Archive for the ‘Book reviews’ Category
Cindy La Ferle on August 28th, 2013
“Wishing to be friends is quick work, but real friendship is a slow-ripening fruit that needs our time and attention.” — Artistotle
With so much going on in our lives, it’s hard to find time to nurture our longterm friendships, let alone start new ones. Yet countless studies show that social relationships are crucial to our well-being — especially as we age.
Furthermore, the benefits of using social media don’t rank as high as person-to-person contact. “Face time” isn’t a luxury; it’s key to our health.
With that in mind, Dr. Irene Levine (“The Friendship Doctor”) created The Friendship Blog – a terrific resource for anyone who wants to master the art of friendship or resolve sticky relationship issues.
Featured in national media, Levine is a psychologist and author of Best Friends Forever. As she notes in the introduction to her blog, friendships are both rewarding and complex: “These unique bonds often run deeper than family ties, and sometimes last longer than our relationships with spouses or lovers. Yet there are few agreed-upon ground rules or roadmaps,” she says.
Maybe you need to detoxify your relationship with a difficult coworker, or regain balance in a one-sided friendship? Or maybe you’d like to rebuild your network with new contacts — but worry about appearing too pushy or needy? Does your child need help making friends? Whatever the dilemma, Dr. Levine’s Friendship Blog invites community conversation on any friendship topic you can imagine.
Cindy La Ferle on August 16th, 2013
When it comes to staying young, a mind-lift beats a face-lift any day.” ~Marty Bucella
If you’ve spent any time in front of your television, you might wonder if midlife romance is a seasonal rarity or a gratuitous joke. And I’m not just referring to the Viagra ads. Hollywood doesn’t cast many older women in romantic leading roles.
So I’m cautiously optimistic about “Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cove” series on the Hallmark channel. The new TV series is based on Macomber’s best-selling Cedar Cove books (I’ve lost count of how many there are) which feature several central characters over the age of 50.
In the Hallmark series, Andie MacDowell — looking fabulous at 55 — plays Olivia Lockhart, a municipal-court judge who presides over the fictional coastal town of Cedar Cove, Washington. This storybook universe manages to spin minus the grit of urban violence, but its resident characters still get divorced, struggle to overcome addictions, and rally to save their town’s landmarks while trying to balance careers with family.
Some — like Judge Olivia and her best friend Grace (Teryl Rothery)– are looking for midlife romance, post-divorce. At this point in the Hallmark series (episode 5 airs tomorrow night), Olivia is falling for Cedar Cove’s handsome newspaper editor, Jack Griffin, played by Dylan Neal.
As Nancy DeWolf Smith said in her Wall Street Journal review, the characters in Cedar Cove “seem to have time, to make time, to smell the muffins. The reason more of us don’t do that is because slowing down doesn’t work unless everybody around you is moving more slowly too, and that is not likely to happen anyplace but in fictionland.”
And yes, Hallmark’s “Cedar Cove” is fictionland — as neat and cozy as the clapboard art galleries and tea shops that line its quintessential Main Street. It’ll never be as enthralling as Stephen King’s “Under the Dome” series, or “The Walking Dead” — both of which I find highly entertaining, too. But if you’re over 50 and you appreciate small-town drama, you just might warm up to Hallmark’s sweet Saturday-night break from zombies, politicians, bloodied medical examiners, and murder investigators.
Cindy La Ferle on July 21st, 2013
Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability.” — Sam keen
After taping her last television show in 2011, Oprah Winfrey announced on Facebook that she was planning to kick back and savor her free time. “My new ambition is to make a treasure of the small moments,” she wrote.
That’s not what you’d expect from the super-achieving Winfrey – or from anyone else who’s built a career out of interviewing A-list celebrities and unveiling The Next Big Thing. But her ambition to play small, at least for a little while, left a deep impression on me.
Like everyone else in Michigan, I look forward to summer all year long. According to my day planner, there are nine precious weeks left – weeks that will fly off our calendars faster than a Sea-Doo on Lake Michigan.
Taking inventory of what I’ve accomplished since June, I realize, sadly, how little time I’ve spent puttering in the herb garden or chilling out with a “beach read” in hand. Real life keeps getting in the way. So, before summer packs up its beach bag and clears out for a new school term, I’m borrowing a page from Oprah and indulging in some low-tech, simple summer pleasures. Here’s the rest of the plan:
Summer vacation unplugged
–I’ll reread Ray Bradbury’s classic, Dandelion Wine, a semi-autobiographical novel chronicling the author’s magical summer of 1928. Unabashedly nostalgic, the novel is both a love letter to summer freedom and a sonnet to childhood innocence. You can borrow a copy from your local library, then read parts aloud to your kids on the front porch swing if you’re lucky enough to have one.
– At least once a week, I’ll splurge on a cup of chocolate-peanut butter ice cream from the local Baskin Robbins. (Note to self: If I walk or ride my bike to the shop, the splurge will be easier to justify.)
– In lieu of pulling weeds, or fretting over slug damage, I’ll admire what’s blooming in the garden.
– I’ll make at least one more trip to northern Michigan, where I’ll hunt for Petoskey stones, skipping stones, beach glass, and perfect pieces of driftwood.
– As author Sam Keen wrote: “Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability.” Which is another good excuse for brain candy. With or without the beach, I’ll crash in a deck chair with a beach-worthy novel and a stack of fashion magazines that have little or no redeeming social value.
– Movies are another wonderful way to escape reality, not to mention sweltering temperatures. To cool off last week, I laughed my way through “The Heat” with Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy. A few days later, I was first in line to see “The Conjuring” — exceptionally scary and free of gratuitous gore.
– I promise to “unplug” from technology at least one day a week. That means no compulsive Web surfing; less e-mail checking. Instead, I’ll indulge in some local “people-watching” at one of Royal Oak’s outdoor cafes.
The benefits of chilling out
Psychologists agree that even a day or two of unstructured loafing ultimately enhances our productivity long after we return to work.
“Some of the best thinking we do happens when the conscious mind is on a sabbatical,” Veronique Vienne notes in The Art of Doing Nothing (Clarkston Potter; $17). She reminds us that Thomas Edison discovered the light bulb filament “while idly rolling kerosene residue between his fingers.” Likewise, Einstein pondered the mysteries of the universe with a cat in his lap.
“So don’t get up from your lawn chair yet,” Vienne advises. “Contribute to science. Stay prone as long as you can.”
Of course, it’s always fun to anticipate and celebrate the major milestones of our lives. But we need a reprieve from pithy graduation speeches about beginnings and endings. And we need a break from wedding receptions, family reunions, baby showers and other “special” summer events that require a gift or a new outfit or another dish to pass. We need flip flops and ordinary time.
Come August, I want to say good-bye to summer knowing that I’ve squeezed every last drop of its sweetness and savored it all.
Top photo credit: Cindy La Ferle
Cindy La Ferle on June 20th, 2013
Fractures well cured make us more strong.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
Just released by The Head & Hand Press, the first Rust Belt Rising Almanac highlights the indomitable spunk and spirit of our region. The new anthology includes literature, photography, and art depicting loss, change, and creativity in urban communities scorched by economic recession. Detroit, Cleveland, and Philadelphia are among several Rust Belt cities represented.
Two of my mixed-media pieces (“Remember” and “Cycles of the Muse”) are featured in full color near the front of the book. This is the first time my artwork has been selected for illustration — and I have to admit it’s pretty exciting. Since my pieces are crafted mostly from recycled objects and scraps, they seem to work with the Rust Belt theme.
To celebrate the Almanac‘s release — it’s the first volume in a series — Press founder Nic Esposito and Philadelphia musician Todd Henkin (of the critically acclaimed band The Great Unknown) are touring the Rust Belt this summer.
The Rust Belt Almanac tour stops in Detroit on June 26, 7:00 to 9:00 pm. In collaboration with Literary Detroit at Trinosophes Coffee Shop (1464 Gratiot), Esposito and Henkin will showcase pieces in the Almanac through storytelling and music. A short story by Marissa Johnson-Valenzuela on adapting to Detroit through a community in collective housing will be featured in the event.
Copies of the book are available at local bookstores and on Amazon.
Cindy La Ferle on May 8th, 2013
When I go into the garden with a spade and dig a bed, I feel such exhilaration and health that I realize I have been defrauding myself in letting others do for me what I should have done with my own hands.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Throughout my life, gardens have provided many spiritual lessons and moments of refuge.
Among them was the fern garden my Scottish grandfather tended in his back yard on Detroit’s west side — an oasis that restored his spirit during the sad summer my grandmother died. The essay I wrote about that garden was published in both British and American editions of Reader’s Digest magazine, and is included in my book, Writing Home.
Today, my own garden is so much more than a plot for herbs and perennials. Working the soil, I’m often mentally untangling one of my elderly mother’s health problems. Or, while preparing a bed for basil and rosemary, I might be digging my way through a stubborn case of writer’s block. Or just daydreaming.
As I reminded my husband recently, gardening is the best therapy I know. (The money I ought to save for a psychiatrist is well spent on garden gadgets and plants at the local nurseries.)
Along these lines, several authors have written inspiring books on gardening as soul work. Here are a few of my favorites.
Praised as a hymn to nature, Diane Ackerman’s Cultivating Delight (HarperPerennial Library) is a sensuous garden memoir. With the keen eye of a naturalist, Ackerman recounts her back-yard discoveries through the seasons, including the time she uncovered a tiny frog asleep inside a tulip.
“By retreating farther and farther from nature,” Ackerman warns, “we lose our sense of belonging, suffer a terrible loneliness we can’t name, and end up depriving ourselves of what we need to feel healthy and whole.”
“No matter how saddened I become by the events of life, when I see the world as a garden, I feel better,” writes author Julie Moir Messervy in The Magic Land: Designing Your Own Enchanted Garden (Macmillan). A landscape designer and consultant, Messervy also sees the garden as a perfect outlet for personal growth. Her book includes exercises to plan your own paradise, whether you want an elaborate storybook garden with a gazebo or a Zen-like oasis. I used many of her tips when I plotted my own Japanese garden a few years ago.
The Sanctuary Garden (Fireside) reminds us that any garden can be a place of reflection. Authors Christopher Forrest McDowell and Tricia Clark-McDowell are founders of the Cortesia Sanctuary for Natural Gardening and Healing in Eugene, Oregon. Their illustrated guide provides tips on attracting wildlife as well as ideas for creating space for prayer and meditation.
“One of the most powerful examples of our relationship to the land came to me when witnessing the end of the war in Bosnia,” writes McDowell. “I was touched to learn that the first act of many of the citizens of Sarajevo was to till and plant their gardens.”
So what are you waiting for? Dust off your garden boots, grab a trowel, ditch your bad mood, and dig in.
– Garden photos (copyright) by Cindy La Ferle –