Saturday, April 30, 2016

ABC Reads: April 2016



Hello, fellow book lovers! Andrea and I wish you a warm welcome back to ABC Reads. And we have a special message for you! 





So, let's have a little refresher on what the ABC Reads Challenge is all about:  
What does the challenge entail? Well, I'm glad you asked. There are 26 letters of the alphabet and we challenge you, during the course of 2016, to read a book that starts with each letter. For example, Atonement (A), The Bell Jar (B), Catching Fire (C), and so on. Makes sense, right? You don't need to go in order - if you want to start with S, go for it. We're easy to please around these parts. On the last day of each month, we'll host a link-up for you to share your ABC Reads.  We will award one point for each letter you review AND a bonus point for linking up with us!  
At the end of the year (or when the first participant reviews a book beginning with each of the 26 letters), the winner will be awarded a $30 Amazon gift card. 

Pretty easy, right? And if you didn't get a chance to link up last month - no worries at all. Feel free to jump in with us any time!

OK, so let's get to it. What did you guys read this month? How many letters did you check off? Here's my progress (April books in blue): 

A: (The) Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho. Completed March 2016. 
B: Better Than Before, by Gretchen Rubin. Completed February 2016. 
C
D:  Dark Witch, by Nora Roberts. Completed April 2016. 
E:  Europe on 5 Wrong Turns A Day, by Doug Mack. Completed April 2016. 
F:  Finders Keepers, by Stephen King. Completed January 2016. 
G: (The) Gifts of Imperfection, by Brene Brown. Completed January 2016. 
H: (The) Hereafter, by Jessica Bucher. Completed April 2016. 
I
J
K
L: (The) Last Song, by Nicholas Sparks. Completed January 2016. 
M: (The) Magic Strings of Frankie Presto, by Mitch Albom. Completed February 2016.
N
O: Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. Completed January 2016. 
P
Q
R: (The) Revenant, by Michael Punke. Completed March 2016. 
S
T:  Tiny Beautiful Things, by Cheryl Strayed. Completed April 2016. 
U
V
W: Warm Bodies, by Isaac Marion. Completed February 2016. 
X
Y
Z


Dark Witch is the first book in the Cousins O'Dwyer Trilogy. I like Nora Roberts books for when I just want a quick, light read. I gave this one 3 out of 5 stars. It was good, but completely predictable. I did love that the book was set in Ireland and the beautiful descriptions made me want to go there right this minute. The basic gist is that there was a witch back in the day who had 3 witch children. And there's an evil guy who is out to get them. And each generation of this family has witches who battle with this guy.



Doug Mack grew up hearing about his mom's grand tour through Europe before she married his father. And when he stumbled upon Frommer's book Europe on Five Dollars A Day (1963), he decided he would go to Europe using the guide and seeing how it compared to modern times. I really enjoyed his observations about the touristy locations, hotels, food, and locals of each country he visited. He didn't sugar coat things, but told it like it was. I read some reviews that said he didn't show the proper appreciation of some of the famous sites. And to me, I didn't get that impression at all. I think he was just saying that some places have turned into caricatures of themselves over the years - to the point where some places are made up of almost 100% tourists and the locals don't eat there or shop there, etc. I really liked this one, I gave it 4 out of 5 stars. 




You guys might remember how excited I was to share the cover reveal of  The Hereafter with you all back in March. Well, the story is just as beautiful as the cover! The main characters, Nin and Dylan are dead. But they don't remember why or how. The book flashes between their afterlife and little snippets of their lives. I don't want to give anything away, but the story deals with some important issues - parent/child relationships, abusive romantic relationships, crime, teenage angst, and so much more. It reminded me a tiny bit of Sliding Doors - that concept that if you were to miss your train or bus and take 5 minutes longer to get home, what would happen? This one gets 5 out of 5 stars from me. Go read it!


I love this book. "Dear Sugar" was an anonymous advice column on The Rumpus where people could send their questions/troubles and receive 100% honest, but still loving and funny, responses. Sugar turned out to be Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild. The book is a compilation of her columns. I love it so much, I gave it 5 out of 5 stars. 

OK, now it's YOUR turn! Come link up and share what you've read, Andrea and I can't wait to hear all about it. Don't forget to visit other posts and leave some love. Happy Reading!



Friday, April 29, 2016

Triumph: A Beautiful Season of Life



Do you ever just feel super proud of yourself? Of what you've accomplished and how far you've come? I've been feeling that way lately. There's no reason in particular, just an accumulation of how my days and weeks have been going recently. 

I feel creatively fulfilled. I launched The Figment after many, many months of thinking and planning and doubting. Holl & Lane is growing leaps and bounds and I'm super proud to be a part of the team. I've been reading my little tushie off. And best of all, I've been inspired to write again. 

My stress and anxiety levels are way down. Work is going well. I also have free time to pursue the things I'm passionate about (see above). I don't feel rushed, I don't feel like everything is falling through the cracks. I don't find myself wanting to cry from sheer exhaustion. 

I've had more family time with my hubby and kids than I've ever had. And that makes my heart the happiest of all. We laugh, we snuggle, we enjoy each other's company. Hubs is now off on weekends for the first time ever. It's just been a really good time for us.

I'm blessed to have supportive friends. Friends who let me bounce ideas off of them and have silly conversations. Who never get tired of me talking about books or writing or cats. Friends who encourage me every step of the way and believe in me more than I believe in myself sometimes. Thank you, ladies.     

I'm not a famous author with a dozen best-selling books. And I probably won't ever be. But that's OK. This is a beautiful season of life. And I've worked hard to get here. 


***
This post was inspired by the weekly writing prompt at The Figment Forum. Come join the fun. A new prompt is posted every Thursday. 




Wednesday, April 27, 2016

National Tell a Story Day: I Hate My House But I Love My Home

Not my actual house. 


In honor of National Tell a Story Day, I want to tell you a little story about my house. A house that I both hate and love, but mostly hate. 

It all started back in the spring of 2008. Hubs and I were given a deadline to move out of our former place, so we began the home search process, neither of us knowing what the heck we were doing. Plus, I was pregnant with our first child. We looked at several different homes and I wasn't terribly thrilled with any of them (not to mention our realtor was a joy *SARCASM*). 

Then, there was a home that needed a little bit of work, but not much, that we really liked. It had a big fenced back yard, and detached 2 car garage, and a really nice living room area. We told our realtor that we liked that house and she got back to us and basically said that someone else had already put an offer in, so we should look at something else (we didn't know better at the time, but clearly, I had several reasons to want to punch that woman). 

We toured our current home and I wasn't all that impressed. It was a foreclosure and the previous owners hadn't done much upkeep, which was going to require tens of thousands of dollars to correct. It had a tiny backyard that was overrun with weeds and poison oak and no fence. It had a master bathroom with a giant tub and no shower, which meant that we would have to use the shower in the hallway bathroom. There was carpet in several of the bathrooms (don't get me started on that disgusting mess). And WHITE carpet in the living room, wtf?! The previous owners apparently left in a hurry and left behind giant piles of trash in the house and garage. They took the appliances though, so we had to get all new ones. The siding needed to be replaced. The house is a split level, so I'm always going up and down stairs to put groceries away or do the laundry. All of the closets are tiny. It has vaulted ceilings, which is pretty I'll admit, until 5 minutes later when you remember how much electricity (cha-ching) it takes to heat or cool this place. I'm sure there's other things that I'm leaving out, I just can't think of them all. 

Needless to say, I wanted no part of it. I told my hubby repeatedly that we should keep looking because the house would require too much work, time, and money. But he kept telling me how much of an investment it would be, and that once we fixed it up, it would be great, blah blah frickin' blah. 

So, we put in an offer. Now, you'd think that was the end of the story. Nope, you'd be wrong. A foreclosure has it own set of rules. We were in foreclosure limbo for months, dealing with banks and middle men and triple the paperwork. We finally closed on the house in the fall (we started the process in the spring, mind you) and began the long, "fun" process of moving in and getting everything fixed. Sort of. We had a days-old newborn, so we were sleep deprived and delirious and tried to do what we could to make it livable. 

We've now been here over 7 years and the house still hasn't grown on me. I mean, we've made so many memories here for sure. And I'm a bonafide homebody, so I spend 99% of my time here. But if I could do it all over again, and please understand that I'm grateful to have a roof over our heads, I certainly wouldn't pick this house.

I'm not one of those people who necessarily equates "home" to a place. Home is your family. Home is being with the people you love, regardless of where you physically reside. Home is love and light and laughter. 

Home can be anywhere, as long as your heart is full. 


Monday, April 25, 2016

The Missing Piece



The Missing Piece


I was always afraid to be myself, because I knew that’s not who you wanted me to be. I’d do anything to make you happy because perhaps I hoped that meant you would love me. I wanted the kindness that you gave away so freely to strangers, but seemed too much of an effort to give to me. 

You had other gifts for me instead. Backhanded compliments. Comparisons in which I never measured up. Blame, though for what I still have no clue. Temper tantrums, guilt trips, manipulation. Betrayal.  

I used to be terrified of you. I used to wonder what I did wrong. I used to fucking care. 

There’s a piece missing from your puzzle. I don't know if it was ever there to begin with. And in that space there is your resentment, your “never good enough”, your take and never give.

Thankfully, I’m not like you. I have that piece of the puzzle. It fits perfectly, in the shape of two little people who hold my heart and soul in their hands. Who have so much love in their little bodies that it takes my breath away. 

I confess that I am missing a different piece, though. There’s a black hole where my forgiveness should be. Infinite, unyielding, angry. One day, I hope it terrifies you. One day, I hope it makes you wonder what you did wrong. One day, I hope it makes you fucking care. 

And on that day, I’ll fill the hole with cement and never look back. 


***

This post was inspired by the weekly writing prompt from The Figment writing community. Click here to find out more and to join us. A new prompt is posted each Thursday. 


Friday, April 22, 2016

The Figment is LIVE!


The time has come. The Figment writing community is LIVE! I'm so excited! If you love writing, I really hope you'll join us. Let's cheer each other on as we share the words in our hearts. Why am I even still talking? Let's do this!




Feel free to share with your friends. We welcome all writers. And don't forget to subscribe to the newsletter - our subscribers get special perks and updates before everyone else. 



Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Performance Anxiety


A few months ago, Dom came home and asked me if he could sign up for the talent show. At first, I thought he was joking. Surely no child of mine would want to willingly get up and like... do stuff in front of people??!! But he assured me he was serious and that he wanted to perform a martial arts routine he learned from his Tae Kwon Do class. I told him I'd talk to his dad about it. Charlie talked it over with Dom and asked him to demonstrate the routine, and asked him if he'd be OK getting on stage to perform, etc. Dom was so incredibly excited about it, so we signed the permission slip and turned it in. 

He went to several talent show practices and dress rehearsals this past month, and everything seemed fine. He told us about his practices and told us about some of the other kids' routines that he enjoyed. Fast forward to yesterday - all talent show kids were slated to perform 3 times. Once in the morning for half of the school, once in the afternoon for the other half, and then once in the evening so that parents and family could attend. 

I have to admit, I was getting excited. I wanted to be THAT mom who cried as she watched her baby on stage, breaking boards and executing punches and kicks like a pro... And then I received a voicemail from one of his teachers. 

She said that Dom was in tears and that he didn't want to perform and was extremely upset. She told me that of course no one was going to force him to perform, but she wanted to let me know how upset he was and that we wouldn't be seeing him in the talent show that evening. 

Sigh. I felt several different emotions. Sad - because my baby was hurting and I was at work and couldn't scoop him up and kiss him all over his face. Annoyed - because this was his idea, and he committed to it, and was now backing out at the last minute. Disappointed (slightly) - because I think if he had stuck with it, the payoff for him in hearing people cheer and completing the routine, would have made his day. Proud - because he's my son and I love him more than words can even describe, and no talent show or anything else will ever change that. This won't even be a blip on his radar in a week. 

I was telling a friend of mine this morning that I feel like he has this weird mixture of my and my husband's personalities. He's very social, loves to talk and joke around, and volunteer for things. But he also doesn't want to be the center of attention because he's desperately afraid of rejection/ridicule from his peers. 

I don't know which of these warring attributes will win out, or if they will both always be there. But I do hope for one very important thing: that he will always feel comfortable enough to tell me and his dad what he's feeling and never fear that we'll judge him or treat him any differently. And I hope he always knows that he doesn't need to get up in front of a crowd to know that he has talent, as well as his family's love and respect. 


I love you, little man. Always have, always will. 


Monday, April 18, 2016

These Streets Will Make You Feel Brand New


I love New York. Have I mentioned that lately? Oh, like a 1,000 times? #sorryNOTsorry

Charlie and I just went to NYC over the weekend to celebrate our anniversary and it was just as wonderful going a second time. So far, we've been at Christmas time, and now during the spring. We hope to go back again during the fall, but we shall see. 

There's just so much to do and see, I feel like we could go 10 more times and still not be tired of it. We left Friday morning and had fun driving and listening to music. If you follow me on SnapChat (mychaoticlife1) then you would have seen some of our shenanigans. 


On Friday evening, we visited the One World Observatory on the 101st floor of the World Trade Center. The views were breathtaking. Then we had our anniversary dinner at One Dine, the restaurant located near the observatory. And then we stayed and watched the sun set over Manhattan. I think I had goosebumps for the most of the evening because of the beautiful view. 



After dinner, we went to the Comedy Cellar and laughed the entire night. I literally had tears streaming down my face at one point. Definitely recommend going there if you haven't been before. 

On Saturday morning, we slept in, and then just wandered around the city. We went to Bryant Park and basked in the sunshine and we also saw the Flatiron Building. 



Saturday evening, we met up with Andrea and Christopher for dinner. And then we went to see Dear Evan Hansen at Second Stage Theater. Good food, good company, good entertainment. It was a lovely night. Plus, stay tuned later this month - you'll be seeing more of Andrea and me... #mysteriousstatement haha. 


And here are more photos, because I can. :)



Can't wait to go back again. :) Until next time, NYC. Until next time. 


Thursday, April 14, 2016

Down the Rabbit Hole


Allie sat on the bench, foot tapping in irritation. "Where are you?" she muttered under her breath. She had been waiting for over an hour, and though she enjoyed the scenery at the park - the beautiful flowers, the fountain, the happy families - she really just wanted to go home. She wanted to wallow and wonder where the hell she went wrong in life. Preferably with a pint of mint chocolate chip ice cream.  

She glanced at her watch and decided to give it 5 more minutes and then she was leaving. She closed her eyes behind her sunglasses, glad that no one could see the disappointment in her eyes. She knew better than to trust his promises. She knew that he wouldn't show. Why did she bother? She stood up and gathered her belongings. She'd go home to her cat, Dinah, she thought. The one being that loved her unconditionally and never let her down. 

"Al, wait." His voice sounded urgent, but even so, made her heart flutter. God, if she could only get him out of her system. But she tried. And tried. And tried again, never succeeding in breaking that tie. 

She slowly turned and looked at him. The only man she had ever loved. "Hi, Tim. I won't bother asking why you're late. I'm actually surprised that you showed up at - " 

He didn't wait for her to finish, he grabbed her hand and started pulling, and she was too flabbergasted to do anything but follow. "Tim. Where are we going? Tim! Slow down. What is going on?" 

He turned back and glanced at her for a moment and kept walking, his rabbit tattoo peeking out from under his sleeve. "I'm late. We gotta go. Like, right now, " he answered. 

"Late? Late for what? Can you please just tell me what's going on? Stop dragging me, you're hurting my arm." 

He cringed, concern flashing in his eyes. "I'm sorry, Al. Are you OK? Just trust me, please. We have to go right now. I promise you, it's important. A life or death matter, even." 

Allie relented and walked with him silently. She had never been to this particular part of town and had wondered why he wanted to meet at that park. But she had never seen him like this before, so she knew it really was important to him. Whatever "it" was. They walked, block after block, some times turning this way or that. 

Finally, Tim stopped and said, "We're here." He took a deep breath and composed himself. Allie eyed him nervously and then looked at the sign on the door of the vacant storefront. It had faded and she could barely make out the letters. "Derland? What does that mean?" 

Tim didn't answer and pushed open the door. He motioned for her to go inside. "It's called Wonderland," he replied and shut the door behind them. 


To be continued.... 


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Iceberg: A Self Portrait


Iceberg: A Self Portrait
{an original poem}


The epitome of the unknown... and unknowable 
True potential yet to be revealed
Perhaps remaining a mystery for eternity
So cold and formidable to all encountered
But truly just lost and drifting
Am I in your way? 
Why do you run? 
Frigid, frightened, fragmented
That cannot be me
Princess Catastrophe
Floating light above the surface
Black depths calling from below
The sun? 
Let that dream go
There's only you and me and the cold inside
A thin line between destruction and redemption


Monday, April 11, 2016

I Shaved My Head for a Good Cause

Me before the big event.  Photo by Rebecca J. Imagery 


If you had told me that when I turned 33, I would willingly shave my head, I probably would have laughed. In our current culture, people shaving their head can usually be met with shock and ridicule (Britney in 2007, anyone?). Fast forward to the beginning of March, and on my 33rd birthday, I did just that. I’m sure you’re wondering why.

See my "after" photo and read the rest of my story over at the Holl & Lane Blog


Friday, April 8, 2016

Innocence

Photo by Rebecca J. Imagery


Gosh, my kids are growing up so fast. I can't even handle it, you guys. Where did my little babies go? 

Dom just lost one of his front teeth and a second one is hours away from falling out. He's handling Tae Kwon Do classes like a pro. He loves to read - the Goosebumps series, books about squids or David and Goliath. He's a deep thinker and is always asking questions so he can understand the ways of the world. But he still has this sense of innocence about him and I just wish I could keep him trapped at the age of 7 forever. I know that everyone has to go through things in life - they shape you as a person and all that jazz. But I don't want to see him cry or get his heart broken or realize how shitty things can be in life sometimes. When that childlike innocence leaves his eyes, my heart will ache something awful. 

Photo by Rebecca J. Imagery 


Will is in that stage where he goes back and forth between wanting to be independent and wanting to be mommy's little baby. His reading gets better and better every day. He never gives up - sounding out words like a champ. He loves snuggling with me and watching a movie or making goofy faces on SnapChat. He is his big brother's little shadow, mimicking his every move. He never misses a beat - he's so quiet and observant and takes everything in. But shew, that boy is stubborn. Gets it from his dad, of course. ;) 

Photo by Rebecca J. Imagery


I've said it before and I'll say it a 1,000 more times because it never stops being true - being a mom to these 2 boys has made me the happiest person on Earth. Somebody make a "never grow up" pill so I can keep them with me forever. Wishful thinking? 

"When we are children we seldom think of the future. This innocence leaves us free to enjoy ourselves as few adults can. The day we fret about the future is the day we leave our childhood behind." ~ Patrick Rothfuss


***

I'm participating in Vlog Every Day in April (VEDA) and would love for you to follow along this month, if you're interested. Come see my silly videos on YouTube

Also, printed copies of Issue 7 of Holl & Lane Magazine are on pre-order right now for $10 through Sunday, April 10. Get in on the discounted price and on the heartfelt stories from real people like you and me.   


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

No Drama Llamas

No Drama Allowed | The Chronicles of Chaos

I'm so tired of drama, you guys. Drama and negativity and hate and judgment. People who like to poke and stir up trouble and complain ALL the time. Undermine your achievements, rain on your parade. Whatever happened to believing in someone? Believing in the good in people. Spreading joy and kindness and patience and tolerance. 

I honestly don't know what has happened to our society. Or where the us vs. THEM dichotomy came from. It breaks my heart that this is the world that my children are growing up in. Where people are judged by who they love or who they vote for or the color of their skin. Or how EVERY single issue on the planet has turned into something offensive. News flash - You do not have to agree with everyone. BUT YOU DO HAVE TO BE KIND. 

I don't know where we've gone wrong. I don't know how to fix it. But I'm tired of it. I want no part of the drama. This is a drama llama free zone. It doesn't mean that we can't care about important issues, or want to share our stories with others. But building each other up should be the name of the game and not tearing each other down. 

So from now on, I strive to build a supportive environment. To help cheer on other people. To do things that will make a positive impact, no matter how small. Who's with me? 

Sorry drama llamas, move it along. Ain't nobody got time for that. 


***

I'm participating in Vlog Every Day in April (VEDA) and would love for you to follow along, if you're interested. Subscribe to my YouTube channel and come see my silly videos. :) 


Friday, April 1, 2016

Shades of Night


Happy April and Happy National Poetry Month! Of course, to kick things off, I just *had* to share a poem with you all. Let's do this! 


Shades of Night
A Poem

The sun shines bright
Its laser sharp focus burning with light
I feel vulnerable under its warm gaze
Afraid that you can see my thoughts in my eyes
See right through me
I can't bear this brutality, this nakedness of the soul
I need my armor
I need my shell
I need to hide my weakness
I need the darkness 
My eyes don't lie
But you can't see what I don't say
With my shades of night


***

P.S. Don't forget to link up for the ABC Reads challenge! We're reading our way through the alphabet this year. How many letters have you checked off so far? Come join us! 

P.P.S. I'm participating in the Vlog Every Day in April (VEDA) challenge this month. If you're interested in checking out my videos and seeing me make an ass of myself, head over to my channel and subscribe. I'll puffy heart you forever. The first video will be going up later today.