November Reads & Listens

In November I reached my 2022 Goodreads goal of 58 books for the year and actually finished the month at 70 books. Of the seven books completed this month, I read five and listened to two. I was struck by a few things in my reading this month, hit with some themes that I did not expect, some were pleasant surprises others were not. Grief was definitely a reoccurring theme, I seem not to be able to escape.

My Literati Club is why I read Signal Fires and There, There. I circled back to There, There because November is Indigenous People’s month and when it was first suggested by one of my Literati Clubs, I had a hard time getting into it and shelved it for a while. Indigenous People’s month is also why I listened to the Wisdom of the Native Americans. I choose Lucy By The Sea and Mad Honey since they were both nominated for Goodreads awards and had high ratings. As for There’s a Word for That and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Clear, I don’t recall exactly how they ended up on my TBR List, I believe they were mentioned in articles in either the Wall Street Journal or The New Yorker. Either way, they were welcome additions to this month’s reading.

Signal Fires by Dani Shapiro

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars


I haven’t read any of Dani Shapiro’s previous books, but after reading this one, I plan on it since I like her writing style. Shapiro quotes Carl Jung’s thought of “secrets as a psychic poison,” taking it further and using it as the foundation of her novel Signal Fires. Shapiro’s thought-provoking book is about two families, seemingly very different, yet tied together by more than just the neighborhood. A universal thread binds them, binds everyone. There is much to absorb and learn from the beautifully written characters, particularly Waldo and Dr. Wilf. This story deeply moved me; it is a perfect weekend read! 4.5 Stars

There There by Tommy Orange

My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars


There, There by Tommy Orange is a glimpse into the challenges and struggles urban natives face in the modern world. He gives voice to the struggles through the twelve main characters. They range from a fourteen-year-old boy eager to learn about his Cheyanne hereditary, a young man raised by his white mother who never met his Native father, a Lakota Vietnam veteran, a drug dealer and his crew, and two half-sisters of Cheyanne descent – to name a few. I never became attached to any characters – too many to develop fully. I had to occasionally flip back to the cast of characters to remember who they were and their connection to each other. The story’s timeline skips around, making it challenging to stay connected to each person’s individual story.
I struggled with getting into the flow of this book, initially trying to read it six months earlier before shelving it. All the rave reviews and high praise made me think I was just in the wrong mindset about something, and I wanted that to be the case. Since November is Indigenous Peoples month in America, the book came up again in my recommendations, so I gave it another chance. I finished it, saddened by its picture of the Native community and its prospects. I wished that I had loved it, though; however, the story fell short for me. I should have been in tears upon finishing the book and would have been had I cared more for the characters.
I found it to be educational, which is why I recommend it. Orange’s powerful prologue details America’s history of brutal treatment and genocide of its Indigenous peoples. That section alone with worth reading. 2.5 Stars


There’s a Word for That by Sloane Tanen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


There’s A Word For That by Sloane Tanen has all the drama of a Thanksgiving weekend with your family and in-laws without the turkey but with a pinch of celebrity mixed with sibling rivalries, ex-wives, want-to-be-wives, and girlfriends. I was captivated by this 373-page novel devouring it over a weekend. I loved how Tanen cleverly used the definitions of German words to frame her chapters. Schnapsidee is one of my new favorite words, having been personally guilty of it a few times. There are some serious themes tackled in this story about adult children of addiction and their aging parents, families affected by suicide, and children affected by inheritance – but Tanen’s use of humor helps to highlight some of the absurdities that families sometimes deal with when the shit hits the fan. 4 Stars


The Wisdom of the Native Americans by Kent Nerburn

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I did not review this book, other than to assign it a rating on Goodreads. This was an interesting compilation that I found to be a nice change of pace in my listening library.


Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Everyone experiences grief at the same point in their life. Some sooner than others. Some may lose their loved ones in a significant international incident, accident, illness, or old age. Death is death – it’s final and hard for the ones left behind to process. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close captures the rawness and intensity that people feel when people grieve.

Jonathan Safrin Foer‘s unique coming-of-age story is about nine-year-old Oskar Schell and his quest for closure following his father’s death on 9/11. The story is told through the narration of three characters, Oskar, his grandmother, and his grandfather, and includes photographic images and unconventional typesetting. It’s a hauntingly sad story about people’s need to grieve and the yearning for closure. The problem is that closure isn’t something we can attain if we look for it in the wrong places. Foer’s use of Oskar’s hunt metaphorically points that out. Some images could be triggering initially; their inclusion put me off. By the end, it was clear their importance in telling this story.

Foer’s novel differs from most in that its inclusion of visuals helps tell the story, not simply illustrate the action. It’s not a graphic novel but is not a traditional novel about a family drama, either. I recommend this touching family story for readers who are up for the heartbreak. 4 Stars

Lucy by the Sea by Elizabeth Strout

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I am uncomfortable writing reviews about books I don’t like. Especially when my opinion is going against the grain. However, sometimes it’s necessary, and even though it may not be the popular opinion, others may be interested in reading a contrarian view. So here it goes. I read Lucy By The Sea, Elizabeth Strout’s latest book because it was nominated for the 2022 Goodreads Choice Award, and I was looking for a fall family drama to get me in the Thanksgiving mood. I am shocked this book is nominated for any award. Strout has a grasp on writing about loneliness, isolation, fearfulness, and uncertainty surrounding the pandemic; however, anyone with a pulse these last couple of years could write about that. Strout is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author – I expected more than the dull recap of what we all collectively lived through and still contending with at this point. Nothing that any of us want to repeat, even in literary fiction right now.
I don’t think it mattered that I read the fourth book in the Amgash series without reading the previous ones since I find Lucy Barton, the story’s narrator, to be an annoying, wishy-washy, whiny woman, and her daughters even worse. So I couldn’t imagine reading more about them in other books would be any better. I couldn’t wait for this book to end. I was tremendously underwhelmed and didn’t agree with all the rave reviews this book is garnishing. I think I am not a fan of Elizabeth Strout’s work.

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Meditations was not a book that Marcus Aurelius, the Roman Emporer AD 161-180, ever meant to publish. Meditations is a compilation of his notes about how to live a good life. It is a collection of his observations and beliefs about life, human nature, and philosophy. He writes about what he has learned from his teachers and his conclusions about Stoicism.
I was struck by so many things, particularly how little we have paid attention to history and learned from it. And the more things change, the more they stay the same. I recommend reading this book, but don’t expect to be learning meditations that you can repeat while you sit down on the cushion.


Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


Mad Honey, co-authored by Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan, is the second of Picoult’s books I’ve read and the first of Boylan’s. And I’m not sure if I will end up reading anymore. Sprinkled throughout this predictable plot and courtroom drama are some interesting facts about bees and beekeeping. Still, I’m a gardener and naturalist, and not everyone would find the factoids interesting and, therefore, not pay close attention and miss the analogies being made. The two-person narrative written primarily by each author – Olivia/Picoult and Lily/Boylon worked well enough to reveal the story. There are a multitude of controversial themes – so many of them that it stops being entertaining. I felt bombarded and ambushed by the pushy controversial narratives. I read books for several reasons, to escape into a good story and be entertained. When I read to be educated, I seek out particular sources to learn more about the topic I decided to learn more about. The problem with Mad Honey is that it is a fictional story that seeks to educate readers and normalize certain things that are very hot issues of our day.
I don’t wish to spoil the book for someone else; however, it could be very triggering for some people with themes including abuse and suicide. I read it knowing absolutely nothing about it other than it had been nominated for a 2022 Goodreads Award and had high ratings. It may be loved by many, but for me, it was the second Picoult book I’ve read, and I think I may not be a fan.

Coming up next month

Currently, I am reading Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Camus, another book which has been nominated for multiple Goodreads Awards this year, one for debut novel the other in Historical Fiction. I’m only 34% the way through but I am enjoying it very much so far. On my kindle, I am reading Finding The Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest by Suzanne Simard. I’m only 16% in and it’s fascinating! I can’t wait to head out to the woods with my new found knowledge. I hovel started my next book to listen to yet. I wish Audible had a magic spinning wheel with your library books and would help you randomly select something. I really enjoy Kate Quinn and The Diamond Eye is another book that is up for a nomination in the 2022 Goodreads Awards, so I may choose that one.

Lastly, I am running a Goodreads Giveaway for my book, Xine’s Pack of Strays & Others – A Memoir. The deadline to sign up for a chance is December 14th. If you are interested in winning a chance to receive a free copy follow this link to my Goodreads Giveaway.

View all my reviews

Check out my Goodreads Giveaway

To celebrate my recent birthday, I decided to giveaway ten (10) copies of my new book Xine’s Pack of Strays & Others – A Memoir on Goodreads!

Xine’s Pack of Strays & Others is about how much I have learned about being human from dogs. They have taught me how to live, love and laugh.

Click on the link to enter the Goodreads Giveaway – bit.ly/3AQZSeG

In the Blink of an Eye

[Note to the reader: This is a post that I update from time to time. The original post was started in 2013]

In the blink of an eye…it’s November 2022…We just celebrated 7 years living here on the mountain. So much has gone on in these last four years. I sold the house in Connecticut when Covid turned the housing market around two year ago. The last few years have been unsettling for more reasons than just having to quarantine. We all have caught Covid despite being immunized and careful. Everyone’s lives have changed one way or another. Our lives have been turned upside down these last couple of years, beginning with my mom’s death twenty-one months ago. Then there was my DBXH’s fatal heart attack four months ago. I wouldn’t care so much but he was the father of my children. Both children have relocated to new cities and states working at jobs they enjoy. It’s been a rough year for them, so it fills my heart with joy that they are happy in their new environments and beginning to make their ways in the world. In this brave new world, Mark and I have been caring for chickens, we have three beautiful Rhode Island Red Hens. Plenty of fresh eggs daily. Until there weren’t. But production has resumed it seems for the time being. In May, we celebrated 11 years together. These last few years , we have given up some old habits and started a few new ones. We have been been living more mindfully and mediate every morning together for 20 -30 minutes. And with all this stuff going on, I managed to write and publish a book, Xine’s Pack of Strays & Others – A Memoir. It’s been a busy bunch of years.

Cover Artwork that I did for my memoir.
All the shadows used are silhouettes of my dogs in the book.

In the blink of a eye…it’s 2019…We have been living in New Hampshire on the side of a mountain 1500 feet up with a spectacular view for a little over three years.  A simpler life, yet we work all the time, trying to build our two businesses. Our puppy Marley is now 5 years old and all our beautiful Brittanys have passed away – God bless their souls. They all lived long and wonderful lives, Winston and Artemis being able to come and enjoy our new home in the mountains. Now our two mini-goldendoodle brothers, Boomer and Gunner are going to be turning 2 in May! Where did the time go?!  


Left to right:
Gunner, Boomer, Kona and Marley


Yesterday I hugged my 25 year old son and his 3 year old goldendoodle before they left to head down to the Connecticut house. He has been living there for the last 15 months after leaving college in Vermont. It wasn’t working out for him – he is still struggling to get on the right track.

Baby Blue on his way to his new home


In the blink of an eye…it’s 2018…yesterday I watched my daughter receive her college diploma and make the Dean’s list. It seems like yesterday I dropped her off for her first day of school and drove her to endless hours of tutoring.  Now she’s living with her one-year old puppy in Portland, Maine and trying to find that first foothold in her graphic design career.

There is no waving the Mommy magic wand and making things all better for them – they are in the big, bad, world now and I can’t protect the from everything like I once was able to. I tried my hardest to give them the skills to fly on their own – I pray I did enough. I probably did too much – coddling to make up for the divorce. I hope I didn’t do too much. That would be a disservice to them ultimately. It’s a fine line we have to walk as parents.


Baby Kona



In the blink of an eye…it’s 2016…yesterday I hugged my son and his new puppy goodbye after setting the up their new apartment in Burlington. I pray he is able to move forward from the tragedy and get his life back on track in this new environment. 

In the blink of an eye …it ‘s 2015…I hugged my son’s 21 year old girlfriend good-bye after seeing Dead & Company with them on Halloween night. She wasn’t feeling well and was coming down with an ear infection. A perfect storm of a bacterial and viral infection in her inner ear would cause sepsis.  In a blink of an eye – 11 days later – she was dead. 

In the blink of an eye…it was 2013….Yesterday was my son’s 20th birthday. It amazes me how certain things seem like they were yesterday but at the same time it was a lifetime ago.  Twenty years ago I lived in Rochester Hills, Michigan; I was married and a brand new parent to baby boy. I had a Shetland sheepdog and I was approaching 30.  Today, I live in Connecticut, I am divorced almost for 10 years, have two grown adults for children. I have four dogs, all Brittanys and I am approaching 50. I also live my boyfriend of three years. Yet it seems like yesterday I was in Michigan having my first born. 

“A little consideration, a little thought for others, makes all the difference.” Winnie the Pooh Peace – Xine S.

October Reads & Listens

What a month October turned out to be! Thanks to my book club suggestions, I listened to some great books and read some absolutely fantastic ones. I even started reading on my Kindle once again, which Mark is thankful for since we can turn the light off at bedtime earlier. I started the month off with a thriller – I love reading thrillers and suspense in October, which is why six of the nine books this month are either mystery or thriller/suspense. I also enjoy reading short stories for so many reasons; they can be a great change of pace when reading a lot of novels and a great way to discover authors with whom you aren’t familiar with their works. I was excited to read The Golden Couple since I enjoyed Hendricks & Pekkanen’s thriller, The Wife Between Us. This month included selections from my favorites like Edgar Allan Poe, Ray Bradbury, and Neil Gaiman. How can I not read these guys this month?!

What made this month particularly enjoyable was being introduced to the works of two wonderful Nigerian authors, Oyinkan Braithwaite and Omolola Ijeoma Ogunyemi. Mid-month, I took a detour to Greece for a nice break from the thrillers with a lovely book about friendship. I couldn’t resist turning back to the mysteries as the month rolled on and decided to check out the much-talked-about Daisy Darker. Finally, I broke out my Kindle earlier this month and dove into a book by Rob Walker, a Literati club suggestion from a while back suggested in Austen Kleon’s Read Like An Artist Club.

It was a great month of reading, as most of my picks were real winners, with only one book being disappointing. Considering that I was also trying to focus on promoting my book Xine’s Pack of Strays & Others – A Memoir was released at the beginning of the month, I was astonished at how much I read and reviewed. The more I read, the better I write, and I was happy to hear Lee Child reiterate such a sentiment in the BBC MaestroClass I am taking of his. I hope reading these reviews helps others find a new book of interest, perhaps one they would never have thought to pick up if they hadn’t seen a reader’s recommendation.

The Golden Couple by Greer Hendricks

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

How well do we know the people we love? This is one of the compelling themes running throughout The Golden Couple. I read this book because I enjoyed Greer Hendrick’s and Sarah Pekkanen’s The Wife Between Us so much. Unfortunately, The Golden Couple lacked the suspense I expected in a psychological thriller. The story is told from a multi-point of view by Avery, an unconventional therapist who uses tactics more akin to a private detective, and Marisa, the unfaithful wife, and client. I found the characters shallow and somewhat annoying. The book is riddled with simple storylines and characters with the intent to confuse; however, I was able to reach my conclusion mid-way through, hoping that there would be a twist ahead I didn’t see coming. But that didn’t happen, and what did happen I found predictable. For me, The Golden Couple was all glitz and little substance.
Narration by Karissa Vacker and Marin Ireland
11 hours 3 minutes

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sisters have a bond like no other. Oyinkan Braithwaite’s My Sister, The Serial Killer is a dark and twisted tale of sisters, Korede, a nurse, and her younger and more attractive, charismatic sister, Ayoola. Their bond is so strong that they rely on each for everything and will do anything for the other. From the beginning, I was riveted by this story, filled with suspense and humor. This powerful novella packs a punch and is a testimony of Braithwaite’s storytelling to deliver such poignant prose in so few pages. Bravo, and thanks for all the cleaning tips! The audiobook I listened to has excellent narration by Adepero Oduye, who brought the characters to life. 4 hours 15 minutes



Jollof Rice and Other Revolutions: A Novel in Interlocking Stories by Omolola Ijeoma Ogunyemi

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Jollof Rice and Other Revolutions was my November Literati selection, a pick by Roxanne Gay’s Audacious Book Club. A great choice, too. The debut novel by Omolola Ijeoma Ogunyemi follows the lives of four childhood friends: Nonso, Remi, Aisha, and Solape. It’s a powerful and moving story with a unique structure; each chapter is a short story that drives the narrative from 1897 to 2050. Nigeria, Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Poland, and the United States provide different settings for the stories as the girls’ lives lead them in different directions. Ogunyemi’s use of language and her descriptions of food, clothing, and traditions weave into an intricate and illustrative tapestry that leaves you with a lasting impression. I will miss spending time with these complex women. Bravo!

The Illegal Gardener by Sara Alexi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Listening to The Illegal Gardener by Sara Alexi was like a quick trip to Greece. I loved listening to how the village celebrated Easter; as a Greek Orthodox American, it brings up fond memories of my family’s celebrations. I just wished that Sara Alexi had included more of the native language. Suzanne Heathcote does an excellent job with the various accents and male and female voices. The story has a certain lightness, despite including childhood trauma, grief, prejudice, immigration, and racism themes. However, it’s also a story about perseverance and independence. A great beach read or listen about two people better off having met one another.
I am looking forward to reading more of the series.


The Graveyard Book: Full-Cast Production by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

October is a time to embrace all things macabre and spooky, so I queued up Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, excited to hear a good ghost story. What I got was so much more. Gaiman is a master storyteller spinning a yarn taking his audience on a captivating journey of unseen twists and turns with sinister undercurrents. At its core, a heart-warming tale about family, albeit unconventional, and about a boy who learns life lessons from the most unlikely sources. A touching narrative about death, living life, and letting go—a delightful story for readers and listeners of all ages, with plenty of layers to devour. I listened to the Full-Cast Production, which added some music between chapters, which I don’t usually like, but I felt it was appropriate in this production. Listening time: 8 hours 24 minutes


The Tell-Tale Heart and Other Stories by Edgar Allan Poe

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


October and Edgar Allan Poe go together better than anything pumpkin spiced could add to your fall. This collection is quick and packed full of horrors – a great way to spend a little over an hour.
The narrator, Earl Hammond, is excellent. However, I would detract half a star, for the audio quality faltered in the last story.


Daisy Darker by Alice Feeney

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

I was immediately intrigued upon opening Alice Feeney’s Daisy Darker. A map sets the stage and brings to mind the game of Clue. Next, there is a tantalizing note from the Author’s Agent, which is just the first step down into this mysterious rabbit hole, and chapter one hasn’t begun. Fans of Agatha Christie will enjoy this book, as it is very much an homage to her book And Then There Were None. This is the first book I have read of Alice Feeney’s, and I look forward to reading more. Daisy Darker is a clever and sinister story that will keep the reader guessing. 4.5 stars

The Art of Noticing: 131 Ways to Spark Creativity, Find Inspiration, and Discover Joy in the Everyday by Rob Walker

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I enjoyed reading Rob Walker’s The Art of Noticing. It’s a great source to help people become more in tune with the everyday things around us. I have spent the last few years actively trying to live a more mindful life and was happy to discover that I was already doing some of the recommended exercises and now have some new things to try. It’s a quick read and has some valuable suggestions on becoming more mindful and creative. 3.5 stars

The October Country by Ray Bradbury

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of my goals is to read or listen to everything Ray Bradbury has written, so I decided what better time than to listen to The October Country to celebrate the season. Although, this collection isn’t warm and fuzzy fall fodder to curl up in front of the fireplace with a hot cider. Bradbury wrote most of these short stories in the 1940s & 50s, post-war era, which were initially published in magazines and periodicals as diverse as Weird Tales, Beyond Fantasy,, and Mademoiselle and Harper’s . However, this dark and haunting collection of short stories is timeless, as are the themes of self-doubt, loneliness, and death Bradbury explores in these disturbing tales. A few stories stood out to me, including ‘The Next In Line,’ which was somewhat gruesome and terrifying. ‘The Small Assassin’ was particularly disturbing considering the subject matter. ‘The Emissary’ was a great one for Halloween! ‘The Wind’ and ‘The Homecoming’ struck me as sad stories.

David Aaron Baker does an excellent job with the narration. I listened to this collection over a few days, and one criticism is that the tone of the narration is too similar from one story to the other. 4.5 Stars


As I said, it was quite a month of reading! I completed my Goodreads Challenge goal of 58 books for the year this month. All of these selections brought my count up to 62 books read this year! Currently, I am reading Signal Fires by Dani Shapiro as part of my Literati November selection and Meditations by Marcus Aurelius on my Kindle. I have been debating about my next audiobook selection, perhaps attacking one of the really long titles, some as long as 52 hours. But I haven’t decided, length sometimes intimidates me, the same way the thickness of a book made me shy away from attempting such a feat. I’ll let you know what I decided on next month. Happy reading.


View all my reviews


Unforgettable: the Over 50 Revolution

Once I had an assignment in college to pitch and design a new magazine. I remember calling my mother and talking to her about the assignment. It had to be original and something that filled a niche. My mother said that she wished there were magazines that were targeted towards her, women in their fifties that were like Vogue or Harper’s Bazaar. She wanted beauty magazines that would have articles that talked to her demographic about aging skin, advertise products for aging women, talked about aging women’s health issues but in a high fashion stylish way, not in a frumpy, Good Housekeeping way. She recognized that women over a certain age were completely ignored by beauty/health and fashion corporations and the media. Not sexy enough. Once you hit a certain age, you are no longer relevant. Very little has changed since we had that conversation forty years ago.

Earlier this year, I met Maundy Mitchell, a local photographer in Plymouth, NH. I needed some professional headshots for my book. The only professional photos I ever had were my wedding photos when I was 28. That was thirty years ago! I am more comfortable behind the camera, so I was really nervous to have my headshots taken by anyone. While at Maundy’s studio, I noticed a collection of beautiful portraits of older women. She told me about the campaigns photographers all over the world are working on, which highlight and celebrate women over 50. 

Maundy Mitchell’s campaign is called Unforgettable: the Over 50 Revolution. She is taking beautiful, empowering portraits of women in their 50s, 60s, 70s, and up. Portraits that celebrate their individuality, their lives, and stories. Maundy states on her website, “I want to cultivate the freedom and confidence that result from appreciating—and loving–our own maturity. ” The more she told me about the campaign and looking at the beautiful portraits, the her enthusiasm was infectious, and I decided to sign up.

Maundy has her clients start a Pinterest board with portraits that we like that we could share with her. The mood board is a big part of her design process. The morning of the shoot, Maundy has local makeup artist/hair stylist, Donna Cotnoir come in to get the client photo ready. At my first photo shoot a few months earlier, many people critiqued my shots, telling me my hair was too coiffed. And I don’t wear makeup. They were right, of course. The headshots were nice, but they didn’t look like me. I told my friends that’s what ‘author’ Xine looks like – she wears glasses, although her hair is usually in a ponytail, not coiffed, and absolutely no makeup. I told Maundy and Donna some of the reactions to my headshots, so it was important that at this shoot, I looked like me. They understood and went right to work. We had a great time at the photo shoot, and we got a bunch of great shots.

My life barely resembles the life I led when I began my fifties, eight years ago. I’ve grown in many ways and experienced many things which helped me become more confident This allowed me to be more self-assured when it came to some big life-changing decisions. There wasn’t the same fear there as when I was younger. There is still fear, but I have learned that I have to step out of my comfort zone to grow. In the last eight years, (and in no particular order): I’ve added to my fur family three times and became a chicken mama. I moved away from my home of over 25 years to a new state where I had no friends or family. I made career changes. I adapted a new daily routine of meditation. I read books more and watch TV less. I limit my time on social media. I spent more time outside in nature. I wrote my first book, which was just released this month! The only thing I haven’t done yet is go into menopause. I discovered that everyone just assumes you have since you are in your fifties, after all. And they look shocked when you correct them. There is a confidence that comes with age.

A long time ago, when he was in his fifties, my uncle and godfather told me to always keep learning and don’t be afraid to try new things. He was learning how to play the piano at the time, he had never played a musical instrument. He used to love to write and review books and movies which he would share with his friends and family — even including them in his commentaries on the economy to his clients, somehow tying which ever book or movie in with his economic outlook. For some reason I remember that conversation we had and thankfully his advice stuck with me. They were sage words of wisdom and I have had some incredible experiences stepping out of my comfort zone and trying new things. I learned how to draw and started to learn Italian. When the kids’ left for college and I found that I was in an empty nest, took myself off to the local art school and I learned how to weld. I loved welding and sculpted a number of pieces of furniture, a few garden obelisks. But my most favorite project was working on the owl I fabricated. I spend hours over the course of a few years hanging out and working on projects at the metal shop. I met some talented and inspiring people there.

“You never change your life until you step out of your comfort zone; change begins at the end of your comfort zone.” 

Roy T. Bennett

A few days before the photo shoot, Maundy had me come over to the studio with the clothing I had decided to wear for the shoot. I had been delaying making any decisions about what to bring, but now I was going to have to make some decisions. All the photos I had seen at her studio were mostly of beautiful women in gowns or dresses. The last few times I have worn a nice dress, it was at two funerals, and my lifestyle on the mountain is not inductive to wearing a dress. I hadn’t been feeling well, and I almost canceled until Mark offered to drive me over. Truth be told, I was having a hard time seeing myself doing this – this was way out of my comfort zone. The whole day before heading over there, as I was gathering my things together, I kept thinking to myself, what was I thinking?

What was I thinking? I was thinking that I wanted to have some nice photos of myself for my children to have that showed my personality and the lady I have grown into at the age of 57 years and 11 months old. Phew! Glad that’s over.

The Importance of Journaling

I’ve had so much pressure put on me these days I think if I write them down I’ll feel better.

The first line from Book One: Christine’s Diary 2/20/80-6/20/80
February 20, 1980 – I’m 15 years old at the time

I am a huge advocate for journaling. I find it to be a great way of downloading and organizing my thoughts —a way to work out all the crazy details of what life throws at me. It gives me to have the space and time to sort out things. I have been journaling on and off for the last forty years. My mother hated that I kept a journal when I was a teenager. She read it, invading my privacy, betraying my trust. She felt it was for my own good. She wanted me to destroy my diary but it meant too much to me, I was 16 years old and gave it to my boyfriend at the time for safe keeping. It was ‘our diary’. He kept it for twenty years or more and returned it to me, still in the same manila envelope I had sealed it up in two decades earlier. He never opened it. Reading it today is hysterical and I am so glad I have those memories preserved, I had forgotten so much.

Book One is on top of the Red Diary Book IV, the diary which got me into so much trouble. I must have been watching a lot of M*A*S*H in 1981. My current journal is peeking out to the right with the flower design.

I journaled very little in my twenties. Gun-shy that my privacy, my trust would be betrayed again by those around me. I tried to start again when I had children in my late 20s, early 30s – I wanted to have at least a record of some of the milestones they were experiencing—a sentence here, a paragraph there is all I could muster. I was blocked. Mom’s voice echoing in my head telling me that it was dangerous to write things down. Someone could read it.

During a particularly difficult time in my life, little by little, I turned to journaling to quiet my mind. I began writing more in my notebooks. I had finally unlocked a part of me that had been closed off. The dam that was keeping me from being able to express myself on paper was beginning to weaken. Thankfully it burst. That was close to 18 years ago and for over a decade, I have kept the same routine every morning.

Notebook, pen and coffee – the trinity of my morning

I am an early bird who enjoys waking up when it’s dark, no matter what time of year. I head straight to the kitchen and brew myself a cup of coffee when the time is four something a.m. The dogs get a morning snack while we wait for my water to boil. For the last 10 months, I have been using an AeroPress to make my coffee. I used to use a Keurig, but we discovered too many times the minerals that built up in the reservoir, and sometimes something green looked to be floating around if we forgot about rinsing out the reservoir…So now I boil water in a small teapot with a thermometer so I can achieve the perfect temperature for coffee. I love coffee and don’t ever want to live without it, but that’s another blog article waiting to be written. After the coffee is made and the dogs have had a treat or two, we head into my den, my sanctuary.

I sit at the desk that was once my Nana’s, it’s an old secretary that would close if I ever cleared enough of my clutter away. Nana would be shaking her head at my constant mess and the look of her old desk. Usually very little of the dark brown wood is exposed on the writing surface, my journal sits upon a few notebooks, catalogs, mail and my calendar book. The few times I have cleared my desk, the clutter appears within hours much like magnets are attracted to ferrous medal. It’s organized chaos, I know pretty much where everything is when I need to retrieve things from the pile. The idea of keeping the desk clear enough to be able to shut it up when I am not using it seems absurd to be since I am always using my desk.

Journaling Helps Mindfulness

Journaling, for me, has become a form of meditation. It’s one of a couple of ways I meditate besides my time on the cushion. This may seem contrary to what most people see meditation being. Many believe to meditate they must have a clear mind. Many don’t attempt mediation because they think they will never be able to stop the rolling thunder of thoughts they constantly have. I am able to help quiet my mind by writing my thoughts about what’s on my mind first thing in the morning, so I don’t drag that load of thoughts with me throughout the day. There is no turning off of our brains, but you can learn how to control the volume.

I am trying to be more present as I go through life in these very distracting times and I find that journaling helps me to be more mindful. There is something about putting my thoughts down and seeing them visually that I find helpful. I am always encouraging my children to journal, even if it’s an artistic journal of daily drawing or a combination of words and drawings. Sometimes drawing when you can’t find the words will help.

My children are all adults now and came to visit us recently; everybody had their heads in their phones. I miss the days when you left the house, and your phone didn’t come with you. It didn’t used to be like this when I was raising them, the technology became more invasive since they moved away from home over 5 years now. You could focus on what was around you and not be so concerned with the distractions that our phones present today. Again that’s for another blog post.

There was a time when I was trying to get back to writing in a journal but was afraid to write down my thoughts. My mother’s voice in my head, saying that someone would read them and use my words against me. I tried to type a journal and use passwords to lock the entries. But now I have no idea what the password is all these years later, which is just as well. Some thoughts may be better off forgotten.

I never liked typing my journal out. It seems so impersonal. I prefer to handwrite things out. The first draft of my memoir is handwritten in three notebooks. I love the feel of pen to paper. The sound it makes as I carve each letter out into my notebook. Sometimes in the silence of the morning that is all I can hear, a sound which I find soothes me. I have a specific pen I like to use too, the Pilot G-2 .07 in black ink. The ink flows smoothly and never pools. I have had that issue with other pens. This pen feels nice and comfortable in my hand which is important since I can write for hours. When I was writing my book I would write for three or four hours at a time without a break; however morning journaling is usually an hour, sometimes two. I also have a certain style of journal I prefer to use over others: Pen+Gear. It is the perfect size and has a decent number of pages per book. It takes me anywhere from three to four months to fill one of these journals. I also love to decorate my journals the way I would have in high school or college. I don’t know what I will do with all my journals one day. They were helpful to me while I wrote Xine’s Pack of Strays & Others , helpful reminders of certain details here and there. Perhaps I will have a bonfire in our wood furnace, so as not to burden my children with their mother’s leftovers one day. 

A collection of my journals. The one in front I just started a couple of days ago.

“In the diary you find proof that in situations which today would seem unbearable, you lived, looked around and wrote down observations, that this right hand moved then as it does today, when we may be wiser because we are able to look back upon our former condition, and for that very reason have got to admit the courage of our earlier striving in which we persisted even in sheer ignorance.”

Franz Kafka

Getting Started

If you want to start a new routine of journaling. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Write as much or as little as you feel comfortable with. I would recommend trying to set as side at least two minutes of your day to start. You would be amazed at what a busy mind can write down in two minutes. And if you can’t think of anything, write down what the weather is like outside. Every one of my journal entries begin with the day, date and time that I started writing. I usually also note the time that I end but not always. I also write down the weather outside. I have a weather station that sits atop my desk so I record the temperature and wind speed if there is any. We can gale force winds on the mountain. All these little details get my pen flowing and my mind starts to spill out onto the page.

When journaling don’t worry about how say things or sound. What is important is getting the thoughts – however raw on to the paper. We carry so much with us on a daily basis, It’s a challenge to be in the present in the moment with distractions so in our face, an overload of information being thrown at us and worries about the future playing on a repeated loop in our minds. Taking a few minutes for ourselves is more important than ever. Sometimes you need to be able to vent and not have anyone judging you. Sometimes just writing down what’s bother ing you can help.

Ceremonial Burn

Burning your thoughts can be extremely cathartic. When my mother was really upset she would sometimes write her thoughts but then she would burn them. Her old boss at the Stork Club, Sherman Billingsley always advised her to never write anything down and if she did to burn the pages and the pad she wrote in. I haven’t burned anything in years however, I have a letter that I plan on writing that I don’t expect to be very nice. I will burn that letter in a cathartic ceremony to free myself of thoughts that no longer serve me. The recipient is dead so it’s really the only way to “deliver it”. I don’t wish to carry these things in to the future with me. Writing things out certainly helps in being able to not only work through things but to also help in letting go as well.

My book has been released!

I am so excited about this! I have been working on this project for a long while now and to see it finally come to fruition is thrilling and a proud moment for me.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

New book “Xine’s Pack of Strays & Others: A Memoir” by Xine Segalas is released, a touching, often humorous collection of stories, lessons, and adventures of a lifetime spent with dogs.

“Xine’s Pack of Strays & Others: A Memoir” by Xine Segalas has been released worldwide. This 286-page memoir focuses on the author’s lifelong adoration for dogs, from adopting her first puppy as a child to an adult life raising a family around loveable canines. Throughout her life, the presence of these loyal, goofy, and wonderful pets have provided comfort, essential life lessons, and a sense of companionship that dog lovers around the world can relate to. 

These stories, drawn from years of daily journaling, show how dogs are with us through thick and thin, often teaching us valuable lessons of compassion, patience, and unconditional love. Chronicling her family’s dogs over the years, these poignant reflections are often funny, but also delve into the inevitable heartbreak of losing a beloved animal, navigating grief, and the true value of opening your heart. 

A perfect read for animal lovers of all kinds, Segalas deftly describes the personalities of her dogs, their quirks, their role in family dynamics, and the ways that four-legged friends improve the lives of all the people they encounter. The underlying message of fearless love is inspiring, and a reminder of how relationships with pets can change how we see the world. 

Xine’s Pack of Strays & Others: A Memoir (ISBN: 9781958729861) can be purchased through retailers worldwide, including Barnes and Noble and Amazon. The paperback retails for $18.99, and the ebook retails for $4.99. Wholesale orders are available through Ingramew book.

From the back cover:

Life isn’t easy, but there are two essential things that Xine Segalas uses to help her navigate daily. First, writing every morning in a journal to download her thoughts. A habit she started as a teenager and continues to practice to this day. Second, but always first in priority, are her dogs, her pack, “#xinespack.” The dogs that help her get through the daily crap, even when they are adding to it. 

Everyone knows one of those dogs. If you don’t have one of them yourself, your friend or neighbor does, or you see them on the street. They are Shetland Sheepdogs, Brittanys, Goldendoodles, Australian Shepherds, and mixed breeds. They’re the dogs that make you laugh and make you cry, sometimes simultaneously. The ones you rescued only to realize they saved you. They are the dogs that left us too soon and the ones that needed our help to make the tough decisions. Their imprints are all over our hearts, and the lessons they teach are immeasurable. Xine’s Pack of Strays and Others is a collection of those stories – the adventures, the misadventures, and everything in between – and the lessons Xine and her family have learned about life from their furry and feathery friends. 

About the author:

Xine Segalas was born and raised in New York City. She graduated from Boston University’s College of Communications and enjoyed a career in communications and financial industries before starting a couple of companies in the home gardening industry. Currently, she lives in Bridgewater, New Hampshire, with three dogs, three chickens, and her fiancé, Mark. In addition to writing daily, Xine is a digital artist, photographer, and gardener. 

About NH book publisher Seacoast Press: 

NH book publisher Seacoast Press provides authors with traditional-quality bookpublishing services while allowing authors to retain publishing rights and 100% royalties.Seacoast Press’ wide variety of publishing services includes book design; editorial; printing; distribution; publicity; and marketing. Seacoast Press books are available through retailers and booksellers worldwide. All Seacoast Press books can be purchased wholesale through Ingram.

To learn more about Seacoast Press, the premier book publisher in NH,

visit http://www.seacoastpress.com/.