La Taza

July 25, 2014 at 3:26 pm (Travel) (, , , , )

mi tazaIf there’s one thing every traveler needs, it’s a good coffeehouse.  Mostly because traveling requires a kind of energy I can only get from the best coffee; but even for the non-coffee drinker, a coffeehouse is a one stop greeting center.

Your barista will usually be able to tell you how to get places, what activities there are in the neighborhood, where to find the best music and food.  Your barista, equivalent to a bartender in useful information and emotional well-being, will point you in the direction of the best bookstores, the coolest non-touristy tourist sites, and can usually tell you which ones are free and which ones are overpriced.

Find the right neighborhood joint, wherever you are staying, and you will find flyers for things happening while you’re in town that you might otherwise not discover.  You’ll have numerous business cards and bookmarks for local indie authors you can check out while you’re in their hometown, and you’ll be able to gather your thoughts and plan your day over delicious less-commercialized foods and drinks.

P1020603If that place is La Taza, in San Antonio, you’ll also get to check out the local art scene while your barista warms a heart shaped Danish roll to serve you with your Hazelnut latte.  No, I did not take pictures of my Danish roll, I was too busy eating it while it was hot.

I did take some pictures of the walls while he was busy making my latte though, this painting of the horses in the water above the chess table struck my fancy.

There’s also a puzzle table and a slew of board games and books to access.  Other decor included a not-so-Christmasy Christmas tree, dressed in flowers for summer.

The shop was about a mile from where I was staying, easily accessible by sidewalk from that neighborhood.  If I had had the time to enjoy the walk, rather than flit off to book signings, I would have – walked and meandered to my coffee, that is.

I can’t wait to visit again.  Maybe next time I’ll have my book signing there – it looks like they frequently have authors and musicians in the cafe.  In the meantime, you might be able to still pick up my bookmark from the table near the entrance.

 

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Dazzled by Market Square

July 24, 2014 at 4:03 pm (Travel) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

When I was in San Antonio Saturday, my best friend dragged me to the old Farmer’s Market – dragged is too harsh, that makes it sound like I was kicking and screaming and I wasn’t.  I was happy to go and see something new, was excited about it really, except I looked past the archways from the street and my stomach sank… people.  Lots and lots of people.  Crowds didn’t bother me much when I was younger, they couldn’t, I went to a 5A highschool and if you were nervous in a crowd you’d drown in a sea of elbows.  (I realize now that maybe they did, I just often had a hand to cling to – my now husband – when walking through those crowds, not sure my bestie would be down with me grabbing her hands to hold in public… doesn’t stop me from wanting to.) Doesn’t change the fact that I see one ahead these days and I have to summon a purpose or desire for something in that crowd in order to enter it.

In this case, food, art, and music.  My trifecta that gets me through the festival experience.  I love those things.  And even though the Market was crowded – the worst of it at Mi Tierra – there was a little bit of space and I found myself able to breathe.  Especially once I got myself to the art booths.

Right outside Mi Tierra I stumbled across two separate booths. One for Joseph Hernandez Jr. (www.josephhernandezartist.com) and one for Robert Wilkens (robertwilkensco@sbcglobal.net).

It was the impressionistic style of Joseph Hernandez that caught my attention to the art in the first place. I was already tired from shopping, tired of the crowds, and on the verge of becoming very hungry. But then I saw this:

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This is Joseph Hernandez Jr. He paints vibrantly, is self-taught, and stands about as tall as me. I could have stood in his booth and looked at every single painting for hours. If I were wealthy, I would have bought one of everything. My house would become a gallery to his work. I loved all the color. His use of it reminded me of Bryan Collins work even if their styles are nothing alike.

P1020682Much of his work is perfect for the tourist or native San Antonio lovers.  He chooses places around town to capture on the canvas.  Far more valuable than any photograph you could take of the same location.

He has just as many paintings of a random assortment, random things that inspired him… trees and branches are a running theme for him.  He had a lot for musicians – a sax, a violin, muP1020683sic notes, etc.  I can’t imagine walking into his booth and not seeing something you want to take home with you.  The hard part is deciding which something.

His paintings are affordable for the art collector.  Good size canvases that I’ve seen sell in the thousands by less talented painters were running between $400 – $500.  You could buy a very small  canvas for $25 and walk away with an original piece. His prints were what would hit your pocket, averaging at half the price of the canvas.  Seeing that I opted to save for an original Hernandez, rather than buying a print.  I took a business card, but came back later to take this picture with him:

P1020680Only a few booths away, closer to the Mi Tierra entrance, was Robert Wilkens – or Roberto as his wife kept calling him, and I can’t get her voice and pronunciation of his name out of my head.  She’s gorgeous and so passionate about his work.

P1020684I asked to take a picture of his work and later found out that most people just take the pictures – they don’t generally ask first.  I’m used to museums and conventions, rather than festivals, and I always ask.  Otherwise you might find yourself being barked at.

Robert and his wife were very gracious and let me take as many pictures as I wanted.  Robert is a chatterer, and I enjoyed talking to him while I watched him paint.  He teased me about my tattoo – told me it said “Soy Sauce in Chinese, didn’t you know?”  I picked on him for assuming I didn’t know what my tattoo said, just because I was a white girl.  Some things are funnier in my head than they are out loud.  Either way, Robert and I had a nice long chat about artistry and professions.  We showed him a picture of my kiddo’s art work.  We talked about books and my career as a writer.

“When did you first know you wanted to write?” he asked me.

“The moment I realized that ink came out of a pen and formed words on a page,” I answered.

P1020675He’s been a painter for decades, but he took the long road it sounds.  He had a lot of people tell him he couldn’t make a living at it.  It’s clear that he can, his work is incredible.  We talked about how we  encourage that artistic spirit in our children.  My daughter – the child of a writer – is quite the little painter.  His daughter – the child of a painter – just might be the next great American novelist.

He was a muralist for a long time, you can see the remnants of that life in some of his work.  I love it, and I want him to come do some walls in Houston that need sprucing.

He’s good enough for the first lady, he should be good enough for everyone:

Artist – Muralist, Robert Wilkens has been in the arts for twenty-five years and has worked commercially for fourteen years. He is well established in all media of the arts. Robert’s talent and dedication to his work has taken him to Mexico and all over the United States of America, even to the White House in the service of the First Lady, Laura Bush. There is no other artist of Roberts caliber when it comes to working with clients. His work ethics are honest and the beauty of his brush strokes while painting murals are eloquent and always precise.

(From Robert Wilkens & Company Blog)

I may not enjoy crowds, but I love discovering.  I love traveling and the search for new experiences and people.  I love seeing something I’ve never encountered before and picking it apart in my brain, learning to describe it.  New sights and smells and sounds may overwhelm me, but I welcome it as a learning experience.  I am so glad we went to Market Square that day.  I am glad we met Joseph Hernandez Jr and Robert Wilkens.  I am glad we waited for seats at Mi Tierra, even after we were told it would be an hour and half before we could be seated (it was actually only 35 minutes).  I’m ecstatic that I got to eat cheese enchiladas and suck down a Mojito before devouring more art with my eyes.  (I’m mildly amused that I got carded for my Mojito.)

When I went back out to take more pictures of Robert’s work and buy a print of his with my bestie, I was pleasantly buzzed (light weight, cheap date, whatever, I’ll take the name calling)… and found this:

P1020687I couldn’t stop looking at it and I wanted it for my wall.  He didn’t have any prints available for it, but said he would ship to Houston if only I let him know.

I want the original.  It’s magnificent.  The detail in the water and his pant leg is stellar.  I wanted to be swept away with him, from the dirty street and into that clear, blue water, up to the moon.  It helps that I find suitcases and umbrellas terribly romantic.

It helps that I find travel romantic.  It helps that adventure fascinates me, even if it makes me a little nervous, I still want to experience it all.  I want to absorb art through my eyes and bathe in it.  I want to taste new foods and close my eyes and live the flavor.  I want to meet new people and really discover who they are before I leave their presence, even if it takes a little bit of work to stay focused on what they are telling me.  I want to be dazzled.

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Entangled

July 24, 2014 at 2:53 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , )

EntangledCoverWebHalfAAAA1Title: Entangled
Author: Barbara Ellen Brink
Genre: Mystery
Length: 332 pages

It was the title that got me, with its spindly lettering. Then the grape leaves mysteriously hiding the heroine.  It’s grape season.  A mystery in a winery sounds just like the sort of thing to read in July.  Even more perfect, it came in time for me to pack it into my suitcase for my “vacation” – ahem – book signing tour.

Brink’s writing is heavier than I anticipated, the mystery less cozy and a little more John Grisham minus the courtroom meets Alice Hoffman.  A few times while on my road trip, I had to put it down.  The characters had more going on in their lives than my vacation was going to allow.  Of course, I found myself picking it right back up again later.

The truth is, Brink won me over with the word “wafted” on page 22. I’m a sucker for that word.  It’s one of my favorites, and I’ve blogged about this oddity of mine before.  “The sound of a child singing wafted through the open window…” and immediately I thought of my own child, back home, not a part of this trip, and I missed her.  Brink has a way of doing that to you.  You sit down to read a mystery and find yourself thinking about all the people in your life, past and present.

“I know we were just kids, but a bond like that doesn’t disappear. [...] It might fade with time, but it doesn’t disappear.” – pg. 89

No, it really doesn’t, does it?  There are so many childhood friends that I don’t keep in touch with anymore, not really.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t think of them fairly often and wonder how they are, hope that they are well.  So many of them affected the way I view the world, and they probably don’t even know it.  We’re all in our thirties now, we don’t talk about any of it, we’ve all outgrown each other.  It doesn’t make the love go away.  It makes it different, but not gone.

There’s a romantic twist in Entangled as well, the kind I like: not too over the top or explicit, a romance between friends, caused by the intrusion of the past into the present.

All this intrusion is what makes Entangled special.  It’s not just women’s fiction.  It’s not just a mystery.  It’s a mystery featuring people with real problems.  In all my cozy mystery reading, that’s not often the kind of story I get.

I’ll be picking grapes tomorrow.  Maybe even having some wine later in the season.  For sure, I’ll be reading Crushed (book two in the Fredrickson Winery Saga) in the future.  There’s too many secrets at Fredrickson not to go back.

 

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Grandmother’s Cabin

July 23, 2014 at 5:31 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Grandmother's CabinTitle: Grandmother’s Cabin
Author & Illustrator: Angela Rout (@mamacomic on twitter)
Genre: Children’s Picture Book

We received this book in the mail from the author right before I left on my book signing tour to San Antonio.  I was mean, I was so excited about it, I made kiddo wait until I got back from my trip.  Daddy was under strict orders that this book was not to be read while I was away.

I thought about it while I was away a lot.  All the colors of the front cover kept coming to mind while I was faced with all the colors of San Antonio.

It was worth the waP1020726it.  Grandmother’s Cabin lived up to my own mental hype.  Kiddo snuggled up in my lap last night and settled in for the new book to review, ready with opinions.

It seems to be a snugly sort of book in general, my favorite kind, as during story time today everyone was reaching for their mothers and trying to get into laps.  That’s not typically the case with other stories.  Instinctively, children know: this book is for families and heritage, and appreciation of the good things that calm our souls.

The front cover is simply one of many exciting illustrations.  The further into the story you get, the richer the images, and more vibrant the colors – or maybe it’s the story that makes me feel like they’re richer and more vibrant…

Rout maintains a splash of color on the right side of the page and ornate pencil sketches on the left side along with the text.

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It’s whimsical, magical, and even won a “Moonbeam” award.  If that doesn’t sound mysteriously romantic, I don’t know what does.

P1020722Dedicated to all things grandmothery and cozy, the book is about spiritual healing found by looking back to your ancestors, finding comfort in tea, and relaxing with a good book and favorite activity.

“I like to paint too!” My kiddo squealed when Grandmother revealed an easel and paint tray among the tropical forest.

When Grandmother did her super hero pose, Kiddo did hers too.  Later when we went over the discussion questions Rout provides on the last page, Kiddo answered that she wants to be like Grandmother.  “I can heal like Grandmother – by licking – like Helo.”  Helo is the dog.  Clearly, my child needs more grandmother interaction and less puppy play.

“When I’m happy I don’t fly high in the sky,” Kiddo lamented.  “And I get sad when I’m sick.  And I get upset when Dad plays with MY frisbees.”  Well, then.

Finally, I read the last question to my daughter:

Grandmother’s love makes Mother feel happy. How can we connect with our ancestors and our loved ones who have lived before us?  What can we do to help them be of service to us? As an example some people tell stories, remember them, pray for them, learn about them, or celebrate their accomplishments.  What does your family do?

“Walk in the woods.  I like to walk in the woods,” my child responded wisely.  Yes, my darling, we do.  And that’s why this book spoke to us from the front cover alone.  Coffee and Tea Cups, Books, Paint Brush, Foliage… what more could a gal need to feel restful and restored?

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Grandmother’s Cabin is lovely and enriching.  It opens up a topic of discussion many people believe to be beyond what children can handle, but it’s perfect, and the children I’ve read this book to today handled it with grace and curiosity.

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I read children’s books at the Half Price Books in Humble every Wednesday throughout the summer, starting at 10:30 am.  Many of these titles are plucked from the shelf and are available for purchase right then and there.  Some of what I read and share come from a publisher or an author and might not otherwise be readily discovered.  Like today, Grandmother’s Cabin was sent to me from an author in Calgary, Alberta.  If you have kiddos, live in the area and wish to join us, please do.

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Miraflores

July 22, 2014 at 3:38 pm (Education, Travel) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

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We saw it from the road when we were on our way to a bookstore.  It was on the right (off Hildebrand, on our way to Broadway, I think) and I would have missed it behind the construction cones along the road and the gritty chain link National Rent-a-Fence.  But the gates loomed, demanding to be seen.  The statues looking like mysterious cemetery pieces, but alas, there were no tombstones.

We passed it several times and weren’t actually able to go investigate until our last day there.

P1020606First we stopped at an old Spanish mission (turned greeting center, perhaps?) with a San Antonio Zoo sign perched near the steps.  I suppose we were on the backside of the zoo, or maybe it wasn’t even open, but we found ourselves in a beautiful park.

There were families, and ducks, and families of ducks.  But ultimately that ‘cemetery’ was calling our names and we had to go see it.  We drove back to the main street and lamented the fence.  We entered the parking lot to elsewhere and lamented the fence.  Then, we saw that the chain link gate was ajar.  Left for someone to go in and out for the day? We determined that it must be open by day and locked up at night to keep out the riff raff.  So, cameras in hand, we entered Miraflores, not knowing its name, and explored.

P1020644We found the Doctor’s name on several of the tiled benches.  To my uninformed eye there was no way for me to know they were designed by Altee B Ayres, famous San Antonio architect.  I just knew they were beautiful and that they were made in honor of or for a Doctor, as the letters were mostly chipped away.  Later, we would see the name Urrutia on the gates.  There, in the mosaics of those grand gates, his name remained in tact and I took yet another photograph.  I skipped jotting down the information in my journal for the sake of spending that precious time getting more photographs.  Even though I thought it was ok to be there, something about the whole experience felt a bit like we had discovered a magic-hour of sorts and I didn’t want to waste a moment.

P1020616Though, I could spend hours there writing.  What I wanted to do more than anything was stay there all day and document every fragmented tile.  I longed for a library to access and investigate each piece of art and how it came to be gathered in this statuary field.  The gate said the “institute” was founded by Doctor Urrutia in 1921.  What institute?  Who was Doctor Urrutia?  What was the plan for this acreage?

P1020634Dr. Urrutia arrived in the States from Mexico in 1915 – as an exile.  He was born in the town “of floating gardens” just south of Mexico City and was a full-blooded Aztec Indian.  He went to medical school, graduated top of his class, and by the age of 22 was the President’s personal physician.  In 1910 Presidente Diaz was replaced by Madero, who was then killed and replaced by Huerta.  In all this killing and backstabbing, Huerta had got himself stabbed in the eye, and it was Urrutia who operated on him.  Then, according to Walt Lockley, Urrutia functioned a bit like a puppet master for the gangster and helped him run the country.

What happened next is a biography worth reading in itself:

But after dark, Urrutia was also accused of a medical assassination – a federal senator from Chiapas who publicly spoke against Huerta, Belisario Dominguez, was arrested as an enemy of the government, in the Jardin Hotel, on October 7, 1913, then taken to a cemetery, where dark persistent rumor has it that Dr. Urrutia cut out his tongue.

Without anesthetic.

Huerta threw eighty congressmen into prison at one point. Urrutia himself issued an ill-advised ultimatum to the US government, wanting official recognition, and Woodrow Wilson responded with battleships to Veracruz. In the late summer of 1914, as this government fell apart, a lot of the Huertistas and the well-to-do and ex-governors and henchmen drained out through Veracruz. Dr. Urrutia was arrested there by General Frederick Funston and was allowed to exile himself to the US: by ship from Veracruz to New Orleans, train from New Orleans to San Antonio, and two rail cars of treasure smuggled across the border later, to finance his new American life and humanitarian career.

- Walt Lockley

Urrutia died in 1975 at the age of 103, in his sleep, at his grand 15 acre estate in San Antonio.  But before that would happen, he would be the first doctor to separate Siamese twins in Texas and he would build something marvelous: Miraflores.  And I got to traipse around its remains.

P1020629Other artists contributed to this historic monument. According to Capturing Nature, Dionicio Rodriguez is responsible for the ‘rocks’ on the gates, but I’m not sure which aspect ‘rocks’ refers to.

In 2004, the area was added to The National Register of Historic Places, primarily for Rodriguez’s contributions.  It is thought that Miraflores contains his earliest work in the states as well as the “most intact and concentrated groupings” of his work.  One of those pieces is actually an extremely unique foot bridge in Breckenridge Park that caught our eyes several times.

The blog Urban Spotlight San Antonio describes a plan, in a post dated 2009, that would make the park open to the public. We saw the bridge from Breckenridge Park the post describes, but the public pedestrian walkway was blocked off and locked.  I am still unsure if the entrance I used was meant for the public or not.  Either way, I am glad I used it and got a chance to see so many beautiful works of art up close.  (There’s an extensive history included in that post regarding who owned the property during which decades and how they used it.  It’s quite interesting.)

According to SA Cultural Tours:

Much of the statuary originally designed for the park has been lost or damaged over the past several decades.  Remaining features include the tiled entrance gates along Hildebrand, designed by Mexican artist Marcelo Izaguirre, as well as the 1946 statue of Dr. Urrutia that originally stood in the center of a large pool.  [...]  The park originally featured a small tower building housing Dr. Urrutia’s library, but it has been demolished.  The small remaining cottage, Quinta Maria, was built in 1923 as a guest house.  Statuary moved to the park in the 1960s following the demolition of Dr. Urrutia’s nearby home include the Winged Victory with crouching lions, and the replica of Coyolxauhqui, the Aztec moon goddess.

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I think my favorite… the place where I could sit for hours and reflect and write… would be near Cuautemoc.  He is the last ruler of the Aztecs, extremely energetic, and makes me feel mighty and safe.

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Luis L. Sanchez designed him in 1921, and it’s one of the most impressive statues I have seen in person, just for the sheer power it seems to radiate, like Achilles.

I love that Urrutia chose to include him in his garden.  Regardless of the sinister rumors that still surround Urrutia and his political dealings – including this statue in his place of exile says a lot about his passions and his identity.  He respected his heritage, his elders, and the past.  He had a taste for art, I think, I cannot bring myself to believe that he did this for the mere sake of showing off his money.  He had a library that has not survived, and clearly had a thirst for knowledge and legacy.

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After many business deals and exchanging of hands, The University of Incarnate Word now stands where Urrutia wanted a hospital.  The San Antonio Express reported in 1929 that Urrutia’s “grand ambition is to found a hospital here which will perpetuate his work … a hospital composed of pleasant, homelike bungalows surrounded by flowered lawns, clustered around a central House of Administration. For this purpose, he has bought an extensive piece of property on Broadway and Hildebrand.”  It sounds to me as though he sought some gentle peace after his years in Mexican politics.

However, Urrutia’s “institution” remained a private garden for hosting his family and parties, for morning excursions to swim laps in the pools, and to feed his peacocks while wearing his infamous cape.  I’m a little sorry the property never became exactly like he dreamed, but am glad he put forth the effort to get the gardens going.

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Cheever Books

July 21, 2014 at 7:25 pm (Travel) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

This weekend I had three book signings in San Antonio. Each signing was at a Half Price Books location.

When I wasn’t haunting Half Price Books stores selling and signing my own books, however, I found myself being a tourist and stumbled into quiet places like Cheever Books.

P1020562This is the back parking lot, you actually walk around to the front to enter.  It still looks appropriately quaint and historic from any direction.  And once inside, you are greeted with this:

P1020568The online reviews of this store run fifty-fifty.  It seems most people either love it or hate it.  I’m here to give my honest assessment.  I love it, but they aren’t perfect.

So here’s the scoop on Cheever Books…

You might want to spend hours here.  Don’t come for a quick peek.  Things aren’t organized well, but the experience is magical.  If you have the time to go on a treasure hunt you’re bound to find Gabriel Garcia Marquez in three different places within the M’s as opposed to one place in the G’s.

The poetry wall is extensive – and full of short story anthologies.  There’s a lot along this wall you won’t find anywhere else though.

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If I had had enough money, I would have bought this book.  It isn’t common.  It was in good condition.  It looks exciting.

However, I settled on something more affordable.

I found these hiding underneath a stack of Horatio Hornblower books that I already own.  I couldn’t get the whole set, they were roughly $10 a piece, but I did get the one on the far left and I hope to find the others again one day.

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Upon any visit you are bound to find three things: a magical gem over priced, a magical gem appropriately priced, and a great book that is neither magical nor appropriately priced.  Relish the ambiance and the appropriately priced gem, don’t allow your rose colored lenses to be clouded by the rest.  In a book hunter’s world, it is still a marvelous visit.

There’s a review about the owner being “creepy,” but I met two out of the what I believe to be three employees for the company, and both were pleasant.  I enjoyed my time in Cheever Books and would readily visit again with cash in hand to spend.

It’s not as clean and easy a shopping experience as what you will have at Good Books in the Woods (where you will find similar treasures at more affordable prices), but it is most excellent.  That is not to say it’s dirty either.  By “not as clean” I mean that you will find books piled in your path, much of the inventory is peppered along the floors.  There are a few dust bunnies, but not nearly what you would expect among such a haphazard collection of books.

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So, San Antonio residents who adore Cheever Books – when you visit Houston and you need your  book fix, your store is Good Books in the Woods.  Houstonians who love Good Books, when in San Antonio, the stores on Broadway are for you.  (The Broadway HPB gives our Kirby location a run for its money in the awesome department.)

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Journaling Through 1000 Days in Venice

July 17, 2014 at 9:21 pm (In So Many Words, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

1000 days in veniceTitle: A Thousand Days in Venice

Author: Marlena de Blasi

Genre: Travel/ Memoir

Length: 272 pages

“1000 Days in Venice,” I wrote in my journal, “I want Venice without Fernando.  Venice sounds lovely.  Fernando, annoying.”

I suppose I feel this way because I am happily married to a man who is nothing like Fernando.  But my love, or lack thereof, for the man who swept de Blasi off her feet has nothing to do with my enjoyment of the book.  The book is lovely.  And what follows are my journal entries from my reading, quotes that moved me and so on:

To fall in love with a face is ridiculous – at least a face with no personality.  It would be as though I were to declare myself in love with Jamie Campbell Bower off his side profile.  I cannot stand that mentality.  A face can only be so lovely.

“full of tears and crumbs”

“I cry for how life intoxicates.” – pg. 29

In love for the first time?  But she had babies…

She laments that so many people are trying to save her from a man they don’t know.  Then admits repeatedly that she doesn’t know him either.  I want to save her too,  no matter how terribly romantic I find it that she’s sold her house, auctioned belongings off in the airport and arrived to see her fiance whom she has never seen in summer before.

Then again, arranged marriages work – why not a marriage between people who have met a few times and spent a week together?

“Living as a couple never means that each gets half.  You must take turns at giving more than getting.  It’s not the same as bow to the other whether to dine out rather than in, or which one gets massaged that evening with oil of calendula; there are seasons in the life of a couple that function, I think, a little like a night watch.  One stands guard, often for a long time, providing the serenity in which the other can work at something.  Usually that something is sinewy and full of spines.  One goes inside the dark place while the other stays outside, holding up the moon.” – pg. 147

Such a beautiful sentiment.  So much truth to it.  Despite the fact that she married a stranger – even calls him that, stranger – she knows marriage.

Transfer? Why? I don’t want to live another version of this life.  I want to do something totally different, but together.  Perhaps my dislike for Fernando is that he reminds me of myself.  In this moment, I love him, he lives what I want.

I give lots of memoirs away once I’m done reading them.  But this one is a keeper – there are recipes.  Besides the recipes, it is beautiful.  I will probably read it again one day.

 

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Mosey’s Field and Schiffer Publishing

July 16, 2014 at 10:10 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

MoseyTitle: Mosey’s Field

Author: Barbara Lockhart

Illustrator: Heather Crow

Publisher: Schiffer Publishing

Genre: Picture Book

As a homeschool mom, a story time host, and a book blogger, I can’t just can’t get enough of Schiffer books.  They are educational, riveting to crowds, and just plain gorgeous.

Recently we read, reviewed, and enjoyed Song for Papa Crow.  We even got to interview the author!  This week, we’ve been blessed with a copy of Mosey’s Field and the kiddos today loved it.  We read it twice and no one who had sat through the first reading  complained or got antsy.

Mosey’s Field tells the story of a corn farm and walks children through all the seasons of field corn from the eyes of a dog.  Mosey watches the seeds get planted and notes how “the stalks grew tall and the leaves crisscrossed each other, green upon green, so there were only tiny patches of sky.”

P1020496It’s not surprising to discover that both the illustrator and the author of this book are teachers.  Barbara Lockhart is a retired kindergarten teacher and Heather Crow is a teacher and freelance artist.  Kids respond well to the story, want to follow the adventures of Mosey, love the illustrations, and know a little bit more about where food comes from by the time they are done hearing the story.

Designed for booklovers ages 0-6, it is a lengthier picture book and you’ll want to be aware of your audience’s attention spans before you tackle it.  Great for kids who are used to being read to, if you’re just introducing your child to the world of books I’d start with a few shorter titles with the intention of working up to this.  Our kiddos at the bookstore today did great!

At one point in the story Mosey is on the opposite side of the corn field, near town, away from home.  Mosey can’t see home and the family is out wondering where their pup has gone.  My kiddo in particular was very relieved by the ending and asked me to tell the author that she’s “glad Mosey found his family” but will have you know that page 22 was a moment of great contention in her little soul.

P1020500If you’re in the Humble area, join us at Half Price Books for story time on Wednesdays, 10:30 am.  To the right we are reading Marit Menzen’s Song for Papa Crow, which has become quite a household and store favorite.  Join us next week and we’ll revisit Mosey’s Field.

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Hyper-focus vs. Distraction

July 13, 2014 at 9:05 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , )

ADHDTitle:ADHD According to Zoe

Author: Zoe Kessler

Genre: Self-help / Memoir

Length: 208 pages

I’ve been called obnoxious, eccentric, and neurotic.  I’ve been called charming and passionate.  I’ve been called awkward and introverted, I’ve been called enticing, engaging, and the life of the party.

I have been accused of inattentiveness.  And of over attentiveness.  Sometimes from the same people.

I’ve been compared to those with extreme anxiety and to those with manic depressive disorders.  I’ve also been told that I’m none of those things and am quite normal – by some not-so-normal people.

I’m typically punctual, but it takes me two hours, careful planning, and a color coded calendar I’ve maintained since childhood to remember I have an engagement in the first place.

Apparently, these are things that fall in line with the potential to be diagnosed as ADHD – which I find rather interesting.  I’ve often viewed ADHD as a bogus excuse for people to be rude and frazzled, and to be chronically late to work (when I have taken such great care to not be late).

I, too, forget to eat or use the restroom because I don’t notice it needs to be done until I am near famished and shaking with hunger or my bladder feels like it is about to explode.  Then I gorge myself until people are genuinely in awe that so much food can go into such a tiny human, and try to remind myself to schedule a bathroom break.

I nervously remove myself from the house to go on walks or bike rides.  I’ve always been actively involved in independent sports and often been a bit of a work out junky.

The house must be spotless before I sit down to do things – especially things like homework when I was in college – but once sitting I dive into intense “hyper-focus” as Kessler calls it – oblivious to my dogs, any noise, and often leaving my child to choose to do a parallel activity on her own.  She builds with her blocks while I read.  She paints while I write.  We day dream together, but separately.  I have to purposefully schedule ‘homeschool’ time so that it is not neglected.

When my hyper-focus is gone, so are my eyelashes as I have absentmindedly plucked them out with my ever moving fingers.

I need to see people, but then I am overwhelmed at public gatherings.  There is so much noise that I tune it all out and hear or understand almost nothing.  At the same time, even though I may not hear a timer buzz when I am focused, the slightest noise when I am unfocused pains my ears greatly.  I often complain to my husband that music is too loud, or the fan blowing keeps me awake, but someone yelling at me across a bar may go completely unnoticed.

I don’t know if I have ADHD.  I took that Jasper/ Goldberg test and got an 84.  Supposedly, anything over 70 is a good indicator you might be.  I don’t care to find out, however.  Even though,  I’m sure my husband would love to understand why the floors and walls are thoroughly disinfected and free of visible particles, but the laundry is never properly folded and God only knows where I dropped the mail.  But I do know that I identify greatly with Kessler’s memoir and I think it is a worthwhile read for anyone – not just those seeking information about ADHD.

It is good for the general population to understand that what is done automatically for some takes a lot of work and practice for others.  For me, just getting out of bed involves a mental checklist, a peep at the day planner, and a journal consultation for any previous lists as well as an opportunity to write another list.  Not to mention that once I am out, the process of making coffee in my french press is how I time my moseying.  Ten minutes to boil water, three minutes to steep.  If my moseying is not timed, I’ll never get out of my pajamas, remember to brush my teeth, brush my hair, or leave the house.  The dogs will not get to go potty if I am not simultaneously dumping coffee grounds in the garden.  Miss one step, and the whole day is lost to me.  My calendar never leaves my bedside and I forget I had a lunch date.

If I have ADHD, I think it has been pretty counter balanced by the stimulation and hyper-focus required to get through my GT classes growing up.  My choir director required a color-coded paper day planner.  My mother required ledgers and lists.  My father, the ex-boyscout had a constant mantra: “Always be prepared and always be fifteen minutes early!”

It doesn’t mean that my mind doesn’t do exactly what Kessler describes.  Especially her “commune with nature” bit.  Without my walks in the woods, I definitely “become cranky, confused, and mentally foggy.”

Instead, it means, that somehow through a lot of self-awareness, self-discovery, panic attacks, and then some… I’ve managed to create in my life goals and careers a little cocoon of an existence that eliminates a lot of the frustrations and issues that could come about for an ADHD person.

I work from home and Kessler says, “Finding work that’s meaningful to you is key.  If you’re hypersensitive, consider self-employment.”

She offers advice that I have already taken… Little things like I know I lose my keys about three times a day – I have never lost them in public though because the first thing I did when I got keys was put a climbing hook on one of the key chains so I could fasten them to my belt loop (I almost always wear jeans).  I did this at seventeen because my father always told me, “You’d lose your head if it wasn’t screwed on.”  So I found a way to screw my keys on, basically.

To the bane of my husband’s existence, I never remember to put them into the key bowl (maybe six out of ten times they make it where they belong… other times they may be found in the freezer, the pantry, the counter, the bathrooms, my bag, another bag…).  Many times I have posted facebook status requests for one of my friends to call my phone, because I have no idea where my hands let go of it.

I know people who were diagnosed young and as adults they seem to have this idea that they are not responsible – for their actions, their tardiness, or their bills even.  My sensitivity, I think, is limited to physical sensations, because I’ve always thought With everything I go through to get it together, you can too.  If I can do it, anyone can do it.   Impulsively I have said this, without tact, out loud.

Self awareness is important but diagnosis, I think, can be rocky waters.  Kessler seems to walk this road with finesse, owning up to feelings she has hurt while making sure she pursues endeavors that will work with her ADHD, rather than against it.

I like her writing style and look forward to picking up a copy of her first book (perhaps another sign of ADHD as I confess my hoarding tendencies): “Adoption Reunions.”

The most familiar part of the whole book:

As for my shoulder-length hair, I put it up, then down, then up, then down throughout the day.  I constantly fidget and fuss with it, something others have commented on repeatedly. [...] a loose strand on my neck or the side of my cheek drives me crazy.  To get it off my neck, I’ll bunch it up in a knot.  Before long, it feels like someone is driving brass knuckles into my skull just where I’ve knotted my hair, so down it comes.

Not long after that, she writes: “Flashing lights, large crowds, and emergency vehicle sirens can be unbearable.”

Every day, Zoe, every day I am with you.

adhd

 

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Goals are the Gas in Your Car

July 12, 2014 at 3:43 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , )

jay for twitterTitle: Life Is Hard But God Is Good

Author: L. Jay Horton

Genre: Self-Help

Length: 233 pages

My best days usually involve me waking up earlier – before my child wakes me up.  I mosey through the kitchen, I get my coffee, I read something ‘too serious for late at night’ usually Augustine or the bible or something that my newly awake mind can handle better than my sleepy, tired mind can.  I write for awhile, I read something not-so-serious but with a positive spin, and then of course am interrupted by my child for toast.  After toast, all bets are off and it’s whatever I am in the mood or have time for that gets read.

Those are my ‘best’ days, not every day.  But my best days have included a few minutes with L. Jay Horton post ‘too serious reading.’  He’s good for a little motivational pep talk and reminds me of things that I really need to remember – like staying positive, not letting other peoples’ negativity get me down, and enjoying the setting of goals.  I love goals.  I’ve always been big on goals – that’s why I named my review “Goals are the Gas in Your Car” because it’s my favorite thing that Horton said in the whole book.  And the book is full of some good stuff.

I’m typically leery of pep talk books.  The likes of Joel Osteen make me nervous.  I hear the skepticism of my father in my head when I see him, “Of course he’s smiling, he’s taking all your money.”  But Horton is genuine.  I’ve met him in person, worked with him at book signings, enjoyed coffee over the enigma of the twitter-spere – Horton wants good things for people and his book is all about him sharing the things he’s learned about achieving good things in life.

Horton’s book feels a lot like a lukewarm bible study, but it’s really meant for your professional life.  Wake up each morning, read a chapter, go back to the grindstone with a smile on your face and productivity in your heart… success will follow.  He talks about the importance of greeting your coworkers with a hello and a smile, about not chatting it up with the people who bring negativity to you, and the importance of goal setting.  It’s all common sense stuff that is so easy to lose sight of if you’re not being reminded of it every day.

All in all, Horton’s book is full of good stuff and I look forward to reading more of his work in the future.  And I know there will be more work from him to read, because Horton still has goals – after all goals are the gas in his car.

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