Sometimes…

Sometimes….

* Nearly two weeks go by without me blogging a single thing, completely unintentionally. I miss blogging and yet putting words to paper (errr, screen) is difficult.

* There are work days that leave you wanting to pull out all of your hair, but thankfully repeating to yourself “it’s not worth it, this is not important,” on the way home gets you centered before walking in the door. (It helps that Jack is there wagging his tail, ready to greet you.)

* You can surprise yourself by running three miles out of the blue. Twice. In the same week. I guess that all TreadClimber and strength training action has been paying off.

* Receiving great news from a best friend deserves a little happy dance, even if no one is there to see you.

* Downloading yet another book on the Nook for $1.99 is totally and completely necessary.

* There is nothing like a birthday cake Rice Krispie treat. Or dog cuddles. Or a breeze on a spring evening. Or the first taste of fresh, on the cob, sweet corn. Or watching the birds fly back and forth to the bird feeder. Or savoring a few extra cuddles with the hubs and the pup in the morning.

* It’s important to remember that this moment, this evening, that time with friends, or those phone conversations, or even the ridiculous day at work: THIS is your life. This is what it’s made of. Take in every second, drink it, hold it, caress it, catalogue it. This is all we have and everything we have.

Your turn to fill in the blank. Sometimes___________.

 

Vintage, a Review

VintageVintage by Susan Gloss, how I love thee. I stayed up past my bedtime, forcing my eyes to stay open because this book is well-written, entertaining and lovely.

Vintage is Susan Gloss’s sparkling debut novel in the vein of The Friday Night Knitting Club, centered around a Midwestern vintage clothing shop and a group of women who eventually transform the store and each others’ lives.

At Hourglass Vintage in Madison, Wisconsin, every item in the boutique has a story to tell . . . and so do the women who are drawn there.

Violet Turner has always dreamed of owning a shop like Hourglass Vintage. When she is faced with the possibility of losing it, she realizes that, as much as she wants to, she cannot save it alone.

Eighteen-year-old April Morgan is nearly five months along in an unplanned pregnancy when her hasty engagement is broken. When she returns the perfect 1950s wedding dress, she discovers unexpected possibilities and friends who won’t let her give up on her dreams.

Betrayed by her husband, Amithi Singh begins selling off her old clothes, remnants of her past life. After decades of housekeeping and parenting a daughter who rejects her traditional ways, she fears she has nothing more ahead for her.

An engaging story that beautifully captures the essence of women’s friendship and love, Vintage is a charming tale of possibility, of finding renewal and hope when we least expect it.

Reasons I loved this book:

* The book is set in Madison, WI so as I’ve visited there a few times I could picture the settings (and the people) as Gloss described them

* The characters are relatable and their issues are, too: picking the right career path, fighting for what you believe in, living your passion, retaining your individuality while being in a relationship, sorting through the many curveballs life throws our way

* I’ve never been big into the vintage clothing scene but after reading this book, I’m intrigued. I don’t know if I could pull off the vintage look but I think it would be fun to add a few key pieces to my wardrobe or jewelry.

* This book deals with the topic of loss a little bit; while this is a topic that hits home for me these days. It was tough to read at times, but it’s also nice to be able to relate to writing a different way, now.

I super-duper recommend this book; perfect especially for trips, plane rides, car rides, being near a beach, or on a patio with a glass of wine. If you read it, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

 

Review: Heal my Heart

heal my haertAbout the book, Heal my Heart by Elley Arden:

Female professional football quarterback MJ Rooney has her eye on the prize, a record-breaking, championship season. Sure, it would be nice to have family support, but she believes in herself, and she has her teammates. That’s all she needs to win … until a scuffle at a baseball game sends her over the railing and onto the field with a concussion that threatens her season.

Dr. Tag Howard isn’t a baseball player like his brothers, but that doesn’t mean he can’t contribute to the game. He’s poised to become Major League Baseball’s go-to sports medicine doctor if he can rehabilitate Gold Glove Centerfielder Grey Kemmons, who happens to be his estranged brother. It’s a lot to take … until an unorthodox angel crashes into his life with a concussion and a fresh perspective.

MJ doesn’t need a man. She needs a championship ring. Getting messed up with a sexy, doctor and his family baggage isn’t going to get her there. But the attraction is undeniable, and there’s surprising freedom from expectations in each other’s arms … until Tag’s brothers want a reunion that requires him to own up to his ugly past, and MJ’s season teeters amidst the distractions. Would life apart be easier?

This book is the third in a series of Arden books (The Klemmons Brother Baseball Series), however it can definitely be read as a standalone; I didn’t feel like I was missing a beat although I am curious to read about the other two brothers and how their relationships came to be!

I loved reading this romance, the second Arden book I’ve read this year; it’s an enjoyable, fast-paced read full of loveable characters, obstacles in the way of Tag & M.J.’s romance, and full of surprises as the novel progresses. Arden includes aspects of social commentary: hooray for a women’s football league that doesn’t require you to play in lingerie; the local gym that helps out underprivileged boys and gives them positive role models; a little bit of women’s empowerment and breaking the molds & stereotypes. For that I applaud her and it made the book much more real and enjoyable.

For anyone who is a fan of romance novels, I highly recommend Heal My Heart; Arden has a knack for writing the genre and you won’t be disappointed.

Interested in Arden’s books? Enter to win the first book in the Kemmons Brother Baseball Series “Save My Soul” and a $10 Amazon Gift Card! a Rafflecopter giveaway

RAVBT

I was provided with a complimentary Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book for the purposes of review; all reviews are my own and I was not otherwise compensated.

Hot Chocolate Date

Borrowing this idea from many of my favorite dear URL turned IRL Friends today.

If I were meeting you for a drink, hot chocolate for me and tea/coffee/chai lattes/wine for you, I would tell you that….

I’ve been working out a solid six days a week, for the last three weeks. After several months of sporadic working out to be with family and my mom (which I would never trade for anything!) it feels really good to have an outlet for my grief/anger. I’m quitting my gym this month and have created what I hope to be a sustainable workout routine that involves cardio, weights, videos, HIIT, and all from the comfort of my basement. I’m seeing some changes already (I think because I’ve been working to boost my metabolism by making sure I have healthful, protein & fiber filled snacks in between my meals) and if nothing else, I feel healthy. My goal is health, not necessarily weight loss (more on that another time).

Grief sucks. When people see you going to work, resuming some semblance of a social life, even blogging, they assume that you are “normal.” I wish that were true. There are weeks like last week where I’m just crazy sad and there’s not much that can fix it. When that happens, I move forward each day, because that’s what I have to do. I workout because it makes me feel good. I read because it’s an escape. I focus my energies on what I need to do for my soul and sometimes that means I can’t return every phone call and email (I’m still behind from January, forgive me if you’re one of the people reading this and I haven’t gotten back to you). Sometimes that means I’m not myself even if I smile and fake it until I make it.

I’ve been a reading fiend lately. I’ve managed to knock of 20 books so far, putting me only 40 books away from my goal. Sure, some of them have been cheesy romantic novels but sometimes that’s just what a person needs. Other books have been beautiful and moving, causing me to shed more than few tears when the books end. I’ve started going to the library again which means I’m checking out more books than I need to but I love nothing more sometimes than having a stack of books in my room. (and you can expect a few more book reviews in the next few weeks. I’ve read some great ones that I highly recommend!)

Last weekend I went to the spa for a few hours; a dear friend gifted me a spa package so I spent time getting the best 30 minute massage of my life, a mani & a pedi. Self-care is hugely important and I’m doing my best to make more time for myself and my health (in all aspects).

Friday evening I spent some time with my dad at a charity/Rotary event (they had the basket auction, and it was fun to see people bid on the one I made!) and it reminded me how much I love to do things that matter. It’s my hope to join Rotary in the next year or two and work with their community service group, getting more involved and giving back to the community around me. Bonus: the Rotary is a fun organization full of intelligent, like-minded, great people.

That I’m thankful for this community, for my friends that email and text and What’sApp me on a regular basis. You have made an oh so very difficult time in my life much more bearable. For that I’m forever thankful and I love all of my readers (and lurkers) and your support. I hope you can feel that and know that!

What would you tell me today?

Friday Five

Time for another installment of Friday Five!

1. I booked a family portrait garden session for when the kidlets are here. I couldn’t be more excited! The same photog who did our wedding portraits will be doing this session and I just can’t wait. It will be the first real, professional family photo that we have (i’m even scheming on how I could fit Jack in!) since, well, ever. Hopefully the girls share my enthusiasm and think it’s as awesome as I do. I figure since they will have new outfits + shoes to wear they’ll be stoked.

2. Speaking of the bonus kids, we are down to 2.75 months until they come. I’m in full on Bonus Mom Nesting mode, if such a thing were to exist. I’ve gone through their clothes (washed, folded, organized), made note of what we need, finally figured out what camps they are going to, and we’re in the process of interviewing a few sitters, too. (Also, it feels so weird to interview sitters but I want to be sure we have a responsible, fun sitter who the girls will love. I think we’ve found “the one,” thankfully!)

3. I spent a little bit of time this past week putting together a basket for a silent auction; it was so fun! Historically this is something that my mom did (my dad belongs to the Rotary and is on the Community & Fundraising Board) so when dad asked if I wanted to do it, I jumped at the chance. The theme for my basket was “connections,” and included all sorts of notebooks, journals, postcards, notecards, stamps, pens and markers. I made sure to include a nod to my mom with three notebooks each stamped with Paris, NYC and Rome; my mom’s three favorite cities. Hopefully the basket raises some money and that whoever wins it, enjoys it!

4. I will be so glad when the NCAA tournament is over. I can’t stand the squeakiness of the basketball shoes on the court, the incessant commentary (mostly by the announcers, occasionally by Knight!), and ok, the fact that I didn’t do so well with my picks (please tell me why I bother wasting my time and money on betting? I don’t know).

5. Anyone else have a week from Hell? This week just seems to be insane and non-stop and I, for one, am glad that it’s Friday. Another mostly unplanned weekend and hopefully some pleasant weather should do wonders to restore me a bit. At least I hope so!

Anything on tap for you this weekend? Are you an NCAA Tournament lover or hater?

Currently

Borrowing this idea from several of my URL turned IRL friends (as my dear friend Lisa would say), again today.

Reading: On The Rocks, by Erin Duffy (the author of Bond Girl). It’s good so far and makes me want to live on the East Coast so I could be closer to a beach.

Loving:  my new iPhone 5c (in blue, in case you were wondering) which I scored for free; weekends spent being insanely productive; the promise of a trip to Florida in September; FaceTime with my brother; making and baking a new recipe.

Thinking: that spring would be a lovely thing to see. I can handle cooler temps but I need some sun. No more snow flurries please and thank you. I’m also all “in my head,” lately as I continue to work to make sense of the last few months. So surreal and weird, still.

Feeling: Emotional. That’s probably going to my answer for a while. Most days are better than there were last time I wrote this kind of a post, but when you’re reading a fashion magazine and a picture of Diane Keaton makes you burst into tears? Pretty sure that classifies me as emotional. (Diane Keaton is/was one of mom’s favorite actresses for a million reasons, including fashion, her movies and her brilliance.)

Anticipating: Friday. I always anticipate Friday. I love it when the weekend holds no true plans so that I can just kind of flit about and do whatever I feel like, wherever the wind takes me. It’s on these plan-free weekends that I get the most relaxation, have the most fun and enjoy the time with my husband the most. (Don’t get me wrong, I love plans, too, but sometimes it’s just awesome to be unplanned!)

Inspired by: my dad’s strength, the legacy my mom left behind, and the support and love my husband gives to me on a daily basis. Cheesy, maybe, but so true.

Watching: Basketball has taken over my house which means I’m watching less and reading more. I’m enjoying Will & Grace re-runs and older movies like “Save the Last Dance,” or the first National Lampoon Vacation movie.

Sad: Still sad about the passing of my mom. Sad that I can’t call her on my way home from work, sad that I can’t people watch with her at Barnes & Noble while we scribble in our journals with coffee (for her) and hot chocolate (for me) nearby, sad that we will have the holidays without her, that she won’t get to hug her bonus grand-kidlets, that my dad is alone. There’s a Pandora’s box of sadness that follows me around these days, but I’m learning to carry it better.

Working: Hard at work, working out hard at home, and working to relax and take care of myself better.

Grateful: For this life, for my friends, my family, my husband, my new perspective shift, encouragement and support, people who let me be who I need to be. For knowing when to say yes and knowing when to say know. For grief counselors. For sunny days.

Listening: to lots of Ray LaMontagne in anticipation of his new album. I love all of his music.

Wishing: That teleportation existed, that I could have an endless travel budget + vacation days, that I could make things better for my friends who are struggling with things, that chocolate didn’t have calories.

Anything on your plate that you’d currently like to share?

Friday Five: Knight & Nora Edition

I’m kind of digging this whole themed Friday Five thing, so today I’m here to share some fun facts about me and my hubs, Knight.

1. Come this October we will mark four years of togetherness, two years of marriage. It’s amazing how quickly time flies and all that we’ve done: a move to the Great White North, me learning the Step-Mom ropes, moving back to the Lou, buying our first house together, planning a wedding, summers with the kidlets, career changes, loss of loved ones, and numerous laughs and hugs.

2. In some respects we are total opposites: he loves the country, I love the city. He’s big into outdoor sports (hiking, kayaking, camping, trail cycling) and I prefer weights, a treadmill/track or the open road for running. He hates vegetables and I love them (at least the ones I can eat). He loves beer and it’s my least favorite. He is into all things tech and I could care less what it looks like or how new it is.

3. One thing we can agree on: our love for the STL Cardinals. We picked a handful of games to attend this year and I’m so looking forward to it. Knight has so much Cardinals gear that people tease him about it but I think it’s adorable how much he loves to wear and share his allegiance. We also love Jack, each other, our house, how much awesome stuff we have to do in the Lou, dining al fresco, laughing, his daughters, yard work and DIY projects. Well, he loves DIY more than me. I like easy DIY and how it looks when it’s done.

4. We both love to shop. No, seriously. In fact, he may love to shop more than me! He’s into his designer shirts and is growing his shoe collection quickly. He’s all about fun prints, colors and adding some zest to his wardrobe. We can be a dangerous duo if and when we go shopping together. (if left unattended he will spend more than me… even if he doesn’t admit it.)

5. Since we’ve moved into our house we have done almost every single small home improvement you can think of (new light fixtures in every single room & bathroom, fans, painted all the rooms, installed new blinds, bought new awesome touch sinks, updated all the bathroom mirrors, hid wires and hung the tvs all fancy-like, changed out the landscaping in the front and backyard, rearranged the closet organization system, updated some electrical units and wiring systems). So “all,’ that’s left is the big stuff: new kitchen cabinets, refinishing the cabinets in the guest & our bathroom, new flooring, windows…we love to do the DIY projects, so we’ll tackle some more ourselves and let the pros handle some of it, too (in time, of course).

What’s your Friday Five for your current/favorite relationship (of any kind)?

The Enchanted (A Review)

The EnchantedThe Enchanted by Rene Denfeld is a haunting book, filled simultaneously with beauty and twisted, disturbing images.

In this book you’ll meet the Fallen Priest, the man responsible for performing last rites and counseling to the prisoners. His life intertwines with The Lady, the one person who is interested in rescuing the inmates from death row. You’ll meet the Warden who is battling his own issues as his wife dies of cancer presides over his jail, only much of what happens he doesn’t even see. Goosebumps will rise on your arms when you meet one of the prison guards who is corrupt in a Shawshank Redemption kind of way runs the show from the jail yard, via the gangs and using inmates as currency.

Denfeld takes you for walks in the prison at night, during the day, into the dark depths of the cells on death row where York and Arden and others live, wasting away, waiting for their turn to die. You’ll encounter the horses that run like the wind on execution nights, the awful beings that pray on the dust and dirt of the deceased. And although the subject matter is intense (I admit I had to gloss over a few parts, dealing with cancer and the way the inmates treated one another), you’ll want to keep reading to see if The Lady can free anyone from death row, to see if the narrator ever utters a word, to find out if the horses will run again.

If you’ve enjoyed the Night Circus (there are elements of magic in this book) or the Shawshank Redemption, give this book a read. It earned four out of five stars from me.

You can find Rene Denfeld on Facebook or via her website.

tlc tour host

Silver Linings, Dreams and Angels

Despite the ridiculous aching loss, heartbreak and adjusting to the new normal, there have been a few silver linings during the last almost two months. Things like hearing from friends and family members I haven’t spoken with in ages. A high school friend emailing you to say that because of your mom she’s decided to read more and complain less. The fact that I no longer have Sunday night anxiety about the week ahead and me learning to slow down and take things as it comes. A former colleague of my mom’s texting me to show me a Valentine’s Day decoration my mom made. There are little connections renewed, and current connections strengthened. There are kinder words, longer hugs, more compassion, more understanding. The silver linings are small in comparison to the great loss but they are there nevertheless and when I think of them, they make me smile.

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Since my mom passed away I have had some crazy, realistic dreams. Dreams where I talk to my mom just as though nothing has changed. Dreams where I’m frantically searching for her, trying to find her. Dreams where people call me to say she’s come back, live and in person (minus a limb or two which is so weird, I know). I believe in the meaning of dreams, that spirits can connect through our dreams, and that though my mom may not be here on earth, she’s here spiritually, all around me, more than I know. For that, I’m thankful. For those dreams, however fleeting they may be, I’m so happy.

The morning of her life celebration, for instance, I dreamt that mom and I were on my couch in our living room but rather than the walls being blue, everything around us was white. My mom was glowing but at the same time I could reach out and touch her. She spoke to me saying she knew at the end that it was her time to leave earth but that didn’t mean she wasn’t here. That in fact she’s always here, she loves me and she won’t ever leave my side. I woke up with tears on my pillow and on my cheeks. It was a short dream but so powerful.

*******
Since I believe in spirits and dreams it’s probably no surprise to you that I believe in Angels. I think that angels are everywhere, some in the flesh helping you when you least expect it (and if you go to look for them again, you’re hard-pressed to find them), others are ethereal, intervening or watching over you during times of duress, and dare I say, others who can help to prevent or get you out of sticky situations by providing an additional guiding light. There were countless angels in the form of nurses, doctors, kind strangers and passersby since November. Yes, if you ask me, angels are everywhere, you just have to know where to look. Maybe it’s foolish to believe in it and maybe I make it up, but as one of my wise friends said: “If it’s real or if it’s imagined, does it matter if it brings you comfort? If it impacts your life? If it helps you to get along this journey?” I think not.

Friday Five: The Jack Edition

I’m borrowing a page from Stephany’s book today and featuring my Friday Five on my awesome dog, Jack.

jack sleeps1. I adopted Jack my final semester in college; he was a Humane Society pup and the moment I saw his tiny little self and his adorable eyes looking up at me, I was hooked. I had to beg my landlords to let me have a dog (it was in the lease I signed, yet they said it wasn’t allowed….) but after a dog security deposit I was able to bring him home. As a puppy he loved to sleep under my bed, he quieted down when he heard rap music, and loved to cuddle. He’s always been a fan of his toys, carrying them around from room to room and proudly showing them off to any visitors and guests that we have.

2. Jack will turn ten this year; hard to believe he’s been around for all my moves (3 apartments, 3 houses!), sleeping by my feet when I studied for my MBA, and every single night when I get home from work. It’s impossible to avoid smiling when Jack greets you at the door, his tail hitting the door (Knight calls him the “Jack Hammer”).

3. Some of Jack’s favorite things: Long walks (preferably in the spring or fall), any one of his several beds (yes, he has more than one), new squeaky toys, biscuits before bed, and snoozes in the sun. And of course, cuddles and chest rubs from his mom and dad. (Don’t tell Knight, but sometimes when he’s out, I let Jack jump on the “forbidden” couch for some extra snuggles.)

4. Late last year Jack was diagnosed with retinal degeneration, a hereditary condition. Since he’s a mutt, it’s impossible to tell where he inherited it from and unfortunately it’s not reversible or something that can be fixed with surgery. Thankfully Jack is a smart boy and knows the number of steps from room to room, and around the furniture. Bonus: as long as he lots of lights on, he can see just fine. The docs said he’s not in pain, thank goodness. Just hate that he has to deal with this! 2013 iPhone photos 060

5. When my bonus kidlets are here Jack is incredibly devoted to them. He follows them around, he plays with them (and even tugs lightly so that they can play with him), and when it’s their bedtime? He lies near their beds during reading, hugs and prayers. The moment the prayers are done, he exits their room. One of my vets thinks that Jack has some border collie in him so maybe that’s partially why he herds and tracks the girls as much as he does. Or he’s just hopelessly devoted to them. Either way.

What’s your favorite pet (current or former)?