Plan B- Further Thoughts on Faith


Anne Lamott blew me away with Traveling Mercies– her humor, her insight, her realness. And her annoying love for all things not George W. Bush. She amps that up in  Plan B Further Thoughts on Faith and I wanted to slap her a little bit, okay, yah, we get it, George Walker Bush is evil incarnate; now can we move on?

But she kept harping on Iraq and Bush. When she takes that burden off her shoulders, her writing is once again provocative, poignant, perfect.

She is like all those wonderful liberal friends I have who allow me to gauge my ability to love by how many times my fingers are poised to comment on their Facebook posts.  And I don’t. And they do that for me in the reverse. Continue to love me in spite of our huge differences. Really that’s what makes our lives bigger- to know and love people for who they are right now, in real time ,even when all that I believe doesn’t hold true for them.  It’s hard and sometimes someone will just up and “unfriend” you for it. We need to practice hovering above the keyboard a little more. So I read Anne Lamott again for practice and pleasure.

She gets things across in as few well chosen words as is possible:

“Sam began chucking rocks into the creek, and Lily barked at them loyally, as if shaking her fist- ‘and stay away!’”

When a friend got bad news,

“She had been in a deep depression for a while, but she finally followed Barb’s advice to call me after various people at her church kept saying that she could be happy- she was going home to be with Jesus. This is the type of thing that gives Christians a bad name. This and the inquisition. Sue wanted to open fire on them all. I think I encouraged this.”

“I smiled with a secret smile of pleasure in being older, fifty plus change, which can no longer be considered extremely late youth, or even early middle age. But I would not give back a year of life I’ve lived. Age has given me what I’ve been looking for my entire life- it has given me me.”

Lamott, like all of us, is a Christian who continues in sin not that grace may abound, but because it does.

Traveling Mercies

I am leery of a memoir that has the potential of becoming a swaggering braggart.

Christian memoirs run that risk, the “I found Jesus,” part can get lost in the drugs, sex, alcohol, and abuse; like the reminisce is making them long for the good old days. And reading you begin to pity the poor schmuck who happily grew up in a loving Christian home. That’s when you know a story’s failed itself in the Christian memoir genre.

So I was ever so slightly skeptical that Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies would fall into a drunken love fest about her bad old self. Instead I found an honestness about who she is, where she is, how she fails, how she succeeds. All of which does not measure up in the crucible of perfect truth. She’s broken and honest. And loves her Savior. And thinks abortion is a good option. That part made me sad.

We have to be willing to take people, even Christians, where they’re at, which in theory is easy. But in reality, I find some people really tedious, some stupid, some feeble when I should be trying to just cover their sins with love. But there you go and in reality it just made me mad that Lamott would vigil away outside a prison that would enact the death penalty on a man who snatched a small boy from his young life, then murdered him after enduring untold horrors and then threw him in the woods.

But be totally okay with a small helpless child being killed in the coziest of wombs because mom’s have rights too. And unfortunately, I think she’d call foul on me and call me a right-winged conservative Bible thumping nut job. It was sad because Anne Lamott absolutely exudes love for all sorts of people, no matter what, no matter where. But apparently everyone, even Anne Lamott, has her limits. And her limit fell at Republicans and Pro Lifers. I found that small of her.

Especially when she so cleverly says:

“It’s so utterly bizarre to stare into the face of one of these tiny perfect beings and to understand that you (or someone a lot like you) grew them after a sweaty little bout of sex. And then weighing in at the approximate poundage of a medium honeydew melon, they proceed to wedge open your heart. (Also, they help you see that you are mad as a hatter, capable of violence just because Alvin and the Chipmunks are singing when you are trying to have a nice spiritual moment thinking about ashes.)”

Anne Lamott knows she’s “just a bad Christian. A bad born-again Christian,” a Christians who know the depths to which she can fall. And sometimes does. And admit it. There’s hope in it like reading about David or Rahab.

She remembers the hour she first believed,

“I was thirsty for something that I will dare to call the truth, so I read a lot of East Indian poetry and sat in the little chapel on campus and tried to pray. In the spring of my sophomore year, I began a course with a tiny Czechoslovakian woman named Eva Gossman. I loved Mrs. Gossman in general and worked very hard in her class. Then one day she gave us Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling, and my life changed forever.”

She is riotously funny, utterly honest, and dares to expose and explore her fears and failures.

Lamott is not going to be for everyone. If you are the sort who would tell me, “We don’t use the word ‘crap’ in our house,” and insist no one else does either; do. not. get. this. book.

If you live in a tiny tight Christian ghetto; do. not. get. this. book. Another reviewer wrote: “Lamott reminds us that sanitized piety should not be confused with real faith.”

If you are willing to take people where they’re at in their faulty fallen striving journey Lamott has a way with words.


Fireside Reading

Any Flavia de Luce fans? I have to sheepishly admit that this is my first. It is a campy fun precocious young girl as expert detective book. It comes out in January, but you can preorder and print a photo of the cover and stick it in a stocking.

Here’s my review.


This is one of those authors who is so good that you will devour this book even if you aren’t interested in fighter pilot stories from World War II.  If you know someone who is, he will love this book, Under the Wire. Andrew wishes he’d have been a fighter pilot. William Ash is sending him a dedicated book. Ash is the man that Steve Mc Queen had the privilege of playing in Great Escape.  The story is amazing and well written. Really well written. Really.

  My review is here.


I enjoyed this most trite but well written book by a romance author- this is not one of her romance books- it is Paris in Love, about her move to Paris with her husband and two children after her battle and conquering of breast cancer. This is a breezy book to read in the evening in bed when you are done with deep thinking and simply want to waft into the arms of Morpheus.


“People who remain connected with their brothers and sisters in the local church almost invariably grow in self-understanding, and they mature in their ability to relate in healthy ways to God and to their fellow human beings. This is especially the case for those courageous Christians who stick it out through the often messy process of interpersonal discord and conflict resolution. Long-term interpersonal relationships are the crucible of genuine progress in the Christian life. People who stay also grow. People who leave do not grow.” Need I say more? When the Church was a Family


The cover isn’t that exciting so don’t judge this one by it. Robert Sabuda does amazing things with paper in 3D. This is the sort of book to sit down with children and grandchildren and open it up with them to see the glorious creations. Sabuda has a whole collection to check out.

And just one more children’s Christmas book, another Twelve Days of Christmas. And my review.

People are Complicated

When I was in 5th grade there was a weird thing going on across the hall. Two teachers had opened the doors between their rooms, shoved all the desks around until they were in “pods” and had themselves a very free school experience. The female teacher, Ms.De Franco, wore free flowing long hippie dresses with humongous hoop earrings, hair that tumbled wild and free. Mr. Maselli was the quintessential cool geek- fat black glasses, wild printed pants. Loud colored posters hung everywhere, stacks of papers all over the teachers’ desks, bean bag chairs in the corner. You just knew fun times were always being had over there while we, across the hall, hunkered down to our twenty word spelling test. I was secretly very relieved that I was not in the free-wheeling class. I would not have wanted to pretend that it was fun to be loudly interacting with others. I was the ultimate introvert.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, made that all make sense- “In many elementary schools, the traditional rows of seats facing the teacher had been replaced by ‘pods’ of four or more desks pushed together to facilitate countless group learning activities. Even subjects like math and creative writing, which would seem to depend on solo flights of thought, were often taught as group projects.” The cooperative approach has politically progressive roots- the theory is that students take ownership of their education when they learn from one another.”

Interestingly, the 20th century has deemed character traits of the extrovert as superior- Magnetic, fascinating, stunning attractive, glowing, dominant, forceful, energetic, group-oriented. The 19th century was more intune with people who were- honorable, moral, mannerly, dutiful, good citizens. Well meaning parents of the 1950’s thought that quiet was unacceptable, an outgoing personality was key. “Save for a few odd parents, most are grateful that the schools work so hard to offset tendencies to introversion and other suburban abnormalities.” We went from character traits to personality traits as key to a fine individual and maybe sacrificed something in the process. It was not okay to want to be on the play ground alone, read a book in a corner; the ideal was to have lots of friends, and be around them a lot.

There is no such thing as a pure introvert, a pure extrovert. We are much more complex than that. Personal history, personality innate and learned, environment, all these help to shape each person’s particular introvert-ness or extrovert-ness. Sometimes, later in life, we are surprised to realize who we really are- “Some fool even themselves, until some life event- a layoff, an empty nest, an inheritance that frees them to spend time as they like jolts them into taking stock of their true natures.” Sometimes that introvert proves to be a better people person than the extrovert precisely because he realizes he has poor people skills and really works to be personable; while the extrovert thinks of himself as a “real people person,” and is abrasive and overbearing instead. Or it might be that the extrovert makes the better listener because he works at listening knowing that he is easily distracted, whereas the introvert, seemingly the better listener, will crawl right into his shell and not even interact. People are complicated.

Solitude mixed with time in groups seems to be the perfect mix. “Our schools should teach children the skills to work with others- cooperative learning can be effective when practiced well and in moderation- but also the time and training they need to deliberately  practice on their own.” As parents, the same could apply- “Go find something to do by yourself; you don’t always need to be entertained,” mixed with “You need to share that and get along,” make a good balance.

Which classroom setting would be your preference?





Which bedroom?




Noon At Tiffany’s


“It is easy to imagine a woman a hundred years from now saying to her daughter, ‘Here is the Tiffany diamond-and-ruby necklace that once belonged to your great-great grandmother, as exquisite and stylish today as it was then.’ I assure you no one will be passing on one of these silly lamps that had sat for years in someone’s dusty attic.”

Clara Wolcott was the woman who designed and executed the beautifully intricate Tiffany stained-glass lamps. At a whopping $20 a week, Clara was paid well above the average wage of other women. When two of her lamps are sold to a mother/daughter high society pair within moments of being set in the showroom, for Clara, “It was the moment she had waited for all her life. From this time forward her name would be linked with creations of beauty…” Louis Tiffany took the credit for them instantly. And continued to take credit for Clara Wolcott’s stained-glass lamps. This was in 1888 when women were wanting the vote, wanting to earn their own way in the work world, and here was Clara an accomplished artist who wished to have a small measure of esteem for her own lamp designs, her own work.

A cache of 1,330 letters written by Clara, her two sisters and her mother, were discovered in 2007. It was in these letters that Clara Wolcott was discovered to be the designer and artisan of the Louis Comfort Tiffany lamps.

This is Clara’s fascinating life, her marriage to an older man, her blessed escape from marrying another man after her husband’s death, her intrigue with Louis Tiffany, her life as a creator of the Tiffany lamps.

A note from the author, Echo Heron.

The Things That Matter

The Things That Matter

I was thankful for the book, Shed. Eternally thankful. It helped me rid my life of the stuff that does not enhance. But I was ready to move on. Enter Nate Berkus.

Due out in mid-October, The Things That Matter finishes where Shed leaves off.  Nate Berkus gave me permission to add a little soul to my home. Berkus encouraged me to pull out the silhouettes that my mom had done of each of us four children over forty years ago and find a place for them on my wall, it made me root out the iron bulldog bank my grandmother gave me and place it on a tray with two brass candle sticks (wedding gift of 33 years ago)- also ferreted out of a closet to sit with the dog on the tray. The rug my great-grandfather hooked for me when his days stretched before him after his legs were amputated that gave him something to do it now rests beneath my Goodwill score of a desk.

Berkus allowed me to admit that yes, I bought the pair of ceramic quail at the second-hand-store. Sweetly made by a couple and inscribed on the bottom, one reads, “To my mate, from your lover,” the other, “To my lover from your mate ’61” What  is their story, where are “mate” and “lover” today?

“As I’ve said over and over again, our homes should tell the stories of who we are. Not who our decorator is. Not who our friends sometimes think we should be, not who our family occasionally wishes we would be,and not who any number of style magazines tell us we must be.”

Nate Berkus begins by telling us who he is, where he grew up, what life was like for him as a kid in Minnesota and then a boarding student in Massachusetts, then on to college and his favorite and life-changing year of college in Paris. The telling of his life throughout the book is what takes it from a clever book to a poignant beautifully photographed and inspiring story. He tells of the death of his partner,Fernando Bengoechea, when the two of them were in Sri Lanka as a tsunami hit and swept them into the swirling ebbing and flowing flood. Berkus lived; Bengoechea perished.

As he walks us through the treasures of his house and the houses of 13 friends, he tells why the things he and friends have mean so much to them.

Have I mentioned I like round things? This blue glass ball needed a home and I obliged. It sits in a bowl of Austrian crystal bought there ten years ago, kept company by a Lalique bird.

My grandma, Emma Grace Jarrett, gave me this dog a long time ago. Now making a return appearance on my coffee table.

My great grandfather had both legs amputated and having lived a very active life needed something to do while he sat the days away. He made rugs. This is mine. It was just rolled out again after reading Nate Berkus’s book. My father-in-law was once on a typewriter buying spree. I got one.

“Lover” and “Mate” sit by my round glass lamp. Don’t they make you want to hit the second hand stores to see what treasures you might find?

All lined out in birth order around an etching from a trip to that English church.

About Art

Painting was on my “to do” list this summer and I have turned out quite a few. Here’s one of Taite still stapled to my painting board. 

For so He gives His beloved sleep.


This is the long way round to tell you of a fascinating book and two videos on art, Stealing Rembrandts: The Untold Stories of Notorious Art Heists.

Click on the photo to purchase

“The first version of the story you hear is always wrong.” Although movies makes stealing art look upper crust, Anthony M. Amore and Tom Mashberg prove time and again that art thievery is generally low class crooks looking to make a buck. They aren’t interested in the art, it’s just that art museums, unlike a bank, are not secure and therefore make stealing a Rembrandt much easier than stealing a million dollars.
That makes it a double crime because the thieves have so little understanding of the masterpiece they are making off with that they are willing to cut it from its frame, roll it up and stash it under beds and behind sofas. Not a good way to deal with four and five hundred year old masterpieces! And why Rembrandts? Why not Titian or Fra Angelico? It is simply that most people are familiar with the name Rembrandt as a fine artist.

But any semi intelligent person would realize the difficulty of reselling such obvious well known works of art. The pieces are generally recovered very quickly and if not a generation will go by before they are recovered.

I was intrigued to read of the problem with etchings. It has never occurred to me but it makes sense, because an etching can be reprinted over and over again, a new print of a Rembrandt etching can easily be inserted into a collection to replace a stolen one. The difference can sometimes be seen easily but not necessarily. The four hundred year old hand-made paper is usually the give away.

I appreciated these authors’ interesting details about the art itself, its history and its importance along with the art crime. I had to google Portrait of a Young Girl Wearing a Gold-Trimmed Cloak. A Boston art dealer, Robert C. Vose, visited a monastery in Hollywood Hills to view and appraise their collection. He found most to be fakes with the exception of Rembrandts’ Young Girl Wearing a Gold Trimmed Cloak. He bought it for $100,000 and sold it quickly for $125,000. It was then loaned to the Museum of Fine Arts and was stolen in 1975.

The account that made me groan aloud were the 239 items, works of art by Rembrandt, Watteau, Boucher and Peter Brueghel, Greek pottery, medieval crossbow and a Roman bugle. Stéphane Breitwieser was finally caught in 2001 whereupon his mother began cutting and destroying both art and frame, then put the canvas in the garbage disposal, she threw vases, jewelry, statuettes into a canal. By the time police raided the house there was virtually not one thing left! Nothing! 1.5 billion dollars worth of amazing art and relics was gone forever. Breitwieser spent two years in jail.

And then there is the painting by Rembrandt, Saskia at Her Bath, stolen from a home never to return. It was burned! Argh!!!

I grew up in Massachusetts and was fascinated to read of the Worcester museum theft, thefts from the Museum of Fine Art and of course the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum theft. It is an eerie sight to see the vacant frame still hanging in the museum where The Storm on the Sea of Galilee and A Lady and Gentleman in Black used to hang.

Having a compiled list at the back of the book is sobering.

This book was so interesting because of the historical details that accompanied the pieces of art that were stolen.


Don’t feel like reading? Here’s a documentary that I liked on many levels. I was amazed by their acumen in picking art and I was struck by the ability of two work-a-day people being able to focus all their extra money on this single goal of obtaining art.

Or maybe a documentary, Herb and Dorothy, on an art collecting couple who are quirky and interesting. The story of unlikely art collectors husband and wife, Herb and Dorothy.  A postal clerk and a librarian, the Vogels share a passion for art, which they pursued over decades, becoming two of the most important collectors of minimalist and conceptual art with close to 5,000 pieces. There is now a Vogel wing at the National Gallery of Art displaying 1000 of their collection.

Art of the Steal is one more documentary on art. This synopsis straight from the product description:

“It s been called the greatest theft of art since the Second World War. THE ART OF THE STEAL reveals how a private collection of paintings became the envy of the Louvre, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and other major institutions and the prize in a battle between one man s vision and the forces of commerce and politics.

Founded in 1922 by wealthy American drug developer and art collector Albert C. Barnes, the Barnes Foundation became the finest collection of paintings by Renoir, Cezanne, Matisse, Van Gogh and other masters. Housed in Lower Merion, Pennsylvania, the Barnes Foundation was envisioned by Barnes as an art school, not a public museum, but ever since Barnes death in 1951, the fight over its future has been underway.

On one side are the artists, historians and lawyers defending Barnes wish that the entire collection (valued at over $25 billion) never be moved, loaned or sold; and on the other side, the politicians, huge charitable trusts, tourism boards and rich socialites pushing to relocate it to downtown Philadelphia. This is a real-life David vs. Goliath story, a tale of suspense in which hangs the fate of some of the most sublime works of art ever created.

Jesus Storybook Bible Give-away!

“Sometimes I go into Sunday schools and ask two questions of the children “How many people here think you have to be good for God to love you?” and “How many people here think God will stop loving you if you stop being good?”
I wrote this book for the children who put up their hands.”
– Sally Lloyd-Jones, author of the Jesus Storybook Bible

I don’t know if you have any of these in your household, but mine has some naughty little kids in it. Sometimes they are just plain awful. Right now for example after a fairly trying day, is nap time. Finally. But instead of listening to slumbering angels and I’m hearing bumping, crying and crashing coming from the room. I’ll be right back. . . .

Where was I? Oh yes, so this house has sinners in it, and after a particularly hard day of corrections and talks and more discipline and more talking, this children’s Bible is a great one to go back to. In it, my kids and I read about how God works long term, not with already perfect people, but ones that He is making perfect with his “Never stopping, Never giving up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever love.”

The stories from the Old and New Testament and told as ONE story- THE story, the story of Christ’s rescue mission to save all His creation from brokenness and sin. The conclusions and comparisons drawn within each story are sometimes downright profound but easy enough for little ones to grasp and often leave me a little bit teary eyed. Because that’s what the gospel does- brings us to our knees in awe of God’s love, in terms that babes can understand.

This is from the story of Abraham and Isaac carrying everything up the mountain to make their sacrifice to God: “Many years later, another Son would climb another hill, carrying wood on his back. Like Isaac, he would put his trust in his Father and do what his Father asked. He wouldn’t struggle, or run away. Who was He? God’s Son, his only Son- the Son He loved.”

This book is a re-telling- a paraphrase, and while I think it’s important for our kids to hear the inspired word of God in the Bible, this storybook is a fabulous for building on. Forgiveness is the theme of this book and all the naughty little kids in my house, including me- the biggest and often worst kid, need it every day. Get this book for your kids, grand kids, friends’ kids, nieces and nephews– and then read it with them.

Oh, and by the way– we’re giving one away! Enter below with a comment and share the link! We’ll announce the winner July 16.

If you’re reading this, Rachel– thank you again for introducing this book to us!!!

Summer Reading Light and Not so Light

The Red Chamber

If you liked Memoirs of a Geisha, you might want to consider this book coming out July 13th.

My review

Yes, Chef: A Memoir

I like books about chefs, about cooking, about food, about drink… you get the idea.

Born in Ethiopia, Marcus Samuelsson’s birth mother dies and leaves him and his sister orphans. They are adopted by a Swedish couple who would like a son. The orphanage informs the couple that his sister comes too.

Marcus Samuelsson is the renowned New York chef of his own restaurant, Red Rooster.  This is his story.

My review

his review

This might interest you as well… KIDDING! Andrew thought it was fascinating but well, it’s not. Perhaps informative, but not like an edge of your seat sort of book. I mean you can buy it if you want but if you are interested in the nuclear world and would like to read something a little more scintillating; you might consider this:

While not exactly light reading, this book written in 1979, makes the nuclear world a little more human. Leona Marshall Libby was the youngest and only woman of an amazing team of scientists who developed the nuclear reactor. When Leona arrived in Washington state to work at the uranium plant she was asked what the team of all men could do to make her comfortable. She responded that she’d like her own bathroom. She got it.

My review

Caring About What You Wear


While not exactly vital and earth moving, fashion and the clothes we wear is a choice we make every day when we put something on. And how did that something end up in my closet? I chose it, I bought it, or I was given it, whichever; it is now in my closet, I own it; and I wear it- by choice.

“I’ve become impatient when people claim they don’t care about clothes. They still dress every morning, and if they are going to reject fashion, they still need clothes to show it,” Grant says. Even when we simply grab the same old jeans and t-shirt, we are making a choice, a choice to go with the same old.

The Thoughtful Dresser is not so much about what I should be wearing but about the thought, the relationship of clothing to our lives.

Don’t you have those certain clothes that when you put them on you know you are looking good, they make you feel more confident? So, why do I always revert right back to my jeans and a t-shirt? Probably because cleaning a toilet, doing laundry, sweeping a floor, creating a masterpiece are on my horizon for the day, along with a trip to town where the world will see me. The French, apparently, never step foot out of their homes- even to just dump the garbage- without making sure they are looking totally put together. It is certain that if you think you can just run to the store real quick in that grubby outfit, no make-up and your hair all a mess that that will guarantee you run into twelve people you wish you hadn’t on that particular day? It always works that way for me.

“This book’s modest intent is to liberate its readers from the doubts and uncertainties that beset them when they start thinking about clothes or, worse, talking about them, and someone pipes up that they should concern themselves with matters more significant, such as the fate of the planet. Or the war in Iraq. Or the collapse of the banks.”

The Thoughtful Dresser by Linda Grant is a look at why we wear what we wear and why we care so much… even when we pretend we don’t.

“We care about what we wear. If we don’t we are fools. Only babies don’t worry about what they look like, and only because no one has yet shown them a mirror.”

And what we wore at twenty-five can not be worn at fifty-five for a variety of reasons: we look like fools in it, we have a struggle with a body very different from the one of twenty-five years ago.

Grant writes of “clothes as text, clothes as narration, clothes as a story. Clothes as the story of our lives. And if you were to gather together all the clothes you have ever owned in all your life, each baby shoe and winter coat and wedding dress, you would have your autobiography.” Remember that favorite pair of jeans that fit perfectly, that dress, that skirt that always made you feel confident, the shoes you wore until they fell apart because they were perfect? They bring back memories of things and times that shaped who we are.

Fashion historian, James Laver produced an interesting chart of how a piece of clothing changes though the years- all except the denim jean which has remained a constant since its beginning in the California gold rush by a Jewish-German immigrant, Levi Stauss.

The same costume will be through the years:

Indecent… 10 years before its time
Shameless…5 years before its time
Outre (darling)… 1 year before its time
…. Smart…
Dowdy… 1 year after its time
Hideous… 10 years after its time
Ridiculous… 20 years after its time
Amusing… 30 years after its time
Quaint… 50 years after its time
Charming… 70 years after its time
Romantic… 100 years after its time
Beautiful… 150 years after its time


This little chart rings true when I consider my very stylish purple velvet hot pants with matching vest. Yep, there they are at the 20-30 year mark- between ridiculous and amusing.

Grant include some fascinating fashionistas and explains, for example, why Coco Chanel was such a revelation, why her little black dress- the one that has never gone out of style again- was such a bold statement. She gives us a fascinating look at Catherine Hill.

Catherine Hill’s long journey takes her from the concentration camp in Auschwitz to the front row at the best couture shows. Having arrived in Canada as a refugee after World War II an orphan without siblings or relatives her career in clothing and style began as a sales clerk in a department store. When the owner realized her forthright assurance of fashion she was sent to Europe as a buyer. Helping women with their style she would see a bad clothing choice and not wait for the client to come to see the error but instead quickly state, “You must take it off because it is not for you.” She became trusted. She succeeded and then opened her own store, Chez Catherine, where she discovered designers like Umberto Ginocchetti, Valentino, Versace, Ferre, Krizia and Armani.

“Caring about what you wear is one small but not entirely insignificant dimension of existence.” If you care the littlest bit, you will enjoy this book.

Good Books

A few new and varied books.

Uncorked  Marco Pasanella decides  to buy a monster building in Manhattan and start a wine shop, without any knowledge of how to do it. My review. Go ahead buy the book. I handed my copy off to Andrew and he enjoyed it. (I’m kinda bothered by the cover art though- it looks a bit like a moose head on a suit at first glance, but no, it’s a cork exploding from a champagne bottle.)

Uncorked: My Journey Through the Crazy World of Wine


My Afghanistan is an engaging story of an American couple who travel to Afghanistan fresh out of college ready to teach. This is before the Taliban- before Americans had to fear for their lives in Afghanistan right after World War II. In this far away exotic country as school teachers, Jean and her husband, Walt, live like royalty. They have servants to set out their clothes in the morning, make them three meals a day, launder their clothing, attend to callers, keep their home immaculate, and if Jean or Walt might want a cup of tea before bedtime, there is a servant available to make it.

Cost of living is so cheap that tailored clothing, trips to tourist sites and neighboring countries is attainable for very little.

My Afghanistan: Before the Taliban

One more off the beaten track- I Serve by Rosanne Lortz. I downloaded the first chapter on my Kindle… and then got hooked. But if you don’t have a Kindle you can buy a good solid real copy. Set in the time of the Hundred Year’s War this tale has it all intrigue, love, war, and politics. You can download it for $2.99 on your Kindle.

I Serve: A Novel of the Black Prince

Identity Crisis

Another surprising book by the people at Mars Hill, Disciple- Getting Your Identity From Jesus. I think that means that next time I read a great book by Mars Hill, I shouldn’t be surprised.

The author, Bill Clem, gives an eye opening explanations about what it means to glorify God- to be a disciple. Clem’s wife was unconscious in a hospital in her last days of cancer when he asked God to, “show me how this unconscious woman glorifies you.” He wondered, “‘Why don’t you want to do more with her?” And then it hit him, “Our value in God’s eyes is not determined by what we can do above and beyond his design for us but in the inherent nature of how we function in relationship to him, others, and his creation. It is our relationships that truly bear the image of God.”  “‘Isn’t there more than imaging him or more than pleasing him?’ The answer is no.” The greatest thing we can do is please God.

Let me give you the golden nuggets from this book:

*  Community is where it’s at!

“An isolated life is one of insulated grace.” It’s easy being nice when you are alone- I seldom tick myself off; when you live far away from others- no messy life of intruders there; when you engage only when you darn well feel like it, you can always look like you’re ‘on’. But you lose out on the growth. You lose out on the grace.

*  Party on!

Our presence is to be redemptive. “We are to ruin darkness with light.” We need to party better than the world; we need to feast, sing, paint, play instruments, dance, run, hike, interpret, invest, study, work better than the world. We should become dangerous to the worldliness of the culture by living as salt and light. Our life should look way more savory compared to the world around us. How hard it that?

*  Be Content!

When we realign our hearts to loving God above his blessings, and when we reverence him as the only one entitled to be praised or pleased, we will find the freedom to worship without the conditional response of circumstance.”  Paul  in Philipians makes sense when we get the relationship right; “I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need.” God is not accountable to us- he really does get  to design, create his world his way. It’s hard but good to arrive here.

*  Throw out the Idols!

That stuff or those people that you get angry at or afraid of? Yah, those are your idols. “What makes us afraid or angry can serve as a great trail of bread crumbs to lead us to where our idols live. We often build idols of the heart around the very things that give us a sense of security or make us feel safe- careers, employment, assets, property, savings, relationships, reputations.” We need to get mad about the right things.

“Who would have thought that life’s most profound meaning could be had by simply responding to his invitation, ‘Follow Me'”?




Paris Without End

This year I reviewed Letters of Ernest Hemingway. About a year ago I read Paris Wife by Paula McClain I was honored to receive a request from Gioia Diliberto, the author of Paris Without End, to review her book. . It is Diliberto’s book that gave Paula McClain the idea for hers.

Without my ever really caring a whit about old Ernest, I have come to know him… for the cad he was.

Diliberto writes of Hemingway, “For all his macho posturing, Hemingway at his best wrote love stories that brilliantly charted the emotional nuances in relationships between men and women. His great talent was in evoking the most intimate moments of longing, and all his fictional love stories flow from the central love story in his own life- his marriage to Hadley. She is chiefly remembered, of course, for her portrayal in Hemingway’s poignant memoir of his youth in Paris, A Moveable Feast, where his remorse for leaving her can be felt on every page.”

Paris Without End is so much more detailed than Paris Wife; where Paris Wife was only a novel, Paris Without End tells the story as history thoroughly and interestingly.

The background information to the era in which Ernest and Hadley’s romance took place is an odd time in history. Hadley’s mother was a staunch feminist, theosophist and suffragist, and generally just found men repulsive. Both Hadley’s mother and sister, Fonnie, blamed sex for the subjugation of women.

Enter Ernest. Hadley was deeply in love with him, willing to say “obey” in their wedding ceremony, and enjoyed sex. Her mother would not have approved.

Both Hadley and Ernest had overbearing harsh mothers. And both of their fathers would commit suicide. Hadley would state matter of factly, “Ernest hated his mother.”

Married only six years, Hadley realized very soon after their marriage, “that she was more in love with her husband than he was with her, and that she would live throughout her marriage in the shadow of his personality.”

Hemingways’ first wife, Hadley Richardson, was so instrumental in his life that I think without her, Hemingway would never have been the writer he was. She shaped his characters, the storyline, the tight to-the-point way he had with words.

Paris Without End by Gioia Diliberto


I accepted a request from the publisher to review Oxford Messed Up by Andrea Kayne Kaufman and fell into reading it steadily.

Gloria Zimmerman is a sweet, intelligent, beautiful woman who is forced to fly from her home in Chicago all the way to Oxford, England without ever going to the bathroom- fifteen hours. And once she arrives at her flat, she is forced to meticulously and methodically clean her loo top to bottom with several antibacterial wipes before she is able to pee.

Gloria is given an adjoining room with Henry Young. They share the Jack and Jill bathroom. It is Oliver who forces Gloria to clean that loo thoroughly three times a day- without gloves, her hands a raw red mess. Oliver who showers her daily with the guilt of always vigilantly fighting germs, eating the perfect orange, keeping away from crowds, sticking to her routine.

This is a look into the life of OCD. Andrea Kayne Kaufman writes from real experience:

“The psychologist and psychiatrist informed me that if there was a chance of the person in my life recovering from the OCD, it would have to be through the combination of Cognitive Behavior Therapy and medication. Both of these options seemed frightening, but it was more frightening watching the deterioration. Cognitive Behavior Therapy with its rigid “tough love” system of rewards and punishments seemed so archaic, but it was…and still is…the only therapy that has been proven successful in treating OCD.”

Gloria Zimmerman became for Kaufman a character in her mind who helped her deal with the real person in her life. At the end of the real life treatment, the character Gloria was still haunting Kaufman, wanting to be whole, wanting to be well.

Anne Coulter sings the praises of this book. She knows what she’s talking about.  Coulter was diagnosed twenty years ago with OCD. She says:

“As someone who was diagnosed with OCD some 20 years ago, I’ve been waiting a long time for a fictional character to have real OCD. Not the quirky, eccentric kind. Not the mean, dangerous kind. Neither of those made-up versions reflect reality. I wanted to find a person on the screen, stage or page who had the torturous, debilitating kind of OCD—the kind that I had.”

There lies a balance- a circle- wherein, as individuals, we can function normally with our unique quirks, funny little habits, idiosyncrasies; but go too much beyond that circle and it’s too much. Being a neat freak is out there in the circle of normal yet still normal. But go too far with the neat and clean and it is an illness. Taking it the other direction, being a slob and living with some dirt is within the realm of normal; but start piling and hoarding everything that comes in the house, never cleaning and it is now an illness.

Warning: the book has crude dialogue. And the never ending use of the ƒ˙˙˙ word.

I at first, was ready to completely write this book off because of the overall rauchiness of it. But I was intrigued that Anne Coulter sang its praises and so I went ahead with this post. You have been forewarned.

My Book Stack


Happy Valentine’s Day! I will be wining and dining with six grandchildren, three children and one totally amazing husband tonight. I am planning a little picnic laid out on a tablecloth on the kitchen floor with macaroni and cheese (I might just pull out a great steak for the older people); good stuff like that. And some great big chocolate filled cookies for dessert.

Meanwhile back in my regular life, I have a stack of books that I am reading in turn as the mood hits.

The Righteous Mind- Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt.  He fesses up pretty early on as to what side his righteousness leans. He has some good pointers for how we can all finally get along.  Pretty long winded but Haidt is a good writer.


The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion


Community- Taking Your Small Group off of Life Support by Brad House.  Dare I say it? He’s associated with Mark Driscoll’s church. I thought this would be a quick fan through and done sort of current day I-am-so-dang-hip we call our Bible studies “community groups,” and we do not have churches, no backwards way! we have campuses sort of book. You know? long on words and sayin’ nothin’.  It’s not. It’s good. I took notes. I am ready for real community now. Here’s my review.

Community: Taking Your Small Group off Life Support (Re: Lit Books)

Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. I bought this book at a library sale… then bought it again; cover must have intrigued me. It is very well written but I am only a quarter into it so far. I thought it might be a children’s book but the main character has an incestuous relationship with her brother so that blew my children’s book theory out of the water.  I keep seeing it in book lists, most recently in the Costco magazine so I thought I’d crack it open.

The Thirteenth Tale: A Novel

Persian Gambit by Eugene Bull. This author contacted me and sent me a copy to review. When Andrew saw me reading a small paperback he wondered what it was. When I told him it is a spy thriller, his comment was, “Oh, right up your alley.” NOT! But I am loving it for its intrigue. Like any good spy thriller that hopes to be a big hit, there is sex; those lady spies they’ll sell their body for a few bits of classified info.

The Persian Gambit

Lit! – A Christian Guide to Reading Books by Tony Reinke. “I don’t have time to read books, I only read Christian books, There’s too much to read…” Whatever. Those are a few of the issues Reinke discusses. Why is it we veg in front of the computer for h-o-u-r-s at a time and are hard pressed to think the time was wasted but sit in a comfy chair with a good book and… “I don’t have time to read?” Reinke first encourages us to get back to books and then discusses which and why we should read.

Lit!: A Christian Guide to Reading Books

And the last on the stack is The Meaning of Marriage- Facing the Complexities of  Commitment with the Wisdom of God by Timothy and Kathy Keller.  “If our views of marriage are too romantic and idealistic, we underestimate the influence of sin on human life. If they are too pessimistic and cynical, we misunderstand marriage’s divine origin. If we somehow manage, as our modern culture has, to do both at once, we are doubly burdened by a distorted vision.” I’ve been a Tim Keller groupie for years so some of the stuff in his book is a repeat from his sermons like being the spouse to find your child with the messy diaper and the two totally different responses as to who should clean it up pointing to growing up with wholly different family dynamics.

The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God

 Now, I know I’ve asked before but, any good books you’d like to recommend? I’d love to know.

What’s So Great About Normal Anyway?

Better Than Normal: How What Makes You Different Can Make You Exceptional

Available March 13, you can pre order by clicking on the book. Or better yet, leave a comment, tell someone about this give-away and get it free!


I loved this book.   The author, Dr. Dale Archer, has agreed to give away FIVE copies right here on Pinkpeppers.  That’s some pretty good odds for you!

1) Share the link via facebook, text, email, messenger pigeon, whateverand let us know you did in a comment below.

You know you want a free book.

 Winners will be announced next Monday.


There are not a lot of books that I read and then force my family to partake also.  This one I did.  When Andrew came home from work I had a little paper already for him to do the questionnaire.  Jarrett came home from school and I made him sit right down and take the questionnaire too.  I texted Erin and told her I was right in the middle of this fascinating book.  I talked to Caitlin that day and gave her the general premise.

Even Dr. Dale Archer’s introduction to his book had me hooked, you know, the part we all usually skip.

Archer’s premise is that while there are definitely some people in need of clinical help and medication for mental health, many people simply do not need that sort of intervention. Not only have we destigmatized mental illness, we have completely swung in the opposite direction; we glamorize it.

Archer contends that the people labeled “normal” is getting dangerously low.  “In fact, it’s reached the point where 26 percent of Americans are considered to have one or more diagnosable mental health disorders. The only word for that is ludicrous… If the brains of one quarter of the U.S. population are disordered, then something is very, very wrong with the human mind. Or with our society.” Archer does not believe that’s the case.

Everyone seems to be diagnosing and being diagnosed with some sort of disorder- The child bored in school has ADHD, well organized? OCD, get excited about things? manic, okay with who you are? narcissist, moods shift frequently? bipoloar.  And we all seem to be celebrating and announcing all our illnesses like being ill is the best part of us.

As soon as we label a child, ADHD for example, we are telling that child that they are mentally ill, they are broken, they need excuses.  And the child picks up on that.  Dr. Archer says maybe we should take a step back and try to work with their bent, allow the strong habitual traits to shape them for good.  We need to embrace the traits that make us different from one another and not quickly diagnose those differences as an illness. Medication should be the last resort to our mental health puzzle.

Rather than telling people with strong personality traits that they are mentally ill we need to begin taking those very traits and seeing the positive aspects of the trait. Archer narrows these behavioral traits to eight (positive first followed by diagnostic illness):

1. Adventurous/ ADHD
2. Perfectionist/ OCD
3. Shy/ Social Anxiety Disorder
4. Anxious/ Generalized Anxiety Disorder
5. Dramatic/ Histrionic
6. Self-Focused/ Narcissistic
7. High Energy/ Bipolar
8. Magical/ Schizophrenia

And all of them when diagnosed as an illness eventually lead to the common cold of psychiatry- depression.

A few decades ago ADHD was known as ‘adventurous,’ ‘full of energy;’ now we drug children who display these traits. “I’m thinking about kids who are like Calvin from the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, who seems to spend most of his class time in outer space, in the future, or in the Juarassic era. Or like Mark Twain’s hero Huckleberry Finn, who was forced to study spelling for an hour every day.”  Why would we take overly energetic kids, Archer wonders, and drug them up?  The reason seems to be that we would like all children to be able to sit in a chair at his desk for six hours in a room with thirty other children and carefully, diligently consider his studies.

Archer puts this disorder into a better light and explains that, “these people are passionate, curious, and energetic. They are great multi-taskers and extraordinary explorers. They excel in times of challenge…”  Let these children loose, often, to go explore, run, climb.  Of course that’s a little difficult in a schoolroom of thirty.  What to do?

Concerning OCD he says that the idea that increased perfectionism leads directly to an impaired life is absurd. A relatively small number of people are actually impaired by this trait. This sort of person will probably not be a good story writer because the tendency to get bogged down in both the grammatical details and just exactly what they are trying to say will eventually lead to failure.  More often these are the people who can orchestrate a large museum exhibition or a convention for a large group, organizing all the little details that will make the event a success; they build airplanes and do intricate time consuming jobs.

Dr. Archer takes every one of the eight traits and details the positive habits and gives solid examples for careers based on those strengths.

At the back of the book is a test that you should take and then tuck into the book before you read. Refer to it as you read each of the eight behavioral traits.  I was dangerously close to needing meds on two of the traits but I’m just going to channel all that for good.

Dr. Archer does not dismiss the behavioral disorders that are illnesses and do need treatment. In fact at every turn he restates that if a person is truly mentally, behaviorally ill, that person should seek help, should take his medication. But for the majority of the U.S. we need to enjoy the diversity of personalities and marvel at what certain traits produce for our society.  We need to consider that we are unique first and then with the truly ill, give them the help they need.

In short, this book celebrates our individuality and makes it okay to be a little quirky.

The one thing that I totally skimmed over was the explanation of these traits based on Stone Age evolution; that was far fetched. You know, the whole, “back in Neanderthal times this trait was a real asset because Ono, the adventurous/ADHD,  could be out thumping things on the head while the shy sort stayed in the cave…” That little section was just unnecessary stretching of the imagination. But I didn’t score high on Magical/ Schizophrenia.

You can visit his website and take the eight habit trait questionnaires-  The site also has a link where you can contact Dr. Archer and get questions answered about concerns you may have about mental health issues.



My Wonderful World of Fashion


Of late Anwyn has loved designing and coloring clothes, shoes, hats, bags and everything in between.  Watching a few Project Runways with me has definitely fueled this interest.  This fabulous little book Eric and I picked up in San Francisco at Anthropologie has been perfect.



Knitted Nesting Boxes

Some friends and I started a knitting group this winter and this was our first project. We wanted to start with something quick and easy. Easy it was. Quick it wasn’t. But we still had a lot of fun getting together once a week to chat, chase our kids, snack, and knit an average of 4 stiches. At least I had the dealine of Erin’s due date to motivate me and I proudly shipped these off the other week  to the newest and yet unborn member of the family.

Basically this is what you do:

1) knit 5 squares the size you would like each box to be

2) line squares with plastic mesh by tacking down in a few places (on the large one I doubled up the mesh for more support)

3) sew 4 squares together with yarn and needle so they look like this:

4) Now you are going to line your stip of knitted squares with some adorable fabric (cut it and iron down 1/4″  border to fit the knitted stip) like so:

5) And sew it into place like this:

6) Do this for 4 different sized boxes so they look like this when finished:

And if all this sounds totally off the mark and utterly unhelpful (remember, cut me some slack, this is my first knitting project, that is, if you don’t count the 3 mile scarf I made for my Dad for Christmas when I was 14) anyways, if you need better directions get this super cute book: Itty Bitty Toys. It has so many adorable animals in it, and if anyone makes the little reversible egg to bluebird and nest I want to see it! Send me a picture.

click to close

Restoring a House in the City

If you’re looking for a book on restoring houses, here’s an awesome one for your consideration.  Tim got me this for my birthday on the recommendation of a client who renovates houses in DC and I love it! It’s called Restoring a House in the City and unlike a lot of books I enjoy looking through, it also has a super-interesting and informative text, so I don’t spend all my time on the pictures only.

La Seduction

I am not a Francophile so this book was a surprise.  I thought I’d despise reading about how the French always have been and always will be better than Americans.  How the French do everything just so and just so right.  How Americans are always loud and obnoxious, have no class.  But I enjoyed  La Seduction.

The nuance of culture is fascinating;  the very thing that appeals to one culture can be despicable in another.  Sexual harassment for instance.

Elaine Sciolino explains why ‘sexual harassment’ is not a problem in the French workplace.  French women do not find it offensive to be ogled at, exclaimed over and whistled at. If “the window cleaner whistles, my day will be sunnier.”  In the United State a whistle from a window cleaner would be an invasion of your space, an assault on your being; you’d be insulted.  Yet the French find it flattering. So do Italians, and Latin Americans…

Americans find sloppy dressing practical and easy; the French find it unacceptable and vulgar.  Americans wear flannel pajamas with fuzzy slippers in public.  The French get dressed up for everything, even to take out the trash.  And the French never, ever run to the store in sweatpants and sneakers.  Ever.  It’s because, “On ne sait jamais,”  one never knows…  And those very practical cotton underwear underneath?  Never!

A last layer of clothing the French never do without is perfume.  Of twelve French perfumers who were asked about their favorite all twelve responded with the same perfume.

Elaine Sciolino carefully uncovers the French milieu.  Seduction is key.  And seduction is war.  Its three weapons are: “le regarde” (the look), “the word,” (marivaudage) and “the kiss”(bise).  It is a soft power with the ability to influence others through attraction rather than coercion.

There is something chaste and pure about “the look,” there is no sullying of the body.  Le regarde is done mysteriously and deeply not with a big toothy smile.  And do not wink, only whores wink.  American men do not “look” and that missing “look,” the French say, is why American women get fat, if only American men would really notice the American women.

Marivaudage,” is like banter or wordplay.  And with that marivaudage a soft deep voice is desired.  You marivaudage to get the best cut of meat from the butcher, get off without a speeding ticket, get help carrying a package.

“La bise,” is more than just a kiss.  There is the simple kiss to say ‘hello,’ but there is also a kiss that says, ‘perhaps…’

But that’s not all;  Sciolino takes us on a tour of French wine, French cuisine, and French diplomats and politicians. She even brings up Dominique Strauss-Kahn, head of the International Monetary Fund, asking whether the rumors about his serial womanizing are true. Apparently so.

For me, the French go over the top with their ideas about extramarital affairs.  Strauss-Kahn’s wife was asked in 2006 if “she suffered because of her husband’s reputation as a seducer.”  “No, if anything I am quite proud!  For a political man, it is important to seduce.  As long as I seduce him and he seduces me, that’s good enough.”

Yep, go ahead, call me puritanical, as Sciolino is prone to do.  That is sick.

If you plan to spend time in France or just want to understand different cultures, you will appreciate this in-depth look at the culture of “seducere.”  La Seduction: How the French Play the Game of Life