Category Archives: Memoir

Waves of Change by Pamala Hernandez-Kaufman LMFT, MJ Plaster, and Dr. Melissa Riley

Waves of Change, Memoir of Tennessee's 1000 Year Flood

“I lost my virginity (figuratively) with FEMA. I was not one of the first to ask for help because the thought of taking government or any other assistance appalled me. …”

“During the limbo phase, I adopted a Scarlett mindset, not worrying about anything today that I could putt of until tomorrow. Southern women seem to have a bit of Scarlett in them, so this was my Scarlett moment, my moment to conserve my strength and pace myself through dealing incrementally–frankly, dealing with as little as possible at any moment.”

~ MJ Plaster,
Waves of Change


Do you wonder what it would be like to live through a natural disaster, to survive a flood, hurricane, tornado, or other weather event? In the early morning hours of May 2, 2010, Tennessee experienced the worst and most costly non-coastal disaster in the history of the United States, dubbed the Thousand-Year Flood. 

Waves of Change portrays the struggles and triumphs of a flood survivor, a rescue and recovery professional, and a family grief counselor as their lives intersected during the aftermath of the flood. You’ll laugh at their tales, weep at their frustrations, and leave with a sense of empowerment, secure in the knowledge that natural disasters, in all their fury, are just a milestone along the path of life.

 (Synopsis and image via Amazon)

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My Thoughts:

Waves of Change provides a window on the tragedy of the 1000-year flood which occurred in Tennessee in 2010. This window has three panes.

First is the pane through which MJ Plaster sees and survives this experience. MJ is a writer with many credits to her name as you’ll read below. Her writing skills brought to the page the gravity of this disaster through the eyes and ears of any one of us. Just the ordinary citizen who finds herself caught in the nasty grip of something over which she can exert no control. MJ is at the mercy of swirling, muddy waters flowing through her condo development and finds herself suddenly homeless with dozens hundreds of other people.

Then there is Melissa Riley who shows us what it is like to be an emergency responder in a disaster like the 2010 flood. Melissa is well versed in aiding in the rescue of people and animals. Her experiences take the reader into first-hand situations assisting victims and saving lives. Her grasp of emergency situations pulsates from the page, and I found myself cheering her on!

And last of the three survivors who wrote this amazing chronicle is Pamela Hernandez-Kaufman, a bilingual marriage and family therapist, who finds herself in the middle of this massive flood while her husband is out-of-town. Pamela and her family, consisting of two children, a husband (did I mention he was out-of-town?), and family pets had just three weeks earlier moved to the Nashville area from Southern California. Needless to say, Pamela was ready to return to California.

Fate brought them together through various contacts and resources, and the three decided they had a story to tell that could help others weather the storms of life.

What their combined stories provide are invaluable resources to meet safety to psychological and counselling needs in the course of surviving any kind of disaster. A handbook for survival by three women who faced the storm and rose above all that it presented them.

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My Recommendation: 

Anyone will find this a helpful guide to surviving crises that we face and which extend beyond our control. These can include weather crises, life crises or traumatic accidents. I recommend it for families to read and especially those who know they live within an area susceptible to quick weather changes and storms, such as flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes.

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Meet the Authors:

Pamala Hernandez-Kaufman, LMFT, is a bilingual licensed marriage and family therapist with 14 years’ experience working with individuals, couples, adolescents, and children in English and Spanish. Most of her work is with PTSD, grief, loss, and trauma recovery, and she deploys regularly for crisis intervention and disaster relief work. Her private practice office is in Brentwood, Tenn.

MJ Plaster, survived Nashville’s Thousand-Year Flood. She has been a technical writer, instructional designer, instructor, speaker, and freelance writer for more decades than she would like to recall, with newspaper, magazine, anthology, corporate, online, and agency writing to her credit. In addition to writing, she has served as managing editor for several association and special publications, including the Florida Turf Digest since 2006.

Melissa Riley, Ph.D., WEMT-IV, is the state coordinator for the Tennessee Disaster Crisis Counseling Program. She volunteers as the K9 coordinator for Tennessee Task Force 2 State Urban Search and Rescue Team (USAR), the Wilson County Sheriff K9 Search and Rescue Team, and as the technical rescue coordinator for the Wilson County Disaster Animal Response Team (DART). She is a flight instructor, a FEMA CCP Instructor, and instructs for the University of Phoenix. She is also a wilderness emergency medical technician, firefighter, emergency planner, and has over two decades of experience in emergency services as a responder and an instructor.

(Bios via Amazon; no images available)

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Publication Date: May 29, 2013
Publisher: Waves of Change LLC
Genre: Memoir
Kindle edition: 328 KB
Printed edition: 204pp
Source: Authors

I received a copy of Waves of Change from the authors in exchange for a fair and honest review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Adventures of a Chilehead: A Mini-Memoir with Recipes by Sharon M. Lippincott

Chilehead Mini-Memoir with Recipes

“Medical opinion notwithstanding, in my humble opinion six major food groups are crucial for happiness and mental health: coffee, chocolate, chile, wine, salt and fat, not necessarily in that order. While I love all six, chile belongs on a list of its own. I’m in a committed life-long love affair with chile. I love it hot, I love it mild. I love it red, green or yellow. I love it fresh, in sauce, in foods.”

Sharon M. Lippincott,
Adventures of a Chilehead:
A Mini-Memoir with Recipes


“It feels so good to hurt so bad.” Sharon Lippincott, a self-professed chilehead from childhood, invokes this mantra to explain her lifelong love affair with this mystical fruit, spelled to honor her New Mexican roots. In Adventures of a Chilehead, she takes readers on a mouth-searing journey through fifty years of increasingly challenging involvement with capsaicin, the heat-giving element in chile. As heat levels escalate, she strives to maintain a balance between the transcendent euphoria of heat-induced endorphins and serious pain in capsicum capers such as “Death by Salsa” and “Great Balls of Fire.” Much of her pleasure comes from preparing chile-based soul food, and she includes twenty-two richly detailed classic recipes that tell you how to adjust heat levels for any taste.

 (Synopsis and image via Goodreads)

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My Thoughts:

Sharon Lippincott’s Adventures of a Chilehead: A Mini-Memoir with Recipes is a short book, 87 pages total on the Kindle edition. Likely the shortest book I’ve read recently.

However, stuffed within those 87 pages, Lippincott regales her reader with knowledge and expertise on chile — hot, mild, semi-hot, any of the three colors grown, recipes, cultural background — and I should not forget the laughter.

At times, Lippincott sprinkles laughter at her own expense among the pages of this gastronomic delight. Lippincott is destined for a world championship medal for eating the hottest and the most chile, if she doesn’t destroy herself with her pyromaniac tendencies toward eating this rather slim and often innocent looking food. So determined to prove her ability to eat the hottest of chile, she often lapses into what appears to be temporary insanity, whether with family, friends or strangers.

Now, I love chile and all things Mexican when it comes to food and drink, but I would not want to have Lippincott test my metal with one of her recipes. I’m afraid I’d have to take along a couple of firemen to make sure that I didn’t leave with charred tissue in my mouth!

All kidding aside, this is a delightful book of memories about a favorite food and culture, and I enjoyed every page and will enjoy trying out the recipes soon.

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My Recommendation: 

Love to eat and cook with chile? Then you must acquire Lippincott’s Adventures of a Chilehead: A Mini-Memoir with Recipes. While enjoying the recipes, you can also choose one of the author’s experiences to share during the meal when you serve it.

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Meet the Author:

Lippincott, Sharon

Sharon Lippincott has been writing in one form or another for over forty years, receiving the Distinguished Thesis Award from Central Washington University in 1979. Her first book Meetings: Do’s Don’ts and Donuts, was published in 1995, with a second edition released in 1999. Since retiring from the business world in 2000, she has developed a passion for all forms of life writing, especially memoir and journaling. She is a dedicated lifelong learner and loves sharing discoveries with others. She teaches classes and workshops both locally and online on basic memoir and lifestory writing as well as specific skills like writing dialog and description and personal transformation through writing.

She serves on the advisory board of the National Association of Memoir Writers, cohosts the Lifewriters’ Forum on YahooGroups, and is active in the Indie Publishing community. Her book, The Heart and Craft of Lifestory Writing together with her blog, The Heart and Craft of Life Writing, has helped thousands create written legacies of their lives. She is currently serving as an adviser for the Allegheny County Library Association’s initiative to sponsor lifestory writing groups in county libraries.

(Bio and image via Amazon)

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Publication Date: November 28, 2013
Publisher: Heart and Craft Press
Genre: Memoir
Kindle edition: 680 KB; 87 pp
Source: Author

I received a copy of Adventures of a Chilehead: A Mini-Memoir with Recipes from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. The opinions expressed herein are my own.

My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor

My Beloved World

“But experience has taught me that you cannot value dreams according to the odds of their coming true. Their real value is in stirring within us the will to aspire. That will, wherever it finally leads, does at least move you forward. And after a time you may recognize that the proper measure of success is not how much you’ve closed the distance to some far-off goal but the quality of what you’ve done today.

~ Sonia Sotomayor,
My Beloved World (page 2,
Kindle edition)


An instant American icon–the first Hispanic on the U.S. Supreme Court–tells the story of her life before becoming a judge in an inspiring, surprisingly personal memoir.

With startling candor and intimacy, Sonia Sotomayor recounts her life from a Bronx housing project to the federal bench, a progress that is testament to her extraordinary determination and the power of believing in oneself.  She writes of her precarious childhood and the refuge she took with her passionately spirited paternal grandmother. She describes her resolve as a young girl to become a lawyer, and how she made this dream become reality: valedictorian of her high school class, summa cum laude at Princeton, Yale Law, prosecutor in the Manhattan D.A.’s office, private practice, federal district judge before the age of forty. She writes about her deeply valued mentors, about her failed marriage, about her cherished family of friends. Through her still-astonished eyes, America’s infinite possibilities are envisioned anew in this warm and honest book, destined to become a classic of self-discovery and self-invention, alongside Barack Obama’s Dreams from My Father.

 (Synopsis and image via Goodreads)

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My Thoughts:

I cannot remember being drawn into a memoir or biography as quickly and so raptly as I was with Sonia Sotomayor’s telling of her story. Not only does she paint colorful images of her family members, Sotomayor chooses shades of dark and light to tint the characters as their personalities play out in life. In fact, reality seems to jump off the page as you read of her life’s experiences growing up in a Puerto Rican community in New York.

The hurdles she would climb to achieve her successes of today were many. Beginning at age six with a diagnosis of juvenile diabetes, Sotomayor soon discovers she must learn to give herself her injections because neither of her parents seem to be able to do so for fear of hurting her. Boldly, she climbs up in a chair one morning to boil water to sterilize the syringe when her mother see what she’s doing. The mother proceeds to teach her how to light the pilot light on the gas stove to boil the water. And so begins the responsibility of being Sonia Sotomayor.

Yes, there were tensions in the Sotomayor home but in the child’s life there was one stronghold, a place of warmth and the planting of seeds of determination, her Abuelita (grandmother). Many things were learned at the feet of this strong woman. Abuelita taught young Sonia that she could be whatever she wanted to be. It didn’t take the little girl long to decide how to get where she wanted to go.

Not once was I bored, disinterested, or yawning. The life story of one of our most recently appointed Supreme Court Justices moves right along. And you have to work hard to keep pace with her. Her disappointments and her successes are found between the pages of this book, but at no point does she feel sorry for herself nor flaunt any success she might achieve. I found this woman to be someone I’d love to sit down over coffee with and chat.

(Side note: On March 11th I will have the privilege of hearing Justice Sotomayor live here in Portland, OR. Color me excited!)

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My Recommendation: 

If you are interested at all in the rise of a young woman to the bench of the highest court in the land, then Sotomayor’s My Beloved World is a book you’ll want to read. Also, those who love the climb from near poverty to such successes as entering an Ivy League university and making great strides in the legal profession will find this a stellar sharing of such a life.

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Meet the Author:Sonia Sotomayor

Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice, was born in Bronx, New York, on June 25, 1954. She earned a B.A. in 1976 from Princeton University, graduating summa cum laude and receiving the university’s highest academic honor. In 1979, she earned a J.D. from Yale Law School where she served as an editor of the Yale Law Journal. She served as Assistant District Attorney in the New York County District Attorney’s Office from 1979–1984. She then litigated international commercial matters in New York City at Pavia & Harcourt, where she served as an associate and then partner from 1984–1992. In 1991, President George H.W. Bush nominated her to the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, and she served in that role from 1992–1998. She served as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit from 1998–2009. President Barack Obama nominated her as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court on May 26, 2009, and she assumed this role August 8, 2009.

(Bio and image via Biographies of Supreme Court Justices)

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Publication Date: January 15, 2013
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Genre: Memoir, Biography
Kindle edition: 2438 KB; printed 353 pp
ASIN: B00957T7CQ
Source: Public library

Sharing Big News from Women’s Memoirs | Book Launch

Today’s post is not the usual Friday Favorites post. Instead it is part of a book launch which is near and dear to my heart. Women’s Memoirs hosted seasonal writing contests–Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter–and the winners of these contests are celebrated in the launch of four volumes featuring each Season. It is an honor to be included as a winner in both the Autumn and Winter volumes. I hope you will share this news with writers and readers alike. We believe we have something very special to offer.

masthead from Women's Memoirs website

Please join me as I celebrate with Women’s Memoirs and the other winners of the various writing contests the launch of four ebooks filled with the best, the most inspiring of hundreds of entries. Knowledge Access Books is the publisher.

Read a review that has already come in:

It is true that each woman is a story waiting to be told–and in this outstanding collection of memoirs you’ll find many wonderful women’s stories. It is also true that each woman’s story is every woman’s story, for we share so many of the same experiences. As I read these stories [in Seasons of Our Lives], I am reading bits and pieces from my own life, and I am inspired to write my own with a more passionate and compassionate heart. I hope you are, too” ~ Susan Wittig Albert, NYT bestselling author of China Bayles mysteries, Writing from Life, Together, Alone: Memoir, and other books

Will you help congratulate these talented women by getting the word out about their stories and the special Amazon savings available for a limited time (see below)? We think the readers of your website or blog will find these 100 stories inspiring and we hope you will consider mentioning their publication on February 1st. Why that date?

For 53 hours, beginning February 1 at 8 am PST, all four volumes will be available for just $.99 each through Amazon’s Kindle Store–that’s 76% off. The price will increase by $1 each 53 hours until it reaches the regular price of $3.99 each.

Memories, Memoirs. Stories of our lives. Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonnett, award-winning authors themselves and co-founders of Women’s Memoirs, invited women to submit personal vignettes about the seasons of their lives. Sweet stories. Sad stories. Joyful stories. Poignant stories. The small stories that make up our days, our lives. Hundreds of stories were read and evaluated. The best of these, the award-winning stories, are included in the four volumes of Seasons of Our Lives: Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring (see images with links below to these four volumes).

Seasons of Our Lives: Summer

Seasons of Our Lives: Autumn

Seasons of Our Lives: Winter

Seasons of Our Lives: Spring

BONUS: Each real life story concludes with a takeaway from the editors–takeaways that will help readers reflect on the seasons of their own lives. And if your readers are interested in creating a legacy of their family or personal stories, these takeaways are designed to help write more dynamically and powerfully so that they can proudly share their own life seasons with family, friends and even more widely.

Thanks for reading and spreading
the word any way you can,


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