The Never-Open Desert Diner – Book Review


A red sun was balanced on the horizon when I arrived at the Well-Known Desert Diner. Sunrise shadows were draped around its corners. A full white moon was still visible in the dawn sky.

Those opening lines truly set the tone of The Never-Open Desert Diner, by James Anderson. My guess is that Mr. Anderson decided to write a story about the desert on Route 117 first, the plot second. And I mean that as a compliment. Like the desert setting of the novel, Anderson spins a tale that is at once peaceful and uncomfortable. Reading it was a journey that felt like home, but a home you were slightly nervous to go back to.

Let’s go through the book review checklist, shall we?

Beautiful prose? Check.

Satisfying dialogue? Check.

Characters? Compelling and real.

The story starts out slowly, with only an immediate hint that there might be a mystery afoot. For a while, you don’t remember that mystery. But like the prevalent desert flash floods throughout the novel, everything important happens at once. And then it’s over and you are forced to think about what you’re left with how.

The Never-Open Desert Diner makes you feel two things at once, always. Joyous, and sad. Calm, and nervous. I put down the book after the last sentence and wished I could run to my fiance’s house and hold him tight.

In other words, this book did exactly what it was supposed to do, and did it well. 

When I finally climbed into bed after finishing the novel, I looked at the clock on my cable box. It was 1:17am. I smiled knowing that I now knew the story of 117. 

Note: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.



4 Christmas Songs that Will Awaken Even Your Cold, Scrooge Heart

  • Finish shopping
  • Wrap all of the gifts
  • Finish more shopping
  • Get the cards in the mail
  • Cook and bake till you explode.

Anything else? Oh yeah –

  • Stop, put on your favorite Christmas song, and let yourself be moved to tears. 

That second list is the more important one, I’d say.

It’s hard to get into the full spirit of the season when the commercial aspect takes over all your brain’s stress centers. It’s hard to sit in church when you’ve gone non-stop for three weeks straight, or enjoy your family dinner.

At the risk of sounding cliche, it’s so easy to forget the reason for the season.

So I decided to share with you four Christmas songs that stop me in my tracks, and bring tears to my eyes. I implore you to take a moment and listen with me, to at least one of the songs below. The last two are my absolute favorites, the ones that inspired this list.

A New York City Christmas (Rob Thomas)

Dang, feel those post-September 11 feels of heartbreak and unity. Feel them. And listen to Rob Thomas’ sweet voice.

December 1943 – John Michael Montgomery

Now THERE’S a Christmas story. Love your enemy, literally.

The Angels Cried – Alan Jackson and Allison Krauss

And, it’s a duet. Those always get me. Yes, I am a little country, leave me be.

And finally, the Christmas song that has given me more spiritual understanding of this holiday than any other.

Mary Did You Know – Jordan Smith (studio version)

For me it has to be this version, because he’s so amazing. -sigh-

And there’s my list!

I was going to put a ‘Lyrics of note’ section for each song but I realized each entire song is worth the listen.

As the Grinch would say, “I’m leaking!”

Have a beautiful, blessed Christmas, my dear readers. God bless you!

What’s your favorite, tear-inducing Christmas song?

How To Find Cheap and Gorgeous Old Books for your Wedding Centerpieces

I may not have the dress or the guest list finalized, but my wedding will at least have centerpieces! Oops.

old books wedding centerpiece

That’s right, I had the brilliant idea (thanks Pinterest)  to incorporate old books in my wedding centerpieces, along with flowers and pearls. In about a month’s time, I was able to gather 40+ books. It was shockingly easy and inexpensive. So I thought I’d share the wealth of knowledge with you!

Step 1: Tell everyone, and their mother.

Tell your friends, your mom, your bae’s mom. Your brother and sister. Your neighbor. You will have an army of people bringing you old books and then you will have a surplus to choose from. Everyone wants to be involved in the wedding planning, and this is an easy way to get them to help out.

Step 2: Sign up for

You can set up alerts for sales in your area that list what you’re looking for, in this case, old books. The site will send you an email every time one of these sales is coming up so you can plan to drop by!

Step 3: Hit up your local library sales.

Often, they will have deals that if you fill up a bag, you can pay $10 for all the books inside. Or, hardcovers can be $1-$2 each. Seriously, the majority of my books came from these sales. It’s crazy how little they are giving these books away for!

Step 4: Be spontaneous!

I got my first few books at an estate sale that was on the lawn at the historical society in my town. I saw the sale while I was driving by, stopped the car, and started hunting. I found the most gorgeous books, and the lady sold them to me for $5 each! (And those were the most expensive books of all the ones I bought.) That’s when I knew my centerpieces were going to come together. Because when you’re holding a gorgeous copy of Pride and Prejudice, things just work out.

Now I just have to figure out where to keep these books for the next 300 or so days…

old books wedding centerpiece
(A small sampling of my stash.)

My Official Election Statement 

​As I get ready for bed – here’s the last update I have on the election. 

Tomorrow I will wake up and I will still be me. That I can promise.  

No matter who wins the election, no matter your feelings or mine, I will wake up and I will continue to be Sabina. And I will continue to try and always be my best self. No matter what. 

I’m not responsible for the decisions of our government, or the American collective. You and I, we are only responsible for ourselves. 

So I urge you tomorrow morning to wake up and be you. Not your political affiliation. Just you. Be kind(er), (more) forgiving, (more) loving. It’s up to us, folks, not the president. The United States has always been about WE the people. We decide to be loving, not just in our views, but in our every action. Not just in our causes, but in how we treat each individual we interact with. 

Lastly, I would like to thank those around me who have allowed me to be more authentically myself this year in sharing my opinions. Not only those who share my views, but those who disagree with me on almost everything.  I have good people in my life. Thank you for affording me the chance to speak and be respected. That goes a long way. 

This election cycle has hurt me, frustrated me, scared me, and definitely amused me. It’s been rough for all of us, trying to define the American spirit, while fighting against the other side who just won’t listen. YET it has also allowed us to be more open and to gather to pray, vent, and listen. Let’s take the good and leave the anger in this last half hour of Election Day.

Goodnight, fellow citizens of the United States of America. I will see YOU bright and early tomorrow. I hope you’ll bring the sunshine.

Set the World on Fire

This was originally published over at  the JASPA – Jesuit Association of Student Personnel Administrators blog! Thanks for having me write, JASPA!

It was the night before graduation. We decided to have one last barbecue at our friend’s apartment, in the courtyard attached to her building. We all were grappling with the impossible truth that college was over the next day. I didn’t know what to expect from my future, as I had not even secured a job yet. But that night wasn’t about the future; it was about celebrating the past four years at our beloved Fordham University.

We cleaned up and trickled inside, well after dark, to end the night doing nothing much. Half asleep next to my friend, who was writing notes to all the people who made an impact on him during college, I heard a knock at the door.

When our friends came back to the main room, they exclaimed that it was the fire department who had knocked. Someone had decided to dump the burning embers of the barbecue into a garbage pail. Naturally, the pail started smoking, almost setting the courtyard on fire. Doh! Yes, we were about to get our degrees. Yes, we clearly skipped our “Common Sense” classes.

I share this anecdote because it is certainly NOT what St. Ignatius Loyola meant by, Go forth, and set the world on fire.

But it is a funny story.go-forth

Go forth, and set the world on fire.

What beautiful, powerful, inspiring words those are. Among many things, my Jesuit education taught me that I have something earth-shattering to give to the world. Not only that, but I have something I MUST give to the world. ‘Go forth!’ because there’s no time like the present. You must get on with making a deep impact, right now!

At Fordham, I learned the following lessons in becoming purely myself.

  • I never had to settle into being a “follower” – Each person has leadership potential and I found mine on the board of a cultural club and as an orientation leader.
  • My greatest gift from God is my inclination to joy.  – I learned to be immensely grateful for each moment I spent on that campus, and to leave each person happier than they were before we met. (Well, within the limits of human nature – nobody is perfect.)
  • Faith and critical reasoning go hand in hand. ‘Faith and Critical Reasoning’ was actually the name of my freshman core theology class. I learned to be confident in my faith – that I am both an intelligent science (psychology) major and a devoted Catholic. I learned to speak eloquently, respectfully, and thoughtfully about my beliefs.
  • Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam. – (All things) for the greater glory of God. Everything I do should proclaim God’s goodness. My actions will always reflect my faith, and that is something I cannot forget. I should put my whole heart and all my love into even the most mundane of tasks – because it all matters.

These four lessons allowed me to find myself as a young woman.  I understand that I have the potential for greatness because of my mission from the Big Guy Upstairs, even if I don’t know what that is yet.

It also means that every single other person is right there with me, as important as I am, in the same human family.

Therefore, I challenge you, Go forth, and set the world on fire!