Short Story Sunday 153: Welcome Baby (Dear Diary)

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            Lisa wasn’t due to have her baby until March 7, 2016. It was a leap year and she prayed and prayed that the baby would stay in her belly until after February 29. She wanted her son to have a birthday every year as opposed to every four years.

So, around 12:45 in the morning on March 1, the telephone rang. I didn’t have a phone in my bedroom, but I could hear it ringing from my office across the hall. I laid in bed with my eyes open, suddenly wide awake, but too afraid to move. Whenever the phone rang in the middle of the night something bad had happened. My uncle has Lifeline so my mind immediately wandered to him.

Then I heard the caller ID’s robotic female voice announce my sister’s name.

“Kris?” I whispered hoping she was awake.

She grunted.

“Why is Lisa calling?”

“I don’t know…”

“Is this it?”

“Maybe,”

We both remained in bed for a few minutes. I don’t know what was going on in Kris’s head, but I was trying to process everything. Why else would our older sister be calling in the middle of the night if the baby wasn’t on his way?

After a few moments, and realizing that the phone had stopped ringing, Kris and I both leaped out of our beds. We ran downstairs where Mom was standing the kitchen talking to Lisa. Dad stood in the hallway outside of the bathroom staring at Mom waiting.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“Lisa’s in labor.” Dad said.

Kris and I smiled at each other and I remember jumping a little, but it was only about one o’clock in the morning. We were all still pretty tired and out of it.

Mom hung up the phone and grinned from ear to ear. “They’re on their way to the hospital!”

We all cheered and stood around in the kitchen for a couple minutes not knowing what to do next.

“Well, I’m going back to bed.” Dad turned around and left the kitchen.

“That’s it?” I asked.

“We’ll visit them in the morning. There’s not much we can do.” Mom had said, which made perfect. We all needed our sleep for a big day ahead.

Luckily, it just happened to work out, that I had the day off from work that day. Dad still had to go to work, but Kris and Mom called out and we all went to the hospital together.

I don’t like hospitals. I felt on edge as we drove there, telling myself that we would be in the maternity ward. It wouldn’t be that bad.

I started tearing up in the car and Mom stared at me through the rear-view mirror.

“Are you okay?” she had asked.

“I’m an aunt!” I exclaimed through blurry eyes. Mom and Kris started laughing at me because I cry at a lot of things, good or bad.

We made it to the hospital and entered Lisa’s room and I immediately burst into tears again. I didn’t like seeing her hooked up to a machine with wires and needles coming out of her, even though I knew there was nothing wrong with her or the baby. This is one of the reasons as to why I don’t like hospitals and get nervous.

We spent most of the day waiting around. Kris and I decided to go home around 1:30 in the afternoon. Mom said they’d call if anything was to happen. So, of course, as soon as we got home, we both got a text message from our brother-in-law stating that Lisa was going to start pushing soon.

I looked up at Kris. “So… Does this mean we go back?”

“We should probably be there when the baby comes, right?” She responded with a question.

“I want to be one of the first people to see our nephew, yes.” I replied.

“Alright, let’s head back out then.”

Kris and I hopped back into the car and we were on our way. She drove while I the GPS on my phone. We have never driven to the hospital on our own before and have never been to that part of the town, so we had no idea where we were going. Neither one of us paid much attention when Mom drove us back and forth earlier that day.

Kris was pretty calm behind the wheel as I freaked out in the passenger seat.

“Holy crap, we’re aunts. Kris, we have a baby. We have a nephew. There’s a baby coming. Lisa’s a mom! A mom, Kristen!”

“I know!” Kris exclaimed excitedly. “Now tell me where to turn next so we can actually be there when the kid comes.”

As I directed her from the GPS, Mom kept texting me.

“Are you guys coming?”

“Lisa is beginning to push.”

“The baby is coming!”

“Hurry!!”

With each new text message, I freaked out more and more causing Kris to freak out.

“We’re going to miss it!” I shouted.

“We’ll be fine, we’ll be fine!” Kris pulled into the parking lot. Except there were no spots. “Oh, you have got to be kidding me…” she muttered.

After three floors down in the parking garage, I pointed to a spot right by the stairs. “There! Go there!”

She pulled in and we both jumped out of the car racing through the parking garage. We were both giggling like mad as we were both nervous and too excited at the same time for our own good.

We raced up the spiral stairs in the garage. I nearly knocked into a man who had to be at least two feet taller than me as I shouted, “Auntie’s coming!”

Kris burst out laughing as I almost took out the fully grown man and we dashed through the lobby of the hospital. We ran into the elevator. As it rose to the third floor, Kris and I leaned against the wall trying to catch our breaths.

An older woman was in the elevator with us and gave us a strange look.

“Our older sister is having a baby.” Kris explained.

The woman smiled. “First one?”

“Yeah, we’re aunts now!” I grinned.

“How could you tell?” Kris said sarcastically.

The woman chuckled. “Congratulations.”

We said our thanks to her and ran out of the elevator as soon as the doors opened. We jogged down the hall only to run into Mom.

“Do we have a baby?” I asked.

“We have a baby!” Mom exclaimed.

We group hugged each other and jumped up and down in the middle of the hall.

“We don’t know anything as we’re not allowed in yet. But a nurse came out and told us that he’s here and everyone is doing great.” Mom had explained.

We waited in a small waiting room with Lisa’s mother-in-law, father-in-law, and sister-in-law. We waited for about another half hour and our friend came in the meantime. We all sat and chatted with one another as though nothing was going on. We were just trying to pass the time.

Finally, Nick, my brother-in-law, came into the room. He explained what had happened to all of us. Everyone was doing well. The baby was born at 4:49 in the afternoon, and he was 12 inches, 6 ounces.

The grandparents went in first. My poor father wasn’t able to leave work, but he visited them later that night before visiting hours ended.

I remained in the waiting room with Lisa’s sister-in-law, Kris, and our friend. The four of us chatted about random things trying to pass the time some more. We knew it wasn’t going to be too much longer since the grandparents were having their turn. The nurses just didn’t want too many people to go in right at once right away.

Before too long, however, the nurse came in giving us permission to go into Lisa’s room. There, I held my nephew for the first time of many. I fell in love with him immediately as I looked down at him through my blurry, happy tears.

Words: 1,343

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Gatecrashing Europe by Kris Mole

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Title: Gatecrashing Europe
Author: Kris Mole
Published: 
August 2015 by Valley Press
Genre: Nonfiction travel
How I got the book: I received a free digital copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Summary:

In 2007, Kris Mole flew one-way to Stockholm with a vow not to return home to England until he had visited every capital city in the mainland European Union. He set himself eight simple rules, most importantly A) that no money would be spent or handled during the journey, and B) no credit cards would be used either. Thus, the great Euro Freebie Challenge began: twenty-three cities to be visited, 6000 miles to be covered, without spending a single penny on the journey – to raise money, in fact, for Cancer Research UK.

The colourful story of this six-month trip was first told by charismatic, wise-cracking, semi-anti-hero Kris via a series of blogs, and followed by readers of The Daily Mail, The Telegraph and the BBC website. Readers found Kris drawing on his formidable resourcefulness to acquire all of life’s necessities for free, resting wherever he could find a place, and travelling by foot, hitch-hiking, or stowing away on trains – experiencing, as you might expect, a wild emotional ride in the process.

August 2015 marks the first appearance of this epic journey in book form, with the author donating 10% of his royalties to Cancer Research UK.

My Review:

rp-first-thoughts

I don’t typically read books about travel, but I do enjoy a good memoir from time to time. What the author did was pretty inspiring so I was intrigued on how his travels went for such a good cause. I couldn’t say no when he reached out to me about reviewing the book.

This won’t be a typical review as it’s non-fiction, so bear with me.

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The major “plot” of this is that the author, the protagonist, Kris, was attempting to explore the EU by visiting every capital without spending a penny. There are 23 capitals and well over 6,000 miles to travel.

You think, “How can he possibly do that without spending any money?” Well, he did it. And at the age of 24, no doubt.

It was interesting to see how he managed to get from one place to another whether it was from a kind citizen hearing of his cause and buying him a bus ticket, he hitch-hiked, or he simply walked.

It’s a good challenge, an exciting one, and as difficult as it is, it’s a simple one as well.

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Kris himself was ambitious and determined that made him a great fit for the challenge. He began the challenge for Cancer research as his grandmother was sick. While on the journey, he received word that she had passed on.

He continued on the journey for his grandmother and everyone else who battles Cancer.

I can’t even begin to explain all the various people Kris met on his journey, but I’ll just say that he met some really nice people and then some pretty interesting characters.

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Kris’s writing made the book easy to read as the pace was steady and each chapter flowed nicely right into the next. Every time he crossed another capital off his list, he laid it all out at the beginning of the chapter. How many capitals he had left to visit and which ones they were, how many miles he had traveled, and how many days he had been on the journey.

His writing was also humorous as he wrote exactly what he was thinking at all times. It definitely catches your attention.

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I can’t stress enough how inspiring this book is. It’s hard to believe that anyone was able to achieve such a feat and make it all the way back home. If you’re interested in a feel-good kind of read, then this is the way to go. Plus, you get a little geography lesson in the mix.

Gatecrashing Europe by Kris Mole gets…
5 out of 5 stars

Favorite Quote:

“How could you hate so many things about a place you had never seen with your own eyes.” –Kris Mole, Gatecrashing Europe

Buy the book:

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Short Story Sunday 145: Wedding Adventures (Dear Diary)

Short Story Sunday

When you’re at the tender age of being somewhere in your twenties, it’s weird to think that your friends are getting married, buying houses, having children… You know, stuff that adults do.

When Kris told me that her childhood best friend was engaged, I was surprised because I thought they were too young. She was 25 or so when she got engaged, so no. That’s not too young at all. That’s a good age to get engaged, especially when you’ve been with your significant other for a few years.

Kris was in the bridal party as a bridesmaid. She was able to get a plus-one and chose to bring me along on account my parents were invited on their own since they were the parents of a bridal party member.

The church was about an hour or so away from our house. Kris had gone up the night before which left Mom, Dad, and me to our own devices to get ourselves there.

Kris’s friend and her fiancé had met at college. They attended a Catholic school together and the school had a church. That’s where they were getting married. You would think it’d be easy to find a church when it’s among a huge campus, but that’s just the thing. It’s in the middle of the huge campus.

The ceremony started at three in the afternoon. I assumed we would leave our house around 1:30 to be there by 2:30. We’d be on time with plenty of it left to spare and we’d be able to get a good seat at the church.

1:30 came and went as my parents still tried to get themselves ready to go. It was around two o’clock when we finally left our house. I had been texting Kristen back and forth.

“Are you guys here yet?” she had asked.

I replied, “We just left.”

Apparently, just about everyone was already at the church.

“Don’t worry, the GPS says it’ll take about 45 minutes to get there.” Mom had explained to me as soon as we got into the car.

But what about traffic? I didn’t say anything though. I couldn’t complain about not leaving earlier since we couldn’t go back in time and leave earlier. Plus, I had no major part in the wedding, so it wasn’t going to affect the ceremony if we weren’t there.

Sure enough, we hit traffic. It was a Saturday afternoon so you wouldn’t think there would be many people out on the road, but accidents do happen. Once we got past that, about a half hour or so, we were smooth sailing.

It was about 2:50 when we arrived at the campus. There were many entrances to the college campus as there are so many different buildings plus the church. We passed by a big sign that said the church’s name.

“There it is!” I pointed out the window, but Dad kept driving.

“The GPS says we have another quarter mile.” Mom said.

“Mom, the GPS is taking us to the college, not the church. The church was right back there.” I explained.

“Where am I going?” Dad asked.

“But this is what the GPS says.” Mom said.

“I saw the limo back there. That’s where the church is. We missed the turn.” I said exasperated. Sure, listen to the GPS over a human being.

“Hello? Where am I going?” Dad asked again.

“Turn here.” Mom pointed to the next right. Dad turned in and Mom smiled. “See? Look at all the cars parked here!”

“Look at everyone in football attire out on that field…” Dad stated driving slowly by the parked cars.

“It’s a college and a Saturday. I’m sure there are other events going on… Such as a football game,” I sighed.

Mom stared at the GPS with furrowed brows. “Oh.”

“So where do I park?” Dad asked.

“Where the church is,” Mom replied.

“Where’s the church?”

“I don’t know…”

“It was way back there!” I exclaimed.

“Oh, there’s a guy. Roll down your window and ask him.” Mom poked Dad on the arm which resulted in him growling at her, but he rolled down his window anyway.

The man took out his headphones and looked at us with confusion as soon as Dad asked where the church was.

“Um, go back the way you came and it should be your last left. There’s a huge sign, you can’t miss it.”

I smirked in the back seat as Dad said thank you and rolled up his window. Mom chuckled and looked over her shoulder at me.

“But the GPS said…”

“It’s just about three o’clock now. Can we please stop talking about the GPS? Turn it off.” Dad muttered.

I muttered an “I told you so” but we remained silent until Dad pulled into the church.

“There’s the limo!” Mom pointed out the window as though we were sight-seeing Christmas lights.

“I told you that.” I said.

“Oh, there’s the church!” Mom unbuckled her seatbelt and was just about to open the car door, but stopped herself. I burst out laughing.

“What are you doing? I need to park first!” Dad shouted.

Mom laughed. “Sorry, I got excited.”

Dad pulled into a parking spot, though he wasn’t sure if he was able to park there or not. We all shrugged our shoulders not caring. It was 2:58 and we needed to get into that church.

We walked along the sidewalk trying to find the entrance to the church when Dad pushed Mom and me forward. “There she is! She’s getting out of the limo now!”

The bride was stepping out of the limo and the three of us broke into a run as our time was running out. I decided to wear heels to this wedding. I never wear heels. I’m sure watching me attempt to run was certainly a sight to see to any people passing by.

We stopped short right outside the entrance as the bride disappeared inside, her bridal party following behind her. Kris walked right by us without speaking a word. She shook her head with a disgusted face and that was it.

“What, we made it, didn’t we?” Dad called to her with an attitude.

We followed them inside, gave Kris and the bride a quick hug, and then entered to find our seats.

We attend church regularly every Sunday, but we have a small church with a small parish. For a college, one would think the church wouldn’t be too fancy, but I was wrong. The church was much bigger and beautiful that I originally pictured it.

“Holy shit,” I whispered and then flinched. I looked up at the ceiling. “Sorry…”

“Really?” Dad raised an eyebrow. I shrugged.

“Oh, look!” Mom pointed to some friends of Kris’s from school. They were in the back and the other seats were mostly filled, so we figured we’d sit with them.

We said hello and gave them hugs before sitting down. Mom walked into the pew, sat down, and then immediately stood back up to walk out of the pew. She pushed me aside, as I was coming into the pew next to her making me back out into the aisle.

“What are you doing?” Dad grunted.

“I want to sit on the end so I can take pictures.” Mom said.

“Oh, Jesus Christ…” Dad groaned.

“Really?” I mocked him laughing.

“Shut up,” he gave me a gentle push into the pew.

We waited another five minutes or so and then the ceremony started.

For the most part, the rest of the day went smoothly. Well, other than the fact that we left the church immediately after the ceremony and went to the reception hall when most people stayed back at the church for another hour or so. We had to wait around in the lobby of the resort for a while before they could let us in.

Kris had texted me wondering where we went. We had completely ditched her and she had to get a ride to the resort from the bride’s father.

Overall, the wedding was a good time. But it just goes to show that you really can’t take us anywhere.

Words: 1,363

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Short Story Sunday 135: Good Help is Hard to Find

I had my box turtle, Raph, for almost six years now. I never had a problem with her until a couple of months ago. Whenever I would put her back into her terrarium, she would twitch. Her arms, legs, and head, would snap around and she would ran in circles often banging into the side of her tank. One night I put her back in her tank and she twitched for a half hour.

Normally I let her roam around my office for a few hours, especially when the weather is warmer. She loves the freedom of being outside of her tank and I love to have the company while I work or even while I just relax and watch TV.

I would love to have her wandering the room all day every day if I could, but she is in fact a turtle and not a dog or cat. She needs to confinement of her tank and needs the heat from her lamp. So, in the winter, she can’t be out of her tank all day. In the summer, it’s easier, but I have the air conditioner on for myself. She can only be out for a certain amount of time.

Needless to say, I felt bad when Raph began twitching every time I put her back inside her tank. For the first day or two I thought it might have been because she didn’t want to be in there.

The third day, I thought maybe some bugs had gotten into her bark. Sometimes the bugs can crawl into her shell and make her itchy. I cleaned her tank every other month and it was due to be cleaned anyway, so that’s exactly what I did.

But that didn’t help.

I Googled everything that I could possibly think of—her diet, her lighting, the flooring of her terrarium, and more. I even looked up a list of diseases box turtles could get. None of the symptoms for any of the illnesses involved twitching. Other than the twitching, Raph was still eating and she was still pretty active and energetic. She just didn’t like her tank for whatever reason.

After a week of this, I finally decided to call the vet. The problem was, I didn’t know any vets that would care for turtles.

I called the vet right up the street from me. It was my dog’s vet and we had been going to them for as long as I could remember. I didn’t think they took care of turtles, but I thought I would ask.

“Hello, I wondering if you guys cared for turtles?” I asked as soon as male picked up the phone.

“No.” he said.

“Oh,” I replied awkwardly. “Well, do you have any references of any vets in the area that do?”

“I have one number, I think. Hold on.”

The man walked away from the phone. I waited for a moment or two tapping my fingers on my desk. I had a pen and notepad paper at the ready.

“Okay, here’s the number.” The man rattled off seven numbers and I wrote them down as fast as he said them.

Then silence.

“Um, what’s the place called? Where is it?” I asked. A number wasn’t going to give me too much information.

“Oh, that’s the wildlife place. They’ll just come by and get rid of it for you.”

My jaw dropped. “She’s not a wild turtle, she’s my pet!”

“Oh.” The guy cleared his throat. “Then I don’t think I can help you.”

I sighed. “Thanks anyway.” And I hung up the phone.

I crossed out the number the man had just given me and looked up the nearest animal hospital, which also happened to be just a couple streets down from my house.

“Hi, do you guys take care of turtles?” I asked.

“Um…” the woman on the other end elongated her response. I wasn’t sure where this was going to go. “I know the hospital in Andover does, I think.”

She knows, but she thinks? I wasn’t sure that made any sense. She gave me the number for the other hospital anyway and I wrote it down.

“What’s wrong with your turtle?” she asked.

I explained everything that was going on, assuming they may take Raph. Why else would she ask?

“Does she normally act like that?”

I furrowed my brows hesitating to respond. Was that a serious question? Did I hear her wrong? “No?” I replied. Why would I be calling the vet if she was acting normally?

“Oh…” the woman sounded as though she pitied me. “Well, if she’s not acting normal, then I would say something is wrong.”

“Thank you for your time, goodbye.” I hung up the phone.

I crossed that vet off the list. I figured I might as well try the other vet the woman suggested. I only had one other option, but it was the emergency vet and I knew it was pretty expensive.

My mother was at work, so I gave her a quick call. “If I’m able to make an appointment with this other vet, can I make it for this afternoon so you can come with me?”

I didn’t like going to the vet on my own to begin with. I would if I had to, but I avoided it if I could. Plus, I didn’t know where this other vet was. And I didn’t have any sense of direction, especially if I was going to have a turtle riding shotgun.

My mom agreed, but told me to try the emergency vet first anyway. We had been there before and it was closer, despite the cost. So I did.

An automated voice picked up and I nearly fell asleep listening to the monotone voice. I waited until he got all the way to number seven. I pushed the button relieved to finally hear a real person.

Except I heard hold music. And it was loud.

I took the phone away from ear which felt as though it had just attended a rock concert. I waited a few moments as I doodled on my notepad. I sighed in annoyance. I had already been on the phone for an hour trying to find a suitable vet for my turtle.

Then the music stopped.

I assumed the song was switching over, but the music never played again. I slowly brought my cell phone back up to my ear and I could have sworn I heard Minnie Mouse on the other end of the phone.

“Hello? Hello?”

“Oh, hi.” I cleared my throat. The receptionist has such a soft, squeaky voice that I had to turn the volume up on my phone. “Do you guys take care of turtles?”

“Our sister vet does!” the woman responded perky. “But we do have one doctor here who is willing to see turtles.”

“Oh, perfect!” I exclaimed.

I explained what was going on and made an appointment for Raph that afternoon in just a couple of hours. I called my mother back at work and told her we were going to the emergency vet at four-o’clock that afternoon.

As soon as I hung up the phone with my mom, Minnie Mouse was calling me back.

“The doctor had an emergency. So can we do tomorrow at three-o’clock?” she asked.

“Sure, that’s fine.” I crossed out the time on my notepad and wrote the following down. “So Wednesday at three.”

“No, Thursday.”

I looked up from my paper and stared blankly at nothing. “But… You just said tomorrow?”

“I meant Thursday.”

“Today is Tuesday, right?” I checked my calendar on the corner of my desk.

“Yes. It’s been a long week, hasn’t it?” she giggled.

“Uh, right. So we’ll see you Thursday at three-o’clock?” I repeated just to double check again.

“Yes!” I could tell she was smiling on the other end.

After I hung up the phone with her, I called my mom back and told her we would be going on Thursday instead.

So when Thursday came, my mom and I arrived at the emergency vet. I explained to the receptionist that I was there for my turtle, Raph. The woman looked at her computer and sighed.

“Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but… You have an appointment, it’s just not here.”

My mom and I both stared at her blankly. That was the vet I called on the phone the other day, right?

“It looks like your appointment is at our sister vet, which is twenty minutes from here.” She explained.

Minnie Mouse mentioned their sister vet cared for turtles, but she didn’t specifically say the appointment was at that vet.

The receptionist was very nice and understood the miscommunication. She called the other vet and explained what happened. They couldn’t find the doctor, but the woman told us to go anyway. If the vet wasn’t able to see us, she would call my cell phone and we would just turn around and go right home.

So mom and I ran back to the car. We ended up making it to the other vet 25 minutes late to the appointment. It worked out well because her appointment after us arrived early. So we ended up just switching appointments.

The doctor was still able to see us and we were with her for 45 minutes.

Even though I had Raph for about six years, I learned a lot about her that day. I never had any problems with her and she was my first turtle. I thought I was doing pretty well, but apparently I was doing everything wrong.

In the end, I had to completely re-do everything in Raph’s tank. She now has three different lights—two for the day and one at night—and she has turf instead of bark. She’s a lot happier in her tank as she’s getting the nutrients from the lights that she hasn’t gotten for so many years. Her diet was fixed up and she had medicine for her shell.

Turtles are a lot harder to take care of than I thought. Even though I had been doing almost everything wrong for all those years, Raph was and still is very happy. She was always energetic, she always came out of her log to see me when I walked through the door, and she’s always had a good little personality on her.

I love her unconditionally, hold her a lot, and interact with her as much as I can.

I must be doing something right.

Words: 1,758

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Walking Over Eggshells by Lucinda E. Clarke

Walking Over Eggshells by Lucinda Clarke book review Rachel Poli
Via Goodreads
Title: Walking Over Eggshells
Author: Lucinda E. Clarke
Genre: Autobiography
How I got the book: I got a free digital copy from the author in exchange for an honest review

Summary (from Goodreads):

Walking Over Eggshells is an autobiography that tells the story of a mentally abused child, who married a “Walter Mitty” clone who took her to live in many different countries. They moved from England to Kenya, from Libya to Botswana and on again to South Africa. It took all her courage to survive in situations that were at times dangerous, sometimes humorous, but always nerve wracking. She had a variety of jobs, different types of homes, and was both a millionairess and totally broke. At one end of the scale she met royalty, hosted ambassadors, and won numerous awards for her writing and for her television programmes. At the other end, she climbed over garbage dumps, fended off the bailiffs, and coped with being abandoned in the African bush with a seven week old baby, no money and no resources. She admits to being the biggest coward in the world, but her survival instincts kicked in and she lived to tell her story. This book will make you laugh and cry, but also it also explains the damage being brought up by a mother with a personality disorder can inflict on a child. However, it is not all doom and gloom, and hopefully it will inspire others who did not have the best start in life either.

My Review:

Walking Over Eggshells was a beautiful read about a young girl growing up into a woman and living life on her own with some ups and plenty of downs with a very little support system.

The story starts with the author as a young girl and shows her harsh relationship with her mother. She grows up keeping in touch with her mother through phone calls and handwritten letters as she gets married, has children, and moves from one place to the next. Though her mother is never impressed.

The book is very well written and tells a great story with an important message.

I found the story to get a bit boring in the middle which slowed the story down for me, but it was a great story overall.

Walking Over Eggshells by Lucinda E. Clarke gets 4 out of 5 stars.

Favorite Quote:

“Time heals, and with repeated self-affirmation, many of us, once we have understood the scernario, can set out on the road to recovery.” –Lucinda E. Clarke, Walking Over Eggshells 

About the Author:

Born in Dublin, dragged up in the Cotswolds and finished off in Liverpool. I’ve lived in 8 different countries, had a variety of jobs and earned my living from writing since 1985. Worked in films and television in South Africa and ran my own video production company, Now retired to Spain and writing books – I have just published the 6th.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Via Goodreads
Via Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads):

Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.

Written in beautiful prose, Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming is a memoir. Woodson describes her life from the moment she was born and beyond in free verse.

We get a closer look at her life, the ups and downs, the special moments and the not so special moments. We follow her as she moves from one place to another, the relationship between her and her family is uncanny.

Woodson was very observant as a young girl and learned a lot from her family and the world around her. She makes a big point to mention that she’s black, as is basically stated in the title, and how she lived in the era where black people were fighting for their own rights.

There is so much love and hate in this story and so much history behind it all. We’re not just learning about Woodson’s childhood, but we’re also learning a little bit about the world in 1963.

I would highly recommend reading this novel to anyone. It’s quick, beautifully written, and teaches us a lot. I even had a hard time picking a favorite quote for this one and ended up going with one of the Haikus in the story.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson gets 5 out of 5 stars.

Favorite Quote:

“Even the silence
has a story to tell you.
Just listen. Listen.”
–Jacqueline Woodson, Brown Girl Dreaming

Be sure to check out my Goodreads page to see what I’ll be reading next!

Two Book Reviews #3

Via Goodreads
Via Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads):

Distant and exacting, Bruce Bechdel was an English teacher and director of the town funeral home, which Alison and her family referred to as the “Fun Home.” It was not until college that Alison, who had recently come out as a lesbian, discovered that her father was also gay. A few weeks after this revelation, he was dead, leaving a legacy of mystery for his daughter to resolve.

Fun Home is a memoir told in the form of a graphic novel. When I first picked up the book, I wondered why in the world Alison Bechdel decided to tell her story through that form. After reading the novel, I realized just exactly what they mean when they say, “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

Through the pictures, narration, and little dialogue, we see the true relationship Bechdel had with her late father. Throughout reading the book you’re left wondering, “was her father a good father or a bad one?”

After he dies, Bechdel learns a lot about her father. She realizes just what kind of a man he was and she learns all sorts of secrets about his life. She discovers she was like her father in many ways and as she discovers who he was, she learns a little bit about herself.

The pictures in the graphic novel are dull in color and it’s very rare any member of the family is smiling. It goes to show just how much of a “fun home” it was. I thought it was odd at first, but upon realizing what the characters were like, the pictures were really a great fit to the story. I think the story would be told better as a graphic novel rather than if it was told as a novel.

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel gets 4 out of 5 stars.

Favorite Quote:

“Grief takes many forms, including the absence of grief.” –Alison Bechdel, Fun Home

Via Goodreads
Via Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads):

Postcard-perfect Jar Island is home to charming tourist shops, pristine beaches, amazing oceanfront homes; and three girls secretly plotting revenge.

KAT is sick and tired of being bullied by her former best friend.

LILLIA has always looked out for her little sister, so when she discovers that one of her guy friends has been secretly hooking up with her, she’s going to put a stop to it.

MARY is perpetually haunted by a traumatic event from years past, and the boy who’s responsible has yet to get what’s coming to him.

None of the girls can act on their revenge fantasies alone without being suspected. But together anything is possible.

With an alliance in place, there will be no more, I wish I’d said…; or, If I could go back and do things differently… These girls will show Jar Island that revenge is a dish best enjoyed together.

I was originally going to review this book as a series (this is the first book of a trilogy), but decided against it so I can look at each book individually.

Burn For Burn is co-authored by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian. I have heard of both these authors and their books are on my TBR list, but this was my first taste at what their writing is like.

I have a love/hate relationship with this book. Every time I picked up the book to read a few chapters, I only had complaints about it. Yet, I couldn’t put the book down; I read it in two days.

I didn’t love the three main girls who are out for revenge. The characters make or break the book and since I couldn’t find any interest in these girls, that was a deal-breaker for me. All three of them talk like the stereotypical “dumb blonde” adding the word “like” unnecessarily in the middle of their sentences. It made the girls seem annoying to me.

On the other hand, that kind of voice is unique and really showed the personalities of the girls. The novel is told in three different POVs, one for each girl and each POV is in first person. In that case, the voice was well done and makes sense.

Do you see why I have a love/hate relationship with the book now?

The characters are seniors in high school, which makes them about 17/18-years-old. For their age, their revenge tactics were kind of weak. Switching sunscreen with a different lotion to make the boy’s skin burn and break out isn’t exactly what I had in mind for high schoolers to do… middle school maybe, but not high school.

Then drugs get involved and the book becomes predictable–someone is going to get seriously hurt or even die.

And that’s how the book ends. You don’t know the result or consequences of the drugging. The girls panic for the last chapter and that’s all she wrote.

I guess we’ll have to read the next to book to figure out what happens.

Burn For Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian gets 3 out of 5 stars.

Favorite Quote:

“It’s funny. I don’t think boys even know how to hold a grudge.” –Jenny Han & Siobhan Vivian, Burn For Burn

Be sure to check out my Goodreads page!

Map Exercise

Here is yet another writing prompt from my nonfiction class. We had to “map out” a place we’re familiar with whether it’s our favorite place, a place we go to all the time, or a past place that we no longer go to. The prompt was geared more towards describing the physical place than actually telling a story of that place.

Enjoy.

            One of my favorite places is inside Trinity church, which I have attended since I was very young. It’s two buildings in one connected by a large hall that is usually rented out. It has two addresses because of this and one area of the building was used for community outreach. It was called Hammond Square Preschool.

One of the two classrooms used to be called the blue room. It was set up into four large quarters making it rather large for a preschool classroom; most people assumed it to be two rooms in one. That was a major reason why the parents loved it so much; it was spacious. I can’t explain the room too much because it’s hard to remember what it looked like. Once the director was fired, the new director turned it into the yellow room. She repainted the walls to a pale yellow and worked with myself and the other teacher to rearrange the entire classroom.

Walking into the room and looking to the right was a rectangular table holding eight to ten kids for snack as well as the puzzles and coloring. Against the wall were two smaller rectangular tables holding about three kids with a shelf in the middle connecting the two. One table was the math center and the other was the science center. Each table had a bulletin board on the wall next to it and each was changed monthly to a different math and science theme. Two tall white cabinets were added in two corners of the room in order to give the teachers more room for supplies as well as shelves built in underneath the counter to store the table choices for the kids to get at their leisure.

To the first left was the book corner, except it was a raised platform. We took six cubbies and laid them flat draping a green rug over to make it more comfortable. We added pillows, stuffed animals, and a white canopy to hang over the area. We added a larger bookshelf so the kids had more variety. Next to that was dramatic play, but it was bigger with a rack to hang dress-up clothes and also a small nook was built under the counter for the kids to play in.

To the second right after walking into the room was the cubby area with a large blue rug for circle time. More shelf space was added underneath the counter in order to store more blocks for the kids. To the second left was the art area with a circular table holding about four kids. Two sinks were added into the room as well as a brand new blue padded easel attached to the wall for two kids at a time to use. Shelves were added in the wall as a drying rack and shelves were added under the counter for white and construction paper for the kids to use. Another white cabinet was added in the corner for the teachers.

Myself and the other teachers were excited for these changes. It looked so much better than the original blue room. It was as though we were starting fresh, which was something we all needed after having a falling out with the old director of the school. The children loved it and the parents were very pleased; especially with the yellow color because they thought the room looked a lot brighter between the paleness of the yellow and also the natural sunlight coming in from the windows.

However, while the building is still there and the church still carries on, Hammond Square Preschool does not exist anymore. I worked there for only two and a half years because back in December 2013 the school closed. The enrollment was too low to keep the school open. It was a devastating time for the current families as well as the teachers. The parents had to find a new school for their children in the middle of the school year and the teachers had to find new jobs. It also hurt the church to have to close its doors since the church owned the preschool and it had been open for a long time. The preschool was a huge part of the church, so it was as though a huge chunk of the church was missing.

The church has a Sunday school program and the classes are always held in the preschool’s classroom. Now since the yellow room is vacant, the church decided it was best to use it as the Sunday school’s official classroom. I am a teacher and the director of the Sunday school program at Trinity church, so it was odd to be rearranging the yellow room yet again to turn it into a Christian classroom; especially since I changed the room only three months prior. It also hurt because I miss Hammond Square—the teachers, the kids, the parents—but I was also glad the Sunday school children were finally going to have a place to call their own. I was excited to be changing the classroom over again. It was as though the space was getting a second chance.

I made subtle changes because I still wanted it to look like a classroom. I also didn’t want to forget how the original classroom looked like because I want to remember playing with the kids, prepping and doing art activities with them, and watching them play and grow. So, instead of the snack, math, and science centers in the first quarter of the room, there are two circular tables creating an eight. The kids sit there when we read the story and also to do a few worksheets. I changed one bulletin board to an interactive Christian activity for the kids and the other one with information and facts about what we’re learning.

In the second quarter, the book corner is still the same, only it has Christian stories and Bibles on the shelves. The dramatic play area is more or less the same as well. The blocks were moved over there and I kept a few pieces from the preschool for the Sunday school kids. I also added in some Christian games as well.

The third quarter now has two rectangular tables. This is where the kids do their craft project after the lesson. The easel and drying rack is still the same as well as the two sinks in case we do a messy project. I rearranged all the art supplies on the shelves for easy access for the teachers and the kids. This is also where they have snack when the lesson is over. The other side of the room, where the cubbies and original block area was, is extra space for the Thrift Shop. The Sunday school is small, so we decided to only have three quarters of the room instead of all four. I bought posters to hang on the walls and the kids will also be able to display their own artwork on the walls since we don’t share the room with anyone anymore.

I loved Hammond Square and it broke my heart when I lost my job. However, the church itself is in a much better spot now that the Sunday school has its own space. The kids from the Sunday school are much happier. They are excited to have the opportunity to hang their projects on the wall and have a special place to play and show off to their parents without having to clean it up precisely for the preschool. Between meeting many families, learning from the teachers, enjoying the company of the children, and that it was my first teaching job, I have gone through a lot in that place. It has changed so much, but I’ve changed because of that. It may change again and again, but it’s a place I hope to never lose.

Two Squares

So I’m sure most of you remember the Reading Bingo I announced a little over a week ago. I discussed that even though I don’t read too much I feel very determined to do not one, but both bingo cards, which is 50 books. However, I will settle to complete only one card.

At the pace I’m going, I have to say that I am in pretty good shape. I’m starting with the purple bingo card (the orange one is geared toward more young adult novels whereas the purple is just general). It’s the beginning of February and I have already read two books for the bingo, which helps my GoodReads 2014 Reading Challenge because I am now four books ahead of schedule for that.

The Hobbit

The first square I filled out was “A book with non-human characters” in which I read The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. I had to read this book for my science fiction and fantasy class. It took us two weeks to read it; we had to read chapters one through seven the first week and the rest of the novel the second week (which happens to be this week). I ended up finishing the entire novel last week. I did this because I wanted to attempt to have less homework this week, so I thought I would read bits and pieces each day. I ended up reading the rest of the novel in one or two sittings. It was really good; I don’t read fantasy all that much mostly because I have a hard time understanding it (hence why I read mostly middle grade fiction), but it just happened to be one of those “can’t put down” books.

Coming Clean

Speaking of “can’t put down” books…the second square I filled out was “A book you heard about online” in which I read Coming Clean by Kimberly Rae Miller. This book was self-published through Amazon back in July 2013. I heard of it through an article on Yahoo and thought to myself, “This sounds like an interesting book.” It’s a memoir about growing up with both of her parents being hoarders. As interesting as it sounded, I never really read memoirs or non-fiction books. I thought about reading it, but in the back of my mind I knew I most likely never would read it.

Well, since there are very few books I hear about online (well, I do, but I just don’t pay attention), I didn’t know what to read for that square. Then Coming Clean popped into my head, I downloaded it onto my Kindle, and guess what? I read it in three days. According to my Kindle, I read 20% the first time, got up to 48% the second time, then I spent about three hours this morning reading the rest of the book. If it wasn’t too late last night and I wasn’t so tired, I probably would have stayed up half the night to read it. I couldn’t put it down. It is certainly a book I would recommend to anyone, and I did: to my mom and both of my sisters.

So I have 23 more books to read for the purple bingo card. For seven of those squares I know which books I’m going to read. One of them I started reading, but I’m reading it with Kris (we alternating reading the chapters out loud to each other–we’re weird), so it’s going to take us a while to get through it.

If any of you out there is doing the reading bingo, I would love to know what you’re reading and how far you are. If you think this is something you might want to do, then click here: This is the original website of the bingo cards, even though I found them on Pinterest.