Everyday Tidbits...

Be Kind. Do Good. Love is a Verb.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse...#BookReview

About the book:
From the revered British illustrator, a modern fable for all ages that explores life’s universal lessons, featuring 100 color and black-and-white drawings.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” asked the mole.

“Kind,” said the boy.

Charlie Mackesy offers inspiration and hope in uncertain times in this beautiful book based on his famous quartet of characters. The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse explores their unlikely friendship and the poignant, universal lessons they learn together.

Radiant with Mackesy’s warmth and gentle wit, The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse blends hand-written narrative with dozens of drawings, including some of his best-loved illustrations (including “Help,” which has been shared over one million times) and new, never-before-seen material. A modern classic in the vein of The Tao of Pooh, The Alchemist, and The Giving Tree, this charmingly designed keepsake will be treasured for generations to come.

I had never heard of Charlie Mackesy until a nice young man in Barnes and Noble shared this book with me. I brought it home and read it in about 15 minutes.

The boy asks questions. The mole likes cake. The fox is kind and observant and the horse is patient and loving. The lessons are not new, but they are whimsically twined together in beautiful prose and gorgeous illustrations.

"Be kind. Do good. Love is a verb." is something I say often. Our now-adult children will tell you that the one thing we have tried to teach them is to be kind. I believe they are. And this is a story that I will share with them.

This is a magical and heartwarming story and one that resonated with me so completely. I believe its message is timeless and one that everyone needs to hear and hear again.

I purchased my own copy.  You can learn more about Charlie Mackesy on his website and follow him on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.

Read 12/19

* * * * *
5/5 Stars

Monday, November 11, 2019

Secrets of the Chocolate House...#BookReview

About the book:
New York Times bestselling author Paula Brackston’s The Little Shop of Found Things was called “a page-turner that will no doubt leave readers eager for future series installments” (Publishers Weekly). Now, Brackston returns to the Found Things series with its sequel, Secrets of the Chocolate House.

After her adventures in the seventeenth century, Xanthe does her best to settle back into the rhythm of life in Marlborough. She tells herself she must forget about Samuel and leave him in the past where he belongs. With the help of her new friends, she does her best to move on, focusing instead on the success of her and Flora’s antique shop.

But there are still things waiting to be found, still injustices needing to be put right, still voices whispering to Xanthe from long ago about secrets wanting to be shared.

While looking for new stock for the shop, Xanthe hears the song of a copper chocolate pot. Soon after, she has an upsetting vision of Samuel in great danger, compelling her to make another journey to the past.

This time she'll meet her most dangerous adversary. This time her ability to travel to the past will be tested. This time she will discover her true destiny. Will that destiny allow her to return home? And will she be able to save Samuel when his own fate seems to be sealed?

This is a sequel to The Little Shop of Found Things and picks up a few weeks after the first book. This story builds on the first one and so I highly recommend reading them in order. I loved The Little Shop of Found Things.

After returning for the last time from the seventeenth century, Xanthe goes about trying to settle back into modern life. She longs for Samuel, but must deal with her obnoxious ex-boyfriend instead. When she is drawn to an old chocolate pot while searching for antiques for the store, she realizes it has a connection to Samuel and she knows she must return to the past.

This trip to the past doesn't follow the same pattern as Xanthe's first one did. She meets other people who can also travel as she has and she gains more control over her abilities and learns that she is a "Spinner" and comes to understand more of what that means. Her journey this time is fraught with more danger as she tries to help Samuel.

Xanthe returned to the future more this story and there was a lot of skulking and lying about where she was and what she was doing. We learned more about friends in the village and a better understanding of how the past intertwines with her present.

While this one didn't resonate with me as much as the first story, I enjoyed it. Magical realism, suspense and a bit of romance all compelled me to keep me reading. The story is resolved, but there is a cliffhanger at the end to lead into the next book in the series. I am so very curious to see what happens next.

Thanks to Netgalley and St. Martin's Press for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Paula Brackston on her website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Read 11/19

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

The Little Shop of Found Things...#BookReview

About the book:
New York Times bestselling author of The Witch's Daughter Paula Brackston returns to her trademark blend of magic and romance guaranteed to enchant in The Little Shop of Found Things, the first book in a new continuing series.

An antique shop haunted by a ghost.
A silver treasure with an injustice in its story.
An adventure to the past she’ll never forget.

Xanthe and her mother Flora leave London behind for a fresh start, taking over an antique shop in the historic town of Marlborough. Xanthe has always had an affinity with some of the antiques she finds. When she touches them, she can sense something of the past they come from and the stories they hold. When she has an intense connection to a beautiful silver chatelaine she has to know more.

It is while she’s examining the chatelaine that she’s transported back to the seventeenth century where it has its origins. She discovers there is an injustice in its history. The spirit that inhabits her new home confronts her and charges her with saving her daughter’s life, threatening to take Flora’s if she fails.

While Xanthe fights to save the girl amid the turbulent days of 1605, she meets architect Samuel Appleby. He may be the person who can help her succeed. He may also be the reason she can’t bring herself to leave.

I absolutely loved the premise of this story: that a person can have an emotional or physical connection to inanimate objects or places. Xanthe realizes this affinity as a child as she learns the history and provenance of antiques that her mother sells. After relocating to an English village, Xanthe feels a connection to a beautiful silver chatelaine she finds at an auction. As she learns more about it, and the village in which she lives, she discovers the chatelaine is connected to a spirit that inhabits her home and who wants Xanthe to save her daughter in the 17th century. Xanthe learns she can travel in time and finds herself in 1605, trying to save a young maid from death.

She meets architect Samuel Appleby who helps Xanthe in her quest. But, can Xanthe leave Samuel behind?

I adore quaint English villages with their quirky residents. I enjoy stories with elements of magical realism that mix in with the everyday. I love a story that compels me to continue reading and The Little Shop of Found Things did just that. It was a little haunting with some suspenseful moments and it was charming and romantic in others. I found the juxtaposition of Xanthe traveling to and from 2018 to 1605 fascinating.

The descriptions were quite detailed and I found myself skimming some passages, but the story flowed well and kept me engaged. This is first in a series and I'm looking forward to more.

Thanks to Netgalley and St. Martin's Press for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Paula Brackston on her website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Read 10/19

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Friday, November 1, 2019

Пятница Ponderings: If I Only Had a Heart...

Ponder: to consider something deeply and thoroughly; meditate 
Пятница (PYAHT-nee-tsuh): Friday in Russian


I don't like emotional pain or feelings that can hurt and make me cry. So, I am prickly. I keep people at arms length. I have many acquaintances, but a few select close friends and even fewer who I confide in.

I cultivated this crusty, prickly exterior, almost unconsciously, because it protects my soft heart. And for a long time, I have been able to control it.

But, this past year my shell has cracked and my heart has softened and I find myself feeling so many things that I once pushed away. I cry much more easily now. I find myself having more compassion and less judgment. And I attribute it to two things.

First, we brought a beautiful puppy into our family last November. And while I love my family with everything I am, I did not anticipate how much this little creature could affect me. Cocoa herself is a bit prickly. But, she loves with her whole being. Truly.

I will fully admit that I never understood people who treated their pets as family. I do now, because I can't remember what life was like without Cocoa in it.

She greets us with wiggles and jumps and kisses. She exudes love. She makes me pause and sit and pet or snuggle. And she returns that love with no expectations, no requirements and no demands. She is pure love. She just wants food, someone to play with and someone to snuggle. Who doesn't want that?

So my prickly, crusty exterior has been softening and my heart has been bleeding through those cracks. It's inconvenient and painful sometimes, but it has also been a blessing, because letting my heart grow, has allowed me to feel more love and less judgment.

The other thing that has softened my heart and made me look at people differently is that our family is moving away from organized religion.

There are those who would say that religion is love and Jesus is love. But for me, my spiritual journey has been one of discovering love outside of religion. And for me, it is not part of a controlling, all inclusive church. I first stepped away from church earlier this year for my mental and emotional health. I was tired of never feeling like I was enough. I wasn't good enough. I didn't serve enough. I didn't give enough. When, in reality? I served and gave and did the best I could with what I had and who I was. But, it was never enough. I was always a disappointment to someone for something, including God.

I had come to find little comfort in sermons and talks from people who told me in words how I should live, but in doctrine and religious teachings told me that not everyone was deserving of that same love. I began to realize that I couldn't believe in a God who was restrictive and exclusive in how He bestowed blessings or answered prayers and that only a select few, who believed a select way, were going be happy.

So, I stopped attending and I felt no remorse and found some peace. And, I haven't stopped trying to figure out how I feel and what I think and believe. I have found myself thinking in more spiritual terms and less in religious terms. I have found myself finding joy in nature and in the people around me rather than trying to find it in a religious text or church meeting. And, as I have let go of the guilt of not doing enough, I realized I have more time for reflection and introspection. And I believe that all of us are beautiful, glorious beings with many gifts and qualities and I absolutely love seeing people in that way.

Although, I haven't yet been able to extend that love or soft heart towards insurance companies. Patients, yes. Insurance companies, no. And, I find that my heart isn't very soft when I drive, so I'm working on that. Baby steps...

But, I have also realized that love hurts, now that I can't turn away from it. It hurts to watch people or animals suffer. It hurts to watch people experience joy and heartache. But, it's also beautiful to feel. To feel love without judgment. To look at people for who they are, not how they act or what faith they profess.

Seriously, love hurts. Because of Cocoa, I now follow the animal shelter Facebook page and cry because so many puppies need homes and we can't take them, so I donate and buy supplies for them. I give my extra dollars to people on the street.

There is a man who has frequently been by the freeway offramp these last few months. Even now that it's cold and the temperatures are frigid, he's often there. There was a time when I would have driven past with no thought other than, "if you have time to stand here, you have time to look for a job". I can't do that as much any more. If I have cash, I give it to him. If I don't, I give him a smile. I don't know his story,  but he is a man with some troubles and I wish I could do more.

It's freezing outside now and I came out of our office the other day to see a grasshopper that was hurt and suffering. It couldn't fly or hop and I knew it wouldn't survive, so it was best to mercifully help it die. And I had to hold back tears while I did it. FOR AN INSECT. Really?

It was easier not to let myself feel. But, I have learned that I would rather have these experiences and discover my soft heart than keep my hardened, prickly heart and miss out on finding joy in loving others.

Thank you, Cocoa.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Пятница Ponderings: The Pain of Healthcare

Ponder: to consider something deeply and thoroughly; meditate 
Пятница (PYAHT-nee-tsuh): Friday in Russian


I work in healthcare. Have I ever mentioned that? The Doctor is a chiropractor and I am his office manager. We started this practice nearly three years ago. I have learned many things during this time. Want to hear some of them?

I've learned that peopling is hard for an introvert, but I've gotten somewhat comfortable in the role.

I've learned that I despise insurance companies.

I've learned that I like our patients.

I've learned that my husband is an amazing doctor.

I've learned that the art of truly caring for your patients is a lost one.

The Doctor spends time with his patients. He explains things: what he believes is wrong or causing their pain and what he is going to do to help them. He treats them so that they will get better, not to keep them coming back. If he can't help, or needs a different opinion, he will refer them out to a specialist.

He calls and texts patients to see how they're doing. Whether it's to follow up after an adjustment or if they've seen a specialist, or just because he knows they're struggling or noticed something was off. He has gone into the office on Sunday mornings and Saturday nights to see patients who are in distress.

We work together to make our office welcoming and friendly. If a patient needs a particular appointment time, we try to accommodate. If we can't, we'll say so, but I think our patients know we value them.

Because of this, I am always disappointed when I go to a physician's office and am treated as if I am a burden and inconvenience. I had this experience recently. Where a doctor puts too much faith in her office staff even when they have proven to be incompetent. But, because she trusts that they will do their job and follow-through for patients, she feels like she doesn't have to. And the patients suffer for it.

Working in healthcare has made me even more appreciative of my husband as a doctor and I am so grateful that he is a physician who cares.

Working in healthcare has also made me more jaded and I don't like that feeling.

Working in healthcare has made me realize that when you find those special doctors, keep them and express your appreciation.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

How to Find Love in a Bookshop...#BookReview

About the book:
The enchanting story of a bookshop, its grieving owner, a supportive literary community, and the extraordinary power of books to heal the heart.

Nightingale Books, nestled on the main street in an idyllic little village, is a dream come true for book lovers--a cozy haven and welcoming getaway for the literary-minded locals. But owner Emilia Nightingale is struggling to keep the shop open after her beloved father's death, and the temptation to sell is getting stronger. The property developers are circling, yet Emilia's loyal customers have become like family, and she can't imagine breaking the promise she made to her father to keep the store alive.

There's Sarah, owner of the stately Peasebrook Manor, who has used the bookshop as an escape in the past few years, but it now seems there's a very specific reason for all those frequent visits. Next is roguish Jackson, who, after making a complete mess of his marriage, now looks to Emilia for advice on books for the son he misses so much. And the forever shy Thomasina, who runs a pop-up restaurant for two in her tiny cottage--she has a crush on a man she met in the cookbook section, but can hardly dream of working up the courage to admit her true feelings.

Enter the world of Nightingale Books for a serving of romance, long-held secrets, and unexpected hopes for the future--and not just within the pages on the shelves. How to Find Love in a Bookshop is the delightful story of Emilia, the unforgettable cast of customers whose lives she has touched, and the books they all cherish.

I love it when a book envelops you and wraps you up warm and cozy while you read it. Then, when the last page is turned, it squeezes for a moment as if to say, "Thank you for reading me" and gently releases its grasp and lets you go.

I adore a bookshop where I can browse and select title after title to peruse before choosing something to take home. If that shop has someone in it who loves to talk and share books, even better.

Nightingale Books is that shop. The stories of Julian and Rebecca and Sarah; of Alice and Jackson and Emilia; Thomasina and Jem and everyone else are a little bit magical. Their lives intertwine and are brought together by books and the haven that is Nightingale Books.

Perhaps it was a bit predictable to some, but this story captured me and I savored every turn of the page, wondering what would happen next.

How to Find Love in a Bookshop was a joy to read. Truly. I believe in magic. I believe in the magic of people and the magic of kindness and the beautiful magic of books. Nightingale Books is a place I will return to again.

Read 10/19

* * * * *
5/5 Stars

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Weekend Reflection 10/12

Looking outside...it's fall. We're on our way to McCall and it's a gorgeous drive. 

Listening...to comfortable silence while The Doctor drives. 

Loving...that this is a getaway weekend and we are together. 

Thinking...it's been a difficult week. With ups and downs and some not-so-good news that made me cry and swear and threaten violence. But last night we had a powwow and have some answers and a tentative plan. We had pleasant dinner with extended family which was delicious and enjoyable. And sleep is healing, both physically and emotionally.

In my kitchen...I have no idea because I'm not home. Lunch will be a burger at My Father's Place. Dinner might be the same! 

Wearing...denim skirt, red sweater, black cardigan, Kennedy tartan scarf. It's Fall and I love it. 

Hoping... for some rest and relaxation and time with The Doctor. 

Reading... don't faint from shock, but I reviewed The German Midwife this week. Loved it. 5 stars. 

Today...is our 23rd wedding anniversary.


What would I do without your smart mouth
Drawing me in, and you kicking me out
Got my head spinning, no kidding,
I can't pin you down
What's going on in that beautiful mind
I'm on your magical mystery ride

And I'm so dizzy, don't know what hit me, but I'll be alright
My head's under water, but I'm breathing fine
You're crazy and I'm out of my mind

'Cause all of me loves all of you
Love your curves and all your edges
All your perfect imperfections
Give your all to me, I'll give my all to you 
You're my end and my beginning
Even when I lose I'm winning
'Cause I give you all, all of me
And you give me all, all of you

How many times do I have to tell you
Even when you're crying, you're beautiful too
The world is beating you down,
I'm around through every mood
You're my downfall, you're my muse
My worst distraction, my rhythm and blues
I can't stop singing, it's ringing, in my head for you

My head's under water, but I'm breathing fine
You're crazy and I'm out of my mind

'Cause all of me loves all of you 
Love your curves and all your edges 
All your perfect imperfections
Give your all to me, I'll give my all to you
You're my end and my beginning
Even when I lose I'm winning
'Cause I give you all of me
And you give me all, all of you
Give me all of you

Cards on the table, we're both showing hearts
Risking it all, though it's hard

'Cause all of me loves all of you
Love your curves and all your edges
All your perfect imperfections
Give your all to me, I'll give my all to you
You're my end and my beginning
Even when I lose I'm winning
'Cause I give you all of me
And you give me all of you

I give you all, all of me
And you give me all, all of you

John Legend, All of Me

Feeling...grateful for my husband. 23 years ago, we promised ourselves to each other. 23 years ago, I thought I knew how much I loved him. 23 years ago, I had no idea how much more I could love him today. He encourages me. He believes in me. He completes me.

We are each far from perfect, but we have learned so much about communication over the years. We've laughed and cried. We've had joys and challenges. But through it all, we've experienced it together. And there is no one else I'd rather live this life with than him. 

Planning...this to simply enjoy this time together. 

Gratitude...for a beautiful day that is brand new with no mistakes in it, yet.

From my world... 

What about you? What are you reflecting on this week? How has your week gone?

Thursday, October 10, 2019

The German Midwife...#BookReview

About the book:
Germany, 1944. A prisoner in the camps, midwife Anke Hoff is doing what she can to keep her pregnant campmates and their newborns alive.

But when Anke’s work is noticed, she is chosen for a task far more dangerous than she could ever have imagined. High in the Bavarian hills, Eva Braun is pregnant, and Anke is assigned as her caregiver.

Before long, Anke is faced with an impossible choice. Does she serve the Reich she loathes and keep the baby alive? Or does she sacrifice an innocent child for the good of a broken world?

Anke Hoff is a midwife who, because she helps Jewish women in direct violation of German law, is sent to a concentration camp. There, she finds herself caring for those prisoners who arrive at camp pregnant or find themselves pregnant from assault. The conditions in which these women live and are forced to give birth are heartwrenching.  But, Anke provides comfort and as good as care as she can under these circumstances.

Soon, she is taken to a mountain retreat to care for another expectant woman. Eva Braun, who is pregnant with Adolph Hitler's child. What follows is simply a compelling, powerful story that answers the question, "What would you do if...?"

The turmoil that Anke feels is palpable. How does she care for this woman, who carries an innocent child fathered by a murderous, evil man? As Eva's pregnancy progresses, Anke finds herself developing a friendship with Eva, who we come to view as a normal woman, experiencing her first pregnancy. A woman who is excited to welcome her first child.

The premise for this story is fantastic. Historically I don't know how accurate it is. But, honestly, I didn't care. And confession. I have sat on this review for months. Literally.

This book left me thoughtful. Wordless. At times it was a horrific gut punch. At other times, almost heartwarming and tender. But what it did so well was show the reader that in the moment of childbirth, every woman is the same. Every woman, no matter her station or her race or circumstance, is equal. Childbirth and motherhood unite us.

Easily recommended.

Thanks to Netgalley for the opportunity to review this. You can follow Mandy Robotham on Facebook and Twitter.

Read 2019

* * * * *
5/5 Stars

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Weekend Reflection 9/28

Looking outside...it's cooling off and I love it! Our high today is 56 and it's cloudy. Definitely fall. 

Listening...to relative peace and quiet. 

Loving...the weather and seasonal changes. Fall is my favorite. 

Thinking...it's a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

In my kitchen...it might be a soup or chili day.

Wearing...denim skirt, pink tank, black sweater, no shoes. 

Hoping... for some rest and relaxation. 

Reading... don't faint from shock, but I started, How to Find Love in a Bookshop this week. Loving it so far.

It was so noisy at our house this week because of the roof, that on Wednesday, I arrived at Panera 30 minutes early, so I could read in my car before I met my sisters for lunch. 

Today...we have a quieter, not so busy day. It's nice.


It lies in all of us.
Sleeping, waiting.
And though unwanted, unbidden,
it will stir, open its jaws and howl.

It speaks to us...guides us.
Passion rules us all; and we obey.
What other choice do we have?

Passion is the source of our finest moments.
The joy of love;
The clarity of hatred;
And the ecstasy of grief.

It hurts sometimes more than we can bear.
If we could live without passion,
maybe we'd know some kind of peace...
but we would be hollow.
Empty rooms.
Shuddered and dank.
Without passion, we'd be truly dead.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Feeling...grateful for great patients. I talked books with a couple of them yesterday and it was delightful. 

Planning...this next week and looking ahead to our upcoming anniversary weekend.

Gratitude...for a new roof. We had to have ours replaced this week. It's a relief to have it completed. 

From my world... 

The Boy finally completed his sorting. And our family sorted into each Hogwarts House.

The Doctor is Slytherin; I am Hufflepuff; The Boy is Gryffindor; and The Artist is Ravenclaw. All very accurate to us. Shiny!

What about you? What are you reflecting on this week? How has your week gone?

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Weekend Reflections 8/10

Looking outside...it's sunny, but we had thunderstorms last night, and we may have more this evening. The Little Miss doesn't like thunder, lightning or fireworks.

Listening...we are in the office this morning, so I can hear The Doctor talking with a patient in the exam room and the sound of the ocean. It's what The Doctor has playing in the office instead of music. 

Loving...time with my family. Our boys are becoming good men and I am proud of them. They bring me joy. They make me laugh. 

Thinking...It's been a year since my last Weekend Reflection. I need to get back into writing my reflections and thoughts. There are so many thoughts and feelings rolling through my head--political, religious, literary. It's time to start writing them out for processing.

In my kitchen...dishes in the sink. Always. Not sure what is for dinner. Standard refrain.

Wearing...denim skirt, black and white striped tank, red cardigan, black flats.

Reading...I couldn't tell you the last actual new book I read. I have so many in my Kindle and on my bedside table, but mentally, it just takes too much effort right now to concentrate on something new. 

Today...we have patients this morning. We need to replace the ceiling fan in our bedroom and do some things around the house. I'm feeling the need to purge and minimize.

Quoting...the band Queen has lyrics that resonate with me all the time. Love them. The words to Is This the World We Created have been swirling through my mind these last few months.

Just look at all those hungry mouths we have to feed. 
Take a look at all the suffering we breed. 
So many lonely faces scattered all around,
Searching for what they need.

Is this the world we created? 
We made it on our own. 
Is this the world we invaded, 
Against the law? 
So it seems in the end. 
Is this what we're all living for today? 
The world that we created.

You know that everyday a helpless child is born, 
Who needs some loving care inside a happy home. 
Somewhere a wealthy man is sitting on his throne 
Waiting for life to go by. 

Is this the world we created? 
We made it on our own. 
Is this the world we devastated, 
Right to the bone? 
If there is a God up in the sky 
Looking down, what must He think of what we've done 

To the world that He created? 

Is This the World We Created?
~Brian May & Freddie Mercury

Feeling...tired, but I'm always tired. Reflective. I've been reflective a lot this last year and that hasn't changed. I haven't written much and I do so much better emotionally when I can write. 

Planning...this next week. The Artist graduated from high school in May. He was going to go to school this fall, but has decided to push it out until Spring, so we need to get some paperwork and tasks done to finalize those plans.

I'm looking ahead to next week's patient schedule and what needs to be done, prepped, and so forth. This last year has not made me love healthcare more. 

Gratitude...for caffeine this morning, for patients who make me laugh, for air conditioners in the summertime

From my world... 

Did I ever share that we brought a puppy into our family last year? We did. She is a beautiful silver lab named Cocoa. She is a challenging joy. I am not a dog person. I never have been. I grew up terrified of dogs, but this little girl completes our family. I have come to understand love so much more because of our Little Miss. To be greeted each day, by something that loves you so much is incredible. She exudes joy and love. We call her "wiggle butt" because she can hardly walk at times from her tail wagging so hard with excitement. So, while I have not become a "dog person", I am a "Cocoa dog person". 

What about you? What are you reflecting on this week? How has your week gone?