Category Archives: Reviews & plugs

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A Colourful Review

In the recent past, I received a beautiful book for review.

It’s called The Colour Book and it’s by Sophie Benini Pietromarchi (her name has such a lovely ring to it, don’t you think?)

Like with all reviews, I started out by sitting with the book and just taking in its cover and artwork. This is a hardcover book, and so the weight and feel of it was very nice in my hands.

The cover artwork drew me in. As I sat with it, Little Brother came by to see what I was doing (it’s not often my kids see their mother sitting down, looking unoccupied).

Fotor_144560724599084Little Brother was instantly intrigued by the ants that ran across the cover, dipping themselves into what looked like pots of different coloured paints and changing their colours.

The cover is a wonderful indication of what is to come in the pages that follow:

Colour, alive and moving around the pages and taking the reader on a journey.

We opened the book together and followed the path set out by the author through colours and words.

The Colours

Each page is bursting with colour and description and beauty. Colour in nature and colour in faces and in feelings. The author talks about smiling colours and naming colours and personal colours, and then she covers the basics of colours like primary and complementary.

Fotor_144560735037992She talks about shades of colours and yellows and reds and blues and making colours from scratch.

She then invites you to collect and arrange your colours, whatever they may be: crayons, paints, markers; asking you to dive further in and make colour personal.

Fotor_144560729653292The Words

I’ve touched on the beauty of the colours and illustrations. But the words. Oh the words.

Never have I encountered such a wonderful story about colour. The life Sophie brings to the colours and the light that she brings to your imagination as you read…pure joy.

Let me show you:

“Hmmm…don’t colours in a box seem like birds shut up in a cage? The poor creatures don’t know where to go, they know nothing outside their cage. So let’s free them, and see where they go.”

“Beauty is very fleeting. It is there for one moment, and then it glides away swiftly, like a cat.”

She carries this narrative of colour having its own life throughout the book; moving and reflecting and changing.

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She describes emotions in colours and even lays out some basic instruction for the new artist to become acquainted with colours and to bring them to life.

She teaches us to look for colour in everything, because everything is full of colour or shades of colour.

Little Brother and I poured over this book for over an hour, talking about the pictures, the colours, the author’s collection (or shrine, as she calls it) of colour.

She ends her beautiful book and the story of colour with this simple instruction…

“…keep looking!”

A more beautiful book in every sense I have not had the pleasure of reading.

Should the desire to make some space for a little calm and beauty in your life take hold, find yourself a copy of The Colour Book, pour yourself a cup of something warm, break off a small piece of that dark chocolate you’ve been hiding at the back of your cupboard and…indulge.

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I received a copy of The Colour Book on review. I was not compensated in any other way. The opinions stated in this post are my own.

I CAN Make a Difference (2014)

I recently had the privilege of reading to my children another great book by Miriam Laundry. I met Miriam about a year and a half ago and was instantly struck by how she exudes positive energy. And her I Can series of books reflects that positive energy in every way.

IcanmakeadifferenceHer most recent edition to the series is I CAN Make a Difference. It’s about a young boy who is tasked by his teacher to use some gifted money to make a difference in someone else’s life. He is less than thrilled with the project, but he’s a good kid and, without realizing he’s doing it, he makes a difference in the lives of his friends without ever spending a penny of the gifted money.

This story really touched my heart. The main character’s personality had such depth, it reminded me of my own children and their struggles with kindness and selfishness. As is often the case in children’s books, the main character is faced with some dilemma and is led, throughout the story, to a solution to the problem and a rectifying of his behaviour. Though this story follows the same dilemma/solution path, we see the main character as much more than just the issue at hand. I have to admit that, while reading this to my kids the first and second time, I teared up a little bit when I read certain parts about how Alex had helped his friends so unselfishly that he didn’t even realize he had made a difference to them.

Another thing I really like about Miriam’s books in general is, though there is a main character that we follow to the end of the story, she breathes life into the other characters as well, including the adult (the teacher) so that the reader sees into each characters’ personality and is drawn into the story to enjoy the characters interactions and how their paths weave together. And she always shows her adult character learning a lesson from the students. I think this is important for a child hearing this story because it shows that children aren’t the only ones who have lessons to learn. They are also good teachers.

It was a true pleasure reading this story to my children and my children liked it so much it has become a go-to bedtime story or anytime story. It hasn’t made it to the bookshelf, yet. And I suspect this gem will be left out for some time to come. It’s such a great book.

Would you like a copy of your own? Miriam has so kindly offered to give away a signed copy of her book, I CAN Make a Difference, to one of my readers. All you have to do is tell me in the comments how you or your child made a difference in someone’s life, or even how someone else made a difference in your life.

And because it’s the holidays—and we’re all really busy—the contest will run from today until the first day back to school in January.

Cuba 2014 – A Family Experience to Remember

It was so different than last time. Our last visit to Cuba involved very upset children, very tired parents, some limited fun, and a desperate desire to get back on Canadian soil.

Granted, the circumstances were different. We travelled as a foursome. We booked a 3 ½ star resort that was not so new, and our children were younger.

This time, we travelled with extended family; we ran into people we knew from home; the resort was 4 ½ stars; it was newer. It was an all-around better experience.

And since we’ve been back, we’ve all missed it very much. The sun, the beach, the seashells, the waves, the sandcastles, the pools, the restaurants, the ice cream…ooohh the ice cream!

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About a week after we got back, it occurred to me that life was carrying on in Cuba. People were getting up each morning and walking along a sun-drenched path to a delicious buffet of breakfast delights, then heading to the pool or the beach with a drink in one hand and a book in the other (or in our case, buckets and shovels and blow-up water toys). And the same staff was serving food and drinks and cappuccinos at the lobby bar while happy vacationers lounged about soaking up the calm day.

After realizing this, that everything we enjoyed the week before was still happening at the same lazy pace while we were back here at home in the cold and damp, trudging through our lives at work and school, it took me a few days to get over how much I missed our vacation.

I’ve been reading a book about how the brain works and how memories are created (The Whole-Brain Child, Siegel & Bryson, 2011, p. 67). And I know I have created this memory of how wonderful our vacation in Cuba was this time, especially since I’m lining it up in my mind with the not-so-great experience we had two years ago. But our vacation this time around really was wonderful.

Having gotten over how much I yearned to just be in Cuba at that resort with all of my family, enjoying ourselves together day after day, it finally occurred to me that the sameness of it would be its downfall eventually. We would tire of the warm and happy days and nights spent in each other’s company. We would become annoyed and yearn for some greater purpose.

And that’s when I realized that what Canada has to offer—my life here, the kids’ schools, my job, shuttling kids around, cold one day, hot or warm the next, snow, rain, sunshine—was the very variety of life. It is good to have different seasons, to have different things to do, different people to see depending on the day of the week.

It was fantastic to have spent so much uninterrupted-by-life time with my family—immediate and extended—but it is also nice to come back to our lives with these memories and all that they have taught us about being together and making the effort—no matter where we are—to come together and enjoy each other.

To Cuba! SAM_0501

There is no getting through it

Every relationship falls on hard times. Some get through it. Some don’t. I’ve always wondered what the difference was between those who make it and those who don’t. Was there a secret to the “getting through” or a trick that some learn and others don’t?

LoveCycles_coverA couple of months ago, I was sent a book on review. The title of the book: Love Cycles – The Five Essential Stages of Lasting Love. It’s by Linda Carroll, a couples’ therapist for over thirty years. In the book, she describes the five cycles that love goes through. Sometimes these stages repeat themselves within a relationship. To me, that’s the trick or the secret to it all. There is no “getting through” it. We are always going through it. At any given time, we are in a different stage. As Carroll writes, “The stages of love do not end at wholehearted loving but rather with an acceptance that the stages form a spiral; different ages and stages continue to bring new gifts and fresh challenges. Over time, we become more flexible and willing to accept the natural impermanence of relationship seasons.”

Below is an article written by Linda Carroll describing the five stages of love.

The Five Essential Stages of Lasting Love

by Linda Carroll

As a counselor to couples for many years, I’ve come to recognize five distinctive stages we travel through over the course of any intimate relationship: the Merge, Doubt and Denial, Disillusionment, Decision, and, finally, Wholehearted Loving.

Love Cycles and Choices

The first stage, [the Merge] fueled by a delicious and powerful love potion and marked changes in brain chemistry itself, causes people to become obsessed with the wonder and delight of their new partner. Its as though a veil covers our rational brain, and all we can see is what is magical about this person and the relationship. The seductive power of this stage may also cause us to fall in love with an inappropriate partner. With consciousness and effort, we can choose what to do with our feelings. Do we fan the flames of a potentially dangerous fire, or do we control our passion and turn our attention elsewhere?

Even if our partner is a good match, this will not eliminate the difficulties and annoyances two human beings bring to one another. In this first stage, we tend to see only the best, the possibilities, the magic.

If we choose to move with our partner into Stage Two, Doubt and Denial, we wake up from the trance of infatuation and begin to wonder whether this relationship is really the best choice for us. You find your feelings of love are becoming more conditional, power struggles increase and you wonder if your partner has changed. What now? We can choose to look carefully at our partner and assess his ability to collaborate, manage conflict and disappointment and accept responsibility for his choices and troubles. Can we feel strongly attracted to someone and yet admit to ourselves that this person is not a good choice for us? If so, are we able to say no to the relationship?

During this second stage, the spotlight shines on the flaws of our beloved. We now invest a lot of energy in getting our lover to become the ideal partner we thought they would be. At the same time, we also catch glimpses of our own least likeable parts — for example, how we react when our partner doesn’t agree with us. The research clearly shows that managing conflict effectively requires something different than fighting, fleeing or freezing. Can we learn these new skills?

Each of us is forced to give up our dream of perfect, unconditional love in which our partner always sees the best in us, says the right thing, never embarrasses us and reads our mind so that he or she can please us in every way possible.

As our disappointment escalates, so do our biological responses to stress: we prepare for war, retreat, or don camouflage. Welcome to the third stage: Disillusionment. As differences continue to emerge, our proclivities to defend and preserve ourselves may grow even stronger: we may believe that we’re always in the right and that everything should be done our way.

Alternatively, you may be the kind of person who cannot bear conflict. You shut your ears to every dissonant chord and pretend that everything is wonderful — or at least tolerable.

The point is, you have chosen how to respond. You will continue to make choices as you move through love’s stages. As disillusionment sets in, we can try our best to offer goodwill and kindness, even as tension thickens. As the “Why aren’t you me?” argument gathers momentum, we can consciously decide to loosen up a bit and allow more than one truth to be present in the relationship.

In this third stage, when our brain signals major alarm, it is particularly vital to choose to move from reactivity to rationality. When we are calmly present, we are free to act for the highest good of the relationship rather than out of fear and neediness.

Of course, because we’re thoroughly human, we won’t always respond to our lover from our highest selves. Then what? Can we apologize, make amends and take responsibility for how we’ve behaved, despite what our partner has done to upset or annoy us? We have the power to make that choice.

Let’s say that when we reach the fourth stage — Decision— we make the choice to part ways. Can we wish our former partner the best? If that’s too hard, can we at least not wish him or her the worst?

If we decide to remain together, we have the opportunity to learn the lessons that will help to make us the best person we can be, while also giving our relationship the chance to grow and deepen. This is where we enter the fifth cycle, which is wholehearted loving. No longer two halves trying to make a whole, we are two complete people learning about love. Passion, safety and generosity return to the relationship, along with humor and empathy.

From the Inside Out

Some of us are lucky enough to enjoy a strong connection with the same partner for a long stretch. But regardless of the quality of our intimate relationship, our emotional and spiritual life journey begins and ends within us. In this sense, every relationship is an inside job. Inside us is where it starts — and where it finishes, too.

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LindaCarroll_author_LoveCyclesLinda Carroll is the author of Love Cycles. A couple’s therapist for over thirty years, she is certified in Transpersonal Psychology and Imago Therapy and is a master teacher in Pairs Therapy. She lives in Corvallis, OR, offers workshops across the country, and is a frequent speaker at Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Mexico. Visit her online at www.lovecycles.org.

Adapted from the book Love Cycles: The Five Essential Stages of Lasting Love ©2014 by Linda Carroll. Published with permission of New World Library www.newworldlibrary.com.

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Ms. Carroll writes about this topic with compassion, great understanding, and eloquence. Her book was not only interesting and helpful, but enjoyable to read and an intriguing look into how people love. If you’re looking for some inspiration to help you along the path you and your partner are travelling, I recommend Love Cycles.

As I’ve learned, it’s not about getting through it so that everything will be alright on the other side. It’s about going through it together and each person working from the inside out.

Crazy Stories, Sane God…

Why did I pick up this book tonight, rather than the parenting book or any other number of books that I’m reviewing right now?

There’s a message in all this. I think it’s a calling to deeper faith.

Book cover of Crazy Stories Sane God by John Alan TurnerI’ve only read a few stories in Crazy Stories Sane God by John Alan Turner, and I’ve skipped forward and around a bit, too, but I have to say…the book speaks directly to me.

Each story chosen from the Bible is laid out in its briefest form; described, not told. Then there is the commentary; the how-it-relates-to-us part…clear, concise and right to the point. This part of each section is invaluable in its offering of this-is-how-this-story-applies-to-us and these-are-the-lessons-we-can-take-from-this-story.

Each time I have picked up this book to read more, I have encountered something that is completely applicable to what I’m going through at that moment in time. Either the Bible story itself, or the author’s commentary have had a direct impact on my thinking at that moment or on that day. It’s uncanny.

I have a little under half left to read, but the book has already been etched into my mind. It covers the Bible stories that are hard to believe; the ones that we, as parents, have a hard time explaining to our kids, so we just skip over them and trip over ourselves when our children bring the stories up and ask questions that we can’t answer. (Happens to me all the time; especially at Easter. How do you explain someone coming back from the dead to a child raised in a world where everything has a logical explanation?)

If you are on a spiritual journey, if you’re looking for explanations of the crazy stories in the Bible, if you need someone to put the pieces together and relate them to you, or help you make sense of the stories so you can better explain them to your children, you need to read this book.

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Title: Crazy Stories Sane God

Publisher: B&H Publishing Group

ISBN: 978-1-4336-8128-8

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I received a copy of this book for review. The opinions stated in this piece are entirely my own. I received no other compensation for my review.

Keeping it in Line: Tips for Parade Day

I’m welcoming to the blog today Arianna from ariannaknowsbest.blogspot.com.

As we head into St. Patrick’s Day festivities, she’s sharing her tips on taking the family to a parade.

And without further ado, find out how she makes the most of parade day fun!

In my neighborhood, St. Patrick’s Day is a huge celebration! Our parade is a blast, and unlike some, the party is family friendly. Last year, we traveled as a family to Philadelphia to enjoy the parade with a few friends and their family. It was our first time attending with the whole family, so I’ve come up with some tips that will make your parade day easy and stress free! Get the tips that’ll make your parade day a blast!

Writing for Print in a Wired World

I’ve been doing a lot of writing off-screen lately; which is weird in this wired world. If you write something, you share it. Why would you have a thought that isn’t shared with all of your followers and fellow Tweeters? Well, that’s the way it seems anyway. Every thought, every little scribble that used to be reserved for ourselves is now shared with everyone.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t share our thoughts and make connections via social media. But lately, I’ve taken my writing off-screen and into an old fashion journal…and it’s liberating. Back when I started blogging, I had business cards printed (similar to the ones from YouPrint and Moo), which made the sometimes isolating process of blogging more real. Handing those cards out at social media conferences and to new acquaintances established the blog in real life and has had an effect on how long this blog has existed.

Recently, I’ve also been working on several print projects. There’s something about the printed word, whether it’s a card, a brochure or a document. Seeing your words in print lends credence to the idea. Ideas are easily shared via social media, but printed words come alive and express a certain permanence to me. It takes effort to share it, so its worth is in the time someone has taken to pass it on.

One of the projects to which I’ve been dedicating my time has been a monthly newsletter. Crafting the words, laying them out on the page and entrusting them to a printer is like sending your child to the first day of kindergarten. Terrifying and exhilarating all at the same time.

When the newsletter is published and distributed, it invites conversation among the group members, individual articles are photocopied and shared, and the printed pages are kept in an archive for future group members. These words that I write for print establish themselves in the real world. And that is really quite something.