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"Weekend Rejuvination on the Cheap: How to Make a Home Spa"
Radiant, Summer 2006
In the Old Testament, God commands His people to take time for a Sabbath, to rest from their work and to center themselves on Him. Even Jesus took time to rest in the midst of His teaching. Unfortunately, as a woman today, it's unlikely that you're observing a Sabbath. Instead, you're probably overextended and exhausted, with no time to eat and sleep properly, much less relax and rejuvenate.
Fortunately, you can calm yourself and take a breather without breaking the bank or shirking your responsibilities. Creating a home spa for a day (or an hour) is cheap and easy using some or all of the suggestions below. Estimated times are listed so you can pick and choose your relaxation activities based on the amount of time you have. Carve out 30 minutes to soak in a bath or take an entire afternoon for a full spa treatment.
Schedule a time when you can have your house, or at least a few rooms, to yourself. Then shut down the computer, turn off the TV and silence your cell phone. Turn on some calming music, light some candles around the house, pull down the shades and put on your bathrobe.
Clear your mind of worries and stress (try making a to-do list to help get them off your mind). While you're pampering, meditate on the Word, pray or just focus on relaxing your muscles and breathing. You'll be surprised what happens when you take time to settle yourself.
The first few times I found myself in the City That Never Sleeps, I stuck close to the places I was familiar withat least by name. I shopped my way up and down Fifth Avenue, wandered into the enchanted forest of Central Park, took in a show on Broadway and experienced the excitement of Times Square. I even climbed to the top of the Empire State Building and saw the city spread before me in every direction.
And that's when it hit me. There was so much more in New York City that I had never seen or done. So I set out to experience this famous place from a new perspective, to get off the beaten path and discover some of the little seeds that are hiding in the Big Apple. Here's what I found.
Grab a free street map from a hotel concierge or purchase one for a few dollars from any souvenir shop nearby, and pick up free subway and bus line maps at any subway station or on any bus. Start your adventures at the famous Grand Central Station, located at 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue. With its beautiful architecture and diverse crowds, this landmark is one of the traditional NYC sights that are truly worth seeing.
Life Studies: Stories
Susan Vreeland (Viking) 90 pp
Susan Vreeland's Life Studies is a well-chosen compilation of historical and modern short stories about art and life. Though occasionally the line between fact and fiction may be blurred, her works are historically and emotionally honest, illustrating beautifully the life, healing, purpose and joy that art can bring to those who encounter it.
Vreeland, bestselling author of Girl in Hyacinth Blue, begins her newest book with eight historical pieces. Unlike her previous fiction, told with artists as the central characters, these stories are told from the perspectives of the acquaintances, lovers, children, friends, and employees of the likes of Monet, Renoir, van Gogh, and more. In this way, the artists' strengths and weaknesses are illuminated by the light of an observer. For example, in "Cradle Song," Berthe Morisot's selfishness becomes clear through the eyes of a wet nurse who loses her own child while caring for the artist's daughter.
Ideas of Heaven
Joan Silber (W. W. Norton & Company) 247 pp
Unlike her other works, Joan Silber's Ideas of Heaven is not a novel, yet not a typical collection of short stories. Instead, it is a "ring of stories." Each main character is connected to the next by some (often minor) detail, and the final piece completes the ring, circling back to the first. But each of the six compositions might also stand on its own, with separate plot points and independent characters facing their own struggles and coming to their own resolutions.
Through first person accounts, Silber (an O. Henry Award and Pushcart Prize winner) effectively captures each character's unique voice and provides readers with a creative and powerful picture of the multifaceted emotion of love. In "My Shape," the author illustrates Alice's desperation for both love and a Broadway career through her wry sense of humor and frantic decision-making. Then the author fluidly shifts voices in "The High Road," as she paints Duncan, a middle-aged homosexual whose neurotic, obsessive and often impulsive reactions to relationships generally lead to their deterioration.
"Book Review — All Alone in the World: Children of the Incarcerated"
City Paper, December 21, 2005
All Alone in the World: Children of the Incarcerated
By Nell Bernstein
New York: The New Press
Nell Bernstein's All Alone in the World: Children of the Incarcerated takes a deep look at the shortcomings of the United States judicial system and offers up a number of alternatives. Though this book could have easily become a collection of complaints, Bernstein avoids evoking feelings of despair about a system that is too far gone to repair, or feelings of pity for children who were punished by the bad choices of their parents. Instead, she has woven a story of hopea hope that these children don't have to suffer alone, that these parents can make better choices with the right supports, that these families and their communities can be more strongly united, and that the prison system can again become a place of rehabilitation.
Bernstein has done her research, visiting prisons and alternative programs around the country, and interviewing prisoners and their children. Through the intense and moving stories of these people, Bernstein takes the reader through the criminal justice system, from arrest to reentry and all the complicated steps in between. In doing so, she illustrates the pros and cons of today's criminal justice system as it relates not only to the prisoners themselves but also, and possibly more importantly, as it relates to the children of these prisoners. Take, for example, Elizabeth, who was arrested for shoplifting and had a history of drug-related offenses, and her son Anthony. After attempting to get herself off drugs, find permanent housing, and hold down a steady job in the midst of long waiting lists, low income, and difficulty finding work, but failing to do so within the court-appointed time period, Elizabeth's parental rights were terminated permanently and, three years after her arrest, Anthony was placed for adoption and hasn't seen his mother since.
A Near-Perfect Gift: Stories
By R.M. Kinder
Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press
Rose Marie Kinder brings to life another small-town rural community and its inhabitants in her latest short-story collection. Author of Sweet Angel Band, a previous, award-winning collection of short stories about small-town living, Kinder has the ability to illuminate the grime and glory of rural living. Each story in A Near-Perfect Gift seeks to answer some of life's more powerful yet innocent questionsparticularly those of mortality and sufferingwithout being too forthcoming with answers. Instead, Kinder allows you to discover your own questions and answers while delving into stories of pain, aging, love, loss and redemption through the lives of characters living both in the isolation and intimacy of a small, rural town.
Some of these characters appear in multiple stories, although you may not recognize them at first glancethey're seen more deeply through others' perspectivesand these characters become favorites as the details of their lives are more intimately disclosed. Take, for instance, Ruth, Cora and James, a brother and his two half-sisters. We first see Cora as a child and teenager in "Ghosts", where she and Katy face a changing friendship and the ghosts of men who pass in and out of their mothers' lives. Later, in "Pulse of the World", we meet Cora's entire family--her mother, her younger half-brother James, and her younger sister Cora. Here Kinder digs deep into James' teenage soul, pulling out resentment and a deep desire to create a better life, when he feels that he's nothing more "than an almost-bastard, a half-brother, not whole in any way." And Kinder brings James' struggles to further light through Cora's first-person narrative in "Blue Baby."
Below is an excerpt from the essay "Flying with a Ghost", published in the Maryland Writers' Association Anthology, New Lines from the Old Line State.
I watched children playing in the cramped concourse, trying to run but tripping over feet, bags, themselves. Their freedom made me smile and I wished for their energy at such an early hour. There were men in pressed suits and starched white shirts, checking their PDAs and ri-fling through their briefcases. A woman sat across from me lost in the book she was reading. I stared out the wall of windows into the dull darkness giving way to morning light. A magazine lay in my lap, open but ignored, as I waited anxiously to board my flight to Minneapolis. While I was excited to see my best friend, it had been more than a year since Id been on a plane and I wasnt looking forward to the flight.
Having taken my fair share of cross-country and cross-continent trips for both work and fun, flying has always been something I do solely out of necessity, simply a way to get where Im going. You see, I hate to fly but not for the reasons you might suspect. Im not afraid that the engines will stop working and well plunge into the sea, or that well be hijacked, or that the pilots are under the influence of some drug or another. My fear isnt about Mother Nature or mechanical failure. For me, the trouble with flying has always been this: I used to be too big for the space that each pas-senger is allotted on a plane. My entire flying history has been tainted by the size I once was.
My large body once overflowed my assigned space. My arms over-lapped those of the other passengers in my row. My thighs rubbed against a strangers and robbed her of her personal space. I felt sorry for my fellow travelers, sorry that they couldnt be at ease beside me. I quickly discov-ered that leaning into the aisleunless a lavatory user or flight attendant passed bywas much more comfortable. It was better than being crammed between a window and the barrier of air I tried to create between myself and the person next to me, or being sausaged between two unsuspecting travelers who would suffer because of my size...