Monday, December 3, 2018

Finding My Trail

Some say that if you just stick to the trail, your journey will be easier.  However, not all paths in life are smooth concrete with wide walkways free of debris and obstacles. Most trails - the ones worth taking - are rugged and narrow. They get windy and dark - yes, a bit scary. 

The most meaningful paths are those we venture onto alone. But then we have this fear - the further we walk, the closer to the end we get, the scarier it becomes. That solitude, that absolute quietness that tells you you're alone on this journey.  And, for some, for me, it can become too much to bear and even though our hearts want to keep going, our minds become increasingly fearful of every rustle, every movement out of the corner of our eyes, and every tree root that juts out along the trail - as if warning us to turn around and retreat.

Take this nature trail I visited this morning alone. The path started off bright and wide, but the further I went, the darker and rougher the terrain became. Every buzz, splash, and sway of the branches made my pulse go faster. And, while I desperately wanted to see where this path led me, I became frozen with fear and did something I said I wouldn't do - I turned back. I was paralyzed by the "what ifs." What if I fall and can't walk back? What if I get bitten by a poisonous snake? What if I'm not actually alone in these woods?

The truth is I was probably perfectly safe - after all, I was still on a designated trail, it just wasn't the one I was used to. I wanted to keep going and see where this path led me. Yet, for whatever reason, I couldn't do it. I couldn't take one step further. The whole way back I had mixed feelings of both relief and regret. It seems that all my decisions lately are met with these conflicting emotions.

After returning to the "safety" of the wide-open picnic area where the trail began, I stared back at the path I just came from - fittingly called the Eagle Trail - and I longed to have the courage to go back down it and see where it took me. Instead, I found an alternative trail called Hog Hammock - one with a less rough terrain, one where the tree canopy didn't quite shade the sun as much. One that wasn't so deserted - where the only thing I had to trip over was my own two feet. Sure, it proved to have its own challenges. The heat (from lack of shade) and mosquitoes were unbearable. Plus, the hike itself didn't take much effort or concentration which in turn dulled my other senses to the point where it became mundane.

While walking along the Hog Hammock Trail, I came to a fork in the path and I had to choose  between staying on the main path or veering off.  I stuck to the main path despite the fact that I could see in the distance the other way had the most beautiful lush, green grass.

I've been trained to not take risks.

However, in the end, when I returned to my car, I was able to look back on the adventure and truly say it was enjoyable and safe and relaxing. But, I wouldn't be honest if I didn't say that what I also noticed was that my eyes kept looking back down Eagle Trail - drawn to it and my heart was disappointed.

Maybe someday I'll return to this park, and I'll brave Eagle Trail on my own. Or, maybe my destiny is to always take Hog Hammock Trail - the friendlier, safer trail. Yes, maybe that's what I was meant to do. 

Or maybe not........

The truth is we all have multiple paths to choose from. There will always be roads we travel down and ones, for a variety of reasons, we don't.  But in the end, we are the ones who must be satisfied with our choices. We must embrace every step, every turn, and every dark corner. Otherwise, none of it will have been worth it.
This is not to say that there were no concerns on this easier trail, but they weren't as overpowering. The truth is I wasn't ready to tackle Eagle Trail on my own just yet.

There's a saying that more often people do not regret things they did; they regret the things they didn't do. No one wants to look back at their life and conclude they took the wrong path. The deeper issue is to choose your path for the right reasons, not out of fear or insecurity, but because you simply feel it is the best trail for you. It is also important to know that at any time, detours can be explored, and complete changes in course may be plotted. Acceptance of these possibilities will lead to a more peaceful life. 


This post was written March 2015 after a hike in one of my favorite, local wilderness areas. I have since returned to Eagle Trail and have completed it on my own. 


Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Bohemian Rhapsody (Nik's Piks: The Music, The Passion, The Queen)

I finally saw Bohemian Rhapsody last night and took a powerful trip down memory lane. The film depicts the rise of one of the most iconic rock bands of all time, Queen, and the genius behind their uniqueness, lead singer Freddie Mercury. It culminates with their performance at what was dubbed a "super concert," Live Aid.  I was 16 and remember vividly the excitement of the time, but also very specifically the anticipation of Queen's reunion.  

Fans of the band's music, and music lovers of all ages, will get chills watching this film - witnessing 70,000 people in Wembley Stadium singing along with the band and clapping their hands in unison was enough to have moviegoers mesmerized. In 1985, Live Aid was televised simultaneously all over the world with bands playing in multiple arenas. When all was said and done, an estimated one billion people watched the 16-hour concert. But it was Queen's 20-minute performance that rocked the world. It truly was a pivotal moment in music history, and also the beginning of the end for this era. And, filmmakers captured it all to near perfection. I'll admit Rami Malek almost makes a better Freddie Mercury than Freddie Mercury did - yes, his performance was THAT good.

Watch Official Trailer

The other dominating headline of this time was the frenzy caused by the AIDS epidemic that took so many lives - including at least one family friend. I think what affected me the most watching Bohemian Rhapsody was the Live Aid scene and Mercury's passionate performance - reveling in what he loved the most - performing and entertaining - even while knowing he had just been given a death sentence. 

You do not necessarily have to love the music of Queen to enjoy the film, remember I loved the film about Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, Love and Mercy, and do not particularly like their music - but you do need to appreciate genius! Mercury's story is beautifully told. The connection he had with his audiences is probably still unsurpassed, and his love of music and performing emanated from every pore of his body. Bohemian Rhapsody demonstrates that Queen's music is timeless and lives on even to this day. Looking back, I can't help but reminisce about a generation of musicians who stood for more than their own image, when they actually believed they could change the world - and many did.

Similar posts on Nik's Piks: After Hours

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Going to the Dogs

Tankini after being rescued from 6 years as a
a greyhound breeding machine.
This midterm election is perhaps the most heated in recent decades.  Yet, sitting on the ballot in Florida is a not-so-small amendment which can put an end to greyhound racing - one that has taken years to bring to a vote. Before I get to the heart of my post, I want to tell you that outside of Florida, only 6 other tracks remain open. Forty states have outlawed dog racing already, and, according to experts, it is in financial turmoil and no longer turning a profit. So why is it still occurring in Florida? Well, unfortunately, an antiquated law in the state mandates that dog racing be onsite of any venue that wants to offer other - more profitable - forms of gambling.   

So, up until a couple of days ago, I thought to myself, this is a no-brainer. Any rational adult will VOTE YES on 13 to end this barbaric industry once and for all. But, lo and behold, apparently it is not such a clear issue to some. Why? Because of the greedy people that run this industry and the few others that truly believe the dogs should be racing. 

"They were born to run," one person said to me. Well, technically, they were born to hunt which involves running, but the thought is crazier than ever if you think your Creator, the universe, or basic evolution meant for these dogs to be kept in cages 20-23 hours a day - cages too small for them to even stand up in and turn around - merely for our enjoyment. Haven't we learned enough about this type of abuse from circus animals? I'd rather see them running on the beach or at a dog park.  

Even after being adopted to a loving home, Tankini had a difficult time breaking the habit of staying in her crate.  The difference was, at least, the crate was padded with lots of softness with the door open. 

Still others are saying the dogs are treated "very well." REALLY?  

The following horrific facts* state otherwise. 

"From 2008 through 2018, more than 15,000 greyhound injuries have been documented nationwide. This is a notable underestimate since injuries do not have to be reported in either Alabama or Florida. Despite Florida’s lack of transparency, some compelling data has trickled out. Dogs suffer broken legs, broken backs, and are even electrocuted. Since May of 2017, 73 dogs have been injured at Sanford Orlando Kennel Club including 55 dogs that suffered broken bones and four dogs that died."

And, finally, others are confused because the propaganda opposing Amendment 13 are confusing animal lovers - telling them that the dogs will all be euthanized, the breed will become extinct. Now, I am no expert in this, but I can tell you a few things. First, will some be put down? Perhaps, especially those who are in very bad medical condition due to neglect, but not the thousands the opposition is claiming. Secondly, I have to ask you this. Which is better? A life of misery and abuse, or to be rescued from that existence - yes, even if it means your death. I know I would rather not be suffering. 

Tankini the day she met her new dad, Jim!
The last day she would ever have to wear a muzzle.
But I want to go back to the main reason for writing this post. I want you to meet Tankini - or as she was known in the racing industry, RK's Tankini Gal. She was finally adopted by a loving human at 6 years old. Prior to that, however, Tankini was bred merely for the greyhound industry and in her first six years of life, delivered 25 puppies - spending her days cramped in a cage too small for her to properly move around in and definitely not getting the human love she so deserved. Thankfully, Tankini had an amazing five years with someone that adored her. However, since she died at 11 years old, she spent 60% of her life alone, in a cage, with little to no affection or proper care. She was, as is the case with puppy mill dogs, a breeding machine, a tool used by humans for entertainment and profit. 

Tankini was one of the lucky ones. She got out - got adopted - and her story ended happy. But, they are not all that lucky. "Since reporting of dog deaths became mandatory in Florida in 2013, 483 racing greyhounds have died. A greyhound dies at a Florida dog track every three days, on average, with 94% of the dogs being three years old or younger."

It is time, Florida, to change their fate. It is time to put an end to greyhound racing once and for all! VOTE YES ON AMENDMENT 13 - make a difference in the lives of these gentle giants. 

Eventually, Tankini learned to enjoy being spoiled. She lived five years with her loving dad and went on many adventures with him. 

Many thanks to Jim who shared Tankini's story, his photos, and most importantly, his memories of and love for her with me. 


Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Lost on the Water (Book Review)

Just in time for Halloween comes my review of the ghost story Lost on the Water by D.G. Driver. Driver once again proves a master writer at creating a strong female protagonist that readers will enjoy accompanying on an adventure. She also always manages to touch base on social issues facing our society today. 

The story takes place in a small town in Tennessee. Dannie, a California teenager, is visiting her grandmother for a couple of weeks while her parents jet off to Europe. She is about to unravel a slew of secrets that go back decades and reveal tragic events in her family history - secrets that explain bizarre events in her own childhood, and why she hasn't been back to visit her grandmother since she was three years old. 

Dannie was dreading the entire visit - what would she do all day in the woods where her grandmother's cabin stood? The cell signal was terrible, after all, and she was convinced this was going to be the worst part of her summer. However, on only her first full day in the town, she meets some boys who befriend her and invite her on an adventure of a lifetime. Before the adventure is over, she will uncover the truth behind one of the town's ghost stories, and the boys will discover the truth about Dannie. 

This is the fifth novel by Driver I have read and reviewed, and my favorite yet! This is an intriguing novel that will have you turning the pages until you get to the end. After reading her beautiful descriptions, I am ready to book my own cabin in the Tennessee mountains, ghosts and all! I highly recommend this novel to anyone who likes to go on adventures or has a fascination with old ghost stories. 

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.

Other novels by D. G. Driver reviewed on Lavender Inspiration

Cry of the Sea

Whisper of the Woods

Echo of the Cliffs

No One Needed to Know

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Upcoming Reviews and Current Projects

With so much going on, I am happy I can occasionally get back to my blog - even if just for a quick post or update. I am thrilled to have on deck Lost on the Water, the fifth novel by D.G. Driver I will be reading and reviewing, available now on Amazon.

I am also currently a beta reader and copy editor for the first short story in a sci-fi series called Vindicta, by newcomer T.J. McBride. If the first draft is any indication of this young author's talent, I can confidently say he will go far. For updates on release dates, follow him on Instagram at @author_mcbride.  

Finally, I am reading the happiest book on the planet, 365 Days of Happiness, by Jacqueline Pirtle, also available on Amazon. I am on Day 46 of Pirtle's positive energy and daily tips for reflecting on one's happiness. A five minute read right before bed is exactly what it takes to refocus your view on life. Day 38 particularly spoke to me................

So, check back soon for new book reviews and updates! The best way to not miss a post is to subscribe via email (left sidebar). 

Read more of my Book Reviews.

NOTE: I received 365 Days of Happiness and Lost on the Water free from the authors 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.

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 Twitter at, or visiting her website

Read my reviews of D.G. Driver's novels at 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

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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.