Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A Book Review: Redemption by Samantha Charles

For those of you who are devouring books by the day this summer, I have a recommendation for you.  What's great is that it's part of a series, and it's written by a fantastic woman who is gracious and approachable and appreciative of fan feedback.  She's feverishly working on Salvation betwixt her public appearances. You can find Samantha Charles here Author Website, and if you follow her on FB, you can enjoy some sneak preview excerpts while you await the 2nd novel of the series.

I posted this review on Amazon a few weeks ago, but Samantha's been doing lots of book talks and signings of late, so I'm reposting here in case you missed the 5 STAR applause of Rememption.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping and Instense with a little bit of Shakespeare FunMay 15, 2014

I’m a slow reader, so the fact that I started this 300+ page book a little over a week ago and plowed through it in about 10 days speaks volumes for the power of Redemption. The moment we meet Lindy is when she wakes up “with the carved wooden grip of her .38 caliber revolver still clutched in her right hand.” Intense. I was sucked in, as if I had stepped into literary quick sand.
The 3rd person omniscient narrator moves the story from scene to scene, evoking empathy for the battered Lindy from the first page when, “she gently touched her stomach right below her naval where the embryo would have, given the chance, transformed.” In only three paragraphs of brilliant and descriptive writing, Charles crafts a character so bruised and beaten by life and her husband that the reader can do nothing but hope that she can escape from her suffering. With her dog, Atticus, as her companion, Lindy courageously leaves her marriage, but her return to Parson’s Gap lands her in a world far more dangerous.
On the anniversary of her miscarriage and her best friend’s untimely death, Lindy sojourns upon a wild expedition to unravel the mystery of her past. The lover of her teenage years has also returned to Parson’s Gap, but their history is littered with so much angst and misunderstanding that Lindy can not forgive Kit. But, I fell for Kit, and I fell hard. He is sweet and tender and forgiving. Lindy, though, refuses to see the grown man before her, recognizing him only as the “failed” boyfriend of her past.
Upon Lindy’s return to Parson’s Gap, we meet the complicated characters of her past who are intertwined with the crimes of her father, Preacher Carver, and her illicit father-in-law Harrington. The savior-best-friend-Bard-quoting, Grady is seemingly delicious but unavailable, which makes me love him all the more, but before we can piece together the clues of the mystery in Parson's Gap that connect Lindy's father and father-in-law, the now adults need to forget the pains of their teenaged selves. Not so easy to do. The plot twists and turns as we travel up and down the mountain between Mama Ray’s, Big Stone Gap, and Ole Cougar’s dive.
While the tale is a mystery, it’s also rich with the complexities of being human. Linday, Grady, Kit, Becky, and Verle all deal with issues of love, rejection, race, sexuality, loss, and—of course—redemption. As the group works to unravel the truth of Sara’s accident and Scooter’s death, they unearth some complicated personal dilemmas that bring them closer together. I kept forgetting that this is fiction because they felt so real to me.
Lindy is guarded because of her vulnerability. She has learned to protect herself, but she learns so much more about friendship and love as she comes closer to the truth in this gripping and intense tale of Redemption.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Runner's Attack: GI Jane, or Poop, there it is!

Warning: If you are not a runner, you may not want to continue reading.
Caution:  If you are a runner, and you understand the GI attack, then you know what this post is about, so you should choose now whether you want to continue.
Don't say I didn't warn you!
Several years ago, while I was training for my first marathon, I ran alongside my dear friend who had Boston under her belt.  We spent hours pounding the pavement together, sharing stories and bonding as runners do. In the early stages of training, she confessed that in previous year, she had an "attack" while out for a 17 mile run.
"Oh no!" said I who hadn't yet encountered this joyous side effect of long distance running.  "What did you do?"
"I had to go in the bushes," she said.
"Oh my GOD!" I was admittedly horrified.  "I think I would die," I said.
Come to find out, this is a common problem!
Looking back on that conversation makes me chuckle, especially since just two weeks ago, I myself had to break from the pavement and find a hiding spot in the woods while out for an 8 mile run.  Fortunately, I was running in an industrial area, and the road was lined with several mailboxes, all of which had a telephone book in a plastic bag hanging from them.  I grabbed a bag, tore a few pages out of the book, and into the woods I went.
If you are not a runner and you are still reading, I can hear your judgments, but I promise, there is NO alternative.  Do you think I actually WANT to shit in the woods like a wild animal?
My sister and I have spent many miles together on the road, and we have both suffered at the hands of the most brutal and abusive soldier:  GI Jane.  The gastrointestinal destroyer.  She's a bitch.
We thought if we named her that she might become a bit more personable.  Be a bit more subtle in her arrival, a little more patient with us.
"Oh no!  She's coming," we might've exclaimed, miles from home with nothing but a Dunkin Donuts in sight. Running at home with my sister was a little more manageable because we knew where we were going, and we knew all of the bathroom options along the way.  I try to plot my course in anticipation of the arrival of Jane, but sometimes she is a crazy kamakaze pilot whose mission is complete destruction.
That was Jane this morning.
I considered heading down toward the Merrimack river at 5:30 this morning to be sure that I did at least 5 miles, but I was concerned that my oatmeal square might give me more than the energy boost I was looking for.
You should stay close to home. I wisely advised myself.
1.16 miles into my run, GI Jane caught up to me.  Shit!  (literally and figuratively)
Gotta get home.  I think I can keep running though.  It's less than a mile back to the house.
I rounded the corner and another wave came over me.
Walk. If you walk it might go away. 
My husband calls it, "managing the waves."
Just focus on something else.  How long will it take to get home?  A minute?  Count to 60.  No count backwards from 60.  60, 59, 58...  
It was working.  The wave had passed.  With every step I was closer to home.  Until another wave came over me and I had to stop for fear that any movement might result in disaster.
I wish I were a dog!  Should I knock on a neighbor's door?  Can I make it to T's house?  Try counting again.  Start with 1 this time.  I think it's safe to move.  Slowly.
Onward and upward I went.  It took three minutes for me to reach the gate to my backyard, at which point my body lost the battle.  The wave crashed down on a rock.  It was over.  There was no heading back out to finish.  Nothing but a shower could help me at that point.  I can only take solace in knowing that my issue wasn't nearly this bad.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Celebrating me with #assfoldforlife

Summer is my favorite time of year because I absolutely hate my body in pants.  Jeans are great, as long as I spend hours and hundreds of dollars, but I've yet to find a designer who has made a pair of pants that has made me feel as good about myself as I do in a dress or a skirt.  No to mention that dresses are adorable and easy.  They are a one shot deal.  Why, the other day, I considered walking out of the house without underwear on.  Before I had babies, I went commando in a skirt or a dress all summer long.  There's something so cozy about a long summer dress that doesn't need a bra, and if I'm going bra free, why not lose the hankie pankies too?  
Anyhow, my point is not about the brilliance of summer wear as much as it is about the power of the #assfoldforlife campaign designed by the lovely blogger Words By The Glass.  She's the greatest source of comic relief that comes into this otherwise messed up world.  When you visit her blog or follow her on Facebook you will learn all about the #assfold campaign in celebration of our bodies.  
Looking in the mirror and liking what I see has been a rarely occuring event in my life.  BUT, the other day, I looked in the mirror (there's a full length mirror in the girls's room of the high school I work in), and I thought to myself (after a year of working out post baby), "Wow!  Your legs look good!"  Yup, I did.  I had a moment of pride while looking at the reflection of me in the mirror.  Fortunately, no one else was in the ladies room at the time, so I turned myself a round and did a little toe tap thing to admire the definition and muscle tone.  It felt really good.  I thought about blogging about my legs that day, but that just seemed....obnoxious? 
Well, this morning I arrived at work, walked up the stairs, down the hallway, and my lovely colleague said, "Your legs look fabulous!"   Rather than respond with some self-denegrating criticism, I responded with a smiling, "Thank you.  I acutally thought the same thing myself the other day."  I giggled and we chatted about exercise for a few minutes while the sunshine lighting around my heart continued to radiate warmth and gratitude her way.  
On most days, I would read this blog and make some snarky comment about how this bitch is so full of herself, which you may freely do.  Be my guest.  But please do note that I'm definitely not perfect.  Last night I "rowed it" (as a friend says) and devoured an entire row of the Whole Foods version of Oreo cookies.  I did.  What sticks in my head, though, are the words of Jean Kilbourne in her decades long research on advertising and women.  
For far too long, I have fallen into this trap of believing that my body isn't good enough.  It's not thin enough, it's not tone enough, it's been stretched out far enough to leave permanent marks that I have no business showing on a public beach.  In reality, though, I workout really hard--every day.  Even on my days "off" I'm at least out for a walk.  If I'm not going to embrace the results of all that hard work, then what is it all for?  I may not have a six pack like this AMAZINGLY FIT MOM (total stunnah!)
Fit Mom What's Your Excuse
Yet I don't fault her or hate her for my envy.  She looks fantastic, and she inspires me to believe that I too can look like that.  I would really like to have those abs.  Unfortunately, I also really like sweet treats and wine, so I'll settle for being really happy with some great gams.
I'm not interested in shaming anyone for his/her body.  We all have shit going on.  Some of us like to work out, and some of us prefer a 6 pack of a craft brewed IPA.  That is why I LOVED that Ashton Kutcher gave a big Facebook shout out to this:  EMBRACE
I know that it won't be long before I fall back into the state of self-loathing in which I normally reside, so I had to shout out to all the folks who are trying to make me and everyone else feel better about our bodies.  Forgive me for taking a moment to applaud my accomplishments, and I assure you that by tomorrow, I will return to the muffin top discussion and post a picture of my #assfoldforlife.  

Monday, June 16, 2014

The sweetest little witchy-witch

My soon to be 3 year old daughter woke up on the wrong side of Mars yesterday.  I can't even use the haggard expression, "wrong side of the bed," because I really think she had been abducted by aliens in the middle of the night.  People, sometimes kids are just a major pain in the ass, and I'm ok saying that.  I'm also one of those assholes who admitted that being pregnant was about the worst thing my body ever had to experience, so I'm not sure if you want to continue reading.

I recently saw a cousin of mine whom I haven't seen in a few years.  We were talking about kids, and she asked if I planned to have any more.  "Good God,  NO!" I said.  "I don't ever want to be pregnant again.  I absolutely hated being pregnant."

"Me too," she said.  "And I'm glad you said that because I've never heard anyone say that before."

Why not?  Let's be honest, it's not fun.  At least it wasn't for me and a lot of my friends.  We often joked about how we hated those women who "loved" being pregnant.  Do I really hate them?  Of course not, but I don't understand how any moment of the sleepless nights, the constant peeing, the nausea, the weight gain, the back pain, and the aversions to foods and smells that normally one finds titillating can by any stretch be deemed enjoyable.  Expect for the fact that you end up with an amazing little child when it's all over.  That's the only PLUS, to pregnancy.  It's for the kids.  And I love my kids.  But I was elated to find this dandy little chart of another endearing parent who recognizes that sometimes the little shits are just out to destroy you.
The little love of my life earned a 5 of 6 on this chart yesterday.  She was a monster who woke up crying and determined to ruin father's day for my husband.  We got in the car, and she continued to cry, and my husband kindly asked her to please stop because it was his special day.  She refused.
"Just ignore her," I said.
"Please stop crying," he said.
"I want to go home," she cried.
I turned up the radio.
"Enough," he said.  "Why are you crying?"
"She doesn't know," I answered.  "Try to just ignore her."
"But it's so annoying," he said.
The day continued and she vacillated between a weeping willow and an obstinate little witchy-witch.
Our family participated in a road race, and before we started, little witchy-pants and I went to the bathroom.
"No, I don't have to go potty," she cried as if I had just asked her to chop off a leg.
"Ok, well mommy has to go, so come in with me."
Mommy sits and begins to go potty while witchy-witch stands at the door, hand reaching for the lock.
"Don't touch that...get away from the door."
The door is now open.  Mommy is still on the potty midstream.
"Get back in here."
She turns and looks at more scornfully and with the freshest voice she has ever used says, "No! I don't have to go potty."
It's not even 10 AM yet.  In my head, I question whether these are behaviors she is learning at day care because she is being a big jerk.  Throughout the day, she had pockets of sunshine, where I believed that the alien who had kidnapped her body had finally escaped, but then the beast returned.
But when night came and it was time for bed, I held her in my arms and rocked her with all the love that I have for her, and I told her, as I tell her every night that she is the best little her there ever was.  "But you have to try to do good listening, good behavior, and use good manners."
"Ok, mommy. I want you to lie down with me."
And that's what makes it all worth it.  The pregnancy, the labor, the delivery, the public exposure of me peeing in a stall, the turning and running away from daddy in the middle of a city street, the kicking her sister in the head from the back seat of the stroller.  All of it.  Because she's the sweetest little witchy-witch there ever was.

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Rollercoaster Ride of this Life I'm Living

I love rollercoasters.  While they scare the living shit out of me, they also are exhilarating and make me laugh out loud.  And the pictures are just too much.  Check out this post from BuzzFeed and try not to crack a smile.

Now try and tell me that a rollercoaster ride is not one of the best metaphors for life.  You can't.  Not if you are breathing anyway.  Let's look at my week, for example.

In the past seven days I've experience the calm and quiet of solitude while out for an 8 mile run at 6:00 am.  The very same day, I delighted in the celebration of my sister-in-law's baby shower and learned that my husband's extended family is continuing to grow, which will result in my daughters having a ton of cousins to play with as they grow up.

Then I received an email message that made me cry for hours, which resulted in my opening up to my other sister-in-law for the first time about some emotional stuff I've been working through.  The sadness of the message marked a turning point in my relationship with someone very important to me, and I felt a stronger bond with my husband's family at the end of the weekend.

That same day, I received a message from a former student who confided in my about a heroin addiction that he is trying to recover from.  I fucking hate drugs, and I hate heroin for all of the lives that it destroys.  I'm scared for him, but I'm trying to support his efforts to be sober and healthy, and he seems to be keeping himself on track.  I so wish that I could make his choices for him, but that's just not life, is it?

Tuesday I ran a 5K, and I kicked my ass!  Man, I was so proud of myself.  Is that wrong?

While these numbers would be a disappointment to many, by my standards, they are  impressive.  Like HOLY SHIT impressive. It's actually my life time personal best.  Last June my girlfriends and I did a 5k, and before the race started one said she hoped to get an 8 minute mile.  I laughed, since I was walking the 5k.  My best times have been somewhere between 8:30 and 9:00.  I'd accepted that I would never break the 8:30, and even that was a stretch of my endurance and strength.  Then I somehow banged out this bitch on Tuesday night, and I immediately texted said friend and my husband.  I had to take a screen shot of the results because I am SURE it will NEVER happen again.  

Wednesday might have been the all time high point of my teaching career, when a student's grandmother visiting from Illinois came in to present the class with a homemade lane cake.  Yup, the cake that Miss Maudie made for the kids in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  It took K.K., the grandmother, two days to make the cake, and she didn't simply deliver a cake and say enjoy.  She sat down and began sharing tales of her childhood.  K.K. grew up during the time of segregation and recalled the times when the KKK had burned crosses on her family's lawn.  I had chills as she spoke.  It was as if Miss Maudie or Harper Lee herself were sitting beside me.  I wish I had recorded her visit, but I will treasure the memory of both her stories and her indulgent and delicious cake.  

Riding the high of the coaster's upswing, I delivered books to Book Ends Book Store in Winchester, MA yesterday.  What a delightful little store.  Of course, I posted the pic on FB, and I have 40 likes from my amazingly supportive friends.  
It's been a good ride this week.  I've laughed and cried and curled up in fear.  As all rides must come to an end, I find myself both excited and saddened to celebrate the conclusion of my dear friends's tenures as teachers.  As with most things in life, tonight's party will be bittersweet.  Though I'm typically one who likes to see the glass half empty, I'll pause for a moment to refocus my perspective, given that I have had such a kick ass ride this week.  Yes, the ride will come to a complete stop.  We will all have to get off, but we can also rush back to the entrance and take another turn at it.  That's life man.  As long as we are living, we get to ride this coaster.  We get to fly and soar and twist and fall and dip and scream and cry and be alive.  

I'm getting back in line...and I'm going for a front row seat...and throwing my hands up!

Monday, June 9, 2014

If you post a blog on the internet, does anyone read it?

The very word blog is funny to me.  It sounds so messy, like a blob.  A pile of icky goop that jiggles.

Perhaps that's what the blog is, a blob of words on a page that people look at and go, "ugh".  So many bloggers laboriously pour their thoughts out onto the page, and so few of those words are seen by any audience.  They sit in the abyss of the world wide web, waiting desperately for someone, anyone, to read them.
A quick google search of "how to build a blog audience" renders about 59,000,000 links.  I can find a variety of tips, ranging from 12 to 21 in number, but none of these links says anything original.  None of them says anything original.
Another search of "how to blog" results in 1, 560,000,000 sites.  Are you shitting me?  I think the internet might be bigger than the galaxy!
My point is, does anyone really give a rat's bottom about what I have to say in these musings?  More than likely there are three of you who have actually read this post, and you are the same three who complimented me on by first few posts.  Thanks for sticking with me, ladies.  You're the best.
So, the answer to my question is an obvious, "No!"  No one is going to randomly read my blog.  I'm ok with that.  Perhaps I have to think less about the forest and more about the flora in my own back yard.  Why am I writing at all?  Do my words have to matter to someone else in order for them to matter at all?
Finding the time to write everyday is a challenge with a full time job, a desire to be able to wear a bikini at the beach this summer, and my efforts to be nominated for "Mother of the Year".  Plus, there's facebook and twitter, and then I could color my hair again.  I also spend a lot of time watching the dog hair collect into dust bunnies in my hallway, and then there is the ever-long debate of whether I should vacuum.  I digress.
What I like about blogging is that I have a space that I can come to as frequently or infrequently as I like.  I can pontificate about the world around me, watch the whirlwind in my mind while I try to grab an idea or two before they blow away.  It doesn't even matter if anyone else is reading this.  I'm writing it, and in doing so, I like to think that I am planting trees--building my own forest, where I can go and wander, escape the world around me, get lost in words, and try to make sense of all the chaos that surrounds me.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Promposal...cute or crazy?

It's prom season!

Here's what the girls are saying this morning about last night's senior prom!
"I had a marshmallow, a cupcake, and a chocolate chip cookie," the little freshmanreported to her girlfriends.  Three little freshman, 14 or 15 years old, are sitting at a table like little wind up dolls, each pulling the string from the back of the other so that she can quickly spew out as many words as possible before her exhaustion takes over and she must pause for a breath.  Only one of the girls actually attended the prom, but they are all captivated by the pictures and the stories that blondie has to share.

Oh, I recall the days when I too was a teenage girl whose mind was fixated on all that mattered in my world from March until the end of school:  PROM!  We spent hours worrying about a date, searching for dresses, cooking ourselves in tanning beds, starving ourselves in order to fit into the dress, ordering flowers, organizing groups in limos, scheduling appointments for hair and nails.  This is a big freakin' deal.  Can you imagine how long this couple spent on their hair?

The race for a date begins early, and this year for the first time in my 17 year teaching career, I heard lots of chatter about "promposals".  What the...?  What is a promposal you ask?  Well, indeed, it is exactly what the word implies, and it's all the rage.  http://time.com/88002/promposals-prom-high-school/
A young man proposes to his lady love his desire for her to join him at this sacred event--the prom. I learned this when I asked what the hubub was with the girls in my 10th grade honors class.  One little chick-a-dee had come to class with a chinese food box in which a young man had placed a cupcake decorated with the word "PROM?"

"Oh, that's sweet," I said.

"Did you see "X's" promposal?" one girl asked?

"Her what?"

"Oh my god, I'll show you?"

"No, what did you call it?"

"A promposal."

"You're kidding me," I said.

My inquiry erupted in lots of conversations in which my students revealed who had been proposed to by whom, and in the true fashion of 21st century teens, they had pictures to forever capture the moment in time.

There was a picture of a soccer ball on which a fellow had written, "kick it with me at prom?"  Another girl showed me the dessert plate that was delivered to her table while on a date with her love.  If you google "promposal" you'll find oodles of images all trying to outdo the next guy.

The plate was deliciously decorated with "PROM?" written in chocolate syrupy stuff.  They all gushed with pride and giggled like innocent school girls, but as an adult, I was torn.

I remember the anxiety over, "is anyone going to ask me?" followed by the excitement of finally being asked. Because it was so early, I ended up in a predicatment where I had to somehow rescind because high school love can be fleeting and fickle.

Just a few weeks ago, my senior boys were trying to find dates for two of their friends.  They pretty much ran down a list of the few people left who were among the dateless, and none of those options seemed plausible.

"Why don't you just go in the limo with these guys?" I asked.

"No way.  I'm not going alone."

Somehow 23 years after I graduated from high school, this antiquated tradition of needing a date for prom has not changed, and it has seemingly gotten worse.

Maybe I'm just an old curmudgeon, but the idea that girls need to be invited to a prom with a fantastically creative and original proposal that outdose those of her peers annoys the shit out of me.  A proposal is for a marriage, and a prom is not a wedding.  Can we just slow down here?  I don't know...am I just being grumpy?  What say you?

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

If you're tired and you know it, close your eyes...or call a friend

It's not even noon and I've been up for almost 6 hours.  That's right.  The alarm went off at 4:50 even though I didn't have to go to work today.  It's week 1, day 2 of my return to Jillian Michaels.  Plus, I have to clock some road miles because I was stupid enough to sign up for another half marathon in July.  Somehow the morning creeps up on me, and I just feel so unprepared to end my slumber.
My husband requires fewer hours of sleep than I do, so when I go to bed at 9:00 PM, he goes downstairs to binge on Grim or--his latest fascination--Spartacus.  Usually I get up at least once a night to pee, and I most often hear him crawl into bed some time after midnight.  He lovingly cuddles up and tries to hold me, and I get annoyed because now I'm awake. And I have to pee.  And I have to wake in less than five hours.  My sleep is interrupted, and I probably should have just joined him on the couch to veg out in front of the tube.
I can't remember the last time I sat in front of the TV.  Well, I can.  It was a few weeks ago for the season finale of Once Upon a Time.

I'm really not happy with the cliff hanger they threw in on that last episode.  How can Regina be expected to keep on the path of goodness when at the moment she is able to carry her heart with her, coincidence comes and rips it out?  That's what life does, though, doesn't it?  Camus understood the absurdity of man's existence--that we continue to hope in spite of life kicking us in the balls all the time.

Days like today--rather weeks like the past few I have had--I feel the struggle of being human--the fight to find the strength to endure through the tedious and seemingly fruitless agony of forging ahead.  I'm flipping exhausted, and this damn boulder is bulldozing over me at full speed, rolling back down toward the bottom of the hill.  Fuck.  Are you shitting me? I have to chase that piece of shit down the mountain again?  I was so close to the top!

I'm afraid I don't have the strength, or perhaps the inclination, so I close my eyes and tumble down trailing behind the stupid rock.  When I hit the bottom, I lie there, motionless, and I rest for a while.  I dream of Maya and Malala and the nearly 300 who have truly hit rock bottom, and I know that my woes are nothing I can not bear.  I hear the voice from the Sassy Gay Friend videos mocking me, "you're a stupid bitch."  It's true.  Sometimes you just need a good chat with a friend to know that you are a decent--no a good person--and that everything is going to be ok.

And when I open my eyes, there are my babies and all whom I love and my hope that I am not as terrible as I have felt.  That boulder looks like a pebble in comparison to those that weigh against other human beings.  Really, when I put things in perspective, I am ok.  I am more than ok.  I am refreshed, filled with the belief that I will make it up that hill.  I'm ready to rock on!