Saturday, June 1, 2013


After 6 months of running injury free, I participated in a Pilates class the other night and couldn't move when I woke up the next morning. :/

Um, yeah, well, and it was just an intro class.

I'm obviously about as flexible as a 2x4 piece of lumber.

Anyhoo, I spent the day flat on my back with a prescription my doctor gave me the last time I did this to myself and just wanted to cry.
I had planned to start a 7 week training program from Runner's World to push myself to run longer distances.
I pulled the plan out of the magazine, posted the first week on  my bulletin board and got started on Tuesday.  
This past Saturday I was able to run 3 miles without stopping...I want more!

And, now this.

I also have to have a stupid gynecological surgery in a couple of weeks...nothing outpatient procedure actually...but bc of the location of the cyst I have, an entire gland has to be removed...there will be stitches and no running for 2 entire weeks.  I've re-scheduled and put the surgery off as long as I can.  

I have races to run!!

Yes, I'm feeling sorry for myself...can you tell?

I felt better physically yesterday, but mentally I was still way down.
Finally about 7 p.m. last night I decided I would walk Layla on a leash...something I don't do very often.  She walks/runs with me most of the time off leash and responds to voice commands.  On my last run, however, she acted like a maniac when she got wind of another dog.  I had to take her home and leave her whining with my husband while I finished my short run.  (This was before Pilates).

I knew I needed to at least get outside last night or I was going to have a panic attack.
I'd already eaten as much kettle corn as I could...and that wasn't helping matters at all. :/
Imagine that.

Layla and I started out, and she couldn't figure out why in the world she was on a leash.  She followed my instructions, however, and heeled nicely.
I swear it's like she knew I was upset.

Almost half-mile in, my back was feeling ok...and I was feeling better mentally just from that brief amount of time outside.
I unclipped Layla from the leash, reminded her that we were practicing heeling, and I started a slow jog.

Next thing I knew, Layla and I had run/walked 4.2 miles.

To say that I felt like a new person afterwards would be an understatement.

I purposely walked up all hills and ran downhill and flat surfaces.  I forced myself to walk even if I felt ok.  I wanted to work a different muscle group than the one I work regularly.
I had gum in my mouth, listened to every power song on my Iphone, and even let myself increase speed on the running sections since I knew I would be stopping at the next hill.
It felt so good to just RUN!

To say that running is therapy for me is also an understatement.
After our run, I sat by the pool with my GNC lean protein drink while Layla soaked in the cool water.  The water from our Polaris makes a sound like a waterfall as it hits the surface.
I could have sat out there all night.

We went inside, I rolled out my yoga mat, and did a few of the poses/stretches I learned the other night at the demonstration from hell.
I did them slowly and stopped anytime I felt pain in my back.
After a soak in my big tub, I was ready for bed, feeling good about myself and the world again.
Layla was exhausted as well and slept at my feet the rest of the night.

I knew as I closed my eyes that "tomorrow is another day," and I really don't like kettle corn anyway :p

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Maya's Notebook by Isabel Allende - TLC Book Tour

Maya's Notebook by Isabel Allende
Harper Collins 2013

Source? the publisher via TLC Book Tours

**FTC Disclaimer - I received a copy of Maya's Notebook from the publisher in exchange for a review.  However, the review below and the opinions therein are my own and offered without bias.

Cover? I pictured Maya a little rougher than this...but the cover still works.

Title? Maya's Nini gives her a notebook to write her story where she left off at 15.

Why?  Maya's Notebook is my first read by Isabel Allende, so I was tempted just by the author herself...the storyline is one that compels me as well though.

What Now?  I have some catching up to do, but Maya's Notebook will certainly not be the last Allende novel I read.  Where do I start next??  

Golden Lines

As I came out of the museum, I met a dog.  He was medium in size, lame, with stiff gray fur and a lamentable tail but the dignified demeanor of a pedigree animal.  I offered him the empanada I had in my backpack, and he took it gently in his big yellow teeth, put it down on the ground, and looked at me, telling me clearly that his hunger was not for food but for company (15).

He held out his hand and looked me over quickly, evaluating the remains of blue nail polish on my bitten fingernails, frayed jeans, and the commando boots, spray-painted pink, that I'd gotten at a Salvation Army store when I was on the streets.
"I'm Manuel Arias," the man introduced himself, in English.
"Hi. I'm on the run from the FBI, Interpol, and a Las Vegas criminal gang," I announced bluntly, to avoid any misunderstandings.
"Congratulations," he said (17).

The Irishman and my Nini get together often to analyze gruesome murders over tea and scones.  "Do you think a chopped-up body could be dissolved in drain cleaner?" would be a typical O'Kelly question.  "It would depend on the size of the pieces," my Nini might say, and the two of them would proceed to prove it by soaking a pound of pork chops in Drano, while I would have to make notes of the results (41).

Once I start talking about my Popo, there's no way to shut me up.  I explained to Manuel that I owe my love for books and my rather impressive vocabulary to my Nini, but everything else I owe to my grandpa (43).

Sometimes I wish I could have a shot of vodka for old times' sake; though the old times were awful, they were at least a bit more exciting than these.  It's just a fleeting whim, not the panic of enforced abstinence I've experienced before.  I'm determined to fulfill my promise - no alcohol, drugs, telephone, or e-mail - and the truth is, it's been easier than I expected.  Once we cleared up that point, Manuel stopped hiding the bottles of wine.  I explained that he shouldn't have to change his habits for my sake - there's alcohol everywhere, and I'm the only one responsible for my own sobriety (47).

They kept me captive at the academy in Oregon until the beginning of June 2008, with another fifty-eight rebellious young people, drug addicts, attempted suicides, anorexics, kids with bipolar disorder, kids who'd been expelled, and others who just didn't fit in anywhere (102).

Barter is an essential part of the economy in these islands: fish are exchanged for potatoes, bread for wood, chickens for rabbits, and many services are paid for with products.  The baby-faced doctor from the boat doesn't charge, because he works for the National Health Service, but his patients pay him with hens or knitting.  Nobody puts a price on things, but everyone knows what things are worth and what's fair and keeps track in their minds. The system flows elegantly; debts are never mentioned, neither is what's given or what's received (132).

Brandon Leeman was always up front with me.  I can't claim that he misled me about what kind of business and lifestyle he was offering .  I stayed with him knowing exactly what I was doing (160).

After eating we settled down on the worn-out sofa, him to read and me to write in my journal, with our big mugs of sweet and creamy coffee with condensed milk.  Rain, wind, the tree branches scratching on the windowpane, wood burning in the stove, purring cats, that's my music now. The house closed up, embracing us together with the animals (163).

Between the liquor and the crack I floated adrift for two days without sleeping or eating or washing, dripping with vomit, because I couldn't make it to the bathroom. When I finished off the booze and the drugs, I emptied the contents of my purse and found a paper twist of cocaine, which I immediately sniffed, and a little bottle with three sleeping pills, which I decided to ration.  I took two, and since they had not the least effect on me, I took the third (234).

Officer Arana gave me ten dollars and his cell phone number, so we could get in touch and I could call him if I got into trouble.  He warned me that I should let him know before I left the city, and he told me to take care; there were some very dangerous neighborhoods in Las Vegas, especially at night, as if I didn't know.  As we said good-bye, it occurred to me to ask him why he was out of uniform, and he confided that he was collaborating with the FBI: counterfeiting was a federal crime (264).

Blanca and I wrapped him in a circle of arms and chests and kisses, holding him, crying with him.  We had seen one of those cells.  After a lot of begging, the guide had allowed me to go inside.  I had to crawl in on my knees, and once inside I stayed cringing, crouching, unable to change position or move, and after they closed the door I was trapped in total darkness.  I couldn't bear more than a couple of seconds and started shouting until they pulled me out by my arms.  "The prisoners were kept buried alive for weeks, sometimes months.  Few made it out of here alive, and they often went crazy," the guide had told us (335).

To celebrate, he drank a whole bottle of champagne by himself.  He offered me a glass, and I took the opportunity to tell him that I can't drink because I'm an alcoholic.  "How unfortunate, gringuita! That's worse than being a vegetarian," he exclaimed (383).

Short and Sweet Summary

19 year old Maya has seen and lived through it all.  A recovering addict, and on the run from criminals, she's sent to her grandmother's home country to hide. There she lives with an old friend of her grandmother's, Manuel, and learns who she is and what she is truly capable of as she thinks about the life she's lived so far.  

What I Liked

Allende's descriptions of Las Vegas, the Nevada heat and desert were so real, I even had to turn down the air conditioner.  I've been to Las Vegas in the dead heat of summer.  The seediness, the dirt, the hot air, the addicts and prostitutes on the street night and day and crooked cops that Maya falls into there is exactly as I imagined it would be.  I'm sure there are some lovely places somewhere in Las Vegas, but it's not a place I would want to visit again.  

Fahkeen, Dumb-Cat and Literati-Cat - along with several other animals play important roles in Maya's surprise to me (the animal lover) :)

Manuel - when Manuel was first introduced, I was so afraid he would be another of Maya's "mistakes," but how do you describe a character whose life meant so much to Maya's and hers to him.  He took her in at the request of her grandmother, gave her a home, freedom, advice, honesty, clothes to wear, a job, things and people to care about...he gave her back her life and helped her in his own quiet way to realize that she and only she was in charge of her future.  What an incredible character.

Maya's honesty about her past as well as her recovery...the raw details, not dramatized versions, the beginnings of her addictions and criminal actions in a Berkley high school, as well as her Las Vegas boss Leeman, the other young kid that lives with her and Leeman, Freddy, and strung out prostitutes.

Alternative timeframe - Maya tells her story while in hiding and melds her past with her present.  Maya's past is chaotic to say the least and it was comforting to me as a reader (and mother) to know while reading the past that she would absolutely, somehow make it out of the pits she fell into.  There is one incident in particular where Maya gets into a truck after escaping from an institution she is sent to rather than go to jail.  I cringed when she stepped into the truck, bit my fingernails through the ride, the stops, the overnight, her realization that she'd made another mistake and that somewhere out there her grandmother was probably having a nightmare that this very episode was happening to Maya.  

Maya's strength and perseverance - please don't tell me you are strong...unless you've walked a mile in this young woman's shoes.  I particularly LOVE the way Maya never wallows in her misery and never expects pity from anyone.  She is one tough cookie.

Getting to know the Chiloe'tan culture, history, customs, people, blessings as well as benefits...Allende takes an honest look at this part of the country.

Popo and Nini - how could you not like these characters.  These two, along with Manuel, O'Kelly and Blanca are the very reasons Maya is able to survive and grow.  What's even better about this story is that in her own way, Maya is able to rescue each of them right back.

Olympia Pettiford and the Widows for Jesus - I LOVE Allende's depiction of this group of women who are obviously very religious.  Allende could have very easily shown them as ridiculous, stupid, and followed every stereotype in existence.  But, she didn't.  

Strong female themes...addiction, victimization, rape, pregnancy, societal expectations.

The family secret that was so neatly tied up in Maya's story that I never even suspected it.

What I Didn't Like

Daniel Goodrich - I guess it would be implausible for a nineteen year old to NOT fall head over heels for someone while she's in Chiloe', but I didn't like him just the same.  Pretty typical male reaction if you ask me.

Maya's mother - really?  You need a license to fish and all that...

Maya's father - see above.  I separated him from Maya's mother because he does attempt to redeem himself eventually...but he's still under the "didn't like" section :p

Overall Recommendation

A recovery story on many levels with deep cultural and feminist themes, I honestly can't think of who should NOT read Maya's Notebook.  There's something here for all...young and old, man and woman.

The Author

Other Stops on the Tour

Wednesday, April 24th: Twisting the Lens
Thursday, April 25th: 5 Minutes For Books
Monday, April 29th: A Dream Within a Dream
Tuesday, April 30th: Tiffany’s Bookshelf
Thursday, May 2nd: A Bookish Affair
Monday, May 6th: Jenn’s Bookshelves
Tuesday, May 7th: Drey’s Library
Wednesday, May 8th: A Bookworm’s World
Thursday, May 9th: Speaking of Books
Monday, May 13th: Olduvai Reads
Tuesday, May 14th: Kritters Ramblings
Wednesday, May 15th: Savvy Verse & Wit
Thursday, May 16th: What She Read … - joint review
Monday, May 20th: Book Club Classics!
Tuesday, May 21st: Man of La Book
Wednesday, May 22nd: From the TBR Pile
Thursday, May 23rd: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Thursday, May 30th: Peppermint PhD

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

In the Garden of Stone by Susan Tekulve - TLC Book Tours

In the Garden of Stone by Susan Tekulve
Hub City Press, Spartanburg, SC 2013

Source? The publisher via TLC Book Tours

FTC Disclaimer: I received a copy of In the Garden of Stone in exchange for a review.  However, the review below and the opinions therein are my own and offered without bias.

Title? perfect...the garden that Caleb builds is the setting for the beginning as well as the very end.

Cover? ah, the bees...everything from honey to medicinal powers to gardening...a perfect example of using nature and all its powers to cover any and every need...WITHOUT completely using it up.

I was reminded of?
The Painted House by John Grisham
The Shoemaker's Wife by Adrianna Trigiani
The Smokey Mountains
The Dollmaker by Harriette Arnow

Why?  A multi-generational family story that takes place in the South...bring it right on, please.

What Now? I will read anything else Susan Tekulve publishes.  I'm excited about her entrance into the literary world with this astounding first novel and am keeping my fingers crossed that she has more stories like this one to tell.

Golden Lines

Her  mother's faded blond hair was unbraided, tangled at the waist of her damp shift.  The joints of her fingers were hot, knobbed, hard as ginger roots in Emma's palms.  She turned her face to the wall, as though ashamed of her ugly hands, her failure to bear the violent tearing aches in her swollen joints and ligaments (16).

He showed her a picture of the Villa d'Este, a garden made entirely of fountains, describing how water dripped down hillside balusters into mossy conchs and the mouths of stone serpents, how streams flowed through tues beneath other fountains to produce organ notes and bird trill.  In one reflection pool, two dragons rose, spraying water that cracked and clapped in the air like the sound of wind (42).

Why speak of such miseria?  You had to look forward.  If the head turns back, the body turns with it (83).

He pulled the man off the tracks, cradling the head in his hands.  As he adjusted the body in the grasses beside the rail bed, he dared not look down at the ruined face.  He looked away, toward the light behind the vanishing point (99).

The horse's gait was sloped and broken, but Sadie held on until the reins blistered her fingers.  When the horse stopped straying, Sadie looked up.  The night was spectral.  Along the path, white pines were moon-bleached, arching like frozen fountains from craggy limestone bluffs.  Dean was different in the woods, less wary than when he was around the house and barn (180).

She heard the screaming of steel against the tracks, the rhythmic rocking of empty coal cars.  The whistle blew again, its sound growing lower and softer as the train moved away until all she heard was mountain air whispering around her (225).

This is marriage, Sadie thought.  A silent house full of unused rooms whose windows were all painted shut (232).

"Can we go for another drive tomorrow?" Hannah asked.
Sadie nodded, "I'd like to find a jar of honey."
Hannah heard her mother's unspoken promise beneath her words. "It won't be much longer until you'll be old enough to leave.  I won't keep you.  I know how much you hate a cage" (266).

He thought of the bear's great, still eyes that reminded him of Sadie's, and how the bear had forgiven his intrusion, walking away instead of attacking.  Dean imagined the bear must have been telling him that he should be alone for a while longer.  I still owe her, he thought, stepping out of the window's soft light and across the shifting gravel.  He got into his truck and drove home (306).

Short and Sweet Summary

Caleb Sypher takes 16 year old Emma Sypher from coal country in War, West Virginia to
47 acres of Virginia mountain farmland on a ridge above a valley called God's Thumbprint.  They build a home and gardens reminiscent of the ones Caleb saw in Italy when he was there during the war and settle in to create a home and a life for themselves and their son Dean.  But, life is all about what happens while you're making even the best of plans, and their lives are changed forever one day by a tramp named Bambino.  For the next 50+ years, Grandfather and Grandmother Palmisano, Uncle Carlo, Father Edward,
Dean Sypher and his wife Sadie, Sadie's mother Jane Musick, Dean and Sadie's daughter Hannah, Aunt Maria, Dr. Chapel, the vet and Luther and Ruth's lives all meld together to change each other's directions and form a community of people who struggle to move into the future while holding on to the past.
A family story not to be missed.

What I Liked

The vivid descriptions of the mountains, the trees, the wildflowers, the growing gardens, the roads, the houses, the people...I loved Tekulve's rich descriptions from the first paragraph.

The generations...while Tekulve's story covers 3 generations, she writes in such a way that you don't get so attached to the characters just to have them disappear once the next generation begins.  Those characters always stay with the ones they leave behind.  Sadie's character, in particular, is one who through her quiet strength, deeply affects those she loved and those who loved her.  These are real people, living real lives, under real circumstances, making real choices that shaped the communities they lived in and their families.

Sadie - if you make me pick a favorite character, it is Sadie.  Sadie was a strong woman who weathered her life and its hardships along with its joys with her head held high.  She didn't need sarcasm or bitchiness to prove her strength, and she treated others the way she believed everyone deserved to be treated.  Her devotion to Dean's mother was stunning, and I couldn't help but think about the commitments these families made to each other.

The naturalness of life - these generations of people lived off the land because they had to.  Today we live so far off the land it's not even funny.  We have gotten so far away from enjoying and appreciating the bounties of the land around us.  Tekulve reminds us of that without preaching one time.  She doesn't say, "Look at the mountains in all their glory." She paints us a picture.  She doesn't talk about the tomato plants as red fruit growing on a vine in our little convenient garden beds.  She paints a picture of people working alongside each other, depending on their crop and making anything and everything out of those tomatoes in order to use what's been harvested...without wasting one single drop.  And, of course, there are the children, who grow so tired of eating tomato sandwiches, tomato biscuits, homemade catchup, stewed tomatoes and the like that they throw tomatoes across the fence when nobody's looking.  In today's society, whatever we want or need, whether it's a food product or building materials, we just go on down to the store and buy whatever we need and many times thing we don't need.  I think there's a lot to these old stories worth remembering.

Strong female characters - the men worked for the railroad or in the coal mines.  They were there, but they weren't really.  The women ran the homes, raised the children, cooked the meals, sewed the clothes, and taught the lessons.  Many times the fathers were only present on Sunday afternoons.  Children learned to be strong very early...young girls had to step in for their mamas when they gave birth, were sick or if their mamas died.  Survival was something Tekulve's female characters learned very early on in their lives.

I loved that Tekulve wrote some of the novel from stories that her mother-in-law told her.  Why invent new, bold and beautiful stories when we have such culturally rich, in-depth characters and the events of their lives that shape them and generations to pull from??  Can you tell I loved this book??

What I Didn't Like

Dean was the only character I wanted to slap around from time to time...he realized just what a partner, wife and woman he had in Sadie after she was gone.  Time wasted is always a shame.

Overall Recommendation

In the Garden of Stone is a keeper for will hold a special place in the antique secretary with the other keepers.  If you like real life, hard times, pulling themselves up by their bootstraps kind of stories, then this is your next read.

The Author

Susan Tekulve

Publisher's Website

Other Stops on the Tour

Monday, May 13th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Tuesday, May 14th: Caribousmom

Wednesday, May 15th: WV Stitcher

Friday, May 17th: Fiction Addict

Monday, May 20th: West Metro Mommy

Tuesday, May 21st: Kritter’s Ramblings

Wednesday, May 22nd: Unabridged Chick

Thursday, May 23rd: Tiffany’s Bookshelf

Tuesday, May 28th: Peppermint Ph.D.

Wednesday, May 29th: Rhapsody in Books

Thursday, May 30th: The Relentless Reader

Tuesday, June 4th: Chaotic Compendiums

Thursday, June 6th: Book Chatter

Sunday, May 26, 2013

My Girls and a Family Run!

Yesterday my girls and I ran a community 5K to raise money for missions.

To say that I was elated to be running with all 3 of  my girls would be an understatement of immense proportions.  

My oldest (#89) is an athlete and always has she smoked the rest of us :/

This was my third 5k, and my goal for the day was to run the entire time and hopefully carve a little off my time.

I think this picture was taken right about the time I saw the sign that said, "You are half-way!"
I was thinking, "You gotta be kidding me!!!!!!!"
I did run the entire way (insert sassy dance here), but our official times haven't been posted yet, so I have to wait on that :p

The little one ran her 2nd Fun Run yesterday but also ran/walked the 5k with a buddy of hers.

To say that I was proud of her is also putting it mildly.

Of all the love and pride and experienced yesterday, however, I think I was most proud of my middle daughter.  She ran/walked her first 5k, but she was the least happy about being there.
I didn't make her go, but she's been a little down on herself lately because of those freshman pounds all girls put on their first semester or two away from home.  I could care less about the pounds; I want her to be healthy.
We're doing a lot of cooking/grilling at home this summer while she's here and a whole lot of clean eating.  I want her to see that eating healthy food can be  delicious.  I also am worried more about the amounts of preservatives and "poisons" in the convenient foods we eat all the time.
 She was a little camera shy yesterday.

Her goal for the day was to finish the race.  And, she did!!

Yes, I was bursting with happiness yesterday.
And, yes, we have already registered for our next family race day on June 29!!!