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?!
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.
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.
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.
Wordless Wednesday 10-26-22
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.
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.
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.
“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
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.
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,
September Reads & Listens
I am amazed how quickly summer came and went and yet still parts crawled by. As I am still dealing with things which started earlier this summer, I can’t help but think that all the reading and listening I have been doing has helped time to march along. Certainly my book club selections have opened whole new worlds to me for which I am grateful to escape into as do my audiobook selections. September was a month filled with some wonderful selections, all very different from the next!
The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The influences of H.G. Wells, Agatha Christie, and the writers of Groundhog Day, Harold Ramis and Danny Rubin, can be seen throughout Stuart Turton’s debut novel, The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. The English countryside setting is straight out of a Hercule Poirot mystery. Blackheath is the remote country estate of the wealthy Hardcastle family, who are throwing a party for their daughter, Evelyn, on the anniversary of their son’s murder. Family can be so twisted. The guests that have all been summoned were also present all those years ago, the night of the murder, except one. One guest, the narrator/protagonist, decided to come to Blackheath because he wanted to be there. This complex novel is further complicated by deliberately confusing the protagonist from the beginning.
Are people whom they appear to be? A question for the ages, and it’s presented rather cleverly. There is a large cast of characters to keep straight as we figure out the mystery. This gets tricky since we learn about many of them as the protagonist jumps from body to body, day by day. Each time he jumps, he has no recollection of who he is and what he learned about the murder when he was in the other bodies. So, there is a lot to keep straight.
Can people change given a chance to relive their mistakes? Would they repeat them, ever learn from them? Like the classic 1983 comedy Groundhog Day, Turton has turned this question into a darker story at Blackheath. An essential element of the story which some might find triggering is suicide.
Overall, I liked the book; but being so confused for so long throughout made following along challenging. The audiobook is 17 hours and 4 minutes long and narrated by James Cameron Stewart.
Seeing Ghosts: A Memoir by Kat Chow
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I wasn’t sure what to expect when my August Literati book from Cheryl Stray’s Wild Reads arrived last month. Seeing Ghosts: A Memoir by Kat Chow sounded like a potentially scary memoir. In ways, Chow was haunted by images of her mother’s “taxidermic self,” picturing what her mother would be doing in situations after her death from cancer. They shared a fascination with death – a subject that many find uncomfortable to discuss, but Chow discussed freely with her mother. Like many memoirs, she talks about family, loss, love, and grief, but the book goes far beyond exploring the process of her loss and grief. The mother-daughter initial focus of the story is just part of the larger story.
I was pleasantly surprised to find this book to be an intimate and poignant narrative about three generations of Chow’s Chinese American family and how we are not just affected by death but how we can grow from it. Chow delves into her family’s history through her father’s plight to reunite the remains of his parents. Her extensive research of political and historical events shows how they directly altered the lives of her ancestors and millions of Chinese. She touches upon her struggle with trying to learn Cantonese, the language of her ancestors and mother, and how essential pieces are lost in assimilating with the American culture. She shares the rituals she learned from her mother as a child, not realizing their importance until later in life(like many of us). She uses humor effectively in demonstrating the absurdities life will throw at you in the worst of times. Her story is raw in places, making you feel as if you are reading her diary, as Chow processes her grief as she writes.
A great read and relatable in many ways, which surprised me a bit. I am a second-generation Greek American struggling to learn Greek via an app. I know and have seen how as time ticks by, cultural traditions are lost or fade and how the yearning to be able to speak the language of your grandparents makes you feel closer to them. Even if you never met them. Chow’s memoir Seeing Ghosts pays homage to her ancestors and her culture. At the very core, this book is about family and the relationships within a family, a story that almost everyone can relate to on some level.
Carrie Soto Is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I started listening to the Random House Audio version of Carrie Soto is Back on the last day of the 2022 US Open. Serena William, age 40, had played and lost her final match before retiring, and 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz from Spain had just won the men’s singles title. I had forgotten how thrilling it is to witness athletes play at such a high and admirable level of physical skill and mental acuity.
Taylor Jenkins Reid captures the excitement of the rhythm of the game, the highs, the lows, the give and take. She shows how the best players can defeat themselves on the court if they get too much into their own heads. But Carrie Soto is Back goes well beyond being a story about tennis or the mindset of an aging athlete coming out of retirement. It’s a story about commitment, love, grief, and personal growth.
As I stated earlier, I listened to the audiobook, which had a cast of narrators – twelve exactly. Several narrators are the tennis commentators discussing the matches, which helps move the narration along. I couldn’t help but think about the 2004 film Wimbledon with Kirstin Dunst and Paul Bettany – which I loved – and the first part of the book Carrie Soto reminded me of. I would recommend this book to anyone who is a tennis fan for sure, but you don’t have to know or understand tennis to enjoy a great story about a family.
The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
If you enjoy historical fiction, read The Dictionary of Lost Words.
If you enjoy words and are interested in their history, read The Dictionary of Lost Words.
If you enjoy reading stories with good character development, read The Dictionary of Lost Words.
If you enjoy reading stories about family, read The Dictionary of Lost Words.
And if you enjoy reading stories about love, I highly recommend reading The Dictionary of Lost Words.
Pip William wrote a masterpiece. Her thorough research about the times surrounding the period in which the words were compiled and published in the first edition of the Oxford-English Dictionary allowed Williams to create a vivid and accurate historical backdrop for the reader to follow Esme grow up in an ever-changing world. I enjoyed every moment of this book and was delighted with how Williams focused on certain provocative words to make a point about how words can be ‘lost’ depending on who oversees the editing. Narrator Pippa Bennett-Warner does an excellent job of bringing the characters to life.
View all my reviews
I am currently 51 books into my goal of 58 books for this reads Goodreads Reading Challenge. Now that I have completed 88% of my goal with still ninety-one days left of 2022, I am excited to have the luxury of some time in case I opt to pick one of the longer books on my TBR list. There are some of the classics which I would like to listen to such as Les Miserables by Victor Hugo or The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. But at 57 hours and 48 minutes and 52 hours, 41 minutes respectively these selections make Dicken’s David Copperfield or Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina at 36 hours, 30 minutes and 35 hours, 35 minutes look more doable. The longest book I have listened to so far is A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara at 32 hours, 51 minutes; so I know I could get through something so long, as long as it’s a good story.
Happy reading and listening everyone!
― Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
August Reads & Listens
I can’t believe it’s September 1st already. I am in awe of how quickly this summer has whizzed by, as it seems like minutes ago we were discussing possibilities for the summer while planting the garden.
As August started, I was ready for a classic summer beach read and picked Summer of ’69 since someone had donated to the little library that I run and it looked interesting. This was the second of her novels that I have read, I read Winter Street two winters ago when I was looking for a book to match the season. Hilderbran seems to be good for that as she as many other seasonal titles. Besides my first brush with Summer of ’69 in the little free library, I enjoy reading historical fiction which is also something else that drew me to this title.
Summer of ’69 by Elin Hilderbrand
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Those were the days!
Want to spend part of your summer on Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket without having to spend a fortune? Reading Summer of ’69 by Elin Hilderbrand is just the ticket – no lines, no delays, no cancellations, no reservations, and a lot cheaper. The story is about a family on Nantucket, and one of the daughters has taken a summer job on neighboring Martha’s Vineyard. Hilderbrand’s intimate knowledge and experience from her time on Nantucket made it easy for her to set such a vivid scene. She weaves personal details of the time that authenticate the period and demonstrate how much times have changed. Summer of ’69 is an interesting historical fiction novel but an equally terrific beach read. Hilderbrand covers all the hot points from the civil and women’s rights movements to the war in Vietnam, the moon launch, Woodstock, and Chappaquiddick. It’s a multi-generational story told by multiple family members – a great way to see how the times affected everybody and let the reader know each character. I loved how Hilderbrand used the names of classic songs from sixties bands like Buffalo Springfield and Jefferson Airplane. Great book, and if they ever make a movie, the soundtrack will be fantastic! Now I am curious and think I will put her other book, Summer of ’79, on my TBR list.
I listened to the audiobook and Erin Bennett does a great job with the narration. 13 hours, 34 minutes
One of the things that I have been doing as I go through my Goodreads challenges is to read books that I have been meaning to read ever since I was in high school or college. There are tons of books I may have started and not finished or meant to get to but never did. I believe The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is one of those books that I wanted to read but life got in the way until now.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Cross the hilarity of Monty Python’s Flying Circus with Kurt Vonnegut’s dry wit, and you have Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It is a whimsical science fiction classic, but the humor may not be for everyone. The book has a cultish following, as fellow hitchhikers love to quote from it. Try asking your Alexa what the answer to life is. I recommend the book to those who enjoy British humor. Stephen Fry does an excellent job narrating.
I love my Literati Book Club, it has exposed me to so many authors and genres, I particularly like the fact that you can change the club you are in if you don’t like the upcoming book, you just have to switch clubs by the 17th of the month. I’ve been in a bunch of clubs at this point, I am currently in Cheryl Strayed’s Wild Reads club and reading Kat Chow’s Seeing Ghosts. Last month I was in Brynn Elliott’s The Art of Philosophy club. That club’s aim is ” to empower readers with the tools to seek out philosophical insight and creative inspiration in their daily lives.” I decided to take a chance with reading the August selection since it was a book of poetry. I don’t generally read poetry but have been trying to broaden my horizons. Plus the way this summer has been going for me, I thought I should give it a chance.
All Along You Were Blooming: Thoughts for Boundless Living by Morgan Harper Nichols
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I have never been a huge fan of poetry, but I enjoyed reading this book. I read this as part of my Literati book club selection in The Art of Philosophy club. The proems of beautifully written and uplifting. My biggest complaint about the book however would be the use of too small of a font size for a number of poems which made reading them extremely difficult. Also the use of white type also sometimes too small on a light colored background. I would have given the book a higher rating however these things took away from my overall reading experience.
So far I am 47 books into my Goodreads challenge which is 81% of my goal of 58 books. I spent a lot of time this summer working on my own book which is set to be released any day now. I will write a separate post regarding that book once it has been officially released. Needless say I am extremely excited about it since I have physically been working on this project for over two years, although the seed was initially planted almost 30 years ago!
View all my reviews on Goodreads. Happy reading everyone!
July Reads & Listens
It’s been an incredibly stressful summer. So much so that I just realized half way through August that I didn’t post my July Reads & Listens. Thankfully I had plenty of things to listen to and read to take my mind off of some of the stress this summer has brought forth.
I started the month with a title that had been on my TBR list since July 2019.
Sea Glass by Anita Shreve
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I’ll preface this review by stating I was distracted by some awful family matters when I listened, most of which was when I was in the car driving back and forth. So that may or may not have anything to do with how I felt about this book. I was not captivated by it. Shreve’s thorough research of the period is evident in the vivid descriptions of mill life in New England during the Great Depression. However, the characters weren’t engaging to me. There was just something so plain vanilla about the entire story. I like vanilla, usually, and some of the best things in life are the simplest things. However, this story fell short for me.
Maybe that one should have staying on my TBR List until I was in a better frame of mind. To get myself in a better frame of mind I decided to listen to something short and sweet. The sweetness of learning about hummingbirds. I have three hummingbird feeders around our yard and I can watch the hummingbirds visit the feeders all day long from my desk where I work. We have animal fencing around the perimeter of our deck so that our dogs don’t slip out and get loose in the front yard which in not fenced in. The thin wire fencing is the perfect perch for the hummingbirds to sit and rest and look our at the view in-between sips at the feeder. As you can see I love hummingbirds, which is why I selected The Hummingbird’s Gift as my next listen for the month.
The Hummingbirds’ Gift: Wonder, Beauty, and Renewal on Wings by Sy Montgomery
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
If you are someone who enjoys watching your hummingbird feeders then you will enjoy this book. I listened to the audiobook version with the author Sy Montgomery narrating. It was an enjoyable way to spend a few hours learning some new things and hearing some old things about hummingbirds.
I highly recommend this to anyone who loves watching their bird feeders in particular their hummingbird feeders. 2 hours, 5 minutes listen time.
Last summer one of the Literati clubs read the book The Salt Path by Raynor Wynn. I remember reading the description and being intrigued by the idea of walking hundreds of miles along the coast of England, so I bought a copy and put it up on the TBR shelf. I figured it would make for a good summer read and planned on reading it this summer.
The Salt Path by Raynor Winn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Like a wave that crashed onto the shore and pulled me out to sea, I was swept away by Raynor Winn’s The Salt Path in the first 20 pages and deeply immersed in their story. The book reads raw and rough, much like their 630-mile walk. Winn’s descriptions of the southwest coast path in England make me want to experience the natural, wild beauty for myself. But then I remember what it’s like to go camping for long periods and think better of it. Wild camping may sound exciting, but as Ray explains, it has many drawbacks. She does not romanticize their situation; instead, she captures the realism of it, which can make some people uncomfortable. They had a home, their health, and the security of being able to make a living – all gone in the blink of an eye. It’s a story about life and how not paying attention to the little details can make all the difference in the world. However, it’s also about demonstrating that no matter how hard you get knocked down that it’s best to get back up and keep on moving. It’s a unique story about homelessness and how a couple of people who had everything going against them managed to keep going despite the odds.
Great adventure read.
I went back to my TBR list and looked again – perhaps one of the stories that was one of last summers big hits. Many of my friends had read The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave. My sister really liked it, although are tastes in novels doesn’t always line up.
The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I had high hopes for The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave from all the initial high ratings and rave reviews. Owen disappears in the blink of an eye, leaving his wife, Hannah, and his daughter Bailey to find their lives turned upside down. Bad things happen quickly in life. Laura Dave sets the stage for a terrific mystery, but I couldn’t believe the story she delivered. I was annoyed by the main character, Hannah, or perhaps it was more in how Dave repeated things which I found annoying. Repetition can be an effective writing tool, but when it is overused the way it is in this story – I fear it is more distracting and irritating than anything else. I was disappointed, considering all the rave reviews and buzz about the book when it first came out. The performance of the narrator Rebecca Lowman was outstanding, though, and I would listen to more books that she narrates.
It’s been a hit or miss sort of summer for me in my selections, but it’s’ sort of mimicked the roller coaster of a summer I have been on with some personal matters. We had a string of incredibly hot days with temperatures in the low to mid 90ºs but the humidity was off the hook making the real feel over 100ºF for three of four days! Right now we are back to our comfortable 69ºF up here on the mountain with a beautiful breeze that is whipping through the house – nothing better than natural air conditioning. I am hoping that my selections going forward are better. Currently, I am halfway through listening to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams narrated by Stephan Fry. I hope you all have some interesting reading to enjoy as the summer ends. Happy reading!
“Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.” –