Return From Oblivion

A decade ago I was a graduate student at the University of South Alabama majoring in English with a creative writing concentration. My main emphasis was poetry. What I didn’t realize at the time was that I had yet to unlock the life experience inside myself necessary to be a great or even adequate writer.

The poems I wrote about my relationship with my brother during those years are hard for me to read now. My brother has autism and for many years I sublimated our childhood. I ignored the hard parts and romanticized them if I ever allowed myself to think about the bad at all. This romantic notion of glossing over events that were incredibly damaging to me as a child and later as a teen and the way I focused on it in my writing may be the reason my PTSD symptoms began while I was in graduate school.

I was finally looking at my childhood on paper.

A version of my childhood that was a silent bargain between my parents and me.

This is our story.

This is what we tell people.

Maybe my subconscious was trying desperately to tell me I was repeating what I was told to say in my poems.

With each fit. With each manic crying spell.

Tears taking hold of me in my bedroom.

Tears so forceful I fell to the ground in a parking lot. My head on the yellow bump at the end of the space like a pillow.

My subconscious was screaming “No! This is not your truth.” Tearing me apart with each flashback.

It took years for me to recognize my body was cluing me in to just how much I went through as a teenager.

My body was saying that taking beatings from your special needs sibling was not a sisterly duty.

My body was screaming that it was not okay for my parents to allow my brother to use pictures of me as masturbation fodder.

My body screamed as the list grew longer.

I didn’t get this at the time though. I just thought I was depressed. I thought I was still sad that my brother had to go live at the Regional Center. I felt like if I never left home he’d still be with my parents. I felt like I had failed him. I felt like my anti-depressants weren’t working, so I quit taking them. I felt out of control and I didn’t think I’d ever regain ownership of my emotions.

My tears.

My anguish.

Something buried deep in my brain was my master, and I lived to please it.

During this time I was drawn to a poem called The Wild Iris by Louise Glück. Here’s an excerpt from the poem. The parts that I read over and over again during an excruciating time in my life without really understanding what the words actually meant to me.

At the end of my suffering

there was a door.

………………

You who do not remember

passage from the other world

I tell you I could speak again: whatever

returns from the oblivion returns

to find a voice:

from the center of my life came

a great fountain, deep blue

shadows on azure seawater.

When I read these words now, I get why I clinged to them so long ago. I picked up Glück’s book today and found the passages underlined. Underlined by the hands of a woman suffering. Underlined by the woman I was a decade ago.

I feel like I was meant to see this today. Like my past self left this reminder. A time capsule of my desperation to understand the pain.

At the end of my suffering

there was a door.

Ten years later I’ve walked through the door. Through therapy and hard work I’ve unlocked perspective and thrown away the key. I’ve returned from oblivion.

 

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Literary Look: Jacinta from Great by Sara Benincasa

Literary Look Great by Sara Benincasa

Great by Sara Benincasa is a modern, LGBTQ retelling of the Fitzgerald classic The Great Gatsby, and in a word, it’s great and the perfect book for my Literary Look feature! I’ll write more on the book in a couple of days, but for today I thought it would be fun to choose an outfit for Jacinta, the Jay Gatsby of Great. Jacinta, a mysterious fashion blogger who throws the best parties of the summer in the Hamptons, wears unique, gorgeous clothing throughout the book. The outfit I put together above is loosely inspired by this passage from Great:

She was wearing purple eye makeup that set off her enormous green eyes, and a beautiful mint-green sleeveless dress that consisted of finely wrought lace over a satiny sheath. Little, slouchy green leather elf boots and lavender fishnets completed the look. It was delicate and sweet and sexy and hip.

Dress / Eye Makeup / Shawl / Booties / Fishnets

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Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) Reading A Book

 

Yusuf Islam aka Cat Steven’s music has always been part of the soundtrack of my life. From childhood on through present day if I’ve ever needed to clear my head and find a little bit of peace, I turn on a Cat Stevens song and zone out. He’s a beautiful person with a beautiful voice. I was so happy when he appeared on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon recently, and his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction performance was amazing. I heard he might be going on tour this fall and I really hope Nate and I are able to see him live.

I found this picture of him reading on his Instagram account. I hope it brings a smile to your face. Have a great Sunday.

Now I’ve been happy lately
Thinking about the good things to come
And I believe it could be
Something good has begun

Peace Train, Yusuf Islam aka Cat Stevens

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Literary Look: Detective Hank Palace from World of Trouble by Ben H. Winters

WOF_blogtour (1)

I’m thrilled to be a part of the blog tour for World of Trouble (The Last Policeman Book Three) by Ben H. Winters. Ben is one  of my favorite authors. His book Bedbugs is one of my top ten favorite horror novels, and I loved The Last Policeman (Book One) and Countdown City (Book Two).

Today I’m going to break down Hank’s wardrobe. Hank keeps working missing person cases in the face of a crisis of apocalyptic proportions (an asteroid is about to obliterate Earth), and he dresses the part of no-nonsense detective. In an unpredictable world readers can count on one thing from Hank: his attire stays pretty much the same throughout the books. He’s kind of like this Biology teacher I had in high school who owned five blue, oxford cloth, short sleeve shirts and five pairs of navy blue pants so he could wear the same thing everyday. Hank’s not quite as extreme in his clothing choices as my old high school teacher, but readers get the feeling Hank is trying to keep a sense of normalcy by adhering as best he can to the dress code from his days on the police force.

LiteraryLookDetectiveHankPalace

1. Hank would try to wear a white non-iron dress shirt (he’s practical like that) as often as possible. That’s just so Hank.

2. Hank’s often depicted wearing a sport coat or blazer in the books. I think this tan, slightly rugged blazer looks like it would be Hank approved.

3. The watch pictured above is a Timex. I can picture Hank looking down at it and thinking it takes a licking and keeps on ticking alright.

4. I think Hank would wear a pair of sturdy oxfords or loafers. I can also see him rocking hiking boots if he could get his hands on a pair.

5. I chose navy blue, wrinkle resistant chinos for Hank, because he would want a heavier fabric than suit pants as it gets colder and even harder to get around than it was before.

6. Hank is constantly reaching for a notebook to write down observations, clues, etc. Even when he doesn’t have one he automatically reaches for it.

Look for World of Trouble (Quirk Books, 320 pages, $14.95) in bookstores on July 15th (also my 14th wedding anniversary!).

More World of Trouble Links to Checkout

Click here for The World of Trouble Pre-order Campaign. By pre-ordering readers have a chance to get all kinds of cool extras.

Click here to check out Ben H. Winter’s blog. He’s doing a reverse blog tour over at his site.

Follow along with the other stops on the blog tour:

Monday, July 7th: TheBookSmugglers.com
The End of a Series: The tour launches with Ben H. Winters on the challenges of finishing a book series and tackling a trilogy.
Tuesday, July 8th: ReaderofFictions.com
The Making of a Book Trailer: The book-trailer for The Last Policeman revisited, a discussion with Opie Cooper and Ben H. Winters.
Wednesday, July 9th: PublishingCrawl.com
Ben shares some of the best writing advice he’s ever gotten from his peers.
Thursday, July 10th: MandyBoles.com
Pre-Apocalyptic Fashion: What would it take to dress up as Hank? A post that details Hank Palace’s attire.
Friday, July 11th: GeekyLibrary.com
Hank Palace, a geek? It’s true. Ben H. Winters talks about the geekiest moments in The Last Policeman trilogy.
Monday, July 14th: GirlsintheStacks.com
The Almost & Original Covers: Ben talks about some of the original cover ideas for The Last Policeman, as well as the almost-covers for World of Trouble.
Tuesday, July 15th: LitReactor.com
#WriterWednesday: Research. What goes in to researching for a book like this? Ben H. Winters shares some advice.
Wednesday, July 16th: MyBookishWays.com
#WriterWednesday on Loss & Character: A discussion / guest post on what drives a character in the wake of everything ending / losing so much.
Thursday, July 17th: TheQwillery.blogspot.com
Man’s Best Friend: An ode to Houdini. Ben talks about Hank’s furry best friend in The Last Policeman trilogy.
Friday, July 18th: EntomologyOfaBookWorm.com  
#FridayReads for Aspiring Mystery Writers. Ben discusses books every aspiring mystery or thriller writer should read.
Monday, July 21st: NewMusicalTheater.com 
From stage to novel, Ben talks about writing plays and how it helped him become a better novelist.

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FTC Disclosure: I received a review copy of World of Trouble from Quirk Books. I receive a commission on all purchases made through using the Amazon, affiliate, and ShopSense links on this site.

5 Summer Acitivities Your Kids Will Love

LittleMerciesOver the weekend, I read the novel Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf. The book begins on the hottest day of the summer and leads up to a family dealing with a horrible mistake. The novel examines themes like family, forgiveness, love, and what it means to be a mother. This lead to me thinking about my children and the gift it is for my husband and I to parent two amazing little boys.

We live on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The summers here can be unbearably hot, and it’s taken me a few years to work out parenting in sometimes 100 degree weather.

Here are some of my favorite summertime activities to do with my kids:

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1. Mama’s Little Helpers: Sometimes the best kind of play for wild little ones is to “put them to work.” When I’m working in the garden, I let the boys come outside with me and tell them they’re my helpers. They love this! Even though they typically get too excited to really help and end up using the tools to “dig a hole to the earth’s core” (pictured above), it gives them a sense of what I like to call “playful purpose.”

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2. Swimming: A blow up pool in the back yard is my favorite standby summer activity. My boys love anything that involves getting wet. Swimming, water balloon fights, and the slip n’ slide all make appearances in our yard throughout the summer. It’s a great way to play in the sweltering heat while staying cool.

3. The Classics: Activities like flying a kite (Pictured above) or blowing bubbles (pictured below) can occupy the kids for hours. The same activities we enjoyed as kids can become your children’s summer favorites. You can find kites, bubbles, and a ton of other fun activities for the kids at the dollar store.

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British at The Little Beach

4. The Beach: If there’s a beach in your area, put it to use. Bring a cooler filled with drinks and snacks for the kids, some beach toys, and of course, loads of beach towels, and make a day of it!

British at Mary Mahoneys

5. Have a Staycation: Did you know that you don’t have to leave town to have an awesome vacation? Take your kids out to explore your town. Go to a museum or a restaurant you wouldn’t normally go to during the school year. Every week I try to take my boys to a place we rarely go. Last week we went for dessert at Mary Mahoney’s (pictured above). It’s a “fancy” restaurant and I used it as an opportunity to learn a little bit about table manners and etiquette for the boys.

Tip: One thing I took away from the novel Little Mercies was the importance of safety. Make sure your kids stay hydrated while playing outside. If they aren’t strong swimmers, make sure they wear floaties. Also, have fun! Your kids make memories all summer long that they’ll hold in their hearts as adults. Cherish the time that you have with them while they’re little. It all goes by in the blink of an eye.

Find out more about Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf:

·         Watch the Book Trailer

·         Visit Heather Gudenkauf’s Official Site

·         Follow Heather Gudenkauf on Twitter,Facebook, and Pinterest

·         Visit Little Mercies page on Goodreads

Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by Harlequin.

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