I have known Sandy Holthaus for over a decade.  But I didn’t know she lived in a home without indoor plumbing until she was six years old.  But now, thanks to her, I know that the coldest place on earth is an outhouse in winter.

I knew Sandy was a great cook, but had no idea what a treasure trove of old home recipes she carries with her, all of which tuck neatly behind some of her funniest memories.

I knew she was smart, but I had no idea how wise she is.

I knew she was funny, but I had no idea what a master of storytelling she is.

Sandyisms: Stories, Recipes and More from the North Shore is a collection of Sandy’s stories written for her column in her local town newspaper.

The stories are delightful and come with a vast array of recipes, everything from homemade chicken soup slow cooked-all day long to her grandmother’s buttermilk sugar cookies.  The latter is the one I can’t wait to try.  And in these stories lies a glimpse of how Sandy has become the strong cookie she is today.

Also in her stories I found a sense of why I love Minnesota so much.  Like in The South where I grew up, Sandy shows how the best things in life are often shared over good food and drink and the stories that connect us all.

A sad footnote to the joy of these stories being published in one volume is that Sandy’s brother passed away unexpectedly the day after her first shipment of books arrived at her doorstep.  I found this out just minutes before I opened the book and began to immerse myself in her cheerful stories.  You can find her most recent blog post here and continue to find her writings here.

Sandyisms is available in hard cover and paperback through Amazon and select local bookstores.

Autistic License…

May 7, 2012

William James wrote eloquently about how effective the brain can be even with cognitive or emotional impairment, that a brain needn’t be complete to contribute to society, form relationships and make meaningful change.

Autistic License, an autobiographical play by Stacey Dinner-Levin, is a delightful and lovely affirmation of James’s belief.  It tells the tales of Dinner-Levin and her family as they raised their son who has autism.  After hearing about this amazing play for over a year, I finally saw its most recent production at The Illusion Theater in Minneapolis.

It is easy to point to this play as autism awareness, and even activism.  It is those things, but much more.  There is a scene early on in the play where the mother says she is “not cut out for this.”  I have said this about parenthood so many times the line sent tears down my cheeks.

This play is for parents and families of those with autism or any other presentation that can cause a child to be extra-challenging to raise.  This play is for anyone whose ass has ever been kicked repeatedly by the daunting responsibility of parenthood.  And it is for anyone who loves good theater and a well-told story, because it is both of those in spades.

Technically, the script is tight, well-paced and makes wonderful use of several theatrical elements.  A review in the Pioneer Press says it best, “Stacey Dinner-Levin knows her material cold and delivers it with unflinching honesty.”

To stay tuned for upcoming productions, see www.autisticlicenseplay.com.

A sample of audience response can be viewed here.

The trailer from a previous production can be viewed here.

To buy a DVD of a recent production, go here.