Russia: It’s Complicated


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The relationship between the United States and Russia can only be described one way: complicated. Throughout history, and especially during the Cold War, there has been mistrust, spying, threats and fear between these two large and powerful countries.

The villages in Alaska where I grew up were only a ‘stone’s throw’ across the Arctic Ocean from Russia. Some of my friends had family members in Siberia they stayed in touch with or met in the middle of the sea for hunting trips. They spoke in Yupik when they met because the Russian relatives spoke Russian and Yupik while the American relatives spoke English and Yupik. Even through the Cold War, these relatives were able to stay in touch and look past the differences of their governments. Like I said, it is complicated.

Russia, with it’s size, ornate architecture, cultural variety and dominating political stances is an incredibly fascinating as a country. If you’re inclined to learn more about Russia’s history, this is the book for you:

russiaRussia in Private by Richard Yatzeck: 

From the very beginning of Russia’s history, discord has been prevalent thanks to the ruinous jealousy of the nobles, the Pecheneg and Tatar invasions, and lost wars (or brutally costly victories, as in 1812 or 1945). Autocratic government with serfdom, famine, and gangsterism have been the Russian lot. Two questions: “Who is to blame?” and “What is to be done?”, have plagued life in that one-sixth of the world’s land surface since its conception, roughly 988 AD.

During ten tours of Russia, between 1961 and 1997 (nearly thirty years in all), Richard Yatzeck was generously included in the political, kitchen table conversations concerning these very questions. Public discussion of such matters has never been safe. Russia in Private is an attempt to plumb the abyss between Russian and Western life, and explain how Russians understand and bear their history.

More about the author, Richard Yatzeck: “Richard Yatzeck is an American academic who has visited the Soviet Union and now Russia with his students over many decades and thus has a wealth of impressions and insights to share with the reader. His is inevitably a personal view, but nonetheless he offers an insight into how life was before the Soviet Union broke up and in which ways it is different – and yet somehow always the same – now. I found much that I recognised in his account, and recommend the book to anyone wishing to find out more of this most enigmatic of countries.” –  Review by Mandy Jenkinson for NetGalley.

All books by BQB and WriteLife Publishing are available from Amazon, B&N, or can be ordered from your favorite local bookstore.

Date Night – Books for Complicated Relationships


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Yesterday my mother called and invited all my children over for dinner and a trip to Dairy Queen. Something they surely didn’t want to pass up. But the best part was, she didn’t invite me or my husband.

After navigating a massive cone-zone construction detour to drop them off, we had the evening to ourselves. We wandered downtown aimlessly, found an empty table in a quiet bar for drinks and appetizers, and then strolled across the street to our favorite sushi restaurant where we stuffed ourselves on tempura shrimp rolls.

Our conversations were uninterrupted and we could discuss anything we wanted without having to spell certain words to each other over our childrens’ heads. The time together was a relief to both of us.

Date night, as any marriage counselor would say, is time well spent. If you’re looking for a book to navigate a complicated relationship, or to make a relationship stronger, here are several that are definitely worth checking out:

He Said, She Said, I SaidHe Said, She Said, I Said by Barbara J. Peters, RN, PLC: Relationships are complicated, people aren’t perfect, and we can often each get caught in the narrow pathways of our own perceptions. When situations occur where opinions or points of view differ, a couple’s connection can either be strengthened or weakened depending on how their  differences are handled.

When a couple is engaged in the dance of relationship, it can sometimes be hard to recognize where they might be caught in the trap of what they think is occurring instead of stepping out of that mire to find out what is really going on. Often, the way one or both people are viewing the situation is at the core of the relationship issues.

In He Said, She Said, I Said, couples’ counselor Barbara J. Peters breaks down possible perceptions and misconceptions in seven key relationship areas: communication, trust, forgiveness, intimacy, acceptance, friendship, and love, by using common sense, wisdom, and some professional advice to open up the possibility for a different approach.


Learning to Love by Crystal:

Learning to Love combines Crystal’s personal experience of discovering the importance of putting time and energy into loving ourselves first with her professional knowledge of the crucial part that relationships play in every aspect of our lives. This guidebook helps us understand ourselves and the power that we have in creating our lives every moment of every day.


blueprintNot a BluePrint: It’s the Shoe Prints that Matter by Nina Norstom:

Author Nina Norstrom lost her child to a disease, but that wasn’t the only toxic relationship she endured. In this book, she explores the effects that her relationships with grief, pain, trauma, and forgiveness have had on her life.

This tale exposes a mother’s struggle to escape her world of toxicity, her journey out of the clutches of diseased relationships, and the shoe prints the experiences have left on her family’s history. This story in its raw form projects a remarkable voice to the heroic fight, courage, and bravery gained when striking back to wipe out toxic relationships. Its message reveals that life brings many challenges and that each challenge provides lessons to be learned.

This book is not intended to be a blueprint for dealing with diseased relationships. It’s about the shoe prints: those symbols of life’s journey that are left by our experiences. Not a Blueprint: It’s the Shoe Prints that Matter is an insightful and inspiring personal story of one family’s journey through toxic relationships.

All books by BQB and WriteLife Publishing are available on Amazon, B&N, or can be ordered from your favorite local bookstore.

Love Gardening? A book to help you share your green thumb with children.


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My garden suffered drastically from an early July hailstorm, but it seems to have rebounded recently. There are blossoms on the green beans, cucumbers, pumpkins and sugar snap peas. We have already eaten the first few peppers and tomatoes.

In the summer, there is nothing I love more than getting my hands in the dirt, pulling a few weeds, and watering. The garden to me, signifies potential. It is growth and roots, all in the same square footage.

Even better than quiet time in the garden are the moments when my children join me. They always have plenty of questions. Is this a pea or a weed? When can we eat these? Why do the bees like our garden? Should I water more? Why don’t we eat the weeds?

As they ask, I answer, and our conversations drift between legumes and life. Gardens grow vegetables and relationships.

If you love gardening, here is a book for you. This picture book is wonderful to read aloud to young children who are curious about plants and encourages time together sharing common interests: Come Out to the Garden by Rick January.

Come Out To The Garden Cover“Come out to the garden,” Granny calls to Mary Louise. It’s a beautiful, sunny day, and there are vegetables to be picked and a feast to be cooked! But Mary Louise points out there are plenty of vegetables growing in the cool shade of the porch, so why go out in the sun?

Together they pick baskets of corn, beans, and other vegetables, then cook them up and make a tasty, healthy feast. Come join the rhyme and discover the reason why Granny and Mary are dozing in the sun and purring like the cat. Maybe tomorrow, you too can pick some turnips and peas!

All books by BQB and WriteLife Publishing are available on Amazon, B&N, or can be ordered from your favorite local bookstore.