Tuesday, March 4, 2014

"How to Stay Sane in a Crazy World" by Sophia Stuart


"Life can be tough and exhausting. Do you know how to rest?" 

It is a good question, one that is at the core of Sophia Stuart's really phenomenal new book, "How to Stay Sane in a Crazy World." So, think about it. Do you? I don't. Not really, I'll admit it. I even pitter around to keep myself "busy" because I feel guilty about not having a full-time job. So I do much to over-compensate and often feel...tired.

Sophia gave a lot too. She had a truly impressive career in the media that included creating the digital strategy for 300 international brands such as Cosmo and Harper's Bazaar at Hearst. She travelled the world, stayed in five star-hotels, and worked out of the legendary Carrie Donovan's former office with a sprawling view high above Midtown Manhattan. But then, she became ill. Three tumors were found and removed from her throat during a five-and-a-half hour surgery. The recovery process was long and grueling.

Already, Sophia had reached outwards from her stressful life by creating teamgloria.com. There, she anonymously wrote through the guise of a character named "gloria," a trainee angel who "was determined to see the world through rose-colored glasses" and the blog became dedicated to featuring "glorious people, places, and things." After her surgery, Sophia realized how important the community she had created was to her well-being. As she healed, she also embraced the necessity to make some very important changes to her life and how she lives it. She now resides in Los Angeles and is expanding like a rocket in her initial dream of being a professional author, journalist and photographer.


I found teamgloria right after Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012, having been moved by a comment at Daily Plate of Crazy and I was instantly hooked. I too was drawn to Gloria's vision of the world as a calming counter-balance to our chaotic society. So it was with great excitement that I read the news that Sophia was planning a book, the very one that she wished that she had by her side during her recovery.

And now that I have it, I can say that it is absolutely beautiful. In my typical way, I nearly wrote that it is beautiful beyond belief, but in fact that is what I love about it so much - it is utterly, utterly believable. There is no hullabaloo. It is presented as a modern day Book of hours and is carved into three sections: "Inspiration" for the morning, "Perspiration" for the working period of the afternoon and for the wind-down of evening, "Exhalation."


While each chapter is generously doted with Sophia's glowing images, they are slightly different in their approach but each are truly...helpful. Because we all can use reminders on how to slow down, how to sit back and appreciate...but we don't need a patronizing or sappy voice coaxing us to do so. Sophia's advice, while often as simple as "Be silent at sunset" (one of my favorites) or as practical as "Book medical appointments in January"  just...works and is often funny to boot. There are also wonderful lists teaching us how to make a Kindness Kit (who doesn't need one of those?) and what films, music or books could do the right trick. Just to get us through, gracefully.

I read "How to Stay Sane in a Crazy World" all in one go (and if you buy it, you will want to as well) but now it sits nearby on my desk. It is just such a lovely object in itself that I want to keep it near me (and this, my friends, is why I would say no to the Kindle version). While I am down-loading photos or waiting for a computer program to warm up, I will open it randomly to bask in some seriously charming good will. And as Sophia is one of those brilliant women who are always two steps ahead (which probably explains a little about her previous career), she does something that I have never seen in a book before: she invites you to come to teamgloria.com and become a part of the community. To share your favorite treats and music. She wants to keep the conversation going. And that is a "glorious" thing. I'll be there.


To read an extract from "How to Stay Sane in a Crazy World" please click: here.
To read more at teamgloria.com, please click: here.
To listen to a delightful and interesting radio interview with Sophia about the book, please click here.

To buy "How to Stay Sane in a Crazy World" from Amazon, please click here.



This post is my monthly contribution to the By Invitation Only International Blog Party, hosted by the indomitable Marsha at Splenderosa. The theme for March is "Ways to/ I stay creative." Even before Sophia's book had arrived (and trust me, I hunted down our French mail dude until it was in my hot little hands), I knew exactly what my answer would be: "With a little help from my friends." I have been and am continually so deeply inspired by my friends in the blogging arena and by those that have put their research and gorgeous ideas into a solid form. Both require a generosity of spirit that is really stunning to behold. Sophia's book is no exception. I recommend it not because I consider her a friend (and yes, there is a little mention to all the new friends that she has found, including one in Arles) but because such a sincere, big-hearted and yet grounded book "to soothe the soul" can do us all good.


Something for Sophia and perhaps gloria too:

I know that my fellow bloggers in By Invitation Only are going to hit this theme out of the park. 
To visit their websites, please start by clicking here.


Thank you for reading...


61 comments:

  1. I'm curious…shall check it out…how on earth have we got to this point in society where we need to be told to be silent at sunset? And yet we do need to be told that. Because we forget, in our frenetic busy pace of life…Amazing how often these epiphanies happen after a life-threatening event.

    Still, having people like you (seeing everyday beauty as you do) is also a very poignant reminder to stop and smell the roses, dear Heather.

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    1. Thank you, friend. And yes, that made me catch my breath a bit, your question. I think that we are just bombarded, constantly with all sorts of noise. It wears us down. I like this book because it pulls me into the present and into the quiet.

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  2. The description of the times of day are spot on. Great book review. Thank you
    I believe the natural rhythm of our mothers during pregnancy help determine our natural energies during the day.
    (New England, USA) Sunset is my natural nap time. Not to leave out fathers, when he came home from work, it was time to be quiet while he watches television as dinner is being prepared. Its interesting how life flows.

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    1. Isn't it though? What stays with us from so long ago? And what we forge ahead for ourselves?

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  3. Thank you for such a beautiful review. I need this book as everyday I miss the sunset, I long for the quiet…perhaps i will find it in the pages of this book.

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    1. Francine, I know that you run " à cent à l'heure" always...yes, this might be a positive little gift to give yourself. As would be...say...a visit to...Provence? ;)

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  4. don't let problems design who you are or what your life is. A bad day doesn't mean a bad life. Don't believe your life is haunted by bad luck ..."i'm happy and all I want will come at the right time...this affirmation should be your daily motto and you should start the day with it . Surround with people and things who makes you happy and positive.
    Dont' let you get down from negativity. Remember ..thoughts become reality. With all these in mind I believe any
    situation will be changed for the best. Just relax and give yourself time to see the beauty in life and you will feel serene forever.

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    1. While I hear your point, I also think that there are really challenging times in life (or even when things just get out of hand, stress-wise) when we can all use a little help, some specific encouragement. I also have been through a month-long recovery after a tough surgery and I know that this book would have been an enormous help to me then!

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    2. Just wanted to underline...you get what you think. Didn't know about your surgery and I wish you to recover well. That book might be OK for the moment but the best support you do get from yourself while thinking positive. ..and after each rain follow sunshine . My best wishes for you, dear Heather.

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    3. The surgery was several years ago but thank you for your wishes!

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  5. Our friends can help us if we let them.

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  6. Heather...thank you for sharing this; I will definitely be buying it. I like to have my favourite books close to me too, they are at my fingertips whenever I need them with my underlined paragraphs, asterisks and comments...your copy looks perfect in its surroundings ;)
    Have a wonderful week xx

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    1. And you too Catherine!
      If a book could be cashmere, this would be it. ;)
      Bisous,
      H

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  7. Oh, Heather... You know, you absolutely know... that I must get this book and own it, touch it, take pleasure in it. Sophia (tg) is and has been an inspiring voice for the past few years, certainly to me. And her lyrical, whimsical, unique voice takes us through so many passages in such personally moving ways.

    What a remarkable discovery she has been. I'm so glad you've mentioned her latest, here, and thank you for the gracious mention of my little writing place, from where I floated into her world as she did, into mine.

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    1. And from where I floated from your truly amazing world into hers and then into those of quite a few of my closest "blog" friends (aka those I haven't met yet in person, such as yourself) including Vickie at Beguiling Hollywood, George at 1904, Lanier at Scents Memory...the list goes on...I thank you from the bottom of my heart for creating another amazing community...

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    2. hello D and Heather

      isn't the interweb magical?

      so glad we found each others' places within it...

      :-)

      *wavingfromlosangeles*

      _tg xx

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  8. Lately I've found myself needing "permission" to relax and enjoy the pace of my current life. For years I did race around with jobs and kids, and for a while treatment for a cancer diagnosis (many years ago now) but I never bought into 80 hour work weeks as a badge of honor as some of my bosses and colleagues did. So, in short, this sounds like the perfect book for me right now. Thank you for brining it and Team Gloria to my attention. Both my nightstand and bloglovin' feed will soon be enriched with her wisdom.

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    1. Wonderful. I think that you will enjoy both, Judith. Gloria is funny and at times wacky (which is a great reminder not to take things too seriously), at times moving and always, always there is a bit of gorgeous. Isn't it odd the stories we tell ourselves?

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  9. Oh, this sounds like a book that I *need* to read! I've hit that point in my life where I'm thinking about taking a step or two back, and what that might look like, what I value most. Your review of it is splendid.

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    1. Thank you! And I actually thought of this book while reading of your taking a step back in your post...We all need to at one time or another...

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  10. Well, one astonishing point of being here is to always find positions to share. And certain positions are important to be shared even though society or every day life tells us otherwise.

    There are certain Tabus such as not "contributing economically" and "being malade, showing weakness".
    Both positions are familiar to me. When I was still an artist the feeling of guilt nearly tore me apart. The necessity of earning money too. I could not deal with it. There are statistics of the percentage of artists earning their money from their artistic production. In Germany these are 14% of all artists... And I know a very lot of artists with that restless feeling of guilt.
    When I was just about to get an offer for my first Soloshow in New York seven years ago I was already very sick and all I have worked for until then did not take place. The disease kept me completely immobile for about a year.
    General recuperation took all the last years. But what if you get sick without having earned a lot of money before? Going on as before? Taking it easy? Neither nor!
    The decision is of course up to everyones self. It means to lose something to get something else. I lost my interesting, bohème-like life as an Artist to get back health –and therefore to be able to earn my living. At times it was a heartbreaking decision and is sometimes still.

    It will be interesting to see how Sophia Stuart dealt with it.


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    1. Silke, I am so sorry to hear of your former illness and how it forced a tough change in the direction of your life. It is especially surprising as I had the great fortune to meet you this week in person (!!!) and I certainly would never have ever guessed of your previous suffering. And I agree it most certainly is a frustratingly taboo subject.

      Remi has a saying "life is always right" and that makes me think of your final paragraph...Here is to wishing that you are right where you need to be for your "next"...may it be a wonderful one as that is truly what you deserve.
      Gros, gros Bisous,
      H

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  11. It's the type of book that I need to be reading. I feel anything but sane lately; always rushing from one thing to another like a demented being. It's not worth it - we only get one chance at life.

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    1. I so agree with that thought Loree! I hope that you are able to slow down a bit soon...

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  12. Living in the moment..... a basic concept, yet so difficult to achieve at times. Thank you for sharing this book Heather, it sounds so appropriate for all of us. Serious illness seems to often spark the idea to take a different course. My goal is to try to learn and live these lessons while I am in good health. The inspiration from this post is just another beautiful reminder to "get the show on the road!"
    I will definitely check out teamgloria.com. and pick up a copy of her book.

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    1. Laura, that is absolutely so true - why do we wait until Life insists? I am guilty of it myself. It is one of the reasons why I am keeping this book on my desk now - I need the visual reminder!! I hope you enjoy the book as much as I do. :)

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  13. Well, thank you, Heather, for introducing me to this book. I'm always on the lookout for new books that I can give to friends who aren't necessarily "literary" (i.e., perfectly intelligent, but just not likely to get as worked up as I do over the new Jonathan Franzen novel, etcetera), but who do enjoy reading. For some reason, I have a bunch of friends who, actually, never read fiction at all if they can help doing so.

    Most importantly (for me, at least) this book doesn't, given your description, seem to be overly pious, in that dreadful "self help" tradition. Dominique Browning's "Slow Love Life" was my go-to present for three or so years there; perhaps "How to Stay Sane...." will take its place (I should emphasize that I'm not in the least criticizing "SLL".....it's just that I don't make new friends on such a regular basis, and there's only so many times you can give a person the same book).

    Beautifully designed cover, by the way.

    ------david terry
    www.davidterryart.com

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    1. Oh how I love SLL. I am sure that your friends must have been very grateful indeed to have received such a fine present. Sophia's book is more sparse as it is equal parts words and photos. They go hand in hand like I try to do here at times. Yes, I do think that it would make for fine gift-giving as well.

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  15. What a wonderful post for our BIO subject this month Heather ….. I just love the way we all deal with our subject in so many different ways. It just shows how creative each and every one can be.
    …. and thanks for sending this book my way. XXXX

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    1. You are so welcome Jackie. I think you and I both tend to be a bit maverick with our handling of the themes! ;)

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  17. My copy arrived yesterday and I am so thrilled it is here. It's a deeply delicious book and, like you, I love that stop-you-in- your- tracks line, 'Be silent at sunset". We should be; always. The book is by my bedside and I keep picking it up and glancing through and delighting in the feel of the book itself. Love your review and photos. Glorious.

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    1. Exactly! Of course you would feel the same way that I do - well, we both have been waiting with such (im)patience - and now that it is here, it just feels perfect in the hand. We both know S enough to know that is no accident! So happy that your copy has arrived too. :)

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  18. "Generosity of spirit" is exactly the phrase I would use to describe you, and your blog! This books sounds wonderful - I will add it to my "must read" list!

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    1. No need to buy it Sister! I know of a certain elf that would like to give it to you...

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  19. Gloria is like the invisible good angel who is always available.
    The Book of Hours is dear to my soul can be a guide and companion. Your wonderful review is a gift.

    I love the Mad World of Gary Jules.
    Thank you Heather.

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    1. You are welcome! And that is a perfect description of Gloria!
      Bon Weekend. :)

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  20. Heather, what a brilliant take on our subject for March. A total home run and, of course, I'll order the book so I can really "understand." Cannot wait to receive it. And, for an Italian to be calm....that's difficult! Thank you for this lovely post, we all enjoyed it so much. Sorry so late to the party, lots of dental work today. xx's

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    1. Ouch! I hope that it wasn't too painful, dear Marsha. And I am thrilled that so many kind folks such as yourself are considering buying it. You know me well enough to know that this suggestion comes from the heart! I was so very proud to be able to share it for BIO.

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  21. A wonderful post Heather. Thank you for sharing Sophia's story and her book. This is right up my alley. I stocked up on books about "mindfulness" recently, in particular the writings of Thick Nhat Hanh. It has been quite a journey so far. You touched this off with Gary Jules..perfect! Thank you, thank you! Once again, we are on the same page, love that about you! xx PS..just noticed your Feedjit Widget...fascinating! ;)

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    1. I have to admit that I did that for myself, Jeanne. It makes it seem so much more real than figures at the end of the day - I love seeing where everyone is from! People from Greece, Holland and Tulsa are here as I type. Isn't that amazing?
      And how wonderful that you are reading TNH - I have absolutely loved everything that I have read by him and it just makes so much sense. My Mom had the great fortune to hear him speak and said that it was life-changing.
      Gros Bisous,
      H

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  22. Wow. First off, Heather, you soooo completely spoke for me in your first paragraph with your reflection on staying busy because you feel guilty about not having a full time job. Yup. That sounds familiar. To the point where I am so busy that I don't spend nearly enough time on what is supposed to be my full time job - painting. Hmmm.

    This book looks amazing and I've already thought of about 5 or 6 friends who I will be giving a copy to. Thanks for the tip! (And I will resist the instant gratification of the Kindle download).

    Hope you find some quiet in the crazy today! XOXO

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    1. Just like my other friend Jeanne (see above :), you and I often seem to be on the same page or going through similar things. Um...like my not spending time on ...writing? Exactly. Putter, putter, putter. *sigh*

      This book is a fantastic gift. It really does soothe instantly. Better than a glass of wine!
      Bisoouuus.

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  23. WHAT A STORY.I will look for it.XXX

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    1. Thanks friend. I know that they have it at Barnes & Noble too. It is quite lovely...just like someone else I know!

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  24. Isn't this beautiful in every sense... Your photos make me want to eat the book. And the words are priceless. xox, V

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    1. A few mandarines and tea alongside perhaps? ;) Thank you for the compliment - coming from you? Means oodles!

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  25. gosh.

    what a FANTASTIC set of people you have visiting you!

    we are most humbly overwhelmed in happiness.

    *wavingfromlosangeles*

    _teamgloria xx

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    1. I do have some mighty fine peeps that visit, if I may say so myself! ;)
      And you deserve no less...
      *tossing out very glamorous movie star style bisous from Provence*

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  26. I can't remember if I commented... blame it on the sunshine... but i certainly ordered the book... :)
    Thank you... xv

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    1. Heeheehee...yes, the stun of sunshine after weeks in the gray can do that to a person! ;) I hope that you enjoy the book, V...it is lovely.
      Bon Weekend!

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  27. Once we release the ego and begin to live our passion, instead of "working", we are open to positivity from all places .. open to positive messages from wherever they originate. There is obviously a great amount of positivity inherent to this book .. as witnessed by the many comments of those who are "touched" by your post in relation to it. Excellent "work", Heather

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  28. Thank you for handing me my next book suggestion on a silver platter. This is exactly the read I'm looking for as we embark on this contemplative season called spring. Merci. : )

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  29. Simply lovely!

    Sorry for late visit and comment - being still heavily involved with restoration work, spring cleaning, garden....etc....
    Hardly no time for the blog world. Please forgive me :) - and grand merci for your comment!

    Warmest greetings from the Périgord,
    karin

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  30. Thanks for this beautiful recommendation. i will check out her site right now, too. :)

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  31. Oooh yay - I've been looking forward to this book! I'm so glad that it is as lovely as it seemed. I know what I'll be reading next!

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  32. Ok, I am definitely purchasing this book! It's exactly what I'm looking for right now. I have been on a path of learning to be more present, meditating more & was just trying to talk to my sister only 2 days ago about staying sane through the crazy storm - as she has troubles with this in her hectic life. Glad I came across your post. Things always seem to come just when you need them.

    Clare x

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