Readings and Listenings – May 2021

As I have been listening to more and more books, I have wanted to read more and more books. Initially, I was having trouble staying awake when I read since I always was trying to read before bed when I was already tired. I eventually figured out a little lunchtime reading was a good time for me. I wasn’t as tired in the middle of the day. One morning I was so interested to get back to my book I decided to read my book instead of my phone. Progress.

“Darlin’,” he drawled, “go when you are invited. Bring good boots, drive slow, take blankets, carry your own salt, but by all means… go where the light is.

That’s not bad advice, wherever you live. Darlin’.”

Mud Season – Ellen Stimson

I also began with short books. Short, non-intimidating-in-length-or-thickness, books. Mud Season: How One Woman’s Dream of Moving to Vermont, Raising Children, Chickens and Sheep, and Running the Old Country Store Pretty Much Led to One Calamity After Another is a mouthful of a title but the book itself was completely manageable. There isn’t much more to say about this book without giving anything away that hasn’t been given away already in the title. I enjoyed reading this book, it gave me a few laughs and some nice recipes to boot. It’s the perfect 256-page book to settle in with during mud season.

When I wasn’t reading Mud Season, I was listening to Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple. This title had been one of the first books that I added to my Audible library, then forgot about. Although I am uncertain as to where the original recommendation came from I noticed that James Patterson recommended it in his Masterclass course.

The Audible version I listened to was narrated by Kathleen Wilhoite and ran for 9 hours and 35 minutes. I’m not sure whether the narrator’s interpretation for certain characters’ voices may have ultimately affected how much I liked this book. I found certain voices to be annoying, although it could also have been the character.

This book was just okay for me. Parts were more interesting than others. But as a whole it was just 3 stars okay.

“It was easier to manipulate someone if they didn’t perceive you as a threat.”

― Stephanie Wrobel, Darling Rose Gold

I decided to switch things up with my next selection with Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel. Woah. Twisted is a good adjective to describe this book. Neither main characters (Patty or Rose Gold) are likeable which says a lot without saying too much. If you are into psychological thrillers – you will enjoy this selection. The Audible Audiobook is narrated by Megan Dodds and Jill Winternitz and runs 10 hours and 18 minutes in which the author holds your attention throughout. 3 Stars.

I wish I could remember how I found out about this next book I read so that I can thank them for the recommendation. This was a great story! The narration was by Bahni Turpin who was incredible and handled the various voices both male and female masterfully. The story runs 8 hours and 21 minutes long.

Laila Ibrahim has written a beautiful book about relationships. Ibrahim captures the strong bond formed between two women from completely different worlds in the decades leading up to the Civil War. She skillfully weaves into the story the historical views of the South about slavery and the behavior exhibited by some men towards women regardless of color in that time. This was a great book which I highly recommend to any fan of historical fiction. 4 stars!!

But I know a good man make life more sweet. Someone to hold you and love you, someone to share your dreams with, someone kind and thoughtful. A good man’s a treasure.

Laila Ibrahim – Yellow Crocus spoken by Mattie

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig is a book that I believe I learned about through some of the people I follow on the website Goodreads.com. I enjoyed this book immensely and appreciate a story about life, its realities but ultimately the possibilities which lay before all of us. The Audible audiobook is narrated by Carey Mulligan and runs 8 hours 50 minutes. I have since recommended it also to my daughter, who adored it and my brother, who is in the process of reading it.

The only way to learn is to live.

Matt Haig – The Midnight Library

[A quick note about Goodreads.] Last year I joined the Goodreads reading challenge and found that because of the challenge, it’s a personal one – you set the goal- I was more driven to read and listen to books. My biggest obstacle was that I always equated listening to my audiobooks on my long drives to visit my family down in Connecticut and with the quarantine I wasn’t driving anywhere. Instead, I would listen to a book while I was drawing or painting or even while working on a few puzzles. If it was a nice day and I had outdoor chores like weeding the garden or stacking wood, I would listen to my book as I did my work. Now I even find myself listening to my books while cleaning the house – except while vacuuming. Although I suppose the headphones would work well enough since I use them while I am riding the lawn tractor and listening. I made my goal of 50 book and then some last year.

For me, Goodreads has been a great source of ideas and a great way to share book ideas with friends and family. It helps so much to know what types of books people like to read in case you would like to gift them a book. FYI – I don’t get anything for recommending them in any way, shape or form. I just like the site and think other readers would too. Enough about that.

“Change isn’t always comfortable, but it is a fact of life.”

― Joanne Harris, The Gospel of Loki

Switching to one of my favorite genres – mythology, I listened to The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. Harris. The Gospel of Loki is part of a series Loki, Book 1 and I found this to be a fun and entertaining book to listen to. Loki’s story is told by the merry prankster, himself, such a different angle to spin the old familiar stories. Loki is such a wonderful character and Allan Corduner does a fantastic job bringing Loki to life! If you enjoy mythology, you will enjoy this. The Audible audiobook runs 10 hours and 6 minutes.

For a few months now I have been intimidated to listen to one of my books. I have discovered the equivalent of the way I would react to books of many pages. The big thick books that would usually make me not read the book just because I thought it would take me forever finish. For audiobooks, it’s length in hours and minutes, specifically when the books get into the 18+ hours. Keith Richard’s memoir Life is 23 hours and 5 minutes and it sat in my library for over 6 months. But I finally decided to dive in.

Wow, I knew when I dove into listening to Keith Richard’s Life that I would be in for a wild ride and that it was and more. I’ve listened to a few memoirs but non as long as this one, but after all we are talking about Keith Richards, the man, the myth and the legend which Keith addresses all three.

“When you are growing up there are two institutional places that affect you most powerfully: the church, which belongs to God, and the public library, which belongs to you. The public library is a great equalizer.”

― Keith Richards


There is a lot to unpack in Keith’s life and it is so interesting. Musicians who understand how to play music will really be interested in his describing certain riffs and other technical aspects which Keith discusses – I am not musically inclined but it certainly did not diminish from the experience of listening to Keith’s story.
I loved learning about how certain songs came to be and what was going on behind the scenes while they were working on different albums and tours.
Keith published this in 2010, eleven (11) years ago now and the Rolling Stones are still together and still touring. God Bless You Keith!

I joined the Book of the Month Club so that I would be exposed to some new books and authors. Many people are very familiar with Kristin Hannah from her bestseller, The Nightingale but when my BOMC have me a chance to select on of her books I had not read any of her books and thought The Great Alone looked like as good as place as any to start. I am so glad I did too, I loved this book! I could relate to some of the rough living – feeding the animals in the middle of a snowy winter; feeding our wood furnace twice a day and making sure we have enough wood to burn throughout the season.

“… home was not just a cabin in a deep woods that overlooked a placid cove. Home was a state of mind, the peace that came from being who you were and living an honest life.”

― Kristin Hannah, The Great Alone

I found myself at times eager to sit down and escape into the Alaskan wilderness which Kristin Hannah describes so well. Every character in the book brings something to the table which adds to the depth of the story. You come to care about each and every one of them. I highly recommend this book , it’s a great read!

Note: There are many themes that run throughout the story – some can be more triggering than others depending on your own personal experiences (abuse, first love, loss).

Dear Life

Well you really have us frightened now with this invisible virus. You have a funny way of working though, don’t you? Teaching us lessons in your special way. I’ve learned a lot from you over the years. How you like to throw curveballs just because you think I can handle them. How at any given moment, life as I knew it can be all over. In the blink of an eye everything changed. How not to take you for granted. But even recognizing that isn’t enough for you.

Obviously, lately, we’ve been misbehaving in some way and you’ve decided we all need a time out. I don’t blame you and sort of completely agree that we collectively may have needed a time out. But do so many people have to die?

You have a way of lulling us with your calm water with invisible currents that drag us out to class 5 rapids without paddles and life jackets. Banging us against every rock and sharp edge. And just when we get into some calm waters – a whirlpool sucking us down into it.

But don’t forget, Life, you have toughened me quite a bit and I’ve learned from the lessons you taught me. So I’ll stay here in my house, stay away from others and wait for our collective time out to end.

This is my letter to myself for the writing prompt – Let’s Write Letters

In the Blink of an Eye

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

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 two 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.

The More Things Change The More They Stay The Same

Post I wrote but never published from June 2012:
Welcome and forgive my absence, as usual a lot has been happening around here. Life is constantly throwing things at you just when you think you’re at the finish line – an obstacle gets thrown up in front of you.  It’s June and graduation season is here and in ten days my son will be graduating from high school.  It’s been a long, hard road at times.  The finish line was clearly in sight, he had just a few weeks and he would be done.  All it took was an unfortunate push from behind during a lacrosse game while he was coming out from the goal resulting in a torn ACL needing surgery to make the sprint to the finish line more of a hurtle.
The surgery was 9 days ago but it feels like its been a month.  The first week, twenty four hours a day his knee has been on ice requiring me to fill up the ice machine multiple times a day and once during the overnight.  He had to be given medication as well on top of having to use a CPM (continuous Passive Motion) machine for 6 hours a day. 
It’s been hard to do anything around here to say the least.  Since the surgery I have only been out once and that was with him to go to the physical therapist.  He still has to finish his senior project, a photography portfolio of his work in order to graduate which is due next week. His prom is next week too. 
He did the same thing to his leg last year but earlier in the season. This kid has been injured every single year of high school playing lacrosse. The first two years it was concussions. The second concussion was so severe he was out of school for 24 days and had headaches for months before finally disappearing altogether. 

I reread the post above which I never published at the time for reasons I don’t remember and I get knot in my stomach.  Eight days ago I received a phone call from Nick, my son who is now a freshman at Ithaca College. I had just finished a long relaxing bath after my metal sculpting class (washing is required afterwards since I look like I’ve been down in the coal mines). My cell phone went off around 2pm but I didn’t recognize the number and almost didn’t pick up. It was Nick, he sounded upset and scared. He said he had been in an accident snowboarding.  My first thought – his knees and did he hit his head.  It was difficult to understand him a little – his breathing was labored which I figured was from him being so emotional.  He tells me he thinks he dislocated his shoulder or something – I relax. Dislocated shoulder, not problem we’ve dealt with much worse.  I tell him everything will be okay and that he should keep me posted and that I’d call his Dad who was also in Vermont at the time. He said okay and hung up.

It was long before he called again and said that the EMTs at the base lodge told him he didn’t have a dislocated shoulder and recommended that he get x-rays at the hospital. Since I was no where near Nick and I was getting the information via text message and poor-cell connected short calls, my concern level wasn’t tremendously high at this point. Nick has complained in a text about waiting with all the other morons in the emergency room and how he just wanted to go an hang with his friends. I was afraid he’d leave if the wait was too long.  I was in bed watching TV when he finally called me again. He put the doctor on the phone who proceeded to tell me that Nicholas punctured his lung, bruised his kidney and could have a hairline fracture in one of his lower lumbar vertebrae. He recommended that Nick stay the night in the hospital although he said that Nick wanted to go back the condo and stay with his friends and just rest.  It was at the time I had my boyfriend who is training to be an EMT who told me that the doctor couldn’t force Nick to stay their legally – all he could do was urge Nick to stay.  “Put Nick back on” were my next words.  He was scared and didn’t want to be alone in the hospital. I told him had to stay  – it had become clear he had suffered a traumatic impact –  that I’d get his father to get down there as quickly as possible – but he had to stay with the doctors. I was relieved when he finally agreed.

Some people rely on the groundhog to predict spring – we have Nick’s annual injury which seems to have become our own personal indicator of spring. However, so much has change in our household since Nick’s first injuries in high school.  Nick is in college – struggling to find his way through making the transition from living at home to living at college and being responsible for one’s self.  I have been in a relationship with a wonderful man who I’ve known for 25 years. We will celebrate our second anniversary of being together in May and has lived with us for the last 18 months or so.  We also started a new business together, Homegrown Harvest where we help people grow their own vegetables by installing pre-seeded and planted raised bed and container gardens for them.  My daughter has been on her own journey throughout the years. 17 now, she is a junior in high school who has been on her own journey of self discovery. Another story for another blog entry, I’m sure.

Change happens in all sorts of ways. Sometimes it happens fast and sometimes its gradual.  It can be painful. But overall change is good, it means your life isn’t stagnant.  Life should be like a flowing river – at times there maybe rapids and it gets narrow and rocky. Other times it flows slower, calmer and stretches out comfortably.  Either way the river is in constant motion.  Sometimes in life we don’t always feel like we are making forward progression that we may have taken a few steps backwards from time to time. That’s life on the river – it can sometimes lead you down a false tributary that leads to an end where the waters lay stagnant. It’s your decision to get out and find the right path though. Sure it will take a lot of effort and energy at first as you have to work your way through the marshes and blaze your trail back where you eventually find the waters flowing again and lift you along with them. Just remember you are the one steering the boat. You are the one making the decisions to set a new course – to make that change despite how difficult it may be. 

My brother taught me this lesson when I was 25 years old and engaged to someone I realized was not the right person for me in the long run and I felt trapped and scared and alone. Some of this may have been because I was drunk off my ass when I had this epiphany in the bathroom of my godparents’ house as my future in-laws and my fiance’s two brothers were showing up to meet my parents and family for the first time. I was in there for 3 hours terrified to come out.  I eventually let me best friend in and my sister in law in. After many hours I emerged from the bathroom and hid in my cousin’s room where my brother gave me I have dubbed “The Path Talk”.  He was the one who told me the story of being on a path in life and discovering it wasn’t the path.  He said when that happens you can always change paths but sometimes you may have to get your machete out and blaze a new trail to a new path and that can get messy and take a lot of effort but in the end you will find a clear path for yourself.  I have lived by these words over the years and found them to be some of the greatest words to live by.

Angels Needed

This week as I gazed upon my Christmas tree, I cried a river of tears for the victims, their families and their friends who are faced which such a tragic loss at this time.  My tree has an angel on the top, she’s a beautiful angel with a porcelain head, pretty wings and dress made of netting.  She’s holding two candles and a light from within makes her glow.  I grew up with a star on our Christmas tree. As I recall it was a fairly cheesy looking thing too with tinsel and colored lights. When I was old enough to get my own Christmas tree, I used a star at first something similar to the one I grew up with.

The angel came about by perhaps divine intervention. I had stumbled upon a late night Christmas movie, The Bishop’s Wife starring David Niven, Cary Grant and Loretta Young. It’s a fabulous classic Christmas movie and as late as it was that night sucked me in immediately. Cary Grant plays an angel in the movie sent down to help David Niven who plays the Bishop. 

The movie originally came out in 1947 shortly after WWII. It was a time when many were trying to rebuild their post-war lives and their was still a great need for stories of nostalgia, hope and faith.  Our world is vastly different than it was in 1947, but the need for stories of hope and faith are just as great today if not more.  Today’s world is a very frightening place where we are no longer safe at college, a movie theater, a mall or even a elementary school.   A tragedy of the magnitude of Sandy Hook brings people together. It touches so many people beyond the victims and their families because most everyone has been a first grader at some point, or are a parent who has sent their children off to school, or may have a teacher in their family and because of this all wonder my god what if that had been me, or my child, or my sister or mother?

The pain and grief I have felt this week is eerily similar to the way I felt after 9/11. I was born and raised in New York City which caused me to feel the attack on my birthplace as very personal. A friend’s husband lost his life that day and many of my friends who worked in the financial district had been devastated by their experiences of what they witnessed and tales of escaping the city. I knew our world would never be the same after that. Misuse of religion, power, box cutters and airplanes caused that tragic day.  In Newtown, Connecticut a young man who was mentally ill killed his mother because he was afraid she was going to have him committed.  He decided to misuse three guns and because of it there are now 26 new angels who no longer walk this earth.

Angel

Shortly after reading this news it reminded me of the Boomtown Rats song, “I Don’t Like Mondays”. In 1979, Brenda Spenser shot 9 people, 2 adults and 7 children from her house which was across the street from her home.

The silicon chip inside her head gets switched to overload
And nobody’s gonna go to school today
She’s gonna make them stay at home….

The more things change the more they stay the same it seems.

I don’t consider myself to be a very religious person. I was not raised in a religious household. I do not go to church regularly.  I used to be a “submarine church goer”, only surfacing at Christmas and Easter – but eventually stopped doing that since it felt hypocritical.  However, I silently speak with the Lord and Jesus Christ regularly – at times before bed, sometime in the car or while traveling on a plane.  I do have hopes, dreams and wishes for myself, my children, my loved-ones. I try very hard to have faith in myself that I continue to raise my two children safely in this very frightening and dangerous world. I hope and pray that somehow they will be able to raise their own children one day in a world which hopefully will have learned some lessons from the past and changed it course not to repeat the fateful mistakes.

Life is filled with challenging moments. The holidays are a time when people are supposed to be happy; making it a thousand times harder for those who are not.  The last eight years I have been divorced and forced to share time with my kids on holidays or not see them at all. The pain the first Christmas day that I had to say goodbye to them in the morning and watch them drive off with their father was agonizing for me. I felt like a part of me had been ripped away and I just wanted to cry all day and stay under the covers of my bed. Instead I was supposed to go to my parent’s house to share Christmas dinner with my parents, my siblings and their kids.  It was awful. I think one holiday I actually did stay home and wallow in my self-pity. The rest, somehow I found the strength to join the festivities despite my broken heart.  As the years have marched on holidays remain challenging, although each year a little less so. I have been blessed these last two years for I have been able to share them with my new love, my boyfriend, Mark.

Life goes on and time helps to heal most of the wounds which have been inflicted on us. The scars left on us by life should be worn on us with pride for they help make up who we are and how we came to be there. Some people’s scars are bigger than others and some may have wounds that never fully heal; for how can someone every fully heal from the lose of their own child?

It’s three days before Christmas and I will close my thoughts with a speech the Bishop gives to his congregation Christmas morning reminding us to remember what Christmas is all about.

Tonight I want to tell you the story of an empty stocking.

Once upon a midnight clear, there was a child’s cry, a blazing star hung over a stable, and wise men came with birthday gifts. We haven’t forgotten that night down the centuries. We celebrate it with stars on Christmas trees, with the sound of bells, and with gifts.

But especially with gifts. You give me a book, I give you a tie. Aunt Martha has always wanted an orange squeezer and Uncle Henry can do with a new pipe. For we forget nobody, adult or child. All the stockings are filled, all that is, except one. And we have even forgotten to hang it up. The stocking for the child born in a manger. Its his birthday we’re celebrating. Don’t let us ever forget that.

Let us ask ourselves what He would wish for most. And then, let each put in his share, loving kindness, warm hearts, and a stretched out hand of tolerance. All the shinning gifts that make peace on earth.

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

Closer to God

Some of the most beautiful places on earth are on the hills and mountains of the world. There is something about being in the mountains which is very special to me. Perhaps it’s their breathtaking views or the high altitude but I feel somehow closer to God there.

Years ago I was fortunate enough to spend a lot of time at Okemo. We used to joke on Sundays mornings as we skied that there was no better place to be then God’s outdoor chapel on the slopes.  The feeling of being on top of the mountain and on a clear day see for miles in every direction can be one of the most majestic views one can ever take in. Coupled with the rush I feel as I ski down the slopes it transcends the experience like no other sport I enjoy.

I’m not a religious person – I don’t subscribe to any formalized religion. For better or worse, I wasn’t brought up in a particularly religious home so I wasn’t given any particular direction to follow as far as that was concerned. I consider myself somewhat spiritual as I have my own idea of God and Gaia, Mother Earth. I choose to include her for being responsible for maintaining and cultivating what God initiated. When I stand in the mountains and look around at the amazing peaks reaching to the heavens I get the feeling that I’m standing in some of their best work.

Today was the first day of Spring. The earliest that the Vernal Equinox has occurred since 1896.  Today was also the last day of ski season for me.  It was the winter that wasn’t being that it is the 4th or 5th warmest and driest in a century. It was also my first ski season in over six years.  I had forgotten how much I truly enjoying being in the mountains. But my time this winter at Stratton has renewed my love for the mountains.

I have many conversations with God and Jesus Christ. As I child I always would simply just talk to God; however a few years ago I started to include JC as well.  I had started to think more about the holy trinity and figured that he should be included.  These silent conversations happen sporadically whether in the shower, on the chairlift or on the deck in the morning having my morning coffee. I can be alone or sitting amongst people.  At those moments I think to thank them for all the blessings they have bestowed upon me.

Although the winter season has finished, the conversations will always continue. The venues simply change to include places like the garden, the park and the ocean. Happy Spring!