Monday, December 29, 2014

Earning My Wings :: Training Week 1

I always knew there was something special inside of me.  Of course, I thought it was an alien baby or a gremlin.  Turns out, it's a runner.

My first week of training has gone incredibly well.  As mentioned in my first post, I've employed my RunKeeper app to train me.  Thank goodness I have something to make decisions for me.  Otherwise, my training plan would be "Let's see how far I can run today" and after a mile or so I'd be headed back to my couch.

I have also been truly surprised by my pace.  Never being much of a long distance runner, I didn't know what my pace would look like over a mile and a half.  As you will see... not too shabby!

The pride really kicked in when I did all of this on the coldest week of the year we've had thus far.  Two of my runs happened at temps below 40*.  This Arizona girl was so bundled up!

My Saturday run was a bit of an anomaly.  The freezing cold temps paired with the high tempo drum beats of Rise Against put my pace into overdrive.  Not sustainable but efficient and fun nonetheless.

Week 1:
Tuesday, December 23 - 2.10 miles @ 12:36
Wednesday, December 24 - Self Ultimate Destress Yoga
Thursday, December 25 - 3.30 miles @ 12:59
Friday, December 26 - Rest Day
Saturday, December 27 - 2.05 @ 11:35
Sunday, December 28 - 4.03 @ 12:13
Monday, December 29 - Tone It Up's Surfer's Paradise Workout + 30 squats, light core work and weight lifting

In addition to running, I have remembered to do some cross training and I'm really honing in my diet.  I've always been one to eat well..... ish and trust me, around the holidays, it was really difficult to stay away from sweets.  I've done my best to shift to fuel and predominately water.  Baby steps... itty bitty baby steps.

So what am I most proud of this week?

Overall, Week 1 was pretty solid.  I'm actually looking forward to the coming weeks to see how my performance improves.  Talk about motivation!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Earning My Wings...

 I'm not entirely sure what the catalyst was for signing up for a Disney run.  When I signed up in mid-August, I was going through major life changes and wanted something to look forward to.  I enjoy there's that.  I also love Disneyland and Tinker Bell... so... why not?
 Now that it's late December, I decided it was probably time to lace up the running shoes and actually start training for the race.  I've never done training before - if you don't count my brief experience with track in high school, which I hated.  Usually, I just run consistently and then gun it on race day.  This usually doesn't work out as planned (read: straining my body).  But this race scares me a little bit.  It's longer than any one I've done before.  I want to make sure my body can handle it.  It's also much more expensive.  It's a full trip to participate.  And... I don't want to let Tinker Bell down!

I've employed my trusty RunKeeper app to train me.  There's a free training program for 65min 10k for those comfortable running 2-3 miles.  61 training sessions.  Ugh - that's intimidating.  The alternative is worse though.
Today was Training Day 1.  I haven't run in quite a while so I was worried about doing 2 miles cold.  Much to my surprise I was able to complete 2 miles at 12:36 pace, which isn't too bad considering I've been lazy and I ate about 17 cookies today (thanks, holidays).  Running felt comfortable.  I think...I may be able to do this.

Part of my training is also doing a few strength and yoga sessions a week.  Gotta stay strong and keep those muscles loose.

Additionally, I've signed up for the Kiss Me, I'm Irish 8k in March (see it here - come run with me!) to keep me on track.

Are you a runner?  Let me know what races you're signed up for - I'd love to join you!
They say the hardest step is the first one.  We'll see about that.

Here we go!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Memoirs

Anyone who follows me on social media knows I took on a huge task this year.  I mean, massive task.
My grandfather spent years of his life writing his memoirs.  Using his casino souvenir pens, he wrote out his story on over 150 pages of yellow graph paper, which he stored in his wooden writing lap desk.  His penmanship, while beautiful, was small and at times very difficult to read.  My father asked me years ago to type them up so he can read them.  Life got away from me and I procrastinated from taking on the task until this year.  I really wanted to give them to my dad for Christmas this year, so I dove in head first.  

To complete the project, I had to create a gameplan.  Reading his small penmanship was exhausting and some of the stories were emotionally taxing.  To ensure I finished by my deadline, I put together a working schedule, dedicating hours on Monday and Thursday nights to transcribing.  However, the bulk of my work was done on Sunday mornings.  Typically, my Sundays looked like this.

Being a lover of history, I wanted to ensure his story was told.  This meant transcribing precisely as he wrote - poor spelling and grammar included.  He was a product of his time and as frustrating as it can be to trudge through "bad writing", it was beautiful to see him for who he was.  

My grandfather passed away when I was 12 years old and I was excited to learn more about who he was as a person - not the caricature of a grandfather I had stored in my memory.  What I found was so much more extraordinary than I had expected.  Some of his stories were incredibly entertaining (i.e. my grand-grandmother chasing someone with a broom) and suspenseful (i.e. a number of brawls).  Others were downright concerning (i.e. he didn't like champagne) or terrifying (i.e. he almost lost an arm as a child).
Some stories, particularly the chapters about his first few months in the army, required liquid reinforcements.  

However, I enjoyed growing to know him through the most intimate of forms.  I learned more from his writing than I did from his words.  His tone perfectly matched his speaking cadence.  At times, I could hear his voice in my head, reading the words to me.  He struggled to spell and very rarely applied the punctuation rules of dialogue correctly.  "Suprised" and "surprised" both appeared in his writing. He forced me to type out words I would never dream of saying aloud and challenged me to become familiar with military terminology, which was such a part of his world he very rarely felt inclined to explain.  His penmanship was enviable one day and a clear struggle for him the next, usually depending on the subject matter and the level of anxiety he had with the story.  He was a man of his times and his education - and I adore him.
A wave of sadness came over me when I finally finished transcribing in mid-November.  Spending Sundays with Grandpa's story had become a welcomed and anticipated part of my routine.  I had to shift gears into project completion and it was emotionally jarring.  All good things come to an end and though I wanted more stories from my grandpa, I had to come back to the real world and my original goal.  

I secretly contacted family members to collect old pictures of my grandfather.  

*Thank you again to everyone who helped me.  You have no idea how much it meant!*

What I didn't tell anyone was my ultimate goal was to publish my grandfather's memoirs into a real book.  I had found a distribution company called that did it affordably and decided to give it a shot.  After hours and hours of formatting the typed memoirs into their template, inserting pages, fixing headers and footers, designing a cover and triple checking everything, I sent off the manuscript to be print just in the knick of time.

The first printed, hardback edition arrived to my doorstep and you better believe I broke down in tears.  I did it.  I finally finished Grandpa's memoirs and it was perfect.
Thankfully, I only had to wait a few days to give it to my dad for Christmas.  We were celebrating early with the family and I was so grateful to not have to keep the secret much longer.  My dad was handed his white and silver wrapped gift.  I could tell by the look on his face that he had no idea what was inside.  My mom and my cousin, the only two privy to my plan, looked on with giant smiles on their faces.  I sat in deep anticipation, not breathing.  As he popped open the box and pulled away the tissue, I saw the look of "Oh great, a book" come across his face.  But as he read the cover, a glimmer of recognition flashed through and then... the tears came.  I bolted up the stairs to give him a big hug.  After a few exchanges of gratitude and chit chat, I fully explained to my dad the magnitude of what I had done.

Not only were the memoirs finally typed up...
And in a fully printed hardback book...
This book was properly copyrighted...
His daugher is now a registered publisher...
And 15 years after his death, his father is an author...
As he should be.

Yes sir, I won Christmas this year.

The best news you'll get today is you too can have your own copy!  Order directly through my distribution company through the links below.

Hardback, $22.50
Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu. 

Paperback, $12.00
Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

 If you have any questions or would like a bulk order, please feel free to contact me here.

 Again, thank you to everyone for your encouragement and assistance in bringing this project to life.  I could never properly express my gratitude to you all but know that your efforts have made all the difference.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Book Review :: Fairy Tale Interrupted by RoseMarie Terenzio

I can't begin this book review without starting with how this book made me feel.  This book was relatable, powerful and raw... and achieved a great feat - it made me cry.

Disclaimer: If you're looking for Kennedy fanfare, you will be sorely disappointed. 

RoseMarie Terenzio's memoir Fairy Tale Interrupted highlights her time spent as John F. Kennedy, Jr.'s executive assistant, handling her day-to-day tasks and highly unusual other duties as assigned.  No, this is not a novel ripe with scandal and mystery.  RoseMarie and John shared a mutually respectful relationship filled with humor, loyalty and trust.  Her role as his assistant was constantly blurred by her relationship with not only John but his wife Carolyn.  John, Carolyn and RoseMarie's job at George, JFK, Jr.'s publication, were RoseMarie's life.  Those three overlapping sphere's consumed the entirety of her existence in her five years as JFK, Jr.'s assistant.

As an executive assistant, I recognized RoseMarie.  Though she worked in an extreme situation, her daily tasks are mine.  Her approach to handling her executive was quite similar to mine.  Even her reactions to stress resembled mine.  Even more startling, her working relationship with John was very similar to mine with my current executive.  The amount of trust and faith John had in her abilities, the genuine investment in her personal health and development, the blunt honesty for the sake of good business are all present in my work life as they very much were in hers.  While my life is not as consumed by my job as RoseMarie allowed hers to get (to an unhealthy extent), I could see myself in her situations - always returning to business as usual when things got weird. 

My tearful moment came long after tragedy hits.  After RoseMarie pulls us through her grief and descent to rock bottom.  In her final pages, she's able to pull skills and traits from her experiences to reinvent her life and start fresh.  The cheesy "You do have a future and it will be better" message was completely absent in her story.  She acknowledges that everything is turned upside down and she continues to have moments of grief and nostalgia.  She makes grief, death and therefore, life a normal part of work.  I finally felt like someone was able to put into words what life is like as an executive assistant - the good, the bad and the moments of faith-restored when you feel like a shadow.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who has ever worked in administration or works with an administrative professional... or anyone who simply appreciates a good read.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Book Review :: The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory

The sixth and final book in Gregory's Tudor series The Other Queen tells the tale of Mary, Queen of Scots, imprisonment in the home of George and Bess Shrewsbury.  Mary is the daughter of Henry VIII's sister and is viewed as the true heir to the English throne - in blood and in religion.  She has plotted to take the throne from Elizabeth and has finally been caught.  Even in captivity, she masterminds and inspires rebellions and plans, which eventually leads to her demise.

Unfortunately, that's all you need to know about the book.  Gregory attempts to add color to the story by illustrating the entrepreneurial spirit of Bess, who has successfully changed her status, repeatedly, in life, starting as a farm lady and landing at countess.  Gregory also focuses on the forbidden, unrequited and incredibly awkward love that George develops for his prisoner, Mary.  George and Bess have marital issues.  Things are uncomfortable.

Even worse, Mary is insufferable.  Her "holier than thou" attitude mixed with her pompous delivery just made me want to fast forward to the part when she gets executed.  Gregory doesn't even make an attempt to make her a likable character.  Or if she did, I missed it.  Most of the time, I was thinking, "I know Elizabeth executes her.  Can we just get to that part?"

My OCD required that I finish this book and thus the series.  I feel like I should get an award for struggling through this one.  There were multiple pages in this book that could have been eliminated entirely.  Where was Gregory's editor?  This book was lazily written, frequently repeating story points or just... rambling.  My best assumption is Gregory wanted to finish out the Tudor line and hastily put this book to market.

Anyways, read it if you want, I know I've made it sound awesome!  But my suggestion is you skip this one all together.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Book Review :: The Virgin's Lover by Philippa Gregory

The fifth book in Gregory's Tudor series The Virgin's Lover tells the frustratingly romantic tale of Queen Elizabeth and Robert Dudley.  Faced with war in Scotland, supported by the French, Elizabeth must make "kingly" decisions without a husband.  Thus, her betrothal and resulting marriage become a hot topic, in addition to the uncertainty of religion in England.  Robert Dudley feels he's best suited for the role and woos Elizabeth into a passionate romance.  The problem?  Robert is married.  Elizabeth's lifelong advisor William Cecil helps her navigate the constant challenges that face her as queen and leads her to her final decision.

First and foremost, if you have any notions of how Queen Elizabeth was as a successful monarch, put those aside for this novel.  She is portrayed as selfish, spoiled, and without a backbone.  The emphasis on her need for a man is frustrating - though historically accurate.  Unfortunately, Gregory made Elizabeth pathetic in her need for a man, rather than stressing the political implications of marrying.  I almost put the book down for this reason alone.

Knowing the scandal that surrounded Robert Dudley and his wife Amy during this time, I was very curious to see what stance Gregory would take with the theories.  I was not disappointed.  I won't ruin the end for you.  It's a particularly delicious mystery because it's real.

I struggled with the love story between Elizabeth and Robert for the sole reason that I couldn't bring myself to trust Robert and his ambition.  History tells of an undying devotion to each other, but perhaps in the way the story was written, I was not convinced.  Plus, he was kind of a douchebag for the way he treated his wife.  Not until I read Gregory's Note at the end of the book did I get snapped back into historical record and you feel the real love that existed between the two of them.  Don't forget to read it - it'll make your heart melt.

I'm moving on to the final book in the Tudor series tomorrow.  We'll see how she rounds out the series with Mary, Queen of Scots.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The 10 Year Reunion

In high school, I was definitely a joiner.  Any Spirit Days, clubs, school-sponsored events - you could count me in.  I showed up, decked out in school colors with a gigantic smile on my face.  Don't get me wrong - I didn't love high school, but I also didn't hate it.  I simply live by the philosophy that if I'm here I might as well participate.

However, when my 10 year high school reunion was announced, my immediate reaction was a giant pit in my stomach.  I didn't want to go.  My cynical mood kicked in.  I've stayed in touch with so many people over Facebook.  I see my close high school friends all the time.  Plus I'd have to drive back to Havasu and get a hotel because my parents don't live there anymore.  UGH!  Not to mention my recent divorce and who wants to put themselves through that questioning?!

I was going through all the reasons not to go with a friend one night and his response was pretty simple, "Yeah, but you don't know who is going to make it to the 20 year reunion.  Life happens.  Might as well see everyone now."  Pretty straightforward and somewhat morbid logic but he had an excellent point.  Done.  I decided I was going.  Although some apprehension still lingered, I coerced one of my good friends into going with me.  Tickets were purchased, hotel was booked and PTO requested.  

I'm incredibly grateful I did go.  Not only was it fun, it was exactly what I needed to feel like Jen again.  Here are my top 7 moments/memories from the reunion.


1.  The Smell of the Football Field Grass.
I don't need to go into great detail, but we all know I've gone through a lot of changes lately.  It is easy to get lost in the chaos of such huge life changes, especially when drowning in work.  Your sense of self gets lost.  It's disjointing and disorienting and I've been trying to find a catalyst to recenter me.  All it took was the smell of grass.

When we showed up to the Homecoming football game at the high school, I took a moment to soak it all in.  The huge mass of people, the lights, the floats, the oddly small marching band.  It was so... high school.  We walked in, laughing about the spray painted shields of armor on the ground that looked like sea turtles and scanned the crowd for the special Alumni section.  A quick pause and suddenly, I was hit by the smell of the field.  The very familiar smell of half-dead, torn up, cheaply painted grass.

I spent most of my high school years on that field and the simple smell of the grass made me feel very at home.  I felt more like myself.  Sure, ten years have gone by, but at the core, I'm still who I was back then and thank goodness for grass for reminding me.

2.  Familiar Hugs.
At the bar the first night in town, we saw a lot of people.  Havasu's not a big place so we ran into everyone who decided to have a Friday night out on the town.  However, there were a few people whose hugs are so warm and familiar that they are almost healing (cheesy, I know, deal with it).  One in particular was my friend Kat Quill, who I've known since the first grade.  There was something about her hug that made everything seem happy, carefree and normal.  Part of that is her amazingly positive personality, but another part stems from that homey feeling I've been looking for.  Her hug set the pace for relaxing me for the rest of the weekend.

3.  "That one time..." Stories.
This one actually deserves subcategories.  Everyone loves reminiscing with old friends, but I'm not sure many people have stories like these.

"Your mom arrested me twice!" - Luke Hornburg  Luke didn't graduate with us, but he's married to one of my friends that did and was friends with my older brother growing up.  At the football game, upon spotting me, he decided to announce that not only did my mom arrest him twice, once was the day after he stayed the night at our house.  Usually, when approached with "Your mom arrested me/gave me a ticket" stories, I roll my eyes and ask, "Well, did you do something wrong?"  But Luke's blunt and unexpected delivery was so shocking that I couldn't help but laugh my ass off.  He then continued to tell people all weekend about it.  Outstanding.

Speaking of repeating stories:  "Jen broke up with me over email!" - Hank Lawrence  My friend Hank and I didn't really hang out a lot in high school despite the fact that our best friends dated the whole time (and are now married).  This may be attributed to the truth in his story.  Yes, I did break up with him over email when we were 14 years old.  However, he clearly got over it because we're great friends now.  Or so I thought... until he decided to tell every single person who came into the bar that I broke up with him via email.  Awesome.  Thanks, bud.

"Jen turned me gay when she turned down my marriage proposal in third grade." - Tommy Watanabe  Tommy and I did that cute third grade "Do you love me? Check Yes or No" thing back in Mr. Tebo's class.  We "kid" flirted and it was pure ridiculousness.  Tommy then proposed to me and I crushed his soul by saying no and dumping him.  Apparently, this turned him gay.  Damnit.

"Jen's mom strip searched my mom." - Tommy Watanabe (again)  This story is actually pretty incredible and is best told in Tommy's words here.

Apparently, I was best remembered for my poor break-up etiquette and my mom being a police officer.  Not too shabby...better than some of the alternatives.

4.  Scotty's Broasted Chicken.
If you're from Havasu, this needs no explanation.

For those less fortunate, it is the most delicious chicken to ever grace the surface of the planet... and I had it for lunch.

5.  Awards for Functioning Genitals. 
The reunion committee (who did a wonderful job, by the way) decided to hand out awards based on various "accomplishments", including categories such as Most Countries Visited and Furthest Traveled for the Reunion.  Oh... and Most Children.  While not given to someone with a shocking number of kids (three), they definitely opened the door for him to shout to everyone, "My junk works!"  All. Night. Long.  Yay, for your functioning genitals and their hard earned (pun intended) accomplishment, Kyle Bernabe.  Super happy for you.

6.  "I wasn't a bitch/asshole in high school!  Was I?!"
I overheard this a lot.  Being from a small town, we have very little patience for bullshit.  After ten years of people, apparently, stewing over some high school interactions, the gauntlet was thrown... HARD.  The first time I heard it was at the football game.  (Remember, that was after only being in town for two hours.)  People were coming out with guns blazing.  And it continued all through the banquet and night out at the bar.  However, this led to a lot of diffusion of awkwardness and positive mending.  Good for us being good human beings and moving forward.  A lot of maturity in ten years.  Keep it up!

7.  Denny's at 2:30AM.
The story of Hank and I ending up at Denny's at 2:30AM is the perfect illustration of Jen being Jen (read: irritating) and Hank being Hank (read: a gentleman) and us being an awesome team (kind of like Batman and Robin.... I am Batman).  First, we have to rewind to the pre-reunion.  In the presence of my parents (love you, Mom and Dad!) Hank and I drank a bottle of champagne... each.  This was sip one in a string of drinks that were consumed prior to dinner starting.  Truly, an awful and not well-thought out strategy.  At the age of 28, I should know better.

When dinner did start, everyone lined up to get food from the buffet, but I was too busy talking (shocking, I know) to even think, "Hey, I should get some food."  Hank (God bless him) not only came up to let me know dinner had started but generously made me a plate when I asked because I wanted to finish my conversation.  Such a stand up guy.  Unfortunately, I was far too inebriated to eat and only took about four bites of the salad and ate the breadstick.  Sorry for wasting your effort, Hank.

Fast forward to about seven hours later, we were being ushered out of the bar during closing when I took one look at Hank and said, "I'm hungry."  The look on his face was a cross between "No kidding!" and "Are you fucking kidding me?!"  Thankfully, instead of slapping me across the face, he responded that he was hungry too and suggested we walk to Denny's.

Now, Denny's is only about a mile from the bar we were at, but I was in horribly painful heels and was still... ahem...recovering, so I feel like this was his little bit of payback for me not eating my dinner and being somewhat irritating that evening.  Well played, sir.  At least I got my fruit and eggs, so I think it still worked out in my favor.  He still gets the award for Best Reunion Buddy Ever.


I'm just going to throw this out here... don't be that lame person who is cynical about reunions.  I'll definitely be making an effort to attend all the ones in the future.  Nothing feels quite as good as going home.

Love you all, LHHS Class of 2004.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Over... but not forgotten...

When two people choose to get a divorce, it is not uncommon to hear the phrase, "It's for the better."  Whether the two were motivated by financial, ambitious or romantic difference, no one makes the decision to get a divorce as a way to impose emotional self-mutilation.  The decision is made to move both individuals down positive life paths.

However, all too often, you hear the words, "Good riddance" follow conversations about why the two parted.  And that makes me really sad.

While my divorce from my husband... ex-husband?... is a positive life move for both him and me, I have no regrets about our relationship nor do I have a desire to erase our past from my memory.  This is the key reason why I chose not to switch back to my maiden name.  I am no longer the person I was prior to my marriage and I do not want to erase it from my memory.

I am a better person because of my marriage to my husband (ex-husband? That feels weird to say).

1.  Through my marriage, I was able to identify characteristics within myself that I dislike.  The key word there is "I".  My marriage taught me so much about contextualizing changes, fighting fairly and putting someone before myself.  My management of these situations has changed the way I handle not only my personal relationships but also my professional relationships.  Being able to step outside one's self and see the picture from all angles is a hard skill to master.  I'm working on it, but my marriage definitely put me on the right path.

2.  My husband's (my ex-husband's) unfailing faith in my abilities helped me launch The Creative Cubby.  Sure, masked by love, every creation is the best thing they've ever seen.  However, he gave me the confidence to put myself out in the world and brace myself for criticism... oh, and praise.  When I said, "The worst that can happen is no one will read my blog," he responded, "No, the worst that can happen is you will hate writing your blog."  He changed my focus to what I get out of it rather than what others expect.  He gave me the extra confidence I needed to take that next leap and I will be forever grateful.

3.  We were and still are great friends.  Regardless of the reasons that led us to getting a divorce, we are amazing friends to each other.  He will always be my platonic soulmate.  We are so much the same person it's almost scary.  Outside of our ability to amicably split Gummy Bears and our mutual love of The West Wing, we supported each other endlessly.  If one of us was having trouble at work or wanted to make a life change, we talked it out, we analyzed, and we helped each other to make the decision we truly desired.  We also aren't afraid to be silly with each other and make each other laugh with historical references.

I could go on and on, but those are my top three.  My marriage is over and that's okay.  Am I bitter?  No.  Am I happy?  Getting there.  Will we stay friends?  I sure hope so.  The exact reasons for our divorce are, obviously, very private, but regardless of those reasons, I never want to forget that I was married to him.  He was a positive part of my life and hopefully, we can continue the trend.  I will continue to learn and grow and I'm grateful to our relationship for putting me on the right path.

It may be over... but I have no desire to forget.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Book Review :: The Queen's Fool by Philippa Gregory

Gregory's fourth book her Tudor Series The Queen's Fool follows the fictional Hannah Verde/Green as the Queen's Fool, bouncing between Princess/Queen Mary and Princess/Queen Elizabeth as they battle for the throne.  However, aside from dealing with sisters at war, Hannah has her own concerns as a Jew hiding in a Catholic/Protestant, heretic-burning-happy England.  She's also a Sight Seer - which, for some reason, is seen as a holy gift instead of witchcraft (odd for Tudor England).  On top of that, Hannah is of marrying age and is betrothed to "traditional" man, counter to her independent nature.  Oh, let's also throw in the fact that she's in love with her Lord.  Seriously, Hannah has problems.

I was excited to get to the Mary vs. Elizabeth novel and unfortunately, I was very let down.  Gregory's writing was lazy, frequently repeating plot points as a way to fill pages.  I don't know how many more times I could be reminded what Hannah's prophecies actually said or that she was sensitive to the smell of smoke because her mother was burned at the stake.  I get it.  I actually felt like this novel was much too long for its content and talked down to the reader.

However, I did appreciate the picture Gregory painted of Mary and Elizabeth.  Both characters were familiar and in line with my understanding of how the two women were.  The next novel, The Virgin's Lover, focuses on Elizabeth and hopefully will not disappoint as much as this one did.

Get the book!

Book Review :: The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory

The third book in Gregory's Tudor Series The Boleyn Inheritance perfectly handles the less-than-thrilling end to Henry VIII's reign.  Gregory skips over Queen Jane's short rule - who wants to hear about a happy kind and queen anyway? - and dives right into the arrangement with Anne of Cleaves.  The cadence of the story is very quick, bouncing between three women's perspectives - Anne of Cleaves, Kathryn Howard and Jane Boleyn (George Boleyn's widow) - as the storyline progresses.

Gregory takes more historical liberties with this novel, as not many intimate details are known about his last marriages.  The true worth of the read is experiencing Gregory writing in three very distinct voices.  I very rarely needed to reference who I was reading under (written on the first page of each chapter) because each person had a specific speech pattern and concerns.  Kudos to Gregory for that!

Otherwise, the book was "okay".  Entertaining, at best.

Get the book!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Fighting like an Adult

Every once in a while, I forget how to fight like an adult.  My feelings get hurt and automatically, the gauntlet gets thrown.  Whoever I'm arguing with doesn't stand a chance.  They just have to stand there in their wrongness and be wrong, because I'm right and even if I'm wrong, I'm still right.  Insane?  You betcha.  Trust me, my lack of rationality bothers me more than it bothers you.  How?  Because I can't shut it off.

When I'm upset, I get verbal diarrhea.  I feel the deep burning desire to over explain the situation so no doubt can be left about my intentions, feelings or perspective.  I want to make sure I'm heard and understood.  It is often too late that I slow down and listen to the other person.  By then my assumptions have been made, opinion formed and stance declared.  Often, too late, I realize I was wrong or out of line.

I love to be right.  Who doesn't?  I'm a fairly intelligent person who annoyingly loves to assert her knowledge on others.  Unfortunately, life is a constant string of events where one is either right or wrong.  One cannot always be right, just as one cannot always be wrong.  However, one can be a stubborn pain the ass 100% of the time.  That would be me.

Only recently have I started to swallow my pride and say the treasured words, "I'm sorry. I was wrong."  Whether the other party accepts (or acknowledges) my apology or not is another topic but in apologizing, I have won the battle against my ego.  That, my friends, is huge.

While my style of fighting has evolved quite a bit in the past ten years or so, I still have a ways to go.  I no longer yell or slam doors.  I'm cutting back on the sarcasm (a true struggle) and I try really, really hard not to name call.  Sometimes I slip up and that's okay.  But I need to focus on being more sensitive to the situation at hand.  At the risk of sounding cliche, I don't need to show up to every fight I'm invited to, even if I am right.  I also need to provide every situation the fair chance to not be a fight to begin with by avoiding assumptions.

I should have learned this by now and unfortunately, a recent event has reminded me that I haven't.  I'm still growing up into the adult I want to be and that doesn't include hurting my friends and family.  One step at a time, I'll get there.  I promise.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Musical Memories :: "More Than a Feeling" by Boston

Almost every summer of my teen years, I vacationed in Southern California with my extended family.  My aunt and uncle graciously hosted me for roughly two months straight and treated me as one of their own.  Quite a gesture if you consider they had three young, rambunctious kids of their own.  Regardless, they took me in and I was one of the family.

Summer was an endless schedule of Little League baseball games and we spent a good chunk of our time traveling between baseball fields and pizza parlors.  As you can imagine, we got in a quite a bit of quality time crammed in the car, a minimum of four kids and two adults... and a radio.

We were particularly fond of "More Than a Feeling" by Boston.  Partially because it's a timeless classic rock song.  Partially because my aunt's name is Marianne.  Honestly, you don't really need a good reason to love this song.  It's okay - just let it happen.

Five of the six usual passengers really enjoyed singing along - very loudly.  My uncle would bang out the drum solos on the steering wheel.  My cousin would rock out on the air guitar.  However, one, who shall remain nameless, would shake their head at us in embarrassment, whining, "Guys!  Stoooop!", occasionally ducking down out of sight of the windows at a red light or as we pulled into a parking lot.  I mean, really, our voices weren't thaaat bad.  I don't think.  Well, maybe they were.  Who knows.

This song came on in the car during my commute today and I was immediately transported to a time over ten years ago.  As I belted it out, I missed my family band.  I even missed the whining from the backseat trying to get me to shut up.  Whenever this song comes on, I can immediately feel the summer heat, the anticipation of seeing friends or looking forward to an important game, and I have a sense of home.  Summertime really isn't complete without it.  

Monday, July 14, 2014

Book Review :: The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory

The second book in Greogry's Tudor series The Other Boleyn Girl did not disappoint. Following the antics of the infamous Anne Boleyn in Henry VIII's court through the eyes of her younger sister Mary, the reader is dropped into a world of ambition, scheming and, ultimately, disaster.  Mary, unlike her sister and brother George, is a Boleyn of conscience and desirous of a life away from court.  She fails to fulfill her family's plans numerous times and in the end, is the only one to come out unscathed.

This novel is a stretch from scholarly fact, but that's what makes it so addictive. Gregory takes the research of the renowned Tudor historian Retha Warnicke and twists the facts into a scandalous tale.  Again, Gregory's writing maintains a quick cadence and conversational tone, making this large novel an easy read. I'm looking forward to what she has in store for the rest of Henry's love affairs.

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Chop Chop

Yesterday, I took the plunge.  Armed with my inspiration photo from Pinterest, I sat down in my hair dressers chair and said, "It's time for a change."  After considering the photo, she turned to me to ask, "How long have you thought about this?"

"A few weeks.  I'm ready for it."

"Okay, let's do it."

Halfway through, I was evaluating the look and stopped her.  "Let's go shorter."  

An hour later, the floor was covered with my lovely locks and I had the shortest haircut I've ever had.  Part of me was sad.  No more ponytails or messy buns for me.  But another part of me felt liberated and man, did my head feel lighter!  Even more important, I'm in love with the cut.  My stylist did a great job and I couldn't be happier!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Book Review :: The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory

Seeing my obsession with the Showtime series The Tudors, my friend bought me a collection of Philippa Gregory novels for Christmas a few years ago.  Forcing myself to put historical inaccuracies and embellishments aside, I finally picked up the first in Gregory's Tudor series The Constant Princess.

This novel focuses on the life of Catherine, the Princess of Spain, who would eventually become Katherine, Queen of England - Henry VIII's first wife.  I was immediately grateful to find that the novel treats Katherine so gently.  On The Tudors, she is overlooked.  Her storyline is under developed and she is portrayed as a religious devotee to a fault.  

Katherine's resolve and dedication is almost palpable.  While the story is based on heavy historical speculation, it is entertaining and engaging.  I found myself getting irritated or feeling heartbroken on her behalf.  

Perhaps most rewarding from reading this peace was how pleased I was with Gregory's writing.  She made historical fiction fun and quick - delivering essential details swiftly and full of color.  I immediately picked up The Other Boleyn Girl once I completed this book.  Can't wait to see how she carries the readers into Henry VIII's infamous relationship with Anne Boleyn.

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