Category Archives: Purple Crayon

One Book a Month for Baby’s First Year

It’s true.

There’s a switch that flips when you become a Grandma.

Baby toys, clothes and books jump into my shopping cart now that I had no problem resisting before.

In a lot of ways, grand parenting feels familiar, too. Like starting over again at the beginning of parenting. But, this time around there’s the advantage of experience, perspective and being well-rested.

How to Grandma long distance

My first grand baby, Caroline, is about to turn one.

She lives nearby and we get a lot of time with her.

My grandson far away is still sleeping and kicking inside his mama.

I’ve been brainstorming ways to “Grandma” long distance.

Since I spent the last ten years of my life as a bookseller, sending books seems like the logical solution.

I’m intrigued and inspired by Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library Project.  It started out in her home county, but it’s grown across her home state, and across the country. Every month every child ages 0-5 receives a book in the mail addressed to them.

I can do that.

“Books are delicious”

Besides pulling from my years at the bookstore, I got some good picks from Sarah Mackenzie of the Read Aloud Revival.

She says when we’re reading to babies, we’re helping them associate books with delight and affection.

“Books are delicious” Anyone who interacts with books and babies knows that’s true.

But not all baby books work for baby’s first year. So, I whittled down my list, looking for books that would be visually, orally and tactically appealing to the youngest audience, just waking up to the world.

I also kept in mind that baby books have to please two audiences, the adult and the baby. These top picks win with both.

(Note: All links are affiliate links which means at no extra cost to you, a percentage of your purchase goes to support this site.)

Who’s Knees Are These?

By Jabari Asim

Even before babies interact much with the world, a rhyme can captivate.

This one is fun to read.


Llama Llama Red Pajama

by Anna Dewdney

Another rhyming board book that pleasing both to the eye and the ear.




Taggies Thank You Prayer

A cloth book that is as much fun to play with as it is to read.

Soft, fuzzy cover.


Look Look

by Peter Linenthal

A black and white and red board book for babies who are just beginning to focus their visual attention.



Peek a Who?

by Nina Laden

Simple, fast paced book for babies who are beginning to interact and notice things. Nice surprise at the end.



Indestructibles Baby Peekaboo

by Kate Merritt

All the indestructibles books are made from incredible rip proof material that babies can’t damage.



Touch and Feel Baby Animals

Good tactile stimulation. And who can resist baby animals?



Good Night Moon

by Margaret Wise Brown

The classic board book that has entertained generations.



Dear Zoo

By Rod Campbell

Another classic, this one with flaps to lift up, that will delight and entertain.



Who says Quack?

Babies love animals and learning the sounds they make.



Yummy Yucky

by Leslie Patricelli

Everything goes into baby’s mouth, even things that shouldn’t be there. A humorous look at what’s good and what’s not.


The Pudgy Book of Mother Goose

Illustrated by Richard Walz

Small, easy to hold board book that contains classic Mother Goose rhymes.



  1. Who’s Knees Are These?
  2. Llama Llama Red Pajama
  3. Taggies Thank You Prayer
  4. Look Look
  5. Peek a Who?
  6. Indestructibles Baby Peekaboo
  7. Touch and Feel Baby Animals
  8. Good Night Moon
  9. Dear Zoo
  10. Who says Quack?
  11. Yummy Yucky
  12. Chunky Mother Goose

That’s my list for baby’s first year!

What are your top picks for the youngest readers?

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More Awesome Middle Grade Novels Adults Will Love

Why should adults read Middle Grade Novels? There’s some great MG novels out there! The best ones are well-written and have an important message.

MG Novels can be just the ticket when you’re too stressed to follow a complex adult novel.

They often have a straight forward story line that is easy to follow. Often they have a limited cast of characters. They are less likely to shift back and forth in time and place.

They often offer an easy escape that requires little mental energy.

(Note: This post contains affiliate links. At no extra cost to you, a portion of your purchase will support this site. )

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

I believe that great fiction rings true.  Even one with a preposterous premise.

The Age of Miracles tells the story of a family dealing with the slowing of the earth’s rotation.  Every day is longer, every night is longer.  All the implications, all the choices, all the consequences.

The premise is preposterous, but the story still rings true.  Why?  Because it shows the resiliency of the human spirit in the face of cataclysm.  It shows the importance of deep relationship in the face of crisis.  It shows the inevitability of coming of age, whether or not the earth turns.

I liked the main characters.  That helped a lot.

I liked the traditional values portrayed in the story.  Which goes to show, you CAN have a great story without a moral slide.

Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead

I loved this book written for middle grades and I read it twice.

It gets five stars for being wholesome and a thumbs up for real heroes.  When I read middle grade, I find myself identifying with the teachers and principals.  Ha.

I loved the two families portrayed here and the real struggle with how twelve year olds deal with the heavy issues of life.

I liked her style.  I liked her characters.  I loved seeing the main character win the battles in his world.

Carry On, Mr Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham

Good story.  In the tradition of Johnny Tremain, except based on an historical person.

Nat Bowditch was very smart, but he wasn’t able to go to Harvard because of his family’s difficult financial position, it was necessary for him to work to earn his keep. So he was indentured at age 12 to work as a bookkeeper.

The story inspires kids to persevere in the face of difficult circumstances.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

What a great book!  Highly recommended for all ages.

I love the way it tackles head on mega topics: embarrassment, shame, discouragement, rising above difficult circumstances, the elements of a true friendship. 

August Pullman is a likable fellow.  If he were a jerk, this story wouldn’t have worked.

It strikes at the very heart of what it means to be a person.  Where do you fit into society.  How does society react to you?

It’s not just an overcomer story.  It’s a family systems story.  Our family of origin matters so much when it comes to what we believe about ourselves.

I love the middle school principal in this story.  I love the way he has such a deep understanding of kids.  I love how he can see past the surface level to what is happening beneath the surface.  This is so good for teachers, administrators, youth pastors, everyone who deals with kids.  And for kids, themselves.

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

I’m tempted to go back and re-read this book now that I know the ending.

The plot was slow moving until all the pieces starting falling into place and it made sense.

From goodreads–

“Winner of the 2010 Newbery Medal. Miranda is an ordinary sixth grader, until she starts receiving mysterious messages from somebody who knows all about her, including things that have not even happened yet. Each message brings her closer to believing that only she can prevent a tragic death. Until the final note makes her think she’s too late. “

Love and First Sight by Josh Sundquist

It’s interesting to stop and think about what it’s like to be blind from birth. How impossible it is to picture anything. What it means for your social interactions.

Add the fact that you’re sixteen years old and transferring from a blind school to a public school. How do you relate to others?

This is an engaging, feel good story. Satisfying.

Five stars for being wholesome and well-written. Technically, this is a Young Adult novel, not middle grade. Sarah Mackenzie of the Read Aloud Revival has a great explanation of the difference between middle grade books and young adult books, and why YA is a genre, not a reading level.

Did you miss Awesome Middle Grade Novels Adults Will Love?

Which Middle Grade Novels do you love?

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The Counterintuitive Path to Gratitude

Do you ever feel life is a constant barrage of negativity that threatens to overwhelm you?

Worry. Fear. Anger. Depression. Even boredom. It is a spiritual battle.

My mind slips into negative thinking so easily.

I tend to focus on the black dot on the white page.

I can miss every thing else with a warped perspective.

The truth is, I need help.

I need to deliberately pause and make time to be grateful.  Not that I feel grateful at first.

For me, I’ve noticed this progression:

Commitment first.  Then action.  Then feelings.

Commit to making gratitude part of your life.  Follow through on the plan.  Feel grateful.

Deliberately schedule gratitude into your daily and weekly rhythms.

Every Sunday, my pastor asks us what we can thank God for.

Every week I join a group of praying mamas who circle up and close out the world to talk to God.  Part of that time is devoted to giving thanks, expressing gratitude.

Daily gratitude tends to be alone rather than with others.  It helps to have a routine.

Take action:  follow through on the plan

Stop every day to thank God for three things. A deliberate pause in the day to give thanks makes a world of difference.

Meet with a group who gives thanks to God every week.

How much gratitude do you need?

And do you have to come up with new things every day or can you repeat yourself?

Should you give thanks morning and evening?  Or just in the morning?  Or just in the evening?

Maybe it depends on the person.  Maybe evenings are better for some and mornings are better for some.

Experiment and see.

Choosing to make gratitude a part of your daily and weekly routines will make a difference in your perspective.

Your emotional energy won’t be drained by negativity.

Experience the feelings of gratitude

A funny thing happens. You begin to FEEL grateful.

Your paradigm shifts.

You think about the white page, not the black dot.

The problems and difficulties shrink. The negative resumes it’s rightful place, not overshadowing all the good.

Try it. See if it works for you.

See if your mood shifts, if you start walking on a higher plane.


That’s what gratitude gives you.

The truth of the matter is, almost everything is a mixed bag. Parenting is.

Marriage is.

Friendships are.

The spiritual journey is.

Once in a while all the stars align, all the pieces fall into place. There’s no wrinkles or snags.

But that is a rare occurance.

Everything else is a mixed bag.

When relationships are good, there’s physical pain.  Or financial stress.  Or technical difficulties. Or a snafu in the plan.  Or confusion and miscommunication.

So many things can happen to spoil a spotless page.

Tools that can help

I’ve learned that buying something doesn’t change your life. You usually have to change first and then whatever you’re buying helps you.

You can’t buy products that produce what you want in your life.

Products are just tools.  Tools to help you do what you’ve already decided to do.  You can’t buy something that will change your heart.  You have to make the commitment first.  Then take action.  Then the feelings and rewards will follow.

I think it’s human nature to want to take the short cut.

To buy our way to our goal instead of paying the price.

There’s nothing wrong with tools.  They do what tools do.  They help you get the job done better.  But they’re only going to be as good as the person running the tool.  It’s going to be the drive and passion and heart of the person using the tool that’s going to make the difference.

Buy now from Amazon

My Gratitude Journal is a tool that I’ve created.  It’s not a magic bullet that will change your life.  But, if you’ve already committed to intentionally cultivate gratitude, it’s a tool that can help.

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Fascinating Novels Inspired by the Lives of Real People

I love a brilliantly  written novel inspired by true events. It’s been so fun to stumble across quite a few in this category over the last couple of years.  Some of these books have made it onto other lists and some are new to me, but all are five star reads for me.

(Note: This post contains affiliate links. At no extra cost to you a percentage of your purchase will go to support this site.) 

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

Just when we thought all the stories of the Holocaust had been told, another emerges.

In the midst of the horror comes a story of survival and hope. The Hiding Place is always my go-to recommendation for World War II and Holocaust stories.  This one adds another dimension.

Light shines brightest in the dark.

Buy now from Amazon

 I Was Anatasia by Ariel Lawhorn

The world is enthralled by the story of Anastasia Romanov.  So much of it shrouded in mystery. What is fact, what is fiction, what is myth and what is legend?  We are drawn to the mystery, to the possibilities, to the tragedy and to the pathos of this story.

Ariel Lawhorn created a masterpiece, weaving all the strands of the story into one, cohesive, intriguing narrative.

Captivating till the end.

Buy now from Amazon

 Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan

C.S. Lewis has always been one of my favorite authors and The Chronicles of Narnia the pinnacle in children’s literature, in my opinion. Even though I knew the basic facts of the love story between Lewis and Joy Davidman, Becoming Mrs.  Lewis fleshed out the story in a probable narrative of their relationship.

I came to see her as an unsung hero in Lewis’ life.

There’s nothing like an inside peek at the life of one of the world’s greatest writers.

Buy now from Amazon

 We Were the Lucky Ones

by Georgia Hunter

“Inspired by the incredible true story of one Jewish family separated at the start of World War II, determined to survive—and to reunite—We Were the Lucky Ones is a tribute to the triumph of hope and love against all odds.” —Amazon

The Kurcs were from Radom, Poland, but in the course of the war, three generations are spread throughout Europe and beyond, fleeing the Nazi regime.

I am in awe of this story. It is a light in a dark time and highlights the triumph of love, family and the will to survive.

Buy now from Amazon

Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II by Liza Mundy

Thousands of women worked on breaking codes during WWII. The government began by recruiting and training at women’s colleges, sending secret letters to students in the fall of their senior year.

Then they started recruiting teachers.

The work took special skills, and they didn’t always know what they were.

Intercepting and understanding enemy communication proved to be the critical strategy for the allies to win the war.

Thousands of American women working secretly to break enemy codes turned the tide.

This is the untold story of those women.

Buy now from Amazon

I Shall Be Near to You by Erin Lindsay McCabe

 “Rosetta doesn’t want her new husband, Jeremiah, to enlist, but he joins up, hoping to make enough money that they’ll be able to afford their own farm someday. When Jeremiah leaves, Rosetta decides her true place is by his side, no matter what that means, and follows him into war.

Rich with historical details and inspired by the many women who fought in the Civil War while disguised as men, I Shall Be Near To You is a courageous adventure, a woman’s search for meaning and individuality, and a poignant story of enduring love.”– from Amazon

I liked learning about a piece of little known history during the Civil War. It’s hard to even imagine life in those circumstances.

Well written fictionalized account highlighting the stories of real women who fought in the Civil War disguised as men.

Buy now from Amazon

The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey

 Based of the life of the first female lawyer in Bombay.

Not only does this fictional account weave a riveting tale, it highlights the culture and customs of 1920’s India.

Limited educational opportunities, arranged marriages, gender segregation and inequalities.  These were real obstacles.

Navigating that world and winning is a real feat.

Buy now from Amazon

Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart

Fascinating novelized account of the country’s first female sheriff.

Three sisters living alone in the country manage to get on the wrong side of some shady characters.  Tell how they defend themselves, throw in some family secrets and end up with the a female sheriff.  Well played.

Stewart writes in an engaging style that kept me flipping pages.

I was glad to see the author follows the sisters’ story in another book.

 Buy now from Amazon

What are you reading this month? 

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Sometimes Understanding Human Nature Will Change Your Life: 6 Books to Help You

Humans are complex.

Several lifetimes of study on human nature will still fall short.

And, yet, sometimes the simplest insight will change the trajectory of our lives.  Once we know something we can’t unknow it.

Insight isn’t everything, of course.  There’s application.  Discipline.  Sharing what you know.

But, sometimes, just understanding is enough to make a change.

(Note:  this post contains affiliate links.  At no extra cost to you, a percentage of your purchase will support this site.)

The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron

What’s all the buzz about the enneagram?  Why is there such a following for an ancient system of personality typing that seems to have no research behind it?

I put it in the same category as The 5 Love Languages.  It gains a following because it rings true.

Of course.  I should have seen it all along.  But, of course, we didn’t.  But now it seems so obvious when it’s all laid out.

Yes.  That is what I’m like.  That’s how my friends and family tick.  It all makes sense now.  I get it.  And because it rings true, it gains a following and creates a buzz.

Buy now from Amazon

Do It Scared by Ruth Soukup

Ruth is breaking new ground by introducing the 7 fear archetypes. This is a different way to understand yourself: based on your natural fear tendencies.

In spite of good information and insight in this book, I have a feeling it will not be embraced like some of her others. I’m guessing there’s a smaller percentage of the population that really wants to face their fears. Most of us would rather hide.

Ruth shares compelling stories from her own life and inspirational stories from others.  If you listen to her podcast or follow her online, you will have heard them before.  But, they’re still good.

Buy now from Amazon

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb

Heads up for language.

If you’ve ever wondered what the life of a shrink looks like, here’s your chance for a behind the scenes deep dive.

Lori pulls back the curtain on the intersection of personal life and professional life.  Real human drama.  How to become a therapist, how to survive as a therapist, how to see a therapist.

One of our deepest human needs is connection with other humans.  And, yet, sometimes we shoot ourself in the foot.  The reality is, though, that you really don’t have to have it all together in your life before you can help someone else.

Lori shares the stories of her patients as well as the stories of being on the couch herself.  For sure, no man is an island. Intriguing.  Compelling.

Buy now from Amazon

Reading People by Anne Bogel

Reading People is a good way to get a quick overview of some of the personality frameworks. Some I was familiar with, some I wasn’t. I find personality fascinating.

It’s easy to see the practical applications and helpfulness of the different frameworks when Anne shares personal stories of how they have helped her.

I’m recommending this book to young people because it’s so important to know yourself. Having a vocabulary and reference points is so helpful for teams, co-workers, spouses and family members.

Highly recommended.

Buy now from Amazon

Willpower Doesn’t Work by Benjamin Hardy

“If you’re relying on willpower alone to help you lose weight, improve your relationships, or achieve more at work, you’re doomed to fail. The environment around us is far too powerful, stimulating, addicting, and stressful to overcome by white knuckling. The only way to stop just surviving and learn to truly thrive in today’s world is to proactively shape your environment.”–from GoodReads

I heard Ben speak at Tribe Conference last year.  It’s amazing the following he’s gained on Medium.  He writes good stuff, too. Helpful stuff.

Well-written. Great message.

Buy now from Amazon

Eat That Frog! by Brian Tracy

Eat That Frog! by Brian Tracy is a quick read.  It is a compilation of wisdom from many gurus of time management, self-management and motivation.  The subtitle is “21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time.”

If I have one beef with the book, it’s that he doesn’t attribute his ideas to the original authors.  But, the content is gold.

Simple and profound.  So why isn’t everyone doing it?  Because it’s hard.  At least, it’s hard to start.

He does tackle the psychological side of motivating yourself to do difficult things.

It is a book full of action points, laced with a few stories to illustrate the effectiveness of the principles he advocates.

The whole “eat the frog” analogy comes from Mark Twain who said that “if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long.”

Talking ourselves into doing difficult things instead of avoiding them gets us ahead.

Buy now from Amazon

What have you read lately that has changed your life? 

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Three Things I Learned this Spring

My grand daughter, Caroline


1. It’s hard to be content.

Even when you have the most adorable grand baby in the world.  And another one on the way.  And meaningful work. And great kids.  And good health, overall. Food in the fridge.  A roof overhead.  A hot shower every day.

Yet, I get weighed down and overwhelmed with the things I wish we’re different.  Dirty carpets, dirty windows, messy closets.  Bills to pay.  Overwhelming list of things to do. Decisions to make.  Conflicts, tensions, uncertainty. Tight clothes. Noise.  Clutter.

The negative threatens to over take my thoughts, even when surrounded by so much positive.  Why is that?

2. I read three fantastic books.

Plus a bunch that were just so so and some that were truly terrible.  But I’ll only tell you about the great ones.

(Note: the following links are affiliate links.  At no extra cost to you, a percentage of your purchase goes to support this site.)

Educated by Tara Westover

What would it be like to step into a classroom for the first time at 17 and go on to earn a Phd?

It’s amazing how a simple telling of one’s life can be so powerful.  Even more extraordinary than Tara’s life is her ability to tell her history objectively.

Read the full review here.

Buy now from Amazon

I was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon

Truly a work of art.

All the threads woven together masterfully.  Everything revealed at the precise moment.  The author knows how to connect emotionally to the reader.  You’re drawn in from the first page to the last.

Buy now from Amazon


We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter

A family of Polish Jews fight for their lives and freedoms across Europe and across continents

Amazing, incredible accounts based on the history of the author’s relatives.  Although I had trouble at first keeping the adult children and their locations straight, once I did, the intriguing series of events had me hooked.

Buy now from Amazon

If you love to read, don’t miss my notable memoir list and 8 stand out novels to rekindle your love for reading.


3.  The intangible losses of my past are elusive.

I tried to capture it in a short story, Melting the Frozen Grief of the Global Nomad

A realization dawned that buried in my childhood was something rare and precious.  And I lost it. Of course, growing up wasn’t 18 years of idyllic life.  But there was something really, really good there that isn’t there any more.

I also tried to illustrate that creativity is an antidote to grief. It’s necessary for the healing, to compensate for the loss.  Something of beauty needs to be created to fill the vacuum.  In my story, Brenda painted a sea scape.  For me, more often, it’s words or words and pictures.  Or something visual.

I’m having a hard time articulating it.  But this is why write. To untangle the thoughts and feelings till they make sense.




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You Haven’t Seen this Notable Memoir List on Buzzfeed

To me, the appeal of a memoir is the chance to crawl into someone else’s skin and get behind their eyes to know what they are thinking and feeling.

In a way, it’s a mystery.

What would it be like trying to get into college if you’d never gone to school?  What would it be like almost losing your life and clawing your way back to every skill you lost?  What would it be like finding out, at age 54, that the foundation of what you believed about yourself as a person wasn’t true?  What would it be like serving as the First Lady of the United States?

There’s a way to find out.

Read these memoirs.

(Note: This post contains affiliate links.  At no extra cost to you, a percentage of your purchase will go to support this site.)

Educated by Tara Westover

Easily the best memoir I’ve read all year.

How do you earn a Phd without attending school till before age 17?

This question drives the book, but there’s so much more: mental illness, brainwashing, belief systems accepted and rejected, family dynamics, isolationism and, mostly, confronting your history honestly without bitterness.

There’s a few heroes I love in this narrative, in addition to Tara herself who confronts her own story with transparency and courage. She dares to travel the road not taken.

Read more.

Hope Heals by Katharine and Jay Wolf

Talk about courage in the face of loss.

At age 26 Katharine suffered a brainstem stroke that almost took her life.  Her husband was at the point of graduating from law school.  Their baby was six months old.

The chronicle of their journey is sobering and inspiring.

How would my faith hold up in those circumstances?  How would I handle a similar challenge?

Hats off to the Wolfs for their courage, faith and transparency.

This book was recommended by a blog reader.  (Thanks, Jennifer!)

Inheritance by Dani Shapiro

 Truly a remarkable human drama.

Finding out that her dad was not her biological father was just the beginning for Dani Shapiro.

Though that revelation was startling in itself, more secrets were uncovered.  The shock waves continued.

Dani takes the reader along on this unexpected journey of self-discovery.  The advances of modern science have made the unthinkable possible.


Spoken From the Heart by Laura Bush

I love Laura Bush’s humble spirit.  I love her ordinary every-day-ness.  Even though she became First Lady of the United States, she tells of being content with simple pleasures.

One day her friend came to visit her in the White House.  They worked out together and then relaxed in the sitting room, each reading their own book.

Another story in this memoir made a lasting impression.

On page 113, she recounts, “Once, when the girls were two and a half, Bar Bush made a rare stop in Midland.  Jenna and Barbara ran out of the house with their arms held out to greet her, calling ‘Ganny’, the name all Bushes give their grandmothers, and she looked up at me and said with gratitude, ‘Thank you for teaching your girls to know me.’ ”

It’s a heart melting story, but to me it drove home the importance of intentionally bridging the gap with far away family.

It resonated because my nuclear family and the family we raised both have experience with long distance family relationships.  I wrote a post about it.  Closing the gap:  connecting across the miles.

What have you been reading lately? 



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Why Tara Westover’s Memoir, Educated, is Haunting Me. In a Good Way.

I found myself thinking about this book long after I finished it.  That’s a good sign.

What it’s about:

“Tara Westover was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her “head-for-the-hills bag”. In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged in her father’s junkyard.”– from Amazon

If you liked Hillbilly Elegy, I think you’d like Educated.

Who it’s not for:

If you’re squeamish about descriptions of physical pain, this book is not for you.

Why I liked it:

There’s a reason I studied psychology in college. Human nature is fascinating.

Why does someone become a mass murder? What does it feel like to be dying of cancer? How do you handle the logistics of an unusually large family?

How do you earn a Phd without attending school till before age 17?

This question drives the book, but there’s so much more: mental illness, brainwashing, belief systems accepted and rejected, family dynamics, isolationism and, mostly, confronting your history honestly without bitterness.

There’s a few heroes I love in this narrative, in addition to Tara herself who confronts her own story with transparency and courage. She dares to travel the road not taken.

Since I’ve read it, it continues to haunt me (in a good way) and intrigue me and fascinate me.

Highly recommended.

   Buy now from Amazon 

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Melting the Frozen Grief of the Global Nomad

***** 2019 *****

Brenda lay in bed staring at the darkness. The clock read 2:59. She couldn’t sleep. She eased out from under the covers, careful not to wake her husband. She slipped into some shoes and grabbed her purse. Stealthily she crept out of the house, not wanting to wake her teenagers.

She winced when she turned the ignition, but the engine came to life quietly. She backed out of the driveway and nosed toward the highway.

She wasn’t sure where she was going, just knew she had to drive.

She passed cars until there was no one left in front of her. She drove hard, headed East.

After a couple hours, the sky began to lighten.

Still she drove. Two more hours and she knew she was reaching the limits of her bladder and the gas tank.

The gas would have to wait.

She reached her destination. The one beckoning her.

She pulled into the parking lot of the state park and headed to the restrooms.

Ahead of her was the sea, crashing waves on the sand.

She inhaled deeply and let the smells of salt and fish envelope her.

She remembered she had a bag of candy stashed in the glove compartment from the international market.

She opened the bag and put one piece in her mouth. Bliss.

She tried to recall which piece of the mosaic of the past this taste belonged to.

Growing up as an army brat meant moving every two or three years, sometimes overseas.

She pondered the taste, then remembered the summer she turned six.

******* 1980 ********

The neighbors were having a party. The windows rattled with the noise of the music and dancing.

She shared a room with her twin four year old brothers. They were giggling and talking. None of them felt tired. It wasn’t the music. They were used to that. They’d slept through worse.

She jumped on her brothers’ bed and joined them in laughing at who knows what.

Then she remembered the candy stashed in a pillow case under the bed.

Somehow they had been able to hide it from their mother. She shoved her hand into the pillow case and pulled out a handful. The boys weren’t able to unwrap the pieces, so she did it. The crinkle of the wrappers couldn’t be heard above the giggling and the giggling couldn’t be heard above the music. They were safe.

She told silly stories and jokes and unwrapped candy. Her brothers worshipped her adoringly.

Long after the soft snores of her brothers permeated the air, she lay awake.

The sounds of music and dancing died down and ceased.

Then she heard the rhythmic beat of rain on a tin roof. Inside she was warm and safe and happy.  She fell asleep comforted by the sound.

****** 2019 *******

She climbed a sand dune grabbing tall grasses to help her ascend the steep part. She summited and sat at the vantage point where she could survey the miles of coast.

She could feel her breathing slow.

She stared at the water, watching wave after wave crash against the sand. She noticed the creep of the tide.

She took a couple pictures on her phone, but instinctively felt she needed to capture this moment in a deeper way.

She ran down the dune and headed back to her car.

She headed back to the last town she’d passed. First of all, gas. Then a craft and hobby store.

She bought a canvas, some oil paints, and brushes. She debated about an easel, then grabbed it, too. She didn’t make a mental calculation about how much she was spending and tried not to think about her already maxxed out credit cards. Surely she had one that wasn’t at the limit.

She threw her purchases into the car and raced back to the beach.

Before she began climbing, she walked past a pool filled with kids laughing and splashing.  She caught a whiff of chlorine.  The smell took her back.

******** 1991 *********

The girls’ PE teacher was out for the day, so 5th period PE girls were told to get their swimsuits on and head to the pool for a co-ed class attempting to learn water polo.

She headed out and stood poolside, scanning the group.  Some of her favorite people were in this class.  Some were good friends.  Some she wished she knew better.

The boys’ PE teacher was a first year teacher with enthusiasm and energy.  He spent fifteen minutes explaining the rules and strategies of water polo, then quickly divided the group into two teams.

Another five minutes was lost determining who would play in each position.

Finally, the competition began.

The attempts were comical.

Then it turned into a free for all, with no regard to where the ball was.  The main goal was to splash your opponents if you were close to them or your teammates if you weren’t.

Screams, shouts, water everywhere.

Lots more fun than water polo.


She fell behind the other girls walking back to the locker room. She wanted to savor this delicious feeling. The feeling of utter happiness. Of belonging and being seen and accepted and wanted. No self-consciousness or akwardness or embarassment.

The feeling of being somebody, but not even that. A somebody who was part of the tribe. One who belonged.

She loved it. This feeling.

She had almost reached the locker room, when she heard her name called.

She whirled. She recognized a student office aide.

“Hurry up and get changed. Your dad is here. You need to hustle into the guidance counselor’s office pronto.”

Her heart plummeted. Her dad wasn’t due back for three more days. There could only be one reason he would show up at school in the middle of the day.

They were moving.


Her bubble had burst.

******* 2019 ********

Even though the sky was blue with white puffy clouds, and the sea a mesmerizing mixture of greens and blues, her painting was dark.

Blacks and grays for sky and sea. White caps and white clouds and and occasional white gull.

But no color.

She couldn’t bring herself to use the blues and greens.

The blacks and grays were necessary.

She worked without stopping, except for an occasional sip from a water bottle.

When every square inch of the canvas had paint, she exhaled.

The tightening in her chest relaxed.

She breathed again, deeply, looked out at the water and felt a moment of peace.

Then she unscrewed the caps on the brown and red and yellow paints.

She added an island to the painting, crowned by a lighthouse that sported a yellow glow.

She closed her eyes and exhaled again.


P.S.  If you’re new to the concept of frozen grief, start here.

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Pivotal Books that were Game Changers

Sometimes the right book comes into your life at the right time.  It has the answers you’re searching for.  It solves the problem.  It addresses the pain.

I love it when that happens.

Here’s a few that fit the bill in my life.

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child 

by Marc Weissbluth

Our first baby was not a good sleeper.  I don’t know how much was personality, how much was parenting.  But, it wasn’t till his little sister came along more than two and half years later that I stumbled on this book.

Applying the principles to help her sleep better changed the whole game.  A good sleeper doesn’t just make a happy child, it makes a happy family.


Buy now from Amazon

Five Dysfunctions of a Team

by Patrick Lencioni

This quick read packs a punch.  Told as a parable, the story rings all too true.  Once you know the five dysfunctions, you see them everywhere.

This book dropped into our lives at a time understanding team proved to be critical to our work.

Time after time, this book hits home for people, making it a well-deserved modern classic.

Buy now from Amazon

7 Habits of Highly Effective People

by Stephen Covey

 So many of the principles in Stephen Covey’s classic work were revolutionary for me.  Begin with the end in mind.  Organize your time around your roles.  Take time to sharpen the saw.  Seek first to understand.

I think they resonated with me because I believed them to be true intrinsically, but had never heard them articulated before.



Buy now from Amazon

One Thousand Gifts

by Ann Voskamp

 Every person in the world knows pain and heartache.  And every person can number their blessings.

Ann Voskamp’s challenges us to be mindful and intentional about looking for and expressing gratitude.  It colors my thinking to this day.

I understand that her poetic prose doesn’t appeal to everyone.  Grammar Nazis beware.  But the message is universal and important.


Buy now from Amazon

The Gift of Dyslexia

by Ronald D.Davis

 I scoured the web looking for resources after one of our kids finished a dyslexia evaluation.  Obviously, there’s countless directions you can go for help.  I’m forever thankful I stumbled on to the Davis approach for the simple reason that it worked for us.

The book and the program were worth many times over what we invested.

Aside from the practical help, I loved learning more about dyslexia and the distinct advantages the dyslexic carries in his toolbox.


Buy now from Amazon

Hashimoto’s Protocol

by Izabella Wentz

I’m grateful for the wealth of information Izabella Wentz has made available through her books and articles on the internet about thyroid disease, and, specifically, about Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.

Some on her approaches are unconventional.  It’s taken me years to absorb the firehose of information she produced.  I’ve implemented her suggestions slowly, but it’s made a dramatic difference in my health.  It’s hard to argue with success.



Buy now from Amazon

What books have been game changers for you?



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