Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Few Thoughts on Writing


Writing is something that I have always done in one form or another for most of my life.

When I was a child it was making up crazy stories about creatures that only existed in my head. After that I went through a phase where I pretended to be part investigator/part writer attempting to convince anyone that would listen that my neighbors were government spies who kept odd hours because they had to send information off to different parts of the globe. As a teenager I spent hours writing “Dear Diary” entries filling notebooks with the latest news about school, boys, and friends. Sometime after that I started journaling more seriously. Eventually that gave way to blogging.

Now though, I’ve been giving a lot of though to what other sorts of writing I can do. I’ve recently tossed my hat into the freelance ring but I want more. I want to write words that matter, that reach people. I want to put more time and effort into my writing, whether that is here on this blog or in some other project that has been taking shape in the back of my mind. I want to communicate and convey more effectively what I’m thinking and feeling.

I want to explore more avenues with my writing. And maybe open some new doors in the process.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Pushing Up The Moon


A few months ago after a concert, I heard my less than sober brother telling our small group of friends "Look at that full moon! Let me tell you how that moon gets up there!" A beer can in one hand, the other one gesturing toward a splendid full moon as he started the story from our childhood that has been passed down for generations. He told the story with such enthusiasm that for a moment I saw the little boy he had been, eyes wide with astonishment, fully believing the far fetched story.

There's a man our Pap knows. He keeps the moon in his big red barn, all locked up tight. Once a month (every once in a while twice a month), its his special job to roll out the moon and he uses magic to push the moon high up into the night sky for all of us to enjoy. He stays up all night watching it. Then in the early hours of the morning, he lassos the moon and pulls and pulls till he's brought it back down to Earth, tucking it back into the barn for safe keeping until its time for the next full moon. Its a very special, important job. 

When my brother and I were children, sitting outside on my grandparents front porch on warm summer evenings, our hair still wet from showers, our grandfather would recite this story every time there was a full moon. In childlike wonder and naivete we had no reason to doubt him. We would beg him to take us to see this man he claimed to know so we could see the moon in the red barn. He told us as part of his friends job, no one was allowed to see the moon when it wasn't in the sky. Our grandfather always told us that it was a special secret. It wasn't until we were teenagers we learned that our mother's grandfather had told her the same story. 

Even when we were old enough to know the truth, my brother and I never corrected our grandfather when we would sit on the porch with him watching the moon rise higher in the night sky and our pap would say "Look at him push up that beautiful moon."

Earlier this evening, I stood out on the deck admiring this months full moon and as always, I heard my grandfather's voice echoing from my childhood, telling me the story. I think for both my brother and I, there's a little part of us that will always believe the story about the man who pushes up the full moon.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Review: Not That Kind of Girl

Not That Kind of Girl, Carlene Bauer's debut novel, is a memoir of the author's life that invites readers on her journey as she struggles in her exploration of faith, love, and beliefs.

Raised on her mother's religion of brimstone, fire and damnation, as a child Bauer is convinced that the world will end in suffering and that human beings are immoral individuals who will spend their entire lives being tortured by their decisions. However, upon returning to public school in her sophomore year of high school she finds that her beliefs may have been a bit unfounded. She slowly starts to see that her beliefs may have been a bit extreme but decides to hold tight to her purity -- no drinking, drugs, or sex --which she carries through to her Jesuit college education.

After graduating from her small Catholic college, she escapes to New York City where most of her friends have abandoned their faith, are experimenting with all things love, and some dabble in drugs. While she remains non-judgemental in regards to her friends, she herself decides that she does want to experiment a bit with men and drinking. Reluctant to go all the way with men, she instead prefers to let other people think they know what she's doing when they see her leaving men's bedrooms in the early morning hours. After a few years of giving in to her "wild side" she returns to the faith of her college years converting to Catholicism in her never ending search for spiritual fulfilment.

While I appreciate the author's quest for spiritual and religious peace, I struggled with parts of this book. It seemed the author was more fixated on her lack of love life and unhappiness with her job, which at times,  played a bigger part in the novel than her spiritual journey. Parts of the novel that should have been pivotal moments in the story were glossed over, merely mentioned. However, Bauer does have a wonderful mastery of the English language and beautifully strings together sentences in such a fashion that keeps the story flowing. If you are someone who has struggled (or is currently struggling) with their faith and think you "may not be that kind of girl," you may want to check out this book.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book to review by TLC Tours and the publishing company but was not financially compensated in any way. The opinions expressed are my own.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

For Erin and Ted

Today I’m using my little space on the internet to congratulate one blogger friend (I’m guessing most of you know Erin and Ted, but if not definitely go say hi) on the impending arrival of not one, but two precious little girls. The two of them have shared their journey to this point so openly and honestly, when I read Erin’s tweet that she was carrying twins, I may or may not have cried at work.

Erin and Ted,

The two of you are going to be amazing parents and have such wonderful adventures with your daughters. I wish I could be with you today as you celebrate at your shower. You’re so lucky to experience double the blessings these girls will bring into your lives. I know from your journey that the two of you wanted these two little girls more than anything and I know that you will love them with every fiber of your being. There will be double the joys, the laughs, the tears. Honestly, I can already envision the two of you down the road watching your daughters hit all the milestones of childhood and the teenage years -- watching them with pride as they grow into the people they will become, being there when they stumble and need a shoulder, and knowing that you will be there with them every step of the way.

I can’t think of any two other people better suited to parent these little girls.

Congratulations and I am so, so happy for the both of you.

I am looking forward to following along (and making sure they are properly introduced to The Gilmore Girls and Harry Potter).

This post is part of an effort organized by Renee of Belle Renee. Please stop over to Erin’s blog, The State That I Am In and wish them congratulations on their twin daughters.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Review: Think of a Number

In his debut novel, Think of a Number, John Verdon offers readers a thrilling intellectual mystery. The story intertwines demons of present and past into a novel that will keep you turning the page to find out what happens next.

Dave Gurney is a retired  celebrated NYPD homicide detective who, with his wife, has retired to the picturesque countryside in the Catskills. When Dave is approached by a former college friend, Mark Mellery, asking for help with some mysterious letters that have appeared, he finds himself embroiled in a case that sends him down the familiar path of catching killers. Unable to settle into a quiet country life, Dave throws himself into the case, pushing aside the regrets and choices of his earlier years.


After a series of murders, puzzling clues leading to literally no where, hidden messages and bizarre circumstances Dave becomes a consultant aiding the investigators in the search for the perpetrator who plays mind games with his victims (and those trying to catch him), frightening them immensely, before ending their lives and leaving more clues. 

The plot was full of baffling notions that left my mind wondering what could happen next. The ending was one that I really didn't see coming. Although there were some parts of the book I felt were a bit over the top, it did keep me reading late into the night.

To learn more about this book, check out the book trailer and the publisher's site

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book to review by TLC Tours and the publishing company but was not financially compensated in any way. The opinions expressed are my own.

Love Everyday Life

Today I'm over at Becky's!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sometimes I...

Sometimes I wonder what the future holds for my childhood best friend and I. Lately I feel like our friendship has started to change and morph into something I'm not quite familiar with. I'm scared what these changes might mean.

Sometimes I need a day of doing absolutely nothing but staying in bed, watching Harry Potter movies, and taking a nap. This hasn't happened yet, but I have a feeling its not too far off.

Sometimes I sit on the front porch with my dog watching it rain. The sense of peace I get from that leaves me  both relaxed and hopeful.

Sometimes I have a friend passing through my small valley and get to have lunch with her and her husband. I only wish the visit could have been longer, but I know that she'll be back soon enough.

Sometimes I watch trashy reality tv and get sucked in. My latest vice is Kourtney and Khloe Take Miami and the final episodes of The Hills. I really need to leave the tv turned off.

Sometimes I wonder if things will ever fall into place for me. I keep trying to be optimistic but some days its really hard.

Sometimes I question  my own abilities.

Sometimes I need to call a time out and take more down time for my own sanity and well being.

Your turn, fill in the blank. Sometimes I _______________________________________.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Friends We Choose

Life is partly what we make it, and partly what it is made by the friends we choose. ~Tennessee Williams

I believe in surrounding myself with amazing people, both online and off. I’ve been incredibly fortunate in the friendship department. My friends are beautiful souls with open hearts; loving individuals that remind me to embrace life, help quash my fears, and just overall enrich my life in ways I can’t properly express.

This weekend, I traveled to Washington, DC for some long overdue bonding time with a few extraordinary people, people whom I consider to be among my inner circle of friends but prior to this trip had never met face to face. With a flurry of planning both by email and twitter, plans were made, times were scheduled, and ideas of what to do carved out.

As I was sitting on a metro into the city late Friday evening, my stomach was a flutter with nervous butterflies and a steady stream of anxious thoughts running through my head. However, that all disappeared the moment I stepped off the escalator from the metro and saw a handful of bloggers waving excitedly and yelling my name. I literally ran across the street without looking frogger style (remembering halfway across that in big cities people use lights and crosswalks for a reason) and immediately set out to finally hug a dear friend who lives in DC, a faraway friend who was my reason for making the trip, and a fabulous friend who organized a big meet up for all of us bloggers randomly in the area. After we proceeded into the bar shots and beers were had, conversations commenced, and new friends were made. The next few hours flew by with laughs, discussions, more introductions and more hugs. It was a bit of a whirlwind experience that left me feeling energized and eagerly anticipating the next day’s adventures.


Saturday’s plans were to include visiting various monuments but Mother Nature had other plans and quite honestly, the day couldn’t have been better. After awaking to rain, a last minute changing of plans, big hugs and a few failed but humorous attempts at hailing a cab, Becky and I found ourselves in Georgetown. Within minutes of arriving we settled into a table at Furin's with Nora and her mom for brunch. The food was great, the conversation excellent, and the company even better than that. I’m quite sure I could have happily spent all day just sitting there talking and enjoying the time but there were bookstores beckoning us. The rest of our time together included wandering the cobblestone sidewalks of Georgetown, strolling through a residential section taking in the sights, lounging around Nora’s hotel, an impromptu eyeliner lesson and ended with tight hugs and promises to see each other again soon.

Photo by Becky

Becky and I headed back to Old Town Alexandria for dinner and some great conversation with Ally (and a few funny self takes in which I proceeded to cut one or more of us out of the shot). The day ended much too quickly for my liking and I ended up back at my stepsisters house thoroughly exhausted but confident in the knowledge that I have some of the most amazing people in my life.

Photo by Becky

This weekend came at a time when I needed a change of pace, even if only for a few days. My trip to DC reminded me that life with all of its joys and frustrations is breathtakingly beautiful, especially when surrounded by the wonderful people I'm lucky enough to call my friends who routinely make my life better on a multitude of levels.

To see a video of the weekend, pop on over to Becky's blog! HUGE THANKS to LivitLuvit for organizing the shenanigans on Friday night.

I'm also guest posting on Darcie's blog Traveling This Path.

Friday, July 09, 2010

The District

This weekend  I'm road tripping down to DC the weekend to spend some time with fabulous people. I've been feeling the need to escape  my small town and this trip is coming at a perfect time.


Have a fun weekend!!

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Small Town Snapshots

Over the past few years I've regaled you with stories of life in  my small town, given you snippets of my childhood, and shared some pictures that have probably given you a good indication of what life is like in my quiet little valley. After an email conversation one day, Nilsa and I had the idea to do a photo essay of what our lives looked like on a daily basis. So often our conversations revolve around how we were raised, where we currently make our homes, and how we choose to spend our time we wanted to know what home was for the other and thought you might like a little glimpse into our lives too.


Home/Neighborhood
The ranch style house I call home sits perched on a hill offering spectacular views of the valley and the river. To one side I have neighbors and the other pine tress that are several decades old. My house is one of the last houses on the hill so the street is incredibly quiet. I've lived in the same neighborhood since I was a child. My mother and neighbors are avid gardeners so there are always plenty of flowers blooming in the warmer months. One of my absolute favorite places is the swing that sits overlooking a little pond my stepdad dug several years ago. In the evenings I can be found sitting with a cold beverage, reading or just talking the days events over with my mom or a friend. Swinging while listening to the water from the pond usually helps calm my frazzled nerves.
                             


Outdoor Space
In addition to the swing and pond area, my other favorite place to hang out is on the back deck. When a few friends are over, this is where we congregate. In the hot, sweltering months of summer nothing beats deck drinking. We play cards or board games until the early hours of the mornings, have long talks about life while star gazing and sometimes I just choose to sit with the dog while lost in thought. On Sunday mornings its where I gather with my mom, stepdad and brother for morning brunch while reading through the morning newspapers. Some evenings its where I have dinner with my grandparents when they are down or help my grandfather crush fruit for our latest attempt at making wine. My brother, a talented craftsman, made the bench and side tables. From the deck I can see the river and a few miles in all directions.

Transportation
In a small town there really is no other option for me but my car, a Buick LaCrosse. While there is limited bus service its unreliable and takes hours longer to get where you are going in the valley. Honestly, I'm not even sure where all the stops are. I've only ridden the bus once, when a friend and I were teenagers we rode the bus from her house, across the river to have lunch and back. It took all day. I like to have freedom of going where I want, when I want so my car it is. Its hard for me to fathom relying on public transportation to get everywhere, not have a trunk to throw all my Target purchases into, and sharing the ride with someone else. Besides, you can't take your dog on public transportation and I'm usually carting around a large golden retriever who hangs her head out the window.



Shopping
The downtown area of my small town is a basically two blocks long and two, maybe three blocks wide. There are a few hardware stores, a video rental shop (No Redbox in town yet!), a jewelry store, a dollar store, a big independent toy store and a few other little mom and pop type places that have been run by the same families for generations. There's a well known (well at least in the valley its well known) tattoo shop where many go to get inked or pierced (including yours truly). There's a Subway, an Asian restaurant and a few other fast food joints though you won't find a Starbucks on any of the corners. A furniture store, the post office, library some insurance offices, a bar, and the town paper offices pretty much round out the downtown shopping district.



Hopefully you enjoyed the few snapshots of my home area and little town. Pop on over to Nilsa's site to see some pictures of her home, neighborhood and way of life in the big city! 

What does your home/neighborhood look like?

Monday, July 05, 2010

I'm Lucky

This weekend was full of family and fun, just the way long 4th of July celebrations should be, and of course time slipped away all too fast. I'm exhausted from two days of almost non-stop festivities. I spent a lot of time this weekend realizing how incredibly lucky I am.

I'm lucky because I was able to spend so much time surrounded by extended family and friends.
The main activity of the weekend was a belated celebration for my stepsister and her husband. They quietly married in January, so a picnic on the 4th seemed like an entirely appropriate excuse to get family and friends together to celebrate. We spent the day at a private park with shelters nestled against the hillside. There was too much delicious food, lots of laughs, swapping of stories, and meeting fun new people. I also managed to sneak in a family celebration for one of my younger cousins. He is an aspiring pastry chef even making his  own 12th birthday cake -- a marble (made from scratch) layer cake with chocolate mousse and strawberries covered with chocolate ganache.

I'm lucky in that I get along really well with my step-siblings.
I really enjoy spending time with my stepsister and her husband (and their two adorable dogs).On Saturday night the three of us along with our parents sat on the deck drinking a variety of wines -- pink catawba, rhubarb, and an incredibly decadent chocolate one. As the sun set on my little valley it was a really nice way to unwind and relax.

I'm lucky because I have friends who make life seem not so scary.  
I spent a few hours on the phone with a few very dear friends who helped calm my nerves, made me see the possibilities that lie before me, and reminded me that we're all sort of stumbling through life together often making it up as we go along. They are the sort of friends who remind me that its all going to be ok no matter what life throws at me and that when life does get scary they are only a phone call away.


How did you spend your weekend? Was there anything that made you stop and realize how lucky you are?

Thursday, July 01, 2010

July

This morning as I flip the calendar to July, I have a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that the year is half over. Time is hurtling past me; while I’m making an effort to be present in each and every moment, I feel like a lot of the time I fall short in that endeavor. If I'm lucky I can grab on to some of those moments as they flash by me, hold on to them for a few minutes before releasing them on their way and repeating the cycle all over again.

I’ve thrown myself head over heels into summer enjoying deck drinking and concerts with friends, late night movies and Mexican dinners with my cousins, and quiet time in attempts to calm my soul. I move from one thing to the next leaving little time for letter writing, blogging, and sleeping. While I do love the way I’ve chosen to live out my summer, the reality of the situation is I haven’t always been completely present enough to fully enjoy them the way they deserve.

I’ve let myself get overwhelmed with situations I have no control over. I’ve let my spirit and heart become torn in various directions. I want to use this next month to more clearly define what I want for myself and more importantly, why I want those things. July is going to be the month of stitching myself back together, taking some very deep breaths, and listening more clearly to my own inner voice.

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary. ~Steve Jobs

I want to use my time more effectively, so I can be fully present and happy in the fleeting moments that are so quickly shooting past me. I want July to be a defining month for me and the life I’m constantly creating.

How are you going to use your July?