Showing posts with label RenaissanceWoman2010. Show all posts
Showing posts with label RenaissanceWoman2010. Show all posts

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Gabby - A Story of Courage and Hope - Book Review

Those who come to know Gabrielle Giffords are said to become Gabbified. It certainly happened to me and I would be very surprised if you did not experience being taken in by the immensity of her spirit as revealed in Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope

Giffords, a United States Congresswoman at the time, was the victim of an assassination attempt, and deadly mass shooting, on January 8, 2011. Shot in the head at point-blank range, her chances of surviving were less than one percent. The bullet that traveled through the left hemisphere of her brain should have killed her. Yet, despite the astronomical odds against it, Giffords survived.

This is the true story of an astonishing woman who is the epitome of extreme service, deep humanity, and extraordinary fortitude. Way beyond survival, Gabrielle Giffords, through sheer grit and an unmatched work ethic, demonstrates what it means to live out your life's calling with undying passion, radical optimism, and the kind of genuine care for others that transcends political divisions.

Despite years of a grueling rehabilitation regimen that would likely defeat the toughest among us, Gabrielle has never quit when it comes to taking on the most challenging issues of our times. Her nonprofit Giffords organization has stepped up to address the ongoing rampage of gun violence in our nation. 

I picked up this book, and Giffords' new documentary (Gabby Giffords Won't Back Down), because I have been feeling deeply shaken (horrified) by the escalating anger and violence that is destroying lives and ripping apart the fabric of our world.  I knew that I would draw strength, and a new commitment to doing something of substance, by opening myself up to Gabbification.  

As I have reflected on the impact Gabrielle Giffords has had on her constituents, her community, her family, and on everyone who has crossed her path, the thought crossed my mind that I want to be like Gabby Giffords when I grow up.  Then, I realized that she would mostly likely want me to be the very epitome of me.  I can't be Gabby, but by following her example, I can use my own inner power and determination to proactively be a force for good in my corner of the world.








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Thursday, November 3, 2022

The Lies I Tell - Book Review

Can a wrong ever be made right with another wrong? Where is the fine line between justice and revenge? In The Lies I Tell, by Julie Clark, two brilliant, strong, previously wronged women take matters into their own hands, resulting in fascinating twists and turns you won't see coming. 

Meg Williams, aka Maggie Littleton and Melody Wilde, is supremely gifted in becoming who you need, or want her to be. She is a master of psychology and Internet research. By the time you meet her, she knows you better than you know yourself. 

Meg/Maggie/Melody, the three-in-one, shape-shifts between personas. Some know her as a college student, others as a life coach, and now a Senate candidate has hired her as his exclusive real estate agent. Ron Ashton is going to wish he had never met Meg Williams. You'll see.

Kat Roberts, a victimized journalist, has waited ten excruciating years to take Meg down. Kat is desperate to expose the grifter for who she really is, and at the same time, to right the wrong that wrecked her own life and career. Kat believes she can go head-to-head with Meg because she knows the games she plays. In this cat-and-mouse chase, could it be that the mouse has underestimated the cat?

How will it all end? Will Meg get the justice she seeks? Does Kat get the revenge she has longed for (and the publishing deal of her dreams)? 

And you: Will you be cheering at the end, or shaking your head? How will you feel about the choices that are made? What would you have done? I hope you read The Lies I Tell and return here to respond to these questions.

I love a book with a surprise ending. This read kept me highly engaged the entire way. And, I have to tell you, it makes me want to lock down my social media accounts. Repelling a couple of scammers online this week really brought home the message of how very real and present are the Meg, Maggie, and Melody's of the world. This is just barely a work of fiction. 












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Thursday, September 15, 2022

Barking to the Choir - Book Review

Some books change us by flipping what we think we know, or what we think we are about, on its head. Barking to the Choir is one of those books. I am not the same person I was when I first cracked open the cover of this book.

In showing me what radical kinship looks like—in living it out on these pages—Gregory Boyle has me wondering: 

What if outreach to the marginalized is really about being willing to be reached by them?

What if it's about receiving rather than giving or doing?  You know—truly receiving the unwelcome with a welcoming embrace?

What if I came to know, deep within my core, that you are the other me, and I am the other you... that our separateness is only an illusion?

What if I said yes to entering into the fullness of kinship with you, and you, and you?

What if we meet there at the edge of I and Not I and discover unity?

What if we lifted one another out of isolation by merely showing up... every time?

Perhaps radical kinship begins with living these questions. 

Perhaps compassion is the answer to every question.

Perhaps the welcoming embrace begins there—begins here.

I open myself to it... to being it.

I invite you into this beautiful kinship. 









Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Thursday, September 1, 2022

Limitless - Book Review


There would be gold medals and world records, and plenty of them, but that is not the Limitless in Mallory Weggemann's story.  No.

Becoming limitless was, and is, about diving in to discover what is on the other side of fear—the kind of fear that could have become more paralyzing than her T10 spinal injury.

Mallory's story could have ended when she was 18, but as we shall read, it did not. Some might say it began then... her story. I'm not seeing that.

What I did see in reading this memoir is that it is much more than a story of how Mallory Weggemann became a Paralympic champion. Amazing as that is, the heroic journey is in how a young woman chose to be more than what others imagined she could be after becoming a paraplegic.

I saw how it is possible, through choices, to be more than our circumstances—how one moves forward from pain, and devastation, and the grief caused by both.

Right alongside Mallory, I learned how we cannot ever live less of a life than we are capable of living. 

We all have disabilities. Some are just more visible than others. The thing is this: We must not let them define us. We are so much more than the artificial limits that contain us if we surrender to them.

I encourage you to experience Mallory Weggemann's victorious anthem, as sung on the pages of Limitless and on many championship podiums. It is my hope that those who do so will begin to envision a new limitless life for themselves. 






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Thursday, August 18, 2022

One Thousand Wells - Book Review

 

It takes audacity to dream of providing clean water for one thousand African communities. Beyond that, for twenty-one-year-old Jena Lee, what it would really take was learning what love requires—learning to love the world in all its brokenness, rather than trying to save it.

Of course, a love like that is born of risk, and doubt, and sometimes even, disillusionment. A love like that engenders a humbling vulnerability that can shake you to your core.

One Thousand Wells is the memoir you write after, or amidst, the transformation that has stirred your spirit and connected your deep gladness to the world's deep thirst. First, though, to identify that purpose and mission—that soul level gladness—you must find the stories that sing to you. For Lee, those stories came from people who had typically been overlooked. 

Before Africa, Jena found herself drawn to the plight of the homeless. While volunteering at a Red Cross Shelter during high school, Lee discovered that among the homeless she had found her home. In the midst of their brokenness, Jena found that which is sacred.

When one has an overpowering sense of calling, there can be overwhelming questions: Where to begin? What to do? With whom to partner? How to inspire others to care about what you find to be most important in the world? 

Without visibility and a powerful platform, even the best of intentions can fail to advance a desperately needed mission. Fortunately, there would be no failure to launch. With perfect timing, Jena Lee was connected to the Grammy Award-winning band Jars of Clay. Together, they would co-found the nonprofit Blood:Water and find the way forward.

For anyone with a heart for spreading love where it is needed most, Jena Lee Nardella's journey of outreach and inreach is sure to encourage action. How will we respond? What won't get done if not for us?

Let us each find that intersection where our deep gladness meets the world's deep need.









Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Thursday, August 4, 2022

The Perfect Predator - Book Review


Imagine being on vacation halfway around the world when your robust loved one is suddenly struck down by a mysterious condition that is immediately life-threatening. By the time you can get your partner on a medevac from Egypt, to Germany, and then back home to San Diego, his chances of surviving are slim to none.

The Perfect Predator is as real world as it gets. This medical thriller memoir could soon be your story, or mine. Thomas Patterson's life-or-death struggle against the deadliest antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the world is no longer an isolated phenomenon. By 2050, someone will die every three seconds as a result of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. It's already happening far too often—death by superbug.

By the time Patterson's diagnosis is made, his medical team soon runs out of answers and treatment options. It will be his wife, Steffanie Strathdee, an infectious disease epidemiologist, who refuses to give up... refuses to lose hope. Ultimately, it will be Strathdee's detective work that saves her husband's life.

Sometimes, the way forward is backward. One hundred years ago, before the advent of antibiotics, scientists were exploring phage therapy. Phages, which are viruses that prey on bacteria, though promising, were largely forgotten when antibiotics became the golden drug, the go-to treatment for infections. 

While reading this book, I became completely blown away by the science, and wonder, of phages. They are everywhere (including within our bodies). A single drop of water may host a trillion phages! It turns out the right phage, aka The Perfect Predator, can take down even the deadliest of superbugs. 

With the assistance of a rapidly deployed dream team (including key people from the FDA, Texas A&M University, the Navy, and the University of California San Diego), Strathdee and Patterson achieve an impossible outcome: a sure death is defeated.

If ever there was a timely read, this is it. The Perfect Predator is not only an exceptionally enlightening examination of the state of medicine in a world battling rampant global health emergencies, but it is also the kind of hero's journey that proves the power of one (plus one, plus one). One individual can make a difference, especially in combination with even a small community of people willing to go all out to achieve the impossibly possible. 










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Thursday, July 7, 2022

Thunder Dog Book Review

 


8:46 a.m. Michael Hingson, along with his faithful guide dog, Roselle, had been experiencing a normal morning at work. And then, suddenly and violently, their building was rocked by a massive explosion. Everything began to sway and tilt at a severe angle. Debris rained down on them. What was happening? 

No one knew yet that American Airlines Flight 11 had just slammed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 500 miles per hour. With 10,000 gallons of fuel on board, everything was soon engulfed by flames, smoke, shattering glass, and dangerous fuel mist. Michael, blind since infancy, knew something was very wrong, but he took comfort in the fact that Roselle was completely calm. 

Though surrounded by chaos, and screaming, panicked people, Roselle did not act afraid. Michael knew they needed to head to the staircase and make their way out. It would be no simple thing, as they were on the 78th floor of Tower One. Safety was 1,463 steps away. There was only one thing to do: Give Roselle her command. Forward.

It would ultimately take an hour to get to Ground Zero and out the door to what they hoped would be their escape. As they took step after step after step, burn victims passed them in a hurry to get the medical help they needed. Firemen, and other emergency personnel, though rushing up the stairs to help other victims, paused to see if Michael and Roselle needed assistance. 

Shortly after exiting the first twin tower, the second tower, just 100 yards from them, began to collapse. Michael and Roselle ran for their lives, choking desperately for air, as an atom bomb-like cloud of dust surrounded them. The nightmare seemed never-ending. It would be hours before survivors could even begin to make their way to loved ones.

Lives were forever changed on 9/11. Because this day will always be one of our nation's most memorable, and important days, Michael Hingson and Roselle's story, as told in Thunder Dog, is one that needs to be heard. Not only is there healing in telling our stories, but their story is much more than an account of making the descent out of the World Trade Center. 

The real story is the ascent story: How Hingson and Roselle rose to be there in the first place. How does a blind man and a yellow lab end up living successfully in a world that is not always set up to support a thriving life? What are the lessons we can learn from them? Michael shares with us the vital messages of trust, of faith, of the importance of working together. These themes are especially timely as our nation continues to be in crisis.

Thunder Dog helped me gain a greater perspective and understanding of what it means to be disabled. In some ways, we are all disabled. It was incredibly enlightening for me to learn more about how differently abled individuals navigate through the challenges, and opportunities, presented every single day. I was astounded by Michael Hingson's adaptability (especially his use of echolocation) and full of admiration for how his family supported Michael's growth and actualization into his current fullness of being.

And, of course, I so respect those who pour themselves into the nurturing and training of guide dogs. What an amazing journey that is. Roselle, rightfully, has earned numerous awards and accolades for her exceptional service to humanity. Well done, Roselle. Good girl!

I will end with one of Michael's quotes that spoke to me: Don't let your sight get in the way of your vision. May we all take that to heart as we learn to see with the kind of wisdom that makes a true difference for others. We are all in this together.





Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Thursday, June 30, 2022

How to Recharge Auto Air Conditioning

Holy heat wave, Batman! On the hottest day of the year so far here in the Desert Southwest, I discovered something I never want to do again: drive for twelve hours straight without A/C (with the temperature right at 100 degrees). There's nothing that will melt your superpowers faster (and I was on a rescue trip at the time).

What's a girl to do? Thankfully, you don't need to call in a superhero, aka mechanic, when you can easily solve the problem with an affordable, easy-to-use A/C Pro air conditioning recharge kit. Best ten minutes and $37 I have spent this summer. Here's a quick DIY tutorial on how you, too, can beat the heat by knowing how to recharge your vehicle's air conditioning system. 
 

 
Step 1: Purchase the right kind of A/C refrigerant for your vehicle. Most vehicles after 1990 use R-134a (which complies with the EPA Clean Air Act). Check your vehicle's maintenance manual, or find the sticker under the hood, to verify. After reading online product reviews, and watching YouTube videos, I decided to go with the bestselling A/C Pro recharge kit. This kit is sold at automotive stores, Amazon, Walmart, and many other retail locations.


Step 2: Find the low pressure service port in your vehicle's engine. If you're not sure where to look for it, download the A/C Pro app for specific information linked to your car or truck model year. Mine was easy to find (a blue cap with an "L" imprinted on it). 


Step 3: Start your engine. Set A/C to its maximum cooling level and recirculation mode (with fan on highest setting).


Step 4: Place hose coupler on low pressure service port and press down. It will click into place and lock down securely. 


Step 5: Check gauge to determine if your vehicle's A/C system is low on refrigerant. My gauge reading indicated I needed a major fill (it was on zero).


Step 6: If low, remove coupler from the service port. Unscrew gauge/hose assembly from the new can of A/C Pro. Unscrew the protective shipping tab on the top of the dispenser. Screw gauge/hose back on the refrigerant can. (Be sure to wear protective gear: gloves and safety goggles.)

Step 7: Affix hose coupler to low pressure service port. Hold can upright. Squeeze dispenser trigger to begin filling A/C system with refrigerant. While squeezing the trigger, move the can from a 12 o'clock position back and forth to a 3 o'clock position (to keep the contents mixed and flowing properly). Release the trigger after about ten seconds.


Step 8: Check the gauge to see if the needle is in the green filled section. Do not overfill! If the level is still low, repeat step seven. If filled to the mid part of the green section, you are done. Check the air temperature coming out of the vents inside your car. My air was perfectly chilled at this point.

Step 9: Remove the coupler from the service port. Replace the port cap. Turn off your engine and close the hood.

I cannot even begin to express the satisfaction I felt to have solved this common air conditioning issue so quickly and so cheaply. You should have seen the big smile on my face. Not only did I save at least $100 with this DIY fix, but I learned how to keep myself out of a dangerous situation in the future. 

It would be smart for all of us to keep a canister of A/C Pro in our vehicles' emergency supply kits. I am totally sold on this product and highly recommend it. It's not just about comfort. Heat kills. I have lost count of the number of heartbreaking articles I have read this week about individuals, especially children, who have died in hot vehicles. Incredibly tragic.

You never know when you might be called upon to provide assistance with something you keep in your vehicle for emergencies. My recent rescue trip was all about rendering aid to a young family broken down roadside in excessive heat (in a remote area without services). With this weighing on my mind and heart, I wanted to share a product that I now consider essential. Let's all be safe out there!











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Thursday, June 2, 2022

Coleman Camp Oven Review


Who knew a Coleman Camp Oven could prove to be an essential baking tool at home? When I purchased this oven for a camping trip, it never once crossed my mind that I would find myself thankful for its use during an extended power outage at my primary residence. I have actually used it more at home during the pandemic than I would ever have imagined.


Deliciousness! That is the word I associate with my little camping bakery. Imagine waking up to the irresistible aroma of fresh-out-of-the oven hot cinnamon rolls. Oh my yes! One might even make up an excuse for a staycation if this is how we roll.


And that's only the start of the day. How about some homemade pizza for lunch? Such a breeze to bake in your Coleman oven. I found it best to bake the pizza on the top rack in the oven, though some cooks use a pizza stone on the bottom rack with very good results.


Getting back to the oven itself, let's take a look at a few of the great features, along with more baking tips. When first unboxing the oven, I was pretty surprised at how compact it folds up for storage and travel. Very impressive design. It takes up almost no room in the Rubbermaid tote I use for organizing my camping kitchen gear. Included in the box: Coleman Camp Oven, two baking racks, and instructions.

Set-up takes less than 30 seconds. Open a couple of latches, unfold the oven, lock the latches, and pop in the two racks. Didn't even break a sweat.


The oven sits over the top of a burner on my Coleman propane stove. To bake with the oven, you do need the stove and a full one-pound bottle of propane. I made the mistake of starting a pan of muffins with a partially empty propane canister attached to the stove. The propane ran out before the muffins had finished baking. Lesson learned. 


You will note the heat indicator gauge on the front door of the camp oven. I keep an eye on the temperature as the oven initially preheats and also while my food is cooking. It only takes about a minute for each 100 degrees of heat gain. Amazing!


That said, the most important thing I have learned about baking temperatures with my Coleman oven is to bake things at a lower temp than what is recommended on the recipe or package. I get perfect muffins and cinnamon rolls when I bake them 100 degrees below the temperature I would use in a regular home oven (250 degrees instead of 350 degrees). They bake for about the same length of time.


Finally, it is important to use this camp oven out of the wind. If you are cooking outdoors on a windy day, or a chilly day, a windbreak makes a huge difference. Some owners of this oven cover it with a small welding blanket to help conserve heat when cooking outside in conditions that would make the oven work harder and longer. They do this because the oven has vent slots where heat can escape. I haven't tried this, but I appreciate the tip, and could see myself making use of this idea.

For a very moderate price, the Coleman Camp Oven is a winning addition to any camper's kitchen. And, as I have experienced this year, it is invaluable for those temporarily unable to use their regular home oven. It definitely perked me up on days when I would have had no other way to bake my meals. I can honestly say I am happy I made this purchase. Enough said. Let's eat!




You may also be interested in this related review by a writing colleague: Coleman Classic Stove










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Thursday, April 7, 2022

The Broken Way - Book Review

Read an Excerpt

So much of life is paradox.  Like, for instance, how the having is in the giving.  Or, how abundance flows through generosity.  And, as Ann Voskamp models in The Broken Way, how healing emerges from the shattering pain of brokenness.  

Truth be told, we are all broken, yet few of us want our broken laid bare for all the world to see.  Voskamp, with astonishing vulnerability, makes it safe for us by being the one to expose her cut lines, her cracks, and those moments when bad brokenness made way for good brokenness.  

As is especially apparent right now, we live in a broken world.  Yet, it is those things that break our hearts that provide us with the openings needed for a healing that can only come through union with other broken hearts.

In the introduction, Ann asks us this: How do we live with our one broken heart?  This is a book that challenges us to take our time with that question.  What else is time for if not for that?  

Voskamp shares:

Maybe what matters isn't what we want from the time we have to live... but what time wants from us.  There is a time to be broken and given into all the world's brokenness.  

With Easter fast approaching, I cannot think of a better time to reflect on what that means.  

This book came to me when I needed it most and I know there is someone reading this who will feel the same way.  A sure sign of an impactful reading experience, for me, is how much I write while absorbing a book.  I filled an entire journal with notes, insights, reflections, and quotes.  

Ann Voskamp's broken heart met up with mine through her exquisite way with words, her raw honesty, and her immense capacity for communion.

How do we live with our one broken heart?  We live by giving it away.  We live by connecting our broken to another's broken.  

Brokenness is our unity... our common ground... our gift to one another.  










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Thursday, February 17, 2022

DIY Vintage Suitcase Coffee Table

Vintage Suitcase Coffee Table

I have loved old chests and trunks since my childhood.  Now that I qualify as vintage myself, I take an even greater delight in finding, and transforming, items that have a story older than my own.  Perhaps it is nostalgia.  Whatever it is, I am always on the lookout for something with an interesting history.

This DIY project actually began in the aisles of my local Habitat for Humanity ReStore (a nonprofit I enthusiastically support).  As a rescuer at heart, I couldn't let a battered metal traveling case sit there abandoned and unwanted.  There was no doubt in my mind that an item with plenty of mileage on it had interesting stories to tell, that it had more than proven its worth, and that it should be given the chance to be useful once more.  I laid down my five dollars and started imagining what that chest could become.

These metal trunks were in use during the 1940s and 1950s.

Any search on Pinterest will show you that DIYers are pretty gung-ho about converting antique trunks, chests, and suitcases into all kinds of cool furniture pieces.  You can also find a number of these reclaimed treasures being sold on Etsy.  This is a popular trend with staying power.  I can't imagine these vintage pieces ever going out of vogue.

Top of Trunk - Mostly Surface Scratches in the Paint


Bottom of Trunk Had Seen Better Days


Inside of Case - Paper Lining - Perfume Spills

You can see from the "before" pics that I had my work cut out for me.  As is common with these old metal cases, there was a good deal of rust to contend with, and the inside paper lining was spotted in places (smelling, thankfully, of perfume).  The first order of business was to remove the surface rust with abrasive pads.  I didn't want to lose the character and patina of age, so I was careful to remove only the top layer of corrosion.  A person can ruin a good antique by doing too much restoration.


Removing Rust - Power Drill Abrasive Pad

Dremel Abrasive Buff - Perfect in Tight Spots

The rust had created a distressed metal effect that artisans work hard to achieve.


Trunk Lid Primed With Spray Paint

To deal with the minor stains inside the trunk, I painted over the paper lining.  I could have attempted to strip out the paper, but the likelihood of getting all of it removed without creating a bigger mess was too great.  I knew the primer would not only cover the stains, but would make the trunk smell clean and fresh.  Once the paint coats were dry, I sprayed a clear matte acrylic sealer over them.  


New Liner - Tissue Paper Decoupage

In determining a decorative finish for the interior, I considered several options: stenciling a design, applying a decoupage treatment, lining with fabric, using decorative stick-on tiles, or inserting a thin cork liner. I decided to go with a lovely tissue paper decoupage (using a matte Mod Podge finish).

Towards the end of the project, I changed my mind about the exterior finish. Originally, my intent was to simply sand the finish and leave it with a wire brushed finish. That would have worked for my rustic cabin decor. However, once I decided to sell this piece, I felt a freshly painted finish would be more appealing to potential buyers. I used Rust-Oleum Chalked Spray Paint (in a neutral linen white) and then gave the trim a light distressing with fine grit sand paper.

After Pic - Suitcase Coffee Table Transformation

I could see the finish line in sight as I attached four hairpin legs to the bottom of the trunk.  Because the metal skin on the case is very thin, I reinforced the bottom interior of the trunk (essentially creating a false bottom).  This provided the added stability and thickness needed to bolt the legs securely to the case.

Would I tackle a project like this again?  Absolutely!  It's not easy to walk away from a vintage item needing some TLC.  Besides, these chests are iconic and incredibly versatile.  Not only will someone gain a unique conversational piece, but this suitcase is a great place to store things like remote controls, or dreams of future travel.

This coffee table and I now share our own unique story.  Sometimes, in quiet moments, I feel transported as I imagine where it has previously been, what it carried, and who might have packed and unpacked it time and time again.  I find myself composing little vignettes about the Sisterhood of the Traveling Case.  Pretty good entertainment for the price of a five-dollar admission. 









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Thursday, November 4, 2021

Hope Heals - Book Review

 

Books find us when we need them. If ever I needed to focus on hope and healing, it was at the moment I downloaded this incredibly life-affirming account of how two extraordinary individuals survived the unsurvivable. This is an encouraging read for anyone dealing with trauma, a seemingly impossible situation, or a season of the heart requiring a lifeline.

Katherine and Jay Wolf were twenty-six, with a new baby, and tons of dreams, when the unimaginable happened—Katherine was struck down by a devastating brain stem stroke. People just don't survive the kind of massive neurovascular event this young mom had experienced. At the time, Katherine was expected to die during the initial marathon surgery needed to remove half of her brain. 

Forty days on life support. Endless surgeries. Slim odds of regaining lost capacities. What could possibly sustain a family during such an extreme time of suffering and uncertainty? 

Hope Heals is about endless love, authentic community, redefining yourself and what it means to be healed, and making the most of second chances. It is about finding an anchoring hope. Most of all, it is about overcoming.

A memoir like this truly puts things into perspective. Katherine and Jay's journey causes one to reflect on what it means to find restoration in the midst of living an unexpected life. It is that restoration that gives birth to new dreams.

Read this book for free with Kindle Unlimited. I also recommend the sequel: Suffer Strong - How to Survive Anything by Redefining Everything.





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Thursday, September 16, 2021

Blind Turn - Book Review

Forgiveness... let's just lay it out here right at the start.  Chances are every single one of us is going to need an extra helping of it more than once in our life—maybe even today.  The probability is 100 percent.

As we read Jess's story, which swirls like a catastrophic, Category Five hurricane, we will not only think about her mistake, but we are likely to reflect on our own lapses in judgment.

The thing is, it's pretty easy to err when you are sixteen years old.  Despite the fact that Jess is that absolutely model student, athlete, daughter, babysitter, friend, and girl most likely to succeed, she is also human.  And to be human, is to fail at something, or to fail someone—sometimes spectacularly.

In life, there will be devastation.  Blind Turn is about how you handle the devastation of humanity—your own and that of others.  It is about how you find your way to forgiveness when it seems you have done the unforgivable... when you feel unworthy of ever being forgiven.

This isn't a simple accounting... this story of a teen driver involved in a fatal accident.  The extreme fury of the allegations against her, Jess, would be enough to level any one of us.  Who could survive such sustained force of judgment and hatred?  Who could love themselves afterwards?  

Lest you think this too dark of a read for these stormy times, let's take a moment to speak hope.  I found, and I trust you will also find, the eye within the storm.  Inside that calm, even if temporary, are the insights that make this a read for this turbulent time.

The real blind turns in life aren't just in the roadway.  We will encounter some blind turns in our relationships.  There are things we just won't see coming.  As the lives of the main characters unfold before us, the thing that is striking is how they have each been shaped by that which was blinding at the time.  

I found that I especially loved the high school guidance counselor and the truly beautiful Miss Helen, who was widowed as a result of Jess's actions.  She lives and breathes the forgiveness, the love, the light of what it looks like to be the best possible version of ourselves.  Helen is the one I want to be.  I will carry forth her humanity.





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Thursday, September 2, 2021

DIY Cable Spool Cat Scratching Post

 

Stenciled Cable Spool

I'm that person who can't pass up an abandoned cable spool.  When I saw this little spool, I knew it wanted to go home with me.  So, I adopted it, spiffed it up, and gave it a new life.  Here's how to turn a cable spool into a cat scratching post or mini table for your porch or patio.  


Recycled Cable Spool

Step 1: Pick up a small spool anywhere wires or cables are used or sold.  I found this one at a big box home improvement store.


Spool Parts Ready for Prepping

Step 2: Separate the parts in preparation for sanding, painting, and finishing the wood.  All I had to do was unscrew the top bolts to release the three sections.


Sanding the Spool

Step 3: Sand the spool's top and bottom wood sections.

Step 4: Decide how you want to treat the wood.  I chose to lightly torch the wood to accent the grain and give it nice warm tones without stain.


Sealing the Wood - Spar Urethane

Step 5: Seal the wood and cardboard spool parts with an indoor/outdoor Spar Urethane.  I used a spray application to make it quick and easy (and fast-drying).  


Boho Medallion Stencil

Step 6: Decorate the spool top if desired.  I happened to have the perfect sized stencil (Boho Medallion) on hand for another project.  I chose to use a charcoal colored chalk spray paint that was a lovely balance to the natural wood (and a match with the metal spool bolts).  


Sisal Rope Wound Around Spool

Step 7: Reassemble the spool.  Wrap sisal rope around the cylinder.  It took a little bit more than 50-feet of 3/8" sisal.  


Recycled Cable Spool (After)

This was a really enjoyable DIY project.  Though I imagine using this recycled spool as a scratching post for my rescue cats, I can also see using it as a small end table on my porch.  I'm picturing it as a coffee table situated next to my Adirondack chair, or as a sweet little piece of furniture for the catio I'm building.

Who says it has to have only one use?  How do you envision it?  I'd love to hear your ideas in the comments below.




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Thursday, August 19, 2021

The Soul of an Octopus - Book Review

The Soul of an Octopus
Oh! From start to finish, The Soul of an Octopus had me utterly mesmerized. Such wonder. I continue to find myself in the awest state of awe (and if that isn't a word, I hereby declare it).

Who knew this creature was so magnificent in every way?  Well, Wilson knew.  And Bill, along with Scott and everyone who had the enormous privilege of intimate engagement with Athena, Octavia, Karma, and Kali.  And now, every single one of us who accepts the invitation to be wowed, and wooed, and wonderized will know.

There is plenty to give rise to a constant state of astonishment.  Three hearts for starters.  Eight arms that function like brains.  A kaleidoscopic flashing of stunning colors and patterns—dizzying in speed and intensity.  

Suction power beyond belief.  Just imagine a quarter ton of lifting and pulling capacity in one tiny body (all contained in small suckers that can untie delicate knots, unscrew lids, manipulate intricate puzzle parts, and discern your body chemistry).  

Then, there is the escapist element.  To be the Houdini of all Houdinis is something quite spectacular.  Give an octopus an inch of opportunity and that octo will, impossibly, ooze through the tiniest of gaps with a fluidity that should be impossible.  Should be.  But isn't.

This is much more than a read.  Truly, to enter into the Soul of an Octopus is to find oneself deep-diving into the lost paradise of Atlantis.  It is a portal into great mystery, majesty, and yes, I admit, there will be mortality.  Life demands it.

From the tanks of the New England Aquarium, to exhilarating open water octopus encounters, breathtaking moments will find you, move you, and capture your heart.  

Which brings us back to the three hearts...

More than anything, I was struck by how encounters with an octopus transformed all she held in thrall: a despairing autistic teen who had recently lost her best friend to suicide; an aquarist with a wife in hospice; a developmentally different twin who exulted in being liked by Karma.  

But wait—how can an invertebrate stir such emotions, such obsession, such desire to connect at the deepest of levels?  What is this?  Is this a soul connection?

Ah, now we are asking questions that have no neat and tidy answers.  Yet, these are questions that bring us beyond ourselves.  No matter the viewpoint, and there are plenty of perspectives regarding what constitutes soul, to embrace that there is more to this oceanic creature than meets the eye is to embrace a deeper sense of ourselves in relationship to that magnificent mystery.  

An expansion of consciousness can happen in that space between the knowing and the not knowing (if, like the octopus, we become fluid enough to flow through the impossibly possible).  

I encourage you to dive deep into this wonderland.  I consider The Soul of an Octopus to be one of the most exquisite books I have read this year.  Highly recommended.









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Thursday, August 5, 2021

Upcycled DIY End Table Pet Bed

Upcycled End Table Pet Bed

As a continuation of my DIY series on repurposed furniture projects, I present to you my latest pet bed creation.  These upcycled end table dog or cat beds are extremely popular with both fur babies and their pet parents.  I speak from direct experience.  My animals spend nearly all of their time in these beds.  

The four-poster pet bed featured here can be easily completed in a weekend.  Here's a quick rundown of the process I used to bring new life to a vintage end table.  

Supplies Needed: 

  1.  Vintage End Table
  2.  Sand Paper or Sanding Sponge
  3.  Paint (I used Rust-Oleum Chalked Spray Paint - Chiffon Cream)
  4.  Bun Feet (optional)
  5. Finials (I used crystal drawer knobs; lamp finials are another great option)
  6. Clear Coat Sealer (I used the Rust-Oeum Chalked Paint Matte Topcoat)
Tools Used:
  1. Screwdriver
  2. Hack Saw
  3. Sander
  4. Drill
  5. Pliers
  6. Brad Nailer

Vintage End Table (Before)

I started with a quick shopping trip to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore and the Goodwill Store.  This vintage end table was perfect for my project and easy on my budget (eight dollars).  It's nice to get a bargain while supporting a cause near and dear to my heart.

Step One: Flip table. Pull out drawer. Remove inner drawer supports to clear space for bed. I simply used a mini hack saw to cut the cross piece and then a screwdriver to remove the two side supports. 

End Table With Drawer Removed


Cutting Out Drawer Brace


Unscrewing Side Drawer Support


Step Two: Remove drawer pulls by unscrewing inside hardware.  Save parts for later.

Removing Drawer Pulls

Step Three: Pull off the plastic leg disks used for leveling and protecting the floor.  Discard.

Removing Plastic Leg Disks

Step Four: Cut off the back part of the drawer and reinstall drawer front (I cut it with a hacksaw leaving an inch of the drawer's side and then used a brad nailer to affix it).  As you can see from the second photo, the drawer takes up room needed for the pet bed.  However, the drawer face is needed for the front side of the cabinet.  I considered using the drawer to make a little step up into the princess bed.  That would be a fun option if you have a tiny dog that could use a boost.


Drawer Front/Side After Cut-Off


Drawer Inside Table (Before)

Step Five: Install supports and false bottom for bedding area.  The wood pieces will provide enough depth to drill in the bolts for the bun feet (from the other side). The veneer of the end table top was too thin for the bolts and bolt inserts, hence the wood blocks covered by a sheet of masonite.

Supports For False Bottom

Masonite Covering Bottom Supports

Step Six: Sand wood in preparation for two fresh coats of paint.

Paint Prep - Sanding

Step Seven: Prime and paint with two coats of Rust-Oleum Chiffon Cream chalked paint.

Chiffon Cream Spray Paint

Step Eight: Seal the paint with a clear finish. I used the Rust-Oleum matte topcoat.

Clear Topcoat Protective Finish

Step Nine
: Attach bun feet. This was done by drilling holes for the bolt inserts.

Bun Feet Installed With Threaded Inserts

Step Ten: Screw in finials atop the legs.  I love the rainbows that wash over the bed when sunlight shines through the prisms.

Crystal Finials Installed

Step Eleven: Reattach the drawer pulls after painting them.  I used the same creamy chalk paint.

Painted Drawer Pulls Back In Place

Step Twelve: Select fabric and make a cozy bed cushion/pillow.  I used foam cushions and two fabric selections: one is a fleece damask pattern in pink and chocolate; one is a super soft ribbed pink chenille.  Which do you like best?  

Damask Fleece Bed Cushion

Pink Ribbed Chenille Bed Cushion

So there you have it.  Upcycling is a fun way to exercise your imagination while feeling great about saving an item from a premature demise.  Why send something to the landfill when it has plenty of life left in it?  

I like to think this old end table is pretty pleased to be looking better than ever and to be enfolding the life of a beloved pet.  There's nothing like being needed and valued.  

Interested in more pet bed demos?  Check out my DIY upcycled dresser drawer beds.  My cats adore them.

Stay tuned for upcoming DIY demo projects.  Up next is an antique door hall tree and a vintage metal suitcase coffee table (recent Habitat for Humanity ReStore finds that I could not resist).





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