Believer

I believe in hitting snooze one too many times, that you can never have enough blank journals or books in your “to be read pile.” I believe in holding doors for strangers.

I believe that a good hug can melt away all of the day’s stress, that you can’t go wrong with a classic hot fudge sundae or any of the rom-coms from the 1980s and 1990s (I’m looking at you, When Harry Met Sally and You’ve Got Mail and Clueless).

I believe in reading more than one book at a time, that a clean house doesn’t need to be at the top of my to-do list, and that sitting outside, under the stars and next to a fire is one of the best ways to clear my mind.

I am a believer in owning too many pairs of comfy pajama pants and just one or two killer pairs of jeans, the kind you can where anywhere, for any occasion; in workouts that hurt so good you can’t walk correctly the next day, even after a good stretching session; in eating crackers, cheese, olives and pepperoni for dinner.

I believe that there is more good than bad in the world, even if it’s tough to see some days, in the power of an “I’m thinking of you,” card or text, in 20 minute naps on a Sunday afternoon (or, ok maybe they become two hour naps).

I am a believer in cranking the radio up loudly and rocking out, not giving a hoot who is watching; in saying “I love you,” as often as you can because you just never know… ; that homemade chocolate chip cookies are still the best cookie out there; in karma. In building each other up, encouraging one another on our roughest days.

I believe in hot chocolate and pots of gold at the end of rainbows. In happy endings and schmoop. In crying it all out because sometimes, you just have to. In rallying around one another during hardships and times of joy because I know it’s saved my ass more than once. In leaving messages even if they aren’t returned. In reaching out, even if there’s silence on the other end.

I am a believer that there is more to learn: in the pages of the books and journals my mom left behind; the notes from my grandparents who have gone before me; in the lines on a stranger’s face or the glint in their eye.

I believe in cliches like “one day at a time,” and “case of the Mondays,”; in drinking my 64 ounces of water a day; in petting my dog and kissing my husband every night before I go to sleep; in getting pizza for dinner after a long day; laughing until I’m crying and my stomach hurts; in loving and living as hard as I can every day…even those days where everything is askew and messy.

What do you believe in? 

Book Review: Ghost Horse

Ghost Horse by Thomas H. McNeely is a beast of a book; full of self-discovery, harsh realities and a sense of hope, this novel is worth the read.

Ghost HorseConsidering the main character, Buddy, is a young man this book seems like it would have a place on the shelves of high school libraries, recommended by the English teachers, and for any adolescent male struggling to make sense of the world. Buddy is trapped between what he wants to believe vs. what reality is, making decisions for himself and pleasing his family: a tough spot for him to be in as it is. Add to that a tough political scene in Texas, a best friend who is Latino and discovering secrets about your father and you’ve got a lot for Buddy to work through. While the subject matter was not my favorite (this book is tough to read at times, just because you can feel the conflict – very well written) I give this a 3.5 out of 5 stars.

About this book: 

Set amidst the social tensions of 1970’s Houston, Ghost Horse tells the story of eleven-year-old Buddy Turner’s shifting alliances within his fragmented family and with two other boys–one Anglo, one Latino–in their quest to make a Super-8 animated movie. As his father’s many secrets begin to unravel, Buddy discovers the real movie: the intersection between life as he sees it and the truth of his own past. In a vivid story of love, friendship, and betrayal, Ghost Horse explores a boy’s swiftly changing awareness of himself and the world through the lens of imagination

Praise for this book: “An elegy for a lost father, an unforgettable fable of the power of art, Ghost Horse weaves a singular spell, captivating the reader and never letting go.”–Adam Johnson, author of The Orphan Master’s Son, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

You can purchase Ghost Horse via Barnes & Noble or Amazon and add it to your Goodreads list!

Do you enjoy reading books with a main character that is younger and/or of the opposite sex? 

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

Still Here

I’m still here, I promise.

I’ve been filling my days with all sorts of things: crazy work days, working out less thanks to a torn ab muscle, supporting friends near and far as they navigate life changes (addition of a family member! loss of a family member! transitions and other things), cooking and baking up a storm because it’s fall after all, reading as much as I can, cheering on the STL Cardinals until they fell to the Giants, and am now shifting my fandom to the KC Royals to win the World Series, long talks with Knight, beginning the unpleasant process of helping my dad sift and sort through my mom’s possessions. There’s a lot on my mind these days, just haven’t found the words to express it all… yet!

And while I may not be writing much here, I am writing: today the lovely Kathleen (seriously, need to get to Texas to meet her already) is featuring me on her blog as part of her Working Mama series. I’m honored to be included and hope you’ll take the time to read about my perspective as a Working (Bonus!) Mama.

In the meantime, happy fall and go Royals!

Two Years

Today marks two years since I walked down the aisle towards Knight and said “I do.”

love 3Two years since we’ve kissed each other good night each evening before bed. Two years of cheering on the St. Louis Cardinals during the post-season, of me teasing him about his choice of football team (the Vikings) and me being a bit smug about mine (the Packers!).

Two years of him being my rock, of us figuring out how to laugh during the hard times (oh boy, have there been some crazy hard times), of him dazzling me with his grilling skills and me delighting him with my latest baking creations.

Two years of falling deeper in love, appreciating each other more, holding each other tighter, and supporting one another more than the day before.

Two years of inside jokes, division of labor when it comes to household chores (he gets the lawn, I get the laundry), of binge watching oh-so-addictive-shows on Netflix, of pushing each other to work out harder, cheering each other on personally and professionally.

He is and always will be my favorite guy, my very best friend, my love and my husband.

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Freedom

Im-Free2_zpsa62fcbf5A few weeks ago I deleted the un-watched episodes of the most recent Parenthood season from my DVR. I stopped watching the show when my mom got sick, hoping that one day we’d stay home together and have an epic marathon. When she passed I saved them, telling myself I’d be ready for them before the final season started. I realized that I’m not ready to watch it,  not yet. Instead, I deleted the remaining episodes and immediately felt a little bit more free because there is one less reminder of things that I used to do with my mom that I can’t do the same way and I’m not ready to face, not yet. {Image Via}

I haven’t journaled a single page since the day before we found out that my mom needed to have surgery. That was almost a year ago. I’ve got journals stacked up from friends, some from my mom and others that my dad has given to me (my mom was notorious for having more journals than she needed). Each time I go on a trip, even if just for a weekend, I take a journal with me in the hopes that this will be the time I break it open, write it all out, let it all out and yet, the journals remain untouched.

The last time I sat foot in an Ann Taylor Loft or Banana Republic or The Limited was eons ago. I don’t even remember. Shopping was our thing. Mom would tell me with 100% honesty if the pants worked (or didn’t), she’d help me with fun combinations I hadn’t thought of. While I don’t need any new clothes, I miss the experience, the chats we would have about anything and everything. The only clothes I’ve found myself able to buy: workout clothes, PJ’s and new running shoes.

In the last few weeks I’ve been down on myself because I can’t bring myself to do these seemingly everyday things that others don’t even bat an eye at. It’s been hard. It’s hard to talk to about those things I miss doing too–mostly because I’m tired of hearing people say “but your mom would want…” and then they fill in the blank on what my mom would want/think/say. I know that my mom doesn’t want me to be sad, to struggle, to have these little issues and pains crop up, but … it’s inevitable after a loss of this magnitude. I’m pretty sure that wherever my mom is today, she knows that.

Instead of feeling bad I’ve been working on giving myself permission to be OK with my feelings and actions. I’m acknowledging these hard moments, telling myself it’s normal, it’s ok and that I don’t have to have it all figured out this year. There’s no rule book telling me that I have to do everything I did before mom. I’m letting go of my expectations of myself and in some respects, my expectations of others, and that is so freeing. Each time I choose to be accepting of my feelings rather than pushing back on them, I feel like a giant weight has been lifted from my shoulders.

Someday I’ll be ready to binge watch the heck out of Parenthood or going on a shopping spree so big I have no hangers left in my closet but for now I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be, doing exactly what I’m meant to be doing.

How do you deal with your own personal expectations? Any tips/tricks on letting those thoughts and feelings go? 

Whiny Whiny Rhino, a Children’s Book Review

Whiny Whiny Rhino big (640x800)I love a good children’s book just as much as I love a good, sink-my-teeth-into-it-adult-fiction book. Obviously I jumped at the chance to read and review this new children’s book, Whiny Whiny Rhino by McBoop because: a) another book to put on the bonus girls’ shelf, b) I have several friends who are teachers, c) even more friends both in blogworld and locally with toddlers and d) the cover of the book caught my attention. And e) I love the name of the author: McBoop!

This book is positively adorable: the pictures will catch the attention of any child as they are bright, bold, beautiful and they have a lot going on. The message is perfect for both children & adults alike: rather than fretting, go and live your life, try new things and see what happens. You may discover something new!

I can’t wait to share this book with my youngest bonus child next summer as she’s the more apprehensive of the two. The length of the book is perfect, it flows well, and it’s such a great story. What’s not to love!?

About this book:

Can Tiny Tiny Rhino have a fun day?

Or will all of his whining get in the way?

If you’ve ever been worried to try something new,

then Whiny Whiny Rhino is the book for you!

The story’s message is like the Mark Twain quote, “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.” We all get apprehensive when encountering new experiences and this often leads us to avoid ever trying anything new. Just having a little courage to try new things can often lead to a much more exciting and enriching life.

 

McBoopAuthor’s Bio:

McBoop is the creative team of Carmin Iadonisi & Amanda Iadonisi-Word. This father-daughter duo co-wrote and illustrated Whiny Whiny Rhino. They currently live in New England where they enjoy making art, reading comics, playing board games, eating fancy chocolate and whining about the weather.

Connect with them here:

Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter

Where to buy the book:

Amazon

What’s the best life-lesson you learned from a children’s book (either as a child or a grown-up)? 

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

30.1

As of early this morning (2:32 am or 2:52 am, I don’t remember which) I’m officially 31, or as I’m opting to call it 30.1. There will be a quiet celebration over the course of the week since my family believes in Birthday Weeks. It started Saturday evening with a lovely dinner featuring smoked pulled pork thanks to the hubs, cheesy biscuits made by me, potato casserole from a friend, and way too  many desserts including: maple brown sugar cookies, brownies, gooey butter pumpkin cake, and a variety of cake pops and glitter bites from the very same place that did the desserts for our wedding.

This year is a bit different from a celebration perspective as I’m missing my mom in the worst way but I’m smiling today because there are so many other people who have showed up for me this year, surrounding me with love. I’m eternally grateful.

I don’t have much to say about 30.1 so instead, I’m sharing a few random facts about me from over the years that maybe you don’t know about me:

* I was born during a massive rainstorm in the NY/NJ area. My parents say that’s why I love rain so much. I would agree.

* When I was in high school, I was an assistant teacher for an etiquette and cotillion. To this day I still hear songs on the radio that we used for the dance portion and I can remember a few steps of each type of dance we taught.

* My sophomore through senior year in high school I was a volunteer camp counselor for the sixth grade camp. I have some of the best memories of my girls and my co-counselors.

* I’ve never been fishing or camping (the kind where you pitch a tent, build a fire, etc.).

* When I was in band (also in high school) our school was selected to march in in the New Year’s Eve Parade at Magic Kingdom in Orlando, FL. Best high school trip ever.

* I prefer chocolate to wine (or beer).

* I had a very brief stint my freshman year in high school as a model for a local magazine: I got to do a very fun and funky 1950s Prom shoot and then a few jewelry shoots.

* In middle school I was obsessed with all things theater which led to me being a stage manager for all the spring & fall plays we did in the 7th and 8th grade.

What’s one fact that most people don’t know about you? 

(Not) Awesome

Things that are not awesome: 

* The last hail storm that came through our town caused legit damage to our roof (shingles with holes, wind damage) and gutters.

* Before our work trip/vacation our washer died mid-cycle.

* We came home to a nasty stench in our basement. Cause: dead mouse.

* Our sump pump is fried.

* I’m pretty sure this year has been nothing but bleeding money.

* Never-ending post-divorce bullshit.

* Celebrating birthdays without my mom.

* Upper respiratory infection + laryngitis + a cough that is so ridiculous I haven’t been sleeping well.

Things that are awesome: 

* Enough people in our area have had total roof replacements that we should be able to get the same via our house insurance, minus of course the cost of our deductible.

* Snagging an awesome deal on our new washer & dryer thanks to it being last year’s model (but still just as energy efficient, quiet and new). Also: finding a buyer for our old washer & dryer on Craigslist. Oh, and “free” set-up & delivery.

* Husbands who find said dead mouse and dispose of it.

* Husbands who know how to replace the sump pump.

* Finding little ways to save more money which is always important, but especially so when I feel like all I see is money flying out of our windows.

* I don’t have a counter to this one because: unnecessary stress and aggravation all the time.

* Friends and family who have been reaching out to me in anticipation of my birthday on Monday. It’s not even close to the Mom Magic that’s missing from my life but it does help.

* Doctor’s who call in prescriptions swiftly for me and a flexible company that lets me work from home when I have no voice (or energy).

What’s on your not awesome/awesome list this week? Any fun fall weekend plans? 

Review: A Matter of Mercy

A Matter oA_Matter_of_Mercy_Cover-199x300f Mercy by Lynne Hugo is a novel full of emotions: Caroline returns home to care for her mother who is slowly dying of ovarian cancer. You’ll quickly learn that Caroline hasn’t been to her home town for years due to a tragic accident that occurred years before, an accident that she is still coming to terms with. Enter Ridley, a former acquaintance of Caroline from her high school days and a bit of a romance ensues. While Caroline’s mom is dying and she wrestles with her feelings for “Rid,” as he likes to be called, Rid is suddenly involved in a lawsuit over his grant of land (he’s an oyster farmer) which causes unrest in the town, Caroline to be harassed and tempers to be tested.

I don’t know that I would normally pick this novel up on my own, but the imagery of the area that Hugo describes is absolutely stunning and like any good writer, you’ll be rooting for Rid to win his lawsuit and for Caroline & Rid to wind up together. (I’m a sucker for anything that takes on or near a beach.)

I would not recommend this book for anyone who has recently lost a loved one to cancer as it’s rough to read at the beginning but it’s necessary in a way, as it sets up the book with some foreshadowing and important topics that Hugo addresses as the novel continues.

This book isn’t as lighthearted as I expected but wound up being a lovely treat to read and I admittedly learned a lot about oyster growing, farming and harvesting.

You can learn more about Lynne Hugo via her Facebook or website, and purchase A Matter of Mercy on Amazon.

Do you have a favorite geographical setting for novels? 

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Disclosure: I was provided a copy of this novel for the purposes of my review. All opinions are my own and I was not otherwise compensated.

Review: Ballroom

I wanted so badly to love this book, to fall into the pages and never want to climb out. While there were parts of this novel that I did enjoy the rest of the story was melancholy and heavy.

Alice Simpson, author of Ballroom does a great job of making you feel like you know the characters, can understand their pain (trust me, there’s a lot of pain, longing, angst among the key players in this book) and as a result, you hope that they will each find their happiness.

At the center of this story is the Ballroom. It’s where Gabriel goes to escape his crumbling marriage, looking for solace in another woman’s arms. There’s Sarah who goes to the Ballroom regularly in the hopes that she can get Gabriel’s attention. You’ll learn about Harry Korn, a former dance instructor who is in love with the much younger Maria Rodriguez who of course is in love with someone else, her dance partner Angel. And lastly, Joseph who looks forward to dancing each week so that he can do his best to catch Sarah’s eye. Throughout the novel Simpson explains how each person turned to dancing, their pasts (many of which are incredibly sad), and their hopes for the future.

I enjoyed the quotes Simpson including from texts about ballroom dancing: rules, etiquette and etc. Of all the characters in the book, Maria and Angel were my two most favorite as they were a little less doom-and-gloom than the others.

Overall, this book earns three stars out of five from me since the writing was better than I expected, but the story earns a 2.5.

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Disclosure: I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book for the purposes of the review. All opinions are my own.