Sunday, July 26, 2009

Bonding with Titus, Grandbaby #3

Last night as Greg and I, along with Troy & Steph, took an evening stroll along the beach in the mist and fog, Greg suddenly said, "Look!" and started running ahead.
Out of the mist, like a dream... stepped my son, Zeke, his wife, Amy and my grandsons, Nate and Titus! (They'd arrived without calling us and surprised us!)

Titus came to me and laid his little 9 month old baby head on my shoulder, and I immediately melted in to grandmotherly mush. Nate was jumping and running and grinning saying, "Is this the BEACH, Nonnie? Is that the Ocean??" Such a moment!

This morning Nate was ready to play with Nonnie at 6:15 (I usually don't wake or speak in complete sentences until at least 8:00!) After some coffee and sleepy attempts at chit-chat, Poppy and Zeke & Amy took off to show Nate the joy of sand dollar hunting; leaving me with some rare alone time with my newest grandson Titus.

As you can see Titus has gleefully taken over my reading glasses (when I snapped this pic, I discovered to my surprise -- he has teeth now!); helped me blog (using a spoon to type, which is, I think, a sign of genius); and alphabetized the front of the fridge.

Right now he's cuddled beside me fast asleep. It was hard not to laugh as I rocked and sang him to sleep because, rather than crying or fussing, he griped "nayah, nayah, nayah..." like a grumpy old man and blew rasberries at my lullablies, between yawns and eye rubs as he fought going off to dreamland.

It is so much fun to see the personality begin to pop out of children in the first year of their life. Titus does the Princess Di shy smile and royal head duck when you greet him. If I had to sum him up in two words it would Sweet Natured. He's going to be a laidback, kindhearted little fellow I think. (Although Nate told me this morning that Titus is not a little fellow. He is a baby brother. So I stand corrected.)

One of the songs I sang to him was the old one from The King & I, "Getting to know you, getting know all about you. Getting to like you, getting to hope you like me. When I am with you, suddenly I'm free and easy... you are precisely, my cup of tea!"

And truly, Grandson #3 is just exactly "the cup of tea" our family had been waiting for. I think we're going to keep him.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Flat Out Good (& Cheap) Flat Iron Steaks

I do not know where flat iron steaks have been all my life, they just seemed to appear out of nowhere, the way talapia did a few years ago!

But they are some of the best bargains in the meat department and we like them as well as the high priced steaks. Tender, and lean, but full of flavor especially if marinated.

Here's how we cooked them tonight.

I sprinkled both sides of 3 flat iron steaks lightly with grill seasoning,massaging it in.
Then in a zip lock bag, I squeezed 1/2 a lime, and 1/2 an orange, 2 T. Thai chili sauce, 3 T. soy, 3 T. hoison and 1 T. worchestershire sauce. Then I plopped in the steaks and let them hang out in the marinade for about 3 hours in the fridge.

Then we simply grilled them until medium rare. Cover with foil and let juices redistribute for about 3 minutes before serving so the juice stays inside the steak.

Served tonight with oven fries: potatoes, skin on, sliced and rolled in a little olive oil and Tony's cajun seasoning baked at 400 until nice and brown/crispy -- around 15 - 20 minutes. Added slices of watermelon and called the hungry troops to dinner.

P.S. Beach Peach Cookie/Cobbler

I forgot this No Brainer Cobbler recipe in my earlier post. It's very easy for a cook-out or taking to beach or mountain cabin because of simple ingredients.

3 Large Cans of Peaches -- drain off the juice from one can, and use the juice from other 2 cans. Pour in large rectangle pyrex pan.

Sprinkle with a little cinnamon. (You could also sprinkle with a little sugar; however, the cookie crust is so sweet, I don't usually do this.)

Using refrigerator sugar cookie dough, place little teaspoon size pinches of dough all over the peaches about about an inch & 1/2 apart.

Bake at 350 until cookie/cobbler crust is nice and brown. Don't undercook or cookie crust will be too soggy!

Serve with ice cream.

Wife on a Hot Tin Roof (Or "It's Raining Chairs!")

(See the little nook at the top of our beach house? That is where I stepped out for a better view.....)

Knowing my grandkids will be here in a couple of hours, this may be my last time to blog for some time.

So a quick story for grins.

Yesterday, Greg's sister went home to Portland and thus, vacated the most coveted spot in the house. The little Eagle's Nest loft at the tippy top of our 3 story beach rental.

So while hubby Greg and his son Troy, & Troy's wife Steph were engrossed in the movie Gran Torino, I decided to sneak up and enjoy the Room with the Best View. In a mere T shirt and jeans, I stepped out on the deck and surveyed the sun setting over the ocean. It was getting mighty chilly up there so I turned to step inside to grab a jacket when I realized.. Uh. Oh. I'd locked myself out.

I hollered and yelled but to no avail. My family was absorbed with Clint Eastwood on the TV screen. Morphing into MacGyer Brain I looked around for any tools I could use in my escape plan.

Aha! Plastic Lawn Chairs. Not exactly the material I needed to make a bomb, but it would have to do.

I put one of them over the rail and climbed down... feeling less and less like MacGyer and more and more like Lucy Ricardo. I grabbed another to use as my Attention Getter Device.

Then I walked carefully, one might say even catlike, across the roof. Spying a couple of air vents, I yelped a series of heartfelt "helps" into them and waited. Silence.

So on to Plan B (which I was making up as I went). I lay down on the edge of the roof and saw that -- yes! -- the curtain across the big patio door was open.

I threw the plastic chair down on the deck in front of the patio door with a hearty shove. Then another.

Thankfully, Stephanie was aware and alert enough to notice it was raining lawn furniture and that this might not be your normal happening, even in Neskowin where everything appears to have fairy tale quality about it.

My husband just shook his head in a mixture of wonder & confusion at this woman he's married. Before me, his life was pretty uneventful. Now every day is something of a series of both fortunate and unfortunate events. But he loves me. And how boring life would be without a few surprises now and then? Like discovering Your Wife on a Hot Tin Roof, pitching down lawn furniture once upon a nice summer's eve.

Friday, July 24, 2009

3 Kinds of Time Every Woman Needs

(One of the many Contemplative Porch Spots around the Beach House, just waiting to be occupied with a person in need of relaxing.)

Let me begin this post with kudos, hugs, love and huge buckets of empathy to moms of little ones everywhere. For I am all too aware that a day alone to do only what you want to do at any given moment may sound like science fiction or fantasy. Perhaps a day of solitude, sweet freeing solitude, is the compensation of middle-age.

At 50-Something, we aren't young and wrinkle-free anymore; our hair needs colored, our chins need plucked (as my mom says, "After 40, its 'patch, patch, patch'); and we look wistfully at our daughters or daughters in law and remember when...sigh... we looked like that. However, because I married at age 17 and began producing babies like a fertile rabbit right away (at my ten year high school reunion I won the Most Likely to Populate the Planet Award)... I don't think I had much time to savor the body & youth I'd been blessed with. I was too busy changing diapers, giving birth and nursing a child -- and longing, with every fiber of my being, for a full night's sleep. An unhurried day alone -- just for fun & pleasure --would remain a dream, for what seemed like decades.

And so it is now, at mid-life, that I find there are some pretty amazing compensations to the hassle and upkeep of growing older. Surprisingly, lovemaking is better at this age. Greg and I listen to the woes of hard-bodied, beautiful/handsome newlyweds trying to work out their sexual rhythms, desires and issues and cannot help but think to ourselves, "Oh, what we could do if we had your bodies and our relaxed, in-sync brains!"

Grandchildren are certainly another blessed compensation of getting older. They are, absolutely, the perfect way to enjoy children. With my grandchildren I have a simple philosphy that I adopted from my Aunt Hazel. "Give them every thing they want. Never tell them no." Thus far it is working beautifully. Of course, I can give them back to their mom and dad for deprogramming. But I get to remain the Fairy Grandmother who grants all their wishes and loves them unconditionally. A marvelous role, one I was born to fill.

But perhaps, greatest of all the compensations of growing old is to get days like this one handed to you on a silver platter -- like an unexpected gift, or suprise breakfast in bed.

Today, all the relatives have cleared out of our beach house; Greg & Troy & Steph are off to tour the Tilamook Cheese Factory (I've been on the tour before. To sum it up: cheese comes from milk which comes from cows. I hope I haven't spoiled the surprise for anyone.)

So on my morning alone, because writing is a great joy -- I am typing my thoughts, unbridled, unpressured and unhurried on the little porch/deck next to our bedroom... in my pajamas. Coffee and cream at my side. Sunshine on my shoulders, which -- as John Denver wrote -- does, indeed, make me happy. Birds singing in the trees above me, the sound of ocean waves in the distance. And best of all, I have hours of unplanned time ahead of me to do anything I want to do.

I think, later, I'll walk down to the Neskowin store and have lunch by the sea with me, myself and a good book. Will probably top it off with scoop of Tillamook ice cream.I've been eyeing that chocolate peanut butter flavor. (Just in case you are wondering, the Tillamook tour guide pointed out that ice cream also comes from cows.)

In this contemplative moment, I've decided there are Three Kinds of Time a woman needs in her life to feel balanced and full. One is time with family & friends. That busy, hectic time feeds our social soul. The other is time apart -- with the Love of Our Life. This passionate time feeds our sensual soul. Finally, there is time alone where we can hear our own thoughts and if we are blessed, and quiet enough, also the Voice of God speaking to our hearts. This solitary time feeds our spiritual soul.

May you take great pleasure today in whatever Kind of Time you are experiencing. And if you are feeling off-kilter, perhaps you can ask yourself what you are missing and arrange for a day with people, or a hot date your sweetie, or with the company of your own delightful self. (Yes, even you mothers of little ones need a day alone for Pure Fun, at least every now and then. That's what grandmas and Mother's Day Out Programs are for!)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Sweet Things: No Brainer Desserts for a Bunch!

(Me and Aunt Gail in our Beach House Kitchen, playing Betty Crocker together!)

Yesterday I posted about our family eating warm razzleberry pie and ice cream. A sweet friend asked for the recipe and I just directed her to Marie Callendar's frozen pie. I cannot make a pie to equal her razzleberry concoction!

In fact, when it comes to desserts, I rarely cook them myself because 1) I would eat all the batter and then, proceed to eat all the leftover pie, cake, cookies at midnight... and
b)there are some classics we love that don't require a cook in the kitchen! (And as you'll see there are 3 recipes that your 6 year old could throw together in 5 minutes that wow a crowd as well as any 6 layer cake that takes all day to bake.)

My Go To favorite Easy Sweet Treats are

1. Marie Callendar's Razzleberry Pie (served warm with vanilla ice cream...)

2. Marie Callendar's Chocolate French Silk Pie (just thaw, serve and taste that buttery chocolate filling spreading from your happy lips to your hips...)

3. Oreo Ice Cream Sundae Dessert -- Crush a regular sized bag of oreos (after you've eaten 2 or 3 of course) with 2/3 stick of melted butter and pat buttered cookie crumbs into a big oblong pan. Layer either 1/2 of 1/2 gallon of vanilla or mint chocolate chip ice cream on top of cookies. (I like to use the cardboard boxed ice cream for this -- and just open the box, cut the ice cream in pieces and lay on the oreo crust). Then add a good squizzle of Hershey's syrup or your favorite fudge topping, followed by another layer of ice cream and more topping. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze until ready to serve. Top with whipping cream, chopped pecans, and a cherry or strawberry if you like (one per piece) then cut in squares, serve on plates or in bowls and be happy.

4. An angel food cake made from a mix is about the easiest thing in the world to whip up once you've purchased the tube pan for the job. Add water, mix and pour into a tube pan and bake. But the flavor of a warm angel food cake coming out of the oven and taste/texture is so far superior to the deli bought ones that it is worth the 5 minutes it takes to throw it together. We often serve this with fresh strawberries or peaches and whipped cream

My mom gave me this Pineapple Angel Food recipe that a 5 year old can make. We love it!

One angel food cake mix
One 15 oz. can (a large one) crushed pineapple with juice

Mix together. (don't add anything else, no water... nada. 2 ingredients is all. Just use a big wooden spoon and stir. It will foam up and "grow" in the bowl. You don't beat this as you would a classic angel food cake!)

Pour into an ungreased oblong pan (the biggest you have)

Bake at 350. When done, turn upside down to cool. This is the tricky part.
You may need some help from a hubby or child. I put 4 soup cans (or whatever 4 cans you have in the pantry that are the same height) at the corners of the inverted cake pan to let the cake cool without smushing the top.

The cake may sink a bit in the middle, but that is okay. When cool, frost with whipping cream (or Cool Whip) and sprinkle with a little toasted coconut and sliced almonds, serve room temp or cold! (keep in fridge)

Serves a bunch... fairly low calorie, too. No fat at all in cake itself!

5. Becky's No Brainer Cobbler

Pour a big bag of frozen mixed berries (no need to thaw) into a bowl and add about 2/3 c. sugar, 1 t. vanilla, dash cinnamon, and 1 T. flour or cornstarch. Mix together.

Pour berry mixture into big oblong pan. Dot top of fruit with bits of butter.

Take two refridgerated, raw, Pillsbury Pie crusts, unroll them and , as best as you can, fit them together on top of the berries. This will take some patchworking, but hey -- we're going for a rustic cobbler look, right?

Then flute the edges of the pie crust around the pan. Cut a few slits in the top. Brush crust with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Bake until the smells make you woozy with hunger and the crust is nice and brown. Serve with ice cream.

You can also use peaches or apples or any other kind of fruit you like in this basic no brainer recipe. I like mixing a little rhubarb with the berries when it is in season!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Beach Lunch: Tri Tip French Dips

Yesterday, Greg's two 70-something storytelling aunts drove up to the beach house, to regal us all with the history of the Johnson family. Greg lost his father at age 55 and so this was especially meaningful to hear all about his father's life from his sisters. Three 20-something cousins, all boys (including Greg's son) were too young to remember their grandfather at all and sat spellbound hearing the stories about Ralph Johnson. (Who won an Amarillo Slim Poker Tournament before Texas Hold'em became wildly popular, among many other fun feats.)

To keep everyone's bellies happy during the story-thon, I served up Tri Tip French Dips. So easy, but oh so good. Especially great for feeding a bunch of hungry men and boys!

So heres my 2nd "Go To" recipe for a big crowd, always a hit and as simple as it gets!I use 2 tri-tips that come in one package that I get at Sams Club for this recipe.

In a large Reynold's cooking bag place 2/3 c. good thick teriyaki sauce, 2 smashed garlic cloves, 2 c. water and 1 envelope Lipton Onion Soup mix. Squish ingredients around and then add the tri tip roasts. Tie up bag (I lay this in a large pyrex pan) and DON't poke a hole in it as this keeps the juices inside. (So far I've avoided a blow up!)

Can marinate in cooking bag over night or if in a hurry, just pop it in 325 degree oven for about 3 hours.

Remove meat from juices (pour juices from bag into a big skillet) Slice tri tip across grain, place in pan of au jus and heat all. (May add water to thin and check to see if it needs salt or pepper.)

Serve meat over buttered, toasted (or grilled) garlic bread or sub rolls with a little bowl of au jus sauce for dipping.

Can also serve with sauteed onions, mushrooms and peppers for a fancy pants sandwich:)

You can also use this recipe for a Sunday roast over mashed garlic potatoes.

Always, always a hit!
A variation: No Lipton Onion Soup in pantry or prefer a fresher alternative? Follow the steps above but sprinkle both sides of tri-tips with steak seasoning, then cut up an onion and lay on top of the meat in place of onion soup. When finished cooking, whirl the cooked onions with some of the au jus in a blender or food processor, and pour back into pan for a rich, oniony gravy.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Teriyaki Sesame Salmon

(Here's a pic of this salmon dish, with wild rice & little dab of guacamole)

(Our beach house for 2 weeks!)

Having a wonderful time at Neskowin Beach on the Oregon coast with Greg and his extended family. Just served Teriyaki Sesame Salmon to a big group (20). This is a great go-to recipe, healthy and yummy and easy for two or twenty.

Heat Oven to 400.

In a pie plate or shallow bowl pour 2/3 c. good,thick gourmet type teriyaki sauce.
(To this you can add garlic, a splash of hot sauce -- I like Thai chili -- and a T. of maple syrup. But if you are in a hurry, the teriyaki sauce alone will be fine!)

In another plate pour 1/2 c sesame seeds (cheapest on Oriental food aisle rather than spice aisle). You can also blend these with any kind of chopped nuts. I like using 1/2 sesame seeds with 1/2 ground pecans.

Roll pieces of salmon (4 for this recipe) first into teriyaki sauce, then into seeds,
and lay into an oblong pyrex pan (that has a good "squiggle" of olive oil in bottom)

Bake until salmon just flakes (I prefer my salmon not too done as it is so much more moist and buttery tasting!)

If you want to crisp up the sesame coating you can always broil it a second. (But watch closely)

I also like to serve this in large shallow bowls on top of a simple ceaser salad made with chopped romaine, parmesan, croutons and Ceaser Dressing. I also love this with a little avocado on the salad as well.

Or try this dressing which is my take on Green Goddess:
1/2 c ranch dressing, 1 quarter avocado mshed, juice from 1/2 lime, lots of fresh pepper -- stir and spoon over salad and salmon..

Served with cornbread or french bread this is a one bowl supper.

Everyone loves it and asks for the recipe.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Roadtrip Romance: 5th Anniversary

It’s been a heavy duty season of giving, of deadlines, of multiple pressures and loving on people who are at some of the worst crossroads in life -- and need just a little hug, an uplifting lunch, some hope.

Nothing pleases my husband Greg and I more than comforting others with the same sort of comfort we received during our darkest seasons. We are so grateful for what God has done with the messes in our lives. Our greatest ministry, indeed, has come from our deepest misery.

That said, I had no idea how much every cell in my body needed this three day road trip, alone with my Honey, to refresh, renew, refill and recharge my heart. Like a pitcher that has poured out every last drop of water to refresh others; I needed to Stop the World, get in the car with my wonderfully loving and calming husband (I call him Human Prozac) and be filled again. Just drive, stare out the window and enjoy married chit-chat between contented silences, together.

Yesterday we spent the day playing the music of our love as I read through the 2-inch stack of love letters we’d sent each other. Needless to say, by the time we reached the hotel last night we were newlyweds again. (Okay, yes, as we've been for the last 5 years.)

My world seems to be built of words, words, words. Reading them, writing them, speaking them, hearing them. Besides lots of face to face communication, I also read a big stack of books each week. Social networking – more words! – is fun and, if I am honest, sometimes addictive. I usually have a book on tape going in the car when I drive. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a world of words, unless – like anything --- it gets out of balance.

And I was beginning to feel very out of balance this past few weeks. Small things seemed overwhelming, my patience was failing, everything seemed more daunting. (See Greg’s post on Giver Overload on his blog I read it and saw myself squarely there.)

Enter this Getaway Road Trip from Colorado to Neskowin, Oregon: me, Greg, and a stack of CDs full of our favorite love songs. Hours and hours of them. I’ve been washed in nothing but his love, gorgeous scenery, and music, music, beautiful music!

I can feel my inner pitcher filling up… with every mile, every song.

We both teared up at the words to Perry Como singing “And I love you so” – particularly the opening lines, “People ask me how, how I’ve lived to now?… I tell them, ‘I don’t know.’” And the tears poured, unchecked at the words, “I guess they understand, how lonely life has been; but life began again, the day you took my hand.”

We grin at each other through Toby Keith’s “Rock You Baby” about a man who happens upon a woman who “wore her broken heart out on her sleeve,” but her loneliness can’t hide the beauty inside. And if he knows, if he can just get this “shattered lady” in his arms, he can rock her world, and love her like she’s never been loved before. Greg and I have danced to this song before, his eyes communicating confidence in my ability to heal within the safety of his sure and faithful love.

We listen to Elvis crooning “Can’t Help Falling in Love with You,” -- as take each others hands (and "our whole lives too"...) for some things indeed, seem meant to be.

This morning we turned up the joyously affirming song by Chicago, “You’re My Inspiration”, – full volume.

Greg played it for me before asking me to marry him.

“You know our love is meant to be, the kind of love that lasts forever.
And I want you here with me, from tonight until the end of time.
You should know, everywhere I go, you’re always on mind, in my heart, in my soul… Baby…
You’re the meaning in my life, you’re the inspiration,
You bring feeling to my life…you’re my inspiration
wanna have you near me, wanna have you hear me saying,
‘No one needs you more than I need you.' ”

We ended the day with “oldy but goody” worship songs. “Praise the Lord, for our God inhabits praise and the chains that serve to bind you, drop powerless behind you when you praise him…”

I love that we so easily move from sentimental to sexy to sacred and back again. I feel God’s smile on all of it.

So that is a taste of the musical journey we’ve been on today, our anniversary. And yes, I’m pausing to put it into words because I don’t know a better way to capture this precious day. I’m hopelessly … wordy. But its in balance again.

Greg’s pulling into a gas station somewhere on the outskirts of Oregon now. He needs a break so it is my turn to take over the wheel and drive. And pick out the next set of songs.

This is my brain on joy AND in love.

And finally, finally well-rested and at peace.

Hmmm… now to find the song, “My cup runneth over with love.”

Monday, July 13, 2009

On Publishing, Julia Child & A Fine Marriage Observed

When I wrote the post below about my admiration of the marriage between Paul and Julia Child, I hadn't yet heard of the upcoming new movie "Julia & Julia" with Meryl Streep playing the ebullient & distinctive voiced Julia Child. (Did I read someone describe Mrs. Child's voice sounding as though it were a product of a rooster having mated with an accordion? )

I assure you, I'll be first in line for a glimpse of Meryl bringing Child to life on the big screen. Since posting this note a few months ago, I've since stumbled across a fascinating book by the editor, Judith Jones, who found and championed Julia's first hefty cookbook. Last night, as I was waiting for my literary agent husband Greg to finish up some meetings in the lobby of a downtown Denver hotel; I fished Judith Jone's book (The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food) out of my purse, and read in wonder as she described receiving yet another manuscript she could not put down, many years ago.

With Jone's help, the story on those typewritten manuscript pages would evolve into a meeting with Otto Frank, the father of a little girl whose diary he found in a war-ravaged home after the Holocaust. Her name? Anne Frank. Those priceless diaries were shared with the world via an editor with a good eye for a beautifully tragic story that must be told; the same eye that would spot a goldmine in a cookbook that could teach American housewives how to make a good boeuf bourguingnon.

(A total aside, but Greg recently "discovered" an author, Nonna Bannister, who survived the Holocaust as a little girl with a diary she was able to to hide from the Nazis. Actually, she did not want to talk about the story, so her family followed her wishes and did not send out the manuscript until after her death. The book released this year is called The Secret Holocaust Diaries. Riveting read. But I digress...)

As I watched the mixing and mingling of agents, publishers, writers and editors in the hotel lobby last night (big book convention in town) and sat in on a few pitch meetings as well, my mind drifted back to Judith Jones , now senior editor and VP Alfred A. Knopf where she's worked in "books" since 1957. There's a reason a woman stays in the publishing business for 52 years. It is an endlessly varied and fascinating profession. One cannot be too young, nor too old for a career in books. In addition, book publishing has the exciting element of gambling or fishing, you never know when that next manuscript "coming in over the transom" or through a sharp-eyed agent is going to be the next Diary of Anne Frank and touch the heart of the world; or launch the next Julia Child and send us, by droves, into the kitchen with an omelet pan, a hearty appetite and big smiles of anticipation.

Now, without further adieu --I'm re-posting this note in celebration and anticipation of the new movie, which I plan to see with a few foodie friends. Right after a delicious (preferably French) meal!


I am listening to the audio book, My Life in France by Julia Child (beautifully read by someone else.) Oui, oui, I am completely charmed by Julia's love of good food and the way she dove into all things French the same way - with great gulps of enthusiasm.

But there's another story, an undertone of joy, that is even more compelling to me right now. It is the story of a well-matched couple in love with each other and delighted by life itself. Paul and Julia were each other's biggest fans, allowing both to blossom into their best, happiest and truest selves.

Of late, Greg and I have been involved in counseling several couples where the man is, how shall I put this delicately? A selfish jerk. Where have all the good husbands gone?

I love that Julia herself goes completely against Dream Wife Type. No one would accuse Paul of picking out a trophy wife as decoration for his arm and boost for his ego when he asked Julia to marry him. In fact, she looked more like a middle linebacker, standing well over six feet tall. And then there was that Voice, the sort cartoons and SNL characters are made of. What Julia lacked in movie star beauty, she seemed to make up for in fun, humor, kindness, and knowing her way around an omelet pan.

Reading between the lines, the secret ingredient to their lifelong attraction seemed to be, to me, that both Paul and Julia were blessed with joy, curiosity, contentment and the kind of generosity that pours from mates who keep each other's emotional cups full. Theirs was a beautiful marriage of two brains on joy. A rare match indeed. But when it happens, there is magic.

In an era when many men could not imagine their wife working outside the home, Paul happily supported Julia's dreams (as she did his). When in Paris together because of Paul's job with the American Embassy there, she fell in love with France, its people and of course, its mouthwatering cuisine.

She, being new to the French language, accidentally signed up for a year long course at the Cordon Bleu instead of what she thought was the six week housewife cooking course. She and Paul discussed the mistake and after considering it, Paul told her that he thought she should just go for it-- that following her passion would be wonderful for "her wellbeing." How's that for a dream conversation, ladies?

In 1967 on a PBS special Paul said: "How fortunate we are at this moment in our lives! Each doing what he most wants, in a marvelously adapted place, close to each other, superbly fed and housed, with excellent health, and few interruptions." I see in these two sentences that Paul lived his life gratefully aware of its blessings, especially the blessing of a good marriage. What fun he must have been for Julia to love.

I love this excerpt from a report: "Her (Julia's) new career crashed like a meteor into the center of their marriage. New roles sprang up and grabbed them -- she the star and he the support staff -- but they were determined to maintain what Julia called “that lovely intertwining of life, mind, and soul that a good marriage is.”

“We are a team,” she often said. “We do everything together ... Whenever she talked about her career, she said “we,” not “I,” and she meant it literally. Paul was an integral part of everything Julia did, careerwise. He was also adept at making his own sunshine. "When he wasn’t needed, he disappeared happily into his own world, painting and photographing and gardening ... "

Every morning they liked to snuggle in bed together for a half hour after the alarm went off, and at the end of the day, Paul would read aloud from the New Yorker while Julia made dinner. “We are never not together,” Paul said once, contentedly.”

(Source: Laura Shapiro, "Just a Pinch of Prejudice" from Julia Child,, 2007. )

Such oneness! It has been so refreshing to read about a wonderful,happy, longterm marriage. How I wish that all couples could experience this kind of "normal" -- where mutual kindness, optimism and enthusiasm for each other create a gourmet feast out of the simple, everyday ingredients of daily life.

For many years I neglected my kitchen for the task of raising my kids, surviving a difficult marriage and a blossoming writing and speaking career. Now that the kids are grown and I've remarried a man who considers my "wellbeing" as vitally important, I found extra brainspace available and with room in my head for more than mere survival, I made my way back to the kitchen. I am realizing that the joy of cooking is one of life's greatest outlets for giving tangible love. Creating a delicious meal is an art, whether it is a simple fluffy scrambled egg in a pretty bowl, or a multi-course Babette's Feast.

I have two plaques in my kitchen that speak of love in the language of food.

"Love is like bread, it must be made fresh every day." Greg and I often tell couples to make love every day, in some special way. There may not always be sex, but there should always be sensuality. A touch, a kiss, a gaze, a hug, words of longing and appreciation.

The other plaque sums up what it takes to enjoy a perfect evening, when you are married to your best friend and lover: "A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou."

In a few days, Greg and I will celebrate our 5th anniversary as the happiest married couple in the universe. We owe our glow to having found the secret of feasting upon the wonder of each other, never taking the other for granted, knowing how rare this kind of love is among married couples. And of course, many great meals and glasses of wine shared together haven't hurt our happiness either. Bon Apetit!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Serenity 101: Or "Somebody Stop that GERBIL!"

(Picture of beach at San Clemente at Sunset. Serenity to me.)

For some reason this has been a week where my mind -- probably my cingulate gyrus in "brainspeak" -- tended to get stuck on a fretful or bitter or "gee, I'm dreading that" loop. Twice I felt as though I missed great chunks of good days because my brain had been kidnapped into Somebody Done Me Wrong Land. Do you ever have days like this?
I have a friend who lived her whole life like this. Could not let go of even the smallest resentments from years and years ago. Nor could she stop voicing them to anyone who would pause to listen. You can imagine how many friends she put off; and how distressed her inner life felt. She had one of those brains "you wouldn't want to go into alone."

She read This is Your Brain on Joy, especially the chapter on the cingulate gyrus which we nicknamed the Circular Gerbil Wheel -- as this is the part of the brain that gets stuck and obsesses. She began taking an anti-obsessive antidepressant when her life hit bottom and within a week, the gerbil wheel stopped and she wondered aloud, "How could I have let all those things bother me so much? What was that about?" She told me people are telling her, "Wow, you seem so much more serene. So relaxed and real." Then she added, "I've got mixed feelings about that. I'm glad they like me now, but the hidden message is that I must have been a real pain in the patooty before. I hate that I wasted so much time not being my best self."

I've found that taking a supplement with GABA (my favorite is True Calm by Now Products) works well for my occasional Gerbil Wheel Moments. In addition, this wonderful advice came in my InBox this morning and felt as though it were heaven-sent. Wanted to share it with you
just in case you may also need the reminder to let go of angst, breathe in serenity.

The Serenity Prayer is most commonly attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr, although there is some evidence that it existed before he popularized it in the 1930's. This prayer became well known with it's adoption by Alcoholics Anonymous in 1941.

God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
To apply this great wisdom...

1.The past cannot be changed, so what there is to do is to accept what has been with no regrets, no resentments, and no call for vengeance.

2. Remember that there are a million "wrong things" in the world (as well as a billion "right things"), so focus your energies on addressing with courage the few issues closest to your heart, and accept the rest of life with serenity.

3. Never waste your time or energy complaining. Either take positive action, or accept with serenity.

Jonathan Lockwood Huie

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Day I Had My Head Examined

(The good, kind, brilliant, Dr. Earl Henslin, with whom I wrote This is Your Brain on Joy. )

The following is an excerpt from This is Your Brain on Joy -- my (Becky's) personal experience of getting a brain scan...

Since the first time I read Dr. Amen’s book Change Your Brain, Change Your Life with complete fascination (over ten years ago now), I’ve wondered, Hmmmm . . . what would my brain SPECT scan look like?And then I quickly decided that some things were probably just better left . . . a mystery.

I was that girl in high school who, though a true brunette, was often the butt of blond jokes anyway. I was book-smart rich but common-sense poor. I might make straight A’s, but while accepting my report card from the teacher, I could be wearing mismatched shoes and my shirt inside out and never notice it. After forgetting to bring my gym suit to my seventh grade PE class for nearly two weeks in a row (each day being as astonished at my own forgetfulness as the day before), the junior high school coach held a conference with my mother and told her flatly, “Becky is going to have to really lean on that cute little way about her in order to get through life. Her ability to make me laugh is all that’s keeping me from strangling her.”

So I took to carrying my Honor Society card in the wallet of my purse so that I could pull it out in scenarios where my basic intelligence might be called into question. And it worked, as long as I could remember where I last put my wallet . . . and my purse.But, alas, my junior high gym teacher was right. My sense of humor has saved my forgetful neck in more ways, and for more years, than I care to count. I actually had a fairly prolific career as a humor writer and speaker, telling stories about the scatterbrained situations I so often found myself in. As my youngest son, then age fifiteen, once said to his buddies after hearing me speak for the first time: “Mom basically just tells about the funny or weird stuff that is always happening to her, and people laugh like crazy and actually pay her for it.” So using my naturally high sense of optimism, I simply turned my most blaring faults into a cottage industry.

Though it may seem totally out of my normal character to collaborate on a book about the brain, when I was asked to consider writing this project with Dr. Henslin, I fairly lept at the opportunity! Since reading Dr. Amen’s first book so many years ago, I’d become an armchair brainiac. My bedside table nearly always had one or two books about the mind or the brain, which I absorbed like a neuron-hungry sponge. While other women flipped through People magazine, I was soaking up "Scientific American Mind."

Equally of interest to me were books on what makes happy people . . . well, happy. So when Dr. Henslin proposed writing a book on the brain and joy, from a Christian perspective, all the pieces clicked. A dream came true. I jumped at the opportunity to learn more about brain imaging and how the brain affects our moods, behavior, relationships, and more. (I have learned that the fastest way to learn something well is to have to write about it or teach it.) Moreover, because I am not exactly your average science-person, I hoped I could help a brilliant mind like Dr. Henslin’s communicate life-changing concepts to an even wider audience.

Then Dr. Henslin and Dr. Amen offered to let me experience getting my brain scanned as part of the research for this book. At first I was truly thrilled about that opportunity, but the night before the actual scan was to take place I found myself feeling surprisingly nervous. The insides of my head would be exposed--naked!--and what if I really didn’t have much of a brain? What if it was stuffed with fluff? Or one of those brains with big pot holes instead of healthy blood flow?

One stipulation before the brain test was that I could not have coffee--no stimulants before the scan. I had visions of my husband having to wheel me in to the clinic, with me stuck in my usual state of morning catatonia until I get my first jolt of java. (I would soon discover why I’d relied on coffee to jump start my head every day.)I felt a little foggy the next morning as we drove to the Amen Clinic in beautiful Newport Beach, California. The clinic itself is in an unassuming but nice, private area. Nothing intimidating or frightening about it at all. In fact, there’s a pretty garden and fountain in front of the clinic door so you get a shot of calming beauty before entering.The staff was friendly, and I flipped through maybe half a magazine (I’m a fast reader) before the technician called my name to go back.

I sat in a little room where I was soon stationed in front of a computer screen. The tech gave me a little shot of the imaging tracer, which I hardly felt. The needle was tiny and barely noticeable. I felt no effects--or aftereffects--from it at all. Unlike most patients coming to the Amen Clinic, I just took one kind of SPECT scan (since my purpose was more research-oriented than a diagnostic need): the concentration test. (I didn’t do the resting test.) However, I would still get two different pictures of my brain: the surface scan (or “the tie-dyed bread dough” scan that checks blood flow), and the active scan (which can show overactive areas deeper inside the brain).The concentration test involved eye-hand coordination and concentration, like a video game for grownups. Eye-hand coordination has never been my strong suit, though I did win third prize once in a three-legged race in third grade. Sadly, it was the only athletic ribbon I ever won. At first I felt, as I always do when trying to play a computer game, that my brain had just vacated the building when I needed it most. But eventually I caught on to the game, and felt I did pretty well! (Which is just more proof that how we feel doesn’t necessarily reflect reality.)

Then it was time for me to lie down on the big machine for the scan. The scanner itself is sort of like a bed with a three-sided triangle (the camera) where your head tucks neatly inside. One thing I really appreciated is that only half of your face goes into the scanner, so there’s not that terrible sense of claustrophobia that people who have to go fully into “a tube” for other sorts of medical scans (that you see on ER and Grey’s Anatomy) have to deal with. You can’t move during the scan, so of course they duct-tape your head to the bed. Okay, well, that’s not exactly true. They gently put some kind of soft belt around your head to remind you not to move. Then they threaten to take your firstborn child if you so much as sneeze. I was given a blankie, which I really appreciated. I get very cold in any kind of doctor’s offices--whether from nerves or the typical Arctic conditions in medical facilities, I don’t know.I decided to spend the fifteen minutes or so doing all the relaxation exercises I could think of while the camera slowly clicked its way around my head, including praying blessings over everyone I loved. (Although, I should point out that all the relaxation I used at this point would have no effect on my scan. The picture that would show up on the scan was captured and held in sort of a cerebral “still life” by the imaging tracer earlier, during the concentration task.) I actually enjoyed the experience, and because I was thinking such happy thoughts about people I cared about, entrusting them into God’s hands, the time went by quickly. I felt totally relaxed at this point, except for the little nagging worry about what my scan would look like and if a brain would actually appear on the photos.

My grandmother had Alzheimer’s, and in the back of my mind I suppose I worried that my forgetfulness that I’d struggled with since puberty could be a sign of early dementia. (Of course it would have had to begin at age twelve.)When I walked into Dr. Amen’s office, my husband and Dr. Earl Henslin were also there. Earl (I can call him “Earl” now) must have known that I was anxious because he said to me, “Becky, the first thing Dr. Amen said when he saw your scan was that you have a beautiful brain.”I thought I might swoon. I have a BEAUTIFUL brain! This, in the world of ditzy people, is bigger than winning the Miss America pageant! I not only HAD a brain; it was beautiful. The surface scan showed even blood flow with pretty pigments of hot pink, blue, yellow, and lime green throughout. I wanted to make a T-shirt out of it and wear it everywhere as both a fashion statement and a “See: I TOLD YOU I Wasn’t Senile!” proclamation to my kids.

There was, however, just one wee little “dent” in my left prefrontal cortex. Dr. Amen took a look at the results of my computer-game-playing stress test, grinned, and without fanfare said, “Oh, you did just awful.”“What does that mean?” I asked, worried.“It means that you have a super-healthy brain, with no signs of dementia in your near future at all! However, you probably have a little inattentive ADD. This means that when you are required to concentrate on a task, the blood tends to leave your prefrontal cortex.”

In fact, when I took the Amen Brain Test in this book, it showed that I probably had inattentive ADD symptoms, and now the SPECT backed it up. This type of person usually wakes up in a fog, begging for caffeine--but they are usually mumbling, so it may be hard to understand their requests in the morning. “You could take a half dose of Adderall,” he said, “to help with focusing.”But I decided I’d try the supplement route. I’m finding it to be very helpful. I take l-tyrosine, an amino acid that works like a stimulant to the brain. I also take a good Omega-3 fish oil, L Carnitine, and Co-Q10 along with an amino acid complex called NeuroLink. (The Amen Clinic offers a wide variety of supplements.) I am blessed that my husband, Greg, besides being the dearest man on earth, is also one of the most gifted organizers I’ve ever met. He is happy to help keep me organized and considers it his spiritual gifting and joy. “I like the challenge,” he’ll say, and means it with all sincerity.

So my forgetfulness doesn’t keep me from living a happy, productive life right now. But in case it ever does cause more irritation than either Greg or I can stand, and my “cute little way of making people laugh” isn’t enough to cover the general aggravation of my losing several items per day anymore: it is good to know there is medication available and a variety of activities I can do to improve my condition.Right now you may be asking, “How could a scatterbrained person be a writer? Doesn’t that take, like, concentration?” Remember that ADD types can focus on something they find highly stimulating. In fact, we’ll actually overfocus on it. Reading new information and writing about it is one of my greatest pleasures. Apparently it just tickles my prefrontal cortex to no end. So if I am on a project that I love--I’m totally focused on it. Of course, the roof could be falling down around me and fire alarms could be going off and I wouldn’t be aware of it if I’m absorbed in crafting a really good paragraph.

The next scan, the active SPECT scan, showed a lot more red-hot activity than I had expected to see. “Do you have any past traumas that you struggle with?” Dr. Amen asked as he looked over the scan.So here was the part where I felt emotionally exposed: but thankfully, I was in loving, kind, and professional hands. I have suffered for several years with what Greg and I would call “episodes”--all of them relating to trauma memories from my previous marriage. I had nightmares for a few years where I would be faced with and trying to escape from a painful memory. Greg would pray for my sleep to be good and sweet. Usually I was fine during the daytime hours and my experience of life (particularly since my second marriage) was always joyful and peaceful--unless I was somehow “triggered” by a person or event that reminded my brain of past pain. And then my body would react by shutting down or trying to flee. It was the oddest thing, even to me--the person it was happening to!

I remember one time I was on the patio in our backyard and one of our guests began speaking in a belittling tone to his wife. I didn’t say a word but I immediately stood up, went inside the house, and closed and locked the door behind me. Then, still shaking, I walked upstairs robotically and into my bedroom, locking the door. Then into the bathroom, locking that door behind me. Then I just sat there and tried to breathe and recover from whatever had just happened to my mind and body.

What happened was that I was triggered by a tone of voice that reminded me of confusing and painful experiences that I had once endured on a fairly regular basis in what felt like “a past life.” However, my body was reexperiencing what I’d wanted to forget and went, on auto-pilot, into “shut down and get outta here” mode.“You have a scan that shows the classic diamond pattern of overactivity in the cingulate, basal ganglia, and limbic associated with PTSD,” Dr. Amen said gently. “You’ve probably got some trauma memories here that are stuck in your brain’s neural system.”I felt both sad and relieved. At least there was a name for what had been happening to me: post-traumatic stress.

I plan to do some EMDR therapy (which you can read about in the appendix on PTSD). I’ve heard and read great reports about its ability to repair the brain when it gets stuck like this. And Dr. Amen, who has also went through EMDR himself when he was in a particularly stressful situation, says that brain scans can show radical improvement after just a few EMDR sessions with a trained professional. This also happens to be one of Dr. Henslin’s specialties.In addition to that, I am also taking some supplements at bedtime that are calming support for PTSD. I’ve found that taking GABA in the evening before bed has really helped my sleep and my dreams to be more peaceful. (END OF BOOK EXCERPT)


Just to be clear: not everyone needs a brain scan! In fact, Dr. Henslin has been an enormous help to many of my friends and readers of this book in doing phone coaching based on the Amen Brain Test in the book. He writes up a wonderful "prescription" of possible supplements or even medications you may want to try (to be given to your local doctor) along with nutritional, exercise and lifestyle adjustments.

Everyone who I have recommended to Dr. Henslin for either therapy or coaching has said, "He's an angel." If you suspect your brain could use a little help, check out This is Your Brain on Joy, take the Amen brain test (which is backed up by results of over 50,000 brain scans) and if you'd like further help, please feel free to call my friend Earl. (Okay, Dr. Henslin. But after you get to know him, he's quick to say, "Just call me Earl.")

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Bar-B-Que Brisket: The Only Thing I Miss in Texas Other Than My Relatives (recipe follows)

You can take the girl out of Texas (and I have to be the happiest transplanted girl from Big D in all of Colorado); but you cannot take the Texan out of the girl. The pictures to the left are of Sonny Bryan's BBQ in Texas and still remains the home of the best brisket I've ever had. Without hesitation, my favorite place to dine as a young girl from Arlington, Texas was Red Bryan's (Sonny's Dad).

I don't have the smoker or talent for making BBQ like Red's or Sonny's but as a home cook with a strong will and an oven, I've created a brisket that has certainly impressed every Denverite I've served.

Every time I make this brisket, I feel like I've wrestled a steer and wonder, "Is this worth it?" But there's nothing I make that seems to make people happier or garners more requests for the recipe. It is, as my kinfolks from Texas say, "so good you might slap your brains out lickin' your lips."

(This recipe is also gluten free as I had a friend over tonight who can't handle even a smidget of gluten, so I did my research. But I am not saying it is, by any stretch of the imagination, a health food.)

You'll need to start the process the night before. You can serve it for lunch or dinner the next day. (Warning: I'm going to dictate this recipe as if you were sitting across from me at my kitchen table. Not as if I am writing this for Southern Living Magazine.)

First, purchase the biggest brisket you can find -- big enough to take up your largest turkey roasting or family reunion lasagna pan! Unfortunately, last night I had to buy my brisket untrimmed and it cost me about 10 minutes, a large serrated knife and one good nick to the knuckle to get the fat trimmed down. You want to leave some fat (about 1/4 inch); but good grief, I think I cut 2 inches of fat off some of the corners of that hunk of cow!

Next: Sprinkle all over with Tony's Cajun Seasoning (or salt, pepper, paprika and garlic powder)

Stuff it into a Large Reynold's Oven Bag (you may need a turkey size bag!), then put a cup of water, 1/2 cup Sweet Baby Ray's bar-b-que sauce and 1 envelope dry Lipton onion soup mix in to the bag as well.

Tie up the bag, squish the sauce around the brisket, then lay it all in your biggest pan. I don't poke a hole in the bag because that way the juices stay in. I've yet to have a bag blow up in the oven. (But write me if this should happen to you and I'll blog about it.)

Last one to bed, put the brisket in the oven at 275 degrees.

First one up, take it out in the morning. Let sit until it is warm enough to handle.

Place on cutting board (if too big, you can cut it in half, and slice it up one half at a time)

Trim warm brisket of extra fat, and using an electric knife cut the brisket in about 1/2 inch slices across the grain. Some of it may be too tender to hold up to slices, so just pile that meat up as "chopped beef" in a small pan, lay the rest of the slices in a clean, big oblong pan. (I like pyrex at this point.)

Taste the beef and if it needs seasoning, sprinkle with a little more Tony's.

At this point you can cover and refrigerate until you are ready to serve.

About 30 minutes before serving, heat up:

1 & 1/2 cup Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ Sauce

1/4 c Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce

1 T. Colgin liquid smoke

1/4 - 1/2 c. water to thin (so it will pour easily)

Pour over pan of sliced brisket. Cover all with foil.

Heat until piping hot at 350.

Serve and watch the smiles. I served this tonight and I think everyone went back for seconds!

It also makes wonderful "mini sandwiches" using Sister Schubert's rolls (which are now available in the freezer dept our local Sam's Club) or deli bought potato roles.

Pat yourself on the back!
And if you are ever in Dallas Texas, do stop by Sonny Bryan's for a meal. You can thank me later.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Tribute to Band of Brothers: "Brave, so brave.. it was unbelievable."

(Picture of my husband Greg with Buck Compton and Don Malarky on the Band of Brothers Tour of Europe, 2007. Both men are still alive and remembering...)

For those of you who are watching the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers, you may recall the choking-back-tears comment from Don Malarky as he described his comrades of the 101st Airborne, many decades after WW2. "Brave, so brave.. it was unbelievable."

Greg and I had the privilege of a lifetime 2 years ago, when we got to spend 2 weeks in Europe with Buck Compton and Don Malarky, two of the paratroopers portrayed in Band of Brothers. We stood at the sea of white crosses in Normandy as a friend played taps. Don, Irish and emotional, wept openly as Buck wiped away a tear and swallowed hard.

We walked with these old soldiers through the Bastogne forest where they once nearly froze and starved in foxholes to protect our freedom in the Battle of the Bulge. They remember their dear friends whose legs were blown off in this lovely green forest, once white with snow and red with blood and lit up with terrible fire and noise of war. I gather pinecones on this misty summer day, to give to my children and grandchildren. To help me remember the sacrifice so many made to secure our freedom.

We visited with a family whose parents/grandparents were liberated from their own home by Easy Company soldiers. The family show us a room with a red stain on the floor. It was were a Nazi was shot and killed. They look at Don and Buck with such admiration and gratitude.

Everywhere we go these two vets are instantly surrounded when people hear that there are American paratroopers among us. They are rock stars in Europe where children grew up hearing of the "angels coming out of the sky" in parachutes to save them from the German soldiers.

They are rock stars to me.

Thank you, Don & Buck, for your service to our country, and for sharing your stories and a lifetime of memories with us.

If you'd like to read more about Buck and Don check out their books on

Call of Duty by Buck Compton (Marcus is the collaborator and has fabulous video/pictures relating to Buck's book)

Easy Company Soldier by Don Malarkey

Recently Marcus Brotherton interviewed and collected stories from the 101st airborne (Easy Company) into a book called: We Who Are Alive and Remain:Untold Stories from the Band of Brothers by Marcus Brotherton. It has been called the very best of all the Band of Brothers books by many of the soldiers as well as literary critics. (website with video)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

When and Where Did a Book Meet Your Heart?

(This was one of my books, Real Magnolias, written under my former name. It is a collection of stories of southernwomen friends who inspired me or met me at a moment of real need. Out of print, but used copies can be found on Amazon for a song!)

"Sometimes it's better to be understood by someone who'll never meet me, than to meet someone who will never understand me."—
Martha Beck

Last night Greg and I were visiting with Steve, a friend of ours who just came away from two weeks away to nourish and heal his soul with help of a good wise counseling friend. Steve's friend gave him a book to read, Exquisite Agony, and Steve -- normally not the sentimental type -- said he was overcome with emotion from the first page. Every page thereafter seemed to personally and poignantly answer a long-awaited question. He closed the book a changed man, with a heart well on its way to healing.

A couple of days ago I asked some friends on facebook to share a time when a book became their "friend" in a moment of felt need. I don't think I've ever asked a question that got more response or discussion! In fact, this blog will have to be a two-parter. Next post, I'll share some book "friends" whose authors met my soul at a point of deep felt need, changing my life for the better.

But today I just want to share the kitchen table book talk that I so enjoyed from facebook friends this week.

A word of explanation before letting my friends' comments speak for themselves. It was sweet joy to my heart to hear that some of my old books under my former name (Becky Freeman) from what seems like a another life, had met lives at points of felt need. There are fewer experiences as meaningful as finding an author who speaks to your soul; and knowing I spoke to other hearts, and some still remember it, brings tears to my eyes.

Writing is absolutely the best "job" in the universe; one of the few careers where you create something and it stays around for long time. Unlike cleaning a house, that must be done again and again. You write a book, and the memories stay put between the covers. For my children's sake, I am especially glad that I wrote of the memories of their childhood, of happier times between their father and I.... memories that the heartbreak of divorce (7 years ago now) have left cloudly and dim. Especially now that my feet are so firmly planted in my New Life, New Husband, New Surroundings.

But I regress, back to the literary chick chat.

Here's a taste of the wonderful comments:

April Noel Beauty By The Book by Nancy Stafford. I bought it on a whim at Hearts at Home and it totally revolutionized how I saw myself and gave me a much-needed glimpse of how God saw me and His love for me.

Gretchen Crocker
The first 2 that come to mind are Captivatingand "The Shack". I am sure there is more, will keep you posted as I think of them.

Suzanne Alexander Taylor
Room of Marvels. Bought it after a precious 9-year-old in our church lost his battle with brain cancer and I had given up on God.

Kay Creech
I would have a list of books that have altered my life...the current book is The Magic Never Ends...the life & work of C.S.Lewis. I connected with "he understood the power of story...he knew that when we enter into a story...we enter into another world...BUT...we also connect our own story to it" No story is a waste of time...if I walk away with... Read More one thing...if I allow myself to connect and learn from it. This book also reminded me that my live is as enchanted as a snow covered forest in is all a matter of perspective. My cup of coffee in the a.m can be just as enchanting as tea with a beaver family!...perspective...perspective...perspective...

Nicole Buchanan
At one point when my first two children were very small I overextended myself to the point of crashing. I called my parents and in-laws to take the children and drove straight from dropping the children off to the local Christian bookstore. I walked directly to the humor section and ended up buying Mom on the Run by Nancy Kennedy, Semi-Reformed Overachiever by Lanalle Stiles, and Adult Children of Fairly Functional Parents by you. I spent a week reading those books, rereading some other favorites and letting God restore joy to my spirit. Is it any wonder I'm crazy about you?

Cheryl Vos Steffen Love is a Choice

Nicky Vanvalkenburgh Dare to Forgive: The Power of Letting Go and Moving on By Dr Edward Hallowell. It's a wonderful book-- made me laugh and cry-- and tackle a difficult personal matter as well.

Laura KarlisOne of my "go to" books is not necessarily life changing, but for some reason it soothes me. Each page is an individual poem of sorts each giving life to a different quality (personification, right?)It's called The Book of Qualites, by J Ruth Gensler.
"Courage has roots. She sleeps on a futon on the floor and lives close to the ... Read Moreground. Courage looks you straight in the eye. She is not impressed with powertrippers and she knows first aid. Courage is not afraid to weep, and she is not afraid to pray, even when she is not sure who she is praying to. When courage walks, it is clear that she has made the jorney from lonliness to solitude. The people who told me she is stern were not lying, they just forgot to mention that she is kind."

Sheri Wright Coulter: Captivating by Stasi Eldredge. Changed my life and the lives of those in my world.
Do You Think I am Beautiful by Angela Thomas
A Girl and Her Money by Sharon Durling

There is also this gal that wrote books when my kids were also young and I was "suffering in a tiny town in Kansas" one of them was Worms in My that chick could write things that were happening in life and make me laugh about it instead of cry...just sayin

Strong Women, Soft Hearts by Paula Rinehart

Carolyn Felix Purcell Virtual Faith: The Irreverent Spiritual Quest of Generation X" by Tom Beaudoin forever changed my understanding of my spiritual life and helped me realize that not only are my ideas and experiences valid, but they are very much a reflection of who God created me to be in a specific time and place and shared by many others. Helped me transition to a completely new place in life. I might not be who I am today without this book.

Lucille Zimmerman When the Heart Waits by Sue Monk Kidd and The Inner Voice of Love by Henri Nouwen.

Grace Bower
Oh My!! The penny has just dropped!! I am already a fan of your original personae!! I read A View from the Porch Swing at Donna Partow's home but she wouldn't let me take it back to New Zealand because you had signed it for her!! I wanted to write to you then!!!

Lucille Zimmerman: P.S. I love that particular Nouwen book especially because he never planned to publish it. It was his heart wrenching writings after feeling rejected by a friend. We had to mix with that material for our capstone class in counseling. I love the quote by S. M. Kidd - "Hope lies in braving the chaos and waiting calmly, with trust in the God that loves us. For if we wait, we may find that God delivers us somewhere amazing into a place vibrant with color and startling encounters with the soul."

Grace Bower: I wanted to read Real Magnolias after reading your Coffeecup friendship and Cheesecake fun which I bought when in Australia years ago.

And believe it or not, the conversation went on ... and on...

I would love to hear from more of you now as my list of "to read books" can always make room for one more recommendation. Especially if it was a book that became a dear friend to you in a moment when you really needed it.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Sneak Peek at This is Your Brain in Love!

(New Proposed Cover! It may still have some changes. My name will be on the inside page. Alas, publishers often do not give collaborators cover credit, even though Dr. Henslin & my agent/ husband really went to bat for that. I really don't mind. It's Dr. Henslin's message I am passionate about and happy to help him get it in book form to as many couples as possible.)

For the last several months Dr. Henslin and I have been writing about the world's greatest and most complicated topic: Love. Then we combined that with the world's second most complicated topic: The Brain.

The book shares a fresh way of looking at relationships; one that greatly upsizes the success of marital therapy by taking individual brain health into consideration as a major factor in being happily wed.

Alas, the book won't release until early 2010, but I am so excited about the cover & contents that I can't help but give you a little preview today.

Our book will talk about the 5 Lover Types (when out of balance) and how to
1) bring your best, healthiest happiest brain to your relationship and
2) support your spouse's efforts to heal/work around their own brain issues.

5 Lover Types in a nutshell are:

Scattered Lover(ADD,creative-ditzy, messy)
Blue Mood Lover
(From Numb to Deeply Depressed)
Over-Focused Lover
(Get stuck on grievance like a dog with a bone)
Anxious Lover
(Easily triggered to fear and nervousness)
Agitated Lover
(Prone to anger or irritation)

Here's a sneak peek at Table of Contents as well:

Chapter 1: This Is Your Brain in Love---Or Is It on Drugs?
Chapter 2: Sexuality and Spirituality: Divine Balm for Your Soul and Brain
Chapter 3: Bring Your Best Brain to the Marriage!
Chapter 4: The Scattered Lover (Prefrontal Cortex)
Chapter 5: The Overfocused Lover (Cingulate Gyrus)
Chapter 6: The Blue Mood Lover (Deep Limbic System)
Chapter 7: The Agitated Lover (Temporal Lobes)
Chapter 8: The Anxious Lover (Basal Ganglia)
Chapter 9: The Ancient Secret to Lasting Love

Appendix A: The Joy Diet
Appendix B: SPECT Scans
Appendix C: New Hope: Women and Hormones
Appendix D: New Hope: Men and Sexual Addiction

Okay, that's a little appetizer to hopefully whet your appetite for the book to come!
In the meantime, This is Your Brain on Joy is available with 99 reviews on Amazon (almost all 4 & 5 star) and will remain the "first primer" for people who are curious about how the brain can be tweaked to help you experience all the joy you were created for!