Tuesday, June 5, 2018

After You (Book Review)

"....there would be lonely days. And bad days. And days when I wondered what the hell I had just agreed to be a part of. Because that was all part of the adventure too." ~ After You 

I received this book as a gift for Mother's Day TWO YEARS ago. I started it immediately, then stopped, then started again from the beginning, then stopped, and so forth. Until I finally finished it last night.

The sequel to Me Before You, After You by JoJo Moyes, was not as gripping as the first novel in the trilogy. What kept me going back to it, however, was my fondness for the main character Louisa Clark, one can't help but cheer for her, and pure perseverance. The novel is a bit scattered, with so much going on - things that I didn't care about as much - that I kept losing interest. However, finally, the novel took a turn for the better, and I was able to plow through it. 

In After You, readers are taken into Louisa's life after the death of Will Traynor, a quadriplegic man whom she cared for and eventually fell in love with.  The first novel was filled with inspiration and growth for Louisa, the second novel, however, came short of evoking any true emotions for me. Perhaps, as is the case with so many trilogies, this sequel was simply transitional to get us to the third novel, Still Me, which I feel obligated to read because I truly relate to Louisa. 

Readers are somewhat taken through her grieving process, as Louisa tries to pick up the pieces of her life. However, she is met with one obstacle after another blocking her way to the right path. She will need to learn to let go, love again, and live the way Will had taught her.

"Do you know how stifling it is to be told you are never going to be able to change? For the rest of your life? Because nobody else wants you to? Do you know how awful it is to feel stuck?"  ~ After You

While Me Before You had me in tears, After You was more predictable and the characters never quite sucked me into their world. If you enjoyed the first novel, I recommend you give this one a go, if for no other reason than to revisit with Louisa. Otherwise, give it a pass. 



Read more of my Book Reviews.

Read also my movie review for the film adaptation of Me Before You




Tuesday, May 29, 2018

All Hail the Lavender


I am not going to lie - visiting the lavender fields in Provence, France is in the top five of my bucket list. But, with peak season only weeks away (typically June and July), it looks like another year will pass without me making the trip. The closest I have ever come are the lavender fields I stumbled upon while visiting Long Island, NY a couple of years ago - and even then, I sadly had missed the peak by a couple of weeks. 


When I started my blog in 2014, I chose the name because I used lavender oil for its anti-anxiety properties and to help me sleep. I was going through some major life changes, both professionally and personally, and was in the height of menopause. It helped calm my mind allowing my creative juices to flow. Prior to this time, the only experience I had with lavender was in the baby lotion I applied to my infant sons after their baths - it was meant to soothe them into baby slumber; I just loved the smell. 

Just ask your local spa which aroma therapies are most requested, and lavender will undoubtedly top the list. Most will agree the scent is lovely, some may even know about the numerous health benefits of lavender. However, even in only the last few years, lavender has grown in popularity, not only as a sleep aid and anti-anxiety remedy, but also as a soul soothing gift from Mother Nature. Did you know it is also successfully used to treat bruises and cuts and even to help alleviate headaches?



Check out this article from Healthy Holistic Living for more benefits of lavender oil and a delicious recipe for lavender lemonade. 

Jump ahead just four years later, and lavender seems to be EVERYWHERE - lavender lotions, candles, bath salts, even teas/drinks - you name it and they probably make a lavender variety. It is also a popular hair color! 

Today, lavender oil remains my favorite form of this plant. I have a bottle at work, one on my nightstand, and another in the kitchen (which I use in my diffuser, so basically my home smells like a spa - not a bad thing in my opinion.) 

My sons know where they are and help themselves to a sniff whenever they are having trouble sleeping or before school if they are feeling stressed about an exam. Sometimes I put a couple of drops on their bed pillows. At work, people will come borrow it and place a couple of drops on their wrists or temples. My latest use is to rub a couple of drops on my feet at bedtime. 


Another favorite lavender product is the sachet of dried lavender I purchased on the aforementioned trip to Long Island, where I was told it would keep its scent for years to come!  I also learned that the scent is released when the sachet is squeezed - so squeeze away. It is also a great freshener for your drawers. 

All shades of lavender (from violet to deep purple) symbolize royalty and are making a splash in nearly every industry in 2018 - from home decor to fashion. Since starting this blog four years ago, I am frequently given lavender gifts of all kinds. And I love every one of them..... 

If you have a favorite use of lavender or lavender product, please share in the comments section. 



Friday, May 18, 2018

Author Inspired: D.G. Driver

I have had the pleasure of reading several pieces of work by author D.G. Driver, including her Juniper Sawfeather fantasy trilogy. Honestly, I could chat with Driver all day about the inspiration behind her writing, but for the purpose of this interview, we discussed her novel, No One Needed to Know, which focuses on autism awareness and bullying, a subject that, as a parent and former educator myself, hit home.

Lavender Inspiration: This novel is clearly dear to your heart for personal reasons. Would you like to share why?

Driver: This book is based loosely on the relationship I had with my own oldest brother. We grew up in the 1970s/80s, and Autism wasn't an official diagnosis then. I knew my brother was in Special Education, but I didn't know why he had "odd" behaviors and ticks. I have two brothers, actually, and I'm the youngest. Our middle brother was very able and busy and had no time for his little sister. My oldest brother, though, he played with me all the time, and we had so much fun. Even though he was four years older than me, he would play pretend games with me and go on biking excursions to parks all over town. When I hit puberty, I stopped being interested in playing like that. That's when I realized fully that my brother wasn't like other boys his age, because he was perfectly fine to play like a little kid indefinitely. I found it embarrassing at the time. It was hard to let him down and tell him I wasn't interested in these kinds of afternoons anymore. When my daughter was little, she would play with my brother (now in his forties) the same way I used to. My parents and I had to warn him that she would get too old for it one day, too. It was really sad when she finally hit 12/13 and it all came to an end. Reliving all of that motivated me to dust off this old manuscript I'd written fifteen years ago and get it ready for publication.

Lavender Inspiration: Many people grow up with special needs siblings, but they don't become special ed teachers. Was there one defining moment in your life which led to your decision to go into this field?

Driver:  I fell into teaching more because of my mom than my brother. My mother got into working as a teaching assistant in special education because of my brother. She worked at his elementary school and then transferred to an early intervention program at another school when he was older . (This is actually the program that is featured in my novel). She did this for 26 years. I never intended to be a teacher. My degree is in theatre, and I planned to be an actress. However, teaching made a great "day job" while I did theater at night or between tours. While in college I worked in school-age daycare. After college I substituted as an assistant in special education until I got hired full time at a private school in Los Angeles for kids with learning challenges. I took a break to have my baby, but when I got back to work, it was once again in special ed in a CDC classroom. I have been at my current job for almost 12 years, and I really love it. I am the lead teacher in an infant classroom in an early intervention program. With an assistant, I care for 8 babies, and one or two of them each year has some kind of special needs diagnosis. While I would love to be a full-time writer (and that is my goal), I'm glad to have a day job that is so fulfilling and makes me feel proud.

Lavender Inspiration: Did you suffer from similar feelings and ridicule as Heidi does in this book? If so, how did you handle it?

Driver: I did suffer from some bullying, especially in 6th grade. To be honest, it had nothing to do with my brother. He and I were four years apart in age, and the kids I went to school with never met him. The bullying was typical mean girl stuff (popular girls deciding I didn't belong), but it was awful. It began much the same way it does in the book, too, with all the kids sending me mean notes one day when we had a substitute teacher. The bullying lasted the entire school year, and when I started junior high in the fall, I had no friends at all. I had to start all over, and it took some time to find a place to fit in. I still suffer from horrible shyness as a result of it all. My middle brother dealt more with name-calling and meanness from people regarding our oldest brother than I did. I remember the "r-word" being shouted at my oldest brother, but it was apparently shouted at my middle brother, too. And he had people say things to him like, "Are you a 'r-word' too?" He pulled away from us a lot during these years. Heidi in my book is a combination of the two of us.
 


Lavender Inspiration: What can your readers look forward to next from you? 

Driver: My newest YA novel Lost on the Water, A Ghost Story, will be published on July 17th by Fire and Ice YA Books. It's a good read for middle school and younger high school readers. It's about a girl visiting her grandmother in rural Tennessee who sneaks out in an old rowboat she finds to try to join a camp out on an island in the middle of the lake. It seems like a fun adventure, until everything goes wrong. So, I'm busy getting ready to put that out in the world. I've also started a series of original fairy tale novelettes. The first one, The Royal Deal, came out in January, and I plan to release the second one this summer. I've got audiobooks being produced right now for No One Needed to Know and my YA fantasy novel Cry of the Sea. My current writing project is finishing up an expanded, novel-length version of my YA  romance novella Passing Notes. It's taken me a while to get it done, because so many other projects keep jumping the line. 

You can keep tabs on D.G. Driver by following her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/donnagdriveron Twitter at www.twitter.com/DGDriverAuthor, or visiting her website www.dgdriver.com


Read my reviews of D.G. Driver's novels at www.lavenderinspiration.com or under related articles below. 




Wednesday, May 9, 2018

My Greatest Gift

A Mother's Day poem from my youngest son many years ago. 

When I said I was in the process of decluttering my life back in January, my blog was NOT supposed to be one of those things purged from my regular routine. After a hectic few months of changes at work and in my private life (I recently moved to a great location!), I am finally sitting down to write a special post in honor of Mother's Day. And, while I would be amiss if I didn't mention the most amazing woman in my life, my own mother, this post is actually dedicated to the two amazing boys who call me mom. While day to day life raising two teen boys can be draining most of the time, when calmness seeps into my day, I stop and think about the amazing people they are and are becoming. I marvel at how fast they've grown, and pray that I am doing more good than harm in shaping their lives.


Those who have read my blog for a while know I am inspired by many things, but music probably tops that list. The following song is dear to me and always makes me think of my sons, and inadvertently brings tears to my eyes, the sentimental fool I am. Therefore, on this Mother's Day, I want to dedicate Tim McGraw's "Humble and Kind" to my children (It is only fitting since Lori McKenna wrote it as a message to her five children.), and thank them for giving me the hardest challenge of my life, and just when I think I have failed in the most epic way, doing something to lift my spirits enough to push me through another day. 

A dear friend told me years ago, before I was a parent myself, that the love you have for your children is all-consuming. Is it possible that's an understatement? 

Boys, my love for you has no end, even when you push every last one of my buttons. I love you and want to remind you to always stay humble and kind. Thanks for making me a mom. I know having a hormonal, menopausal mom during your teen years isn't easy, but thanks for sticking by me. I hope you take the time to read this someday and know that everything I do, I do for you. 


"Humble and Kind"
Performed by Tim McGraw, Written by Lori McKenna

You know there's a light that glows by the front door
Don't forget the keys under the mat
When childhood stars shine, always stay humble and kind
Go to church 'cause your momma says to
Visit grandpa every chance that you can
It won't be wasted time
Always stay humble and kind
Hold the door say please say thank you
Don't steal, don't cheat, and don't lie
I know you got moutains to climb but
Always stay humble and kind
When the dreams you're dreamin' come to you
When the work you put in is realized
Let yourself feel the pride but
Always stay humble and kind
Don't expect a free ride from no one
Don't hold a grudge or a chip and here's why
Bitterness keeps you from flying
Always stay humble and kind
Know the difference between sleeping with someone
And sleeping with someone you love
"I love you" ain't no pick up line so
Always stay humble and kind
Hold the door say please say thank you
Don't steal, don't cheat, and don't lie
I know you got moutains to climb but
Always stay humble and kind
When those dreams you're dreamin' come to you
When the work you put in is realized
Let yourself feel the pride but
Always stay humble and kind
When it's hot, eat a root beer popsicle
Shut off the AC and roll the windows down
Let that summer sun shine
Always stay humble and kind
Don't take for granted the love this life gives you
When you get where you're goin'
Don't forget turn back around
Help the next one in line
Always stay humble and kind



Read more of my blog here




Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Letting Go: Decluttering My Life




Continuing with the theme of my recent post, 12 New Chapters, I recently adopted, or rather had thrust upon me, a new philosophy to help me with my goal to declutter - "Let it Go!" (Cue the music!)

Now, as I meander about my day, I purposefully look for things to let go. As a way to increase the speed of which I sell, donate, or dispose of things, I am actively seeking "ten a day" - ten things to get rid of, ten things to "use up" that have been sitting around waiting for a raining day or forgotten in the back of the cabinet, or ten things to give to someone who could put the item to better use. 

What I've found is that with each object that I free myself from, I feel more organized and less stressed. I have a donate pile and a garage sale pile in addition to the countless things I am tossing - on a daily basis! And I have so much more to do.

I am not saying I am going to become an actual minimalist, but just these little steps in this short amount of time have shown me the light to being less cluttered in the physical aspect of life. In addition, I am looking for ways to consolidate other areas - whether financially or mentally. For example, I recently closed a bank account that I had a small balance, but didn't actively use. All it gave me was more paperwork to track. 

The other day at work I cleaned out my top desk drawer. Not because I didn't have work assignments to complete, I did, but nothing pressing, but simply because I have noticed that decluttering my physical space helps me declutter my head space. Make sense?  When that very small task was complete, I felt rejuvenated and ready to take on my next project, despite the crazy week it had been. 

At home, I am going room by room, cabinet by cabinet - weaning out all the crap I no longer use or need. I wish I had a dumpster in my driveway to just toss it all in and have hauled away. Instead, unfortunately, I have to look at those previously mentioned piles and wait for donation pick-up dates or upcoming community garage sales. Although not as ideal of having the stuff instantly removed from my presence, seeing the organized piles do give some sense of gratification similar to the feeling I get when I cross something off my to-do list. 

So, it may seem silly to you that I break out in song every time that little voice in my head tells me to let it go, but for me, it really is part of the therapeutic process. 

"Let it Go" from Disney's Frozen


Until next time, have a great day and, as always, thanks for stopping by and reading. 


Read more of my blog here


Friday, January 26, 2018

Echo of the Cliffs (Book Review: Multicultural Children's Book Day)

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017 (1/27/18) is in its 5th year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators. 



This is my third year in a row participating in the Multicultural Children's Book Day. I previously reviewed the first two novels in this Young Adult Fantasy trilogy, and am so honored to have been given the opportunity to read and review the final Juniper Sawfeather novel by D.G. Driver.  Echo of the Cliffs surpassed my expectations and ended up being my favorite of the three novels. 

Read reviews for Cry of the Sea and Whisper of the Woods



In books one and two, readers are introduced to June and her parents, local and influential environmental activists in the state of Washington. Echo of the Cliffs comes full circle tying the trilogy together - from mysterious mermaids to spirits trapped in ancient trees. Driver does an excellent job filling in all the pieces and connecting the novels that span a time frame of only a couple of months. 

In Echo of the Cliffs, June once again runs into mysterious circumstances while working with her parents to expose a construction company responsible for polluting the ocean and causing harm to the environment and the creatures that live in it. Still, in the back of Juniper's mind are the aching questions, just what happened to the mermaids she rescued only weeks earlier, and how are they connected to her ordeal in the tree? However, when her mission puts her friend in grave danger, June will stop at nothing to save him. 

Driver's writing style brilliantly paints vivid images for her readers, and I loved the way June's relationship with her mother changes over the course of the books. Echo of the Cliffs was also the most suspenseful of the novels - the ending really had me turning the pages faster than my eyes could read. 

If you like fantasy novels, particularly those based on Native American legends, along with novels that focus on modern day environmental concerns, you will enjoy these books. I highly recommend you read the first two novels to better understand the plot and history of Echo of the Cliffs. I am disappointed that there won't be more Juniper Sawfeather stories. She is a fabulous role model for teens, and a charismatic character for all fans of young adult fiction, regardless of age. 


I believe the target audience of middle and high school teens will thoroughly enjoy this novel and believe teachers may certainly use it as a stepping stone to discussing the plight of our environment and things we can do to help protect and save it.   


I strongly encourage teens to become active in environmental issues.  A simple way to do so is to organize a local beach clean-up with your school or outside organization. The future of our planet depends on the compassion and action of today's youth. 

Read more of my Book Reviews



Current Sponsors:  MCBD 2018 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board.

2018 MCBD Medallion Sponsors
BRONZE: Barefoot Books, Carole P. Roman, Charlesbridge Publishing, Dr. Crystal BoweGokul! World, Green Kids Club, Gwen Jackson, Jacqueline Woodson, Juan J. Guerra, Language Lizard, Lee & Low Books, RhymeTime Storybooks, Sanya Whittaker Gragg, TimTimTom Books, WaterBrook & Multnomah, Wisdom Tales Press

2018 Author Sponsors
We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.
TWITTER PARTY Sponsored by Scholastic Book Clubs: MCBD’s super-popular (and crazy-fun) annual Twitter Party will be held 1/27/18 at 9:00pm.
Join the conversation and win one of 12-5 book bundles and one Grand Prize Book Bundle (12 books) that will be given away at the party! http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/twitter-party-great-conversations-fun-prizes-chance-readyourworld-1-27-18/
Free Multicultural Books for Teachers: http://bit.ly/1kGZrta
Free Empathy Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/teacher-classroom-empathy-kit/
Hashtag: Don’t forget to connect with us on social media and be sure and look for/use our official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.


NOTE: I received this book free from the author requesting an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's rules and guidelines. 





Wednesday, January 17, 2018

12 New Chapters


For the Chinese, 2018 may be the year of the dog, but for me, the new year seems like an ideal time to declutter my surroundings - both literally and metaphysically. 

From vowing to use all my the gift cards I have accumulated over the years (yes - YEARS!), to finishing the countless bottles of youth potions and half used hair products, I am determined to spend, lather, and spritz my way through the first couple of months of 2018 (First world problems, I realize.) 

In addition, I have the more daunting task of ridding myself of possessions - from clothes to furniture and knick-knacks, 2018 will be the year of minimizing all the crap I have collected over the decades. 

Most importantly, is the purging of unhealthy thoughts and unnecessary stressors.

 Breathe in positive light, breathe out negative darkness - repeat. 

A few years ago when I started this journey, I spoke about wanting to practice meditation and yoga more. Unfortunately, neither became a regular part of my schedule. I am hoping that will change in this new year and bring about a more relaxed and peaceful existence. 

2018 - new year, new goals. Who's with me?

Thank you all for stopping by. I wish all my readers a happy and healthy New Year and the best 12 chapters of your lives. 



Read more of my blog here