A Little Brick House

I was a child when I first saw it. A nice little brick house in a nice little neighborhood where a nice little family lived. Well, most of the family was nice. Their son, my now husband, encouraged me to eat ants the first time I stepped onto the carport. I declined with a snort. He had a friend there, and being the only girl, I was the odd one out. He had no idea then how his feelings for me would eventually change.

Years later, it was from the little brick house that he got up the courage to call me for the first time. There, in the smallest bedroom, he sat with the phone to his ear listening to how my spring break was and the goings on of myself and my friends.

It was there he called me from almost daily for the next year. We talked about everything there was to talk about. The walls were witnesses to all the words that passed between us. His eyes must have roamed over every inch of the ceiling as he lay in bed and discussed life with me. We shared music and stories, quiet secrets whispered and hopes conveyed. I read him my most private poetry, and he was the first of my friends that knew I wanted to be a writer.

It was in the smallest bedroom of that little brick house on a quiet November night that he told me he loved me for the first time and held his breath for my response. It was there we went after our first date, sitting in his room, listening to music. It was in that house that we shared our first kiss and many more after. Many times, we sat in the backyard looking at the lake behind the house in quiet companionship. It was in that small kitchen that he introduced me to his family. It was within those walls that we fell in love.

Not much has changed with the little brick house over the years. The once blue shutters are now white. I hope to paint them blue again. The flower beds need love that I will happily give. There is work to be done. The walls still know our teenage secrets. The memories made there are fresh and long lasting. The biggest change is that we now live there, and it feels right.

January Reading

The end of 2019 was something I was glad to see. Twenty nineteen didn’t do us any favors. There was a lot of loss for us last year. I felt like I was able to breathe better after it was gone.

We also moved toward the end of last year or technically, we’re still moving. We’d lived in the same place for ten years. It was bittersweet.. I’d loved our old house with it’s big back yard, tall pecan trees, and inviting porch. Where we live now is very nice. You won’t hear me complain. It’s a better house, has a beautiful view of a lake beyond our backyard, and has a nice smaller yard for easier upkeep. I’ll blog more on that later.

My reading life and blog have taken a backseat to the move, holidays, illness, and just about anything else that decided to become an obstacle. I’ve been feeling really stressed and out of sorts. I opened my email the other day to find that I had credit on Audible. My heart gave a little leap. Reading. That’s what I need. I need words and their soothing simplicity.

Sometimes a book about someone with a really messed up life can remind you that yours isn’t so bad. That’s why I used my Audible credit for The Wives by Tarryn Fisher. I saw that it was being compared to works by Gillian Flynn and Liane Moriarty. Tarryn is also good friends with Colleen Hoover. That’s a bonus.

I previously read Tarryn’s book Mud Vein, and while I liked it. I didn’t like it as much as I liked The Wives.

 

At first, I wasn’t sure I would like it. Then things got real sideways real fast. The pace of the book is nice. It throws you right into the fray. While there is a build, it’s not a slow build. The main character is not like one I’ve experienced before. The book is written from her perspective and is an intense walk through her mind. I give it four stars.

I also noticed that Tarryn Fisher’s book, Marrow, was only $3.99 on Kindle. I’m not one to shy away from a deal, and I’ve read two of her books and liked them both.

I’m not yet half way through this one. So far, the book is very gritty and real. It’s set in an underbelly of a place where a girl named Margo lives. The story is from her perspective and describes her neighbors and friends. So far, I’m enjoying, but if I’ve learned anything from reading Tarryn Fisher’s books, there’s likely to be a gut wrenching twist in future pages.

Lastly, I began listening to When We Believed in Mermaids by Barbara O’Neal this morning. I’ve heard good things. Once I’m deeper into the story, I’ll update.

Now that life is getting back into it’s regular rhythm, I’m hoping to get back to my reading, writing, and sanity.

Writing Your Life

I’ve been thinking about how our lives will one day become stories. Stories are wonderful things. I love hearing them and telling them. I love different perspectives on the same story.

My life is my story. I think it’s important to journal our thoughts and feelings and the way we view the seasons of our lives. Those who come after us can learn about the today that we live in. They can see how things were viewed and learn about how different our current situation is to how theirs will be. I wonder all the time how my grandparents and great aunts and uncles viewed the world they lived in. I wish I knew more about the things they experienced.

I made several pointers for myself in writing my life. I thought I might share them with you.

Plotting: What I’ve recently come to understand about plotting is that you may decide how you think things will go, but it’s never set in stone. Be prepared for changes and scenes that don’t quite fit. In this, I see that writing is a lot like living.

Writing: The crux of everything. The living of your life is the writing of it. You must live it to write it. What are you doing today that is living your life? Would it be enjoyable for someone to read it later? Live a life of adventure and joy. Make your story colorful with experience and vibrant characters. Let the people you surround yourself with be interesting.

Editing: Edit often. Cut out what doesn’t fit, doesn’t enhance your story, or doesn’t make sense. Your story, your life, is too short for things that don’t benefit it. You are the only one with the power to change or edit your circumstances. You hold the pen, and history shows that it truly can be mightier than the sword.

I’ve been telling myself that I need to start journaling. I need to start making note of the story my life will tell. I will make more of an effort to turn it into something worth reading. I hope you’ll consider doing the same.

I’ve Got Something to Say

I’ve been doing more writing than reading.

I type this with a sigh, a good sigh. It feels good. Reading is and always will be my first love, but it is essentially admiring the world another person has created. That’s wonderful, and I love it. However, there’s something about stepping into a world of your own making. Seeing life stories play out in your head and pouring them out on paper for someone else to admire is something I’ve always wanted to do. Getting to know my characters has been my favorite part. It’s like sitting down with an old friend and hearing how their life has been going up until now. Characters can certainly be demanding. I might have a touch of schizophrenia, but there have been several times that I’ve felt a character nudge me and say, “Nope. That’s not me. Fix it.”

I’ve written stories before that have started out strong but fizzled out before I really got to the meat of it. This one, though, has kept me on my toes. It’s in my head, in my dreams, and is taking over. I don’t know if the difference is that I have a friend reading it as I write or if it’s just time.

I’m hoping for good. I’ve used the backspace button as much as any other key on my keyboard. This story has me writing everyday. I’ve been reflecting most days as I write on the lessons I learned from On Writing by Stephen King.  One of the things I have struggled with, he addresses in his book. He noted that:

“Good writing is often about letting go of fear and affectation, Affectation itself, beginning with the need to define some sort of writing as ‘good’ and other sorts as ‘bad’, is fearful behavior. Good writing is also about making good choices when it comes to picking the tools you plan to work with.”

Overcoming fears has been a lifelong endeavor. Fearing being adventurous with what I’m writing has been dragging me down as a writer. The other day I wrote my first intimate scene between a couple. While to most this doesn’t seem like a step outside the box, for me, it absolutely was. When I, blushing furiously, sent it to my friend, I got good feedback. She assured me it wasn’t cheap or tasteless. I’m pretty pleased with the review.

Another pointer I’ve been pulling from the King is writing what you like is as important as writing what you know. In the King’s book, this quote is one of my favorites:

“Write what you like, then imbue it with life and make it unique by blending in your own personal knowledge of life, friendship, relationships, sex and work.”

A point my reader made was that writers tend to over describe characters and settings. I make a conscious effort not to do that so that I don’t do all the work for readers. I want them to form their own view. My job is to define my characters and settings, not completely describe them.

This dream has been accumulating in my heart. Now, it’s up to my mind to bring it to fruition.

I’m enjoying stretching my writing legs and hope to one day run marathons. All in all, I’m learning that what my characters say is all to do with them, but what my writing comes down to is what I have to say.

 

 

 

 

Leap of Faith

I’ve been writing a story. That’s really no surprise to anyone. I’m usually writing a story all the time. What makes this story different is that I’m letting a friend read it. It’s about 20,000 words worth of me so far.

For full disclosure, it is a romance. Well, more like life with a healthy dose of romance. Since I knew that was her thing, I sent her a message. Actually,  I typed it, deleted it, typed it again, read it twelve times, and finally sent it. She replied within minutes.

I emailed her the first few chapters of my story and waited. I can be pretty patient. However, when you’re waiting on judgement, minutes stretch themselves indefinitely.

When she told me she loved it, I got emotional. I know that she’s honest and has no problem telling anyone what she thinks. This made her perfect for honest feedback but also very scary. She said it definitely needs some editing, but it’s good.

I’ve invested hours into this story. I’m not sure what will come of it. That’s the part that’s exciting but also terrifying. This has me thinking that I may want to put myself out there soon. My inner introvert is shaking her head and looking at me disapprovingly over her glasses.

I was brave when I started this blog a few years ago. I was a nervous wreck when I published the first post. When my most popular post hit 5000 views, I jumped up and down and then plopped back down in fear. I’m doing much the same with someone reading my story.

I am learning to be open and put myself out there. I’m understanding that my words might mean something to someone even if it’s just one person.

Tony has been pushing me. I hear almost every other day that I need to get on my novel. He’s got this steady, unshakable faith in me that has been a solid rock in rough seas. Now, my friend has read what I have of my story and has the same faith. I’m honestly a bit shaken.

My mind is telling me to not get my hopes up. My heart says we’re due for a leap of faith.

Just One of Those Days

Today has just been one of those days.

You know the ones I’m talking about. Nothing goes right. Life is coming at you full speed, and it seems like you can’t get a decent breath to save your life. Anxiety is the ocean, and you are the Titanic. Overwhelmed is an understatement.

I’ve made stupid mistakes all day. I just have to chalk it up to lack of a decent night’s sleep, hormones, and just not thinking. My day has been filled with fumble fingers, a sluggish brain, and I feel like I need a reboot. I can see Friday on the horizon, and it’s a lovely sight.

September was mostly a blur. It felt rushed, but October is here.

If October was a person, it would be a favorite aunt with comforting hugs. If it were a food, it would be chicken and dumplings (If you’re from the south, you know what I mean). If it were a day of the week, it would be a slowed down Sunday. It’s a month that feels like that time of day when the light slants just right through the windows before the sun sets. October seems gentle. It’s a milder month. It’s the gateway to the end of the year, and the calm before the storm that is the holidays.

The month begins with our anniversary on the first. This year made sixteen years. I’ve been a wife for sixteen years. It seems like just yesterday that Tony was a shy fifteen year old boy telling me that he was going to marry me. It seems like we should still be riding around in his loud truck with the windows down on back roads while singing along with the radio.

October usually ushers in some slightly cooler temperatures. I’m hoping this one does. The sky was beautiful this morning and was a positive start to the day. My pecan tree is already shedding leaves. I’m hoping to gather up some pine straw for my flower beds soon.

I haven’t been writing or reading as much. I’m sure that has something to do with my “off” feeling. That’s probably why I’ve been on edge. Some people need warm bubble baths, others need a glass of wine, but give me some peace and a good book. It centers me. Now, all three of those things together seems a bit like paradise.

I could use a bit of that right now with the day I’ve had. My feet hurt, my mind is jumbled, and my emotions are high. I’m going to remedy that now when I go find my peace.

It’s just been one of those days.

 

Books of September

I don’t know if it’s just imagination induced because Halloween goods and pumpkin spice everything are in every store or if I actually feel a difference in the air. I’ve noticed a change that feels suspiciously like fall.

September reading has been slow. I feel like I haven’t finished a single thing.

I’ve been listening to the audio book for The Only Plane in the Sky by Garrett M. Graff. It’s noted accounts from the differing perspectives of people on 9/11. It’s incredibly sad, but also a learning experience. Hearing first hand what people saw, heard, and felt can be a bit unnerving. The point of views range from students from a near by school in New York to air traffic controllers who first realized the planes were hijacked to those at Ground Zero. What really has me intrigued are the thoughts of the Air Force pilots given the harrowing task of bringing down Flight 93. It was essentially their own suicide mission to save others on the ground.  Those brave pilots took to the skies that day willing to do anything to prevent another attack. In the end, the heroes on Flight 93 lost their lives trying to reclaim the plane from the hijackers but saved countless others. It has a full cast of narrators that do a great job. I recommend the audio book because I think it might be hard to follow otherwise. It’s really a stunning book.

 

When The Only Plane in the Sky gets to be too much, and I have to take a breather, I’ve also been listening to What the Wind Knows by Amy Harmon. It’s historical fiction with a bit of time travel and romance set in Ireland. Visiting Ireland is at the top of my bucket list so selecting this one was easy. There are a lot of quotes by the poet Yeats. I’d forgotten how much I’d loved his words. The writer herself has no shortage of lovely lines in this book.  The narrators compliment each other, and I love the accents.

I’m also still reading The Opposite of Everyone by Joshilyn Jackson. Time has been an issue lately. It seems like life is picking back up after a lazy summer.

Our latest bookclub pick is Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy. I’m excited about this one. I watched the movie on Netflix before I even knew there was a book.

I have a few other prospects on my radar. As always, I love recommendations.

Happy reading, folks.

 

Where Were You?

Every year on the anniversary of the worst act of terrorism our country has ever seen, possibly thousands of people answer the question, “Where were you?”

Where were you when life for an entire nation changed so drastically on what seemed to be an ordinary Tuesday morning?

I woke up that beautiful morning, had breakfast, and got on the school bus. I imagine I chatted with my friends on the bus and then at school. I imagine people in New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia did much the same; got up, talked to loved ones, commuted, started their day.

I was in Ms. Sherman’s class when someone ran in and told Ms. Sherman that we needed to watch the news. When the TV illuminated, we saw the first Tower in flames. It was startling. I remember this cold feeling running through my body as if I had ice water in my blood. I was a week away from turning fifteen and had no idea at the loss of life or how many people were even in a building of that size. I’d hardly been out of Mississippi.

The second plane hit the Tower’s twin a few minutes later. That’s when it began to be clear that this was not a random accident. This was an attack.

By the time the news announced that the Pentagon had also been hit as well as a plane going down in a field in Pennsylvania, I was trembling. I remember students being all around, laughing, talking, and going about their day. I didn’t know what this would bring about, but I knew it was incredibly horrific and sad. The newscasters talked about the loss of the lives of hundreds, maybe thousands of people. My teenage mind couldn’t comprehend.

When the Towers fell, I remember watching the TV in horror with my heart pounding. Surely, I thought, anyone left alive in the buildings were able to evacuate. At fourteen, you still see the world as a movie. You hold out the hope that there’s always a hero to save the day. Many lives were saved that day by brave souls in uniforms as well as civilian clothing.

When I got home from school, I spent the evening hours on the phone with Tony. He was my best friend at the time. We hadn’t yet started dating. We watched the news and talked about the horrific the events of the day. Hundreds of people were missing. Their loved ones begged for any word of their fate and showed pictures of the missing on the news. Those photos showed people smiling during happy times. They were hearts and souls with dreams and hopes. They were gone in what seemed like an instant.
I searched the internet that night for information about the World Trade Center and Pentagon. The sheer size of the buildings left me reeling. I think that was when it began to register for me just how many people would have been inside, around, and involved with the Towers that morning. The Pentagon was left with a gaping, burning hole.
Ground Zero was still burning that night and would for the next 100 days. Videos of those who threw themselves to their death to escape the heat and flames haunted me. The thought of those trapped terrified me. What they must have experienced still makes me ache to think of it. Over the next months, I read the stories online. I read of people lost, those who were lost saving lives, and those who lived because someone saved them. I heard of people who heard last moments over the phone. I was shaken to my core.

Last night, I was thinking of the final count of the lives lost on that day.

2800+

I was living and going to school in a very small town on September 11, 2001. The town population was a little less than 2500. On that sad September day, there were more lives lost than there were lives in the town I lived in. That absolutely astounds me.

The losses continue after that day. There are those who can’t live with survivor’s guilt and those who develop illnesses from dust and chemicals.

Those who were lost lived, loved, were different races, genders, and lifestyles. They had children, were someone’s children, and left a staggering void in the hearts of those who knew and loved them. I hope they know the flood of love and unity our nation experienced after their losses. I hope they know that people like me who never knew them, have read their names, said a prayer for them, and remember their stories. After all, at the end of our lives, we all become stories. As long as I live, I’ll remember their stories.

The Storyteller’s Secret

The Storyteller's Secret

No spoilers. Read on.

I love stories. That was my favorite part of playing pretend as a child. Creating an entirely different life for myself in a different place was wonderful. I still play pretend in my mind while reading.

For most of this book, the setting is India. I was transported there as I listened to the audio book. In my mind, I was there for the Holi festival with the smells of spicy food and children’s laughter coloring the air. I felt the emotions of the characters.

The story is sad and lovely. It is emotional and left me holding my breath on several occasions. Although there is some romance, the majority of the story is about life, it’s struggles, the precious moments, and how unfair it can be.

The story begins with Jaya, a writer, who goes to India to “find herself” and explore her heritage. She finds Ravi. He was a servant to her grandmother. He tells her the story of Amisha, her grandmother. Amisha lives both upholding India’s traditions as well as pushing against them. As she goes through life and wades through all it’s seasons, she lives, loves, fails, and perseveres.

The story that Ravi tells Jaya is the best kind of story: one that has love, trial, and triumph. This story will be with me for a while.

I hope to read more by this author. Her writing is very descriptive and makes you feel what she is trying to convey. It has been some time since a story has captivated me in the way that this one did.

Some of my favorite quotes:

“My power became dependent on the height of my achievements.”

“When we reach, we always chance a fall.”

“But laws are slow to change what is in people’s hearts.”

 

 

Spoilers ahead.

 

 

 

 

I identified with the two women in this book in different ways.

Jaya stuggled with infertility. After three miscarriages, she needed to figure out who she was outside of being a mother. She went to India for her mother, to see her childhood home in hopes that it would explain her mother’s reserved nature and sometimes odd behavior. In finding out the truths of her mother’s life, I think it helped to heal Jaya. She explored destiny versus decision.

Amisha was a weaver of words. She invented a different life for herself in her imagination and spun stories to teach and entertain. She spoke to my heart and reminded me what a good character can be. She made the best of a not so great life.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it.

 

Feelin’ Good

Birds flying high, you know how I feel
Sun in the sky, you know how I feel
Breeze driftin’ on by, you know how I feel
It’s a new dawn
It’s a new day
It’s a new life for me, yeah
It’s a new dawn
It’s a new day
It’s a new life for me, ooh
And I’m feeling good

-Feeling Good, Nina Simone

The days have been passing fast. My birth month is upon me. This month will mark thirty three years that I’ve been alive. I came into the world exactly a month early, a 4 lb tiny thing with dark skin and hair.

Since then, I’ve lived to see blue skies and gray thunder heads. I’ve walked under moonlight and viewed in amazement a confetti of stars in inky skies. It’s amazing how you feel so big until you realize the vastness of the universe and how tiny you truly are. The Bible describes us as vapor. Here today and gone tomorrow. Carl Sagan reminds us that we are made of star stuff. We are made of ancient dust that defies our imaginations.

I’ve grown and learned, developed views and changed them. I’ve challenged everything I’ve thought I’ve known. I learn new things all the time and reach for knowledge when I don’t.

I’ve loved books and hated them. I’ve read them and relived them. I’ve lived among their pages to ease the aching of my heart or to revel in the joy of it. I’ve found it to be my purest joy, to read and also to be read. Words seem to make me, break me, or envelope me. They are my most favorite thing.

I’ve walked miles of concrete and grass, and planted flowers in my wake. I’ve watched them grow in delight and mourned them when they died. When the cold claims them, I look forward to their new growth in spring. It makes me realize that everything about me that dies yields new growth as well, eventually.

I’ve loved and lost, and loved and lasted. I’ve watched people I love fade away. I’ve watched new people to love be born. I’ve outlasted people who far deserve to live more than I do. I’ve known the desolate void they left behind.

I’ve cried an ocean of salty tears and have smiled so big that my eyes disappear. I’ve bared my teeth in anger and gentled my touch to comfort. I’ve lingered over a meal with friends and chugged coffee on the run. I’ve held open doors and closed windows to the cold.

I’ve known the hope of children and the loss of it not coming to pass. I’ve mourned children born of my heart. I’ve held onto their memory and cherished moments of their too short lives. I’ve loved them with an immeasurable love that will follow me into eternity.

I’ve held hate in my fist and told it that it has no place in my heart.

I’ve known the feel of grass on my bare feet and the sun on my face. I’ve felt the cleansing of the rain as I’ve stood in it’s fall. I’ve counted clouds on the wind and asked it to move the sails of my life. I’ve smelled jasmine and fresh turned dirt and loved them both.

I’ve loved a man with all my heart.

I’ve released a million faults and failures. I’ve overcome many fears. I embrace my own happiness and the future on the horizon. I’m looking forward to new years and adventures. The best is yet to come, and I’m feelin’ good.