A Sense of Home – #10Thankful

I’ve been thinking a lot about home lately.

Kristi’s Finish the Sentence Friday prompt this week was “when it comes to home…” So, naturally, I spent time thinking about the idea of home. And while I procrastinated pondered, I took a look at the things I had saved for my #10Thankful post last this week. Many were simple and beautiful moments of home that touched me in a particular way. Thinking I was onto something, I wondered if these two themes of home and gratitude couldn’t be married…

 

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There are so many ideas regarding home, so many interpretations. If you look up quotes about home, you find words and ideas as varied as the people who spoke them. Each one of them (and at the same time none of them) offers an answer. One or two of those quotes may resonate with this person or that, but not with a third. The reason, at least in my mind, is that the concept of home is something so very personal that perhaps there cannot be a definitive answer.

In his poem, “Death of the Hired Man,” Robert Frost wrote,

“Home is the place where, when you have to go there,

They have to take you in.”

Obviously, there’s a whole lot going on in that poem and we could talk about just that for the rest of the day. But let’s just stick with that little part…that statement about home. It doesn’t say what it seems to say. The line is not “when you go there”; the line is “when you have to go there.” That makes it different, doesn’t it? It seems more about where you go or to whom you turn when you need home…whatever that may be.

So what is home?

 

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For many people, the idea of home is attached to a physical place. But when time moves us forward, as it always does, and that physical building is no longer our home, we find home elsewhere. For some that physical place may be a house – complete with walls and floors and windows and closets. For others, that physical place may be a hotel room, a shelter, or even a cardboard box. Are these any less “home”?

A home may include the people you love and live with every day. But some people live alone. Does it mean they have less of a home? I have lived among family, friends, and roommates and I have also lived alone. In each case the situation was definitely my home. Not all of those circumstances were ideal, not all were meant to be anything more than temporary. At the very least, each one was the home I needed at that time and I never felt as though I didn’t belong.

So home could be whatever sense of belonging we have. That feeling when you are surrounded by who or what is most important to you. Or is home more a state of mind, a sense of being where we belong in life, either physically or emotionally. Maybe home is doing the things that bring us comfort. For me, home is cooking for my family, my daughter learning by my side. It is playing games, reading books, or watching movies together. Home is our everyday routine, the rhythms and patterns that make up our days and nights. Home is that sense of normalcy and “this is what we do.” I am so grateful for the nest my little family shares together and the time we spend in it together. But even when we spend time together out of our physical home, there is a sense of home that goes with us.

 

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I sometimes think home is a season. Certain times of the year make us feel most at home, regardless of where we are. For me, the return of cool weather and the changing of nature’s colors feels like coming home. Maybe it’s because fall signals a return to school and routine and that’s comforting. Or maybe it’s that fall is that harbinger of the homecoming season – the fall and winter holidays where people tend to return to their hometowns, their families, their memories.

Maybe home is any way we grow and learn and change – as a physical home is built, so is the home of “self.” Maybe it’s about working on better balance in life, staying on top of schedules or homework or activities. Maybe it’s getting and keeping the house cleaned or doing some painting or remodeling. Maybe it’s getting more sleep or exercise, working toward a healthier and more productive lifestyle. Whatever process of change brings us to a better version of ourselves could be what makes us feel at home.

Perhaps home is a return to our truest self. Do we feel most comfortable, most “at home” when we finally submit to that? When I consider the person I am today, the life I’m living, the goals I have set before me, I find that none of it is what I would have expected or desired ten or even five years ago. But maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to work. There’s that process of change and growth, of self-realization that takes place and one day not-so-suddenly we wake and realize that this – this – is who I am and who I was always meant to be. For me, it feels like a return to center, a return to what was always there, waiting for me to need to arrive. So if go back to Frost’s line, even if we’re talking about a return to self, it makes sense. When we’re ready to arrive at our true self, when we need to arrive, we have to open the door.

And so home is all of this and more. It is a feeling, a sense of self, something that lives within.


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Ten Things of Thankful
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This has also been a Finish the Sentence Friday post. This week’s topic is “When it comes to home…”

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Our host this week, as always, is the lovely and talented Kristi Campbell from Finding Ninee.

Our Inherent Good – A #1000Speak Post

We can easily strike up a debate about the inherent nature of humans.

Are we inherently good? Or are qualities like goodness, kindness, and compassion learned behaviors? Are they the product of nature or nurture?

It’s easy to look at today’s headlines about the tragic events plaguing our world, and say no, there is no good.

 

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And that much is true, of course; there is much hate and negativity in the world right now. There always has been. But I will argue that if you look through all of that, you will find good everywhere.  You will find stories of courage and compassion, stories about people doing great things and small to show another that they matter. We can probably swap headlines one-for-one, but at the end of our discussion, I will still insist that the vast majority of people are, for the most part and with the exception of certain extreme circumstances, essentially good at heart, at least most of the time.

Because no one is perfect. And because that’s true, maybe we don’t always do good things. Maybe we are not always good to one another, but even so we were not created to be evil.

You will say that’s hard to believe, given the violence and hate and anger we see in the headlines every day. That’s because media loves conflict. There is no drama when things are going well and everyone is satisfied – and the media hates that. The media wants you fired up, angry, ready to engage in a battle of opinion with anyone who wants to engage. It is the media’s job to tell you what to care about, what you should be afraid of, and who is to blame for whatever is wrong with your world. If only we saw half as much positive in the headlines – philanthropy, service, community spirit, and more – we would remember those good things and look for more.

Right now negativity prevails. But think about where a lot of the violence and hate and anger comes from. It comes from individuals’ desire to do something good, something just. Perhaps their actions or intentions are misguided. But if we reason to the root of things, we will so often see that people are angry because they want to be heard. People lash out at others because they want justice for those they see as oppressed and downtrodden. They speak up and act out because they want to effect change. And I think we’re really good at that – championing the underdogs, championing our causes. Most of the time. Except for the misguided few.

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But I’m going to stop here. I don’t really want to debate whether people are inherently good because I have my answer – we are and I can show you proof. (The story is on my Facebook page.)

Today, I want to talk about an area in which we as humans are not good, an area in which we fail to be good and compassionate day after day, an area that if left unchecked leads to so many other problems. We humans may be inherently good, but we are not inherently good to ourselves.

Most of us at one time or another have treated ourselves more harshly than we would ever treat a friend or family member, or even a complete stranger.

We criticize and shame our bodies.

We minimize our gifts and talents.

We emphasize our bad habits and flaws.

We tell ourselves that we don’t deserve happiness, success, love, respect, or a nap. We push too hard and go too long and we don’t say no for fear that we might disappoint someone if we don’t take on one more thing that is simply too much to handle.

We do not care for ourselves. We do not make the choice to take care of our minds, bodies, hearts. We are simply not good to ourselves.

And that is a problem.

When we don’t love ourselves, we can’t love anyone else. If we do not know how to care for ourselves, to treat ourselves with gentleness and compassion, how can we do it for anyone else? We cannot be happy for others, we can not lift them up and support them. We can not rejoice with them or cry with them. Perhaps we go through the motions, give a good external facsimile of what we deem “good.” But that is too difficult to sustain for very long.

And it doesn’t stop there. The problem does not rest with a simple inability to show compassion for others. It becomes something much more complicated, something much worse. Without self-love and compassion, we begin to treat others just as poorly. We treat others not merely with a lack of a compassion and kindness, but with distinct and specific hatred, cruelty, and jealousy. We refuse to see other points of view. We fail to respect the beliefs, practices, or personal space of other people. We want our own voice to be heard so badly that we become misguided in our approach. Rather than caring for our Selves so that we can in turn care for others, we destroy our selves and have nothing left to offer. Feeling inadequate makes us lash out and bring anyone we can down to our own level of misery.

And so it becomes clear that in order to heal the world, we must first heal ourselves. In order to be compassionate to others, we must first be compassionate with ourselves. It’s just like the flight attendants stress in that pre-flight safety speech – put on your own oxygen mask on first, then take care of the guy next to you. If you can’t breathe, you are of no help to him.

Shaking our heads at the bad news and grumbling about how the world is going to hell in a hand basket isn’t going to change anything. Neither is overwhelming ourselves with worry that we can never change enough to make any difference. Before we set out to stop all the negativity in the world, we have to stop the negativity in our own minds.

Be good to yourself. Be kind to yourself. Acknowledge and embrace your imperfections. Let the good that lives inside all of us rise to the surface and ripple outward. And be amazed at how much good you see around you.

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1000 Voices

 

This month, 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion continues to work toward a better world with a focus on inherent compassion. 

Write a relevant post and add it to the link-up right here by clicking the blue button below.

 

Join 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion on Facebook

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Use the #1000Speak hashtag across social media.

Six Sentence Stories – The Lie, Part 7

Jack’s mind rocketed back and forth through time grasping at fragments of memory as he lay trapped inside his own pain, half hoping for death. His only escape was to linger in moments when he was happy, when he held Andie close and breathed her deeply as though he could draw her inside of him. The fire in his lungs reminded him of his present; he saw her beside him, head bent in her hands, but remembered her a different way.

 

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He remembered her head resting against him as they listened for hours to a scratched old Meat Loaf album while waves crashed on the beach. Lyrics floated up to his consciousness, replaying the soundtrack of that summer when it seemed they had nothing but time…”time until the end of time…”

And now here they were at what must be the end, but he couldn’t lose her again; heaven can wait, he thought, even if it means being with her here in this hell.

 

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Want more? Catch up here…

The Lie, Part 1

The Lie, Part 2

The Lie, Part 3

The Lie, Part 4

The Lie, Part 5

The Lie, Part 6

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This has been a Six Sentence Story.

Six Sentence

Each week, the lovely and talented Ivy Walker hosts a link-up challenging writers to spin a tale in six sentences – no more, no less. 

Click on the link right here to link your own post and read more stories from some wonderful storytellers.

This week’s prompt was BACK.

Forgotten

I’ve forgotten how closely she watches me.

Sometimes it’s difficult to remember when she’s engrossed in a book or staring at a movie. It’s difficult to remember when she’s hunched over her Legos, brows furrowed as she figures out the best combination of bricks to make the structure she sees in her mind take shape in this world. It’s difficult to remember when she’s determined to do things her own way, in her own time.

But every now and then life provides us the jolt we don’t know we need. For me, it came the day my daughter padded into the bathroom where I was getting ready and stepped on the scale.

I was stunned.

Why does my eight year-old care what she weighs? Why does she think this is something she needs to know? And then I remembered – I step on the scale every day. It never crossed my mind that she watches me do it, deciding this something we do.

There’s nothing wrong with checking your weight, of course. But I had to stop and consider whether all points of this scenario are in balance. Are the messages I’m sending about health and food and weight management and body image the ones I want my daughter to learn?

It came again when she handed me a tiny yellow note with a picture of herself crying – crying – and a caption that clearly communicated her feelings. She was feeling unloved.

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I was horrified.

What kind of mother am I? How can this girl who is the very air I breathe not know how deeply and completely I love her. How could she possibly feel like this?

It was a bad evening, truth be told. We had a nasty meltdown – both of us – over a homework assignment. It was the perfect shitstorm of all the things we both are and do colliding to create a perfectly awful situation. I knew I had to step away because we weren’t getting anywhere positive, so I sent myself to my room, leaving her and her homework in the more rational care of her father.

It was a short time later in my darkened room that she delivered the note. I called her to me immediately and asked her to explain, prepared to tell her she was over-reacting, seeing things through an over-dramatic lens. My daughter looked me in the eye and told me her truth – things I have said and done that hurt her, made her feel unloved.

“Get out of my aura, Zilla.”

“I’m just not interested in this, Zilla.”

“I have work to do, Zilla.”

My own words lept from her lips to my ears.

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I was crushed.

Not one of those words was spoken with malice, but I had to admit I remembered saying them. Hearing my own words leap back at me from her lips, though, I realized she was right. Those were not words of love. It is easy to forget that the words we say are not always heard the way they sound in our head. Sarcasm sounds mean. Lightness is mistaken for gravity. I have to remember that what may seem innocuous is given much weight by my very literal eight year old child. Because she watches me.

And I have to remember that not only does she watch me do things like step on a scale, but she also watches how I admit a wrong and how I handle an apology. She watches how I deal with adversity and success. She watches how I treat the cashier at the supermarket or the annoying driver in the car ahead of me. She watches how I argue with my husband and how I parent.  She watches me seek the best balance between personal needs, work, and family. She watches whether or not I look at my phone during dinner. She will watch how I face life’s milestones, how I grow older, how I face death.

At every moment, she will watch. She will learn how to live and love and be.

And she will remember.

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This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post. This week’s topic is “The things I’ve forgotten…”

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Our host this week, as always, is the lovely and talented Kristi Campbell from Finding Ninee and our sentence starter comes from Hillary Savoie of HillarySavoie.com.

Six Sentence Stories – A Bark in the Night

“Does that damn dog ever stop barking?” Tim grumbled as he threw back the covers and stuffed his feet into the moccasins sitting at the ready beside his bed.

The neighbors bought the dog back in the spring and for some reason, it hated the husband – not that anyone else on the block could stand him – and barked at him constantly. Tim thought for sure that after the jackass moved out the dog would finally shut up.  But no – it barked every single night even after he was gone. He stormed down the stairs, tired of being ripped from sleep every night, and caught a glimpse of the hall clock…was it always at the same time?

It was only as he yanked open the front door that he saw the lights, blue and red flashing in an eerie silence that was oddly juxtaposed next to the dog’s insistent barking while responders pulled a white sheet over something in the driveway and led a man in cuffs to a waiting cruiser.

 

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This has been a Six Sentence Story.

Six Sentence

Each week, the lovely and talented Ivy Walker hosts a link-up challenging writers to spin a tale in six sentences – no more, no less. Click on the link right here to find out more and link your own post. While you’re there, click on the blue frog button to read more stories from some wonderful storytellers.

This week’s prompt was BARK.

 

#10Thankful – Cycles and Seasons

If one thing is certain in life, it is cycles.

Seasons come and go, night turns surely to morning, and years pass more quickly than we might hope.

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It’s hard not to see this time of year as an end. It is the end of summer, the end of sleeping in and staying up late, the end of a distinct freedom that exists when nights are brief and days are long and rich. But summer’s end ushers in autumn’s beauty, a time of warm sensory splendor. The vibrant colors of the changing foliage, the crisp smell of apple cider and pumpkin spice everything, the quiet entrance of a slight nip in the evening air…all serve as not-so-subtle reminders that the passing of warmth brings a certain hurtling toward the dark and cold of winter.

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It’s hard not to see winter as bleak, and many people do so. We trade long, lazy days for long, drowsy nights. We swap the feel of hot sun for fuzzy sweaters on our skin. We bemoan the cold and hunker down to wait for spring. But why?

The older I get, the more I grow to appreciate the beauty in each season, to see that each season serves distinct purpose, whether in nature or in our lives. Winter nights may be long and cold, but morning will surely follow. Ice and snow may cover the ground, but soon will melt and ready the earth for new growth. Winter is a time for rest and renewal, a preparation for what comes next. The snows of winter blanket the earth, softening the landscape and smoothing the rough edges. Without winter to provide a period of rest, spring is perhaps less interesting. How can we appreciate light and warmth and renewal without understanding dark and cold and exhaustion?

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Just as the seasons flow surely one into another, our lives will always cycle through good times and bad. While it may be difficult to recall the feel of summer sun or the smell of springtime blooms, we can ride out the latent hours of winter secure in the knowledge that even though far away, the new season will eventually come. And no matter in which season we wait, it is imperative that we seek  what is good and beautiful about each season of life.

 

This summer, I have been so grateful for the gift of time. We spent time as a family doing all the proper things of a summer vacation. We enjoyed day trips and hikes and movies outside under the stars. We stayed up late, chased fireflies, watched sunsets, and slept until our bodies were satisfied. We enjoyed the fruits of the summer, both literally and figuratively. We enjoyed fresh produce and icy cool drinks, slogged through humidity before collapsing, relieved, into chilled indoor spaces. We played games and read books for hours, with little concern about the hour for meals or sleep.

We lived.

Now that summer is passing its torch to fall, I am grateful for a return to routine. Back to school means back to regular bedtimes and regular rising. Autumn means it is time to gear up for the season of harvest, of coming home, reaping the benefits of what we have sown. The fruits of the earth change with harvest time, but are no less enticing. Autumn brings a return to warm drinks, cozy blankets, and hot soup simmering on the stove. We will feel the sting of icy wind on our cheeks and breathe the cold, clean air. We will shield our eyes from the bright sun reflected on sparkling surfaces after a snowfall. There will be time to play games and read books for hours as the wind howls and the snow falls outside the windows.

And while we await spring, we will live.

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Ten Things of Thankful
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The Fallow Period

Words do not always come easily.

Precious few words found their way to this space over the last several months – a mere dozen posts since the first of June, and none of them in August. It’s been a strange and wonderful period in which my mind has been filled with words and ideas, but my published page has remained empty.

As I look back over the last few months, I realize it’s a period I can only describe as fallow.

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A fallow field is plowed and harrowed, but left unsown. Since ancient times, farmers have utilized the practice of leaving fields fallow in order to improve the quality of the soil and allow for rejuvenation. Doing so results in more fertile soil and, it would logically (and hopefully) follow, healthier and more abundant crops.

I wonder if this process is also true for the creative imagination. Think about it. The term fallow is often used to describe a long period of time in which a writer, musician, or artist produces no new work. It is a period during which very little happens – or in which little seems to happen. But progress is not always marked by tangible or visible means. Perhaps allowing creative energies time to lie fallow may produce similar benefits – rejuvenation, fertility, and abundance. And just as the farmer makes a conscious choice to leave a field uncultivated, the choice to allow a period of creative rest should be no accident. It must be an act of will, an intentional short-term investment in order to yield long-term benefits. There may appear to be no activity, but beneath the surface there is work being done.

It has been a while since I have shared my words with anyone other than my Self. Rather than fear this period of inactivity, though, I have welcomed it. Rather than see it as a sure sign of failure, I believe it is a sure sign of great things to come. Even more than a period of rest for my mind, it has been a period of silent and unseen cultivation for my heart and spirit as well.

I look forward to sharing the fruits of this unseen labor with you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#10Thankful – Standing in Motion

I believe I am standing in motion.

I worked on a thousand things all week, produced results, and yet I somehow feel as though I have accomplished little because none of my projects can be moved to the “finished” list.

But maybe finished does not always equal successful (or vice versa) and just being in process is quite a good thing all by itself. To be about the business of living, doing, and becoming is a noble endeavor indeed. It is far too easy to slip into the trap of thinking about what we should have done and I know so many of us do it, at least once in a while. I am really trying to remain focused on what I am doing with my life, not what I or anyone else thinks I should be doing.

The Hub, Zilla, and I are taking advantage of the summer to enjoy different experiences – so much so that I’ve managed to miss the last couple of TToT link-ups (Oops and sorry!) (But #sorrynotsorry, you know?). We’ve been to the library, read to therapy dogs, watched a movie under the stars (almost) right in our own backyard. Our township shows movies in the local parks and we just happen to live adjacent to one of the locations. That was mighty cool. Zilla’s been to summer enrichment classes and swim lessons. I’ve been working on my kids’ book series and purge/clean projects at home. The Hub has projects at work and home in process. Now that Zilla’s a bit older, we’ve been introducing her to the wonder of board games and card games for the older crowd. Last week she learned how to play Life and Monopoly (Lord of the Rings version, thank you very much) and how to play Solitaire the old fashioned way – with real cards.

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That all kind of adds up to a whole lot of thankful right there. But it’s only the beginning…

I’m quite glad that I’m sitting for a few minutes with a hot cup of the best coffee in the world by my side so I can get this post written in the first place. Thanks, Husband, for the best coffee in the world. Always.

Keeping with the Husband theme, he deserves a spot at the top of the list always because he is among the best of men and the best of husbands. He stands by me completely through the better and worse and I am thankful to fall asleep and wake up next to him each day. Well, assuming he makes it up from his technology den before falling asleep, that is. But even then, I can be thankful for the entire bed to myself (and the three Rottens) for a few hours. Silver linings.

Time makes my list this week. Summer allows me to spend unscheduled, unhurried time with my daughter. It doesn’t matter what we decide to do (or not do), but we are enjoying the time together. I think the highlight of my summer so far was the day she said she loved grocery shopping with me because we get to be together. I think her point was that we were doing something necessary, a chore, and still enjoying each other’s company. I love having her along and I will miss that come fall when she is back in school. Of course it does take longer and cost more with her helping…but so worth it. Plus, she’s learning in the process. We read labels, decide what foods are good choices, plan meals based on what is available that week, practice math and money skills, and so much more.

I have also enjoyed some alone time with my Husband seeing concerts and eating a few meals sans kid. This week we’re getting an extra big dose – we escaped for a quick daytime sushi lunch while Zilla was in school, had dinner together while she was at a social thing at her karate school, and tomorrow we have dinner and a concert date. The couples-only time is so important for so many reasons. Of course, the mom guilt creeps in a bit – are we spending too much time without her? Does she feel neglected? I think we’re good, though, because she is always busy in her own right while we’re out and is always in the care of people who love her. She’s beyond excited to spend time with my Sister and my Mom at my sister’s house tomorrow and I love that.

I am amazed at what a strong and beautiful girl our Zilla is becoming. This week she dealt fabulously with some kid issues, earned her red belt in karate, and made her own breakfast. The unthinkable has happened – all the baby is pretty much gone from her and what remains is this lovely and fun person who needs me to help just a little less than she used. to. It’s bittersweet for sure. The only moments I catch a glimpse of her baby self is when she’s asleep, totally relaxed, and those sweet little cheeks take on that soft baby chubbiness for a few hours. I think that may be the real reason moms get up and check on their kids fifty times a night – for just one more moment of that.

We have experienced the beauty and wonder of nature this summer. We’ve spent some time hiking at our mountain (sadly, those photos are down the composting toilet with my phone) and on our last trip saw more and closer raptor sightings than we have on most of our trips. Awesome. We watched a pair of blue jays defend their nest from a redtail hawk who decided to perch on their lamppost and visit for a while. Fascinating. Sadly, Zilla and I saw a fledgling bird in its final moments of life as he died in our driveway. Unfortunately, we were too late to help him and he wouldn’t have survived the trip to the nearest wildlife rehab facility. We talked about life and death and I was glad for the opportunity for lessons the situation provided. We’ve watched sunsets and moonrises, enjoyed gorgeous summer days and watched truly fierce-looking storms roll in.

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I am so glad we have a share in our local CSA farm. We love our farmers and how they run things. We love the fresh, local, organic produce each week. During CSA season (for us it’s usually June through early November), I love planning our meals around what arrives from the farm. It makes me so happy that the Hub and Zilla are willing to try new and different things and that most of the time they like the results. I love how the array on my counter top and in my refrigerator inspires beautiful, healthy meals. Pinterest, of course, is a great resource for ideas.

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Of course, there are always smoothies as well. This was one of the most beautiful looking and delicious that I’ve made yet. I think it was kale or spinach, mixed berries, cucumber, water, and flax seed. Oh, and peach! So good.

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I received a sweet memento in the mail this week from our Listen to Your Mother leaders. It was a nice way to remember such a great experience. I was reminded what a cool thing that was to do. I believe that people and experiences touch our lives at particular times for particular reasons, even if we may not know exactly why right away. I’m certain that being part of Listen to Your Mother was one of those scenarios. There are over 500 videos to enjoy from this year’s shows (by all means check them out – they’re wonderful), but here’s mine. I loved sharing this story so if you’ll indulge me, I’ll share it again here. Be gentle, OK? I was recovering from a horrible upper respiratory thing complete with laryngitis and it was by far the WORST camera angle on me ever.

I am glad for plenty of time to read my always-growing pile of books. Between what I already have on the shelf, what I’ve recently acquired from the bargain table, and the public library, I have no dearth of material. Are we friends on Goodreads? We should be. Find me over there. I’m sure I can put a widgety thing on my front blog page, but I’ll have to figure that out later today.

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I am glad for the company of cats when I am here all day by myself. These guys are loads of fun. I have to give Cat One a little shoutout here for taking his meds like a man, so to speak. A few months ago, you may remember, he had some intestinal issues and now takes a kitty laxative twice a day. The stuff is a nasty sticky liquid and he hates it. He often spits it out and drools it all over himself and all over everything. I called our vet and they contacted a local compounding pharmacy to do his meds in compound form so it can be flavored – are you ready – like chicken. Yup. So when I tell him it tastes like chicken (which I have been for three months), it’s actually true now. He seems to be accepting it better than before and most of it stays in him rather than on him, so that’s progress.

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I guess taking a couple of weeks off makes for one very full TToT post! That’s it for me today. My coffee cup needs to be refilled. The house has grown a bit dark because the rain and storms have taken over once again. I love the sound of the summer rain. We’re going to spend our rainy (and disgustingly humid) summer afternoon teaching Zilla how to play Dungeons and Dragons.  So if you’ll excuse me, I have somewhere I need to be.

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Your turn – what are you thankful for this week? How are you spending your summer?

You know the drill – share ’em or link ’em and make sure to check out the rest of the posts in the link-up!

 

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Library Day – Behind Closed Doors

Whether in life or literature, when something appears too good to be true, it usually is.

We can never really know the truth about someone’s life until we live it. People’s lives appear precisely the way they intend no matter what truth exists privately. And while it is certainly easy to judge a book by its cover (who doesn’t?), it is best to reserve judgment until we read it. I was recently offered the opportunity to read B. A. Paris’ Behind Closed Doors in exchange for an honest review. After reading some sample chapters online, I was intrigued and easily drawn into the story.

Advance reviews and hype promised a “wonderfully horrifying” tale of “amazing evil.” Buzz from the novel’s UK release was exciting and mysterious. I can concede those points; the story that unfolds in Behind Closed Doors is indeed horrifying and I did find myself amazed that any person – real or imagined – could possibly do the things Jack Angel does in this novel. The story does offer mystery and excitement, as one might expect from the title.

 

Behind Closed Doors

 

To any observer, Jack Angel and Grace Harrington appear to have the perfect life. Two attractive and successful people meet unexpectedly and their whirlwind romance leads to an elegant wedding, an exotic honeymoon, and a stunning custom-made home that provides the perfect backdrop for their perfect marriage. They appear to have it all. But as the cover teases, both the reader and the novel’s other characters quickly begin to wonder whether Jack and Grace are living the perfect marriage or a perfect lie.

Some of Jack and Grace’s friends are in awe (and perhaps a bit suspicious) of their seemingly perfect life. But Paris does not carry these suspicions through the novel consistently enough to truly make us wonder, at least not with the characters who will ultimately prove critical in the end. It is actually Grace’s younger sister Millie who makes us look carefully at Jack. A dashing and successful lawyer, Jack sweeps not only Grace off her feet, but her sister as well. Millie is as easily enamored of Jack as Grace is until something happens to change her mind. From that moment on, the reader distrusts Jack right along with Grace and Millie, and for good reason.

The majority of the novel is devoted to revealing the sordid details of Jack and Grace’s marriage in chapters alternating between past and present. The story and the writing are engaging enough that I finished it in two short sittings; it is a quick. easy read and well-written. Unfortunately, I found the characters fairly one-dimensional, and therefore unbelievable. It is easy to like Grace, to love sweet Millie, and even to be charmed by Jack, but human beings are simply far more complex than Paris allows her characters to be.

We’ve seen Jack’s character before; he is basically a stock character, the movie-star handsome and successful lawyer who hides a sinister secret (think The Devil’s Advocate or The Firm). We know he is capable of unspeakable acts, but mainly from Grace’s perspective. Grace is introduced as charming, intelligent, and capable with an exciting career. But as her relationship with Jack intensifies, her personality diminishes. Millie is sweet, innocent, and easy to love. It is she more than Grace, perhaps, who prompts the reader to fall in love with Jack right along with the Harrington sisters.

The novel’s title and opening pages make it clear enough that the tale is one of terror that I don’t feel I’m giving too much away here by mentioning that Grace endures horrific and terrifying abuse of all kinds at the hands of Jack. The emotional and psychological torture is dark and disturbing, but at the same time I found the scenarios lacking any real sense of tension or danger. I kept reading mostly because I was hoping for some real edge-of-your-seat horror or redemption for any of the characters, but it never quite happens.

 

 

Some readers have questioned Paris’ use of Down Syndrome for Millie’s character and I can understand why – no one wants to think of Millie in this unspeakable danger. I might see where Paris was going, though; perhaps her intent was to present Millie as someone so sweet and guileless that her distrust of Jack bears weight over the gossipy suspicions of Grace’s female friends who simply come across as jealous.

Overall, the story and the writing were absolutely engaging enough to keep me reading, but I was disappointed by the lack of depth in the characters. I found myself wishing more than once that Paris would have explored other particular details of the story more fully and I found the ending to be somewhat of a letdown. There was a definite resolution to the story, but it was predictable and I was rather hoping for a shocking end.

If you like a light mystery and can stomach the type of violence in here, you will likely enjoy this book. If you are looking for deep plot development or intense character development and interaction, though, you will fare better elsewhere. I would be unlikely to purchase this book on my own, but can appreciate it for what it is – a quick and easy read that does not require too much from the reader to keep turning pages. It’s a good beach or poolside read.

Thank you to Macmillan and St. Martin’s Press for providing an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

#10Thankful – A Heavy Heart

It has been a week of such sadness.

I’m sure most of you know of the terribly sad and tragic headlines that have filled our news feeds this week. My heart is also heavy for people in my life who are grieving the loss of family and beloved companions, people who are struggling with illness, emotional and physical pain, financial difficulty, and so much more. There are so many hearts out there in need and lately it seems that there is far too much hurt to be helped.

I’ve started my list of thankfuls at least ten times over the last few days, and each time I sit in front of it, it seems…something. Trivial? Wrong? I don’t know. None of those is either true or fair, really. We are not wrong to be thankful for the blessings in our lives, yet many of us find ourselves thinking that somehow we should not be celebrating when so many are hurting. I know I’m not alone in this; a few friends have shared similar feelings. It’s more than OK to go on, to live, to continue putting foot in front of foot as we make our way through each day set before us. And yet, somehow, things like weight losses and spiralized vegetable noodles and replacement mobile phones seem…trivial. Wrong.

I’m dancing dangerously close to the deadline to add my list to the link-up for this week, so unless I’m planning to just opt out because I couldn’t figure myself out, I need to make a little haste here. I would rather get a few short things down and acknowledge them here than give up. Love wins. Goodness wins. I do believe that with all my heart, no matter how much evil floods my news feed. I refuse to believe that there is no good, no joy, no blessing in life. I’m not blind to what’s happening. I’m not ignorant of the problems in the world. I know. We all know.

I also know that light and cool meals made with spiralized veggies are perfect on a hot summer evening.

I know that reaching any goal is better when you have friends to encourage you.

I know that I am so very glad to have the opportunity right now to live my life in a manner that allows me to spend time with my daughter and my husband and do the work I love from the peace and comfort of my home.

I know that I am glad when we check projects off our to-do list.

I know that I am happy when our Cat One feels better after a bout of his tummy troubles. And I am definitely glad when his tummy troubles don’t land on the new carpet.

I know that losing a cell phone down a composting toilet shaft is definitely not the end of the world, just a relatively minor inconvenience to replace contact info and the phone itself. I do have to admit being very sad for the loss of some very special photos that had not yet been transferred to my computer. That bugged me. But they’re photos, not the actual people in them. Everyone is alive and safe and I know I will always hold those memories in my mind and my heart.

I know that I am grateful for my Husband’s patient ear when I need to talk and cry a bit.

I know that tears are wonderful, powerful things. And I know that crying helps and is necessary sometimes.

I know the same is true of writing – at least for me. It is a wonderful, powerful endeavor, even if the words never see anyone’s eyes but mine. It helps and it is necessary sometimes.

I know that the world is not all bad all of the time. If the world were good and perfect all the time, well, it wouldn’t be this world, now would it? It would be something else entirely. I know that love wins and eventually, somehow, some way, good does triumph over evil. We just have to keep working on improving our selves, our lives, our world, one little bit at a time.

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