Hello. It’s Been A While. (A Ten Things of Thankful Post)

It’s a good thing I didn’t make a New Year’s resolution to post here more.

Somehow I got out of the habit of delivering any finished product to this page. It’s not for lack of ideas or inspiration; I have a ton of things drafted and scribbled in my notebooks. They somehow just don’t make it to the page. If a messy desk is a sign of genius, I should be producing a whole lot more brilliance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think it’s probably more that I got distracted (not that distraction is new for me). It goes without saying that the headlines of late have been pretty overwhelming and that has definitely affected my state of mind. I had to back way off of the Internet and social media. So if I seem absent…I am. On purpose. Let’s call it self-care.

I’ve also been distracted by my physical state lately. There is no question that for the last week I have been in the throes of an active RA flare with a whopper of an eczema flare thrown in for good measure. A result of stress associated with the news? Maybe. Hard to say. At any rate, I’ve been trying to focus on what my mind and body need to be more at peace. It’s only fair to say here how thankful I am that my Hub and Zilla have been more than understanding, even though I’ve been pretty horrid.

So what else has been going on…?

Well, I guess my biggest news is probably that I entered a writing competition. Yup, I did it. I just put up a post about that experience if you want to check that out. If not, then keep moving along…

I actually have been doing a bunch of writing, but so far most of it has been for my eyes only. What will become of these efforts is yet undetermined. But the writing feels good. I have started a ton of things to join my semi-usual link-ups – Six Sentence Stories, Finish the Sentence Friday, and Ten Things of Thankful. But despite those efforts, I haven’t managed to join. I plan to remedy that moving forward.

I’ve also been reading a lot more lately than I have in recent months. More self-care, I suppose. That feels amazing. I read three of Bradbury’s books in a row – Dandelion Wine (a re-read), Farewell Summer (stunning), and Something Wicked This Way Comes (completely creepy in an awesome way). Right now I’m working on finishing The Martian by Andy Weir (loved the movie – book is even better) and I have about five things queued up to hit next.

Absorbing others’ words has been good for my mind and my soul. I’ve joined a couple of writing challenges for 2017 and choosing books for those has been fun and also helped me continue to take advantage of the offerings at my public library. I’m doing a handful of reads for folks I know who have published their books and I’m thinking maybe I’ll review those here on the blog and introduce you to to their work. Stay tuned.

What else?

Thanks in part to the accountability factor provided by the Graviteers, I’ve managed to hit a weight loss goal (again) so I think it’s safe to say that I am steadily working toward my weight loss and health goals. I’ve been walking more regularly and upping my number of steps each day (insert eye roll). That feels good. Next stop: The Bowflex machine. I’m laughing just thinking about it, but sure enough one has joined the team in our basement next to the treadmill and I’m planning to get on there regularly. Weight-bearing exercise is important for women, especially as middle age creeps closer on the horizon. So I’m pretty excited about that.

Kidzilla is kicking butt and taking names with her school work and all related sub-topics. That little girl works so hard and loves learning so much. I love that she sees hard work has tangible rewards. And speaking of school, the Hub is back in school working on a new degree – one more step in this journey of career change that was forced upon us. He’s also doing a fantastic job and just a few weeks in is already ahead of his projected timeline for this term. I am so proud of both of them. Shameless gushing. <3

I’m happy to report I’ve found my groove again in the kitchen. I don’t know what happened, but I feel like I pulled away from cooking anything decent at home and we resorted to bring-home or go-to options far too often over the last several weeks. Granted, the holidays are a strange time and then we were all so sick during and right after Christmas and into January, so maybe that’s just it. But even with my flares lately I’ve been happily tossing pots and pans around in the kitchen again. We’ve tried some new things and I’ve gotten back in my habit of rolling leftover parts of one meal into the next.

We’ve had pinto bean tacos with cabbage slaw, oven-baked lime butter cod served with the leftover slaw, some awesome Mexican street corn as a side – that was delicious. We tried mujadara – lentils and brown rice with caramelized onions – which is a new favorite here. Red beans and rice are always warming and satisfying, Salisbury meatballs were a hit for my meatball-lover daughter. Up tonight is a basic roast chicken because I’m out of chicken broth and need to make some. So I’m out to get that little bugger in the oven. Besides, I think I’ve rambled on here quite long enough.

I haven’t counted or numbered, but I’m certain I have at least ten things in here. For these and for so many more…I am thankful.

I’ve missed chatting with all of you here. What’s new and exciting in your life? What have you been doing the last few weeks? How are your self care habits? Talk to me…

 

This Christmas

“This is going to be the best Christmas ever.”

This is what my daughter told me this weekend as we brought out our Christmas tree, shopped for some new strings of lights, and hung the ornaments on our tree.

We’ve been easing our way into our Christmas preparations. We like to take it slow, focusing on one thing at a time. While many people love decorating and shopping for Christmas over Thanksgiving weekend, we spend the entire weekend relaxing and enjoying time together, reflecting on the blessings in our life.

Not too long after that, though, we start to bring out our special Advent and Christmas books. We read every night, but we save these books for this time of the year. In the books of Christmas, we’ve read about the legend of the Candy Cane, the life of Saint Nicholas, and many more. We have books that range from short and sweet and silly to more serious and lovely and deeply meaningful. She loves them all. And I can’t wait to introduce her to some new-to-her classics this year. I think she’s ready.

We begin December concentrating on Advent, preparing to celebrate the birth of our Lord at Christmas and she’s all over it. She helps find the Advent prayers to say as we light the candles each week. She insists that we bring out  our Nativity sets first – but no other decorations until later in the month. I don’t know how my eight year old child acquired such an appreciation for savoring each moment, each day, each individual joy, but she does and I am so glad to know her heart works that way.

Around this time of the month, we bring out the tree and start thinking about gifts for those we love. We’ve already gathered gifts for several donation collections and she has about three more she wants to help. She was bothered a bit that we didn’t take a food donation to church this morning – my fault, I forgot. How did my child gain such an awareness that there are others in need and that we are responsible for helping?

Her class worked on writing friendly letters in class over the last few weeks, adding a letter to Santa last week. Zilla finished hers this evening, asking only for two small things for herself. As she wrote, she asked my husband and me what “non-thing items” we would like for Christmas. I told her I’d like peace and happiness for my family, the Hub told her he would like the gift of time. She included those in her letter. I was floored. When did my little girl gain an appreciation for the gifts that money can’t buy?

We’re enjoying all the trappings of the season, things like hot chocolate and footed pajamas, warm slippers and cozy socks, candy canes and cookies, holiday movies and popcorn… And of course she is wound up and silly and taking full advantage of the slightly relaxed rules about weekend bedtimes and screen time and sweets, just like any other kid. But even in her silliness, there is balance, and it amazes me. Have I taught her these things? She teaches me always…

She gets it – all of it. She understands the fun and frolic and she understands the significance of this season in our faith narrative. She believes in Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus and in the gift of the Christ Child. She believes in what is right and good and that those things will always triumph. She believes in love.

My daughter believes this is going to be the best Christmas ever.

I believe she’s right.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Six Sentence Stories – First Draft

A half-balled wad of paper sailed across the room – whoosh – into the can.

The sun moved with purpose past the windows of the room and as the light waned, so did his confidence and page by page, chapter by chapter, words sailed across the room, the tightening wads a clear indicator of his mounting frustration.

paper-1484048_1920

He looked at the clock; bloody hell, I’ve only got an hour.

He rolled his chair across the room and began reclaiming the discarded prose from the trash can page by page, chapter by chapter, lovingly smoothing and stacking each one in its proper place and collecting them with a black shoelace.

A sharp knock and a voice at the door: “Sir? I’m here to pick up your draft, sir.”

He opened the door, thrust the wrinkled stack at the messenger and sighed, “Here – tell them to start with this.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Six SentenceEach week, the lovely and talented Ivy Walker hosts a link-up challenging writers to spin a tale in six sentences – no more, no less. 

This week’s cue is DRAFT.

Click on the link right here to link your own post and read more Six Sentence Stories from some wonderful storytellers.

 

 

 

Two Days of Rest – #10Thankful

Sunday evening again. My least favorite time to write a TToT post.

Why, then, does it seem that I’m always doing mine on Sunday evening?

I thought I might skip this week because I have been sick. The yearly mandatory bout with bronchitis. I tried not to let it get away from me. But it did. It always does. I think I just have to concede that I have a chronic bronchitis thing and be done with it.

But let’s commence with the thankfulness because, honestly, I have too big a headache to give this much of my energy. Sorry. That’s just the way it is.

So first off, I’m thankful that I’m writing this at all. There, I said it.

Frozen homemade spaghetti sauce with cleaned and prepped fresh broccoli, all courtesy of our wonderful CSA membership. This means my family got a good dinner and I didn’t have to do much work (or cough all over it) to get the job done.

20161106_1844071

I’m thankful that I didn’t tell off someone who really irritated me this weekend. Considering my level of crankiness due to being sick, that’s not bad. And I’m so very grateful for my mom’s friendship and guidance in that situation and in all others, always.

I have not made much tangible progress with my NaNoWriMo projects this week once we got past day one. But. I’ve been planning and plotting and doing some reading and research so as soon as I kick this germ out of me once and for all – or at least enough that I can concentrate on writing – I’ll forge ahead and hopefully catch up. And hey, I didn’t go bonkers and decide I’m a failed writer because I got behind the eight ball, like instantly. OK, maybe once. A little. But I moved on.

Here’s a little convoluted hypo-gratitude for you: I’m thankful that I’ve had bronchitis enough times to know exactly what my doctor would tell me to do and that I had all supplies and treatments on hand already. I caved and started the antibiotic this afternoon, but it was clear that we had reached that point. And I’m glad I had some at the ready in the medicine cupboard.

For hot tea and the Hub’s amazing coffee and all other manner of warm drinks to soothe my body and soul, I am grateful. For a pile of good books to plow through curled up in bed or on a chair or on a couch. For enjoying a beautiful autumn day (twice) from just inside the sliding glass doors while plowing through books. For my Hub and Zilla for being perfectly happy to have an at-home weekend while I’m sick and for the fact that we were planning that anyway since last week was crammed full. For the best snuggles ever with my Zilla. For tissues.

I am thankful.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Ten Things of Thankful
<a href=” https://summat2thinkon.wordpress.com/ten-things-of-thankful/ ” target=”_blank”><img src=” https://summat2thinkon.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/10thankful-banner.jpg?w=700?w=700″ alt=”Ten Things of Thankful” style=”border:none;” /></a>

Your hosts

Join the Ten Things of Thankful Facebook Group

Six Sentence Stories – The Secret

“This is all your fault!” she screamed.

The demon smirked quietly to himself; maybe if she didn’t find it so thrilling to keep feeding me, she wouldn’t be in this position. But he liked her here – needy, never satisfied, desperate for the next volume and the next to feed this gorgeous compulsion he embedded in her brain.

old-books-436498_1920

He was always near, his breath in her ear sometimes the faint rustling of pages sliding smoothly against one another as they are turned, sometimes the staccatoed slap slap slapping against one another as they are hurriedly thumbed and flipped, his scent a familiar heady mixture of vanilla-anise-fruit-almond-wood, redolent of long-forgotten secrets tucked away behind eyes that still sparkled from out of a leathery face.

It began with a simple experiment: to keep a list of all the books she read in her lifetime, something that could be passed on to her children and later on to theirs so they might share her literary experiences and add their own.

When she discovered the empty leather notebook on one of her used book store digs, she knew it was the perfect vehicle for her legacy. Little did she know that within those fine papery leaves and scarred leather cover lived a demon, born of words and waiting for just the right soul to free him.

book-466730_1920

Soon her simple experiment became an obsession with reading all of the words ever written and with each dollar she spent on more books, she lost another friend, another loved one, another moment of her life.

You’re in so deep and you’ve lost everything, she felt him whisper, but none of it matters. You have your books now and you have me and we never have to leave this room again. Keep buying…keep reading…

Stick with me, my darling angel girl, and we’ll go everywhere… 

mortality-401222_1280

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Each week, the lovely and talented Ivy Walker hosts a link-up challenging writers to spin a tale in six sentences – no more, no less. 

I never posted last week’s Six, so I’m at it again with a two-fer in a twelve sentence offering. I know – it’s totally cheating. 

Last week’s word was STICK and this week’s is FAULT.

Click on the link right here to link your own post and read more Six Sentence Stories from some wonderful storytellers.

 

 

New Book Release – Fearless Flying by Karen Gordon

It’s been a while since I talked about or reviewed any books here on the blog, but I have something new for you today!

I have been so behind on my reading and reviewing (apologies to those I promised and still owe – I’m coming!) but one of my goals for November is to get back in a regular routine of reading and sharing the work of other authors.

Wait. You say you heard I was going to be off the grid writing for NaNoWriMo this month? Well, yes, that’s true. But if there’s one thing I think is worth taking time out for, it’s supporting a fellow writer.

But I do need to get back to my own writing, so let’s do this, OK?

~~~~~

About Fearless Flying:
An amazing job, check.
An adorable apartment, check.
A super supportive best friend, check.
There’s only one thing missing from Vivienne Ramsey’s perfect life…

And after ten years of waiting the time is finally right for her to seduce her dream man. Tonight she’s going to wear Danny out in bed until he dies a happy man. But before she can begin her carefully crafted strategy of seduction he’s headed for the door. And for once in her over-organized life Vivienne doesn’t have a back-up plan.

If he had only read the memo about his part in her happily-ever-after.

Available for purchase on Amazon

Fearless Flying is the second of Karen’s books that I’ve read. Neither has been the type of book I “typically” read. Chick lit and YA/NA are just not my usual fare. But hush, OK? I’m really willing to read just about anything and digging into Karen’s words was well worth the risk. The best thing about her books is her characters. They are so likable, so believable, and could be anyone you know.

Fearless Flying is a quick and absorbing read; I inhaled it on my Kindle app in well under 90 minutes. The story is fast-paced and engaging and makes it easy for the reader to get in Vivienne’s corner and cheer her on.

Vivienne is a terrific character. She’s super-organized and perhaps a bit of a control freak who is making a name for herself at her company. She is eager to please and excels at making the people she works for and cares about feel special and important. There are parts of her character that are admittedly slightly immature, but it all adds to her charming personality.

Vivienne is instantly likable and it’s easy to see why her friends, family, and co-workers love her so much. But that definitely makes you wonder what in the world is wrong with Danny since he’s the only one who seems to push her away, even when he tells her he’s interested.

You’ll get a healthy dose of sweet and steamy romance in this book. I don’t usually care for that in my fiction, but Karen handles it perfectly – it’s hot enough for those who enjoy that, and tasteful enough for those who might not. The love scenes suit the story well, though. They are appropriately and purposefully placed within the plot, rather than gratuitous sex scenes dumped in just to do it.

Overall, I quite enjoyed the book. By the end of the book, I really wanted more about Vivienne and Danny and all the rest and found myself asking out loud, “That’s how this ends???” But since I know there are more books coming in the series, I managed to get over it quickly and am looking forward to more from Karen.

~~~~~

About the Author:

Karen Gordon is an indie author who loves supporting strong and sexy women in fiction and in real life.

Born and raised in St. Charles, Missouri, she found her love of extraordinary stories about ordinary places by finding excitement in mundane suburbia.

Although she currently writes romance and chick lit, you never know what she might do next. (You’ll never find a woman-hating, bad-boy hero though.)

She currently lives with the loves of her life, three very cool geeky men and one perfect puppy, just outside of Memphis, TN.

Find Karen Here:  Website  / Twitter / Goodreads

 

Library Day – Behind Closed Doors

Whether in life or literature, when something appears too good to be true, it usually is.

We can never really know the truth about someone’s life until we live it. People’s lives appear precisely the way they intend no matter what truth exists privately. And while it is certainly easy to judge a book by its cover (who doesn’t?), it is best to reserve judgment until we read it. I was recently offered the opportunity to read B. A. Paris’ Behind Closed Doors in exchange for an honest review. After reading some sample chapters online, I was intrigued and easily drawn into the story.

Advance reviews and hype promised a “wonderfully horrifying” tale of “amazing evil.” Buzz from the novel’s UK release was exciting and mysterious. I can concede those points; the story that unfolds in Behind Closed Doors is indeed horrifying and I did find myself amazed that any person – real or imagined – could possibly do the things Jack Angel does in this novel. The story does offer mystery and excitement, as one might expect from the title.

 

Behind Closed Doors

 

To any observer, Jack Angel and Grace Harrington appear to have the perfect life. Two attractive and successful people meet unexpectedly and their whirlwind romance leads to an elegant wedding, an exotic honeymoon, and a stunning custom-made home that provides the perfect backdrop for their perfect marriage. They appear to have it all. But as the cover teases, both the reader and the novel’s other characters quickly begin to wonder whether Jack and Grace are living the perfect marriage or a perfect lie.

Some of Jack and Grace’s friends are in awe (and perhaps a bit suspicious) of their seemingly perfect life. But Paris does not carry these suspicions through the novel consistently enough to truly make us wonder, at least not with the characters who will ultimately prove critical in the end. It is actually Grace’s younger sister Millie who makes us look carefully at Jack. A dashing and successful lawyer, Jack sweeps not only Grace off her feet, but her sister as well. Millie is as easily enamored of Jack as Grace is until something happens to change her mind. From that moment on, the reader distrusts Jack right along with Grace and Millie, and for good reason.

The majority of the novel is devoted to revealing the sordid details of Jack and Grace’s marriage in chapters alternating between past and present. The story and the writing are engaging enough that I finished it in two short sittings; it is a quick. easy read and well-written. Unfortunately, I found the characters fairly one-dimensional, and therefore unbelievable. It is easy to like Grace, to love sweet Millie, and even to be charmed by Jack, but human beings are simply far more complex than Paris allows her characters to be.

We’ve seen Jack’s character before; he is basically a stock character, the movie-star handsome and successful lawyer who hides a sinister secret (think The Devil’s Advocate or The Firm). We know he is capable of unspeakable acts, but mainly from Grace’s perspective. Grace is introduced as charming, intelligent, and capable with an exciting career. But as her relationship with Jack intensifies, her personality diminishes. Millie is sweet, innocent, and easy to love. It is she more than Grace, perhaps, who prompts the reader to fall in love with Jack right along with the Harrington sisters.

The novel’s title and opening pages make it clear enough that the tale is one of terror that I don’t feel I’m giving too much away here by mentioning that Grace endures horrific and terrifying abuse of all kinds at the hands of Jack. The emotional and psychological torture is dark and disturbing, but at the same time I found the scenarios lacking any real sense of tension or danger. I kept reading mostly because I was hoping for some real edge-of-your-seat horror or redemption for any of the characters, but it never quite happens.

 

 

Some readers have questioned Paris’ use of Down Syndrome for Millie’s character and I can understand why – no one wants to think of Millie in this unspeakable danger. I might see where Paris was going, though; perhaps her intent was to present Millie as someone so sweet and guileless that her distrust of Jack bears weight over the gossipy suspicions of Grace’s female friends who simply come across as jealous.

Overall, the story and the writing were absolutely engaging enough to keep me reading, but I was disappointed by the lack of depth in the characters. I found myself wishing more than once that Paris would have explored other particular details of the story more fully and I found the ending to be somewhat of a letdown. There was a definite resolution to the story, but it was predictable and I was rather hoping for a shocking end.

If you like a light mystery and can stomach the type of violence in here, you will likely enjoy this book. If you are looking for deep plot development or intense character development and interaction, though, you will fare better elsewhere. I would be unlikely to purchase this book on my own, but can appreciate it for what it is – a quick and easy read that does not require too much from the reader to keep turning pages. It’s a good beach or poolside read.

Thank you to Macmillan and St. Martin’s Press for providing an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

#10Thankful – Another Year Older

So my blog and I both had birthdays this week.

My blog is four years old. Imagine that. And me? Well, I’m four and then some. Birthdays have a way of prompting retrospection, don’t they. At least for me. I often find myself reflective around birthdays – take time to consider where I’ve been, where I’m going…just think.

So for starters, I’m thankful for another year of life and one that has brought many changes and surprises. It’s been a year of progress (my One Word, as I recall) and that is always a good thing. I spent time on my birthday with the people closest and most dear to me. I received many thoughtful cards and messages and gifts – all of which really touched me in so many ways. And the Hub started the day off by leaving me several little birthday notes in places he knew I’d find them. Too cute.

20160630_110143[1]

I am thankful for CSA produce! I know I put that on here every week lately, but it really is awesome. I love having the fresh produce straight off our local organic farm fields. And it makes meal prep kind of easy, too. The ingredients are supplied; I just have to put my creativity to use and figure out how to use them.

20160628_234621[1]

This week we had another round of the sugar snap pea pasta we had last week. It was delicious. Again.

20160623_185355[1]

The new carpet on the stairs remains (knock wood) unspoiled by Rotten Cat deposits. We are very happy for that. And the dark color keeps the stairs from looking filthy the minute one of the Rottens drops even one black hair on it. I suppose the down side to that is that it’s easier to forget to vacuum…but we’re working on that not being the case.

I am thankful for things like Shark Week and Hallmark’s Keepsake Ornament week during which they show Christmas movies on TV in July and fireworks and summer theatre excursions…all the things we enjoy together as a family that help maintain and strengthen the bonds we already share.

We’ve accomplished a few more small projects around the house this week and have plans in place for many more as the summer unfolds. Maybe it’s a throwback to my years as a teacher or just to having time off from school in the summer as a kid, but to me summer is the time to work on projects and improvements. I’m not much of a spring cleaner, but summer gets me going.

I am very glad to be tackling at least one of my writing projects this month. Yup, I signed up for the CampNaNoWriMo thing during July and have committed to getting a few of the books I want for my kids’ book series written, edited, and illustrated before summer is over. My goal is to start shopping for some readers and (hopefully) a publisher come fall.

I’ve also been doing a tremendous amount of reading just for pleasure, something I used to do quite voraciously and over time due to college and work and marriage and work and buying a house and having a kid and grad school and just all the things I fell out of the habit. I have a huge list and pile of things I want to read and I’m so very happy to be working my way through.

I am always thankful for Kidzilla and the Hub. They are my loves, my life, and they make every day beautiful.

And now I am thankful to finish this list and get on to other things. I didn’t do so well at getting around to read other posts last week (sorry!) so I hope to do a better job in that department this time around. It won’t be until after the long holiday weekend, though, for sure. We’ll be off doing…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Your turn – what are you thankful for this week? What are your favorite summer activities and habits? You know the drill – share ’em or link ’em. And don’t forget to check out the rest of the posts in the link-up by clicking that blue button down there.

Ten Things of Thankful
<a href=” https://summat2thinkon.wordpress.com/ten-things-of-thankful/ ” target=”_blank”><img src=” https://summat2thinkon.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/10thankful-banner.jpg?w=700?w=700″ alt=”Ten Things of Thankful” style=”border:none;” /></a>

Your hosts

Join the Ten Things of Thankful Facebook Group

#10Thankful – Rainy Weekend Days

There is nothing quite like a good rainy day.

OK, it’s not actually raining right now, but it’s cool and cloudy and the threat is present. And I , for one, am pretty glad for it. First of all, I love the rain (provided I’m not actually out in it getting wet, of course). Second, my allergies would love for the rain to put some of this pollen at bay so I can breathe.

Something about a cool, rainy weekend just feels like permission to curl up with books and movies and letters or maybe stare out the window and do some writing.

 

20160430_150731_HDR[1]

 

Continue reading “#10Thankful – Rainy Weekend Days”

Finding Time for Words

Lately, I find that words fail me.

The desire to write exists, but when I sit down and attempt to get to it…nothing happens. Blog posts, my personal works-in-progress, letters, e-mails, even something as simple as the weekly to-do list or an errand reminder – all seem too hard.

And it’s so easy to blame outside forces, isn’t it?  There’s too much to do. There’s not enough time to write. There’s nothing to write about. But those statements could – and perhaps should – be turned very personal. I’m busy. I’m too tired. I’m not inspired by anything right now. Eventually, in the moments when I’m honest with myself, I realize that the inability to write comes only from me.

20150203_224637[1] Continue reading “Finding Time for Words”