Allison's Book Bag

With our household of critters having expanded to include three cats and a dog, I thought it fitting to join a meme related to pets. After searching around, I came across Awww….. Mondays. The one rule is: “Post a picture that makes you say Awww…. and that’s it.” Every photo seemed to feature a pet and so the meme is a perfect fit!

barnabycinderBarnaby barks and then flies off the recliner after Cinder. She ducks under the dining room table and then escapes into the kitchen. He pursues and she sneaks past him back into the living room. She retreats to the bedroom and then hides under the bed. He follows and she barrels past him into the hallway. She flees into the living room again and heads straight up the cat tower. Barnaby races after her but stops at the foot of the tower. Their play ends. From the top, Cinder casually licks her paws. Barnaby waits for a minute, but then returns to the recliner to curl up with Andy and me.

Since the start, Barnaby and Cinder have gotten along. Part of the credit belongs to Barnaby. He’s never acted aggressive towards any of our cats. Even when they’ve tried to steal his food, and all of them have taken their turns at this, Barnaby has remained calm. He’s also respected their individual personalities. If either of our cats show through a hiss or a swat that he isn’t welcomed in their space, Barnaby will normally stay a safe distance. Consequently, he’s earned the right for that space to become smaller and smaller over time.

Part of the credit belongs to Cinder. It’s not like Barnaby plays with all our cats. In fact, she’s really the only one with whom he shares this relationship. Oh, our youngest has tried. The problem is that Rainy has limitless energy. She’s too much for a twelve-year-old dog, or for that matter sometimes even her adult pet owners. Rainy also has a very limited sense of control. As much as her sisters love to romp with her, at times even they demand their time apart from her. Barnaby has succumbed to letting Rainy nap with him, but for playtime he seems to appreciate Cinder’s quiet manner.

Why does a camaraderie exist between Barnaby and Cinder? You might think it’s because the two are about the same size, both in height and weight. Like I said though, Cinder is the only cat with whom Barnaby plays with. He’s even picky about the dogs he accepts. Poor Gizmo (who admittedly was a heavier set dog) never won Barnaby’s heart. I wonder if Barnaby and Cinder get along because they both share reserved personalities. Whatever the reason, Andy and I appreciate the camaraderie the two share.

Want to start your week off with a smile? Visit Comedy Plus or Burnt Food Dude and see what others are sharing today.

In less than a month, Brene Brown’s books have changed how I view myself, how I handle mistakes, and how I communicate. Far from being your average how-to manuals, they’re research-based and story-filled guides to a whole new way to think. If you’ve ever struggled with shame, imperfection, and/or relationships, Brown’s New York’s bestsellers will change your life.

gifts-of-imperfectionThe Gifts of Imperfection is a guide to a wholehearted life. The first five chapters provide the research and philosophy behind the book, while the remaining ten chapters provide ten guideposts to the wholehearted life. What’s a wholehearted life? It’s about being real in the very truest sense, the way that the Velveteen Rabbit was. It’s about putting oneself out there, being vulnerable and honest, while also finding belonging and love.

According to Brown, being wholehearted is a process or a journey that will take our entire life. There are obstacles we’ll face, and we’ll need to regularly dig deep in ourselves to overcome them, but there are also tools we can use. One obstacle is shame. Everyone faces it, but few want to admit it. In fact, Brown once attended a conference where she was told beforehand not to talk about shame but to focus on the positive. Yet Brown believes that unless we talk about shame, and about the other obstacles that we encounter to wholehearted living, we’ll never move forward. One of the tools is love. Achieving love isn’t about fitting in, which is being who we think everyone wants us to be. Instead love comes when we find people with whom we belong or who accept us just as we are. This is how we become truly real.

Brown provides ten guidelines to the wholehearted life. I won’t cover them all, but instead will just share a few highlights. One guidepost is authenticity. This involves letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we really are. It’s not giving into the belief that we’ll never be smart enough, thin enough, rich enough, but instead allowing ourselves to be imperfect. Another guidepost is compassion, to which the key is letting go of perfectionism. The latter is not about striving to be your best or about self-improvement. Instead perfection rises from feeling shame about oneself and, as such, it’s self-destructive. Incidentally, shame and guilt are not the same. The first means feeling one is bad; the second means feeling something you did was bad. The difference is important. A third guidepost is creativity. This involves letting go of comparison. The latter is a thief of happiness, because it leaves us feeling that we must be like everyone else just better. We all have our own gifts, but we often choose not to use them, thinking that we don’t measure up to others. To find meaning in our lives, we need to use our unique gifts…. As you can see, all of these guideposts interconnect. They’re all about learning about to being okay with who we truly are, which is flawed but special individuals.

the-daring-wayDaring Greatly is a second guide to the wholehearted life. In the preface, Brown quotes from Theodore Roosevelt’s speech called Citizenship in the Republic, where he contends that it’s not the critic who counts but the man who is in the arena. Brown goes on to point out that being perfect and bulletproof are seductive, but they don’t exist in the human experience. For that reason, contrary to popular thought, vulnerability is not weakness and uncertainly is not an optional risk.

Brown believes that we must let our true selves be seen. In her introduction, she summarizes how she tried the “good girl, perfect-perform-please, clove-smoking poet, angry activist, corporate climber, and out of control party girl” routines. None of them worked, because every was built on the premise of keeping everyone at a safe distance and always have an exit strategy. Instead Brown advocates learning to handle mistakes, become shame resilient, and show up.

Brown next dedicates five lengthy chapters to the concept of daring greatly. If you’ve read any of her other books, some of the material will be familiar, but there’s also plenty of new information to ponder. For example, while revisiting the concept of vulnerability, Brown contends that vulnerability is neither good or bad. To feel is to be vulnerable. She then explores how we embrace vulnerability. For one thing, it’s not about sharing everything of our lives with others. Instead it’s about allowing ourselves to ask for help and to give help to those whom we’ve learned to trust. For another thing, it’s not about numbing ourselves to the bad. This is impossible to do. When we shut out the dark, we also shut out the light. While revisiting shame, Brown argues that unless we accept that we all have shame and that we all struggle, we will believe there’s something wrong with us and act on those beliefs. The consequences of believing we are bad are numerous such as we stop being willing to try new things or we always find ourselves being defensive over our actions. Finally, as she revisits the concept of joy, she notes that joy is probably the most difficult emotion to accept, because it comes and goes, and so we’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop. The problem is this won’t stop the bad things from happening in our lives but it will stop us from enjoying life. The solution is to dare greatly.

rising-strongRising Strong is a third guide to the wholehearted life. It’s also the book where Brown most discusses her theory that we’re wired to tell stories to make sense of our lives. The first five chapters lay the foundation for her call for ones to rise strong and to rumble, while the last five give examples of rumbles.

Early on, Brown shares a personal story about a day at a lake with her husband, where the two almost ended up in a fight. She felt he wasn’t giving her enough attention and began to tell stories to herself of all the reasons why he no longer loved her. Then she caught herself and instead engaged in an honest conversation about how they were both feeling that day at the lake. Using this story, she next shares an interview of hers with Pixar, where she asked about their successful storytelling technique. It’s one that breaks a script into three parts, with Act 1 being the call to an adventure and Act 3 being the hero’s successful rise to the challenge. In the middle is Act 3, where the hero finds out how bad things will get. The middle is also the part of a situation that most of us want to skip. Still using her lake story, Brown now turns to Joseph Campbell’s writing about all of us being on a hero’s journey. Brown contends that we either walk into a story by attempting to deal with our emotions in the middle act or we live outside a story by “hustling” for our worthiness. Brown calls for us to get honest about what we’re really feeling and why, which in turn will help us to rise from hurt and to live a more authentic life.

Rising Strong contains the most real-life examples of whole-hearted people than any of her other books. Some stories are about others. For example, there’s one of a business leader who made a bad decision. He had to decide whether to ignore, deflect, or accept the blame. In a moment of “rising strong,” he choose to apologize for his mistake. He also made suggestions of how the company could survive the mess he had created. Other stories are drawn from Brown’s personal background. For example, she told of allowing others to dictate to her the emphasis of her first book and how to garner sales. In not being true to her own principles, she allowed the book to become a flop. That wasn’t a mistake she made again. A lot of Brown’s stories emphasize accepting the emotions we feel, figuring out how to most kindly act in negative situations, but also holding ourselves and others accountable for actions.

I still have one more book by Brown to read. It’s called I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t). That summarizes how I feel about all of her books. I thought it was just me who struggled with shame, imperfection, and/or relationships. But it isn’t. Even better is the fact that her books offer also guidelines to overcome all of these obstacles. Finally, Brown Brown’s books appeal to me because they’re solidly founded on research, while also being quick reads due to how many anecdotes she shares. Brown’s books were informative and pleasurable to read!

bootsie_danceWith our household of critters having expanded to include three cats and a dog, I thought it fitting to join a meme related to pets. After searching around, I came across Awww….. Mondays. The one rule is: “Post a picture that makes you say Awww…. and that’s it.” Every photo seemed to feature a pet and so the meme is a perfect fit!

In my last post, I told you about Cinder and play time. Now it’s time to tell you about my interactions with Bootsie.

Moment #1: Early morning, I turn on music in the living room to wake me up and to exercise. I stretch my arms. I shake my legs. Then suddenly to my surprise I’m greeted by Bootsie. She sits to my side. I reach towards her and she arches her back for a rub. As I continue to move to the music, she turns this way and that too, waiting for attention. And so we dance together.

bootsie_toyMoment #2: At some point after I get home from work and we’ve all eaten, I pull out a canister of wand toys. Bootsie eyes me from her crate. I dangle the wand in front of her. She bats at it. I swish the wand through the air. She ventures out of her and keeps watch on the wand. Back and forth her head goes as I whip the wand around. Then she jumps and strikes and–down goes the wand! And so we play together.

bootsie_snuggleMoment #3: Mid-evening, I curl up beside my husband. We settle into an hour of television before bed. It doesn’t take long before Bootsie appears. She stares at me, caution never far from her. But soon enough she makes a decision. She hops up, strolls to my lap, and promptly lies on top of me. Andy and I take turns stroking her head. Bootsie utters a low and steady purr. Her eyes start to shut. And so we rest together.

Want to start your week off with a smile? Visit Comedy Plus or Burnt Food Dude and see what others are sharing today.


Taking a marketing class; more adventure!

This past fall has been a whirlwind. I walked away from my career as a teacher, accepted a job as an administrative assistant at a church, and did a lot of soul-searching. As a result of the latter, I decided to return to school.

While I don’t intend to pursue a diploma, I do have focused goals with my classes. For one strand, I plan to take marketing classes. After six years of blogging, promotion has become natural to me, and now I want to improve how I do it. Whatever walks of life I take, it seems that marketing could be of help. In both the workforce and in volunteer organizations, there’s always a need for individuals who can enhance awareness of a group’s services and/or bring in more contributions. For the other strand, it should come as no surprise to anyone, I plan to take journalism classes. Over the past few years, through writing nonfiction, I have fallen in love with writing in different formats and for different audiences. I want to continue this journey on a more professional level with classes.

As for this semester, I’m taking Marketing Basics. Just on the first day, I’ve already learned a lot, although not in the way you might think. You see, that first day overwhelmed me. I’m the type of person who likes to plan ahead and this course didn’t really allow me that luxury. On the very first day, we received two sets of assignments, one with a deadline of this weekend and the other the middle of next week. All I could feel was panic, but then I forced myself to read through the syllabus, the timeline, the assignments, and to figure out the big picture. Turns out, it’s not so bad. Every week, there will normally be two questions to answer about one chapter in our text, and students will need to respond to each other’s answers. Otherwise, the big task will be the end-of-quarter assignments.

What lays ahead besides my new job and my classes, I have no idea. All I know is adventure lies ahead and I’ve got my family, friends, and God to support me. Oh, and that I’ll be here, sharing my journey with all of you. 🙂

Now an annual tradition here at Allison’s Book Bag, what follows is my tribute to those authors for young people whose died this last year. I had the privilege of meeting Anna Dewdney at a book festival and buying a signed copy of a book by Lois Duncan. A few of the authors I hadn’t heard of before but am now interested in reading their books. The literary world will not be the same.

After the photo collage, you’ll find a list of the featured authors. If the author had a website, I added the link to the author’s name. Besides the name is a description of the works that made the author famous. On the next line, I added a photo credit. If I’ve reviewed any books by the author, I added a note in the third paragraph, along with any relevant links.


Richard Adams, an anonymous civil servant in London until his 50’s, is most known for Watership Down. He was encouraged by his two daughters to turn the rabbit stories he told them into a book. Watership Down is set in the Berkshire Downs, a landscape of grassy hills, farm fields, streams and woodlands, where Adams grew up.
Photo Credit: NY Times, Richard Adams, Whose Novel ‘Watership Down’ Became a Phenomenon, Dies at 96.

Natalie Babbitt, author of over 20 books, won the a Newbery Honor in 1971 and the E. B. White Award for achievement in children’s literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2013. She is most famous for Tuck Everlasting. The book sold four million copies in the United States, has been translated into 27 languages, and was adapted twice for film and once as a musical Broadway production.
Photo Credit: NY Times, Natalie Babbitt, Author of Tuck Everlasting, Dies at 84.

Anna Dewdney, writer and illustrator behind the popular “Llama Llama” series. Almost 10 million books in the “Llama Llama” series are in print and “Llama Llama Red Pajama,” was chosen as Jumpstart’s Read for the Record book in 2011, setting the world record for most readings of a particular book on one day. Dewdney was an outspoken advocate of children’s literacy. Her publisher said that in lieu of a funeral service, she had asked that people read a book to a child.

Lois Duncan, a profilic author of over 50 books, is most known for her young adult suspense novels. One of her best-known titles, “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” was adapted for a movie. Her children’s book “Hotel for Dogs” also became a movie.
Photo Credit:, Notable Deaths Lois Duncan.

Louise Rennison, a British comedian and author, earned a robust fan base for her humorous series Confessions of Georgia Nicolson, a fictional diary of a teenage girl. The series records the exploits of a teenage girl, Georgia Nicolson, and her best friends, the Ace Gang. Her first and second novels, Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging and It’s OK, I’m Wearing Really Big Knickers were portrayed in a film adaptation.
Photo Credit: Publisher’s Weekly, Obituary Louise Rennison.

Jan Slepian wrote several books that addressed disabilities. Her brother Alfred was developmentally disabled, and after a childhood fever he suffered seizures the rest of his life. He inspired the title character in one of Slepian’s most known works, The Alfred Summer. Some school boards took issue wouldn’t let their pupils read Mrs. Slepian’s book, even though it was a National Book Awards finalist in 1981 and an honored book for the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards.
Photo Credit: Publisher’s Weekly, Jan Slepian Author of Children’s Books Who to Turned Essays and Poetry Dies/

Brian Wildsmith brought his love for animals, the natural world, and the landscape into his books. His book titled Birds received a 1967 Greenaway Medal commendation as well as being named a New York Times Best Illustrated Book of the Year. Other of his well-loved works include A Christmas Story, a retelling of the Nativity from a child’s eye-view, and Cat on the Mat, featuring a tabby cat who has a meltdown when a string of animal encroachers temporarily take over his favorite red rug.
Photo Credit: Publisher’s Weekly, Obituary Brian Wildsmith.

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Winter Reviews

This past spring, I announced that it was time to take a step back from this blog. At the same time, I promised that I’d pop back occasionally to participate in memes and to share some reading gems. My current reads mostly revolve around animals and so those are what I'll review for you. Here's the books I'll share my thoughts with you about this winter:

  • Freddy the Frogcaster and the Terrible Tornado by Janice Dean
  • Eclipse by Shadow by John Royce
  • Improbable Adventures of My Mischief by E. Merwin & Cynthia Stuart
  • Catatlantis by Anna Starobinets
  • The Book of Joe by Vincent Price



Cat Writers’ Association
Artists Helping Animals

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