On August.

August was a month of transition. From a family of four back to a family of two. From a flexible work schedule back to a more normal-five-days-in-the-office schedule.

I spent thello Septemberhe first two weeks trying to get things back to “normal.” Cleaning up after the girls, trying to do it on the sly so it wouldn’t make Knight more sad than he already was. Guessing which clothes they would fit/like/care about next summer vs. what we could sell, donate or give to friends. Finding hair ties and empty snack bags under the cushions of our sofa. And just when I thought I had everything in order, another stuffed animal or note would be discovered, and I’d get sad and emotional all over again. Bittersweet.

I spent the whole month getting back to me: making my fitness, my health, my relationship with Knight a priority. I’ll share more about my health and wellness next week but suffice to say, I’m so very glad I went head-first into the 3S Fitness program. I’ve been sore. I’ve cursed. I’ve loved every second of it. I have witnessed both scale and non-scale victories and I feel good which is what it is all about.

I read a whole book in less than a weekend; I couldn’t tell you the last time that happened. I treated myself to fancy markers so I could continue my adult coloring book addiction. I’ve held my friends babies every chance I get, marveling at how quickly they change, loving watching my friends turn into parents. We hosted friends from out of town, threw an awesome party at my dad’s pool. I hugged friends in DC and showed Knight my favorite historical/political science geek spots. I got hooked on Entourage (10 years late, I know). I let myself cry when necessary… even when it means I’m crying at airport baggage claim because a grandmother is oohing and aahing over her daughter’s baby which is both joyous but sad; I can’t share that with my mother if I ever have a child.

September is here, one of my favorite months: so many of my favorite people have birthdays this month. Eventually fall will start to settle in around us, meaning scarves and windows open and leaf raking, pumpkin in every type of food imaginable, and before we know it, we’ll be on a downhill slide into 2016.

Here’s to September.

 

 

 

Still

I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it. I’ll never get used to her being gone.

Tears slip out of my eyes without me realizing it when I’m watching a particularly sweet moment between a TV mom and her TV daughter (ahem, Friday Night Lights, Gilmore Girls). These shows bring back memories I had long since forgotten but am so thankful to have: the day my mom went with me to get my driver’s license, or our annual back to school shopping trips. And yet, I’m still angry, bitter and sad because I have all the memories I will ever have of my mom. I know I’m lucky to have 32 years of them but I want more. I’m selfish like that. I put books down that deal with cancer, death or the loss of a loved one.

I miss her scent and her hug. Her laugh. Her silly (mostly horrible) jokes, and how funny she thought they were. I miss her keeping us all grounded and together. I miss her spontaneous texts asking if we want to grab ice cream or dinner or read at Barnes & Noble. I miss her support and her carefree attitude. I miss everything about her, even the stupid fights we got into (oh, if I could do it all over again, we would never have fought). Her dance moves. How fast her fingers would fly over the piano keys. Her encouraging words. How she’d show up on my doorstep if I wasn’t feeling well with mint chocolate chip ice cream (the white ice cream with mint chips, never green ice cream) and a brand new can of real hot fudge (not the fake stuff).

I miss her on the arm of my dad. Their wedding anniversary is this weekend… would have been 35 years of marriage and nearly 40 years of togetherness. My dad is returning to the place where it all started for them, visiting my godparents and likely retracing the steps to the courthouse where they got married. She may not be here but my dad is still wildly in love with my mom. That’s a marriage, if you ask me.

I miss her making a big deal out of my birthday, which is in a little over a month. I don’t like my birthday now. The men in my family don’t get the importance of birthday week or how to make it special like she did. Bless their hearts for trying but it’s never quite right. (Ironic since I know how lucky and special birthdays are anymore.)

I haven’t grown out of needing motherly advice.  Of wishing she could weigh-in on a challenging Bonus Mom/Parenting situation, or how to deal with a rough customer. Asking which dress to wear to which function, or the best present for a baby shower/wedding/anniversary party. Or the best way to wear this or that dress, with these shoes or those? I read Vogue in the hopes of gaining some of her fashion forward knowledge but I don’t think it’s working.

There are still days where I think “oh, gosh, Mom would LOVE that,” only to realize that while she surely would, I can’t buy it for her, or share it with her. I have picked up my phone to call or text her, even after 19 months. That’s all it has been and yet it feels like forever… still and forever, I miss you, mom.

 

Mid-week Confessions

* I have a thing for Terrence Howard. His eyes. That voice. Even though he was a horrible person in Crash (the first movie I saw him in), I’ve followed him every since, and have the soundtrack to Hustle n’ Flow.

* I’m in a complete reading slump. Nothing is fixing it: not romance, not chick lit, not a mystery. I can’t find anything that really grabs me and sucks me in, takes me for a ride. Please give me suggestions (preferably nothing too heavy. I had to put a book down that dealt with loss/death, still not good with those topics yet.) I don’t think I’ll be finishing the Book Riot Read Harder challenge, either. I tried a few books for the topics I have left and just couldn’t get into them. Life is too short to read books I don’t dig, you know?

* Tennis league starts tonight and I’m secretly hoping it rains and is canceled. I don’t know the girls I’m playing with and am quite sore from my workouts this week (and have 3 sets to do tonight) so really, a night “off” would be ok with me.

* I have been late to work every day this week and I really don’t care… which I know is bad.

* I’m ready for fall. Crisp, crunchy leaves under my feet, scarves and boots, nights with the windows open. It’s my favorite.

* I never know what to say when people ask me what I want for my birthday, or what I want to do. I also can’t believe I’ll be 32.

* The girls have been gone for three weeks and I’m still riding around with booster seats in my car. They are headed back to school today and I’m sad that I can’t be there to see them off, hear about their first day, help them with homework.

What are your mid-week confessions? Any fun books to recommend that will get me back on track? 

Entertainment

A list of things that have caught my eye and attention lately…

* Once Upon A Time. Knight’s sister recommended it to me and my goodness, I love it. The first three seasons are on Netflix for streaming and I’m maybe halfway through season one (maybe). It is like Disney for grown-ups, full of twists and turns, friends and enemies, love and betrayal. I do not recommend watching it right before bed or else you will have some strange dreams (like I did).

* Ballers. If you read this blog for any amount of time you’ll know that I love The Rock (Dwayne Johnson). I’ve watched his serious and silly movies, recorded the SNL he hosted and shamelessly follow him on Instagram. Knight loves any show/movie about sports. And so, our mutual love for Ballers, on HBO, was born. It can be a particularly crass and inappropriate show between the language and the women who throw themselves at the football players but it’s got some interesting underlying messages and what some former NFL players have called a very authentic look at the sport, both on and off the field.

* Grace and Frankie (Netflix original). I remember Jane Fonda from her workout vidoes; I used to them with my mom. I decided to check this show out on a whim, and I’m glad I did. Besides an awesome cast (hello Ethan Embry from Empire Records and Can’t Hardly Wait; my teenage heart still has a crush on him) the show is poignant, funny, and shows an alternate way of spending your golden years.

* Anything Goes, the Musical. A firm believer in experiences/memories vs. things, I bought my dad tickets to the theater to see Anything Goes, a Cole Porter musical. We went a little over a week ago, and my goodness, it was fantastic. The singing. The costumes. The tap dancers who just never stopped. I loved having a night out with just my dad, treating him to an evening on the town and all the laughter I heard come out of him. Just what he needed!

* Entourage. Yeah, I know it’s 2015 and this show is ten years old but it’s available on Amazon Prime, one of Knight’s favorite shows, so we casually started (re) watching it. I’ve not seen it before and I find it hilarious, especially all the cameos from real life actors/actresses who were “in” then (and maybe not so much now). I love the fashion, the scenery and find the fact that this show is loosely based on Mark Wahlberg’s life and his own entourage pretty fascinating. (Confession, I have been known to watch Wahlburgers. Don’t judge.)

I don’t have a lot to share on the book side of things, but after reading – and loving – Baker’s Blues, I’m hoping that there will be more reading in my future. I miss it. I need it.

What’s caught your attention lately, entertainment wise (books/movies/plays/concerts/tv shows)? 

 

Review: Baker’s Blues

I had been iBakers Bluesn a reading slump until I picked up “Baker’s Blues,” by Judith Ryan Hendricks, the third in the Bread Alone series. There is something so authentic about Hendricks writing style: real, raw and emotional. There wasn’t anything I didn’t like about this book which in a world of critics and critiques is rather rare.

I loved Wynter’s name (Wyn, for short). The scenes between Wyn and her dog, Brownie, brought tears to my eyes; you can tell Hendricks knows well the love between a dog and their human. I could smell the bread that Wyn bakes coming off the pages… and I resisted finding a giant loaf to devour. (Pro Tip: Don’t read this book if you just begun a new high protein diet. Your mouth will water at every mention of croissant, scone, butter, bread and chocolate.) I loved that even though I had not read the other two books in the series it was of little matter; everything you need to know about Wyn and Mac, and most of the other characters is all right here, wrapped into one lovely novel. Settle in with a cup of tea and some freshly baked bread and butter (or olive oil). Once you start reading this one, you won’t want to go anywhere for awhile.

Want to read this book? Add it to your Goodreads shelf and leave a comment below telling me what your favorite trilogy is OR what your favorite type of fresh pastry/baked good is. I have one copy of this book to giveaway to a reader in US/Canada! Entries (comments) must be received by August 19th at midnight. Winner will be chosen at random and notified via email.

About the book, from Barnes & Noble:

In Wyn Morrison’s world a 5 A.M. phone call is rarely good news. It usually means equipment trouble at her bakery or a first shift employee calling in sick—something annoying but mundane, fixable. But the news she receives on a warm July morning is anything but mundane. Or fixable.

Mac, her ex-husband, is dead.

He’s not just in a different house with another woman, but actually, physically gone. Ineligible for widowhood, Wyn is nonetheless shaken to her core as she discovers that the fact of divorce offers no immunity from grief.

As Mac’s executor, Wyn is now faced with not only sorting his possessions and selling the house, but also with helping his daughter Skye deal with financial and legal aspects of the estate–a task made more difficult by Skye’s grief, anger and resentment.

Ironically, just when Wyn needs support most, everyone she’s closest to is otherwise occupied. Her mother and stepfather have moved to Northern California, her best friend CM has finally married the love of her life and is commuting to New York, and her protégé Tyler is busy managing the bakery and dealing with her first serious love affair. They’re all sympathetic, but bewildered by her spiral into sadness. After all, it’s been three years since the divorce.

On her own, she stumbles at first. For the last several years Wyn has been more businesswoman than baker, leaving the actual bread making to others. Now, as she takes up her place in the bread rotation once more, she will sift through her memories, coming to terms with Mac and his demons, with Skye’s anger, and with Alex, who was once more than a friend. Soon she will re-learn the lessons that she first discovered at the Queen Street Bakery in Seattle…that bread is a process–slow, arduous, messy, mysterious–and best consumed with the eyes closed and the heart open.

The book is also available on Amazon.

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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for the purposes of my review; all opinions are my own and I was not otherwise compensated. 

Bitter Blessings

I’msmart not sure if I have any readers after the very impromptu hiatus the last few weeks, but I’m determined to get my blog back up and going, with regular posts and my oh-so-witty insights and random posts about  my life. I mean it. Really. I have been blogging for almost ten years now, and I can’t imagine my life without it and yet, sometimes life just doesn’t allow for it.

The last few weeks have been, in a word, rough. No two ways about it. The kidlets have flown the coup, to their fall/winter/spring home, leaving the house quiet, empty and messy. I’ve been doing laundry for days and while I’m not a fan of doing laundry, doing laundry for a child who isn’t around to wear it seems to be a special kind of hell. I’ve tossed the very random pieces of paper that they have kept (no really, things that say nothing, just scraps), I’ve sorted clothes into keep, donate, sell. The books are organized. There are no heads in beds. It’s… weird. I know I’m not their mother and I know they need their bio-mom but a small piece of my  heart breaks when they run from me, back into her arms. I won’t even talk about how Knight is doing because he’s been a straight mess.

As if having the kids leave, as if they were never here, wasn’t enough, Knight’s last grandparent passed away last week, which meant the very day after we dropped off the girls (and a piece of our heart), we traveled another five hours round trip for the visitation, funeral, burial and dinner. You guys, my heart. My eyes. So many tears. I didn’t know his grandmother well so I won’t pretend that I’m heartbroken over losing her, but definitely sad for the many things that I didn’t get to hear about, or that I didn’t get to know her. Funerals and loss are giant (duh) triggers for me so I spent a lot of the service sobbing my head off, wishing that I could talk to my mom or hug her, that I could know for sure that I’ll see her again someday. I miss my mom constantly but worse when things are tumultuous aka puddle of tears more than I’d like to admit. The funeral day ended with us in a giant heap on the couch, watching NCIS: LA from our DVR with lots of cuddles and kind words to one another, so pleased with our decision to take this past Monday off.

And because, you know, when it rains it pours, work stuff has been weird lately, there are a few other family matters that we are dealing with (and I hate vague posts just as much as the next person but I promise you that nothing is wrong with my marriage, I’m not pregnant and that I’m not writing this for sympathy or pity)… in other words, pile it the heck on, world!

In the midst of all of this, I’ve forgotten how to take care of me and our house: working out? HA. Eating well? Double ha. Clean house, staying organized and all of that has fallen by the wayside.

I started the road to recovery this week on both of these things because I’m here to confess this: I drink soda when the girls are here because I don’t like coffee. I pick it up when they are here, drop it when they leave. I also keep a stash of Double Stuf Oreos for me to treat myself with… and yes, I know treating myself with food is wrong, but maybe I don’t want to be right, ok? So. The road to eating better and less is back in full-force and today I began exercising again + I’m giving 3S Fitness a try for 30 days (more on that later) and I’m feeling hopeful and confident because I can get myself back in check, be strong and sexy like I was a whole six weeks ago. I also joined a hand-bell choir through Church, reminding me of elementary school when I played every week for Church; a tennis league that meets every Wednesday for six weeks (yup, I used to play tennis too! All throughout elementary + middle school); and I got a handle on my calendar, planning, trips and etc. The past two nights I’ve felt like myself again, less angsty and stressed, more bright and optimistic. Wading through emotions is tough stuff, but the only way out is through and I’m telling myself that surely there will be some goodness on the other side of all of this muckety muck.

It’s not pretty but it can’t always be confetti cannons and glitter rain, right? Onward.

Good Things Friday (v9, I think)

It has been a week around these parts. When that happens, I do what I do best: focus on my favorite moments, things or silliness from the week:

1. I have my very own Aaron Rodgers Green Bay Packer jersey. I can’t tell you how happy this makes me. I wore it around the house for a few hours after I got it. Now to figure out how to get myself to a Packers game this year…

2. My youngest bonus daughter has been singing a camp song about a moose all week and I finally captured it on video last night. It’s quite possibly the most adorable thing ever… and I’m pretty sure the song will be stuck in my head for weeks to come. “I’m a moose! Moose! Can’t you hear my call?

3. A glass of wine with a neighbor friend on Monday evening; I had her mail, she had a glass of wine for me. Win for everyone!

4. Exchanging texts with Nilsa about the STL Cards v. White Sox games. I love having a friend who loves the Cardinals as much as I do.

5. Random hugs and kisses from my bonus daughters. They really can be the sweetest creatures in the world (when they want to be).

6. Long, lingering walks with Jack; the weather has been gorgeous here the last few days, not higher than 85 degrees during the day, and it makes the walks and evenings so pleasant. Can’t get enough of the cool summer evenings.

7. Laughing with Knight over the “large” cheese dip at one of our favorite Mexican restaurants. Both girls love it so the smaller bowl doesn’t work for us right now; it’s gone in about 4 chips with the kidlets around. We asked for the large one and they brought it out in a small casserole dish (seriously). $10.50 and a lot of cheese dip later… we were still laughing. They should call it mammoth size because it was a lot of cheese dip. And yes there was some leftover when we left. And yes, the cheese dip was the most expensive thing on our bill that evening.

8. My blog-friend-turned-real-life-friend, Bri, is blogging again. This makes my heart happy.

What’s on your Good Things Friday list? 

 

Review: Newport

Let me preface this review with: I. Couldn’t. Put. This. Book. Down.

Once I hit chapter three, I was thoroughly intrigued by Newport, stayed up far later than I should have, and stole a few moments during the day to read as I had to know the connections between the characters, what would happen to Bennett Chapman and his plans to marry Catharine Walsh and just what exactly Adrian de la Noye was hiding about his past, if anything. Jill Morrow beautifully captures the Prohibition era, writing with grace while capturing the glitz and glamour of the era. The way Morrow writes the characters, I could picture each one as I read: their clothes, facial expressions, demeanor. This is another book where I’m not going to say more so as to not spoil the story for you, and instead I recommend you add this to your to-be-read pile. Balancing family and personal secrets, love and marriage, greed and the well-intended, Morrow weaves a fascinating story that was a treat to read.

 

Newport (428x648)About Newport

• Paperback: 384 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (July 7, 2015)

In a glamorous Newport mansion filled with secrets, a debonair lawyer must separate truth from deception. . . .

Spring 1921. The Great War is over, Prohibition is in full swing, the Great Depression is still years away. Wealthy families flock to the glittering “summer cottages” they built in Newport, Rhode Island.

Having sheltered in Newport during his misspent youth, attorney Adrian de la Noye is no stranger to the city. Though he’d prefer to forget the place, he returns to revise the will of a well-heeled client. Bennett Chapman’s offspring have the usual concerns about their father’s much-younger fiancée. But when they learn of the old widower’s firm belief that his late first wife, who “communicates” via séance, has chosen the stunning Catharine Walsh for him, they’re shocked. And for Adrian, encountering Catharine in the last place he saw her decades ago proves to be a far greater surprise.

Adrian is here to handle a will, and he intends to do so—just as soon as he unearths every last secret about the Chapmans, Catharine Walsh . . . and his own very fraught history.

Vividly bringing to life the glitzy era of the 1920s, Newport is a skillful alchemy of social satire, dark humor, and finely drawn characters.

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Purchase Links

Amazon | IndieBound | Barnes & Noble

Jill MorrowAbout Jill Morrow

Jill Morrow has enjoyed a wide spectrum of careers, from practicing law to singing with local bands. She holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Towson University and a JD from the University of Baltimore School of Law. She lives in Baltimore.

Find out more about Jill at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book for the purposes of my review. All opinions are my own. 

Lessons Learned: Bonus Momming

We are a little over the halfway mark (!) with my bonus daughters and while time is flying by at a rate I just can’t believe, I figured this is a good time to share somethings I’ve learned this summer.

* I can’t stand (really) some of the TV shows on the Disney channel. The jokes and puns are rather horrible, the kids dress in very unrealistic fashion and outfits, and I find that I miss shows like Full House, Boy Meets World and Growing Pains.

* I can, however, watch Frozen as many times as possible because seeing/hearing the girls sing the words to all the songs (and many of the lines) is kind of adorable and hilarious at the same time.

* Chickmunks is a much more fun word than chimpunks. Same for Crackel Barrel (vs. Cracker Barrel), stunk (instead of skunk), a campover (instead of sleepover), swimming on top of the water (instead of above the water) and scrunscreen (instead of sunscreen). Oh, and icksgust, instead of disgust. Icksgust is just way cuter.

* Taking the high road and biting my tongue can be really, really, really hard, especially when I’m told or hear things from the girls, as told to them by their bio-mom, that make me want to scream and shout.

* It is ok to skip Church every once in awhile in favor of an extra hour of sleep for everyone.

* Love and Logic works…most of the time (and when I remember to use it).

* Treating the kids to ice cream on a hot summer day is most necessary. It also reminds me of the kinds of things my mom did with me and my brother when we were younger. It’s all about creating memories.

* I’m still stuck in varying stages of grief depending on the day; I may have cried when talking to the girls about how I wish I could call my mom everyday (and have encouraged them to call theirs as much as they want, and hope they’ll call us more when they leave us in a few short weeks).

* I miss my friends and social life. Because we have such a short amount of time with the girls, our parenting + family of four is kind of all-consuming. Don’t get me wrong, we have group and friend outings, but I miss the relax-in-the-kitchen-wine-in-my-hand kind of evenings with our neighbors or other close by friends.

* Some of the Level 1 “I Can Read,” books are totally not level one type books. They throw weird made-up words in there and others that I am certain aren’t beginning/basic words.

* See also: hearing the littlest one read? Music to my ears. She doesn’t love it as much as her big sister, but we are getting there.

What lessons have you learned lately?

 

Currently, in July

Reading: Finishing City of Thieves for the Postal Book Club; I’m loving it but haven’t had a ton of time to devote to it between family vacation + work + there always being something to do at the house. After that, I have four books from the library and a few digital ones that I want to get to. We’ll see how it goes!

Loving: The last few days the temps have been mild for this time of year; we are talking in the 70s! It’s been rainy too, but I don’t mind too much. Any break we can get on the a/c is fine with me.

Thinking: My brain is in non-stop mode; when my bonus daughters are here I feel like I’m pulled in 20 directions at all times and as such, my brain is a series of half-finished sentences and ideas, projects that need to be done, plans for the week and etc. I’m also thinking that a nap would be glorious. I’m exhausted!

Frustrated: That there are some situations beyond my control, especially when I know that those situations could be avoided if people paid more attention and/or cared more.

Feeling: Fulfilled. Tired. Accomplished.

Anticipating: Upcoming trips in August, November and December, plus trying to squeeze one in to visit my brother in September/October time frame. It will be a whirlwind but I’m looking forward to it and thankful for the opportunity to travel.

Watching: Ballers on HBO (I love The Rock); Chrisley Knows Best (reality TV show on USA). Not a lot of time for longer shows or TV binges these days.

Sad: That our family vacation is over; it was wonderful. Also on a daily basis as I miss mom so much more when I’m parenting for some reason. There have been a lot of tears lately.

Working: Non-stop it seems like! The upside of flex time is that we have less babysitter costs. The down side? I feel like I’m always working to get my job done or to stay on top of things. My workouts took a hit the last week but during our family vacation we averaged about 5 miles a day of walking, and we are fast walkers, so I’ll take it. The workouts resume today as I miss them and need them (nor do I want to lose my muscle definition I’ve worked so hard for!)

Grateful: For the opportunities available to me!

Listening: The new album from Zac Brown Band; I can’t get enough of it.

Wishing: on a star.

What are you currently reading, watching or listening to?