Wednesday, January 27, 2016

NOT The NY Times Best Seller Book Club

Death memoirs, farm memoirs, aging gracefully guides, and books with dogs on the covers. And I thought I could start a book club. It is beginning to come together!
As much as I love books, buy books, hoard books, I rarely finish reading one. My nightstand is full of books I plan to read . . . maybe, sooner or later. Maybe part of that problem is the fact I am not a big fiction reader. I like essays and stories about people who find their path after a sad event. How pleasant is that? One of my favorite books was A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas, her memoir on her husband's brain injury. Stephen King said it was his favorite memoir, according to the blurb on the book. Of course, the fact she had a three dog life and I had my six dog life, was a big draw, too. I read that book in the early days of loosing my husband. It made me read her earlier books and now her latest book What Comes Next and How To Like It. That lead me to reading books on having a wonderful life as I age.  I am excited to attend a class on Saturday by Claire Cook (author Must Love Dogs, etc) on reinventing yourself. Her book Never Too Late: Your Roadmap To Reinvention is on my Kindle.

What brought me to the books above is the dog connection. Would I have read these books if a dog had not drawn me in? None of my friends are reading books on how to be fun and older. Nor my weird memoirs. Maybe a cat on the cover would have worked for them. Me, always a sucker for dogs and always drawn into animals on the cover. (This might be a good time to make note of that for your next book cover to my author friends.)

To give you a handle on my quirky reading, I am also reading a memoir on a pig and on owning chickens. My farm fantasy is alive and well as my reading habits keep changing.

I started a book club last year with visions of finding books less known and publicized. My goal was to read local authors, self-published authors, and have authors visit our book club meetings. I called the group The NOT The New York Times Book Club. Perhaps I am not the best one to start a book club, but I like to try new things as I age! (my books on aging tell me this is a positive!)

Our first three selections were NY Times Best Seller Books. I drank wine at our meetings and stuffed my face with food, these were not the books I wanted to share. But I am not an ogre, so I let the members pick what they wanted to read. To set an example for all members, I didn't read the books they picked, noting that you could come to the meeting and feel comfortable even if you had not finished the month's selection. I like to be a positive role model.

In the midst of my looking for 'memoir' style books to enjoy, a friend bought me A Moveable Feast as a gift. All the research I did for my little picture book for my dog Miss April in Paris (A Dog Dreams of Paris) gave me the French connection. He thought I'd love the book. He was spot on.  So, at the last book club meeting, another NY Times best seller I had not read, everyone looked at me and asked, "So just what are you reading?" I had to hold back my giggle (I am not mature for my age) and smiled sweetly at them. "Hemingway." They looked at me strangely. "A Moveable Feast".  I went from dolt to intellectual with those few words. Loved it! Then we went back to discussing the book everyone had read and I had not.

Sometimes you need those moments. Enjoy them. They can make a good story, too.

I am happy to report the group is seeing things more my way! Next Sunday we have local authors sharing their books with our members. Four women, who write amazing books you might not find without knowing they are there, will talk with us and share their writing experiences. They call themselves The Book Widows (I swear I did not choose them for their name because I am a widow and so easily influenced by things I am familiar with). They refer to themselves as Book Widows, like golf widows. The men in their lives do not go to book clubs. I am friends with one of the authors and this is going to be fun.

Finally. I Will Have My Way!

There are so many awesome books that never get the recognition they deserve. Fiction, non-fiction, any genre is included in this statement.  The Book Widows have got me looking at fiction, too.  Especially if there is a dog on the cover!

Would love some suggestions on books you have found that may be hard to find if not on the NY Times Best Seller list.

Links to The Book Widows:  Please do not tell them I have not read their books!
But I have copies on my nightstand!

Valerie Joan Connors

Susan Clotfelter Jimison

Rona Simmons

Constance McKee

Susan, Constance, Rona, Valerie

Thanks for reading! To return to the FICTION WRITERS BLOG HOP on Julie Valerie’s Book Blog, click here:

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Blog Tour Book Review "The Romance Diet" by Destiny Allison

 Available on Amazon and Kindle

Note: This review is part of the Women On Writing blog tour for Destiny Allison. Link here for more information on her tour!
I met Destiny Allison online once before, during an earlier blog tour with Women On Writing when I reviewed her book Shaping Destiny on my Book Talk blog in 2012. Needless to say, I was thrilled to review her latest memoir The Romance Diet.  I was not disappointed. I love memoirs and Destiny draws you in with her writing, honesty, insight, and details of her life . Her fears resonate with all of us. Her courage is amazing.
The Romance Diet is intimate, grueling, heartbreaking, and finally, exhilarating.  Destiny's honesty is raw as she takes us on her personal journey (along with her husband) on reshaping her life.  It is not just about weight loss. It is a story on coming to terms with personal demons and finding the strength to move forward.
As a well-known sculptor, Destiny's identity was solidly in place, especially in her mind. Which is where I live – don’t you? How we perceive ourselves makes us function at our best or worst. A back injury changed all that. She gained weight. Worried about health. Worried about not being sexy enough. She could not do what she loved best, create those extraordinary huge metal sculptures. She needed to find her new passion to feel complete. A new business venture was the answer but brought on other issues to deal with. It is not easy looking deep into your soul for answers. Could questioning too much ruin her marriage? What roles are women expected to play in relationships and society.

Destiny came through a winner. Which my guess is one of her strong traits. As far as beauty, if I look at photos of Destiny from a few years back and compare them to today, she has an inner beauty that makes her softer and more beautiful than ever.

The memoir is short and I read it in one night. I couldn't put it down once I started.  Her issues may be different than yours, but her tenacity and strength is something everyone can draw from and apply to their own life. 

About the Author:

Destiny Allison
Destiny Allison was a professional and award-winning sculptor. Her work is collected by individuals, civic entities, and corporations worldwide. When an injury required her to re-envision her life, Allison did what she always does. She applied her explosive creativity and dog-with-a-bone tenacity to new endeavors.

In 2011 she was named Santa Fe Business Woman of the Year. Her community building efforts and innovative business model transformed a bankrupt shopping center into a thriving community and commercial center.

In 2012 she published her first book, Shaping Destiny: A quest for meaning in art and life. The book won best independent non-fiction/memoir in the 2013 Global Book Awards.
Since then, she has published two novels and opened a general store. 
Allison believes that one’s life is one’s greatest work of art. Hence, she flows freely between mediums. Unafraid to make mistakes and always passionate, she lives in Santa Fe, NM.


Twitter @sfsculptor







Monday, November 23, 2015

Breakfast of Champions Not

Looking at this picture makes me giggle and makes me hungry. It also reminds me that I am not only failing my character Mallory (last seen at the Waffle House - if curious check earlier posts) my very own breakfast of champions is  . . . well, pathetic.

I don't cook. I used to bring in things to zap in the microwave. And, at one time I purchased frozen Jimmy Dean breakfast bowls that gave the illusion I was eating a real breakfast. Now, I pop some pills, drink my coffee, and start the day checking on Facebook posts and Pinterest. Those two sites are my morning companions. My virtual friends. I leave comments and it seems like a conversation to me.

Of course, there are the dogs. I talk to them every morning as I teeter about, trying to get my balance, that hip that still needs surgery keeping me from my normal activities. Although, I have to ask myself these days, What is normal for me? I've been dealing with hip issues for over a year.

The six-pack of hounds are my constant companions. I talk to them, they wag their tails, then they stare, wanting to be fed. I actually get more of a response on Facebook, folks liking my pithy comments, than I get from hungry dogs who are just thinking about themselves.

The dogs have learned the meaning of brunch. BS (before surgery) I got up at seven am and all the dogs ran down the hall, anxious for breakfast. I couldn't feed them fast enough. Now AS (after surgery and another big BS, as I have to have the other hip done sometime after the first of the year) I barely teeter down the hallway. The dogs run out. I refresh their water bowl. They run back in expecting food. They are greeted with a handful of biscuits. You have to wait, I tell them. I can't move. I pop a pain pill, grab my coffee and head to the computer. I have to get myself together before I can start serving their breakfast. Six bowls in six different locations. Each has to be lowered with a grip as I can't bend to reach the floor.

I read somewhere in a dog manual that the one who controls the food controls the pack. And the alpha eats first. That be me. Even if only coffee, pills, and maybe something to nibble on, they see I am getting something, they are not. The hounds are very very respectful of me these days. They do get treats before meals and they have learned to like that. Even my old sick gal, Annabelle, perks up, waiting to see what treats come her way. She is hanging with me a little longer to see how much rotisserie chicken she can gulp down in her remaining days. The dogs love to eat. It is the biggest part of their day.

Let's face it, I love to eat, too. As much as the dogs do. And I don't have to wait for someone to feed me. But, I don't like to prepare food. When my husband was alive, I did cook breakfast. Every. Single. Morning.  We had a trade off. He cooked dinner. Every. Single. Night.

On my own I have reverted back to my old ways. How I was before we met. So many years ago. I life-time ago. Never cooking, eating out, or bringing in take out. My idea of breakfast was a left-over cold pizza slice. Yum. (I do have a small pizza in the freezer. Perhaps I will upgrade today. After all, it's not delivery. It's DiGiorno! That almost seems home cooked.)

I rallied for a bit after my hip surgery in May.  I learned to love cereal and milk again. In the hospital.  I carried that breakfast theme over to my return home and the next two months. Little single bowls of cereal that I could add my milk and plastic spoon and make it to the computer to have a healthier, simple breakfast with my friends on Facebook and Pinterest. A few bones tossed at the hounds and we were all good for thirty minutes or more.

I am addicted to certain rituals for short periods of time.  It depends how much I was influenced by them at first meeting. Hospital food was . . . well, you know, hospital food. Cereal, milk, and fruit was refreshing in comparison to an unknown egg mixture with strange potatoes that were fried, I think, but could not be certain.  Coming home I continued the cereal tradition.

This was not my first addiction to breakfast with cereal. In 1988 (some of you may not have been born then. Argh to you.) my mother and I went to England. She was a recent widow and wanted to travel. We stayed at a very small hotel off Trafalgar Square in London. Their breakfast included milk (in a silver pitcher), small boxes of cereal so we could choose our favorites, fresh apricots, and toast with tiny packets of lovely jams. The table cloth was a thick white cotton, the utensils were real silver, cloth napkins, and a bud vase with a rose. Upon returning home, I had that breakfast for months. There was no table, no cloth, no silver, but there were real apricots. OMG. I lived for breakfast. The memories were happy and strong. So much so, that my little fictional novel, Danger In Her Words, included the same description for a breakfast as one of the characters loved her English breakfast and kept the tradition going upon return to her home. (Write what you know. I know cereal, milk, and apricots!)

My recent cereal experience fell short of exciting within a few months after my surgery. Nothing tasted good to me. Perhaps it was the pain meds. (Cliff hanger! More on that in another post.) I no longer eat cereal. Coffee, pills, and maybe a muffin. But that's how I roll at the moment.  (Look, almost a pun . . . muffin, roll . . naw, I agree with you. Sadly unexciting.)

Living alone (if you can call living with six dogs alone - let's rephrase that to living without a human companion in the house) has shaped how I do things. It's just me and the dogs, and as I've mentioned, they have to wait for my next move to see when food comes their way. Surprisingly, they have learned to be fine with that. When I head back to bed to get my energy level up to for the day and to let any meds do their magic, they jump in with me. Food has taken a back seat to snuggling on the bed.

Somehow this silly lifestyle of mine agrees with me. I plan to find a better way to do things, sooner or later, but most probably after my next surgery. My non-surgery hip is very uncomfortable most mornings. I have to ease into my day, limber up, and then move on. I am blessed with so many wonderful friends. When I do head out, I eat out. With my friends. Sometimes brunch, sometimes lunch, and most times dinner. Sometimes two meals a day out with different friends. I love that. Not so much the food, but the company.

In fact, I love it so much, I may have a new title for myself.  Social Diner. But that is the subject for another post!

I have a frozen pizza waiting for me to zap it! Oh, and the dogs are getting impatient with me. I've taken way too long to feed them this morning.



Friday, November 20, 2015

A Very Sick Dog With A Great Attitude


Annabelle and I have long chats in the car to and from the vet.
 Our most wonderful vet!

Once again I am learning lessons from my dogs. Annabelle is a very sick girl, but she is moving along, enjoying the moment, and teaching me to live in the now.  

     Recently diagnosed with Lymphoma she will not be with the pack much longer. I say that and find it hard to believe. Do I sound accepting of this fact? Not really. I am more in denial that she is so ill. She is a trooper. Now on prednisone, her symptoms are masked, and she is quite content for her remaining days. However many there are. I don’t have a clue, no one does. The fact she is with me now, happy, pain-free, and enjoying her time here is good enough for me. I chose not to put her through extended treatments. She is old. It would not buy her enough time to make that time so unpleasant for her.

     Her age is a mystery, too. Her owners lied about it to animal control. Perhaps with a good intention out of a bad act. As a younger dog she might find a home. She came to me in late April 2009, when I was on my dog adopting frenzy. She was number two. The folks with animal rescue pulled her from DeKalb Animal Control. Her owners turned her in, giving her age as five years old. A quick run by the vet brought up many guesses as to her real age. Anywhere from 8 to 10, based on her teeth and overall health and appearance. She had puppies at one time, maybe lots of them, her belly sagging low as she walked. Her teeth were a mess, and shame on me, they still are. Annabelle had a few teeth pulled but the rest are still in her mouth. Her breath could knock you over. Yet, she gives kisses freely, even now, and her breath? Well love conquers all.

      Annabelle had her chapter, Someone New In My Bed, in my widow memoir. Her first night in her new house - my house, our house, and the doghouse, where the numbers were growing -  told me all I needed to know about her. She got up on my bed and curled next to me. I rolled on my side, slipped my arm over her chubby tan frame, and slept the best sleep since my husband had died the year before. She had come in for a trial run but I knew she was mine forever.

      She could put the cartoon character Maxine to shame. Annabelle can be a curmudgeon, a cantankerous old lady, or a sweetheart.  She looks like an old school marm on days and on other days she smiles her partially-toothless grin that is infectious. She is a heartbreaker, no doubt about that, and soon will be breaking my heart.

     Our time now is fun. I treat Annabelle as a princess. Of course, all my dogs are spoiled; she is just getting a bit more attention and a bit of special food. I tuck her meds in hunks of rotisserie chicken. She inhales the bits so quickly she has no clue what is inside. Her eyes are bright as she does a happy dance.

      Trips to the vet include a stop along the ride home. A bit of Chick-fil-A sandwich, a small cup of low-fat yogurt from Brusters (free to dog visitors) and plenty of treats tucked in my pocket to keep her entertained on the short drive.

      Her arrival back home is that of a rock-star. Five dogs sniff her butt, saying Welcome Home. Rascal licks Annabelle’s face, a caring gesture that happens often and I have yet to figure out why. I wonder if they know.

     I do not count her days. I count my blessings. I am lucky to have this time with her and with all my dogs. Each day is a miracle. For her, for me, for you. None of us, canine or human, know how many days or years we have left. The gift is to live those days full of love and compassion. Perhaps a dog enjoying her remaining time teaches a lesson for all of us. My old gal Annabelle is full of grace and beauty, and yes, rotisserie chicken. She won’t let me forget the chicken . . .
More chicken, please!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Failing NaNoWriMo I Will Post Here For 30 Days

I am failing quicker than I am writing. NaNoWriMo inspired me that I could sit down and write. I started November 1st with a plan to knock out a 50,000 word novel.  I am now, on day 19, still at just over 5,000 words. My main character stopped for coffee at the Waffle House and never left. As I sit here and sip my steaming hot cup of java, so does Mallory. She must be on a high now, sixteen days in a row drinking coffee. I think I left her with a plate of waffles, too, if I remember correctly. Since fictional writers say their characters take on a life of their own, perhaps Mallory has done that and ordered more food. Eggs, bacon, and in the evening hours, I hope she had a burger, well done with all the works, to keep her strength up.

It was going to be an romance novel, not steamy hot, but a kind look at a woman trying to rebuild her life. I'd like to think that while I have failed Mallory, the Waffle House has not. Is she sitting at the Formica top table with a handsome cowboy? Yeah, yeah, the old cowboy hook. But she is in Florida and there is horse country around her. Far off, actually. She is by the beach. Cowboys like the beach, too, don't they? Romance at the Waffle House is quite possible. And if you steal that as the title for your next book, I'm coming to find you.

I have a list of reasons why I haven't written more. If only they were exciting reasons. But I am a slug in a void about writing. I don't even want to label it writer's block. It may come down to this, fiction is difficult for me. I like non-fiction, short essays, and with my crazy life with dogs, I like to write about  . . . . me!

It isn't that I missed Lesson 94. I haven't gotten there yet. I think I am wallowing more around lesson # 32. And truly, it isn't all about me. But writing about my life and the things around me, help me sort out dealing with life's big issues and perhaps my little missives hit a nerve with someone else, someone who can relate to what I am saying.

My reason for writing in the first place was to learn how to cope with the loss of my husband. A year's essays turned into my memoir The Unfaithful Widow. That book connected me to others who had a loss and I made friends, friends I've never met in person but feel as close to them as if I had.

Non-fiction, no matter how deep or silly it gets when I start hitting the keyboard, is my way of connecting to people. I am a social gal and sharing my thoughts with others when I write is as good as sitting and having a margarita with friends. Except I don't have to wear makeup, can stay in my PJ's and frankly, sad as this is, I can't drink at the moment, still on a few pain meds for my hip.

Aha, a flash. Pain meds and margaritas . . . maybe I can get Mallory out of the Waffle House. Probably not. She, we, us - well, it's a big menu. I'll just drop in and have dinner with her. In my PJs because she is just a fictional character. . .

In lieu of a novel writing month, which is a tad past halfway over, I've pledged to myself to write on this blog for the next 30 days. We'll see how that goes. Time will tell if I am good for my word, or just a procrastinator who wants to be a writer.

For now I am signing off and heading out for breakfast. All that talk of the Waffle House has made me hungry. Perhaps a bit of bacon and an omelet (who am I kidding, and a big fat waffle full of butter and syrup) will inspire me to figure out what Mallory would do next.

I've a heard a sugar high can get you going, too!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Remembering To Count The Dogs

There are many quotes about counting;  counting your blessings, counting sheep to sleep at night, counting days or hours until . . . whatever that is you are waiting for happens, counting money, counting the stars at night, counting the words you are writing for your novel, especially if you are participating in NaNoWriMo this month! There are many more fine examples, but in counting my brain cells this evening, they seem fewer than normal, so I'll stop with this list above.
I have a special count I make each time I let my dogs into the yard. I count them as they come back in. Each body that wiggles or races or drags through my kitchen door is numbered. One, two, three, four, five, six! Once I have reached six  I can close the door and go about my business. Sometimes, I forget to count and just assume six dogs have come back in. Especially challenging, when only half the pack goes out, trying to count who is still in and who is reentering.  Sometimes I mess up. A dog gets left outdoors. While most dogs love to be out, my pack loves to be in. When a dog is left unaccounted for, well, there is a price for me to pay. No dog wants to be outside alone. Not in the heat of a summer day, certainly not in a rain storm, but as I found out a few minutes ago, not in the dark of night.
Four hours ago I fed the hounds. I opened the back door to my large fenced yard, well lit by lights around the premises, and dogs ran, in many directions. Dogs ran into the yard, dogs ran into the sunroom, and dogs ran into the living room. I assume they had a game afoot, romping and playing with each other. Of course, the purpose of the open door was for the dogs to go out for their last evening run to pee. All the dogs came safely back to the sunroom and settled in, or so I thought. I'd forgotten to count.
Pounding away on my keyboard (sounds like I am really knocking out my NaNoWriMo novel, doesn't it?) I heard a howl from my back yard. A high pitched howl that seemed to come from the far side so I had to think, is this my dog or a neighbors? The howl came again and I knew who it was. (don't you know the sound each of your pups makes? an individual sound like no other dog, the dog's voice as I like to call it) and swung around. Five dogs were sound asleep. Rascal was missing.
I looked at the clock at the bottom of my monitor screen. Holy cripes, it was almost eleven-thirty. And my dog was outside making a hideous sound, one my closest neighbor on the other side of the stone wall, would most likely hear. We have a truce - I keep the hounds quiet after ten.
Barefoot and in my PJs, I dashed to the kitchen and ran out. Loudly, but quietly as I could, I called out into the night, "Rascal".  What a perfect name for a little thirty-five pound butterball of a dog who gets in trouble more often than not! I called again, my voice a little louder, "Rascal!"
Across the yard, from the far corner by the right-of-way, my butterball came running. She sprung into the kitchen and came to a sliding halt. Then she looked at me with a bit of disdain. If I could have read her mind, she might have been saying, you left me outside for four hours!
I looked at her and wondered what she had been up to for that time. Her howls only surfaced in the last few minutes. There was a smudge of dirt over her brow, or was that one of her markings? She is a colorful gal. All pinky white, one blue-eye and one brown. Her back looks like a brindle sweater, and her tummy is full of polka dots. My little clown dog. I grabbed a few biscuits and fed her. Smiling, happy she was back inside, although honestly, I had no clue she was missing. Safe in the yard, but missing from her usual spot on the couch.
Yes, I count my blessings. And among my blessings are six dogs that make me happy to be a member of the pack. Just shame on me! I must remember to count my dogs when I close my doors. One, two, three, four, five, six. Oh good, now I can relax.
It's exhausting having an adventure!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Borrowing From Elizabeth Gilbert

October 28, 2015. Sharing this post as part of a book blog hop. Thanks for reading! To return to the FICTION WRITERS BLOG HOP on Julie Valerie’s Book Blog, click here: 

I have an imaginary relationship with Elizabeth Gilbert. It started with my widow book. I had never heard of Ms. Gilbert before and then about the time my book was finished there was a huge hoopla about her book Eat, Pray, Love.  She was trying to find herself after a divorce. I was trying to find myself as a new widow. She spoke to God. I wrote short quirky notes to God. I saw similarities in our stories, small ones, and wondered why my book didn't become a best seller. I was very na├»ve then. So humor me with my ignorance! I wasn't sure I liked her when I started reading her book. Then I saw a TED talk where she spoke on your elusive, creative genius. I watched in awe and from that moment on I have respected her and probably wanted to be her! But not for her fame - for her grace and eloquence. This past week she blew me away again with her writing. I had to borrow her post from Facebook and share it here. In the face of tragedy she has nailed it. I don't know.  Every day we are flooded with horrific news both on the national and personal level. What do you say? What can you do?  I don't know. Elizabeth Gilbert writes just that. I don't know. . . . but I will sit here with you through this.

Those words may become my mantra.  I do know her post reminded me of my first year as a widow, when I was lost. My friends did not offer advice, they sat with me, they made me get out of the house, they showed their love by being there for me in my darkest hours. They were there for me as I worked back into the light.

Elizabeth Gilbert, once again you have wowed me with your words and insight. Thank you for your beautiful post.

Dear Ones -
I woke up yesterday in joy, and went to bed in sorrow.
I woke up yesterday to the delightful news that my book was a #1 bestseller, and went to bed heartbroken and shaken by the awful news of yet another mass-shooting in America.
I won't be writing a political message here today. The internet is filled with outraged people arguing with each other this morning, and I can't bring myself to contribute more argument to the world right now.
This morning, I'm just writing to say: I don't know.
My heart is broken, and I don't know what to do about it — in the same way that I don't know what to do about the plight of the Syrian refugees, or the rise of ISIS, or the deterioration of the Sudan, or the stubborn endurance of racism, or the onslaught of climate change.
I don't know. I don't know how to fix any of it.
I do know this, though: I know that great joy and great sorrow have something in common, which is: they both cause us to overflow. Joy and sorrow are emotions that make us SPILL — because they are too big for us to contain.
I always know what to do with my overflow of joy — that's easy: You dance it out, you laugh it out, you celebrate, you cheer, you pop the champagne.
I don't always know what to do with my overflow of sorrow. Last night, alone in a hotel room, I lay awake for hours, overflowing in too much sadness to handle. I found myself saying again and again to God, "I don't know what any of this is for, but please help us."
I also found myself thinking about a beautiful young woman at one of my speaking events recently, who asked me how — after a recent devastating personal loss — she is meant to go on. She asked me what God intends, by making her suffer so much? I don't know what her loss was, but I could see by her face, it was very bad.
What was that loss FOR?
The answer is: I don't know.
I don't know what suffering and sorrow and injustice and brutality and loss are FOR.
It's so easy to know what joy and happiness and love and grace are FOR — they are to be celebrated and shared. Joy and good fortune seem to be proof of our divine blessings — proof that God is smiling upon you, proof that you are being looked after, proof that your angels are protecting you, proof that life is fair.
But what is suffering for?
I always hate the simple, reductive answers people often offer up about suffering — because I feel like those answers sometimes only bring more sorrow to those who are in pain.
To blithely say that "This is God's will," in the face of terrible events, seems cruel to me. (Or worse, to say "This is God's punishment!" — Lord help us, what a brutal and inhumane statement.)
To tell a mother whose child has died, "God must have wanted another angel," is almost too awful to bear.
To say, "Well, that must be karma", is also terrible and dismissive. You might as well just shrug at someone's unbearable pain and say, "Hey, shit happens, man."
To say, "Someday this will make you stronger," to someone who is at their weakest? No. Don't ever say that.
To say, "Maybe this tragedy will open up people's eyes about what's going on, and so your child's death won't have been in vain!" is to use another human's life as a political tool. Which is just monstrous.
To say to someone who is being asked to endure the worst sorrow of their lives: "God never gives us more than we can handle!" is so outrageously hurtful, I don't know how anyone ever got to the end of that sentence without being punched in the face.
People seem awfully confident at times, speaking on behalf of God's agenda.
I don't where people get their confidence, to say that they know what God is up to. I don't make such presumptions. In the face of outrageous sorrow, I can only say, "I don't know."
And once we have said that — "I don't know" — then we have reached the end of ourselves. Then, maybe all we can do is sit in silence with the person who is suffering, or with the people who are suffering, and just say, "I will stay here with you."
That's easier to do on the intimate scale than the global scale, but I feel like that's what the great compassionate souls have always done. They say to a sorrowful world: "I don't know why this is happening. But I will stay here with you. I will sit beside you. I see your pain, and although I don't know how to solve it, I will be here with you."
The great compassionate souls always take their overflow of sorrow and turn it into love.
I don't have any answers for anyone today. This is one of those days for me when the world overwhelms, and I feel very small.
But when the world starts to feel overwhelming in its sorrows, I always ask myself to look around me — to narrow down my focus — and to notice somebody who is nearby me, who is suffering. I can't help the millions, but maybe I can help one. You never have to look very far to find a suffering soul. Life is hard; there is always someone going through great pain. I tell myself: Go sit with that person today for a while. Don't try to solve their life, or answer for God, or offer dismissive "reasons", or try fix the whole world. Just say, "I don't know. But I will sit with you through this."
Turn your overflow of sorrow into love. That's the only thing I know how to do sometimes.
Love and blessings,

Addendum 10/28/2015 More Inspiration from Elizabeth Gilbert.

I am currently reading her new book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear . Awesomeness! It's a collection of very short essays on different topics, divided into six sections: Courage, Enchantment, Permission, Persistence, Trust, and Divinity. The perfect inspiration for artists but especially so for writers. Oh, Elizabeth, I do so want to be you!

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Have a wonderful creative and fun day! Share what you are working on in comments and what is inspiring you!