Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Last Confession of Thomas Hawkins by Antonia Hodgson / A Book Review



One of the pleasures and perks of belonging to Bookbrowse.com is the opportunity to read an occasional Advance Reading Copy of a soon to be published book in exchange for an honest review.  Bookbrowse.com has introduced me to authors I might not otherwise have discovered, which has afforded me hours of pleasure.

The Last Confession of Thomas Hawkins will appeal to fans of Anne Perry and C.J. Sansom with the murderous activity occurring during the reign of King George II rather than Victorian or Tudor times.

Thomas Hawkins is a “gentleman” ne’er do well who finds himself strapped to his coffin in a cart jostling along the road to his hanging at Tyburn for a murder he did not commit. While Hawkins pleads his innocence and hopes for a pardon from Queen Caroline for whom he has provided some valuable services, he knows that dead men tell no tales and that his death might prove convenient for the Queen.

The book is well researched, entertaining and gives the reader an intimate look into life in London during the early 18th Century including the filth, seediness, prodigious interest in porn, fetish brothels, spousal abuse, criminal investigations and the pomp and circumstance of executions. 

Publication Date: March 15, 2016
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt


Friday, December 18, 2015

Celebrating Today!



As we all know, life throws us curve balls. We never know what tomorrow brings. But I choose to expect the Universe will bring me blessings. I know some of those blessings will be bittersweet. There are some milestones I don’t want to face. But I know I must. Until that day when I must let go of what must come I want to celebrate the joy of having both of my parents and in-laws in my life. I want to give thanks that my husband’s 103-year-old grandmother is still with us.

I give thanks that the changes coming with the acquisition of my company may ultimately be beneficial. This week I was advised that my name is in a box in the new organizational chart. I have a job in the coming year. There will be changes but I am ready to embrace the changes, celebrate the opportunities, and forge ahead with an open mind. I will be reporting to a manager that I like and respect. For that I couldn’t be happier or more grateful. I feel like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon ready to spread my wings to fly into the pollinated flowers and embrace whatever comes.  I’ve come to appreciate that changes are not just inevitable, changes generally brings good fortune if I approach what must come with the right attitude.



Yes the changes will be bittersweet. I’ve been blessed to work for a company that has treated me well. I’ve had the pleasure to work with dynamic, committed individuals who has taught me a lot and given me some enhanced tools so that I can succeed anywhere. But I am committed to press forward and see what the future brings in this new organization. I can feel the energy. The road will likely be rocky. I’ve been through mergers & acquisitions in the past and even in the best of circumstances there will be challenges. But I do believe the future waits with abundant opportunity. I just have to be receptive.



Saturday, December 12, 2015

Embracing Change & Accepting What Will Be May Be Positive~



Since July 1st my colleagues and I have considered the potential ramifications of the announcement that my employer, Chubb, was acquired by ACE, a rival insurer. It was unsettling. It is still unsettling to consider what we will face in the coming years. But unlike many of my coworkers   I have experienced mergers / acquisitions in the past and know that it is possible to not only survive but to thrive. 

For the first 45 years of my existence I feared and resisted change. I don’t know the reasons other than a fear of the unknown. Ultimately, however, I learned that every second, minute, hour, day, week or year presents an unknown future. I discovered that I’d spent so much time worrying about what may occur that I missed enjoying a moment in time that could have provided joy and memories.


Fortunately, some personal challenges caused me to reflect, delve into deep introspection, take a personal inventory, participate in spiritual awakening, embrace experiences, look forward to opportunities, find fellowship in Al-Anon which gave me the tools to live life on life’s terms, study the lessons of Doreen Virtue and Louise Hay, find peace and serenity in meditation, appreciate the gifts of yoga, and come to understand that change is not only inevitable – it is also healthy, positive and an opportunity for growth .
 
By the end of this coming week I should know where I fit in the current puzzle of the new organization. I plan to give it a go and see where it leads me. If it isn’t the path I’m meant to follow, I will know and plan my next move. But I anticipate that there will be opportunities for growth that I never imagined.

 

Yes, there will be people I care about that may not like the changes. I may not like the changes. But I can’t control it, so I will approach what comes with an open mind and the belief that whatever happens is meant to be.

Friday, December 4, 2015

The Gun Debate From the Perspective of an Average Gun Owner~



I have a lot of friends on both side of the gun debate. I am an educated woman, well employed, no tattoos, married, Libertarian, commute to our nations Capital, shop at Garnet Hill or Neiman Marcus or Nordstrom, am well traveled, practice yoga and I own a firearm. For decades I never imagined I would buy a gun. While I’ve always believed the 2nd Amendment affords citizens the right to own a gun for personal use – not as part of a militia, I did not see the need to own a gun myself. And, I had a bit of trepidation being around guns because I’d never learned how to handle a firearm.

I had a fear of guns until I learned to shoot one. We live in the country.  There is abundant harmless wildlife that transverses our property such as possums, wild turkeys, raccoons, deer, chipmunks, squirrels and an abundance of cats. But we’ve also seen bear and coyote. And there was a quadruple murder down the road a few years ago.

At my husband’s insistence I bought a firearm for protection. Okay, it was a wedding anniversary gift. But I discovered that I absolutely LOVE target shooting – particularly at zombie targets.  We joined a gun club with several shooting ranges. I’ve learned I have a good eye, a steady grip, and a propensity to hit my target dead center.  

Most gun owners like me are ordinary responsible citizens who want to protect themselves and also enjoy the sport of shooting. Frankly, it is fun.  And I do not want my rights trampled upon because of a few bad apples. If somebody wants to commit an atrocity he or she will find a way. Guns just seem to be an easy target (pun intended).


I have no problem with background checks. But background checks won’t stop criminals from getting guns anymore than it will stop criminals or terrorists from hi-jacking airplanes, making bombs with fertilizer or strapping C4 onto their bodies.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Gratitude & Forgiveness Are The Keys To An Abundant Life~



Thanksgiving has always been my favorite American holiday. I love the concept of giving thanks for blessings and sharing good food and laughter with family.  While Christmas has morphed into a culture of commercialism, spending and creating the expectation of gifts, Thanksgiving is still reserved for celebrating what we already have.

Learning to live a life of abundance took a lot of work rebooting my mindset, recalibrating my expectations, letting go of negativity and resentments, accepting people as they are, surrounding myself with positivity, avoiding toxic people, and treating myself with kindness and love. Fortunately there are readily available tools to help all of us on the path to an abundant life.  I was helped along the way with finding recovery in Al Anon, the inspiration of Louise Hay, the guidance of Doreen Virtue, the peace & serenity from practicing yoga, permission from stylist Brenda Kinsel to celebrate who I am with clothes and accessories, and making the decision to accept that I deserve love, happiness, good fortune, excellent health, joy and abundance.

Interestingly, all of the tools that brought me a life of gratitude and abundance presented similar paths to enlightenment. The most important thing that I've learned it to let go of resentments and be willing to forgive those who have either harmed or just annoyed me. That includes letting myself off the hook for past actions, reactions or inactions. I've found it really is healing and cathartic to periodically let go and forgive each person, place or thing that I've allowed to cause me angst in a ritual way. I performed this exercise most recently over the holiday weekend and felt uplifted when I completed my emotional cleansing.

It really is true that holding a grudge or a resentment is toxic. Letting go frees us for living a lighter, happier, more joyful existence and gives us the space to see the abundance we already have in the people we love, in the ability to hear birds sing, see a sunset, smell the rain, feel the warmth of a beloved pet curled up next to us on a chair,  and to celebrate the small miracles of the everyday.

It isn't always easy. But when I remember to be grateful, to let go, and to accept abundance into my life - it flows.







Monday, November 16, 2015

My Idealogical Conundrum Regarding Syrian Refugees

The sonnet by Emma Lazarus, The New Colossus, is engraved on the pedestal of the  Statue of Liberty~

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

This sonnet has been the beacon of light to refugees and immigrants since France gifted the USA with Lady Liberty, a symbol of welcome to those who have fled tyranny. 

Many of my loved ones ardently believe that the USA should deny vetted Syrian refugees asylum in this land of ours that was formed by immigrants fleeing legal, economical, or religious persecution in their homelands. Others that came to this continent were adventures seeking fame or fortune and thought nothing of displacing or conquering the native population. History is replete with stories of conquerors and the conquered; despots and tyrants causing people to seek refuge in other places; of war, destitution, famine, injustice or genocide. We, the people of the USA, are all decedents of immigrants. Even those identified as Native Americans traveled here from other lands. 

I've made no secret about my opposition to amnesty for illegal immigrants. But I will argue vociferously for the right of those who are truly dispossessed to resettle here. I refuse to paint all Syrians will the brush of terrorism. I refuse to blame all Muslims for the actions of extremists who co-opt their religion for an excuse to commit atrocities any more than I blame all Christians for the extreme views of the religious right in our current political struggles that advocate denying equal rights to all citizens.

The very foundation of our modern society calls us to welcome those who are homeless. And for those who espouse Christianity, it is against the tenets of the faith to deny shelter to those who are homeless, clothes to those who are naked, food to those who are hungry, care to those who are sick, and compassion to those who are bereft. 

While I am filled with anger and sadness over any act of violence against innocent civilians, I cannot in good faith cast blame against the fleeing citizens of a war zone. Just as we may argue that the death penalty may be unjust if one innocent person is executed, perhaps we should consider that denying refugee status to truly innocent refugees would be wrong even if one evil doer  passed the stringent vetting process of the State Department. Perhaps, kindness and compassion would change the heart of that jihadi. 



Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Obsessed By Perfume ~



I am not one of those women with a signature perfume. My appreciation for scents changes from day to day, week to week, year to year, and decade to decade.  The only perfumes of my young adulthood that still appeal to me are Chanel No. 5 and Shalimar – despite the sad truth that the compositions of both have changed. 

Nearly every time I wander through the perfume counters at Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdales, Saks, Nordstrom or a charming boutique with niche fragrances I have to test a new scent.  It is critical for me to wear a new perfume for several hours to determine if I will like it on my skin after the top notes have faded.  At this point in my life I will only wear perfume. Lesser concentrations disappear too quickly. And I tend to buy smaller bottles or atomizers so I can indulge in expensive fragrances.



Fragrance is personal. What smells divine on one person may cause another to squirm. What prompted my article this evening – an insert in the latest Nordstrom catalog with the new delectable Narciso Rodriguez perfume. I feel a longing to try it.

The current lovely fragrances on my dresser include Bottega Veneta, Hermes Caleche, Dolce & Gabbana “The One” (although I still prefer the original Dolce & Gabbana fragrance), LancĂ´me “La Vie et Belle”, Rodin, Hermes “24 Faubourg”, Lalique, Hana Mori “Butterfly”, Chanel No. 5, Shalimar, Patou “Joy”. And Aqua di Parma “Gelsomino Nobile”.




My greatest fragrance regret is that I did not stock up on the incomparable “Venezia” by Laura Biagiotti when it was readily available 20 years ago. This was such a sublime fragrance that it never occurred to me that it would be discontinued. And the new launch is just a shadow of the original, which to me is indescribably delicious.



But I’ve no doubt there will be other delightful scents that call to me. My taste us ever evolving. I mean really – in the 80’s I wore Giorgio!