILLING IN ART by Phoebe Hoban – very compelling biography about the artist Basquiat, who died of a drug overdose at the age of 27. This follows his meteoric rise in the 80’s New York art scene and his ultimate burnout and drug consumption. It covers the graffiti art movement, the crazy world of art auction houses, his relationships with multiple women (including Madonna) and of course, his relationship with mentor Warhol. I liked it so much I continued my journey by watching the movie Basquiat, which is worth seeing if for none other than David Bowie’s portrayal of Andy Warhol (or should I say his channeling of Warhol).

ARTIFICE by Eric Bickernicks – this was a free download on Kindle, and since it was about art, why not? it was enjoyable, but a little silly and largely forgettable.

THINK AND GROW RICH by Napoleon Hill  – This was originally published during the depression, and by the time of the authors death in 1970, it had sold more than 20 million copies! It is the  product of two decades of research begun when Andrew Carnegie gave Hill he task of organizing a Philosophy of Personal Achievement. Armed with only an introductory letter from Carnegie, he interviewed over five hundred successful people including Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and others. This is the result of the research – and the 13 steps to success. It is a book to keep and refer back to.

A LESSON IN SECRETS – A MAISIE DOBBS NOVEL by Jacqueline Winspear – Maisie is working undercover in a university in Cambridge founded by the author of a pacifist children’s book which may have caused a mutiny during WWI. Of course, the author of this book is murdered almost as soon as Maisie arrives. This is a fun series, but I don’t feel this is the strongest book.

THE STORIED LIFE OF A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin – I found this on my bookshelf as I was doing my end of the year purge. I don’t know how I overlooked this little gem, after all it is about books and a bookstore! Set in the bookstore Island Books, A.J. is mourning the loss of his wife when his priceless copy of a Poe book has been stolen and a baby is left in the store. Quirky, but also uplifting, it is filled with interesting characters, critiques of classical books, and it is a wonderful book for those that love books and bookstores!

THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS by M.L. Stedman – In reading around the world, this was my choice for Australia. This is an incredibly sad tale (soon to be a major picture by Steven Spielberg) about Tom Sherbourne returning to Australia after WWI where he takes the job as a lighthouse keeper on an island about half a day’s journey from the coast. He eventually brings a wife, Isabel, After a few years of miscarriages, they find a boat washed up on shore with a dead man and a crying baby. They raise the baby as their own, but learn several years later, someone has been looking for the man and the baby. Amoral dilemma for sure!

ANNE FRANK: THE DIARY OF A YOUNG GIRL by Anne Frank – need I say more? I should have reread it before now, and everybdy that read it in school should reread it as an adult. The introduction is written by Eleanor Roosevelt.

THAT OLD CAPE MAGIC by Richard Russo – This is the story of Jack and Joy, who have been married for 35 years. Through this time, they have both tolerated their in-laws and have now separated. Reunited at their only child’s wedding. Jack has the ashes of both his parents in the trunk, with his mother talking endlessly to him. Part of the book is quite humorous, but it is not the strongest book by the great Richard Russo.

THE PRINCE OF FIRE (Gabriel Allon Novel) by Daniel Silva – i love the premise of these books, world famous art restorer by day, Jewish assassin by night (kind of). This is the 4th book in the series, and like the others it is fast paced, action packed. It covers a lot of ground, going from Rome, to Venice, Cairo, London, Paris and Jerusalem. Along the way Silva gives a history lesson from 1910 to the present, on the struggles between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Great exciting way to end the year!

I have been giving thought to what I will read going into 2017 – more on that later. Any suggestions? I will continue reading around the world, and continue my journey with authors from each state in the United States.

 

 

TWO MONTHS READING – OCTOBER AND NOVEMBER

Obviously, I got sidetracked and didn’t get my October reading blog posted. I’m not going to get into a lot of detail – as there are almost 20 of them! But – here they go!

BOYHOOD: Scenes from Provincial Life by J.M. Coetzee – I was challenged to read a book from each continent, so I started with this book from Africa.  The first of a trilogy about growing up in South Africa at the time of apartheid. Strong book. Coetzee was the 2003 recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature. 

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TERRA INCOGNITA: TRAVELS IN ANTARTICA by Sara Wheeler – As part of the reading challenge, I left Africa and went to Antartica. I realized how little I knew about Antartica!! A women spends seven months in Antartica as part of an artist program. I was so intrigued, I watched a documentary on Shackleton as a result of this. (This is one of two books I read in the past two months that deal with Antartica!)

A TRICK OF THE LIGHT – an Inspector Gamache book by Louise Penny – weirdly, the day I finished this, Inspector Gamache was the answer to a Jeopardy question. Fun, fast paced mystery.

CAN WE TALK ABOUT SOMETHING MORE PLEASANT: A MEMOIR by Roz Chast – this is the story of the last years of Roz’ parents life, something many of us can identify with these days. It is a graphic novel – easy to read and very moving, funny and poignant.

HOW TO READ LITERATURE LIKE A PROFESSOR by Thomas C. Foster – I will give more thought to what I’m reading in the future!

ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE by Anthony Doerr – While it is at times brutal in its depiction of WWII, it is still one of the most magical books I’ve read. It may have been my favorite book of 2016.

THE LITTLE PARIS BOOKSHOP: A Novel by Nina George– I’m a sucker for books about books, especially when it is set in a bookshop that sails down The Seine!  Another magical book – and a contender for my favorite book of 2016!

THE BUNGALOW MYSTERY by Carolyn Keene – This is the 3rd Nancy Drew book, which I found at my mothers house. I had written on the front page “This is my first mystery book. Given to me by Mrs. Jones on 12/22/1966”. Well, I haven’t stopped reading mysteries after 50 years!

THE OPPOSITE OF EVERYONE by Joshilyn Jackson – This book is by a local author and I wanted to love it so much! It was okay – about an cryptic message received from an estrange mother to her daughter, now a high stakes lawyer in Atlanta. Enter a half brother she didn’t know of, and they search for the half sister that was a surprise too. Throw in a little Hindu and mix it with the South.

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FOLLOWING ATTICUS – FORTY EIGHT HIGH PEAKS, ONE LITTLE DOG AND AN EXTRAORDINARY FRIENDSHIP by Tom Ryan – I picked this up a book festival. Who could resist that little dog? And, I have a dog named Atticus. I admit, I looked at the ending to make sure it didn’t end at the death of the dog! I learned about the 48 mountains in New Hampshire that are over 4,000 feet tall, as Tom and Atticus attempt to climb them all – not once, but twice – over the winter!

THE DESCENDANTS by Kaui Hart Hemmings – this was my Hawaii choice as part of my quest to read a book by an author from each state. I will blog about this separately, but if you loved the movie, you will love this book!

START SOMETHING THAT MATTERS by Blake Mycoskie – This is written by the founder of Tom’s Shoes – something I have been buying forever! There are a lot of good points about following your passion. Plus – I didn’t know he was a contestant on The Amazing Race!

MY FAMILY AND OTHER ANIMALS by Gerald Durrell – I am hooked on the BBC show, The Durrells of Corfu, which is based on this and the first book of The Corfu Trilogy. I loved this book and will read all three! Based on the writing of the youngest son, it is the adventures of a family consisting of a widow, three sons and a daughter that move to Greece.

BEHIND CLOSED DOORS by B.A. Paris – I received this book in the mail – and in a word – it is creepy! Especially when I received this letter a few days after receiving the book –  from the character in the book. In fact, I also received a post card from New Zealand after I finished the book, which didn’t make sense until I finished the book. You can’t put it down.

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WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE: A NOVEL by Maria Semple – Interesting format, with part of the book written as emails, letters and even F.B.I. documents. Bernadette is an agoraphobic  and the mom of Bee, who has aced her report card. Bee wants her reward to be a trip to Antartica. As they are planning the trip, Bernadette disappears. Humorous and not overly sentimental. (The second book that deals with Antartica!)

EMMA A MODERN RETELLING by Alexander McCall Smith – This is part of The Austin Project, where six modern day authors retold different Jane Austen books in modern times. It was an enjoyable read, but I really don’t like Emma very much.

I read three books about making vision boards in preparation of leading vision board workshops. Probably a little overkill!

THE COMPLETE VISION BOARD KIT – Using the Power of Intention and Visualization to Achieve Your Dreams by John Assaraf

THE VISION BOARD by Joyce Schwarz

THE COMPLETE IDIOT’S GUIDE TO VISION BOARDS by Marcia Layton Turner

Right now I’m reading a book set off the Eastern Coast of India in a place I’d never heard of! What are you reading?

 

 

A GIFT TO YOU – MOM’S RECIPES

Last week was the week of Thanksgiving in the United States. Americans across the land generally stop working and get together with friends and loved ones to give thanks. The year of 2016 has been a challenge, there have been some ups and there have been some downs. But, it has been a year of opening myself up and learning and receiving. This is the first year I haven’t actually had a “job”. But, still I worked. 

It was a year of transition and education, resulting in reflection and meditation. We had to move my mother into memory care. As a result, we spent time cleaning out my mothers house. As many of you know, that can be a very emotional journey – with emotions ranging from highs and lows. 

As  I started going through my mothers recipes, I decided to cook her recipes one by one, document the results and make a page for each recipe. So, today I offer you the first recipe I cooked, Hawaiian Chicken. Hawaiian Chicken Yes, I could read this recipe, but I’m not sure everyone else could.

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Here is a version for you to download and print to try out on your own, click here.  Adjust the recipe to your taste, I use freshly squeezed pineapple juice and more garlic. And, yes, the 36 hours marinating works.

Next up – maybe her “Very Good Cornbread” of “Very Italian Chicken” (her names).

If you want to receive these recipes – sign up for my blog. When I’m finished, you will have a completed cookbook.

I’ll close with a picture of mom with all her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Mom, Tyler, Mallory, Erin, Lexi, Braydon

Mom, Tyler, Mallory, Erin, Lexi, Braydon

 

I THINK I BROKE MY RECORD!!!!! September Books

September was a  productive month for me when it comes to reading. If I could only figure out how to monetize my love of reading -I don’t think there are any jobs for a professional book club facilitator!
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ANIMAL FARM by George Orwell – I read this in honor of Banned Book Week which was the week of 9/26/2016. I had never read this book, and I’m glad I finally got around to it. If you have put off reading it – first of all, it is available at your local library, and secondly – you can read it in an afternoon. Published in 1945, Orwell himself said it was about events leading up to the Russian Revolution of 1917. I’m not going to relay the entire plot, but you will want to discuss it with someone when you finish. Just remember, “The only good human being is a dead one.” AND “Man serves the interests of no creature except himself.”

A FOOL AND HIS MONEY by Sandra Orchard – This is the first book in a series about Serena Jones, who is part of the FBI’s Art Crime Team. It caught my eye at the local library – I think the title is very clever. The book, while entertaining and fun to read, is not overly clever.

THE ART OF NON-CONFORMITY: Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life you Want and Change the World by Chris Guillebeau  – I’ve long been a fan to Chris Guillebeau and I don’t know how I missed this book, but again, it was lurking on the shelves at the local library. Much of the book is inspired by Chris’s own story, but there are many case studies of others that have chosen to live unconventional and successful lives- and make a difference at the same time. I think I read it at the right time for me, having my office close after working there for 27 years I started 2016 optimistic feeling I could now live the life I truly want to live – I was given that opportunity. But, life gets in the way and I became my mother’s caregiver. However, I think this time was given to me to also decompress among other things. The book made me optimistic about my future – and the best lesson I learned – that life does NOT START AT AGE 65!

EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU  by Celeste Ng – This book is a good example of why book clubs are so great – I don’t know if I would have found this book otherwise.  Wouldn’t you be hooked with the opening lines “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet…”.  This is the tale of a Chinese American family in a small Ohio town in the 1970’s. Lydia is the favorite child of three children – a blue-eyed Amerasian. She is the daughter that will fulfill the dreams her parents weren’t able to achieve. Her homemaker mother Marilyn wants her to pursue a career in medicine, something she was unable to achieve. In her father James’s case, he wants her to be popular. When her body is found in the lake, the Lee family is devastated and long-kept secrets and the inability to communicate surface. Lydia’s older brother Nathan is convinced the local bad boy Jack was somehow responsible. The youngest daughter Hannah, long ignored by the family, has observed everything going on. This book sparked good discussions about families, cultural clashes, and lack of communication. It is hard to believe it was the first book published by this author.

AFTER YOU by Jojo Moyes – This is the  sequel to Me Before You and is the sequel the writer says she never planned on writing. But, I’m glad she did. After the death of Will, Louisa Clark joins the Moving On support group, but she isn’t exactly moving on. She is stuck, no longer wearing her funky clothes, working at a airport bar and keeping everybody away. An accident forces her back to her parents, and that starts a chain of events that will make her face her problems. A brisk page turner, it made me laugh and it made me cry, and most of all, believe in happy endings.

MRS. MALLORY: DEATH AMONG FRIENDS by Hazel Holt – I picked this up for a quarter and bought it to give to my niece Mallory. But, I had to read it first!  It was a fun read, a cozy British mystery. Apparently it is the ninth book the Mrs. Mallory series, set in the village of Taviscombe inhabited by plenty of colorful characters.

LEAVING LUCY PEAR by Anna Solomon – set primarily in the 1920’s, it begins in 1917, when Beatrice Haven, a wealth Jewish pianist about to enter Radcliffe finds she is pregnant. She hides away at her uncle’s Gloucester estate. After the baby is born, she leaves the girl under a pear tree, knowing there is a group that come at night to rob the trees of their pears. The baby is discovered by Emma Murphy, the wife of a poor fisherman, who raises the girl as one of her many children.  It skips ahead 10 years, and the child known as Lucy Pear knows she doesn’t belong to Emma. When Emma finds herself working for Beatrice’s family, things start happening. There are several interwoven tales and characters.  My only complaint is I want to know what happens to the delightful cross dressing Lucy as she begins her journey – hopefully there will be a sequel.

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY OR WHATEVER: TRACK SUITS, KIM CHEE, AND OTHER FAMILY DISASTERS by Annie Choi -Primarily a memoir, it involves Annie’s multi-generational  Korean family. Made up of 13 essays, it begins with how she spent her 27th birthday – alone. Most of them deal with the relationship and battles between a daughter and her mother. It was a fun read, at times reminding me of David Sedaris’s memoirs, and other times it seems a little trite.

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HUCK: THE REMARKABLE TRUE STORY OF HOW ONE LOST PUPPY TAUGHT A FAMILY – AND A WHOLE TOWN – ABOUT HOPE AND HAPPY ENDINGS by Janet Elder – I don’t normally read “dog books” – I get too emotionally involved. But, how could I resist that little face?  But, this book isn’t really about the dog. It is about a family finally getting a dog for their son Michael. After all he had been campaigning for years, complete with a power point presentation at the age of seven. But, they finally relent and adopt a red haired adorable toy poodle. When the family decides to take a vacation to go to Spring Training, they leave Huck with a family member. Within twenty-four hours they get the dreaded call, Huck slipped through the fence and is gone. The family immediately leaves and begins to search for the puppy. Taking place in a small town in New Jersey, the town is moved by the search and joins in – including  school children, business owners and even a police lieutenant. Wonderful quick read about hope and generosity.

THE LANGUAGE OF BEES; A NOVEL OF SUSPENSE FEATURING MARY RUSSELL AND SHERLOCK HOLMES by Laurie R. King – I am a sucker for Sherlock Holmes. However, this series is new to me. Mary Russell is much younger wife of Sherlock Holmes (by about 40 years). The couple have returned home to Sussex after spending seven months in India, Japan and California. This case involves a surrealistic painter, Damian Adler (who apparently has appeared in this series before). Adler is Holmes’ estranged son (born to Irene Adler). He seeks help in finding his wife and young daughter. There is a harrowing trip by airplane into the wilds of Scotland, a series of bodies turning up – some dead by apparent suicide and some by seemingly ritualistic sacrifices. It was a fun read. (Sherlock kept bees in his retirement).

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THE BOYS IN THE BOAT: NINE AMERICANS AND THEIR EPIC QUEST FOR GOLD AT THE 1936 BERLIN OLYMPICS by Daniel James Brown – This was a selection for a book club I joined early in 2016. According to the members, some of whom have been meeting for more than six years, this was the first book that everybody LOVED. This is the non-fiction book about the University of Washington’s eight-oared crew who represented the United States in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. There are two major backstories. The first is how all all nine team members came from lower to middle class families and struggled through school during the Depression. The Second is about Hitler’s Olympics. Along the way, I learned about the popularity of rowing in the 1930’s, with millions following the races on the radio. Best of all, it has been optioned for a movie directed by Kenneth Brannah!

What are your plans for reading? What do you recommend?

 

AUGUST – A MONTH OF ALLEGORIES, ALIASES, AUTHORS AND ALZHEIMERS

Yes, in the month of read a book about an allegory (in a painting), a biography of an author that wrote many books under an alias, and three books about Alzheimers.
Unknown-1 thornton-sisters.jpg.c140b543bea21c6e73e60bbc06277d9bTHE DITCHDIGGER’S DAUGHTERS by Yvonne Thornton MD – This inspiring book was written by one six daughters born to a laborer that worked two 8 hour jobs for 25 years. Donald Thornton wanted all of his daughters to become doctors and be successful independent black women. This is the journey of a family, even becoming a successful band, The Thornton Sisters. Mr. Thornton’s was tough, he was strict, but he gave out the wisest and wittiest advice! All of his daughters succeeded. Did they all become doctors? You’ll have to read it to find out. Here is a little clip of the band.

THE THINGS WE KEEP by Sally Hepworth – This was a book club selection – in fact, I went to an encore discussion that was demanded by members that missed the first discussion.  Anna Forster has early onset Alzheimers, diagnosed at age 38, Her twin brother moves her into Rosalind House, where she meets Luke, who is near her age. When their relationship turns romantic,  a tragic incident causes their families to keep them separated. Is Anna capable of falling in love? Is she be taken advantage of?

There is a supporting older lovable, but quirky elderly characters. The home’s new cook, Eve, gets involved in Anna and Luke’s story and breaks rules to keep them together. Eve’s seven year old daughter understands some of the older people better than anyone. It is written in a non-linear structure, and this mimic’s Anna’s growing disorientation. But it also keeps you wondering about what really happened. All is revealed in the end. Surprisingly, the book isn’t maudlin, some of it is downright funny. While there is no happy ending today for anyone with Alzheimers, I did feel gratified at the end for the future of Anna and Luke.

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STILL ALICE by Lisa Genova – I know – you are probably thinking, wasn’t the previous book enough?  Alice, a world-renowned linguist professor at Harvard, diagnosed with Alzheimers at age 50, with a husband that equally as successful. It is written with a third eye, but the story is told mostly through Alice’s point of view. It starts with Alice innocently forgetting things that she thinks are due to menopause and her busy life. When she gets lost and forgets appointments, she seeks help without telling anyone. Of course, the news is devastating and she has to share it. Because you see most of the book through Alice’s eyes, you see her increasing confusion over the course of the  book. The climax of the book is a speech she delivers to the Annual Dementia Care Conference.

“Being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s is like being branded with a scarlet A. But I am not what I saw or what I do or what I remember. I am fundamentally more than that..Please don’t look at our scarlet A’s and write us off.”

The book shows the family adjusting their lives and making compromises. It is told honestly and compassionately.  But, there is no happy ending with this disease.

Lisa Genova has a Ph.D. in neuroscience, so she did her research. This is a self-published book which she sent to the Alzheimer’s Association, which endorsed the book.

Yes, I cried. No, I haven’t seen the movie. I will some day, just not today.

THE RED LEATHER DIARY – by Lily Koppel – This was part of a challenge from a group to read a biography by a woman about a woman (of course, I read more than one). Lily Koppel finds a red leather diary locked away in a steamship trunk. It is the the diary of Frances Wolfsen, one she wrote in daily from 1929 through 1934. Not a single day was missed!

Here is a story of a gilded age of the upper West Side. Florence lunched with her friends, went to the nightclub El Morocco at night, shopped at Bergdorf’s, road horses at the Claremont Riding Academy and more. She tells of her first kiss (to a boy), her infatuation with with a famous actress, the starting of a literary salon in her parents apartment.  Even though she is a somewhat spoiled headstrong girl, she is also creative and intelligent.

Koppel searched for Florence, even hiring a private detective. She eventually locates her in her 90’s in Florida and reunites her with her long-forgotten diary. It was a fun book to read!

La Primavera - Botticello

La Primavera – Botticello

BOTTICELLI’S SECRET – by Marina Fiorato – You know you are in trouble when you have to print out the picture of the painting the book is about! This was a book club selection – and it is a book club of women artist’s. It was billed at The DaVinci Code meets The Birth of Venus. But, the painting at the center of the mystery is not the Birth of Venus, but La Primavera. taking place in the 15th century, with prostitute Luciana Vetra posing for the above painting (she is the figure in the center). When Botticelli doesn’t pay her, she steals an unfinished version of the painting. As the bodies pile up, she turns to a priest, and together they go to nine cities in Italy. Are there really secrets embedded in the painting? There has been much speculation about the hidden meanings found in this painting, and this is an interesting take on it. But, the first part is a little tedious, the language profane and explicit.  Yes, Luciana’s potty mouth gets tedious, and I found her language a little too modern at times. (I even looked up several words to see if they were used in the 15th century!). And I learned Italy wasn’t unified as a country until 1815.

LOUISA MAY ALCOTT: A Personal Biography by Susan Cheever  – The book I often credit with giving me life long love of reading is Little Women.  It was also my mother’s favorite book, she tried to name me Jo when I was born (my father said no daughter of his would have the name of a boy). So, when I was challenged to read a biography about a woman, written by a woman, I was delighted for find this one. It is a fascinating portrait about an intriguing time of American literature. Her father was a transcendental teacher. When she was young, the family moved to Concord, Massachusetts. It seems whenever the family had financial problems and had to move (which was often), Ralph Waldo Emerson came to their financial help. Other family friends included Henry David Thoreau and Nathaniel Hawthorn. Louisa went to work early as a teacher and seamstress. During the Civil War, she was a nurse in in Georgtown DC for six weeks. catching typhoid, and while she recovered, her health suffered the rest of her life. Her letters home were collected for her first critical recognition. The family also worked for the Underground Railroad.

The most surprising thing I learned is she published sensational pulp fiction under the name A.M. Barnard, a fact that wasn’t discovered until after her death. Incidentally, she died two days after her father – in fact, they had the same birthday.

Alcott resisted writing the book Little Women. Read here 10 things you may not know about Little Women!

EVERYONE WORTH KNOWING by Lauren Weisberger – I’ll read chick-lit with the best of them, but this left me renaming it – NO ONE WORTH KNOWING!

BEFORE I FORGET: LOVE, HOPE, HELP AND ACCEPTANCE IN OUR FIGHT AGAINST ALZHEIMERS by B. Smith and Dan Gasby – This book was recommended to me by someone in my Alzheimer’s Support Group. It is the story of B. Smith, model, restauranteur, author, and talk show host. She is diagnosed at a fairly early age, 65-66. Much of the book is written by her husband, Dan Gasby, along with Vanity Fair contributing editor Michael Shanayerson. It is an honest account of the journey, told by her husband Dan, with portions written by B. herself. But it is also a true love story. It is sprinkled in with hard research, lessons on dealing with, and again love. I’m going to end this with a quote from B herself:

“I know where I’m going. I’m still myself. I just can’t remember things as well as I once did. So on short trips, I work hard not to be confused. I’ll say to myself, What are we going to do? How long are we staying? It’s like I’m talking to my other self—the self I used to be. She tells me, This is what we need to buy—not that. I’m conscious of that other self guiding me now.”

Watch this short video of B. and her husband – it only 2 minutes long.

As you may know, my mother is in memory care now. It is a long journey. The people with the disease need advocates, they can’t speak for themselves. Research for the drugs can run into the billions of dollars.

What can you do? Consider registering with the Brain Health Registry  – it is easy, and it is free. And it will help with understanding the disease and hopefully for a cure, because with this disease, no one gets well,  no one gets out, at least not now.

My  niece Mallory is doing the  Walk to End Alzheimers. Consider making a donation, no amount is too small. Click on her page here to read what she has wrote. Think about it, if you haven’t been touched by the disease, consider yourself lucky, for now.

If you have anything to share about this subject, leave me a comment. I will read them all!

 

 

 

GET IN THE MOOD WITH MUSIC

STEPS TO CREATIVITY #5

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BLACK NOTE ©Vickie Martin

Music is a powerful way to change your mood and tap into your creativity. Did you realize since music is made up of vibrating sounds, it forms patterns and creates energy?  When you listen to music, it trigger the release of dopamine, often referred to as the pleasure chemical. Music has been around since the beginning or time. Even in Paleolithic times (or the Stone Age), time was spent creating music as flutes made from animal bones have been found. Music just makes us feel good!

“Without music, life would be a mistake.” Nietzsche

Music helps us enter into the “mind wandering mode” – the day-dreaming state where thoughts seem to float around and often seem  unconnected.

Familiar music helps you stay focused. However, new music (new to you that is) demands more attention – you will stop and listen because you don’t know what is coming next.

Music helps us exercise. As early as 1911, science found cyclists went faster while listening to music.

Music makes us more productive.  It helps us focus.

So, what should you be listening to? That is a somewhat individual decision. Most studies show lyrics to be distracting. But, there are lyrics that some people find inspiring.

There is a lot of research out there about the effects of music on the brain, it is a question scientists have long been interested in. They all agree that music does have an affect on our moods, that is makes us move, it helps us focus and it inpisres us.

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MY FATHERS PIANO ©Vickie Martin

For me, classical music inspires me. I’m talking about Beethoven, Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky and the like. I like that BIG SYMPHONIES. That may not work for you. Stephen King listens to hard rock while he writes. Jazz inspires me. And, there is always Bowie to listen to!

What have you found to work for you? I’d like to know, I always willing to give it a go!

 

 

 

 

GO PLAY! SERIOUSLY

STEPS TO CREATIVITY #5

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It seems everyone is so focused on their work and commitments, they have stopped playing. Do you think playing is a waste of time because the only goal is to have fun!

What is play? It is defined as taking part in an activity for enjoyment and recreation instead of for a practical purpose.

Why should we play?

  • It relieves stress and often triggers the endorphins that give us a sense of well-being.
  • It stimulates your mind. People have a tendency to learn more when they are having fun.
  • It improves learning skills. Playing board games or putting together puzzles challenges us and improves our memory.
  • It has been proven it increases social skills in children, why wouldn’t that apply to adults?

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing.” George Bernard Shaw

I dare you to go play! Make a list of what you liked to do as a kid. Make a bucket list of things you want to do.

Better yet, set a daily goal to play, set a minimum amount of time you will spend playing.

What can you do?

Learn a card trick

Play the Ukulele

Go Bowling

Play miniature golf

Go to a playground

Play with a dog – and if you don’t have one, many rescue groups need dog walkers. Talk to the dog while you are at it.

Put on some music and dance

Make a collage

Color

Who doesn’t play? Studies have shown, mass murderers don’t play!

Playing helps us relax, it takes us away from the real world. Through playing we can be anything, an explorer, a time traveler, a ruler – there are no limits.

What do you do to play?

 

 

 

 

DARE TO FAIL

STEPS TO CREATIVITY #4

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Yep, you read that right! You have permission to fail fabulously!

“You gotta be willing to fail…if you’re afraid of failing, you won’t get very far.” Steve Jobs

The fear of failure is universal, there is even a word for the persistent fear of failure – ATYCHIPHOBIA.

“We dream to give ourselves hope. To stop dreaming – – well, that’s like saying you can never change your fate.” Amy Tan

Don’t think of failure as proof we are just not up to the task. Look at failure as an opportunity to learn and move forward. That is how we grow, and failures will only stop you if you let them.

Failures are better than having regrets, Never say never. If you are afraid you will fail, start with small goals – but keep them challenging. You can make small goals that will lead you to the ultimate goal.

Being wrong can bring about unexpected discoveries. Most artists have had “happy discoveries” when things didn’t go right. Relish the uncertainty of not knowing how things are going to turn out.

There are some very famous “failures” that I believe are inspiring.

Einstein did not speak until he was four and could not read until he was seven. He was the only person in his graduating class that couldn’t get a teaching profession.

After Fred Astaire had a screen test, the casting director wrote “Can’t act. Can’t Sing. Slightly bald. Not handsome. Can dance a little.” He kept that note his entire life to remind him to never quit trying.

R.H. Macy started seven businesses that failed before he hit on Macy’s.

Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor who said he lacked imagination and had no good ideas.

Thomas Edison was fired from his first two jobs because he wasn’t considered productive. He also made over 1,000 attempts before he got the light bulb right. Do you think if he had given up at the 10th attempt, we’d be sitting by candlelight now?

Abraham Lincoln went to war a captain and returned a private. He was also defeated over 20 times before he won an office.

Jerry Seinfeld was booed off stage the first time.

Dr. Seuss’s first book was rejected 27 times.

Sir James Dyson has said he had 5126 failures before he got the Dyson vacuum cleaner right.

Jack Canfield was rejected 44 times before Chicken Soup for the Soul was published. That published told him he’d be luck to sell 20,000 copies. It told 1.5 million in the first 18 months. Click here for a list of all of the ones in publication now.

Michael Jordan was cut from his high school varsity team his sophomore year.

“I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over again in my life. That is why I succeed.”

Elizabeth Blackwell was rejected by 29 medical schools before one accepted her by mistake. She was the first women to receive a medical degree in the U.S. (1849)

“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” Henry Ford

“I have not failed. I just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Thomas Edison

“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.” Michael Jordan

“The only real failure in life is not to be true to the best one knows.” Buddha

“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” Albert Einstein

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And, maybe the most famous failure in the world:

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MAKE YOUR LIFE A BLANK CANVAS

STEPS TO CREATIVITY #4

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Live your life as if it is a blank canvas. Start by cleaning out, decluttering. Take the time, make the space to create. If you are surrounded by “STUFF”, you might be living in “THE LAND OF OLD IDEAS”. You are seeing the same piles every day while thinking the same old thoughts.

Think like the minimalists, which refers to the art movement that is based on simplicity. Less is more. Apply this to your surroundings. It will free your spirit!

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Leonardo da Vinci

We all have books we have not read or clothes we don’t wear.  Where do you start?

A few years ago, I did a huge decluttering. I started with my books. I put all the books I have not read in one place and put a to be read by date on them (within a year usually). At the end of the year, I boxed the books up and donated them.  (Since then, I have installed a Little Free Library, they go there).

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Clutter saps your energy.  If you declutter and find a place for everything, you have more time, you don’t spend time putting things up or dusting.

Adopt the one in one out rule. Every time you bring something into your home, get rid of something.

Lately I’ve been unsubscribing to emails. I cleaned off my desk top too.  What a difference it made!

But, paperwork had become unmanageable. So, I went through the house and picked up every stack of paper, every magazine, things I had printed to read later – you know the drill. I dumped all of it on my dining table.  Look familiar?

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That was ALOT OF STUFF! I’m my mother’s power of attorney, and I have a huge stack of her paperwork. Well, I got to work and I put them all in stack.

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I felt like I was accomplishing something. I read the blogs I had printed. I filed everything. Except for one stack.

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I’m left with one big notebook that has all of my mothers information in it. This is going to take awhile to organize, but now it is all in one place!  Whew!

I threw away a huge stack of paper (well, put it in the recycling actually).

If you have things you are emotionally attached to, put them in a box and put the box away. I did this a few years ago, and ended up throwing out a lot of stuff after six months.

Think of the clutter as visual noise that is surrounding you, it can start having a louder voice than your creative voice. Tackle it one room at a time or one category at a time, but do it! You will feel better.

“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” Hans Hoffman

“The more you have, the more you are occupied. The less you have, the more free you are.” Mother Theresa

“Three rules of work, out of clutter find simplicity, from discord find harmony, in the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” Albert Einstein

All remember CHAOS stands for “Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome”.

I challenge you to tackle one area of chaos within the next week. Pay attention to how it makes you feel.  Tell me what you learned!

EMPTY YOUR MIND

FINDING YOUR CREATIVITY #3

“A mind too active is no mind at all.” Theodore Roethke

There have been times I have been afraid to take a peek inside my mind.It was an endless maze I couldn’t find the exit. With all the things life throws at you, we all have a tendency to hang on to things. We suffer from information overload. Humans were never meant to spend so much time indoors staring at a computer. And, there are always those voices that are always worrying and censoring you.  You worry about what you have to do today, worry about what you have to do tomorrow, worry about what you did yesterday. It is an endless cycle. It’s almost like your mind has taken on a life of it’s own with the incessant chattering. It’s probably talking to you right now!

But, the voice doesn’t want to hurt you, in fact, generally it wants to protect you. But, that chatter fills up you mind. To learn to empty your mind, it opens it to all these wonderful new ideas and thoughts.

How to do it?

I believe meditation, exercise and writing your Morning Pages are key.  What are The Morning Pages?  This comes from the book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It is a basic tool to reclaiming your creativity.  Write three pages every morning FIRST THING.  You are not writing these to be published, you are writing to empty your mind. There is no right or wrong way to do this, just put pen to paper and write three pages. They don’t even have to make sense. They are not designed to be read again. If you don’t have anything to say, write that you don’t have anything to say. Write affirmations, write out your to-do list. But, put the pen to the paper and write.  Writing on a computer is rarely as effective.

You can hear Julia talk about the morning pages in the following video.

 

So, get paper and a pen and write the three pages first thing in the morning. Trust me, it works!

Next up in this series, Think like a minimalist.