16 May 2016

The Reviews Are In! (And New Availability from Online Book Stores)


  • "A superb adventure in Africa"
  • "A delightful read"
  • "Makes you want to travel to Africa"
  • "Mountains Never Meet is a fantastic airport or beach read. It’s light, humorous, and all about the mushy love stuff."
  • "Kept my attention from the first page to the last"

I want to thank everyone who has read and reviewed Mountains Never Meet. I may not say this often enough but I am so thrilled that anyone has paid attention to it and when I read your thoughts on my book it motivates me to keep sharing it with others and to keep writing.

If you haven't reviewed it, please consider doing so on Amazon and Goodreads. And not just my book, on any book that you read. From the best-sellers to the indie authors, everyone loves hearing what the readers have to say about their work.

I know that not everyone loves Amazon, so online distribution has been expanded to a couple other sites for the paperback version. If you already have an account at one of these retailers, why not check it out?


I am still working on bricks-and-mortar stores and libraries. I'd love to see it on a shelf someday!

Thanks again for reading!

10 May 2016

Run

I’m a week away from the Mystic Half Marathon. About a month ago I felt unprepared. I feel better now, stronger, prepared. The second half of this race is hilly. Very hilly. I love hills. Last week some friends took me to Mystic and we ran the first eight miles of the course. We encountered a few big hills. The biggest is at mile 9 1/2. I’m not afraid of the hill itself. I’m afraid of how much it will slow me down. I’ll get it done, no matter what.

I’m apprehensive about a goal time, however. If I can match my PR from the previous race I’ll be thrilled but I’m willing to accept the fact that I’ll likely be several minutes slower, due to those hills.

People talk about mantras to focus on to help them recenter and relax. I have one word. Run. No inspirational quote, no favorite song. Just the one thing I went out there to do. Sometimes I do it quickly and sometimes I don’t, but it’s what I do.

I know I’ll finish. And I know I’ll be going to the barbeque place for lunch after the race. Those are the finites in my life right now. Those, and I will run.

04 May 2016

I'm the Mom Who Doesn't Care for Mother's Day

Over the weekend I had a huge blow-up with Muffin. I still feel terrible about it but I'm going to stand my ground. She wants to throw a big party for me on Mother's Day. I want a quiet day with several hours of alone time. She doesn't think that's special enough. I tried explaining to her that I'm not a huge fan of Mother's Day to begin with and that I'm going to insist on my quiet time. For a little girl who loves party planning, this is a big problem for her. But it's Mother's Day. I'm the mom. I get to choose.

On the radio yesterday morning the DJs were discussing a poll that said seventy percent of mothers just want to be left alone for several hours on Mother's Day. So if you know a mother who says that's really all she wants, please let her have it. Going to Mother's Day brunch in a crowded restaurant is one of my personal circles of Hell and I suspect that might be true for many women.

Even now that I'm a mom, I don't care for Mother's Day. There's no genetic code that made me love brunch and pastels the moment I gave birth. To me it's another commercial cards-and-flowers day and it holds little interest for me. (If you really like flowers, that's totally fine! I love flowers and I hope my florist friend does good business this weekend because of all the others who love flowers, too. But only get someone flowers if you mean it and they love them, not as an afterthought because it's just what people do.)

I read too many blog posts from moms whose children made them breakfast in bed and left her a messy kitchen to clean up. And the moms shrug and say, "Oh, well. I'm the mom and it's my job to clean up after them, even on Mother's Day."

No. Otherwise what's the point of the day?

If you have a mother, ask her what she really wants for Mother's Day. If you are a mother: Be. Honest. You will be subjected to endless noisy brunches or messy kitchens coupled with good intentions unless you are honest and tell your children and whoever else is helping them plan the day what you really want to do. If you don't want to wash dishes on Mother's Day because you do it every single other day and it's your least favorite chore, take a stand and tell someone. Otherwise, accept the fact that it will be like every other day and don't get miffed. Commercials build up expectations that can never be met. I like to keep the bar low.

My ideal Mother's Day would be Mike and Muffin going off for a nice adventure on their own for a few hours and bringing home amazing cupcakes for us to share. However, that's pretty much my ideal Sunday year round. And with Mike coming home this weekend for good, I should be able to realize that dream for several upcoming Sundays.

Mothers, I hope you get what you want this Sunday, whatever it is. I'm so happy that my family is safe and sound and will be back together again, it's really all I need.

02 May 2016

Another Obnoxious Run Happy Post


One day toward the end of March I went for a run.

I’d been taking it easy since getting a nice personal record at a half marathon a few weeks beforehand. My daughter was home from school on spring break and my husband was home for a week, too, so it made sense to relax and not worry about running as much. Toward the end of that break, though, I began to get a little anxious. At the time, my next half marathon was about six weeks away and I needed to up the training a little bit.

So I went for a run. All the kinks I’d hoped to work out after the first mile were not worked out. I stopped and went home. That’s right. After one mile. I’m not run streaking right now. I just wasn’t having fun and didn’t see the point. Instead of having a bad run that would put me in a bad mood I decided put the time toward something else that would make me feel good.

The next day after a chat with a friend who’s in a similar place with his running as I am, I decided to try again. Talking to him made me see it was time to get a tad more serious for the race. I aimed for five miles. After a few minutes the kinks and aches were gone but my legs felt unusually tired. I stopped and checked my GPS. I’d only gone two miles. But I’d done them quickly. The weather was so nice I decided to keep going toward the five-mile goal but slow down. I returned to my house at 4.9 miles and ran up the street further until I reached an even five. Normally I wouldn’t care about getting an even number but my goal that day was five and I had it in me to accomplish that.

These are actual decals on my car.
For me, upping my training for running a marathon means vaguely paying more attention to my mileage. After a long run I’ll look at my splits and see how I’m doing compared to my previous long run or goal time for a race. My friend likes math more than I do so I ask him what my splits should be for certain times at certain distances. I don’t do speed work. While I often stop to check my mileage while running, I rarely look at my time. I trust my body and I do what feels good.

I recently saw a headline about running happy to run faster. I didn’t read the article because I didn’t have time at that moment to read about something I already practiced. When I remembered it the next day I couldn’t find it.

Running seems to have been taken over by Type A personalities who track every mile, every calorie, every step, every bite. I used to follow a lot of blogs and social media accounts of runners. I tried to do all that counting and accounting in the past. But it’s not me. And I can’t help but feel there might be other runners like me who start to feel bad because they aren’t documenting every step, aren’t caring about every new piece of gear, aren’t enjoying kale and protein powder smoothies. (Chocolate-flavored protein powder is not a treat. Chocolate is.)

Magazine articles and other media outlets tell me I have to do these things to be a better runner. Why do I need to do these things? Why do I even need to be a better runner? What if I don’t want to be? What if I’m happy right where I am? What does it even mean to be “better”? I’m healthy and enjoying myself. That’s enough for me.

The point is, run your own self. Don’t worry about what anyone else is doing. If you want the cute running outfits, go for it. But if you’re happy in sweatpants and a cotton t-shirt, go for that. I use Strava on my phone. I can’t be bothered with a GPS watch on top of that. Too much stuff to keep charged and I’m taking the phone with my anyway for emergencies and for taking photos. Oh, that’s right. Stop and take photos if you want to. Or don’t. I like the simplicity of a quick snapshot of the scenery or something interesting spotted over setting up a shot and posing.

Marathon training has to make me happy. It will be challenging. There will be pain. There may even be an inspirational quote or two along the way. But I don’t plan on changing any more of my habits than are absolutely necessary.

Except for a Fitbit. I’m very curious about Fitbits and I’m thinking of getting one.

29 April 2016

Book Review: Cautionary Tales by Emmanuelle de Maupassant

After you've read something, please consider leaving a line or two on Goodreads and Amazon. The authors appreciate it!

Here's my review as it appears on Goodreads.

Cautionary Tales: Voices from the EdgesCautionary Tales: Voices from the Edges by Emmanuelle de Maupassant
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If these stories were a movie, you would find that the old woman telling the tales is either one of the young, buxom protagonist of one of the stories, or one of the spirits that interjects throughout the narrative. And she would likely unwrap her babushka from her head and frighten you with some hideous demon feature. This isn’t a spoiler in any way, simply the image that came into my head as I was reading.

These are fairy tales that will keep you up at night, partly out of fear as you wonder if the spirits are watching your every action, partly due to the erotic voyeurism of watching others make mistakes. The reader follows the spirits as they show us the errors of many human ways. Lust and greed lead people down many paths and some people pay for their actions as a way to teach others not to follow them.

Cautionary Tales is quite different from de Maupassant’s novel, The Gentlemen’s Club, but equally rich in language that draws the reader into a frightening, lustful, and delightful experience.


View all my reviews

27 April 2016

The Problem with Parenting Magazines

When I was pregnant a friend gave me some advice: Never read parenting magazines. “You’ll get put on the mailing list,” she said. “’With our complements,’ the card will tell you. Take the time to throw out the magazines and remove yourself from their mailing list. I promise this is one of the best things you can do as a parent.”

For the most part I followed that advice. I even threw out What to Expect by the time Muffin was three months old because she wasn’t following any of the directions the handbook gave and it stressed me out. Recently, though, I saw this headline, “Am I Supposed to Be My Child’s Playmate?”, from Parenting magazine. The mother of all magazines I try to avoid.

I am no expert in parenting, other than keeping my own child relatively happy and healthy for the last five years, but like most parents, regardless of my feelings on the topic, I’m going to click on a lot of parenting articles. Personally, I think it’s fine to find a balance between playing with children and giving them time and space to play on their own.

The very first paragraph made me uneasy. The author’s mother would make dinner for the family on the one night a week she wasn’t home for dinner because she had a graduate school class. Okay, that’s fine. But her father would throw away the pot roast, hiding it deep in the garbage can, order pizza, and hide the boxes in a neighbor’s garbage so that the mother would never find out. “It was our little secret,” the author says.

That is a terrible secret. Her parents were so held down by traditional parenting roles that her mother could not say to her father, “You are responsible for dinner this one night a week.” Nor could the father say, “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of dinner this one night a week.” She felt the need to make a dinner that her family would throw away. (Why throw it away? Why not carve it up for sandwiches or save it for another night?) I would be pissed if I found out my spouse and child were doing this after the trouble I went through to make the meal.

I realized as I read that this article taps into the insecurity many mothers feel about being Mean Mommy versus Fun Dad. I haunt parenting groups to see what other parents are up to and I see the Mean Mommy issues brought up by women all the time. Mothers are meant to nurture and be caregivers for their families. Fathers are meant to be playmates.

I call shenanigans.

Both parents are parents. Fathers are not playmates or baby-sitters. (More men are professional chefs but more women are still expected to cook for their families? Don’t even get me started on that… Maybe a future blog post.) Both parents can play to their strengths, of course, but at some time they are going to have to step up to both roles.

That is, if both parents are present and if they are a heterosexual couple.

There’s no reason why, if both parents are present, then they can’t share the nurturing and the playmate parts. Single parents have to do both. Same-sex parents take on both roles. There’s absolutely no need for it to be gender divided, or divided at all. So many parenting articles reinforce these gender roles without taking into account that families are not as nuclear as they were a generation or two ago, nor with taking into account the different personalities and strengths that different parents have. They continue to reinforce the image of the ideal superwoman who can keep a perfect household and hold down a career or further her education while dad occasionally baby-sits.

Families aren’t like that anymore and many media outlets continue to subversively keep that out-dated model alive.

And that's why I don't read parenting magazines. Really, I don't.

25 April 2016

The Importance of Apple Pie in Running

Recently Facebook reminded me that about two years ago my friend Running While Mommy shared this article with me, The REAL Best Foods for Runners, with the note that number eight reminded her of me. Apple pie. I'd had apple pie for breakfast one morning before we ran a ten miler together. And I was just fine. I ran the miles at a decent pace and I didn't get sick.

I thought of saying here, “I wouldn’t recommend this breakfast for every long run,” but I won’t. It’s none of my business if you eat apple pie for breakfast. You (hopefully) know your body better than I do.

I love reading about sports nutrition. I devour cookbooks, articles, research. But I can’t bring myself to follow all the advice, all the meal plans, all the tips about how to increase kale in my diet. I’ve tried that. I’ve monitored, written down, and analyzed every bite. I’ve counted my servings, measuring them on a kitchen scale. I’ve kept food journals.

It’s frickin’ exhausting. It takes the fun out of eating. And it takes up time I'd rather spend sleeping.

I’m forty and I’ve been running since I was fifteen. I’ve learned what works for me and what doesn’t. I’m willing to try new things but I love my old habits. I know that after a run of ten miles or longer, my favorite enchilada platter and a margarita will be waiting for me at the neighborhood Mexican restaurant. I stick with my old-school lemon-lime Gatorade for exceptionally long runs in warm weather. I'll take real chocolate milk, thank you very much, rather than a shake with chocolate-flavored protein powder.

My attention turns to food now for two reasons. One, I've put on a few pounds from winter comfort food and while I am in no way dieting, I am cutting back on my portions of chocolate and potato chips. But, two, as I've announced on Twitter and Facebook already, I'll be running my first marathon this this fall and it will take a lot of food and miles to get me to the starting line.

I entered the lottery for the Marine Corps Marathon and I got in. So you can expect more running posts from me here as my training gets underway. You all know I don't count calories and blog every bite. You know I don't track every mile, every mile split, publicly on this blog, and I won't start now. But I will increase the number of my posts about running as I get into training and need a platform to hold myself accountable.

I started planning to run this marathon last October when I was reading about other friends and acquaintances running it. I already knew we'd be coming back to the United States in 2016 so I made it my goal to run it as a "Welcome Home" event. Sure, I came home several months sooner than planned, but this is still my year of being back home. I'm excited for the race.

Now, if you'll excuse me, there's a huge ball of fresh mozzarella in the fridge with my name on it. And I need to make an apple pie for this week's long run.

11 February 2016

Book Review: Alchemy xii -- The Entire Year by Tamsin Flowers

After you've read something, please consider leaving a line or two on Goodreads and Amazon. The authors appreciate it!

Here's my review as it appears on Goodreads.


Alchemy xii - The Entire Year: All 13 Alchemy xii novellasAlchemy xii - The Entire Year: All 13 Alchemy xii novellas by Tamsin Flowers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think the reason I haven’t enjoyed BDSM writing much is because most of what I’ve read of it has been bad.

Then in walked Harry Lomax, the “Prince of Kink.” I was intrigued by the book description and I was hooked from the very first pages. If you are into kink, then he is perfect book boyfriend material.

He’s not perfect, of course. He’s flawed like everyone else. But he’s oh-so-charming, too, and it’s easy to fall under his spell.

One of the joys of this book, and the touch of realism in relationships, is his romantic foil, Olivia Roux. They are drawn to each other. Harry wants to teach Olivia everything he knows about BDSM. Olivia says she wants to learn, but is her heart really in it? No matter how many times Harry says that falling in love is out of the question, and no matter how many times Olivia proves that she just can’t be a sub, you ache for them to figure out a happily-ever-after ending.

Alchemy iix is fantasy and romance. It’s boy-meets-girl-meets-kink. It’s so easy to get swept up into Harry’s and Olivia’s world.

I didn’t hear of the series until about halfway through the year and I decided to wait and read the whole thing at once rather than start up and have to wait each month. I was sick one weekend and stayed on the couch the entire time, glued to the adventures of Harry and Olivia. This is an extremely satisfying modern, kinky, romantic fairytale.

View all my reviews

08 February 2016

Leaving Bamako Behind

I’m going to start with a sequential order of events then try to sort out my feelings. It’s been hard for me to sit down and write this post but it is something I want to get down before I forget everything.

The week before Thanksgiving there was a terrorist attack at a hotel in Bamako. The hotel is near our house there and the attack not only changed the dynamic in the neighborhood but the entire security profile in Mali.

On December 1, the State Department put an authorized departure order in place, which is a sort of voluntary evacuation for nonessential employees and family members of all State employees in Bamako. But if you leave the country for any other reason during that time, you are not allowed back in until the order lifts.

Mike and I decided we would stay in Bamako until school let out for the Christmas holiday, then, after a family vacation, Muffin and I would return to the U.S. while Mike returned to his job in Bamako.

We had a wonderful safari vacation in Kenya. Mike and I were happy that Muffin’s last memories of Africa were fun adventures with animals, not being stressed out over bad guys in Mali.

On New Year’s Eve, we separated in Nairobi airport. Muffin and I landed in Boston the next day; Mike landed in Bamako.

The authorized departure is ongoing but even when it ends, Muffin and I will not be returning to Bamako. We’ll be staying in the U.S. until Mike’s assignment ends later this year.

It’s hard. We arrived to shocking winter cold with just a couple of suitcases and had to figure out some logistics, like winter clothes for Muffin, right away. There are loads of good things, however. We have a house, and a car, and lots of support from family and friends. Muffin is back in the same class she was in before we left for Mali, which helped her transition. The dust allergies we’d been suffering from in Bamako cleared up within a couple day of leaving there, so our physical health improved greatly. We no longer have the stress of living in the security situation in Mali.

But it’s still hard. We left with so little time to really process it. We were so sick and stressed out in the last couple of weeks in Bamako that it became difficult to say proper good-byes to all our friends, especially with all the stress of Christmas parties and other seasonal social obligations. I broke down toward the end and couldn’t really leave the house. I was so sick I couldn’t hold a conversation without coughing uncontrollably, which made me anxious and self-conscious. Muffin was visibly worried about bad guys all the time and we felt horrible about our decision to move the whole family to Mali in the first place.

We arrived to a house we’d bought but never lived in. I’ve slowly been bringing it together, but there are still days where I just sit and stare instead of put shelving together and measure closet space. I always have culture shock when I return to the U.S. but it seems doubly difficult this time. Some days all I can do is the minimum to get Muffin to school and provide decent meals. I’m running as often as I can, which is something. It’s been almost impossible to write, though. The seven hundred words or so of this post are the most I’ve written in weeks.

Friends and family members would ask me about what it was really like in Bamako during and after the attack. Eventually I caught on to a sort of glazed-over, yet slightly horrified, look in their eyes. I'd forget that I'd lived with the Bamako story for so long that it wasn't shocking to me anymore, it had become the status quo. But events like that and living in conditions like that aren't normal for most people in the U.S.

Last week I felt like I started to wake up from a fog. I feel healthier, mentally and physically. Muffin and I miss Mike but we all know this was the best decision for our family and we'll be together again soon.

So that's where we are now. We're in this weird limbo. We're waiting for Mike to come home safely. We're guilty about being healthy and eating good food. Most of our belongings are in Bamako and we can't get it back until Mike's assignment is up. I'm already tired of the U.S. and want to go back to Africa. I'm trying to get by with what I've got.

04 February 2016

Mountains Never Meet -- Now in Paperback!

I'm pleased to announce that after a few weeks of setbacks, Mountains Never Meet is now available in paperback at CreateSpace. It will follow on Amazon in about a week and I am working on additional distribution channels for both the paperback and e-book editions.

I'm so excited, you guys. It's been a busy few months (an updated Bamako post will follow in a few days -- let's just say I have left Bamako about 6 months earlier than expected, due to the security situation). I'm so happy that after everyone's been asking about the paperback I can finally offer it to you.

Thank you for hanging in there!

Also, I will be removing Mountains Never Meet from the Kindle Unlimited program in one week, on February 10. So if you've been meaning to read it for free under KU, please do so now! Click here to go to the Kindle page. It will still be available on Kindle for $2.99.

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