Best Books for Your Beach Bag 2018

 

At the beach one summer, my wife remarked: ‘Boy, are you skinny!’

I replied: ‘Honey, it’s minor defects like this

that keeps me from getting a better wife.’

Lou Holtz

 

Heat is upon us and I see beach! What’ll be in your tote for whiling away the hours as you bake the perfect tan?

 

The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand

A murder mystery by the queen of summer beach reads. Over all weddings in Nantucket this season, the Otis-Winbury wedding promises to be the event of the summer. That is, until the maid of honor is found dead the morning of the special day. Soon, everyone is a suspect, and they’ve all got something to hide.

 

The Lost Family by Jenna Blum

Meet Peter Rashkin in 1965 Manhattan, the handsome bachelor owner and head chef of the popular restaurant, Masha’s. He is also a survivor of Auschwitz, where his wife and daughters died. When an up-and-coming model catches his eye, they begin a whirlwind romance. But that’s just where the story begins. Spanning three decades, The Lost Family is a beautiful story about love, family, and the legacy of loss and how it defines us.

 

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

A refreshing debut novel that proves one thing: there’s not enough data in the world to predict what will make your heart tick.

Stella Lane comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases–a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old. It doesn’t help that Stella has Asperger’s and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice–with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan.

Maeve in America: Essays by a Girl from Somewhere Else by Maeve Higgins

Irish comedienne Maeve Higgins’s wickedly funny collection of 14 essays deliver on her promise to reach beyond the self while addressing such topics as Rent the Runway, a designer-clothes rental service, and the Muslim travel ban with incisive humor and deep humility. In her exceptional essay, “Pen as Gun,” about teaching a comedy workshop in Iraq, questions that begin with the self give rise to political and global considerations: “What if comedy, and creativity, these nebulous things I’ve devoted all these years to, are, in the grand scheme of things, unhelpful? Or even pointless?” Higgins has the rare gift of being able to meaningfully engage with politics and social ills while remaining legitimately funny.  

A Bite Sized History of France: Gastronomic Tales of Revolution, War, and Enlightenment by Stéphane Hénaut and Jeni Mitchell

For the Francophile and travel bug, pack this one for the road — or if you’re simply hungry. Nothing better than relating the history of French food and wine with its history from ancient times through today.

 

Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History by Keith O-Brien

Let’s call it the Hidden Figures rule: If there’s a part of the past you thought was exclusively male, you’re probably wrong. Case in point are these stories of Amelia Earhart and other female pilots who fought to fly.

 

The Dependents by Katharine Dion

How well do you really know your partner? After 50 years of marriage, Gene suddenly loses his wife, Maida. When their grown daughter returns home, old memories resurface and Gene’s long-held narrative of his own family’s life begins to unravel. Must we bridge the chasm between what makes us happy believing and what we ought to know as truth?

Dreams of Falling by Karen White

Three lifelong best friends. One dark secret that will reverberate for generations to come. Told in multiple timelines of the present and the past, this is Southern fiction at its best. A novel about dreams, friendship, and family that makes you long for home.

 

Number One Chinese Restaurant by Lillian Li

Darkly funny, Number One Chinese Restaurant looks beyond red tablecloths and silkscreen murals to share an unforgettable story about youth and aging, parents and children, and all the ways that our families destroy us while also keeping us grounded and alive.

 

Fight No More by Lydia Millet

In her first story collection since Love in Infant Monkeys (a Pulitzer Prize finalist), Lydia Millet explores what it means to be home. Nina, a lonely real-estate broker estranged from her only relative, is at the center of a web of stories connecting fractured communities and families. She moves through the houses of L.A.’s wealthy elite and finds men and women both crass and tender, vicious and desperate. With wit and intellect, Millet offers profound insight into human behavior from the ordinary to the bizarre: strong-minded girls are beset by the helpless, myopic executives are tormented by their employees, and beastly men do beastly things.

Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to add your reading list recommendations here. Our beach bag is ever grateful to the Kindle!

xoxox

 

Give the women you love the most unique gift

of elegant and timeless portraits with a

Powerful Goddess Gift Certificate

for a two hour photo shoot of up to three people:

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© Sharon Birke

Managing Member, DoubleSmart LLC

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman

For the Brave and Brokenhearted

 

To truly laugh,

you must be able to take your pain

and play with it.

Charlie Chaplin

 

 

In 1862, April 16 went down US History as Emancipation Day, an Act by good old Abe to abolish slavery.  Yet headlines to this day reveal that we, free citizens of a great country, prefer to enslave ourselves to stories of victimhood.  More power to those who bravely make the best of whatever life deals them, owning their power to move forward and choose how their story unfolds, even as the weather insists on Winter when the calendar says it’s long overdue for Spring. 

This poem by Nayyirah Waheed inspired the title of Brene Brown‘s book Rising Strong:

 

Manifesto of the Brave and Brokenhearted

There is no greater threat to the critics and cynics and fearmongers
Than those of us who are willing to fall
Because we have learned how to rise

With skinned knees and bruised hearts;
We choose owning our stories of struggle,
Over hiding, over hustling, over pretending.

When we deny our stories, they define us.
When we run from struggle, we are never free.
So we turn toward truth and look it in the eye.

We will not be characters in our stories.
Not villains, not victims, not even heroes.

We are the authors of our lives.
We write our own daring endings.

We craft love from heartbreak,
Compassion from shame,
Grace from disappointment,
Courage from failure.

Showing up is our power.
Story is our way home.
Truth is our song.
We are the brave and brokenhearted.
We are rising strong.

Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to share how you’d write your own daring ending.

xoxox

 

 

 

 

xoxox

 

Give the women you love the most unique gift

of elegant and timeless portraits

with  a Powerful Goddess Gift Certificate

for a two hour photo shoot of up to three people:

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

© Sharon Birke

Managing Member, DoubleSmart LLC

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman

 

 

Fifty Plus Fools

 

Let us be thankful 

for the fools.

Without them,

the rest of us could not succeed.

Mark Twain

 

 

Between work and family duty, days easily slip by without a hearty laugh. I drive carpool and find it incredulous that most days, teens are stumped by the question “Any jokes today?”  April Fools is fun-tactic reminding us to enjoy being ridiculous!   May we escape the fate of those who take life all too seriously.

While the author of Fifty Shades of Grey was still toddling in her diapers, Long Island housewife Penelope Ashe was an overnight sensation with her tawdry, sex-filled romance novel Naked Came the Stranger. Except she didn’t.

Naked Came the Stranger was the brainchild of Mike McGrady, a Newsday columnist who set out to hit the bestseller list with an intentionally horrible book. He asked 24 Newsday colleagues to write a chapter full of sex, bad writing, and bad writing about sex. With a bunch of smutty nonsense in hand, McGrady edited the book to make it even worse. Apparently bad was good enough for an independent publisher to pick up the book. McGrady got his sister-in-law to pretend to be Ms. Ashe and the book sold 20,000 copies before the hoax was revealed,  They sold a hundred thousand copies sold in its first year and continues to sell to this day.

 

 

In 1962 before the advent of color TV, Sweden’s only television station announced that their “technical expert” was going to show people how they could get their black and white TV sets to show color. The expert claimed that research proves covering your television screen with a cut open pair of women’s stockings could alter the laws of physics and cause the light coming from the TV to appear in color.

Thousands of Swedish viewers fell for the hoax. Technology did catch up a few years later and Swedish TV actually did began broadcasting in color a few years later – on April 1, 1970.

 

 

Han van Meegeren was a small and dapper man, a Dutch artist of limited ability. His confidence made up for what he lacked in talent, successfully passing off his own paintings as newly discovered works by the renowned 17th century artist Jan Vermeer.  He ran the greatest art hoax of the 20th century pocketing the equivalent of $30 million before he was unmasked.

Edward Dolnick, author of The Forger’s Spell, explains how Van Meegeren made a career of Vermeer.

 

 

Van Mergeeren may have been even more successful if he had a genius accomplice like the husband and wife team of Helene Balltracchi and Wolfgang Fischer.  Helene came up with the fake history of a painting on the spot after a Christie’s expert asked her to explain the provenance of Girl with Swan, purportedly by Heinrich Campendonk. “I hadn’t planned anything,” she insists, “but my grandfather lived in Krefeld and so did the artist. So I could easily say they were connected.” To lend her account credibility, Wolfgang staged a black-and-white photograph of Helene impersonating her grandmother. Wearing a black dress and a strand of pearls,  posed in front of several paintings from her grandparents’ collection. The photo was slightly out of focus, and printed on prewar developing paper. Hanging on the wall at left is a fake Fernand Léger and at far right is a phony Max Ernst.

Click on “Leave a Comment” top left to share how your life’s been richer as a fool.

xoxox

 

Give the women you love the most unique gift

of elegant and timeless portraits

with  a Powerful Goddess Gift Certificate

for a two hour photo shoot of up to three people:

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

© Sharon Birke

Managing Member, DoubleSmart LLC

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman

 

 

 

Mom & Me & Mom

 

God made Adam first

because He didn’t want any advice

from Eve on how to make Adam.

Anonymous (who is usually a woman)

 

 

To celebrate Women’s HERstory month and International Women’s Day, I wish to express my gratitude to the village of women who blessed my life with a wide range of talents, courage, wisdom, laughter and relentless optimism. I think back on their constant love and generosity through pain and difficulty reading Maya Angelou’s autobiography, Mom & Me & Mom:

My mother’s gifts of courage to me were both large and small. The latter are woven so subtly into the fabric of my psyche that I can hardly distinguish where she stops and I begin. The large lessons are highlighted in my memory like Technicolor stars in a midnight sky. Her love and support encouraged me to dare to live my life with pizzazz, doing what I never knew I was capable of as a black woman: a conducturette, singer, dancer, broadway performer, poet, screenplay writer, author, movie director, teacher, speaker, etc.

I had thought that I was a writer who could teach. I found to my surprise that I was actually a teacher who could write. One day, an invitation to be a distinguished visiting professor at England’s University of Exeter stunned and thrilled me. I thanked the administration but said I couldn’t leave my mother who was gravely ill. When she heard I had rejected the invitation, she whispered “Go. Show them you spell your name W-O-M-A-N. I’ll be here when you get back!”

Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to share the story of your favorite woman.

xoxox

 

 

 

xoxox

 

Give the women you love the most unique gift

of elegant and timeless portraits

with  a Powerful Goddess Gift Certificate

for a two hour photo shoot of up to three people:

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

© Sharon Birke

Managing Member, DoubleSmart LLC

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman

 

 

Iris, The Ageless

 

Nothing makes a woman look old

as trying desperately 

to look young.

Chanel

 

 

How do you get 750,000 Instagram followers without owning an email account? Iris Apfel explains that it’s really quite simple: have a devoted fan who knows how.

At 96, Iris makes no secret of her age, stays relevant to the times modeling for ads in fashion magazines, saying, “Young people today need direction. They have to learn to be themselves, to develop a sense of curiosity, and not to live vicariously through characters with no personality on social media.”

Like Iris, I believe that we owe it to our fellow (wo)men to dress better and look as pleasant as possible. None of this sweat pants and athleisure stuff! Let us feast our eyes on beauty and make the effort to look our best. She puts it succinctly, “If you want to lounge around, then don’t go out.” I can’t agree more! But before you think we sound like style tyrants, consider the democracy in her wisdom:

Express your individuality, don’t be a fashion victim and allow brands with their marketing power dictate your style sense. To make this world a better place, be as self-respecting and interesting as you can be. Cultivate potential from your own interests and talents by trial and error. Find out who you are, what works best for you and what to avoid. Nothing takes the place of experience.

Look out for her book Iris Apfel; Accidental Icon this March on Amazon and at Bergdorf Goodman NYC.

Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to share whom you want to be when you grow up.

xoxox

 

 

Photos by Franco Vogt

 

xoxox

 

Give the women you love the most unique gift

of elegant and timeless portraits

with  a Powerful Goddess Gift Certificate

for a two hour photo shoot of up to three people:

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

© Sharon Birke

Managing Member, DoubleSmart LLC

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman

 

 

 

The Good Wives

 

If love is the answer,

could you please

rephrase the question?

Lily Tomlin

 

 

When you’ve seen every hole and gnatty stain on each other’s favorite pajamas, how do you keep the romance going?  Author and TED talk speaker Esther Perel insists on our agency, our vitality and our complicity in making the best out of our long term relationships. From her book The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity:

Infidelity has a tenacity that marriage can only envy. So much so that it is the only sin that gets two commandments in the Bible, one for doing it and one just for thinking about it. Lovers today seek to bring under one roof desires that have forever had separate dwellings. Our expectations have gotten all out of hand. Our obsession with transparency, total disclosure and suffocating intimacy stanches desire — fire needs air!

All this before the stigma from choosing to stay in a compromised relationship?! Ayayay!

No better day than Valentine’s to practice compassion for villains and victims alike. They may not always be what they appear, for they are equal in the opportunity to use power to their advantage–overtly and otherwise. In the double standard of society, a man’s exposed dark side becomes a witch hunt for the woman who chooses to stand by him. And I don’t even want to know what price she’s had to pay long before we come around to shame her. Who’s the bully then?

When we focus on blame, we beg the question of what we lead ourselves (and teach our young) to believe. Can there really only be fifty shades of human behavior? Until we move to Mars, power and sex are tradable currencies and commodities on this planet. There is no shame in being a victim but there is also no dignity in incessantly playing the “Poor me, too!” card. There are gallant knights, ogres, wolves and monsters–sometimes all rolled into one person, at times not always male nor blatantly powerful, some more irresistible than others–lurking in the shadows of brightly lit offices, classrooms, cheerful houses, fancy restaurants and especially hotel rooms. The question “What would you say (or do) if someone you trust and respect takes advantage of you?” should be fair game at family gatherings.

Raised by parents who were both sole survivors of their families from Holocaust concentration camps, Dr. Perel learned to distinguish between two types of people: those who were alive and those who didn’t die. Her parents “understood the erotic as an antidote to death.”

There is no greater love than allowing people to choose what’s right for themselves–even between spouses. There is no greater love we can give ourselves than deciding to fashion a full and meaningful life despite difficult and unwanted experiences. That which we don’t allow to kill us, will buy us time to understand the gift it was meant to bring.  If there is one true power that nobody can ever take away from us, it is our talent for alchemy: to take the darkness of pain, hurt and suffering and allow it to push us towards the light of strength, power, wisdom and goodness as we move forward with our lives. This power is the one true guarantee of fairness in the world that we can always count on.

With or without pajamas, best to leave expectations of seeing everything in black and white to photography.

Click on “Leave a Comment” to share how you keep the bedroom fire burning. True love IS always with you! Kiss! Kiss!

xoxox

 

 

 

 

xoxox

 

Give the women you love the most unique gift

of elegant and timeless portraits

with  a Powerful Goddess Gift Certificate

for a two hour photo shoot of up to three people:

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

© Sharon Birke

Managing Member, DoubleSmart LLC

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman

 

 

 

Sitting With Dignity

 

If you can’t beat them,

arrange to

have them beaten.

George Carlin

 

 

This Powerful Goddess greatly inspires many, keeping her cool through life’s challenges with quiet strength and constant optimism. She embodies equanimity in her elegant stance, reminding me of this excerpt from Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Wherever You Go, There You Are:

When you sit with strong intentionality, the body itself makes a statement of deep conviction and commitment in its carriage. A dignified sitting posture is itself an affirmation of freedom, and of life’s harmony, beauty and richness.

Even when you feel depressed, burdened, confused, sitting can affirm the strength and value of this life lived now. It can bring you in touch with the very core of your being, that domain which is beyond up or down, free or burdened, clearsighted or confused. This includes a deep knowing that whatever is present, whatever has happened to shake your life or overwhelm you, will of itself inevitably change, and for this reason alone, bears simply holding in the mirror of the present moment–watching it, embracing its presence, riding its waves of unfolding just as you ride the waves of your breath, having faith that you will sooner or later find a way to act, to come to terms, to move through it and beyond.

Happiest Birthday, O Powerful Goddess!  This earth has been greatly blessed by your gracious beauty and light. Wondrous possibilities await you in 2018, your best year yet!

Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to share how you keep your feathers unruffled.

xoxox

 

 

 

 

 

xoxox

Give the women you love the most unique gift

of elegant and timeless portraits

with  a Powerful Goddess Gift Certificate

for a two hour photo shoot of up to three people:

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

© Sharon Birke

Managing Member, DoubleSmart LLC

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman

 

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