Sunday, February 14, 2016

A Special God Is Love Message, Graphic, and Prayer for Valentine's Day

While flowers, chocolates, a romantic dinner out, some new scented lotion, jewelry, a day at a spa, or a gift certificate for a massage can all be tokens of love, the real measure of love is what someone is willing to give up or sacrifice in order to do what is ultimately best for you in mind, body, and/or spirit.

God humbled Himself by becoming a helpless little baby.  Jesus came into our world and gave all He had in body, mind, and spirit out of love for us.  We have the freedom to refuse love or get confused that love is synonymous with a gift bought from a store.  The Truth is that we were created by God out of love.  We are made to give and receive love.

Questions to Consider: 

How is God trying to reach you with His love?  Will you accept it or return to sender?

What are three ways you can demonstrate genuine love for God?

My Prayer: Lord, open our hearts and minds to the love You wish to shower upon us, have instilled in us, and want to see us pass along to everyone we meet.  Give courage, comfort, and consolation to those who are mourning the loss of loved ones, who are feeling unloved or unlovable, who in any way doubt Your unconditional love for them.  

Saturday, February 13, 2016

My Stroke of Insight

I put off reading My Stroke of Insight for a while thinking I wouldn’t like it as much as the other more religious books I’ve read for SDI, but it is awesome how scientific, enthusiastic, joy-filled, and hope-filled it is.  Our brains and bodies are truly amazing creations of God.  

This woman's story is a powerful testimony to the resilience of the human spirit. The power of love, gentleness, compassion, and determination can bring about healing, hope, and wholeness.  I’ve read that we usually only use about 10% of our brains during our lives. (I wonder if my brain looks different because of how many books, articles, and things I read.)

This woman’s spirit and energy very easily come through her writing, attitude, honesty, and vulnerability.  It’s encouraging how she was able to experience a painful, difficult time through the eyes of a scientist as well as a fragile human being.

I could relate to her struggle to overcome challenges that she thought and felt shouldn’t be as much of a project for her to do, but which had become something she had to work up to after her stroke.  I can get so frustrated with myself if I don’t understand something right away or can’t do it properly.  I can’t imagine having to learn to do everything all over again, including walk and talk.   

I wonder what people most often assume or think about me based on my writing, photography, and artwork.  I think of Bishop Robert Barron’s advice to lead with beauty and goodness.  I’m not sure how well I do that in my daily life, but there’s always room for improvement.  I’m encouraged that such tremendous transformation and healing can occur.  

We need people who know and love us, who believe in us, and will go to bat for us when others would prefer to give up on us.  Reading this book made me think of a local Cursillista's story and recovery as well as another friend of mine who suffered significant brain damage when she was in a car accident several years ago.  It’s remarkable how God opens up areas of understanding, wisdom, intuition, and connectivity when we need them. 

I highly recommend reading My Stroke of Insight.  If you're short on time or need additional inspiration to read this true story, check out Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor's TED talk here:

Friday, February 12, 2016

Pope Francis Encyclical letter On Care for Our Common Home LAUDATO SI'

I grossly underestimated the beauty of Pope Francis’s vision of love and care for nature as a reflection of God’s creation and the unity all of us share.  I heard about this encyclical letter a while back, but I didn't rush to read it, thinking it wouldn't be as interesting, enlightening, or as edifying to me as some of his other writing due mainly to the subject matter being the environment.  

The writing is beautiful, harmonious, thought-provoking, and challenging.  Pope Francis speaks of how treating other people and our earth with dignity and respect are part of acknowledging the goodness in God’s creation and the harmony intended to exist among us. 

The pope explained why he chose the name Francis.  Like St. Francis of Assisi, our current pope wholeheartedly believes that protecting and holding other people as well as our planet as sacred, we are best able to sense God’s presence, glorify, and praise Him. He is intimately aware of the connection among all living things as being representative of God’s love.  

I was drawn in by the wisdom and passion of the argument that our vision for the future must take into consideration generations yet to come who will also inhabit this planet and who are likely to learn from their parents, grandparents, and ancestors what their relationship with our planet and all who live on it should be. 

Are we being as conscientious and careful about our consumption of natural resources and material goods as we could be?  

I know I still have a very long way to go in that area.  Suddenly the fact that Kevin and I recycle cardboard, paper, most glass and plastic containers and reuse grocery bags seems a drop in the bucket compared to what we could be doing.  And yet, those things are a start in the right direction and are good habits we have formed in an attempt to be kinder to our planet. 

There are so many opportunities to grow in this area, just like in so many others.  The first step is a deeper awareness of the decisions we make and how they affect the lives of others as well as how they impact our environment.  From that place of reflection and consideration, we will likely have our hearts and minds opened to additional things we could do or refrain from doing in order to preserve our planet. 

Lord, thank You for the gift of nature You have given us.  Help us to treat all humanity and nature with the dignity and respect it deserves.  

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Are You Ready for Lent?

In some ways, I feel as though Kevin and I have already been going through an arduous period of time in the desert.  Thinking and praying about what to do or give up for Lent once again last night, I was hard-pressed to come up with anything other than doing our best to get through each day and not give up. 

What can two people who have already been stripped down to the bare minimum and left with little to offer each other or others do or give up?  Then it dawned on me, I can observe this Lent by offering a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving for all of God’s blessings.  When work is stressful, health challenges abound, and a form of survival mode is how my husband and I are able to keep functioning, then slowing down enough to express glory and appreciation to the Lord would be a good way to help prepare our hearts and minds for the three holiest days of the year: the Easter Triduum.

An excerpt about Lent I wrote four years ago that still remains true:

If I think about spending 40 days focused on how sinful and selfish I am, then I’m likely to get depressed.  If I focus on how amazing the Lord is— how incredibly loving, merciful, and compassionate our God is—that He would give us His only Son as expiation for our sins, then I’m likely to be hopeful.  I’m likely to submit more fully to the Lord’s Will in all areas of my life.  I’m likely to invite God in my heart and mind to remove the lies and replace them with His infinite Truth. To read the rest of the reflection, check out this link

A Few Great Books to Read during and/or about Lent:

Rediscover Lent by Matthew Kelly

Preparation for Total Consecration by St. Louis de Montfort

Monday, February 1, 2016

Top 40 Signs You Aren't Above Being Ghetto

  1. You’ve met several of your neighbors outside with lights flashing and sirens blaring. 
  2. You can’t be 100% sure that the red smeared on the side door is ketchup.
  3. At least one vehicle in your parking lot has a club attached to the steering wheel.
  4. Someone stole two tires from your neighbor’s car while it was parked next to the building.
  5. You put duct tape on the bottom of your front door to seal it.
  6. You cover your secondhand sofa with bedsheets, towels, and/or a combination of the two to cover the gaping holes in the upholstery.
  7. You honk your car horn to let someone know you’ve arrived to pick them up.
  8. You open a window and shout at your neighbors to pipe down.
  9. Most of your furniture has come from friends and family (without any form of payment exchanging hands).
  10. You go “shopping” for furniture left by the dumpster.
  11. Your mattress and box springs are directly on the floor.
  12. More than one set of window blinds has been broken beyond repair at a time. 
  13. You have resorted to putting one side of a large cardboard box in the bedroom window to block the street light out.
  14. You peruse the giveaway/discard pile in the hallway and have found several items to add to your cupboards.
  15. A white plastic outdoor table and chair set has served as your dining room table.
  16. There are circumstances under which you deem it acceptable to hitch a ride from a total stranger in a questionable part of town because you feel reasonably secure once you’ve seen that there are no bodies in the trunk.
  17. Cab drivers are afraid to pick you up at the location where you are when you call or where you will be going, so they insist on picking you up at a different place or dropping you off short of your intended destination.
  18. You have a printer that’s wireless, but a laptop that has to stay plugged in.
  19. You like to brag about how much junk you can fit in your car’s trunk.
  20. Loud music with more bass than treble has been known to blast through your walls.
  21. Packages delivered to your third-floor apartment have been stolen.
  22. Your building is so old not all of the outlets are grounded.
  23. You’ve resorted to doing several loads of laundry at a friend or family member’s house.
  24. It smells like a disposal blew chunks whenever your neighbor runs his dishwasher.
  25. You regularly borrow movies from friends with wide selections rather than renting movies through Redbox, Netflix, etc.

  26. Your big screen TV stopped working, and you left it where it was for months because you couldn’t afford to replace it.
  27. You actually get excited about clothes shopping at Goodwill.
  28. Your pajamas never match, and you wear them outside of your apartment to do chores such as: get the mail, take the trash out, and do the laundry. 
  29. You have walked into a home goods store and said out loud near the customer service desk: “Those are too big to fit in our drawers” when you see a display of silverware trays.
  30. You’ve brought your own store-bought cake to the restaurant where you’re having your birthday dinner.
  31. You’ll wear a brand new pair of pants or a sweater without washing it first and are not offended by the term “picking tags.”
  32. You wear clothes that are two or more sizes too big for you.
  33. There isn’t a straight doorframe in your place.
  34. You still own and use a VHS player.
  35. A neighbor wearing an oven mitt on each hand has come to the door to ask for assistance in getting a bat out of her apartment.
  36. More leaks were found after the roof was fixed than before.
  37. The building’s two “cleaning” people sweep the hall and stairway carpets with tattered brooms once a week but never vacuum.
  38. In your mind, changing the shower curtain is synonymous with redecorating the bathroom.
  39. You are willing to eat soup directly from a pan to reduce the number of dirty dishes you will have to wash by hand.
  40. You turn in a school homework assignment on the back of a used envelope.
If you have anything to add to this list or that you think should be removed from it, please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Humorous Snow Escapades and Adventures

This morning Kevin listened to the weather report before leaving for work.  VDOT said that their goal is to have the roads passable within 48 hours after the storm ends

“That’s fantastic!” he said.  “By then, everything will have melted.”

My husband lost pretty much all faith in RVA’s snow removal abilities when he witnessed a gross oversight of VDOT back in the Winter of 2010.  Kevin was making his Christ Renews His Parish (CRHP-pronounced chirp) weekend retreat with some other men at St. Michael the Archangel Church.  The parking lot was pretty well covered with snow when they arrived that Saturday morning, but they were undeterred.  Things proceeded as scheduled. 

Riding home that snowy Sunday, Kevin witnessed what we sincerely hope is a very rare occurrence, even in RVA.  He saw flashing lights up ahead when he pulled out of the church parking lot.  As he approached the intersection, Kevin saw a VDOT dump truck parked on the other side of the road.  A police car was in the intersection, so he deduced that there had been a car accident. 

Nope!  The salt dispenser had fallen off the dump truck in the middle of the intersection.  Kevin, who is from upstate New York where they know how to use snow removal equipment, laughed his butt off.  Not only do they not know how to drive in the snow, but apparently, they don’t know how to bolt down a salt dispenser, either. 

“Let’s just throw it in the back of the truck and hope it stays.”

It was the same weekend his roommate attempted to make coffee in the room without adding water.  I know for a fact my husband didn’t sleep well that night.  He usually has trouble sleeping the first night in a new place, when he’s away from me, and when it sounds as if there is a power tool being used in the same room while he attempts to snooze. 

The next day Kevin relayed the coffee incident and flat-out told our friend: “I love your brother like a brother, dude snores like a chainsaw.”

Snow Cute

A blond cutie I babysat while in college whose parents were both professors at Hollins was amused by my frequent singing and love of books.  One day when I was taking care of her it snowed.  As is the case with many children, she wanted to spend as much time outside as she could.  

I was singing this clip to her from White Christmas as I got her all bundled up to go outdoors. 

“We could be there with snow!”  “I wash my hair with snow!”  “I think I’ll get a little shut-eye, go to sleep, and dream of snow, snOW, sNOW, SNOW!”

“Do you want to go outside?” I asked.

“Nooooo,” she sang.

“You don’t want to go outside?”

“Nooooo,” she sang again.

“But you always want to go outside.” 

“Wash my hair…noooo!” she sang.

“Oh, now I get it.”  She was encouraging me to sing another round but had trouble with the consonant ‘S.’

Our conversations could be quite entertaining.  I once asked her what she saw when she went to the state fair.  “Pigs pooping.” 

One summer day I told her that I couldn’t take her out in the backyard because the day before I’d gotten so many bug bites. 

She’d look out the window longingly and sigh, muttering “so many bug bites.”

Scandalous Sledding Escapades

We have a tradition in my family that came about, as some traditions do, totally by accident.  When we lived in Naperville, Illinois, my mom, dad, sister, and I would go to this popular hill to sled.  I’m not sure where it came from, but we had this slick black sled that had a curved backrest, places to put your feet, and even little brake handles you could use to steer.  I don’t remember much about the experience except that I refused to ride with my dad again after we rammed into a pole and an orange mesh fence, and I went flying. 

About 5 or 6 years later when we lived in New Jersey, we still had the same sleek black sled.  There was a really big hill behind our house in Chester covered with snow and ice.  Actually, our house was at the top of the hill, and there were great places to sled behind and to the side of our property.  I underestimated the amount of ice and overestimated the ability to steer or stop with the one remaining brake handle. 

We were careening along at a good clip when I realized I couldn’t get us to slow down, much less stop.  My sister’s leg got scraped up pretty bad when we slid under the wooden fence, breaking the bottom rung.  At least, we didn’t keep sailing into the street.  I’m pretty sure that was the last time she rode on a sled with me, or at least, it was the last time she rode on that sled with me. 

I’m not sure what happened to the sleek black sled.  I imagine we lost it or left it behind in one of our many moves.  I hope a family found it that was able to enjoy its speed without running into fences or maybe even while running into fences.    

March for Life 2016 & Five of My Favorite Reasons to Choose Life

A week after Kevin and I got married, I began nannying for the two boys I came to call "the bare piggy brigade."  In more recent years, I had the privilege of nannying for the girls I call "the three silly sisters."  They are five of the best reasons I know to CHOOSE LIFE!

I have been to the March for Life before, but more often than not, I have been at work taking care of other people's children on the January anniversary of Roe v. Wade.  It isn't always easy to welcome little ones into our lives who stretch our hearts, minds, and bodies.  The challenges, changes, and learning curve create chaos and undercurrents of confusion in the midst of tremendous cuteness and loads of love.

CHOOSE LIFE! You and your baby are worth it! 

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Culture of Life, Music Missionary Danielle Rose, and the Gift of Song

 John Baab, me, Danielle Rose, and my husband Kevin
 at St. Michael the Archangel Church after the concert in September 2011.

Danielle Rose is the most pro-life singer I have ever met.  Meeting Danielle in person was a very memorable highlight of being involved in the prayerful effort to respect and protect the sanctity of human life from the moment of conception until natural death.

I was first introduced Danielle Rose's music when I made my Cursillo weekend in June 2006.
This Catholic music missionary was in Richmond for the weekend speaking, doing a concert at St. Michael the Archangel Church, and singing at all of the Masses.  I had the blessing of being Danielle's driver while she was in town back in September 2011.  We had some wonderful conversations and prayer time.  

My husband and I were blessed to spend time over four days with this prayer warrior, music missionary, spiritual diva, beloved daughter of God whose love, gentleness, joy, and compassion clearly show God is at work in and through her.
A group of us had planned to go out to the airport to pick her up, but come Friday night, Kevin and I were the only ones heading out there.  We joked about making signs and getting a megaphone, but we hadn’t done either.  Fortunately, I, at least, had a sign with the charity receiving the proceeds from all of her concerts that year: China Little Flower.  Her face brightened and she came over and hugged us immediately when she saw the sign. 

Our dear brother in Christ, John gave us the copy we have of Culture of Life as he has given us a lot of the Christian music we have listened to of hers.  I still remember him showing up outside our building on a rainy day to give me the copy of Pursue Me he had purchased for us.  

The first time I listened to the Culture of Life album, I couldn’t stop sobbing.  The lyrics, prayers, sentiments, longings, and suffering overwhelmed me.  Many of the feelings I’d experienced and wasn’t sure how to express, she describes beautifully through very moving songs.

Most of the time I still can’t make it all the way through Danielle Rose's Culture of Life album without tears filling my eyes.  The first song usually is enough to pull at my heartstrings. Yesterday evening was the first time I watched the official music video for The Little Flower song and revisited The China Little Flower organization's website.  

Listen and watch here:

Celebrity Priorities: Her Utmost for His Highest
Some performers demand certain things be provided for them that fall under the category of luxurious, ridiculous, or completely unreasonable.  Some insist on expensive gifts, lavish meals, and only certain colors of M & Ms be waiting for them in their gigantic hotel room suites.  Not this woman.  Her two main requests were that she be able to go to Mass each day and spend an hour praying before the Blessed Sacrament.   
It was clear in so many ways that she was being led by love, humility, and the Holy Spirit as opposed to self-centeredness or pride characteristic of many popular artists.  She let the children come to her.  She even invited them up to sing some songs with her.  I have a feeling that those children and teenagers will carry the experience of singing her song based on Psalm 139 deep in their hearts for quite some time.  “I praise You, God, for I am fearfully, wonderfully made!   

Edifying Etiquette: When Someone Calls You by Name
The evening she arrived, Danielle, Kevin, our dear brother John, and I went to the International House of Pancakes (IHOP) near her hotel for dinner.  As soon as our waitress came to the table, Danielle greeted her warmly by the name on her nametag.  Throughout the meal, she talked with her and encouraged her that she was doing a good job, which made the woman feel much better about learning the ropes during her first month there. 
Upon entering the hotel, Danielle greeted the woman at the front desk as though she were a dear friend.  She immediately read her nametag and always said hello or goodbye and God bless to the woman, whose name was Mary, as she passed through the lobby.  She extended this same courtesy to everyone, which had a very positive effect on many of them.   

Struck by Star's Sincerity and Tenderness
At the end of Masses when she had sung two songs and played her violin as well as at the end of her concerts, she gave each person who came up to her a hug, listened with them as many shared how touched they were by her music or asked her to pray for them or for someone they love.    
At one of the Masses, a young autistic boy and his father were sitting in the choir section near where Danielle was playing her violin.  The boy was talking kind of loudly and was getting restless.  After changing seats and moving around a bit, he went over and picked up Danielle’s violin.  What did she do?  She gave him a huge smile and said hi, assuring his father that it was okay.     
On the way out to the car, a young girl and her mom were walking alongside us.  The mother told Danielle that her daughter really enjoyed singing.  She gave some words of encouragement to the little girl, adding that it’s wonderful to use the gift of music to glorify the Lord. 

A Rose is a Rose Every Bit as Sweet

Someone gave Danielle a long-stemmed red rose after the concert on Sunday night.  She 
took it back to her hotel, kept it in water overnight and the next morning brought it with her when we went to Mass at St. Bridget’s.  After Mass was over and people had cleared out, she went up and placed the red rose before the statue of Our Blessed Mother.  Yet another small gesture with a great deal of love in it. 

Ultrasound Irony: 
Within a couple weeks of her visit, Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new ultrasound machine donated to The Pregnancy Resource Center of Metro Richmond by the Knights of Columbus.  My mom later pointed out that pro-lifers here in the United States are celebrating the generous donation of a new ultrasound machine because its use often helps women see the child growing inside of them is not just a blob of tissue. 
When talking about the culture of death in China, Danielle Rose told us that women in China are subjected to forced ultrasounds every few months so the government can make them have an abortions if they are found pregnant.  I’ve known about the one-child policy in China, but I didn’t think about what horrifying lengths they go to when enforcing it.  Most women in China have had five forced abortions and are thereby rendered infertile by the time they are thirty years old. 

Sacrificial Giving: Love Until It Hurts 

Danielle talked with me about the trouble she was having raising funding for the new album she was recording.  Studio time, accompanists, and such are not cheap, and she had only recently re-entered the world after discerning God was calling her back out of the convent.  There wasn't a whole lot left in her savings account, and there was still more work to be done on the project.    
Kevin and I prayed about it and felt that we were supposed to give her a somewhat significant (considering our financial situation) donation towards the Culture of Life project. She was genuinely surprised and very appreciative when I gave her the check from us.  

I still have the beautiful thank you note she sent us along with the two handmade rosaries from pregnant women in China who were in hiding to avoid being forced to abort their unborn babies.  The sale of the rosaries allowed them to have a little income.

I was inspired to give the the yellow rosary set to a married couple who are friends of ours. They also love children, but like us aren't sure if they will ever be able to have their own.  With it, I included photos I had taken of them talking with Danielle after the concert. 
Note to reader: Since her visit to Richmond, Danielle Rose has gotten married.  She and her husband have had their first child, a beautiful baby girl. 

To read more about her life, listen to her music, or to follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, check out her website at 

Here are few hands-on, practical ways to get involved: 

1.)   Read about the situation in China and consider supporting the orphanage that will received the proceeds from all of Danielle Rose’s concerts that yearChina Little Flower. 

2.)   Support your local pregnancy resource center through prayers, volunteering, and/or donating.

3.)   Join prayer warriors at the closest 40 Days for Life location near you.  See how 40 Days of prayer, fasting, and community outreach will transform your mind, heart, and soul, all while saving lives.   

Monday, January 11, 2016

If You Give a Copy Editor a Writing Utensil (in the style of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie)

I’ve always loved reading and writing.  As the daughter of a bibliophile, who has also been a journalist as well as a copy editor, I have inherited a love of editing and grammar to go with it.  

Below is a video of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie in case you aren't familiar with or would like a refresher of that oh-so-popular children's book:

Now without further ado, 

If You Give a Copy Editor a Writing Utensil

If you give a copy editor something to read, she’s going to want a writing utensil.  And if you give her a writing utensil, then she’s going to start making marks.  

If she starts making marks on the piece, she’ll feel a vested interest in correcting any grammatical errors.  Once the grammatical errors are corrected, she’ll be inspired to help you refine and streamline the writing.  

Once she’s helped you refine and streamline the writing, she’ll want to see a revised draft.  If she takes the time to give such editorial feedback on a revised draft, she’s going to want to discuss it with you.  

If she discusses it with you, then you will give her some additional information that may change things.  If you give her additional information that may change things, she’ll ask questions.  If she asks questions, you will likely talk about some aspect of the topic covered in greater depth or with more emotion.  

If you talk about the subject in greater depth or with more emotion, she may want you to incorporate what you have expressed into the piece.  If you go back and incorporate more explanation and greater emotion into the piece, she’ll want to proofread and copy edit the latest draft.  

In other words, if you give her the latest draft, she’ll probably want a writing utensil to go with it.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

A Partial List of Books I Read (Completely) in 2015

This isn’t a complete list of all of the books I read in 2015, but it’s my best attempt at putting a list together of books I've read completely over those 365 days.  I’ve put this list in categories rather than chronological order, so people who are interested in a certain topic can see all of those related books in a neat little group. 

Books I read in 2015 for the two-year Spiritual Direction Institute course that my husband Kevin and I are taking:

Addiction and Grace Gerald G. Mays, M.D.
Boundaries: Where You End and I Begin by Anne Katherine, M. A.
Healing the Child Within: Discovery and Recovery for Children of Dysfunctional Families by Charles L. Whitfield, M. D.
Your Golden Shadow by William A. Miller
Dreams: God’s Forgotten Language by John A. Sanford
Dreams: A Way to Listen to God by Morton Kelsey
Dreams and Spiritual Growth: A Judeo-Christian Way of Dreamwork by Louis M. Savary, Patricia H. Berne, and Strephon Kaplan Williams
Dreams and Healing: A Succinct and Lively Interpretation of Dreams by John A. Sanford
Understanding the Enneagram: the practical guide to personality types by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson
The Enneagram in Love and Work by Helen Palmer
Parables and the Enneagram by Clarence Thomson
A Christian Worldview by Monsignor Chester P. Michael
A New Look at Grace by Bill Huebsch
Mysticism by Evelyn Underhill
The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning
Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help (And How to Reverse It) by Robert D. Lupton
The Powers that Be by Walter Wink
My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D.

Books by and/or about Catholics that I reviewed for my blog and those links:

Napkin Notes: Creating a Daily Connection with Those You Love by Garth Callaghan

Because I’m a Writer, Avid Reader, Work with Kids, and Teach Creative Writing:

The Writer Who Stayed by William Zinsser

Marjorie Holmes: The Inspirational Writings a three-books-in-one volume collection of: Lord, Let Me Love, Love and Laughter, and To Help You Through the Hurting

Bill Martin Jr.’s Big Book of Poetry by Bill Martin, Jr. and Michael Samson

Writing Personal Essays: How to Shape Your Life Experiences for the Page by Sheila Bender

For the sheer enjoyment and laughter during much-needed periods of serious stuff going on:

You Don't Sweat Much for a Fat Girl: Observations on Life from the Shallow End of the Pool by Celia Rivenbark
Belle Weather: Mostly Sunny with a Chance of Scattered Hissy Fits by Celia Rivenbark
Stop Dressing Your Six-Year-Old Like a Skank: and Other Words of Delicate Southern Wisdom by Celia Rivenbark

English Lit Relit “a short history of English literature from the precursors (before swearing) to the Pre-Raphaelites and a little after intended to help students see the thing through, or see through the thing, and omitting nothing unimportant, by Richard Armour. Irreverently illustrated by Campbell Grant.”

Live Right and Find Happiness (Although Beer Is Much Faster): Life Lessons and Other Ravings from Dave Barry
Sh*t my dad says by Justin Halpern
I Totally Meant to Do That! by Jane Borden
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