Sunday, December 14, 2014

Sunday Brunch

I have a lot left to do before I'll be ready for Christmas but I still have to feed my family. And this is one of our favorite recipes. It's great for breakfast, lunch or dinner, it reheats well, and it's open to endless variation. Try substituting thinly sliced green and yellow squash for the mushrooms and spinach, ham for the bacon, or leave out the meat altogether. Try it; you'll like it!


Spinach, Mushroom and Bacon Quiche

Ingredients:
3 tablespoons butter or olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
12 ounces baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1 box baby spinach
Splash balsamic vinaigrette
3 eggs
2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon each garlic powder, dried basil and oregano
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded cheese, mozzarella or Italian blend
4 slices crisply cooked bacon, crumbled
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 pastry shell (9 inches)
Directions:
1. In a large skillet, saute the onion and mushrooms in butter or olive oil. Add spinach and cook until wilted. Finish with a splash of balsamic vinaigrette. Drain.
2. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, parsley, salt, garlic powder, basil, oregano and pepper. Stir in cheese, bacon and vegetable mixture. Spread mustard over pastry shell; add egg mixture.
3. Bake, uncovered, at 400° for 35-40 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean and crust is golden brown. Let stand for 5 minutes before cutting.

Monday, December 8, 2014

O Christmas Tree

Little things, little things, are much more more important than big things. Big things hit you in the face with their bigness and obscure the little, more important things that really define a life and provide it with delicacy.
― Lauren Roedy Vaughn

Now that my house is painted in Caribbean colors, I decided to go for a tropical vibe as I decorated for Christmas. The starfish tree topper I ordered from Etsy arrived Saturday. 


Now my beach-theme Christmas tree, studded with ornaments collected on cruise vacations, brightly colored glass balls, and paper drink umbrellas, is complete. 


Here are a few of my favorite ornaments. 

Ya, mon.
There is a brass ornament from every cruise ship I have sailed on.
Everyone knows Santa heads south on December 26th. 
Angel carved from a Bahamian conch shell.
I look forward to adding new ornaments to my collection and have lots of ideas for other decorations and accessories I want to make over the coming months in keeping with my theme. A seashell studded wreath for the front door. A garland of seashells to drop across the mantel. A patchwork tree skirt in Caribbean brights. A flamingo tablecloth for the dining room.

Because it really is the little things that add up to make a life.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Attitude Adjustment

Action seems to follow feeling, but really action and feeling go together; and by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can indirectly regulate the feeling, which is not.
~ William James


Instincts are "innate, typically fixed patterns of behavior in response to certain stimuli," and I believe it's important to trust them. You know what I'm talking about:  sense of danger about a specific situation, a strong negative first impression upon first meeting someone, a clear leaning in one direction or another when there's an important decision to be made. At times like these, I have learned it's best to trust my body's visceral reactions and leave my conscious mind out of it. Because whenever I choose to ignore my instincts, things don't end well. In the worst instances, it has taken me years to recover from the harm done.

Feelings, however, are an entirely different animal. They are "an emotional state or reaction" to stimuli. When another driver cuts me off in traffic, I might feel angry. Listening to the daily news, I might feel sad and anxious. Facing a holiday without friends or family to share it with, I might feel lonely and depressed. The important distinction, assuming there isn't a chemical imbalance at play, is that while instincts are fixed, feelings are fleeting. And they are largely within our control.

I often joke that I am the queen of denial. But smiling through the tears isn't the same as denial. It is possible to acknowledge the difficulty of a situation and then, rather than wallowing in it, to take positive action towards change. This does more than provide a distraction from the bad feelings. Over time, positive actions lead to positive feelings.

* * *

According to Wikipedia, the "holiday season" runs from late November through early January. For various reasons, the days after Thanksgiving found me feeling someone less than festive. Although I spent many hours during my week off working on a top-secret Christmas project, circumstances prevented me from fully enjoying the task and left me feeling distracted and anxious. I was alone on Thanksgiving Day and sorely missing my family and friends and numbed out on the Hallmark channel Friday and Saturday. Finally bored with my own lethargy, I decided it was time to do SOMETHING.

I dragged myself out of bed late Sunday morning, hauled myself to Michaels and bought myself an artificial tree priced fifty percent off. I cannot tell a lie: my preference is a freshly cut Frasier fir, but while the friendly folks at Home Depot will trim a trunk and tie a tree to the top of my car, I cannot physically haul said tree into my home and situate it in a stand without assistance. And since I don't like asking for help, I decided it was time to go with something I can manage by myself. The hardest part was carrying the large, heavy box from the star to my car. Sliding it up the stairs and into the house was easier, and I managed assembly all by myself. Yep, this 7.5-foot pre-lit tree will definitely do the job.


Then I came home, dragged my three boxes of Christmas tree ornaments out of the closet underneath the stairs, and began sorting. As I carefully unpacked each treasure from its tissue paper wrapping, I made three piles: beach-themed, angels and music-themed, and the rest. The beach-themed ornaments went on the new tree; the angels and music-themed ornaments went on the old 4.5-foot tree I set up in my piano studio.


The remaining ornaments went back in the box for another year. Then I went online and found a starfish tree topper from a vendor on Etsy. As soon as it arrives, I will take a picture of my fully decked beach-themed tree and post a picture. 

Anyway, as I worked, the ache in my heart began to lessen. It's hard not to smile while listening to Christmas with the Chipmunks, a tree-decorating tradition in my family as long as I can remember. By the time the mantel was decorated and the red and green cloth was draped across the dining room table, I had started a holiday to-do list and felt excited about working my way through it.

Yes, my plan was a success. Positive action led to positive feelings. And every time I see the fruits of Sunday's efforts, I give myself an "attagirl" and look to see what's next on my list.


Now I'm putting the finishing touches on that top-secret Christmas project; as soon as it's finished, I'll get started on a couple of new ones. I've ordered Christmas cards, bought wrapping paper and ribbons, purchased ingredients for holiday baking. And I see a Starbucks eggnog latte in my near future. 

Where there is optimism and positive action, there is no room for hopelessness and sorrow.

Monday, December 1, 2014

I'm gonna let it shine


She stood in the storm, and when the wind did not blow her way, she adjusted her sails.
~ Elizabeth Edwards

Tempestuous November has come and gone. I am not a NaNoWriMo winner, but I started a new novel on November first and have almost ten thousand words under my belt--more words than I had written during the first ten months of the year put together. My piano duo partner and I performed challenging programs at the Georgia Music Teachers Association state conference as well as for our local chapter, and thirteen of my students competed successfully in a local piano festival, all receiving "Superior" ratings with three Winners and three Honorable Mentions. I added several new pieces of handmade jewelry to my Etsy store and sold a few pieces here and there. I did a reasonable job of keeping up with, you know, the housework and the laundry and eating healthy and exercising regularly--and in my "free time," I even managed to read three books for pleasure.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
~ Charles Dickens

Yes, November was in many ways a busy and productive month. But along with the stress of everyday life came some extraordinary challenges: health problems, family crises, financial burdens, and personal heartbreak. The details aren't important. What matters is that there finally there came a night when I questioned the value of pushing through. When morning came, it was all I could do to get out of bed. Around noon.

Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one's definition of your life; define yourself.
~ Harvey Fierstein

Since then, it has occurred to me that besides being a creative outlet, writing is cathartic for me. Writing in my journal is one thing, and I do that almost daily. But whereas my journaling is of the stream-of-consciousness variety, posting to this blog forces me to think through issues, come to logical conclusions, and express myself coherently. This is good therapy. And although it can be risky to speak from the heart in such a public forum, I cannot continue to hide under a metaphorical rock at the price of my sanity.

So I'm back, eager to share my human experiences, my artistic adventures, perhaps even the occasional insight. Because although life can be a lonely road, we are not doomed to walk it all alone.

Thank you for joining me on my journey.

Friday, October 31, 2014

NaNoWriMo Eve

'Twas the night before NaNoWriMo and all through the house...
~ with apologies to Clement C. Moore
The laundry is caught up; the house is vacuumed and dusted and the bathrooms are clean. I went for a walk, practiced the piano and had lunch with my middle child. I made six pairs of earrings and created a listing on Etsy; then I went to the grocery store and stocked up on coffee, wine, chocolate and my favorite biscotti.

Why? Because November is National Novel Writing Month. Which means that for the next thirty days I will be a writing fool, joining the hundreds of thousands of participants worldwide working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30. Click HERE to find out more.

Now I'm in my pajamas and settled in to put the finishing touches on my character sketches and outline. At midnight, I will start writing. NaNoWriMo, here I come!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Things I Learned at the 2014 Moonlight & Magnolias Conference


I got step-by-step directions on how to create an author website on WordPress. I heard some great tips on how to write for the young adult market. I learned how to create great characters and how to add more conflict to my stories and how to revise them once they are finished. And I discovered that I might as well stop trying to be a "pantser." I don't do anything else in my life that way. If I'm ever going to craft a compelling novel-length work of fiction, I'm going to have to start with an outline. I made new friends and caught up with old ones.

That was all on Friday.

On Saturday, I learned that I shouldn't have left home without my pain meds. Because the kidney stones - according to the CT scan, there are four - decided to flare up about lunch time. I hobbled back to my room and spent the rest of the day sick in bed. I missed the workshops. I missed the drawing for the author baskets and critiques. I missed the cocktail hour and the photo op with the hunky male models. I missed the Maggie Awards Banquet.

The good news is that sometime during the wee hours of Sunday, the pain returned to its usual dull ache. By the time my alarm went off, I felt good enough take a shower, put on my clothes and make-up, enjoy a hearty breakfast, and soak Sunday's craft workshop on writing effective love scenes. It was terrific.

The most important thing I learned at the Moonlight & Magnolias Conference is that I am not ready to give up on my dream of being a traditionally published author. But how to go about it? Do I dig deep into revising my first book? Finish the young adult novel that was a finalist in last year's Unpublished Maggie Awards? Start something completely new?

It's not clear to me yet. But one thing I do know is that writing is going to have to become as important a part of my routine as eating and brushing my teeth. I'm not quite sure where it's going to fit into my busy days. It's likely that I will have to let something else go, at least for a while. But I am determined to find a way. I know it's a lot to hope for. But I'm going to do everything I can to be a New York Times Bestselling author.

It's now or never.

Monday, October 6, 2014

My Personal Credo

Oh yes, the past can hurt. You can either run from it or learn from it.
~ The Lion King


The view from my bedroom window.
This has been a tough year in many ways. I loved and lost; I made mistakes; I have regrets. But everything I learned has helped contribute to making me who I am today.

And for the most part, I like the woman I see when I look in the mirror. She has loving friends and family, a comfortable home, and a satisfying career. She plays as hard as she works and has a thirst for adventure. Even though my life hasn't turned out exactly the way I planned, I wouldn't trade places with anybody on the planet.

But there is always room for improvement. And I decided it was time for me to develop a personal credo - kind of like a mission statement - to remind myself of who I want to be and how I want to move through this world. This is what I came up with.

Pam's Personal Credo.

Be myself, not who someone else wants me to be.
Forgive myself.
Don't look back.
Always speak the truth.
Take pleasure in solitude.
Don't waste time feeling sorry for myself.
Be brave and take risks - lots of them.
Take care of my body.
Do what I love.
Share my life with people who are loving, supportive, open-minded, and kind.
Stop looking for love.
Make art.
Tell my stories.
Travel often.

Am I forgetting anything? I have big dreams and as long as I stay true to myself and my personal credo I believe I will find the courage to make them reality.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

On the verge of breakthrough?

Every challenge you encounter in life is a fork in the road. You have the choice to choose which way to go - backward, forward, breakdown or breakthrough. 
― Ifeanyi Enoch Onuoha

In September, I "reclaimed my sass" as a creative individual.

The month started out strong. I practiced the piano and started a couple of original music compositions. I did some beading and sold some jewelry. I made cold process lye soap from dandelion tea and did some drawing and added a few pages to my novel. I came up with a system to track my progress in all areas.

I told myself: I am an artist.

I believe it now.

But then life did what it does. It pulled the rug right out from under my feet and left me lying flat on the floor.

I'm still trying to find solid ground. In the meantime, I'm not quite the productive machine I was. But maybe that's not the point. Because I am taking care of the most important things. Teaching my students well and keeping an orderly home and cooking healthy meals and being available for RockStar when he needs me.

In the end, perhaps, it isn't about what I produce or create. In the end, perhaps, it's about what I leave behind in the heads and hearts of the people I love most - my children and my family and my friends and my students.

I can only hope that who I am and what I do will be enough to make a difference.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Moving ahead so life won't pass me by


I have a lot going on in my world. Between the teaching and the music making and the writing and the creating and the cooking and the cleaning and the keeping the old body maintained - well, it's a lot to keep track of.

I am trying to improve my habits but the truth is that on top of the time I spend teaching piano lessons there simply aren't enough hours to do everything I want to do EVERY SINGLE DAY. So I have decided upon a compromise. I will do everything at least EVERY OTHER DAY.

Towards that end, I created an Excel document with 31 rows (one for each day of the month) and fifteen columns, labeled as follows:

Write morning pages.
Write a blog post.
Write 500 words of fiction.
60 minutes solo piano practice.
60 minutes ensemble piano practice.
15 minutes improvisation/original composition.
Walk (2-3 miles).
Make something.
List an item on Etsy.
Tangle.
Read 30 minutes.
Cook or bake something.
Do a load of laundry or clean a room.
Wash face.
Floss and brush teeth.

Each day after I accomplish a task I put a check in the appropriate box. The goal is to have a check in every column at least every other row. I'm not there yet but I'm getting closer.

What about you? Do you have a system that helps you track your goals and progress?

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Wonderful World of Zentangles

Do you tangle? Originally created by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas, Zentangle® is an easy to learn method of creating beautiful images by drawing repetitive patterns. Zentangle is a registered trademark of Zentangle, Inc. Click here to learn more and find your local Certified Zentangle Teacher (CZT).

Meet Jacque Solomon, a Certified Zentangle Teacher in the North Fulton Area of Atlanta. Four classmates and I had the pleasure of taking her Introduction to Zentangle Basics Class 101 this afternoon. 


Just seeing all the beautiful artwork hanging in her teaching studio was inspiring.


But Jacque didn't let us sit idle for too long. We spent a few moments on introductions and then she gave us each a box of supplies and put us to work.


After going over a few basics, like what types of pens and paper work best and defining a few basic vocabulary words, we practiced drawing a few simple patterns. Then we took a Zentangle tile (a 3.5" square), divided into quadrants using a "string," and added patterns and embellishments of our choice to each quadrant. Here is my finished project. 


According to zentangle.com, Zentangle “increases focus and creativity, provides artistic satisfaction along with an increased sense of personal well being" and is also referred to as "artistic meditation." I have certainly found all of that to be true. And I don't think the timing of its appearance on my "radar" is any coincidence; I believe that it is going to be an important part of the reclamation of myself as an artist. Thanks, Jacque, for your warmth and encouragement today. I hope to see you in your studio again soon.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Thoughts on Friendship


The most beautiful discovery true friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart.  
--Elisabeth Foley

I love people and have counted many among my friends over the years. Like "love," though, "friend" is a simple word that has complex connotations. For example, I am blessed to have friendships that have stood the test of time. I have already blogged about reconnecting with my childhood friend Peggy; I am also Facebook friends with several other girls from the old neighborhood as well as my best friends from high school. We keep up with each other's Facebook posts, exchange Christmas cards and photographs, and even meet face-to-face as circumstances allow. It is wonderful to enjoy adult relationships with these women I grew up with.

#

You wanna know who your true friends are? Screw up and see who's still there.
--Unknown

Unfortunately, I have also had my share of fair-weather friends. For example, there was my friend Katrina*, a devout Christian woman, who befriended me back in my Raleigh years (1985-1993). Even after she and her family moved away we kept in touch, sending each other long newsy letters and chatting for hours on the phone. Everything was great until 2001, when I made the difficult decision to divorce my husband. Certain that she would be supportive after learning my reasons, I was devastated to discover that her religious convictions prevented her from maintaining her friendship with me. She has not spoken to me since.

Indeed, I have been thrown under the bus or abandoned more times than I like to remember by women I was certain I would play Bingo with at the senior citizens center one day. Whether for a transgression they couldn't forgive or for reasons totally beyond my comprehension, they walked out of my life without a backward glance. My head tells me I am better off without them. My heart is slow to catch up.

#

Your truest friends are the ones who will stand by you in your darkest moments - because they're willing to brave the shadows with you - and in your greatest moments - because they're not afraid to let you shine. 
-- Nicole Yatsonsky

Interestingly, other of my conservative friends were among my biggest supporters as I went through my divorce. Asking no questions, demanding no explanations, they looked after my young children while I shopped for a house, met with lawyers, went to court. These women also supported me by attending my how-to-homeschool seminars and bringing their children to my home for piano lessons. Years have gone by; our children are grown and our lives have gone in different directions. Still, we manage to find opportunities to get together, to have dinner or plan an adventure. I don't know what I would have done without them.

#

She is a friend of mind.  She gather me, man.  The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order.  It's good, you know, when you got a woman who is a friend of your mind.  
--Toni Morrison, Beloved

Today, I am blessed to have a small circle of friends who really get me. They have seen me at my worst but challenge me to be my best. I don't have to be overly careful about my words when I am with them; they read between the lines, hearing what is left unsaid as clearly as what is stated, and help me understand my feelings when they are almost too raw to experience. They hold me when I cry, commiserate with me when I am heartbroken, encourage me in my crazy dreams but love me just the way I am. I hope they consider me to be the same kind of friend to them.

#

A true friend unbosoms freely, advises justly, assists readily, adventures boldly, takes all patiently, defends courageously, and continues a friend unchangeably.  
--William Penn

These same women occasionally are put in the position of telling me something I really don't want to hear - either in gentle criticism or as a result of seeing me in a compromised situation. This kind of honesty is extremely rare and worth more than a thousand hollow flatteries.

#

I get by with a little help from my friends.
--The Beatles

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

*Name has been changed.

Monday, September 8, 2014

I Am An Artist



Even though I engage in a number of creative pursuits - sewing, knitting, beading, playing the piano, writing fiction - I have always told myself that I am not a creative person. Despite the fact that I have acquired enough skill in some of these areas to teach (quilting, English smocking, heirloom sewing by machine, piano pedagogy) and the fact that I earn a comfortable living as a pianist and piano teacher, I have always insisted that I don't have a creative bone in my body, that I am merely a talented thief.

Moving forward, I reject that notion.

I am an artist, an emerging synthesis of musician, writer, and maker of things. Towards that end, I will spend fifteen minutes a day working on music composition at the conclusion of my practice time, an hour a day working on my novel after I finish my morning pages, and I will create one new "thing" - like make a piece of jewelry or try a new lye soap recipe - each day. This is not an option. This is an imperative.

It has been suggested that I am not "emerging"; rather, I am already there. I don't quite believe it, so it must not be so. But as quickly as possible. Here I go!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

THE SECRET PLACE by Tana French


Over the summer, I read The Shining and Dr. Sleep. So when I was offered the opportunity to read and review a book that Stephen King praised, calling it “terrifying,” “amazing,” and “incandescent,” how could I resist?

From the dust jacket:

Detective Stephen Moran has been waiting for his chance to get a foot in the door of Dublin's Murder squad - and one morning, sixteen-year-old Holly Mackey brings it to him. The Secret Place, a board where the girls at St. Kilda's School can pin up their secrets anonymously, is normally a mishmash of gossip and covert cruelty, but today someone has used it to reignite the stalled investigation into the murder of handsome, popular Chris Harper. Stephen joins forces with the abrasive Detective Antoinette Conway to find out who and way.

Everything they find leads them back to Holly and her close-knit group of friends, and to the tangled web of relationships that bound them and their fiercest enemies to Chris Harper. And every step in that direction turns up the pressure. Antoinette Conway is already suspicious of Stephen's links to the Mackey family. St. Kilda's will go a long way to keep murder outside their walls. Holly's father, Detective Frank Mackey, is circling, ready to pounce if any of the new evidence points towards his daughter. And the private underworld of teenage girls can be more mysterious and more dangerous than either of the detectives imagined.

Run, don't walk, to your nearest bookstore and pick up a copy of this book! Better yet, buy it for your e-reader so you can start reading it RIGHT NOW! It is arguably the best murder mystery I have ever read. With its complex and realistic characters, a setting so well drawn I almost felt I was in it, enough plot twists to keep me dizzy, and stunningly beautiful prose, this tightly woven whodunit kept me up late at night and woke me up early in the morning, demanding that I  keep turning the pages. Five enthusiastic stars! Highly recommended!

NOTE: I received a copy of this book for FREE in exchange for a written review. There was no expectation that this review be either positive or negative, and I was not given any financial compensation to read the book or write the review. This information is disclosed in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 [...] Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Launch yourself on every wave


You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this. 
― Henry David Thoreau

It's Labor Day, the official end of summer - and what a summer it was! Now I'm back to work, happy to see my piano students again; settling into a routine of teaching, playing, writing and jewelry making; beginning to pay the bills from the home improvements projects I tackled in June and July.

So much good stuff! But then my dog had to have surgery and waiting for a referral to a urologist because the CT scan showed that the on-again-off-again pain I have been having since last spring is indeed caused by kidney stones. And I miss being with my ex-fiance - at least, I miss the way things were with us in the beginning. There's a part of me that still can't quite believe it is over between us, making it impossible to truly let him go. Recently the thought occurred to me that in the thirteen years since my divorce I have had four marriage proposals and been engaged twice - and I'm still single. What's the common denominator in all that? Me.

Last May, I signed up to participate in Jennifer Boykin's June Reclaim the Sass challenge. But when June first rolled around, I barely paid attention to the daily emails she sent me. How could I, wrapping up my academic year and preparing for two student piano recitals while reeling from the reality of my break-up? Well, it turns out my participation in the June challenge automatically signed me up for the September challenge, which started TODAY. This month's theme is Coming to Your Senses. Intrigued, I watched the first video (click HERE). It was only four minutes long but it was just what I needed.

Following Jennifer's advice, I collected sounds as I went on my morning walk through the neighborhood. My goal is three miles a day which usually takes me 50-60 minutes, depending on the heat. RunKeeper tracks my distance, freeing my mind to go in a million different directions - everything from making a mental list of all the things I need to do to to making a mental list of all the things I have ever done wrong over the course of my entire life. Today, even though my thoughts looped in those old familiar ruts, reminding myself of my mission - to collect sounds - brought me right back into the moment.

The singing of the tree frogs. The chirping of a bird. The barking of a dog. The flapping of a flag. The scraping of a scooter. The whirring of an air conditioner. The roaring of a lawn mower. The slapping of my sneakers against the asphalt. The rippling of the creek. The shy "hello" from a little girl wearing a pink dress. Every single sound brought a smile to my face. It was the best walk I have had in a good long time. I was doing more than just putting one foot in front of the other. I was truly connecting with the world around me.

Age has given me the gift of me; it just gave me what I was always longing for, which was to get to be the woman I've already dreamt of being. 
― Anne Lamott

None of us knows what the future has in store for us. Maybe I will find romantic love again; maybe not. What I do know is that I have a wonderful life right now - filled with family and friends and children and music and opportunity and beauty, so much beauty - if I just take the time to notice.

To join this month's Reclaim the Sass challenge, click HERE.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Life gave me lemons. And then it gave me flowers.

You know, Hobbes, some days even my lucky rocket ship underpants don't help. 
― Bill Watterson


Friday was one of those days. I have been experiencing lower back pain since the first of April. Initially, I was diagnosed with a kidney infection. Antibiotics provided relief, but then the symptoms returned. Convinced I have a kidney stone, my primary care physician ordered a CT scan. It took almost two weeks, but finally the scheduling department called; my appointment was at 7:30 last Friday. Armed with the address provided to me and my trusty GPS, I headed out bright and early Friday morning.

Except the address landed me in the middle of nowhere. So I entered it on Google Maps and ended up somewhere else - but still not where I was meant to be. And the scheduling department wasn't answering the phone. And they hadn't bothered to mention the name of the facility where I was headed.

At some point in my frantic driving, I happened upon a large medical building. The second time I passed it, my intuition said, "Stop here." I parked my car, walked inside, and found the Suite 190 I was looking for. I was thirty minutes late for my appointment, but apparently that is commonplace there. "You can't find this place with a GPS," the cheerful receptionist informed me. Too bad the scheduling department hadn't apprised me of that fact.

My next stop was with the billing department. The representative there was pleasant enough, but she couldn't seem to remember where I worked or what I did for a living - even after she shared her personal experience with piano lessons as a young child. Then she dropped the bomb that while the cost of the procedure is almost $4000, after insurance, I was immediately responsible for $1400. There's another tidbit I wish the scheduling department had mentioned to me. My heart told me to walk right out the door. Instead, I pulled out my Bank of America credit card. Pain is a powerful motivator.

The procedure itself was neither painful nor invasive and took less than ten minutes. But by the time I got dressed and back home, I found myself in the throes of a full-blown migraine - can you say "stress"? - and spent the rest of the day in bed. No scrapbooking with Jennifer. No Zentangles and Sky Juice with Natalie. Just lying still with a cold rag draped across my forehead and my faithful dog Karma - himself recovering from eye surgery last week that set me back another cool $1000 - lying by my side.

And then the most miraculous thing happened. My doorbell rang. And the delivery man handed me the most beautiful bouquet of flowers. There was no signature, just this note:

You're a gifted, talented woman, beautiful inside and out. You touch so many lives. You are loved and admired by many and the world is a better place because you are in it. I hope these flowers brighten your day.

Well, they did. But I desperately wanted to know who the sender was. I called the florist, but the wouldn't/couldn't tell me; I posted a picture on Facebook, too, but no one owned up to the deed. As I said there, the timing couldn't have been better. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Now I wait for my doctor to call me with the results. What will be, will be. In the meantime, I am grateful for friends who are still waiting for me for scrapbooking and Zentangles and Sky Juice. And I am oh so grateful for Anonymous. Whoever you are, you touched my life in a way I will never, ever forget.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Don't miss it!

Psst!

Penguin (@PenguinPbk) will be hosting a killer Twitter chat between two wonderfully talented British suspense/mystery authors—Sarah Hilary (@sarah_hilary) and Alex Marwood (@AlexMarwood1)—which will take place on Wednesday, August 20th from 12-1 pm EST, under #killerfiction. Don’t miss your chance to ask questions to these up-and-coming authors in the genre!


PRAISE FOR SOMEONE ELSE’S SKIN

“Award-winning short story writer Sarah Hilary has crafted a tight, nasty mystery… gripping and full of graphic details about the lives and psychology of her characters, both abusers and their victims.”
—Eileen Brady, Mystery Scene Magazine

“If this first entry is anything to go by, Hilary's sense of plot and subtle character building will make the DI Marnie Rome series one to watch.”
Shelf-Awareness

“Promising…[Hilary] skillfully interweaves multiple viewpoints on the way to the mystery’s unsettling conclusion.”
Publishers Weekly

“Fans of Val McDermid and Ian Rankin will love this tremendous debut. Someone Else’s Skin puts Sarah Hilary and DI Marnie Rome squarely on the map. A gripping, disturbing examination of domestic violence with gravitas in spades, this book haunts you well after its finish.
—Julia Spencer-Fleming, New York Times & USA Today bestselling author of Through the Evil Days


ADVANCE PRAISE FOR THE KILLER NEXT DOOR

“If you read Alex Marwood's The Wicked Girls, her new one—THE KILLER NEXT DOOR—is even better. Scary as hell. Great characters.”
—Stephen King

“A taut, fascinating tale that's not for the weak of stomach… [Alex Marwood] not only creates a cast of memorable characters, but also ratchets up the suspense, leaving readers to dread what might be around the next corner. Many writers shine at characterization or at creating tension; the trick is in successfully combining the two. In this case, readers will care what happens to Collette and the rest of the boarders while simultaneously waiting for the literary axe to fall. Marwood…proves she's got staying power in this addictive tale.”
Kirkus, Starred Review

“If the author’s first book explored how poverty and abuse can make monsters of men, then this new novel will have readers peering suspiciously at the neighbors and wondering just what’s behind their closed doors. This tightly plotted story grabs readers from the opening paragraphs and will keep them up far too late at night. Highly recommended for fans of Laura Lippman, Tana French, and Gillian Flynn.”
Library Journal, Starred Review

Monday, August 11, 2014

To write or not to write?

Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you. 
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

My new teaching year started last week. I teach forty-one piano lessons Monday through Thursday, practice a minimum of two hours a day, and have ensemble rehearsals Monday evenings and Thursday mornings. My duo partner and I have four performances scheduled over the next few months, and the annual Redeemer Piano Ensemble concert will take place in November. My students are motivated and thriving and I am playing better than I have ever played in my life. Where music is concerned, things couldn't be better.

I wish I could say the same thing about writing.

Last year, I went to RWA Nationals in Atlanta, I was a finalist in the Unpublished Maggie Awards for Excellence, and accepted my Honorable Mention at the Moonlight & Magnolias conference, where I received two requests for the full manuscript. Poised for success, I nearly stopped writing altogether.

Why didn't I finish the novel and submit it? Why have I done virtually nothing with my writing in the past twelve months? Well, teaching plays the bills, and from the day I took my very first piano lesson, at the ripe old age of seven years old, I knew wanted to be a piano teacher. Furthermore, my philosophy is "those who teach, play." Keeping up my own music study makes me a better teacher and gives me credibility as a professional. But I am a woman of many passions. While teaching and playing are a huge part of my identity, I also feel compelled to make things with my hands and to write. And just as I believe my students and I mustn't keep our music to ourselves, I want to share my writing with the world. I dream of being a published novelist and having readers who love my work just as much as I love reading the books of my favorite authors.

I began writing fiction five years ago, and even though I have read many books on the craft of writing, attended numerous workshops and conferences, and joined a couple of professional organizations, I still feel like I am staggering blindly through the darkness as a writer. I don't know what I am doing or where I am going and no one seems to have any concrete or specific advice for me other than to keep writing. And lately I have been tempted to give up the dream. There would be one less thing to try to fit into my busy days, one less reason to feel a failure. Besides, if I ever were to be published, not only would I need to continue to find time to write, I would also need to make time for branding and promotion. How in the world would I manage all that?

Well, I personally know many women who are successfully juggling writing careers full-time jobs and families. And even though it is a blow every time a submission is rejected, I know deep inside that my writing isn't good enough - yet - to be selected for publication. But I also believe that perhaps I do have what it takes to succeed, provided I persevere. After all, I don't remember a time when I didn't know how play the piano; I have definitely put in my ten thousand hours at the instrument. Recognizing that helps put my experience as a writer into perspective.

So I'm holding onto my dream and renewing my commitment to writing every day, along with submitting to an agent or an editor and entering a contest at least once each month. After all, the worst thing that can happen is that I will never be published. But I will have the satisfaction of knowing I gave it my best shot. And there is no shame or cause for regret in that.

Monday, August 4, 2014

What I Did Over Summer Vacation

A few days ago, I wrote a blog post about my summer home improvements projects and promised to share more photos. As the paint dried and all the dust settled, it took me hours to finish putting things away and get pictures and artwork back on up on the walls. Finally, here are the photos.
Sky blue kitchen, with new vinyl plank flooring (Allure Alpine Elm) and new stainless steel appliances.
Coral dining room. But do you see the yellow on the closest wall? I love that I can stand just about anywhere in my house and take in at least two or three bright colors.
Pink (Behr Southern Beauty) bedroom.
This pillow makes me very happy.
So does this fillable lamp I found at Target. I had fun stuffing it with shells, rocks and coral I have picked up at various beaches over the years.
Aqua (Behr Jamaica Bay) craft room. Yes, the tabletop is cluttered now. That's work in progress. I haven't hung pictures in here yet either. Maybe over the weekend.
Bright lime (Behr Sweet Midori) studio waiting room. It won't be complete until the new sofa I ordered from La-Z-Boy arrives. I can hardly wait.
Pale lime (Behr Carolina Parakeet) studio bathroom. Yes, those are piano keys on the shower curtain.
While I am proud of all that I organized and accomplished, I still have a long list of things to buy and things to do. I guess that's just part of being a homeowner; the work is never really finished. But this afternoon I returned to full-time piano teaching so my priorities are necessarily elsewhere, and that's okay. Yes, another summer has come and gone but I have practically a whole new house to show for it. A home that is neat, clean and calm as well as cheerful, colorful and stimulating. 

A home that feels like ME.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Creating a Home I Love

Follow your inner voice to create a home you love.
~ Maggie Reyes

Summer vacation? Ha! While it's true that I have had, for the most part, a break from my teaching routine, I have been keeping myself very busy.

I moved into my current home in the fall of 2001. It was shiny new at the time but has been well used during the thirteen years I have spent in it. My three children grew into adults here. We have raised numerous pets here. I teach piano lessons here; every week, forty students and various family members walk in and out the front door. It's all been good, but it has taken its toll.

I may not be able to live at the beach but my dream has long been to paint the walls of my house in the bright colors I love. I started three years ago, when I painted my piano studio purple. This spring, my ex-fiance surprised me by having my kitchen, dining room, living room and hallways, and master bathroom painted in other colors I had chosen: sky blue, coral, yellow, and flamingo pink. I am forever grateful to him for that. This summer, I finished the project.

I covered the dull brown walls in my studio waiting room with the color of the outside of a lime; I painted the adjoining bathroom the color of the inside of the lime. I painted my bedroom the pale pink of the inside of a conch shell. And I painted the third bedroom a lovely shade of aqua; it is now my craft room. Here are a few pictures showing that process.
BEFORE 1. Boxes and bins filled with whatnot.
BEFORE 2. More boxes and bins filled with whatnot. 
All the boxes and bins sorted, organized and stowed in the closet.
The painting begins. It took two coats to cover the dark green with the aqua.
AFTER 1. A cheerful beading nook.
AFTER 2. A happy sewing corner.
After almost fifty-five years of life on this planet, I finally have a room of my own where I can sew, bead and scrapbook to my heart's content. A couple of days ago, I sat in this sunny space and created something beautiful.


Yep. It was a dream come true.

Since then, I have had new vinyl plank flooring installed in my kitchen, foyers and master bathroom, and tomorrow I am looking forward to the delivery of a new refrigerator to replace my twenty-year old leaking side-by side and a new range with a double oven to replace the builder-grade range that came with my house. I will post more pictures later. In the meantime, I have a couple of questions for you.

What is it that your heart desires? What can you do to make your dreams come true?

For me - at least this summer - all I needed was a few gallons of paint and a lot of elbow grease. I'm glad I stopped waiting for the perfect time.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Six Months


Someday you're gonna look back on this moment of your life as such a sweet time of grieving. You'll see that you were in mourning and your heart was broken, but your life was changing...
~ Elizabeth Gilbert

When I pulled out my journal Wednesday morning, I noticed the date on the first entry - February 3, 2014. It gave me pause to realize that little composition notebook chronicled the bulk of my relationship with my ex, from a few days before we became engaged through the demise of the relationship and beyond. I spent a few moments pondering that, allowed my mind to wander back through everything that has happened since I broke up with my previous fiance' and - well, I didn't like what I saw. This is what I wrote afterwards.

I refuse to allow history to repeat itself again. For the next six months, at least, I hereby declare a moratorium on dating. I'm going to spruce up the house, practice the piano, finish my novels in progress, start another one. I'm going to eat and drink healthy and exercise regularly and lose the rest of the twenty pounds I have been carrying around since menopause had its way with me. I'm going to put together a family cookbook and stitch memory quilts and hit the beach as often as I can. Then, after Christmas, I will open my heart up again - not with expectation, but to possibility - while continuing to do the things I love to do and spend time with the people I cherish.

Then I set my journal aside, made a pot of coffee, and checked in on Facebook. To my delight, one of the first things I saw was a post from Elizabeth Gilbert, in which she re-posted an essay from last year "about how important it is for women to learn how to be lonely." Liz had had met a young woman who had just broken up with her boyfriend of four years because he didn't treat her right and become concerned when the woman proclaimed, "I gotta go out there right now and get myself somebody BETTER." This was Liz's response.

Once you learn what is good for you, you settle for nothing less. And you can't learn what is good for you until you spend some time getting to know yourself. So six months, I made that girl promise. At LEAST six months alone, I made her swear. We shook on it. And it was sort of comic - here I was, a perfect stranger, and she was agreeing to my demand that she commit to celibacy for half a year...AT LEAST half a year. But that's, I believe, what even she knew she needed. To be lonely until it didn't scare her anymore. Until she wasn't just throwing herself at the next warm body that came along, out of panic and fear of her own being. 

Click HERE to read the entire essay. Liz's words are so much more powerful than my own. But I found it serendipitous that she had come to the same conclusion I did - validating my thinking in a comforting and relieving sort of way. 

And so I begin six-months of life-changing aloneness. May I come out better on the other side.

Friday, June 27, 2014

A Pop-Musical Tonic

The day after my break-up, a colleague who lives in a faraway place shared a link with me. He referred to it is a "pop-musical tonic' - his girlfriend's favorite song - and sent his best wishes along with it.


I clicked on the link, broke into an ear-to-ear grin, and listened to the song at least a dozen times back to back. Now Ingrid Michaelson is my new favorite artist - I bought the entire album - and I will forever think of this as the quintessential break-up song.

All you need is love? Sometimes all you need is a song.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

I'm Moving On

You must make a decision that you are going to move on. It won't happen automatically. You will have to rise up and say, ‘I don’t care how hard this is, I don’t care how disappointed I am, I’m not going to let this get the best of me. I’m moving on with my life.
― Joel Osteen

Last night it didn't matter how long my happiness list was or how much I repeated the Ho'oponopono; I found myself in a funk that I just couldn't talk my way out of. It was a long, tearful, tossing-and-turning kind of night. Then I woke up early, groggy and disoriented, but I dragged myself out of bed, made a pot of coffee, and spent a long time staring at the Vision Board I created last weekend.


I'm still not sure what it all means but I'm not going to figure it out by hiding in my bedroom. So as much as I wanted to crawl back under the covers and spend another day in bed with a book, I made myself push through my feelings of sadness and lethargy and get some stuff done.

It was a healthy decision, and I had the best day I've had since - well, you know. I wrote morning pages and got all my fall paperwork ready to email to my returning piano students. I did some online shopping and picked out a new table, chairs and overhead lamp for the kitchen and went ahead and ordered a duvet cover and pillow shams for my bedroom and bathroom coordinates for the upstairs bathroom. I went to Home Depot and made arrangements for their installers to come out tomorrow and give me a quote on new flooring for the kitchen. Meanwhile, my son, aka RockStar, and I made some serious headway with the decluttering and deep cleaning, and enjoyed home grilled steaks, fresh cooked green beans, and juicy cantaloupe for dinner.

Now, to keep this positive momentum going!

I'm not going to let this get the best of me. I'm moving on with my life.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

50 Things That Make Me Happy


Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better take things as they come along with patience and equanimity.
- ­Carl Jung

I just finished my first read-through of a wonderful book, The Right to Write by Julia Cameron. Filled with anecdotes from her own personal life and follow-up exercises for the reader, this is a book that I intend to keep by my bedside and refer to often.

I don't believe in coincidences so I wasn't surprised to turn to the chapter on Happiness the day after my break-up last week. In the writing prompt at the end of the chapter, Julia suggests creating a list of fifty things that make you happy.

Happiness is not only a mood. It is a decision. Writing our list of fifty happinesses causes us to see how simple some forms of joy are, how we can make ourselves happy in simple ways, Julia says. Happiness lists are also an effective deterrent for situational depression. When the blues set in, the simple act of listing joys can help elicit some.

Heart aching, tears flowing, the last thing I felt like doing last Wednesday was creating a list of fifty things that make me happy. But I did it anyway. And you know what? It helped.

Here is my list.
  1. Spending time with my son.
  2. Walking in the neighborhood.
  3. Playing the piano.
  4. Red wine.
  5. Dark chocolate.
  6. Dandelions.
  7. Lying in the sun.
  8. Cruising.
  9. The beach.
  10. Cutting up old magazines.
  11. Handmade soap.
  12. Herbs in pots.
  13. Chocolate chip cookies.
  14. Girls Chase Boys by Ingrid Michaelson.
  15. Scented candles.
  16. Cooking Thanksgiving dinner.
  17. Baking bread.
  18. Popcorn.
  19. Lavender.
  20. Cinnamon.
  21. Words With Friends.
  22. Writing morning pages.
  23. Posting to my blog.
  24. Playing with make-up.
  25. Knitting.
  26. Reading.
  27. Gardenias.
  28. Making soup.
  29. Bright colors.
  30. Glitter.
  31. Getting a surprise in the mail.
  32. Cupcakes with sprinkles.
  33. Cute shoes.
  34. Day trips.
  35. Making jewelry.
  36. Getting organized.
  37. Writing thank-you notes.
  38. Studying French.
  39. Photography.
  40. Decorating my house.
  41. Watching movies.
  42. Breakfast at Waffle House.
  43. Sushi.
  44. Seashells.
  45. Making strawberry jam.
  46. Wrapping Christmas presents.
  47. Trying new restaurants.
  48. Dining al fresco.
  49. Fresh produce.
  50. My dog Karma.
Real life is persistent in its capacity to bring happiness, Julia concludes. It is difficult, even on the most miserable of days, not to grudgingly notice something that speaks of an enjoyable world. 

Replace the sad thoughts with happy ones? I can do that. And that reminds me: I think it's time to dust off my Happiness Jar and start filling it up again.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Ho'oponopono


In my post yesterday, I alluded to the thought rut that has stalked me since the night my fiance and I said "I don't." I don't think it is any coincidence that the next day I received an email from a good friend with a link to an article on Ho'oponopono, a healing practice developed by the shamans of Hawaii. Based on the premise that we are fully responsible for every everything, both positive and negative, that happens in our lives, this practice is simple and doesn't conflict with other belief systems or religions. Essentially a prayer, the Ho'oponopono consists of four basic statements:

  1. I love you.
  2. I'm sorry.
  3. Please forgive me.
  4. Thank you.
This practice is serving me well. Now, every time the rewind button in my brain switches to Play, bringing to my knees with sorrow and regret, I silently repeat those four statements, over and over, until the negative thinking stops and my equilibrium returns. I don't know why it works, only that it does. Moving forward, as the memories of this broken relationship begin to fade and my thoughts get stuck in other painful places, I will continue to practice Ho'oponopono. There is nothing to lose and everything to gain. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Over So Soon


A broken engagement is 100% better than a broken marriage.
~ Unknown

I might as well just cut to the chase: My engagement is off.

And since the break-up last Tuesday night, I have been playing the tape of our six months together over and over in my head, trying to pinpoint exactly what went wrong and what we might have done differently to get our happily-ever-after ending. I think it is fair to say that we both had issues at various times but chose to move forward regardless; in the end, there just wasn't enough glue to bind the relationship permanently.

As much as I loved wearing that beautiful diamond engagement ring, Tuesday night it became blatantly obvious that there was no point in keeping it on my finger any longer.

But I would be lying if I said this has been easy. Wednesday I did nothing besides cry, sleep and cry some more. Thankfully, my friends and family have been totally supportive, and I have basked in their words of comfort and love. To speed the healing process, I have indulged in some retail therapy, two girls' nights out, and a pedicure, and have planned not one but two mini-vacations in July. Things could definitely be worse.

Gradually, my mood has shifted from one of mourning to one of celebration. What if he and I had ignored the issues and gone through with a wedding, only for our incompatibilities to become rifts resulting in a divorce? So much better to figure it out now, right? That is a cause for happiness, not sorrow. So I am grateful for all that I learned from the experience, and ready to move on the next chapter of my life. I have big plans and lots to look forward to in the days, weeks and months ahead, and look forward to sharing everything with you here.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Life After Concert

Practice, practice, practice.
I'll admit it: I have been feeling a little lost. As I prepared for the duo piano concert on May tenth, I let go of many of the other good things in my life. My house grew cluttered and dusty; I ate many meals out. I didn't exercise and I didn't sleep well. I neglected my Etsy store and did little with my fiction writing. It was all I could do to keep up with my practice and teach my piano students.

And then the concert was over - and I am so glad I did it! - but I found myself missing all those other pieces. And I wanted to integrate them back into my days. But I couldn't remember how.

It's been four weeks now, and I am finally, finally beginning to feel like myself again. My teaching schedule is slowing down for the summer; after my second student recital this coming Saturday, I will have almost three full weeks off and a much abbreviated schedule during the month of July, giving me time to de-clutter and deep clean, shop for groceries and cook healthy meals, spend some time on my beloved hobbies and get back to the business of writing. 

Still, I don't want to lose the momentum I gained before. I am playing the piano better than I have ever played in my life, and the Asberry & Hardy Piano Duo has another gig coming up at the Georgia Music Teachers Association state conference in November. But how to find a better balance?

A few evenings ago I stumbled upon this article. It made a lot of sense to me. For now, I am going to emphasize the morning ritual/important work first thing, with no distractions; and a relaxing evening.

Moving through the summer, I am going to make the first 90 minutes of each day count, and do my best to maintain a consistent routine. I began implementing this today; I got up at 7, wrote morning pages, went for a 2-mile walk, practiced piano for an hour, and spent 15 minutes working on my fiction writing. Only after all that did I look at my emails, check in on Facebook and Twitter, and peruse my favorite blogs. I practiced another hour later in the day; I need to spend an equal amount of time on my fiction writing if I am ever to achieve my dream of being a traditionally published author. But this morning I made at least a small amount of effort in all the important areas of my life. 

As for experiencing a relaxing evening, I guess I didn't do so well. But I did watch a funny movie on my DVR, then made a run to the grocery store and bought ingredients to cook nourishing meals for my son and my fiance over the next couple of days, and now I am writing a blog post ("spending time with a creative hobby.") The truth? I have done much, much worse. 

What do you do when you are doing all you can seem to do but need to be doing so much more?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

THE ACCIDENTAL BOOK CLUB by Jennifer Scott


It is my pleasure to welcome guest blogger JENNIFER SCOTT!!

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I don’t belong to a book club. Seems that I should. After all, I love books. I love talking about books. I love people who love talking about books. I’m a sure fit. I’ve only been invited to officially join one book club, and at the time it didn’t work with my schedule. Evenings, kids, sports, school events, blah blah blah, the usual.

Every so often, however, I fantasize about creating my very own book club. My book club would be fabulous. We’d meet over potlucks, just like Jean’s book club does in The Accidental Book Club. I’d bust out my best recipes, and maybe even try some new ones to fit a challenging theme. Perhaps jiaozi and steamed buns for Amy Tan’s The Valley of Amazement, or a hearty beef stew and a stout beer for Kent Haruf’s Benediction.

In my big, fat, fake book club, we would turn out all the lights and discuss Marisha Pessl’s Night Film by creepy candlelight. Maybe the braver among us would fire up a scary movie afterward. The next month we would all write confessional letters to Richard Gere, to celebrate our reading of Matthew Quick’s The Good Luck of Right Now. Perhaps we would wear formals to discuss Prom Nights from Hell. After that, we’d tackle some provocative nonfiction—perhaps The Death Class by Erika Hayasaki—and have weighty discussions surrounded by “brain food”—blueberry crumble, smoked salmon, guacamole. And, of course, my game-for-anything fake book club would read The Accidental Book Club. We’d all bring regular dishes that we’d “gourmeted up” with capers and fancy cheese and other foody things, drink tons of wine, and talk about motherhood, expectations, and friendship.

Alas, I will probably never start a book club. Evenings, kids, sports, school events, blah blah blah, the usual. I will never get to throw a reality TV-themed party to discuss A.S. King’s Reality Boy.
But boy did I love inventing a book club in The Accidental Book Club. I had such a good time trying out new dishes through Jean, being taken away on sexy fictional romps through Loretta, getting politically fired up through Mitzi, and thinking deeply through shy, sensitive Janet. I loved picturing the set table, the books lovingly laid out with the water glasses. I loved imagining the scent of the wine as it was being poured, the view of the woods through the dining room window.
I especially loved the camaraderie of the women—the way they had each other’s backs, the way they understood one another, the way they looked out for each other and spoke their minds. I loved that the book club itself, just like the books they were there to read, went so much deeper than just words on a page.

The Accidental Book Club may be the only book club I ever belong to. But I don’t mind, because they were a pretty fun group to hang out with. *grabs book* Now, where’s the food?

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Intrigued? You should be! The Accidental Book Club is the best book I have read in a good long while! Leave a comment at the end of this post for a chance to win your very own copy! Continental U.S. only. One lucky winner will be chosen by a random number generator at midnight on Saturday, May 31st. Have fun!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

I DID IT!

I celebrated some important milestones over the weekend.

Saturday evening, I played a duo piano concert with a colleague - my first such event since college.


Earlier in the day, my youngest son, Nathan, graduated from high school.


Which also meant my ex-husband met my fiance. And vice-versa.

Finally, it was Mother's Day weekend. My son surprised me with flowers and a funny card.


And my "adopted" daughter gave me a beautiful handmade card and Mother's Day gift at her piano lesson yesterday.


The truth? My life is not exactly that way I imagined it would be. But it is what it is. And I am grateful for what I have. I am making music with others. I am engaged to be married to a man who loves me. My son's future is shining brightly in front of him. And I am making a difference in the lives of young people. What more could a person ask for?