life between the pages

“I spent my life folded between the pages of books.
In the absence of human relationships I formed bonds with paper characters. I lived love and loss through stories threaded in history; I experienced adolescence by association. My world is one interwoven web of words, stringing limb to limb, bone to sinew, thoughts and images all together. I am a being comprised of letters, a character created by sentences, a figment of imagination formed through fiction.”
Tahereh Mafi, Shatter Me

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Review: Carpenters Lady the New Edition

Carpenters Lady the New /E -Li
Carpenters Lady the New Edition by Barbara Delinsky

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Yeah, no.

This book is a re-issue of an edition that was first published in the early 1990s, but originally the story itself was written and published in 1983. It seems rather sad to look back through the window of time and wonder, is this what passed for acceptable romance twenty to thirty years ago? Really? If so, no wonder this genre has the reputation it does. This book is really, really horrible. I couldn't finish it - and that's saying something. I feel compelled to warn readers about certain issues that may make it as disturbing for them as it was for me.

The premise is that of a recently divorced woman who just passed her 30th birthday and is still coping with the changes and disappointments of losing her husband to a dalliance he felt compelled to explore with a mutual co-worker (both the heroine - and I use that term loosely - and her ex-husband work in the same office as scriptwriters for a daytime soap opera). As premises go, it's a bit awkward but could work given some creative effort. The hero seems guarded and interesting at first - tall, sculpted, brooding, a carpenter who renovates homes. They meet, she hires him, and at first he hesitates, because he's attracted to her and he's not up for a relationship just now - but then he gives in (we're really not sure why), and makes her agree on a condition I found a bit troubling but managed to get over for the sake of the story: that he's not going to control his urges to consummate his attraction if he takes the job.

I have a special affinity for men who work with their hands. Carpenters are top of the list for me, in fact. It's why I picked up the book in the first place - a carpenter and a writer? I'm so there.

I also like a man who knows what he wants, and tells you up front. Honesty is usually a very good trait. So I was intrigued at first, and dove in.

As the story progresses, it soon becomes obvious that what could be interesting tension between the two was just a set-up. The trite handling of circumstances and obvious plot twists designed to get these two to the brink of sexual encounters in the quickest, most ridiculously cheesy fashion possible started to make my eyes bleed. The guy is a total oaf - and not in a cute, endearing way. He's a misogynistic cad who practically rapes the woman while she's struggling to fight off his grabby hands and forced kisses while simultaneously trying to control her own rising passions brought on solely by his physical "charms."

Puh-leeze. Okay, so this may be dated - but really? Did we totally buy that crap in the eighties and nineties? I'm looking at much more recent reviews and wondering how in the world grown women can actually find this palatable - much less acceptable and even "delightful" as one reviewer wrote? Seriously? Um, no.

The female protagonist is a dolt and an airhead. Brief glimpses of what could possibly be evidence that she's not are quickly doused whenever the guy walks in the room. I wish she were smarter. I wish she'd fire his ass, and file a police report. But she doesn't.

By the third time the two of them almost get together my stomach couldn't take any more. Put this one back on the shelf and buy a book on how to fight off selfish, chauvinistic jerks or possible rapists instead, because if this stuff titillates you, you're going to want to know what to do if it happens in real life. If you're one of those women who confuses the lack of mutual respect coupled with a severe lack of self-control for honest attraction, then a class in self-defense would probably save your life one day.

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Friday, November 11, 2011

Review: A Place to Call Home

A Place to Call Home
A Place to Call Home by Deborah Smith

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was a lovely, complex read. It is hard for me to find romance stories that I can actually get past the first couple of pages; for every one I pick up, I've put down ten others. Nevertheless, I really enjoy the good ones so I keep looking for those jewels among the dross. Deborah Smith's novel "A Place To Call Home" was everything I look for in this type of book: a rich, intelligently developed plot peopled with characters who are not only interesting but don't do ridiculous things merely for the sake of the dramatic outcome, as well as realistic and well-written dialogue, sub-plots, and side characters who are just as interesting as the main ones. Oh, and a believable connection between the romantic partners - you can easily understand and support why they are who they are and do what they do, without having to make that leap of faith so often necessary for most romantic reads just to be able to get to "the good parts."

It's just really wonderful to see who Roan and Claire became, and how they each brought the best in each other to the surface. Forgiveness and human connection are adeptly woven into the story which makes it all the more satisfying. I highly recommend this book.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tell Me What You Really Think - Critical Thinking in the News

In a time when humans are bombarded on every side with news from multiple sources, with information that often seems questionable, fraught with divergent points and claims of absolute truth, it is crucial that we filter what we receive.  Critical thinking processes information through what we already know by deductive logic and experience, and enables us to figure out how useful - or useless - new information really is.

Critical Thinking Program and Resources at one Virginia community college help students succeed. "Every 10 years, PHCC must be reaccredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award the associate degree. As part of the reaccreditation process, the college must develop a Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP). PHCC chose Critical Thinking as its QEP topic because producing better critical thinkers will promote long-term improvement in student learning."  

With so many things that are presented to us as fact or fiction, we really need to be able to think clearly and reflectively, using both cognitive and participatory analysis.  What seems to be plainly true may not be, and we have only ourselves to blame if we aren't attentive enough, or perceptive enough, to figure that out.

Critical thinking is a vital part of democracy, as only an enlightened, fully participating electorate will result in decisions in government that reflect the good of all, and not just a privileged few. 

For more information:

Critical Thinking: An Introduction by Alec Fisher
Asking the Right Questions: A Guide to Critical Thinking by M. Neil Browne & Stuart M. Keeley
Critical Thinking, Reading, and Writing: A Brief Guide to Argument by Hugo Bedau & Sylvan Barnett
Problem Solving & Comprehension: A Short Course in Analytical Reasoning by Arthur Whimbey

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Review: Why Men Fall Out of Love: What Every Woman Needs to Understand

Why Men Fall Out of Love: What Every Woman Needs to Understand
Why Men Fall Out of Love: What Every Woman Needs to Understand by Michael French

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mr. French seems to have a lot of rather misogynistic notions about women - but then it happens that a lot of men seem to as well. He attributes a lot of power and control to us that I'm not sure is actually valid - but then, I'm a woman and by definition I'm not going to understand why so often men do attribute so much power to us when we feel helpless and manipulated by just the type of actions and circumstances the men in this book describe. Still, I'm finding this book helpful because it gives a purely male view toward what causes relationships to fail, and that is what I was looking for in order to better understand my own circumstances. I do not have to agree with all of what he says in order to gain insight and value from it. French does an excellent job of presenting a list of very well-illustrated reasons why men may have difficulty in relationships, and this information will help me to be more effective in my dealings with people of the opposite sex, as well as have empathy toward them and perhaps not be so likely to feel hurt by them. Understanding, respect, and open dialogue about the inner landscape that leads us to act and feel the way we do about others is the canvas on which he makes a case for more effective and ultimately satisfying relationships between men and women. After all, it's the inability of the sexes to communicate effectively that is at the root of most of our failures, and this is a point he makes rather well.

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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Love is Not Love

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments.  Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
   If this be error and upon me proved,
   I never writ, nor no man ever loved. 

--Shakespeare, Sonnet 116

'Nuf said.  Carry on.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

5 Things that Make a Difference in a Later Career Job Search

This is the season for career moves - it's the end of the fiscal year, and companies are re-formulating business plans, testing the investment waters, and placing ads for new hires.  At the same time, individuals often look for jobs over the summer while the children are out of school, and present work demands may be slow while co-workers go on vacation.  What makes an experienced person a better choice than someone younger and perhaps more open to being molded into the employee a company is looking for?  Here are five things I've found really help to keep in mind when putting together letters of interest and polishing up your resume or vita in preparation for getting an interview for the position you really want.  These can make you stand out in a crowd of job seekers, and help you land that next important job offer:

1.  Delete all references to years over a decade.  If you wanna impress with length of time spent in a field or doing a certain skill, just say "over a decade."  Unfortunately people in positions to hire you won't be impressed if you're approaching 50, no matter how awesome you are. Fifty means higher health insurance premiums for them, possibly more sick days, and stuck-in-the-mud work habits, not to mention the all-too-real fear that older people are not as adaptable or as flexible as younger people are.  Whether or not any of this applies to you or even to 40-somethings in general, the perception is strong enough to make it logical and even smart to get them to "look the other way" and focus on why these skills make you an excellent choice, which has everything to do with your abilities, and absolutely nothing to do with how long you've been doing something.  Make them think you're in your 30s, and they'll immediately believe you are on top of things because you're clever, not because you've been doing the same thing for decades, which can just translate into "it took me this long to figure things out," not "I'm sassy and smart."

2.  Get what you want to say on paper by making a draft letter of interest that can be tailored to specific job inquiries.  State what you do and why you want the job.  Tweaking should include making the person who reads this believe you are the person they've been looking for, they just honestly didn't know you are out there.  Change that by re-stating anything with the word "if," "might," "should," or similar perhaps-words to "does," "can," and "do."  The meaning is, you're doing what they want and you're the answer to their prayers, not you and that company might be a good fit.

3.  I wouldn't state outright that you've googled them, which is what they'll think if you say, "I've looked at your website and your company Facebook profile." That should be implicit without stating it.  Just say, "Having familiarized myself with your products and services, here is what I can do for you."  Let them think you've read all their wonderful advertising, and are blown away by their wicked skilz.

4.  Link up what they do to what you do.  Like this:  "Your service X dovetails nicely with my experience Y.  We should totally hook up."  Of course you want to not say it in ValleySpeak, but you get the idea.

5.  State things you really want to happen as if they're already true, because hai, they are (or certainly should be).  Example:  Instead of "I'm looking for ways to blend art and music into my graphic arts/administrative professional type career," try saying "I combine my passion for art and music into everything I do.  It keeps me tuned to the importance of communication and creativity when dealing with clients, and makes me keenly aware of nuances that others may miss."  See?  They'll wonder how they got by without you.

This way you're more likely to have multiple job offers so that you can choose the one you like best.

I'll write more later, but chew on these for a bit and let me know what questions bubble to the surface.

Finally:  REMEMBER YOU ARE AWESOME AND THAT YOU'RE ALMOST ANYBODY'S DREAM COME TRUE.  You just need to find the Anybody(s) who is/are YOUR dreams come true!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Pie oh Pie oh PIE

On Friday I had a craving for Lendy's Strawberry Pie that just wouldn't quit.  I found a great recipe for this delectable marvel on - see?  Clicky here for Fresh Strawberry Pie!

Yeah.  Oh man.

Stirring the jello, sugar, and water as it heats on the stove.  Why yes, it is fuschia.

So I made some.  You can follow the recipe at the link; here are some pics of how mine went.

I made Christy's easy-peasy Mix in the Pan piecrust which means now that I've discovered this, I'll never buy another frozen pie crust again.  Sheesh how easy and PERFECT.  \0/\0/\0/
I like to slice my strawberries into pieces about 1/4" thick or so to let the juices out.

The syrup gets redder and eventually turns translucent.
Easy-Peasy Pie Crust!
...and Berries...
... add Syrup Mixture ...
My son isn't a fan of whipped cream, so instead I made a creamy delicious topping that's actually good for you out of yogurt and ricotta cheese (recipe below).
Seriously.  Nothing better!

Okay, now the recipe for my alternate topping, so named because the taste almost reminds me of cheesecake:

Easy-Peasy Not!Cheesecake Topping

1 c plain yogurt, drained
1 c confectioner’s sugar
1 c ricotta cheese
1/4 tsp (dash) cream of tartar

Blend together with a whisk or hand beater until soft peaks form.  Spoon onto cooled pie.  Chill for 2 hours until set.  Also great on chunks of melon, ambrosia, blueberries, or other chilled summer fruit dishes.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

barefoot on the earth

Go placidly amidst the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. --Desiderata

"It all seemed to good to be true.  Hither and thither he rambled busily, along the hedgerows, among the copses, finding everywhere birds building, flowers budding, leaves thrusting --everything happy, progressive, and occupied. ...He thought his happiness was complete..."  --Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

In Romancing the Ordinary, Sarah ban Breathnach reminds us of the spiritual connection that may be made in the simple act of removing one's shoes and walking about with our feet "'in touch' with the sacred."  It shames me to admit I worry when my children run about barefoot because I worry too much about cuts and scrapes.  Naturally they ignore me; I'm glad, for as much as I adore shoes, I prefer the feel of my toes on the bare hardwood floors of my home and the coolness of the grass beneath them as I'm hanging out the laundry.

We never touch but at points.  --Emerson 

Physical touch literally reconnects us with what matters.  When we are feeling scattered and stretched too thin, finding something tactile beneath our feet is calming and helps us to find our ground, so to speak.  Remove your shoes and whether inside or out, and walk about your Universe, so that your soul learns not to fear its weakness, by grasping the strength to be found in the Sphere:  small, humble, silent affirmations that touch you.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Virtual Scrapbooking

I'm having way too much fun making Treasuries on Etsy and Favorite Looks at ShopStyle. Basically it's like cutting out pictures from magazines and pinning them to your wall, or working simple puzzles. I use this sort of mindless creativity to discover what appeals to me visually and to get my mind off of things I can't do anything about. Hey, it's satisfying, it's pretty, and way more fun than Minesweeper.

My Latest Collages:
The Wisdom of Ratty and Moley


in the cool, cool of evening
Butter London, Banana Republic, Lagos, philosophy
silk and pearls and quicksand roses... satin softness on your skin

Collage is an ages-old art form that my sister & I recently have become interested in. Creative websites, blogs and newsletters we've been enjoying that really get your imagination off to a great start include Everyday Beautiful, Country Living, kaboodle, and Cloth Paper Scissors. The whole point of this is to get our creative juices rolling along a path that will not only be personally satisfying, but hopefully productive. We'd like to know what people are interested in and doing in order to mesh the things we'll eventually produce with them. Playing with color, design, and assembly in a virtual palette folds into the little projects I've been designing at home. By experimenting on the web, I get a feel for what I like without getting sticky with the glue gun or having to sweep up paper cuttings when I'm done. Of course, that will all come - but I really feel like I'm moving more quickly toward the type of creative outlet I'll be most productive doing, without a lot of fits and starts, feeling my way in the dark at home.

The wonderful motivational writer Sarah ban Breathnach must be created with initially guiding me toward collage as a way to prime the pump and mine the depths of my creative thought processes. Her method of finding one's authentic inner voice by way of daily work with the "Illustrated Discovery Journal" is a very valuable technique not only for a personal creative outlet, but for focusing self-knowledge and understanding personal motivations and interests. I appreciate her whole-hearted abandon and since I don't want to make too much of a mess while merrily tossing ideas around, I've combined the physical form of journaling with virtual brainstorming, and have been very happy with the results.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Comfort Food

Chardin, Grace Before a Meal
Looks like more rain is heading this way; the view outside is dank and drippy.  True to form I want to head to the kitchen to put something together that tastes good, is easy to prepare, and brings a satisfied warmth to the bellies in my house.

Here are a few of our favorites.

Bubble & Squeak
`Now, cheer up, Toad,' she said, coaxingly, on entering, `and sit up and dry your eyes and be a sensible animal. And do try and eat a bit of dinner. See, I've brought you some of mine, hot from the oven!'    

It was bubble-and-squeak, between two plates, and its fragrance filled the narrow cell. ..and Toad, between his sobs, sniffed and reflected, and gradually began to think new and inspiring thoughts: of chivalry, and poetry, and deeds still to be done; of broad meadows, and cattle browsing in them, raked by sun and wind; of kitchen-gardens, and straight herb-borders, and warm snap-dragon beset by bees; and of the comforting clink of dishes set down on the table at Toad Hall...   

Bubble and Squeak has a somewhat negligible reputation amongst foodies, which must be due to the fact that traditionally it was made up of leftover mashed potatoes and old cabbage boiled down in a pot to muculent ignominy.  We've made our version of delectably seasoned Virginia pork sausage, fresh cabbage, and new potatoes.  Quite the rainy day fare!

Take half a head of fresh green cabbage, wash thoroughly, and slice into 1/2" thick sections, chopping these in half again, and set aside in a bowl into which you've poured about 1 c. ice-cold water.  Wash and cube about 4 medium russet potatoes, leaving skins on, into pieces 3/4" - 1" in diameter.  Brown 1 lb. local sausage (Valleydale, Weinberg's, Neese's are all good choices, depending upon where you live) in a large skillet until down, lift out and let drain; pour off most of the sausage grease from pan, leaving crisp drippings.  Place the cubed potatoes in the skillet with 1 tbsp. unsalted butter and 1/4 c. water, cover and cook over medium low heat 15 minutes.  Add sausage and cabbage, layering over potatoes, cover again and steam about 10 more minutes just until cabbage is lightly done.  With spatula, lift and turn over the mixture to blend, cover tightly and remove from heat and let sit about 10 more minutes.  Serve with piping hot biscuits and butter or cornbread.  So good.

Shrimp & Grits
Nathalie Dupree, Charleston chef and former SC Senatorial candidate, has written an entire cookbook on this delectable concoctionBeing from Virginia, I'd never heard of it until I moved to South Carolina.  After my first bite I honestly wondered how I'd actually lived up to that point.  Never fails to lift my spirits, no matter how bummed I may be or how difficult the day has been.  Pure heaven defined in a china bowl.  Serve with green salad and hot tea.

Cook grits according to package directions using milk instead of water for a creamy consistency (Generally, measure 1-1/4 c. grits to about 4 c. milk, heat slowly on medium-low heat, add 1 tbsp. butter and 1 tsp. salt, stirring often until mixture is thoroughly cooked and thickened but not lumpy.  Keep covered.  Takes about 20-25 minutes). 
While grits are cooking, brown 3 - 4 slices fresh bacon on both sides, remove, drain, crumble, set aside, reserving pan drippings.  Add a bit of olive oil if necessary to make about 1/3 c. total in pan.  Wash, peel, de-vein about 1-1/4 lb. fresh medium-sized shrimp and remove tails.  Place shrimp in pan on medium heat, turning quickly but gently with spatula as the shrimp heat thoroughly, and as they are finishing, replace crumbled bacon in pan and lower heat.  Add a splash of white wine or apple juice, 1 tbsp fresh chives, 1 clove fresh minced garlic, fresh ground black pepper, dash tabasco or other flavorful hot pepper sauce to taste.  Cover and remove from heat, let this mixture sit for about 3-5 minutes so that the flavors continue to meld.  Serve up grits in large round cream soup dish with shrimp mixture ladled over the top.  Serves 4-5 admirably.

Bean & Bacon Soup

A childhood favorite.  Great with a grilled cheese sandwich and a nice dill pickle or two.  Using freshly dried herbs gives this a monumental flavor that will bring them back for second helpings every time.

1 lb. pkg. Navy or Great Northern Beans, washed & drained
1/2 lb. smoky sliced bacon strips, cooked according to package
2-3 medium carrots, peeled & chopped
1 small white or yellow onion, minced and cooked in bacon drippings until clear, drain and set aside
1 8 oz. can tomato paste
6-8 c. water
2 cloves garlic, peeled & minced
1/2 tsp ground sage
1/2 tsp ground thyme
1 tsp snipped rosemary
dash turmeric, ground black pepper, salt to taste

Cook beans according to package directions in large soup pot or dutch oven until tender.  Add cooked bacon, crumbled, along with about 2 tbsp pan drippings from bacon, and mix thoroughly to distribute.  Add carrots, cooked onion, tomato paste, water to desired consistency, and seasonings.  Cover and cook thoroughly on medium-low heat for about an hour.  Serves 10-12.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Absurdity and Forgiveness

About this time yesterday I was in the middle of making a pretty big mistake in full view of the whole world - which is easy to do on the internet.  My counselor told me this morning that in the last 5 years she has noticed how often it happens that words that once would have been exchanged between two people in a relatively private setting - a bar, perhaps, or a hallway in passing, even in the privacy of one's own home - now end up posted on Facebook.  "It's so quick, to write your reaction, and we do it without thinking.  Then we have to live with the results." 

Another way what appears to bring us closer, in an instant can zoom us far, far away.

Here's the obvious thing that I had to (re)learn publicly:


Even in the rare case that you may actually be right (I wasn't) - it still is the wrong thing to do.  Airing it publicly, even semi-publicly on friends-only posts, still includes people that really didn't want to see that.  We don't go on the internet to be unwitting witness to ugly words about people we care about.  If I had kept my thoughts to a few private emails, even, instead of a couple of very-succinctly-worded Zzzzzlams! - well, I wouldn't have had to eat crow for dinner last night.  And had to get up and look at the leftovers again this morning.  And cringe all over again at the memory of hurting someone I care deeply about, and try to believe that "I made a mistake, everyone makes mistakes, it's not worth beating yourself up over it..."

I am not an existentialist, but they did get one thing right.  Even deleting the whole post and anything afterwards that stemmed from it isn't going to make it go away.  Once it's on the internet, it's history.  Literally.  It's out there.  Damage done.  Now we live with it.

It's worse than just saying ugly words in the privacy of your own home.  It's like buying billboard space and painting it across the highways.  Everyone can see it, and be witness, judge, and jury to your idiotic moment.

So now I'm reading and re-reading a quote from a small framed picture that my mother gave to my father a long time ago, and trying to apply those wise words of Emerson to the absurdity of this particular situation.  Because even though I've apologized profusely and received forgiveness for yesterday's blunders, it is difficult to believe that it won't contribute further to an already tenuous and difficult communication problem that I've been having with the individual who graciously forgave me.  While I was writing words of fire, he was actually being a saint and helping people in need.  He was applying the rule, "Do unto others..."  He was being the better person, doing good in the world.

None of us is perfect, we all are human.  And normally I believe and live by these words:  Everyone is doing his best he can at the time. It is a reminder to have patience, and do not judge.  Why I forgot and felt justified in slamming home some long-ago, worn-out, used-up resentment that should have been thrown out with the trash years ago, is not an excuse.  I shouldn't have done it, and I am so, so sorry.

I don't yet forgive myself; I knew better and under normal circumstances would never have done it - except when I've been having a bad day, like I was yesterday.  I was sick in bed, and the plumbing in the house had developed a problem overnight and I was having to wait for that to be taken care of.  Being ill and unable to take care of what needed doing left me feeling vulnerable and on edge.  So I did what other people do when they're sick:  I got on the internet, hoping for something distracting to take my mind off of it.

You know where this is going.  Without going into detail, the first few words I read on my news page jumped at me completely out of context.  I mis-read, assumed I knew what was going on, and further mis-applied them, and felt totally justified in responding with what at the time seemed a high amount of calm and deliberate action.  Inside I was seething over a jumble of things, partially to do with the situation at hand but mostly chafing at feeling helpless and unable to do anything but wait and see when the person in question would next communicate (he'd been rather too busy lately to talk much).  I didn't want to wait; I wanted attention.

I hate the attention that resulted from that screw-up.  I hate that even if I'd been right, that people saw what I wrote.  That wasn't necessary.  Most of all, I hate that the person to whom it was delivered was bewildered and probably hurt, although he was too much of a gentleman to show it.  In the past this sort of thing would have happened behind closed doors and been completely ironed out between the two of us, but since he wasn't and hasn't been around and I was denied that opportunity, I let it out in front of co-workers, friends, and family.  How inappropriate.  How childish.  How mean and rotten and gross.

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in, forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day, you shall begin it well and serenely...” --Ralph Waldo Emerson

Deep breath.  Read, and repeat.

Here's another thing:  it doesn't hurt to read and see what advice the Universe sends out first thing in the morning.  This is what it was for me today:
And immediately my mind responded, "Hier j'ai heurté la réalité. Aujourd'hui j'ai réalisé que la réalité était tous dans mon esprit."  Yesterday I crashed head on into reality.  Today I realized that reality was all in my head.

I had to share this with my counselor on the phone this morning (she's so awesome she called me when I was too sick to make the appointment!), and I tried to explain it using an analogy so she could understand how to help me, and why I was so upset.  

See, there was this movie, starring George Peppard and Ursula Andress, with James Mason.  Epic pilot movie - The Blue Max.  In it Peppard plays a military pilot - say that three times fast without tripping over your tongue if you can!  Andress plays his lover, Mason plays a superior officer.  Andress's character reveals to Mason's that the pilot has cheated on something, I forget what, in order to win the country's highest honor and to be named The Blue Max, because she was piqued over his jilting her.  She is spoiled, and manipulative, and she thinks he will just have to lose this award and she will have vengeance.  But it's worse than that.  As a result of this news the superior officer decides to let him die, rather than to let it come out that the Pilot must be stripped of this honor, and therefore embarrass the whole country.  He sends Peppard's character out to test a new plane, that he knows is unsafe, and with tears pouring down her cheeks she has to listen to the engine stall, and the resulting whine and screams as the plane crashes into the earth.  "And all because of your stupid little anger!" Mason yells at her.   

I hear those words at times like these.  Sometimes anger really is pretty stupid.  Sometimes we see ourselves entirely too easily in the weaknesses of others.  Sometimes we are our own worst enemy.

I have a constant struggle between knowing what is real and knowing what really isn't.  This has bitten me in the past, and it's going to continue to bite me as long as I react out of past hurts, without waiting to be certain of having all of the facts.  So this will be part of my homework, along with not beating myself up over things I can't change, even if they're my fault.  As my counselor said, "No one died from it.  You learned something, and it is getting better."

She reminded me about H.A.L.T. - We shouldn't give in to Action when we are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired.  I was at least 2 of those yesterday, and possibly 3.  No matter how it looks, it's just not a good idea.

Yeah, I know.

I also have to put this completely in God's hands, because until I learn these lessons, my own are not to be trusted.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Book Review: Trapped in the Mirror, by Elan Golomb, PhD

Trapped in the MirrorTrapped in the Mirror by Elan Golomb

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An excellent treatise on the influence of narcissistic individuals in those for whom abuse and negativity feels more like normal behavior than dysfunction. The author is a well-educated clinical psychologist who herself is the child of two narcissistic parents.

Adeptly weaving her experiences with those of her friends, patients, and other individuals, she helps us to recognize the thought patterns and unintentional, automatic reactions to challenges that everyone faces, but with which adult children can struggle against depression, bulimia, fear, suicidal thoughts, and psychosis. The writer's style dips in and out of clinical assessment, stream-of-consciousness, and rational analysis, proving over and over again that there are many ways to deal confidently and successfully with people who try to control our thoughts and emotions, and because it presents this multi-faceted picture, is not only helpful, but interesting and engaging to read.

I recommend this highly for anyone dealing with unfortunate life patterns triggered by inability to recognize the influence of narcissistic individuals at work, at home, or in relationships.

View all my reviews

Monday, March 28, 2011

Comfort on a Rainy Evening

It may be cold and wet outside, but one way to warm up is with a spot o' tea and these amazing muffins.  If the name doesn't bring a smile to your face, wait 'til their spicy goodness melts on your tongue.  Enjoy them guilt-free 'cause there's nothing but goodness inside!

Yield:  18, and they freeze well.

Sunshine Muffins

2 eggs
3/4 c. vegetable oil
1/3 c. milk
1 tbsp. plain yogurt
2 tsp. vanilla
2 tbsp. molasses
2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1 c. organic cane sugar

2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1 1/2 c. shredded carrots (2-3 medium)
1 c. shredded apple (Rome or McIntosh are best - use 1 large or 2 small.  Alternately use 1 red and 1 Granny Smith apple for a nice alteration.)
1/2 c. shredded or flaked coconut
1/2 c. raisins, dried currants, or other dried fruit of your choice
1/3 c. sunflower seeds

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Place paper baking cups in 18 regular sized muffin cups, or alternately grease with shortening or cooking spray.
In large bowl, beat together eggs, oil, milk, yogurt, molasses, and vanilla with wire whisk until well blended.  Sift together flour, baking soda, salt; add to mixture and blend.  Add sugar and all spices, stir together with wooden spoon until just blended.  Set aside.

Grate carrots and apple, mix in separate bowl with coconut, dried fruit and sunflower seeds.  Add fruit & nut mixture to large bowl and blend all ingredients well until combined.

Spoon by 1/4-cup measure into muffin cups.  Bake @ 350 for 20 - 22 minutes.  Serve hot with butter, honey, or molasses and a nice pot of Chai tea.

Adapted from "Glorious Morning Muffins" courtesy Gold Medal Flour.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Warm and Savory

No matter how you spend the months of winter, curled up by a warm fire with a book or engaged in brisk outside activities, it's hard to beat the universal appeal of homemade soup.  It's easy and so satisfying.  Feel free to experiment with whatever ingredients you have on hand; there are no hard and fast rules for soup and it's one of the best ways to use up leftover vegetables, rice, pasta, and roasted meats.

Winter Bean Soup
3 c. cold water
1 16-oz. package dried white beans or navy beans
1 med. butternut squash, peeled and diced into 1" chunks
1 onion, peeled & diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tbsp. butter
3 1/2 cups chicken broth plus the meat from a roasted chicken
    (boil carcass to remove the bones from the meat, skim the fat)
1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves
1/2 tsp dried basil leaves
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Sea salt to taste

Put water and beans into a dutch oven or crock pot, heat to boiling, then turn off and let sit for an hour.  Turn heat back up and cook beans until soft, adding water as needed to ensure beans do not dry out.  Add onion, garlic, butternut squash, chicken broth and chicken, cook on medium for a couple of hours.  When vegetables are soft and soup is of a good consistency, add herbs, salt and pepper, and simmer on low for another hour or so.  Serve with hearty bread and cheese or cornmeal muffins.

Soupe a la Reine
Never a fan of turnips, I was in a weird mood when I decided to try this... Said to be the favorite of Marie Antoinette, this recipe is adapted from one used in the artist Claude Monet's kitchen at Giverny, and two other 19th century recipes which mentioned the use of almonds in the broth.  It is positively decadently delicious, and should be placed right up there among the necessary indulgences with brie, ripe strawberries, and darkest, richest chocolate.

1 1/2 lbs. fresh turnips, washed, trimmed, and sliced
1/2 stick (4 tbsp.) unsalted butter
1 cup whole milk
1 cup sour cream (or substitute additional 1 c. whole milk, 1 tbsp butter, and 1/4 c. potato flakes)
1/2 cup almond milk (do not substitute soy milk, but skim milk or a bit of chicken broth would work)
1 tbsp. unbleached flour
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Cook turnips on medium heat in as little water as possible (no more than 3 to 4 cups but enough so that the turnips do not stick or scorch) until soft enough to mash with a fork.  Puree the turnips (or mash completely), add butter and continue heating on medium-low heat until butter is melted through the mixture.  Add milk and cream, stirring slowly until thickened slightly; small bubbles may appear at edge of pot, but do not boil.  Add flour to almond milk, salt, and pepper, whisk until completely dissolved, and add to soup mixture.  Heat thoroughly on low simmer.  Serve hot with table water crackers, tea, and fruit.