Life in the Slow Lane

Contemplating life, faith, words, and memories

Always Returning: The Wisdom of Place by D.A. Hickman | Book Review — December 10, 2014

Always Returning: The Wisdom of Place by D.A. Hickman | Book Review

The prairie landscape invites contemplation and reflection, quietly urging us to look within for universal truths. As Hickman points out: only an inner wisdom can help us connect a world of incessant surface activity with a deeper awareness. But no matter where you live, the ideas here will help you discover your place within–returning to it time and time again. We need frequent, meaningful reminders that we are much more than current events, sensational headlines, drama, controversy and conflict, and interminable, often distracting, news bulletins.

On a spiritual level, we are the open space of the prairies, the artistic stretch of silvery blues overhead–in many ways, we are even the curious dance of time.

Our spirits, our hearts, point to a timeless wisdom. Always Returning is an insightful and essential guide.

(Image and synopsis via Goodreads)

My Thoughts:

When D.A. Hickman published Where the Heart Resides: Timeless Wisdom of the American Prairie in 1999,she likely did not expect another edition or similar book.

However, as Hickman writes on Goodreads, much had happened when she returned to South Dakota and the prairie in 2008. This return to roots, to culture and lifestyle on the prairie, evidently sparked a hunger to not only revisit her own inner wisdom but to invite and carry her readers along with her.

With this 15th Anniversary Edition, a new title, and a new preface, I decided to join Hickman and never looked back after the first page.

My copy of Hickman’s Always Returning had just arrived when a trip to the ER with my husband was necessary. I hadn’t started the book then and snatched it up as we went out the door. As I waited to learn what was wrong with my dear husband, I began reading. I cannot explain the sense of peace and comfort that washed over me. The writing style is lyrical and provides a seemingly endless look at the prairie, a place no doubt representative to even us city girls when we think of a simpler life.

The view of the prairie is for any reader–city dweller, in the Dakotas, Georgia, New York, New England, or Colorado. Perhaps in a foreign land, military installations, senior or retired living facilities. Or maybe you still live at home with your folks. Perhaps you are among our country’s homeless or unemployed and someone has handed you a copy. Hickman’s book is for all of you.

Wisdom, however, isn’t a surficial phenomenon it must be discovered within–always on a deeper and deeper level. (Preface) 

The writer makes it clear that your prairie is found deep within your being by means of becoming deeply aware of our surroundings and all that is ours to behold and experience.

The more pages I turned the more pages I wanted to explore. What I most enjoyed is Hickman’s contrasting of the slower nature of the prairie with our tumultuous culture of social media, get it done faster, be everywhere pace in the 21st century.

… [P]rairie wisdom is about learning to look, really look, at life in a way that spotlights the inconsequential, peers under and below the shiny, glittery surface of things, delves into the dusty corners and invisible crevices in an effort to understand the truth of the matter, indeed, the heart of the matter. (At page 15)

Not once does Hickman imply that the prairie is preferable over any other place; she simply points to its differences. And in so doing, she highlights the inner wisdom and beauty of finding our place and within it our wisdom.

In the chapter titled “Borrow It, Don’t Buy It,” Hickman brings us to a crucial need in all our lives–mutual respect within community. Today we are a have it all, have it now society. Buy, buy, buy is shouted from every media source in the land. Hickman suggests a refocusing on a new direction toward the time once again when “less is more.”

Either way, borrowing, because it seems convenient, friendly, and fun, or borrowing out of necessity, can keep our need for material possessions in perspective. Regardless of where you reside, of where you have come to know the wisdom of place, develop close friendships that allow for a healthy give-and-take. The mutual respect, the warm feelings of cooperation that develop, will ensure a happier tomorrow for us all. (At page 187)

As I turned the last page, I experienced a mix of emotions–well-being, sadness, hope, and yes, my own place of wisdom. Always Returning is a book I will always keep close by to return to again and again.

My Recommendation:

Always Returning is truly a book providing a map to the heart, a map GoogleMaps, Bing Maps, and Mapquest cannot offer. Hickman shows us where to plant our hearts and nurture them so their growth extends beyond us on to others. If there is hope for peace on this earth, that hope may just be found in prairie wisdom.

This is a book for the enjoyment of readers of all ages (young adult and up), of all faiths and spiritualities, of all lifestyles, of all cultures. I highly recommend it as a gift book whose recipient will be blessed over and over again.

I rarely rate books on this blog. And when I’m forced to give a star rating on Amazon, Goodreads, or other book sites, I rarely give a 5-star review. The book must be exceptional to garner five stars.

Today I’m pleased to give D.A. Hickman’s book, Always Returning: The Wisdom of Placea stellar work, a 5-star rating.

DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. The opinions expressed are solely my own.

Meet D.A. (Daisy) Hickman:

I’m an author, a poet, and the 2010 founder of SunnyRoomStudio, a sunny, creative space for kindred spirits. If you visit my online writing studio, you’ll discover intriguing posts from my Studio Guests and my author blog, as well. Just go to I’m also a spiritual thinker who believes in the journey itself. When we explore new terrain with each life experience, the adventure is profound.

Writer D.A. (Daisy) Hickman
Writer D.A. (Daisy) Hickman

From the cover of Always Returning: “Insights we call wisdom must be learned repeatedly: each time, at a deeper, more profound, level.” Some book details … the 15th Anniversary Edition of “Heart Resides” (William Morrow) was published as ALWAYS RETURNING: The Wisdom of Place in 2014. The second edition includes a new preface and other relevant updates, but by and large, the material in this book is increasingly relevant. I greatly enjoyed writing Where the Heart Resides: Timeless Wisdom of the American Prairie. I have always been a student of society. There is so much to be learned by simply being aware of our surroundings, our lifestyles, and our assumptions.

The wisdom in my book originated on the American prairie, specifically when I stepped back to look at the place and its people at the turn of the century from a sociological and spiritual perspective. Indeed, an organic and lasting wisdom has evolved over the ages in a place known for hardship, but great beauty, as well.

Read more here …

Contact Daisy via:

Email contact: sunwriter (at) sunnyroomstudio (dot) net Twitter @dhsunwriter Facebook @ SunnyRoomStudio

(Image and bio via Amazon)

Book Details:
Publisher: Capturing Morning Press
Available: October 14, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-9908423-5-4

AVAILABLE on Amazon (paperback & Kindle) and via other online bookstores in various eBook formats and also in paperback.

Bookstores or libraries can order directly from IngramSpark.

978-0-9908423-5-4 (print)

978-0-9908423-7-8 (eBook)

Insights we call wisdom must be learned repeatedly: each time, at a deeper, more profound level. — From a NEW PREFACE by the author


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Growing Up Country: Memories of an Iowa Farm Girl | Memoir by Carol Bodensteiner — November 17, 2014

Growing Up Country: Memories of an Iowa Farm Girl | Memoir by Carol Bodensteiner

Growing Up Country by Carol Bodensteiner
Growing Up Country by Carol Bodensteiner

Growing Up Country: Memories of an Iowa Farm Girl delivers a treat as delicious as oatmeal cookies hot out of the oven – a memoir of a happy childhood. In charming and memorable vignettes, Carol Bodensteiner captures rural life in middle America, in the middle of the 20th Century. In these pages you can step back and relish a time simple but not easy, a time innocent yet challenging.

(Image and synopsis via Goodreads)

 I have only to close my eyes and breathe in to remember the smell of a field of new-mown hay, flex my fingers to remember the feel of a calf sucking as it learned to drink, open my ears to the sound of my mother smoothing over a cooking mistake. Then I remember my dad sitting on the feedbox petting a yellow tomcat and I want to go sit by him again and talk about the work that has yet to be done. (Epilogue, Loc. 2921, Kindle version)

My Thoughts:

For some 33 years now, I have listened to my husband and his siblings reminisce over memories of their growing up on a cattle farm in the Yakima Valley of Washington state. I often wondered if their experiences were unique.

You see, I grew up a city girl in Nashville, TN, a far cry from Iowa or Washington. My memory banks hold no recollection of ever setting foot on a dairy farm during my childhood or even as an adult.

To date, I have taken my acquired family’s stories at face value, believing each farm would have its own unique set of stories with no semblance to another farm family’s set of stories.

Carol Bodensteiner, in sharing her memories in this charming memoir, Growing Up Country: Memories of an Iowa Farm Girl, has proven me wrong. So wrong in fact I was guilty of running to my husband and suggesting he remember a certain story about calving or planting or haying and then reading aloud to him Carol’s story of similar experiences.

Carol’s gift of storytelling is rich, distinct, and nourished with truth. Each vignette she shares draws the reader in to experience it with Carol, her sisters, and their folks. Whether it is a family or farm story, a story drawn from community at school or church, or a story of certain relatives or friends, a tapestry of a simpler life on the farm when time moved more slowly and memories were more easily cherished is woven thread-by-thread until you feel transported to the Bodensteiner farm.

This isn’t to say that growing up on the farm was always easy for the Bodensteiner girls. Carol shares easily the difficult times as well as the good. She does not shy away from letting her reader know that life was not always smooth, losses were hard, and the weather could change the success of a crop or the success of a cow giving birth to a healthy calf.

Carol ended her epilogue with the quote shared above, but I have another favorite that speaks clearly to the writer’s ability to draw in her reader. It is found in the prologue:

This land of my childhood releases sweet, long forgotten memories and brings me back home. Home to the farm. Home to my family. Home. (Prologue, p. 3, Kindle version)

What reader would not want to turn the page to explore this farm, meet this family, and discover home?

My Recommendation:

Fans of memoir, farms and farming, simpler times, and stronger community will fall in love with Carol Bodensteiner’s Growing Up Country: Memories of an Iowa Farm Girl. Each chapter or vignette can stand alone, and I think they would be lovely read aloud to children teaching them of a disappearing lifestyle on which our country once depended upon.

Meet the Author:

Carol Bodensteiner, Author
Carol Bodensteiner, Author

I’m a writer inspired by the people, places and culture of the Midwest.

In my memoir, “Growing Up Country: Memories of an Iowa Farm Girl,” I share stories about growing up in the middle of the United States, in the middle of the 20th Century, a way of farm life that is rapidly disappearing from the American landscape.

“Go Away Home” – my World War One-era novel published in 2014, tells the story of a young woman who wants to make her own decisions and decide her own future at a time when rural women saw limited options. As she pursues her dream, she comes to realize that to get what you want, you often have to give up something else you want just as much. GO AWAY HOME is a SILVER MEDAL winner in the Historical Fiction – Personage category of the Readers’ Favorite International Award competition.

I am privileged to have my writing included in a number of anthologies.

You can also find me here:

Website & blog –
Twitter – @CABodensteiner
Facebook –
Goodreads –

Book Details:
Publisher: Rising Sun Press
Published: October 18, 2010
Paperback and e-book available
ISBN: 978-0-9797997-0-9


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Committed: A Memoir of the Artist’s Road by Patrick Ross | A Review — October 16, 2014

Committed: A Memoir of the Artist’s Road by Patrick Ross | A Review

Front cover of Committed
Front cover of Committed

A unique and ambitious contribution to the annals of the memoir genre. It tells the story of a Washington, D.C. journalist-turned-lobbyist who disguises his bipolar disorder as well as his estrangement from his parents and heads out on a five-week cross-country U.S. road trip, engaging with creative and generous individuals who trigger in the author a yearning to pursue an authentic, art-committed life. 

To embrace that life, however, would require tremendous change. He would need to break with his funders, face down his fear of a bipolar spiral that might endanger his relationship with his wife and children, and come to terms with his family legacy of mental illness. The book’s intricately woven narrative lines form a brutally honest self-portrait of fear, loss, and growth.

(Image via The Artist’s Road)
(Synopsis via Black Rose Writing)

My Thoughts:

Patrick Ross took me on a five-week road trip from Portland, Maine, to my hometown of Portland, Oregon. I should clarify and point out that it wasn’t a journey we made together, in the same vehicle, on the same plane or train. It’s what I felt as a I read Patrick’s memoir, Committed: A Memoir of the Artist’s Road.

I have followed Patrick’s blog, The Artist’s Road, on and off for the last several years. When he posted recently that his memoir was almost ready to launch, I emailed and offered a review. I was so pleased that Patrick took me up on my offer, especially after I had read the first few pages.

Evocative of William Least Heat-Moon’s famous, Blue HighwaysPatrick, by this time a journalist-turned-lobbyist, travels from one end of our country to the other interviewing artists of a variety of genre–painters, musicians, writers–seeking their response on issues of ownership and copyright of an artist’s works.

What usually happens is that little of ownerships or copyrights is discussed, but more likely Patrick and his interviewees connect on a different plane entirely. One senses that with each interview something inside the artist interviewed is touched, and something inside Patrick sparks on a level he hasn’t experienced in a while. Both people gain immeasurably by the snatched time spent together.

Interwoven like the threads of a fine fabric, Patrick’s personal story meshes with the stories he tells of the people he met on this journey. He manages to deal graciously with his family’s mental health history, his own bipolar disorder, and the familial dysfunction and estrangement he experienced with his parents.

Patrick’s writing style is moving, soothing, and rich in tone. His characters are real people, ones he met face-to-face to write this book. And he gives us the best of each of them. Once an interviewee’s story had been told I felt as if I knew him or her. Places visited are shown in highly descriptive language, like the Boise Valley appearing as a small village you might find in a train set. Or the restaurants, bars, and taverns and their eclectic menus across this land of ours.

Ending his journey in Portland, Oregon, also ends Patrick’s personal journey with the realization of what he wants from life. But what he wants will cost him dearly. He’ll have to walk away from his lucrative lobbyist position. Furthermore, he worries he might suffer a bipolar downward spiral that could impact his wife and children, even destroying the family he loves. Patrick’s need to face down his fears about his family’s history of mental illness also plague him.

What Patrick Ross has given us is bi-fold: a lovely bird’s-eye view of his cross-country travels and a raw and often painful view of his own fears, growth, and potential loss.

My Recommendation:

If you enjoy reading memoirs, stories of people in other places, or a dual story line created by bringing the two together in one book, I highly recommend you read Committed: A Memoir of the Artist’s Road. I could not stop reading passages aloud to my husband as the writing begged reading aloud. And I did not want to see that I had turned the last page.

I rarely rate books on this blog. And when I’m forced to rate as on Amazon, Goodreads, or other book sites, I rarely give a 5-star review. The book must be exceptional to garner five stars.

5 star rating
5 star rating

Today I’m pleased to give Patrick’s book, Committed: A Memoir of The Artist’s Road, a stellar work, a 5-star rating.

DISCLAIMER: I received an advanced copy of this book from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. The opinions expressed are solely my own.

Meet Patrick:

Award-winning creative writer Patrick Ross is the author of Committed: A Memoir of the Artist’s Road (October 2014). He has been a professional writer for more than 25 years, and has chronicled the challenges and rewards of living an art-committed life on The Artist’s Road since the fall of 2010. For more information, visit his website.



Contact Patrick via:

Patrick on Twitter. Patrick on Facebook. Patrick on Goodreads. Patrick on YouTube. Patrick on LinkedIn.

(Image and bio via Patrick Ross)

Book Details:
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Available: October 16, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-61296-429-4

What do you, as a reader, look for in a memoir? Are there certain kinds of stories you avoid or are you drawn to read?

Are you interested in writing memoir? If so, why not share with us what you want to do or what you may be working on currently?

And the winners are … — September 18, 2014
My Unconventional Loves: My Hurts, My Adulteries, My Redemption by Marie A. Abanga | A Review and Giveaway — September 9, 2014

My Unconventional Loves: My Hurts, My Adulteries, My Redemption by Marie A. Abanga | A Review and Giveaway

What on earth could push or pull a woman and mother of three to abandon her marriage, elope with a street kid, leaving those three kids behind?

What on earth could push or pull a woman to live such parallel lives and fake such an existence whereas all the ‘glamour’ was just superficial?

What definitely went wrong in her childhood that could have contributed to the sad and dare say ‘insane’ series of unconventional loves and existence?

Read the rest here …

(Image and synopsis via Goodreads)

My Thoughts:

I met Marie Abanga here on my blog. She left a comment on a post, and later used my Contact page to email me about her memoir.

Reading the synopsis told me there was a story here like none I had read in recent months. A story of a young woman on a journey, making mistakes as we all do, making wrong choices at times, and all of this rooted in a life which had provided its share of hurts and abuses.

In taking writing workshops and classes, instructors have told me to “loosen up your writing, write like you talk.” Marie Abanga does just that. I “listened” as I read to the cadences of her mother tongue and her speech pattern. I heard in them the description given her as a child, “a jolly kid.” Despite her woes and difficulties, Marie always seems to find the joy in life.

Marie established for herself a model to live by: the three D’s consisting of Determination, Discipline, and Dedication. A young woman struggles to live by these guideposts during the most difficult of times. And she survives!

Eventually, Marie finds where her faith rests. She considers her memoir:

My Story of Faith and God’s unconditional love for me and writing this book is My Therapy.

Marie’s memoir carries an extraordinary life message of how to turn life around when it has reached a point of almost no return. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a message of survival via the three D’s.

Meet the Author:

I am a woman just like every other. I am a lawyer by professions, a mother, an ex-wife, a daughter, a sister, a lover and a friend to many. I am currently completing an LLM in International Law with International Relations from the University of Kent, Brussels School of International Studies and work as the Woman in Parliaments Global Forum Regional Coordinator for Africa.

I am a dynamic, determined, disciplined and dedication young woman and a feminist. Yes, I am a woman who tried to live a parallel life, tried to commit suicide, and tried to hide away in adulteries and failed woefully.

I currently live in Brussels, Belgium.

Connect with Marie here:



LinkedInMarie A. Abanga

Facebook: Let’s Go Merry with Marie

Book Details:
Published: February 20, 2014
Paperback and e-book available: ISBN-10: 1495482715 / ISBN-13: 978-1495482717

Where to Purchase: Available from Amazon.



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The giveaway ends at noon on Wednesday, September 17th.
At that time, winners will be selected using

The winners will be announced on this blog on Thursday, September 18th.

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Upcoming Guest Posts, Interviews & Book Reviews — September 4, 2014

Upcoming Guest Posts, Interviews & Book Reviews

  • On Thursday, September 4th,Marie Abanga visits with me as I interview Marie about writing her memoir, My Unconventional Loves: My Hurts, My Adulteries, My Redemption and the struggles she overcame. I met Marie when she visited this blog and left a comment. I knew upon reading her book and learning more about her life I wanted to share Marie with my other followers in a special way. I’m looking forward to Marie’s visit, and I hope you’ll come back and meet her.
  • On Tuesday, September 9th,I review Marie Abanga’s memoir My Unconventional Loves: My Hurts, My Adulteries, My Redemption.
  • On Thursday, September 18th, Mary Gottschalkwill be my guest writing on “giving up on marketing.” Mary is the author of a memoir, Sailing Down the Moonbeam (here is my review) and a recently published novel, A Fitting Place. Having been through the publishing and marketing business with both books, Mary has advice and wisdom to share with us.