Monday Morning, 2 a.m.

Women who need time to themselves, and don’t get it, often have insomnia. That’s what my doctor told me. If you have trouble sleeping, it may be that you’re waking yourself up in the middle of the night, just to get some time inside your own head.

This is what happens to me. Not every night, but several times a week. I intend to live with serenity, but life hurtles along at the speed of an amusement park ride. And how much serenity is there on a Tilt-a-Whirl, really? Most of the time, I feel like I’m just hanging on. At work, I nurture people all day, then go home at night to nurture my family. All this pouring out can suck me dry. I end up with a lot of sleepless nights.

During years of working 3rd shift, I was often struck by how anxious patients would get over not being able to sleep. I’d try to tell them, “Don’t sweat it. It’s not like you have to be somewhere tomorrow. Stay up; read a book; watch something on TV.”

Inevitably, they’d find some terrible show on USA, about serial killers or missing children, and I’d end up calling doctors at 2 a.m., not only for a sleeping pill, but for an Ativan as well. (It seems no one watches the Hallmark channel in the middle of the night.) So when I started to suffer from insomnia myself, 17 years ago, I knew enough not to just lie there, staring at a dark ceiling, imagining I heard burglars downstairs. I decided to embrace sleeplessness; I got up, and started writing. That was how my first book was born. I had a lot of tired days, but eventually, I also had a novel. Sleepless

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Julia Child is Ruining My Writing

I am midway through writing my 3rd book, and Julia Child is ruining all my plans.

Last New Years Day, I—always a big proponent of setting high, unachievable goals for myself—vowed that one of my resolutions for 2014 was to read better books. Every author knows that you only write to the level at which you read. So, if your literary diet is high in, say, the Harlequin/Silhouette genre, then that’s probably what you’re apt to write. Mind-Candy in, mind-candy out, I say.

Thus, aiming high, I started my Brave New Reading Regimen with the rather unfortunate choice of Willa Cather’s My Antonia. It’s not a bad book. In fact, literati reckon it to be a great book. I just didn’t count it among, you know, my favorite books.

*shifty glance away*

I wish I were a smarter reader.

But I kept doggedly on, and early into my resolution, a friend passed me Julia Child’s memoir, My Life in France. I not only loved it; I devoured it, in a single, guilty, protracted sitting, much like eating an entire Charlotte Malakoff Aux Fraises all by myself. With only virtual calories, thank goodness. But it started me on a Julia Child kick. I promptly went out and (I, who never pay Full Price for a book, ever, at all, for any reason,) paid $40.00 for a hardcover copy of Julia’s cookbook: Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Then, even as I cracked the green, be-fleur-de-lis’d covers for the first time, I started watching any clip of Julia’s TV show The French Chef that I could find on YouTube.

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10 Books That Have Never Left Me

I have a terrible memory for books. I have to look at my Goodreads shelf to remind myself what I’ve read, and even then I often don’t remember the stories. But a few books have stayed with me through the years. Stories I’ve devoured, and my heart has digested until they’ve become part of my molecular structure, altering the way I think. That’s what the best books do: they change the way we see the world.

Today, I thought I’d share 10 books that have never left me. They’re not the only ones I could list, but hey—I have to limit myself somehow. Here you go:

10 Books That Have Never Left Me

10. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: a Leadership Fable (Patrick Lencioni) Weirdly enough, someone gave me this book as a gift. I never imagined I would pick up a business book, let alone love one. But the principles here aren't just for businesspeople: they're sound advice for marriage, ministry teams, or any time you have more than one person forced to work together to accomplish a single goal. What made it memorable: This book taught me that conflict is not a bad thing: it’s a necessary thing that can be an opportunity to heal and build. This rocked my world. It taught me to welcome healthy conflict and deal with it in a constructive way.

9. Life of Pi (Yann Martel) My aunt passed this book on to me, and I put off reading it for years, because... boy trapped in a lifeboat with a tiger: how good can it be? The answer is: Brilliant. Pi spends 9 months lost at sea, trapped in a lifeboat with a 450-lb Bengali tiger and survives by learning to tame the tiger. What made it memorable: The twist at the end staggered me. This book speaks to the places a mind and heart will go in order to survive reality.Bookshelf

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