Monday, June 27, 2011

Mystery Review Monday: Beach Week 2011!

So I'm technically not cheating you all out on a review, because I'm going to give you thoughts about my vacation:) I'm still away from OK with it's blazing 104 degree heat, which is great, as Missouri's temps are in the 70s and 80s right now. But North Carolina, specifically Emerald Isle where we stayed, is fun, breathtaking, and plain old beachy.

I went with two of my best friends from high school and their significant others. We had to plan this baby a year in advance so we could all get time off. The first night we arrived, we took a moonlight walk on the beach. I can't even describe how perfect it was. I longed for a pen and a pad of paper almost...but that would have disturbed the peacefulness. It's been so long since I felt wet sand between my toes and ran in and out of a soft tide's lapping waves. The moon was nearly full and partly covered by clouds. We picked out the Big and Little Dippers, caught up on our lives, and held hands with our husbands.


Here are some pics:

Kris, me, and Ash, best friends since we lived in Okinawa, Japan over 10 years ago!

First day at the beach, which was a 2 minute walk from our house. It's much sunnier than it looks. I became a giant fried lobster.

Preparing for an epic water balloon fight against the guys, who we locked out of the house and didn't let back in. They had the hose though, in case you were worried about fairness.

My awesome in-laws' 3 story beach house (see how the name gets smaller at the end? You're meant to scream the first syllable).

What my husband would look like as a crab (the aquarium! We mostly learned that there's a popular crab with one huge claw and one tiny one- box crabs??  Guess I didn't learn much. Ok, I looked it up- fiddler crabs. I'm thinking of the box turtle).

The boys bbqing, just the way we like it!

Kristie and her moose!  She got hit by a deer on the way down from WV, so we bought a toy moose and threw it on her car as she pulled in. It's not as cruel as it sounds.

Brendan and me on the porch swing, an absolutely amazing place to sit in the cool morning breeze and read.

We went shopping at Food Lion 2-3 times a day (possibly the only island grocery), played board games every night until 3 a.m. (our favorites were Guesstures and Catch Phrase- Ashley and I both brought 4 games each!), played at the coolest mini-golf course ever because they take you to hole #1 in a train, and watched people catch dogfish (baby sharks) on the pier at night. 

Best. Vacation. Ever.
Thanks ladies (and guys!).

Friday, June 10, 2011

Fun Friday: Palin's Paul Revere

I'm sad for Sarah Palin, but this is funny if you haven't heard or seen it yet.

How can this woman be driving across country with a bus to enlighten Americans on history when she doesn't remember the story of Paul Revere?  She missed the School House Rock song "The Shot Heard Round the World." 

Also, Steven Colbert did an awesome reenactment of what she describes if you check out clips of The Colbert Report!

That is all...I must pack for my seven day beach getaway that starts tomorrow!  So I'm taking a little blogging break.  Enjoy your week!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Write It Out Wednesday pt. 2 - Accepting Ellie

Okay, if you haven't read my rollie pollie ode below this post, you still should:)  But I just finished changing the first chapter of my YA novel into present tense.  I think it's much more effective, so I'm about to do that to all 32 chapters! 

I'd love any and all input.  I like the pace of the action in the first chapter.  This summer, I plan to continue my search for an agent.

The looming question is, would you read more?
Oh and also, what can I improve?

*In a manuscript, an underline means italics for the agent/publisher.  It's easier to read.

Accepting Ellie
Chapter 1

Couch surfers actually exist. There’s a whole website devoted to strangers searching for other strangers who own couches and don’t mind subletting them for free. Anyone can create a profile, pick a destination, then boom, they have an instant friend wherever they’re headed. What words come to mind when I hear this, you ask? Suspicious, creepy, and axe murderer, though the website testimonies swear the experiences are fabulous, amazing, and even life-changing. I’m fine sleeping on my own couch, but thanks a billion for the offer.
Since early afternoon I’ve been sleeping on our cozy sofa the way a person does when she’s bored and lazy; drifting in and out, not quite comfortable, mind blending the noises of reality into fuzzy dreams. My mood transitions from peaceful to confused to just plain pissed as a sharp sword slashes through those dreams in the form of a telephone ring. Mom brandishes an iron in her right hand, which really means “I’m away from my head right now; please leave a message.” Not a phone, not an exploding microwave, not even a brick through the window would tear her from her task. I shake off the clinging bits of drowsiness and answer the landline. We need a maid for this.
There is a click, a pause on the other end. Just like that, I fall into their trap. One click without an immediate “Hello” equals a recorded conversation. I could hang up, not wait for the monotone human voice to introduce himself and give his spiel. It’s more amusing to pull out my old-timey British kid accent.
“We’re poor, gov’nah. Not even pennies for the little ‘uns. Sell your goods elsewhere, ‘ey?” As I slam down the receiver with a satisfying thud, Mom remains in Oblivious Central. I wander back to the couch, sprawl out until my toes dangle off the edge of the last cushion, and prepare to die of the boredom that is the 6:00 Sunday news.
     “Oh, I left my blouse upstairs on the bed,” Mom says after she finishes her fugly pleated skirt. “Be right back, Sadie. Keep the iron on.” I roll my eyes as she leaps the stairs two at a time. Her life depends on the fact that she has this particular ensemble pressed free of wrinkles in five minutes or less.
I flinch when the phone rings a second time. “No way. Not answering it again!” I yell, loud enough for my words to rise past the ceiling.
It rings again. I turn up the TV. Who dresses these newscasters? Pretty hideous outfits, if you ask me. The anchorwoman stands six feet and they put her in four-inch heels. She dwarfs the weatherman.
Another ring. At 5’9, heels make me feel like an Amazon freak. If I were that woman I’d have fought to wear flats. Not that flats make your calves look good. Why do people enjoy watching this depressing stuff? As if there isn’t enough to worry about in the world, we have to hear how an asylum escapee shot the police chief and hunted down the judge responsible for putting him away. Lock your windows folks, he’s still on the loose.
The phone stops in the middle of the third ring.
     Four minutes pass, which equals a lifetime in mom years, at least when the iron’s puffing steam out its top. Finally, stair creaks slow and far apart give away her descent.   
     Even though she whispers, I detect an eerie quality in the sound of my name. It’s how I’d expect the words exchanged between a Mr. Serious and a Mr. Somber to sound.
     I turn around. She focuses her gaze on the carpet fibers, refusing to make eye contact.
     My voice squeaks out like a boy’s in puberty. “What happened? Is it Dad? Is he hurt?”
“No, dear.” The second word comes out shaky, but she’s found her voice again. She brushes her bangs back from her eyes, which she does when she’s unsure. My own brown bangs obstruct my view all the time, but I never brush them away. That might make me a little too much like her. 
     “What happened? Is Tommy okay?” I sit up. “Was he surfing? Did he cut his leg on a coral reef? Was it a jellyfish?” My mind plays worst-case scenarios on fast-forward. I haven’t told my brother I love him in a really long time.
     “It’s not family…sorry, I…” She tries to let the words escape, inhaling deeply as two tears form downward trails through her makeup. 
The only other person close to me, really and truly close is… No. I shake my head.
Mom nods.
I bolt out the door on autopilot, sprinting five blocks west to the Cantons’ place, my heart flipping the worst kind of somersaults. Kat. It can’t be and it must be all at the same time. 
     My legs carry me forward at a turtle’s pace. I jump over bushes, dodge cars, trip on a skateboard. Everything out of my direct line of vision blurs like a half erased sketch; still, the minutes stretch out, taunting me. When I run up the porch stairs, I roll my ankle but limp toward the door.   
     The doorknob twists but refuses to budge against the lock. A solid, high-pitched ringing hums in my ears, some sort of warning. I race to the left side of the house. Dirt jams up my fingernails as I claw through their hanging azalea’s soil, but no key. I resort to pounding with such force that they’ll have to let me in.
     Bang, bang, bang.
     “Please—Mr. Canton? Jeremy? Anyone?” Beads of perspiration sting my eyes. Tears mingle with sweat until I can’t tell if I’ve cried a flood or lost an insane amount of bodily fluid. I jerk the door back and forth with my right hand. If I pound just a little hole with my fist, I can reach in to unlock the door. I jerk and pound, jerk and pound, screaming who knows what in a voice that can’t be my own.
     Dad comes out of nowhere and drags me away from the door. I kick and scream until I realize it’s him. He wraps me in a hug.
“I came when I heard,” he says. The words “car” and “surgery” and “grim” escape in between a whole slew of what sounds like bubble wrap popping in speedy bursts. The details seem meaningless after that one nasty word: “grim.”
Mom, panting from running after me, composes herself enough to repeat, “It’ll be all right, sweetie,” a million times in a row. Those words should be reserved for bruises and cheating boyfriends. Not for whatever this is.    
     Dad’s rolled down window sucks in unwelcome neighborhood noise during the otherwise silent drive to the hospital. Muffled laughter seeps into every available oxygen pocket in the backseat until a cricket chirp startles my eardrum. The distance to volume ratio is all wrong, my head off balance. I beg Dad to close the window when the A/C cools, but it doesn’t help. My vision is hazy, the dryness in my mouth like cotton. 
Mr. and Mrs. Canton pace the ER, foreheads creased and arms crossed. I’ve been in this area of Hampton Regional only once for an emergency appendectomy. The cold metal instruments scared the crap out of me. This trip, however, brings fear to a whole new level. My perfectly safe “Senior Year” roller coaster car has stalled over the crest of a giant drop; the longer I notice the micro-scenery with dots for people, the more I wish the car would race down so I can kiss the earth and soak in its steadiness.
Kat’s older brothers focus on separate points past my head. Steve’s mouth twists to the left side of his face and Jeremy’s right eye twitches. Every few minutes, Steve straightens his back, hits Jeremy on the shoulder, and they think of some encouraging phrase for their parents that elicits a non-response. 
A pair of tired cops tells Kat’s family she went off the sharp curve of Pine Road and hit a tree. A nurse says she broke both legs, cracked four ribs, and has a collapsed right lung. Hushed voices discuss internal hemorrhaging and brain damage. Will Kat get a miracle?
I want to cling onto hope, that invisible belief that some call faith. But the truth? Faith is too hard. Especially right now, the thousands of things that could go wrong zooming through my mind. I hunch over, muscles deflated, from the sheer force of the realization: I have failed my best friend by asking those negative “What if…?” questions. What if she’ll never walk again? What if she won’t make it through?
Guilt washes over me, little waves at first, until a sharp pain tightens around my heart. It’s hard to breathe. Is this what it feels like to hyperventilate? I breathe several times with exaggeration; inhale, exhale, in, out, a yoga instructor encouraging her pupils. Two fingers on my wrist note the steadied thump of my heart. Positivity. That’s the way to conquer doubt.
Her recovery might be long, but soon she’ll return to her vibrant, bubbly self, telling others not to worry. That accidents happen. I picture myself driving her to physical therapy every week, willing my brain to accept the only plausible outcome. My semi-confidence wavers when I imagine her gorgeous sage green Mustang in a tangle of smashed glass and crushed metal. Any one of us could have been in that car with her. Normally I rode shotgun. My eyelids flutter, my shoulders sag. Normally…
    My consciousness plays hide-and-seek with me for I don’t know how long. The first time my eyes flash open, I hardly remember taking a seat in one of those sticky yellow bucket seats that are uncomfortable no matter how you sit. The second time I wake to screaming, startled all over again to be in a hospital. My parents flank me on each side, bodies angled, trying to obscure my view. A long knife protrudes from the screamer’s left thigh, only two inches of the blade exposed. Even in the midst of his wailing, Mom’s hand kneads the skin between my neck and shoulder, and I gladly fall asleep. When I jerk awake a third time, Mom hands Mrs. C a steaming cup of coffee and wraps an arm around her. Dad’s beeper buzzes, and he leaves for work with a guilty look. Fire never sleeps, he always says. Did Kat’s car catch fire when it crashed? I shove away the thought. 
     I need to change my focus—avoid a transformation into the wild, flailing-limb version of myself from the Cantons’ porch. Before I realize what’s happening, I step over the ledge of the present and fall into the past.
A host of ghostly details plays out before my eyes with such clarity that it’s happening all over again. January’s Official Wintry Blitz (so appointed by the mayor) takes out the electricity. Thick ice causes us to miss eight days of school. Kat and I set up a four-man tent and tell scary stories over silver tea light candles. We cartwheel all over my living room, giving each other marks from 7-10, careful to avoid a disqualifying collision with furniture. Kat does them no-handed, practically cheating. When the weather turns nice, we drive to a Royals baseball game. I catch a foul ball in the purse she loaned me. Before I know it, the game’s over and we’re in their locker room. Players step out of the shower, surprised to see us. Kat holds out the ball, eyebrows raised, lips pouted in a “pretty please?” A smile seals the deal. Five players sign it, cotton towels wrapped around tanned muscles that drip with water, hair damp and messy. No one makes us leave, no security detail chases us from the park. Her sparkling eyes speak to me: of course we got away with it.
I look around the waiting room. The place no one comes just for fun. Last week she told me, “You’re full of surprises yourself, Sadie.” I will ask her what she meant as soon as she feels well enough to speak.
     The doctor, both super young and exhausted, approaches the Cantons and motions for them to follow him down a hallway. Kat’s parents go, full of questions but waiting to ask. I know they want to hope. I know they’re praying in their heads. The boys shoot up from their seats and trail the trio. Steve glances over his shoulder for two seconds and catches my eye. His expression is glass, frozen over and unreadable. This day, no matter what happens next, has already etched a permanent scar across the Canton family history.
We wait. And wait. My bladder will burst in a few minutes, but I don’t leave. I can’t miss anything. Mom stands, I sit, then we change positions. The boys finally reappear in the waiting room, a staggered distance between them. Jeremy stares at the floor, lips slightly parted. There’s no sigh of relief, no comment to calm our fears, not even an acknowledgement of our presence. Steve looks past me. His right hand grabs a fistful of his hair. He shakes his head and leans against the wall. Mom grabs my arm, the only thing to prevent me from falling backwards. We hear the smash of vending machine glass, Mr. Canton asking, “Why?” in a half-choked breath. A calm voice attached to an invisible nurse tells him in a pitying tone, “Come with me, sir. We need to clean up your hand.” 
That’s it then. Kat will never walk through the front door of her house again or kiss her parents on the cheek. She’ll never do another back handspring or decide on a college. The end. Nothing left. In a single instant, she’s become thin air.      

Write It Out Wednesday - Bugs

My new apartment.

Ode to Rollie Pollies

Oh how I hate you
crawling all over the place
sneaking in foundation cracks
between the doors
in unsealed space between tile and wood.
Who called you here?
Oh yes, the humming air conditioner,
a manufactured breeze
but it's cooler than where you live. 
And more moist.
A dark place to hide.
Only you're not hiding very well.
No, you can't share my space.
It's mine, I say!
You've forced me to drive to Lowe's
three times
in the last two days.
I've purchased weather proofing,
insecticides, window tape, sticky traps.
No, I won't try an upside down half
of a juicy cantaloupe,
screw the natural method.
You'd just eat it up
along with the ants and spiders I don't have yet.
Because of you I squirm at night
praying not to hear a crunch beneath my feet
when I step out of bed.
Thanks a lot, rollie pollies.
You used to be cute.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Chosen One - polygamy

This isn't a review, although I just now finished The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams and it was incredible.  I'm actually quite sad after reading this book.

However, it's given me time to ponder an interesting question.  Even though the U.S. allows freedom of religion, should this include polygamy? 

I understand that everyone has his or her own belief system.  And I have watched episodes of Sister Wives.  It seems the women get along great, although there is some jealousy, and the kids are free to choose their own lifestyles.  I just don't think that's the same with polygamists everywhere.

Doesn't sharing a husband contribute to a woman's low self-esteem?  Knowing he's sleeping with another wife that week?  Knowing (if you're the first or second wife) that you're about to be joined by a younger wife who he may prefer to sleep with because she's new? 

When it comes to some groups, such as the one depicted in this book, children don't have a choice.  They are forced to believe that all of us in the outside world are Satan at work.  In our clothing, our TV, our computers.  The young girls are married off at 12 or 13 to really old men.  They're scared, shouldn't be having sex that young anyway, and must be obedient to their husbands.  My heart breaks for them. 

This might not be the way with all polygamist compounds, but it's so similar to the cult life that I can hardly see a difference.

What gets me is the whole females needing husbands to get into heaven thing.  Seriously?  God doesn't accept us as individuals?  You can only get into heaven on your husband's arm and you must have babies as part of God's will?  That doesn't seem like the same God from the Bible, the same God who sent Jesus down to save us.  Keep in mind, I'm speaking from a Christian point of view. 

In the book, young girls get beaten.  Straight in their faces until they can't open their eyes.  Babies are dunked in ice cold water and held there as punishment for crying during meetings.  The Prophet has visions and they must be obeyed or else.  When boys disobey, they are let out into the desert to die, groups called the "lost boys."  Women who act out are mostly killed or beaten into submission.  And the fathers of unyielding children are banished and get their entire family taken away from them.  Children of unsound mind or who possess a handicap are disposed of.  The main character, 13 year old Kyra, is forced to marry her uncle.  He's in his 60s and already has 6 wives.  All books except for their scripture are said to be from Satan.

Is this the norm, or just a case of polygamist groups with corrupt leaders?  Several women from inside these compounds have spoken out to say they're not brainwashed and this was a life they've chosen.

Several children have run away in Utah only to be sent back to their homes by our authorities who failed on their promises to help.

Are we doing enough to investigate these groups?
Am I the only one upset by this?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Mystery Review Monday: The Tudors

  • TV show, Showtime
  • Cast- Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Sam Neill, Katherine Howard, Joss Stone, Sarah Bolger, Henry Cavill,  Natalie Dormer
  • Plot- The life and times of King Henry VIII.  Starts with his reign on the throne as a young man married to his dead brother's wife, Catherine of Aragon.
I'm currently on Season 2 of this show, and I can't wait to continue.  Anne Boleyn, played by Natalie Dormer, is fascinating to watch.  The viewer can't help but feel pity for Catherine, Henry's first wife, who he has little love for because she can't produce a male heir to the throne.  He parades his mistresses in front of her, especially young and attractive Anne.

I guess I didn't realize how much court scandal existed back then.  A man's word was easily swayed, alliances quickly broken between England, France, and Spain.  The Catholic Church, of course, was mostly corrupt, and Cardinal Wolsey, played by Sam Neill, is a character you love to hate.

There are several sex scenes and lots of skin, especially when it comes to females.  It's hard to believe fathers whored out their daughters to gain social status.  It was an honor to be invited to the king's chambers, even if just for a night.  What did those women feel like after?  Gross.

Anyway, this show tests your memory of British history, and I'm happy to say I recall a lot!  It helped that I lived in England for four years.  I would be interested to know which wife Henry loved the most.  At this point in the season, Anne is a clear front runner; then again, she's only Wife #2.

Glad I didn't have the pressure of only having a baby boy back then.  Then again, I probably wouldn't be royalty. Or have the pressure of giving birth to a boy who would become king. 

I'd give this show one and a half thumbs up (I could do with less female anatomy lessons, but hey-- still good).