Monday, April 22, 2013

Writing the chapters of life

A small but significant event happened over the weekend that marked the end of one chapter in life and the beginning of another. While big events are easy to mark, even the smallest of changes can separate one chapter of life from another one.

For over a year, my husband has been telling me to cancel our YMCA family membership and either buy extra at-home exercise equipment or find a more up-to-date facility to join. Our local Y is often crowded on weekends with swim meets, the roof leaks constantly and the equipment has seen better days. Even though buying our own elliptical would have saved in gas and membership fees, the problem with machines is that they break. Our treadmill has needed repair twice and both times were during the winter, when we were unable to run outside. So it sat there waiting for the belt to get fixed while we just . . . sat. If it wasn't for the Y, I wouldn't have had a place to run.

Working at home all day, sometimes I just need to go out and see other people. Doing so eases the feelings of isolation, especially when it's cold, dark and dreary outside and I haven't been within ten feet of another human being besides my husband for days.  Now that both kids are in college away from home, this is even more true. And that was the core of the reason I couldn't let go.

You see, what I was having a hard time with was the fact that I had so many memories of my kids growing up attached to the Y. It's where my daughter took her first dance class. She was only two, but I signed her up for Intro. to Dance at the Y, anyway. All she did was twirl around in her tutu, ignoring the teacher and disrupting the other little girls with her chatter about how pretty her outfit was. She wasn't ready just then, but a couple years later she started classes at another studio in town and danced until she was sixteen. During those later years, while she was busy at pointe, jazz and tap class, I would dash off to the Y and do a workout. The Y is right across the street from the performing arts center where many of their shows were held. I can't drive by that place and not think of her in her satin pointe shoes, wearing her white lace tutu and glitter makeup while she danced to Tchaikovsky and snowflakes drifted down from the rafters.

The Y was also where my kids learned to swim. I'd signed both kids up for Pollywog class. At the end of the session, they took a swimming test to determine if they were ready for the next level. My daughter's assessment recommended she move up to Guppy. But my son's, who is a year younger, suggested he stay in Pollywog. Since the classes were on different days and I didn't want to make an extra trip downtown, I told them if they wanted to keep swimming, then they could both go to Pollywog again. My son was mad and wrote me the note above, stating in no uncertain terms that he was ready for the next level. He was six and had taught himself to read and write. Thus the phonetic spelling of the word "sien" (sign).

This weekend my husband and I were running errands when we noticed tons of people streaming in to the new Planet Fitness in town. On impulse, we stopped in to have a look. Fifteen minutes later we signed on the dotted line. Everything is brand spanking new, it's close to where we shop and costs less than the Y. We then drove downtown, where I cancelled our Y membership.

Tears welled up in my eyes as I walked out of the Y. It may have smelled like moldy ceiling tiles, been clogged with goggle-wearing little swimmers, and had squeaky equipment, but dang it, the place had MEMORIES. The problem was that I wasn't building any new memories - those little moments in life that matter - to replace them with. Being there only made me feel melancholy.

I will miss it, terribly. But there are times in life when you have to move on and start something new. It's good to shift gears at certain points, to be excited about new avenues. When we're young, we're always so ready for new adventures. But as we get older, if we stop challenging ourselves, stop seeking out the novel, we cease to learn and grow. I don't ever want to get that way.Time to write a new chapter in life...

Until later,

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

What to read next (April, 2013 - Part II)

I wasn't even done with the last post before I realized I've been reading a LOT this winter and just had too many good books that I wanted to share to fit all in one post, so here's a few more:

1) Exiles in Time, by Sarah Woodbury

"Two years in Afghanistan; four years working for MI-5, the British security service; and the death of both of his parents from cancer. At the age of thirty-four, Callum thought he'd experienced the worst that life could throw at him. That is, until his boss ordered him to open a buried file on his desk and to take it seriously. His new assignment: to detain and question a pregnant woman and her ailing husband--and if need be, to stop them from returning to medieval Wales."

This is the latest installment in Woodbury's popular After Cilmeri time travel series - and in my estimation, it's the best one yet. In this book, Woodbury departs from the Welsh setting of earlier books and takes us to late 13th century Scotland. This is alternative history with a dose of romance, so events may unfold a little differently from the history books, but that only makes it all the more interesting.

I don't think you necessarily need to have read the previous books to be able to follow this story, but just in case you want to start at the beginning, the prequel to the series, Daughter of Time, is permanently free!

2) The Charter, by Gillian Hamer

 "Sarah Morton hopes dicovering the truth about the 1859 shipwreck of the Royal Charter will silence the demons of her past. But, tormented by visions and threats on her life, Sarah fears the ship may claim her as its final victim.

Set along the dramatic and dangerous Anglesey coastline, The Charter is a story of greed and forgiveness -- when the treasures of the past evoke the crimes of today."

Great suspense with a historical element, The Charter will immerse you in Welsh surroundings.

3) Dust, by Arthur Slade

"Imagine a depression-era town where it hasn’t rained for years. A pale rainmaker with other-worldly eyes brings rain to the countryside and mesmerizes the townspeople, but the children begin to disappear one by one. Only young Robert Steelgate is able to resist the rainmaker’s spell and begin the struggle to discover what has happened to his missing brother and the other children."

I would so love to see this as a movie! Dust is a Teen Horror novel - scary and dark, but not graphic.

4) One Week Girlfriend, by Monica Murphy

"Temporary. That one single word best describes my life these last few years. I'm working at a temporary job until I can finally break free. I'm my little brother's temporary mother since our mom doesn't give a crap about either of us. And I'm that temporary girl all the guys want to get with because I give it up so easily. According to the rumors, at least.

But now I'm the temporary girlfriend of Drew Callahan.."

A recently bestselling New Adult Contemporary Romance, One Week Girlfriend has an unexpected twist at the end. Sometimes the guys in the New Adult category are so much the 'bad boy' that it can be hard to find them likeable, but for me that wasn't the case with this story. Drew Callahan carries a dark secret, yes, but he's honestly a good guy.

5) The Dog That Talked to God, by Jim Kraus

"Recently widowed Mary Fassler has no choice except to believe Rufus, the miniature schnauzer, who claims to speak to the Divine. The question is:  Will Mary follow the dog's advice, and leave everything she knows and loves?  Is this at the urging of God?  Or is itsomething else? Will Mary risk it all or ignore the urgings of her own heart?"

I actually read this last summer, but was going through my Kindle and remembered liking this one a lot. What really surprised me was that when I was reading this, I stopped at some point to see who the author was again and had a hard time believing it was written by a guy. The main character is Mary, a bereaved mother and wife, who's learning to cope with loss and find peace and maybe love again.  Rufus poses the simplest, yet most heart-searching questions to Mary.

If you love animal stories, this is a wonderful read for a stormy day. Kraus has a new book out, The Cat That God Sent.

Happy reading,

Saturday, April 13, 2013

What to read next (April 2013)

It's time for another installment of 'What to read next'! Today, I've included recommendations for New Adult, Literary Fiction, Womens Fiction, Historical Fiction/Fantasy, and SciFi. Take your pick!

1) My Deliberate Mistake, by Claire Svendsen

"Drowning was supposed to fix everything. We were meant to die together. That's not what happened.

Ana Turner goes through shrinks like normal girls run through boyfriends. They'd probably be able to help her if she ever told them what was actually wrong..."

Svendsen shines in her debut novel My Deliberate Mistake, a New Adult psychological thriller. (If you're wondering what 'New Adult' means, it's like YA but grown-up, with more adult themes and situations.) This is a refreshingly original story about a girl on the edge who probably needs her meds to keep her mental health in balance. But what Svendsen does so artfully is keep you guessing as to what is real and what might only be in Ana Turner's head. This is a really fast-paced read with twists and turns. Brilliantly written. If you like something edgy and delve into this, you'll see why I'm so excited about discovering this new author.

2)  Don't Let Me Go, by Catherine Ryan Hyde

"The heart-breaking, funny, and life-affirming story of a building full of loners and misfits who come together to help a little girl survive—and thrive—against all odds."

 This is the second of Hyde's books I've read and as with When You Were Older, this one tugged at my emotions and made me feel for the characters. Don't Let Me Go is another great work of literary fiction about a bunch of misfits and loners in an apartment complex on the bad side of town who band together to care for a young girl in need. These people don't want to get involved, yet they can't not help. Gradually, they all draw closer together. At the core of the story is young Grace, who talks a little too loudly and says what's on her mind, and Billy, a former performer who shares his love of dance with Grace and in doing so takes steps towards overcoming his phobia.

3) A Scattered Life, by Karen McQuestion

"Free-spirit Skyla Plinka has found the love and stability she always wanted in her reliable husband Thomas. Settling into her new family and roles as wife and mother, life in rural Wisconsin is satisfying, but can’t seem to quell Skyla’s growing sense of restlessness. Her only reprieve is her growing friendship with neighbor Roxanne, who has five kids (and counting) and a life in constant disarray – but also a life filled with laughter and love." 

I enjoyed McQuestion's The Long Way Home so much I went in search of another book from her. This is a gentler read, but with heartfelt emotions.

Sometimes our friendships develop with the most unlikely people. Unlike Skyla's orderly almost mundane life, her new neighbor Roxanne's is full of chaos, but abundant with joy. A meddling mother-in-law threatens to upset Skyla's relationship with her new best friend. A poignant ending.

4) In the Moon of Asterion, by Rebecca Lochlann

"There is a beast in the labyrinth... a monster. The people say he is both man and bull; they call him Asterion.

Of all Crete's citizens, only two dare enter his lair. One bears his child. The other sees the Goddess in his eyes. Terrifying yet compelling, the beast offers Crete's only hope for redemption."

In the Moon of Asterion is the third book in Lochlann's Child of the Erinyes series (it's currently on sale for the introductory price of 99 cents, along with the first book The Year-god's Daughter). Lochlann again weaves myth and history in this epic tale filled with ancient gods and goddesses, prophecies, heroic men and strong women, in particular Queen Aridela who must lead her people from ruin to rebuild their homeland and rise again as the power they once were.

Lochlann is a true wordsmith who builds a detailed world on the pages. Venture back to ancient Crete with In the Moon of Asterion.

5) Shift Omnibus Edition (Shift 1-3), by Hugh Howey

"In 2007, the Center for Automation in Nanobiotech (CAN) outlined the hardware and software platform that would one day allow robots smaller than human cells to make medical diagnoses, conduct repairs, and even self-propagate.

In the same year, the CBS network re-aired a program about the effects of propranolol on sufferers of extreme trauma. A simple pill, it had been discovered, could wipe out the memory of any traumatic event.

At almost the same moment in humanity’s broad history, mankind had discovered the means for bringing about its utter downfall. And the ability to forget it ever happened."

 This is the prequel series to Howey's breakout Wool Omnibus. If you haven't heard about Wool yet, you're missing out. Even if you don't normally read Science Fiction, give these books a try. They're about people, expertly crafted by a truly talented storyteller.

Happy reading,