Friday, September 23, 2011

Love Has Its Ups and Downs by Bonnie Rice

Bonnie Rice is writing from the heart about being married to a husband with Bipolar disorder and what it takes to stay married and raise a family in the chaos of the illness. She deserves much credit for putting this together in such an honest, concise and practical way. This is one of those books that I had to stop myself from underlining the whole thing; there is just so much good advice for living with someone with Bipolar illness, and I should know because my mother had it and I became her emotional caretaker until the day she passed away. I wish someone would have written this book earlier; it would have made my childhood and adulthood a little less stressful. In the very least it would have given me some perspective. I didn’t learn some these things until later in life. Saying that, still Bonnie gave me a few “Ah Ha” moments: for example, when the person with Bipolar illness says something mean and hurtful: to remember that it’s not about you—it’s about them. Another one was that “Bipolar affects memory.” There is nothing more frustrating then to be the one still reeling from a manic episode while the Bipolar acts like nothing happened.

Love Has Its Ups and Downs is a great reference book for anyone who has a relationship with someone with mental health issues, and those who want to understand Bipolar illness. Bonnie uses humor in some places to illustrate facts, and her end of chapter questions and worksheets are very helpful. In one of the questions she asks you to remember a funny thing your Bipolar family member said: here’s a classic thing my mom said the first time I talked to her about boundaries, she said, “Boundaries are meant to be broken that’s how new countries are made.” In hindsight it’s funny, at the time not so much. This isn’t a one size fits all manual for marriages surviving Bipolar illness, but it is a starting place to help understand the necessity of boundaries, team support and putting together a workable plan for the health of yourself and your family. 5 stars. I read this on Kindle.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Dragonfly Summer

I spent this summer trying to reclaim some of the feeling of my childhood summers. I placed a pool in the yard and floated, looking up at clear blue skies feeling the sun heating my skin, smelling the fragrance the earth gives off in mid-day. Yes I had sunblock on and a hat on my head that covered my face--an nod to old age and too many early years in the sun--but those quiet moments rejuvenated my body and mind.

Visitors were few, John painted his canvas's and Pretzel, not wanting to swim with me, sniffed the blue rubber sides of the pool and skittered away when I splashed him.  Only one stayed to languish in the noon day sun, an orange dragonfly, who fed my spirit with the glory of God's creation.

"Nature is the living, visible garment of God."  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Language of Flowers Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s novel The Language of Flowers is the best fiction I’ve read this year. So good that I didn’t want to stop reading it, I’d tell myself just one more chapter and then get upset because I didn’t want to leave her character, Victoria, without finding out what happened next. From the opening chapter, Victoria’s story grabbed me emotionally. The beauty and the tragic realness of her character, the way she interacted with the people in her life, her heartbreaking hopefulness and self-sabotaging behavior kept me wishing that someone would see below the surface and bring healing to her wounded soul.

Victoria Jones is 18 and aging out of foster care in San Francisco. She is angry and hurting from being raised in the system. She has gone from house to house and group home to group home where her need for love and family were not met. At 10 she finds her best chance at adoption with Elizabeth, a woman who lives alone on a vineyard. She teaches Victoria about grapes and the names and meanings of flowers. It is the meaning of flowers that Victoria grabs onto and this language from the Victorian era helps her navigate through life.

I read this advanced readers copy through the Amazon vine program and can’t wait until it comes out in August 2011 so that I can buy copies. It’s a perfect gift, because it appeals to so many people: anyone who loves children, those who care about what’s happening to our marginalized kids, social workers, foster parents, mental health advocates, or gardeners, lovers of flowers, florists, wedding planners, midwifes and young adults. The list is long but there are probably more types of readers who would like this story. 5 stars, wish I could give it more.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

One Summer's Day

A Day in the Garden

Flitting to and fro a marble sized bumblebee dusts a bright golden poppy,

Nearby two orange dragonflies perch on wind swaying branches.

Atop the sun bleached wooden fence a tiny black cat with a red collar slips through a ever widening crack

She spots me and turns back, but not before I notice her belly and know that she has kittens hidden somewhere.

I call her back, “come kitty kitty” there are nice little gray field mice scurrying below your soft padded feet.

She pauses hunched, and leaps to the other side “Not today” she seems to say, “Not today.”

Sitting by the fountain, I stare at green feathered hummingbirds drinking nectar and sword fighting above my head.

Later in the afternoon, the sun makes its way west and I return to sit on the garden bench breathing in the scents of honeysuckle and blackberry blossoms.

In the distance, among the Irises I see a fluffy gray tail waving like a flag,

My neighbors cat Charlie, stalking gophers, patrolling borders, snacking on field mice.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

In Memory of Nicole

Dr. Christensen was 34 when he started the mobile medical unit in Arizona to help homeless youth. The hospital on wheels, actually a van that needed more than a little tweaking to work, was donated, but getting it functioning and stocked was an exercise in patience. Luckily he had great people on his side, including Jan Putman, a no nonsense nurse-practitioner, and his wife Amy, also a doctor, who understood him putting in long hours. Ask Me Why I Hurt: The Kids Nobody Wants and the Doctor Who Heals Them chronicles the beginning of the mobile medical clinic, the kids they saw over those first years, and how working with them affected his family life.

Try to imagine being dropped off on the street as a teenager. You have no money, no place to live, no job, and no way of getting help because you don’t have a valid ID to prove who you are. Now add on lack of coping skills because of childhood abuse or trauma. You are sick because you ate food people threw away; you are exposed to the elements, and exploited by mean people who prey on kids like you. You have been injured and beat-up and you need to see a doctor, but you don’t have health insurance and the county medical services can’t help you without an ID and some type of contact number or address.

This is reality for thousands of kids in every State. Some of these kids ran from abusive homes, some have mental illness, some have lost their parents, some are struggling with addiction and some have aged out of foster care. They don’t have family to count on, they don’t have a support network or mentors and they don’t have a voice in our political process. You may not see them in your neighborhood or you may not recognize that they are homeless, but they are out there hurting. We may not be doctors that can physically heal them, and yet we can do our part. They need us, especially our voices and votes for compassionate change.

I couldn’t put this book down, the stories of the young men and women jumped off the page, and so did the stories of Dr. Christensen’s fellow workers and his family. The chronicle of Nicole really touched me; a beautiful homeless young woman with mental illness languishing on the streets year after year not getting the help or the medications she needed to become whole, made me weep. The courage of these kids, even when everything was against their survival, gave me hope.

I didn’t know anything about Dr. Christensen before receiving this book through the Amazon Vine program. I hope he’ll continue to publish more about his work with the homeless youth.  5 stars ;-)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

UnPlanned by Abby Johnson

I just finished reading a great book, an honest memoir that tells the story without trying to justify every action the person took during that part of their life. It is what it is. Abby Johnson’s book Unplanned is the story of a life changed by God in answer to prayer. Here’s my review:

The word abortion polarizes people—you are either for it or against it. A line drawn in the sand; a fence metaphorically and literally that forces you to choose sides. It effects all aspects of life; personally, politically, monetarily and spiritually. Unplanned shows us both sides: an inside look by someone who has been on each side of that fence.

By the time Abby Johnson started college she knew she wanted to help women in crisis. During her junior year, at a volunteer opportunities fair at her college, she met a woman from Planned Parenthood that showed her how she could do just that by volunteering for them. Abby wasn’t so sure about the abortion part, having been raised in a Christian home, but she was reassured by talk of all the other things they offered women, such as preventing pregnancies. With the hope of making abortion rare she signed up.

This is her story of going from volunteer to being the Director of a Planned Parenthood Clinic; it is an honest look at her journey, and a revealing look at the secret she kept from her family and even from herself. It is also an illuminating look at the pro life members on the other side of the fence: good and bad. How Abby Johnson crossed over to eventually join the Coalition for Life was a miracle years in the making. I highly recommend this intriguing book, and also Won by Love by Norma McCorvey who is the woman who was Jane Roe of Roe vs Wade.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Monday, May 16, 2011

Huck by Janet Elder

Michael Elder had pleaded with his parents for years to get him a dog—but the answer was always no. “No you are too young, no we live in an apartment in New York, no we are too busy to care for a dog.” His mom, Janet, had these reasons and more and his dad Rich always agreed. Still Michael tried many times to prove how important it was for him to have a dog. When he was 11 years old the family took a trip to Italy and even then, they pointed out how hard it would be to travel if they had to care for a dog. It was during this trip that Janet saw something that made her reconsider her “no dog” stand. After returning home she discovered she had cancer and again her thoughts about getting him a dog became more favorable, even if it was “just for something” to look forward to.

Huck, a 5 pound red poodle puppy joined their family in November and they were smitten with the little guy. In March, as Janet felt better, they decided to take a trip to Florida and leave Huck with her sister’s family in New Jersey. The family loved dogs, had a fenced yard, and it seemed like a perfect fit. It worked out for the first day and then Huck ran away.

Reading this book about how all these strangers put their effort into finding a little lost puppy, brings back faith in human kindness and shows the compassion of neighbors in small towns. It is a page turner that I couldn’t put down, and it had me asking how far I would go to find a lost dog. This is a good story for all ages.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

In Praise of an Empty Nest

Well here is the first baby to leave home. They both were gone the next day, and in the following days they have come back to our yard to visit. Isn't that just like kids ;-)  Happy Mother's Day.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Baby Doves

Just in time for Mother's Day we finally have some baby doves. The basket condo worked ;-)

Okay, so they have faces that only a mother could love, but these 2 cuties were years in the making.... Happy Mother's Day from our family to your's.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Easter Doves part 3

Easter is the story of resurrection and new life.  In past Easter’s I have told you the saga of the Dove’s who try to nest in our grapevine; every year they build their nest in the crook of the vines’ old wood and the post that is part of our patio cover. It’s not sturdy or protected enough, so each year the nest falls apart, or the neighborhood cats pull it down with them barely escaping with their lives. One year John built a platform for them, when that wasn’t enough he made a cone out of chicken wire and tacked it on. That was better but still the cats scared them away before the eggs could hatch. This year he made a basket condo and for the last few weeks all is good. There is a tiny problem with the basket’s curve because the male dove has longer tail feathers and they are getting tweaked at the ends ;-) The female is in the nest peeking out through the slats.

Another thing that has new life in our yard is a lilac bush that has never bloomed, I think I planted it over ten years ago hoping it would cover the fence. This year it bloomed in this gorgeous color.

There is one more tale to tell about new life in our neighborhood. Awhile ago some neighbors moved and left behind their rabbits, which then took up residence across the street on our friends property. They do what bunnies do, so now we see Easter Bunnies everywhere, here are two who posed for pictures…

May you have the joy of new life...Happy Easter ;-)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Book Review: Tattoos on the Heart Greg Boyle

I thought I'd add a book a review I recently posted on some other sites, the book is called Tattoos on the Heart by Fr. Greg Boyle.  I loved it so much I just had to share it, I read it on Kindle so if you have one I can really share it with you. ;-) 

Fr. Greg Boyle tells us in the preface that this is not a memoir and there is no narrative chronology, and it is not a “how to deal with gangs” book. Then what we are left with are relationships that matter to him with the people he has walked side by side with at the Delores Mission in Boyle Heights, the gang capital of Los Angeles. This book profoundly touches me, it makes me want to do better, to give everyone the benefit of doubt, to forgive my perceived enemies; to love more and complain less. His stories of ministering to gang members shift my perception of those around me. While reading it I find myself laughing out loud, and in the next moment crying because I care deeply about the Homies and realizing that losing someone with so much potential hurts us all. Between the lines I hear God speak, “Remember who you are, an ambassador for Christ, My hands on earth, and a light in the darkness. Don’t give up when it hurts to love, risk it….”

There is one recollection of Fr. Boyle’s that brings tears to my eyes; he is just starting out as a young priest on a trip to Bolivia. He is asked to bring Mass to the village of Tirani, where the Indians only speak Quechua and he doesn’t even speak Spanish. He knows he is inadequate to the task even with a translator, but in the depths of his hopelessness God meets him there. In this book God meets us and we are loved and changed.

I know when I’ve read something great, it’s when I start worrying about how many quotes I’ve underlined, but I’m not alone, on Kindle I can see that others have underlined excessively too. I’ll leave you with one warning, there is, ahem, a certain amount of “coarse language” and Fr. Boyle’s colorful banter with the homeboys might offend some. Don’t let the language stop you, this is a must read and I’ll be reading this book again.

Here is one of my favorite quotes " Suddenly, her shame meets mine. For when Carmen walked through that door, I had mistaken her for an interruption."

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Hope Rocks: A Lesson in Letting Go

htthttpFor the last year I’ve been upset because my notebook computer has been glitching, and freezing, and taking forever to start up. I mainly use it to stay in touch with my family and friends on facebook—checking out what interests them, and sharing what interesting things I’ve found. I also play games and write my first drafts on it. That frees up our PC for my business and John’s art business stuff. It also limits us from getting a computer virus on the PC.

Fed up, last week I took the notebook into have diagnostic run on it and the news was bad—bad sectors, I would need a new hard-drive and then have to reprogram it. When we counted up the cost to do this, it made more sense to buy a new one. So I found one for a great price and bought it through E-bates, a program my sister told me about that gives you cash back if you use their website. Then John mentioned a friend of ours might want the other computer, because he likes to fix them and he doesn’t have a notebook. We picked up the old one, and I started removing personal stuff and non-essential programs to get it ready to send to our friend. Wouldn’t you know it, after removing everything and restarting the computer, it worked just fine! At first I wanted to kick myself for wasting money on a new one, but today I had an Ah Ha moment—if I hadn’t been willing to give it away I never would have deleted all the programs that were causing the conflict! Isn’t that like our life, we hold on to our problems, fret about them, complain about them, not willing to let go and give them to God who can clean us up, fix us and make us like new….

Here’s a little bit of hope for you: Next time your “heart-drive” is glitching, freezing up and not wanting to work right; give it away to God and other people and enjoy the blessing of a new one.

Hope rocks :-)

To learn more about Hope Rocks go to