Friday, August 16, 2019

Review: The Beginning of Everything

The Beginning of Everything is a story of loss, love, terrible coincidences and enduring friendship. Robyn Schneider's quiet and engaging book is about Ezra Faulkner, who once had it all and lost it, but now must face school and life again.

Ezra was a star tennis player. In this world, tennis players are even more popular than football players and Ezra was the top of the heap. He had the most popular girlfriend, went to all the right parties and was one of the guys all the way. One night before the book even begins he is injured in a traumatic accident in such a way that he loses all his friends and his ability to play tennis. 

We meet Ezra just as he's recovering and going back to school for his senior year. He's lucky enough that a former friend who he became too cool for in the past is willing to take him into his group. And, that group includes an exploration of the world of the debate team and a mysterious new girl who captures his imagination and his heart. 

What I loved about this book:
  • Ezra is smart and his internal dialogue is fun and engaging
  • His new friends are also intelligent and their banter brings you into their world
  • Ezra has a physical ability to manage and it's easy to connect with him as he deals with new limitations and frustrations as he adjusts to it
  • Cassidy, his love interest, is complicated and nothing is quite what it seems in her world, which keeps you guessing
The popular kids can feel a little stereotypical and the concept that the tennis team is more popular than the football team is different from most midwestern high schools I know about. But, overall, this story is one you don't want to miss. It will give you all the feels from beginning to end. 

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Why I read

When I watch TV, I am observing a world, but when I read I am in the world. It's me casting spells and hunting horcruxes. My adventures in the spy world are many. The mysteries I've solved raise the hairs on the back of your neck. I've dated a vampire, fought for my life in a field of teens and conquered the old west. I've been any manner of magical being, all kinds of criminals and every level of royalty. 

I have seen the universe in the crisp white pages of a book-- from Europe, to the Moon, to the inside of a small boy's body. My travels span thousands and thousands of years, millions of pages, decades in the future and eons into the past. I've befriend lions, lived in rugged mountains, danced at weddings after the apocalypse. 

Every page is a new opportunity for me to see a different point of view, to appreciate that we are each the hero or heroine of our own story. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Book Review: Dumpin' and Leah on the Offbeat

I finished both Dumplin' and Leah on the Offbeat recently. I love both books for their body positivity, smart, thoughtful protagonists and nice attention to the secondary characters.

SPOILER ALERT!! Do not read on if you are not looking to spoil either (or both) of these book endings for yourself

***** You have been warned!!

Here's the crux of my problem: Both books are about characters who come to love and appreciate their bodies, but they are also about characters who chose the hot, not so nice person who will finally come around to being with them. They both throw over the awesome, always there nice guy who liked them all along for just being themselves for the person who finally decided they were, I guess, worth it in the end. Not exactly super inspiring. If the idea is that girls of any size should be appreciated for who they are, why do they have to end up with hot people who are not such awesome people aside from being hot?

It killed me when Willowdean in Dumplin throws away Mitch like he means absolutely nothing to her because she just feels that magic with Beau, who treated her like a dirty secret at the beginning of the book. And Leah running off to be with Abby when Garrett is being so sweet and likes her for who she is. (Also, the way she has no problem screwing over her friend Nick is a little off-putting, as well). Why do these girls refuse to find "magic" with great people who treat them well? What's so magical about someone treating you like crap?

So, while I enjoyed both of these books, I just can't get onboard with the happily ever afters because they felt like settling for something less in both cases. Maybe Mitch and Garrett weren't the ones. The magic just wasn't there. Still, each of these characters could have been way kinder to them and then gone off to find a nice person (male or female) who treated them the way they deserved to be treated from the beginning.

Enjoy these books if you want to, but please promise me in your real life you'll give those nice folks a chance when they turn up!

Friday, August 3, 2018

Permission to be

Tonight is the last night of my vacation. I'm sitting in a dark wood paneled room on a sunken, too-soft mattress with purple pedicured toes tilted toward the ceiling. Outside, the kids, who are nearly adults now, are soaking in a hot-tub under the stars. I've spent most of the week laying around, cutting into my rituals of relaxation for an occasional and quick jump in the frothy ocean water or a couple of laps in the pool. We went out to dinner once and out for ice cream twice. The kids took turns cooking and cleaning. I believe I may have made a peanut butter sandwich one day and a tuna sandwich the next.

I expected to get tons of writing done, but instead I read historical romances with Dukes and young women debuting for a season in society. I watched a couple of movies. I played a bunch of board games with the kids and my husband. I really honed my skills at Scrabble and Uno. I didn't think about my job that much, though I did check email. I obsessed a little about PTA, but not as much as I probably should have.

And I refuse to feel bad about it. I needed this break. Sometimes we need to just check-out and relax. Sometimes we just need permission to be.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Exploring my Tourette's through the lens of neurodiversity

I recently learned about a concept called neurodiversity. The idea is that a lot of public attention and effort has gone into searching for ways to cure folks with autism, ADHD, Tourette's syndrome or other neurological anomalies. Yet, having one of these can also come with positive things. For example, one article I read claimed that people with Tourette's tended to have a strong capacity for memory, a stronger than average ability with grammar and the ability to hyper-focus on tasks.

While I'm sure more studies are needed, its interesting to me because I do have Tourette's and several of these positive traits (for the most part, I still can never remember where I left my keys). It's really gotten me thinking about how I've been conditioned to think about my tics as something that I should desperately want to cure. Living with even the mild form of this condition takes energy to manage. I liken it to an anti-virus program that is always whirring in the background taking computing power but not showing results on your screen. My mind is always reserving some part of it's energy in the background to manage my tics-- either to suppress them, to ignore them or to move them to a more acceptable outlet than the way they want to express.

I love the idea of thinking about what my condition has potentially brought to me and my personality versus what it takes away. What am I getting in return for all that spent energy? If I were able to take the available drugs that treat Tourette's, which I can't because of my particular constitution for the side effects, what would I be giving up? Would I be able to make the connections my mind makes as quickly as it does? Would I still remember the specific ending of a movie I saw twenty years ago or the directions for making chocolate chip cookies with a recipe I've never written down? Who would I be on medication versus who I have always been?

The concept of neurodiversity is something to really think about. Should we be focusing on finding cures, helping people appreciate and live more fully as who they are or some combination of both as we tackle the realities of living with these neurological differences? It's a big question and one I don't think I've taken enough time to sort through in my own mind yet.

And, of course, as an author it has me thinking about how we represent these differences in our stories. I haven't written a character with Tourette's yet. Each time I imagine doing that I shirk away. It feels so personal. Maybe it's time to take that jump. If it can help someone else see the total complex package of appreciating their own condition maybe it would be worth it. My Tourette's hasn't slowed down my life or my career. I'm happily married, a mother, a college graduate, a successful executive and an aspiring author. What could embracing my own neurodiversity and sharing that with the world translate into for someone else?

I think it might be time to find out.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

March for Our Lives

Today young people across the country stood up, marched together and demanded action. For too long their voices have been obscured. Their lives have been lost, marred or forever changed by the proliferation of guns in our country. Unchecked political power in the hands of the National Rifle Association has eclipsed common sense gun regulation and our children have paid the price.

Today I was proud to stand in Columbus, Ohio and hear these young people speak in their own voices about the friends and family members they have lost, about their insistence that gun violence cease and about their determination to be drivers of change.

Lawmakers take note: change is coming. Be on the right side of this one or this generation will render you obsolete.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Beyond Netflix: Remembering to Live Our Own Stories

Some weeks I watch too much Netflix. It's so easy to slip into an episode of some show and binge watch my way to not caring. Lately, I've been thinking about this kind of distraction and whether I can afford it quite so often in my life.

Sometimes, it seems like the fate of the entire country is up in the air. While I inhale television, living someone else's story, people are suffering. Guns are proliferating. Racial inequity is infusing institutions and hunkering down. Sexism and harassment is toppling a woman's life. Children are dying of hunger, being sold as slaves or working in sweat shops. The world spins on its access while I sit in warmth, a bowl of ice cream in front me, shoveling stories into my mind. It's sobering.

I love living a story-- through a television show, a movie, a book, but I can't help but wonder if the never-ending, addictive quality of Netflix episodes are making me less active, muting my energy to use my voice to bring about meaningful change in the world. I could be writing my own story instead of watching, obviously. I could also be writing to Congress, showing up to protest more, organizing with others to change or simply learning more about issues through meaningful questions and fact-based research.

The responsibility to balance the stories I live in my own life with the ones I consume through media is something I want to be more mindful about in the future. And I want the stories I write to have some meaningful connection to the conversations going on in the world, as well as being fun and entertaining.

Balancing my time between consuming stories, writing them and living them out by making a difference in the world is something I'm thinking about a lot these days. This picture reminds me to get out there and make something happen. 

A super hero unicorn is a great symbol for getting out there and making something happen!