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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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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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:

photo 5(12)

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.”

photo 2(21)

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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Dancing With Dolphins

Dancing With Dolphins on Life Between Books

My family and I went to a Super Bowl party about a couple of weeks ago. We decided to take the scenic route down Highway 90. Highway 90’s known for the MS Gulf Coast’s beautiful beaches, casinos, and… souvenir shops. Every time we pass a certain shop with a huge shark head for an entrance the boys beg to stop.

This time we stopped, because sometimes you have to stop and dance with dolphins and hang out in a shark’s mouth.

Dancing With Dolphins on Life Between Books MandyBoles.comNate and I have two wild little men and the smallest things can make them so damn happy. Playing with dolphin and shark statues on the beach being part of a growing list of things that bring joy to their little hearts. Building forts out of cardboard boxes, making funny videos, and keeping a notebook of video game design drawings are a few of the recent activities British and Bruce have been obsessed with lately.

Everyday I’m grateful Nate and I have these two precious gifts we created together.

Of course they’re not always happy little angels. Lately Bruce, our sweet four-year-old, has taken to saying NEVER! when I ask him to do any sort of task. Bruce, the sweet one who always kind of went with the flow is starting to develop quite the forceful little personality.

British, my older boy whose eyes have a constant sparkle, has always had a willful personality. When the doctor pulled him out of me I’m pretty sure B looked around and said, “Where the hell am I”? So it’s surprising to me that Brucie is just now becoming an extrovert, because British was boisterous from the very beginning.

Isn’t it crazy? I always think I have their personalities pegged. I think British is the funny one or Bruce is the shy one and then one or the other will do something that doesn’t conform to the label. Which I guess is why we shouldn’t label our kids or presume to know how they feel or the person they will one day become. They will always surprise us. One minute they might want to dance with dolphins and stand bravely inside the shark mouth door and the next? Not so much.

Kids Are Not An Extension Of Ourselves

Sometimes Nate gently reminds me that just because I suffer from anxiety and depression it doesn’t mean the boys will too. I worry about this constantly. I try not to over analyze when one of the boys has a bad day at school. If Bruce gets sad for what seems like no reason, I remind myself that he’s only four. Four-year-olds get upset when they’re sleepy or possibly just watched the end of Toy Story 3, and it’s not the end of the world. That’s what I tell myself.

I’m a worrier. It’s what I do between being stressed out, depressed, and anxious. I haven’t been able to focus long enough to write a blog post or finish a book lately. Tonight I finished a book I’ve been reading for a couple of weeks. Normally, I read 4-5 books a week. So, maybe I need to take a cue from British and Bruce. Stop being stressed and worried and take time to clear my head, dance with dolphins, and relive the childlike curiosity that lead me to love reading.

My goal for the rest of the week is to read three books. Next week I have lots of cool things to share on the blog including a Q & A with Jill Shalvis, a guest post from Bradley Spinelli on his first favorite book (a new feature Bradley is kicking off for me), and a review of Spinelli’s book Killing Williamsburg. Until then, I’ll be taking time to dance with dolphins and play in the mouths of sharks.

More pictures below.

Standing in the shark Mandy Boles Life Between Books

Dancing With Dolphins Life Between Books Mandy

Outfit Details:

Shirt: J. Crew
Jeans: Madewell
Clogs: Kork-Ease
Bag: Rebecca Minkoff similar / similar
Necklace: Natalie B
Earrings: Natalie B
Rings: 1 / 2 – sold out, similar
Bracelets: 1 / 2

Natalie B and Stella and Dot Bracelets and Rings Life Between Books MandyBoles.comRebecca Minkoff Bag Life Between Books MandyBoles.comKork-Ease Clogs Life Between Books MandyBoles.comBag and Bling Life Between Books


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FTC Disclosure: I receive a commission on all purchases made through using the Amazon and ShopSense links on this site.

Bookish Fashion: The Book Bag and The Beach

Bookish Fashion on Mandy Boles: Life Between Books

I love books. I mean obviously I heart books. I’ve been writing about books on the internet for about four years now, so my love for books is a given. But did you know I also love fashion? I’ve mentioned it a couple of times on the blog before, and I also write a feature called Literary Look. Lately I’ve been thinking abut the ways fashion and books intersect in my life. One  of the many ways the two converge is when I go purse shopping. I tend to judge a purse by how many books it’ll hold. Basically, I never grew out of the “book bag” phase. Granted, I don’t run around with a Jansport backpack like I did back in high school, but the concept is still the same. I like a substantial bag that fits at least four paperbacks, an eReader, my makeup, wallet, and camera. Yes, I carry all of that stuff around with me at all times. A quick trip to the grocery store or to pick my kids up from school are maybe the only two exceptions to the rule.

I found a bag recently that fits all of my criteria for the perfect book bag. It’s called the Collector’s Item bag by Disaster Designs (pictured above). I purchased it from Modcloth and it’s even cuter in person than it is on the shop site. Click here to take a look. I’m planning to do more bookish fashion posts in the new year. Sometimes they’ll feature a book or a book related item of clothing. These posts make me incredibly happy because I’ll be able to write about my two passions at once.

Here are a few photos I took at the beach on our property. Clothing and featured book info follow the pictures.

Bookish Fashion on Mandy Boles: Life Between Books Fashion for Book Lovers

Bookish Fashion on Mandy Boles: Life Between Books Fashion for Book lovers

Bookish Fashion on Mandy Boles: Life Between Books Fashion For Book Lovers

Outfit Info:

Sweater by Milly (I purchased it at Grant’s For Her, a local boutique in Biloxi.) Click here to view it.
Jeans by J. Crew (on sale!) Click here for more info.
Boots by DV for Dolce Vita (on sale!) Click here for more info.
Hair: Dipali Bobbies by Anthropologie Previously seen in this post.
Ring by Stella & Dot
Necklace by Stella & Dot
Earrings by Stella & Dot
Bracelets by Stella & Dot 1 / 2 / 3 / 4
Bag: Collector’s Item Bag by Disaster Designs Find it on ModCloth here.
Books Featured: The Good Wife by Jane Porter, Saved By Cake by Marian Keyes, Mr. Maybe by Jane Green, and Here I Go Again by Jen Lancaster. (You can find my review for Here I Go Again here.)

FTC Disclosure: I receive a commission on all purchases made through using the Amazon and ShopSense links on this site.


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