The Yellow Envelope by Kim Dinan


“At the end of the day, the money itself is just paper. What gives the whole experience meaning are the thoughts, emotions, and feelings that come with giving the money away in ways that make you smile and make your hearts sing.”

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

After Kim and her husband decide to quit their jobs to travel around the world, they’re given a yellow envelope containing a check and instructions to give the money away. The only three rules for the envelope: Don’t overthink it; share your experiences; don’t feel pressured to give it all away.

Through Ecuador, Peru, Nepal, and beyond, Kim and Brian face obstacles, including major challenges to their relationship. As she distributes the gift to people she encounters along the way she learns that money does not have a thing to do with the capacity to give, but that giving—of ourselves—is transformational.

My thoughts:

I came across this book while browsing the New Release section at our public library. The cover caught my eye. The colors looked like summer so I read the book summary and was drawn into the description. I traveled quite a bit for work and for pleasure prior to having children and for those of you that know me, know that I like to travel and dream of more in my future.  But that wasn’t the only reason I was drawn to this book. The idea of connecting with people all over the world and providing help was my main appeal.  I have a personal desire to do things in my lifetime to help others so I was very curious to find out what this book was all about.

I am not a seasoned travel memoir reader but I think this book offered so much more than what I expected.  Kim really opened up about her insecurities about her identity and her relationship with her husband. As a wife and mother, I think about my pre-marriage and mommy journey and occasionally remind myself that I must strive to continually build my wholeness. Ok, I am not trying to sound preachy but what I am trying to say is that sometimes we lose ourselves in “roles” of wife and or motherhood and there is nothing in the rule book that requires that. In this book, we witness Kim, questioning these very things for herself as she travels the globe with her husband. When taken away from the comforts and familiars of home, she is forced to address her feelings.

Kim also shares how she changes throughout this experience and grows in so many ways. For one thing, she recognizes the delicate balance of the ways to be of service for people that are in need. In one instance she is taken aback when a fellow traveler poses for a “selfie with a child they are helping”. She questions his motive and is forced to reflect on her own experiences. As I myself, try to insert myself into more humanitarian efforts, I keep questioning my motives and try to seek pure intentions with my actions.

Of course, I also enjoyed reading about the different places that she traveled but again, it took a back seat for me to all of the other topics she raised. It’s a very fast read but one that you can reflect on after. I would recommend this book and give it 4 butterflies.

Happy reading!


Title: The Yellow Envelope
Author: Kim Dinan
Copyright: April 1, 2017
Genre: non-fiction, travel-memoir
Format: book Pages: 341

Belinda’s Book Nook Review: Mister Owita’s Guide to Gardening by Carol Wall

Hello, my bookworm buddies! I have been rather naughty and have left you in the dark of all the great books I have been reading lately. I am just coming out of a little reading slump and realized I haven’t written and posted any reviews for quite a while. So here are my thoughts on one the books I read last month.

I can’t remember where I heard about this book but I remember thinking I needed to buy it. I ordered it used from and this spring seemed like the perfect time to read it. I took a photo of the cover next to my flowers.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Carol Wall, a white woman living in a lily-white neighborhood in Middle America, was at a crossroads in her life. Her children were grown; she had successfully overcome illness; her beloved parents were getting older. One day she notices a dark-skinned African man tending her neighbor’s yard. His name is Giles Owita. He bags groceries at the supermarket. He comes from Kenya. And he’s very good at gardening.

Before long Giles is transforming not only Carol’s yard but her life. Though they are seemingly quite different, a caring bond grows between them. But they both hold long-buried secrets that, when revealed, will cement their friendship forever.

My thoughts:

I found this book very easy to get into. I liked hearing Carol’s story and think she did a fantastic job capturing her developing relationship with Mr. Owita. Carol opened up about so much with regard to her cancer and how she viewed herself before and after her diagnosis. Of course, being a gardener myself, I enjoyed the sprinkling of gardening talk throughout the book. She had a great way of tying the plants and gardening to her story.

I don’t typically read reviews about books until I have read and written my own. However, when I was searching to get the synopsis of the book, I stumbled across a very critical review that said that Carol was whiny and I was taken aback. I can’t comprehend what someone going through a cancer diagnosis and treatment is experiencing. Therefore, I would not use the word whiny to refer to their response to a terminal illness.  In fact, I found the book to be quite the opposite. I liked how she and Giles’ relationship developed over a slow process into an amazing friendship. I always believe that things happen for a reason and I believe they were meant to meet. I would recommend this book because it is a good way to glimpse into the experience if it is not yours and to find appreciation for your own life. So I will give this book 3 1/2 butterflies.

Title: Mister Owita’s Guide to Gardening: How I Learned the Unexpected Joy of a Green Thumb and an Open Heart
Author: Carol Wall
Copyright: March 14, 2014
Genre: non-fiction, memoir
Format: book Pages: 294

Belinda’s Book Nook Review: Unbowed by Wangari Maathai

Title: Unbowed: A Memoir
Author: Wangari Maathai
Copyright: September 4, 2007
Genre: non-fiction, memoir
Format: book Pages: 368

I first saw this book at my local library and checked it out. I once again did what I have been doing lately and kept renewing it to the libraries limit and then hijacked the book for a few additional days while I waited for the book to arrive in the mail (I had to own a copy after I started reading it.) I’m not proud of holding on to books late but this bookworm had to do what she had to do!

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

In Unbowed, Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai recounts her extraordinary journey from her childhood in rural Kenya to the world stage. When Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement in 1977, she began a vital poor people’s environmental movement, focused on the empowerment of women, that soon spread across Africa. Persevering through run-ins with the Kenyan government and personal losses, and jailed and beaten on numerous occasions, Maathai continued to fight tirelessly to save Kenya’s forests and to restore democracy to her beloved country. Infused with her unique luminosity of spirit, Wangari Maathai’s remarkable story of courage, faith, and the power of persistence is destined to inspire generations to come.

My Thoughts:

This book is such a very important read and even more so as we approach Earth day and the ‘March for Science’ across the country. I liked the way she told her story. She provided the readers with her background by going back to her childhood growing up and working the land with her family. Her story demonstrates how you don’t need to have a fancy education or be wealthy to make a difference in the world. One quote from her book sums it up:

“Education, if it means anything, should not take people away from the land, but instill in them, even more, respect for it, because educated people are in a position to understand what is being lost. The future of the planet concerns all of us, and all of us to do what we can to protect it. As I told the forresters and the women, you don’t need a diploma to plant a tree.”   – Wangari Maathai

Although Wangari was able to pursue her education at a time that most girls were not in Kenya, she points out that her idea did not require her degree, it just helped the process. For her ideas for planting trees took hold and people began to help realize her dreams.  I love that although she received her degree in the United States, she didn’t choose the path to try to stay here, she chose to go back home and help her country. She ended up starting the Green Belt Movement in 1977 in response to her observation of the decimation of the local trees in her country and the negative effects it had on the land and the people of Kenya. She realized that the British colonists were cutting down vast amounts of trees for lumber to sell and that it had a tragic effect on the land. It compromised the integrity of the soil and caused droughts.  The Kenyan women told her of streams drying up, their food supply diminishing and as a result of the logging, they had to walk even farther to find wood for fencing. So Wangari proposed that the women take the seedlings and plant them to grow more trees.

The story is so amazing. It talks about her eventual marriage and the demise of their union and her on-going struggle with the Kenyan government, who saw her efforts as a threat.  Many times, I couldn’t believe how brave she was to keep pursuing her dream.  She endured imprisonment and death threats but continued her very important work. Did I also mention that she won the Noble Peace Prize in 2004? Yes, she was that amazing.

Wangari Maathai is someone we should all learn about because it is so relevant everywhere, not just in Kenya. In the photo above I am holding up the picture book version of her story that I read to Apollo. It was breathtakingly stunning and held it’s own in keeping up with all of the many important facts of Wangari’s story.

I leave you with one more amazing quote from the book:

“A tree… tells us that in order to aspire we need to be grounded, and that no matter how high we go it is from our roots that we draw sustenance.”

I highly recommend this book and I give it 4 1/2 butterflies for not only delivering a great story and message but concluding with ways to help. As I too will leave you with the link to The Green Belt Movement so that you can see the great work that continues even after her death.

Happy reading friends!


Belinda’s Book Nook Review: Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly


Title: Hidden Figures
Author: Margot Lee Shetterly
Copyright: September 6th 2016
Genre: non-fiction
Format: book Pages: 368

I saw the preview for the movie “Hidden Figures” around two months ago and the cast for the movie are some actresses (Taraji P. Henson and Octavia Spencer) that I really like. They would be be portraying the women from the book. This movie is based on a true story about black women that were mathematicians back in the 30s thru the 70s that contributed to major developments in aeronautical engineering with NACA (Nationa Advisory Committee for Aeronautics) and later for NASA’s space program.  I found out that the movie was based on a book so I quickly zoomed over to Amazon and pre-ordered the book.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Set against the backdrop of the Jim Crow South and the civil rights movement, the never-before-told true story of NASA’s African-American female mathematicians who played a crucial role in America’s space program—and whose contributions have been unheralded, until now.

Before John Glenn orbited the Earth or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of professionals worked as “Human Computers,” calculating the flight paths that would enable these historic achievements. Among these were a coterie of bright, talented African-American women. Segregated from their white counterparts by Jim Crow laws, these “colored computers,” as they were known, used slide rules, adding machines, and pencil and paper to support America’s fledgling aeronautics industry, and helped write the equations that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space.

My Thoughts:

What you need to know is that for myself and many other black people in this country we are thrilled when we see people that look like us making big achievements and contributions to this country. Because, so often, we read about our history and it is filled with slavery and then there’s a big gap and then there’s present day. It’s as if we’ve never contributed anything to this country that we went from slaves to free people and then that was it. We also are inundated with news reports today with the imagery of black America in a one dimensional perspective (usually committing a crime) and bypassing any major contributions. So when I heard about this book and this movie I wanted to know more. I couldn’t believe how many black woman were working in these major establishments.   Because up until this book, with the exception of a handful of astronauts from the early 80s into the 2000s,  I never knew of all of the black woman who were working hard behind the scenes to make these endeavors possible. Because the most common images I’ve always seen from NASA was a room filled with white man in white shirts with black ties staring at monitors sans any diversity.

Let’s remember also this book takes place during the 30s 40s 50s and up into about the 1970s. So to hear about achievement of this magnitude by black women during this time seems unheard of to me. But that wasn’t the case. They were black women that despite segregation and all of the racism that was taking place here in this country, that pursued high level degrees in science and mathematics  (with teaching as a back up), that went on to work and NACA and NASA to contribute to aeronautics and flight into our space program. These women managed to pursue their mathematical and scientific degrees and secure jobs at NACA as computers, mathematicians, and scientists.

It was during World War II when the country was really trying to bolster it’s space program in order to compete, defeat and exceed the Russian space program that the doors became open to anyone and everyone who could help meet this goal.  What’s interesting is that the drive was so strong that all of the internal issues that was going on in the United States in terms of race relations and segregation residuals of slavery were eventually put to the side to achieve this goal. This is not to say that it was without difficulties and there was segregation at the workplace. But as their collegeaus began to see how devoted and talented these women were, they began to request them on more and more projects. John Glenn, one of our most famous astronaut, specifically requested Katherine Johnson (one of the women highlighted in this book) to run the numbers and computations to ensure a successful flight into space. By this time, actual computers (machines) were introduced but he was that sure of her ability that he placed his life into her hands.

All this said, I went into the book with a lot of anticipation and excitement. I even recommended it to my book club which is surprisingly they accepted. I got home and I just dove into the book. Although I managed to learn a great deal about the contributions and the struggles that these women faced leading up to their employment, the structure of the book made me put it down often.

The problem for me was that the book weighs heavy on facts and information and less about the story of the women. I had to read 80 pages before I even got into some sort of story and introduction to some of the ladies. My desire to read this book and learn might not be the same as others so readers might ditch the book before getting to the point where the women’s stories begins. Even after the stories begins, Shetterly didn’t quite integrate the story with the data so there are long periods of facts and technical information then stories about the women. It made for a harder read for.

In all fairness, coming off the election emotions, might have tainted my view or tolerance for this format a bit. Perhaps a different time, might have made a difference. But I do recommend this book even with the format she chose to use to tell the story. Because it is an important part of our history and also a game-changer for some young children of color to find more role models in the fields of mathematics and science.

I give this book 3 1/2 butterflies and I can’t wait to see the movie!





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