2021 Book 2: SHELTER IN PLACE by @norarobertsauthor.⠀
I’ll cut to the chase…I loved this book. And for a number of reasons. ⠀
Possibly foremost, one of the supporting characters, CiCi Lennon, was the absolute SUM of my Grama and my dear friend, Emily. To witness CiCi’s relationship with and love for and influence on her granddaughter, Simone (MC), was so life-giving. My heart was in stitches probably beyond the author’s hope. ⠀
Second, I’m a sucker for the creative artist + man in uniform combo. The dynamic between Simone and Reed is palpable, yet understated. I wanted even more. Reed is the unflappable yet spunky, solid, driven, protective type who balances the CiCi + Simone artistic, feminine energy so well. While also playing into their sass. Ah, I just loved these three together. ⠀
And finally, I found the plot engaging, well-written, and just unpredictable enough to keep me reading. I like some thriller/suspense with my romance (and some romance with my thriller/suspense). And the darkness explored in Patricia’s character hit the spot. Y’all know I prefer my fiction dark (and steamy). ⠀
Overall rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 (4.5/5)
2021 Book 1: BEYOND THE POINT by @clairecgibson. ⠀
BEYOND THE POINT is the story of three female athletes whose paths cross at West Point. Despite their varied cultures, the trio form an unshakeable bond; one that is tested by boys, basketball, deployments, scandal, injury, geography, and loss. This novel makes accessible and relatable the plight of female soldiers. Women who cry and mess up and like fashion and weren’t born runners. Women who, despite the stress of life and love, band together as they traverse the peaks and valleys of life…within and beyond the Point. ⠀
I chose this book for a number of reasons. (1) highly recommended. (2) debut novel written by a female author and has a few similarities to ALL MY ROADS. (3) lengthy for the genre but still got representation and rave reviews. (4) I love military fiction, especially something with an emotional plot and a bit (lot) of romance. (5) curiosity about West Point and Army life. ⠀
On a scale from horrible to amazing, BEYOND THE POINT was goooood. I’m a sucker for female friendships and military, which were highly delivered. I also found the author’s ability to educate AND entertain impressive. I learned a lot without feeling “taught.” I had aspirations of joining the military after high school, but never believed I could fit the entire mold. I wonder how a book like this would have challenged those thoughts. ⠀
I struggled with a few stylistic things. The book changes tense a lot, and I found it more distracting than creative. (Personal preference.) I thought it could have accomplished the same sentiment with less hopping. I also think it could have been a bit more concise…quite a few unnecessary prepositions, and similar words (in sound or spelling) used near each other. Definitely not deal breakers, but my aim is honesty and I notice that stuff. I also would have loved more feelings! I’m all for slow starts, but I spent much of the book waiting to get pulled in. ⠀
BUT ONCE I GOT PULLED IN (around 60-70%), I was hooked. There are so many beautiful gems – in word and heart – in the second half of the book. A very strong finish that left me wanting more. ⠀
Overall rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
2020 gets some pretty rotten press, and I’m not here to add to it. ⠀
This year has held loss, tragedy, fear, illness, pain, hollowness, tears, sadness, anger, and despair…both personal and global.⠀
This year has held beauty, healing, connection, intimacy, deeper understanding, adventure, expansion, and magic as well. ⠀
Years aren’t evil. Bad things aren’t tied to a calendar. WE…humans…created the system by which we measure time. It’s not a universal construct. The end of 2020 promises nothing but a new page in our planner and a new number next to our signatures. ⠀
Rushing time gives me the willies. We’re afraid to die, but want to speed through a year, sure the shift from 2020 to 2021 will bring more goodness? The only thing it’s guaranteed to bring is the nearness of our own end. ⠀
(But this is taking a turn I hadn’t anticipated, though I’m going to post it anyway, even knowing it’s fodder for those of you who already think I’m hatefully dark.)⠀
2020, you’re going out as the year…⠀
Of ducks. ⠀
Of drawing inward. ⠀
Or spiritual restoration. ⠀
Of deeper intimacy. ⠀
Of journaling. ⠀
Of confronting childhood programming. ⠀
Of ditching fear. ⠀
Of beautiful friendships, new and old. ⠀
Of new paths. ⠀
Of self-trust. ⠀
Of parenting my inner child. ⠀
Of rest and recovery. ⠀
Of dirt road miles. ⠀
Of Spotify playlists. ⠀
Of finding my voice. ⠀
Of saying “no.”⠀
Of saying “yes.”⠀
Of walking away. ⠀
Of holding on. ⠀
Of endless Progressive Rummy. ⠀
Of peppermint and thieves essential oil. ⠀
Of vitamin D. ⠀
Of nature walks. ⠀
Of sacred rooting. ⠀
Of better routines. ⠀
Of metamorphosis. ⠀
Of introversion. ⠀
Of the hot tub. ⠀
Of dreaming. ⠀
Of editing. ⠀
Of wishing time would slow down. ⠀
If it was ONLY me, and I could spare everyone else of reliving their respective pain, I’d rewind and play it again. Because, as a heart type, 2020 brought so many reminders that I’m alive and my heart beats and my feelings exist. And call me dark, but I live for that magic.
Ever struggle to trust yourself? Your thoughts, instincts, and feelings?⠀
I do. ⠀
For a tangible practice, make a list of every time you had an intuitive pull…no matter how big or small…only to be affirmed later on. Even if you didn’t act on it in the moment. ⠀
The other day, as I drove to Portland, my mind whizzed back to June, 2018…⠀
Gram had started experiencing some very random setbacks in her health: slurred speech, difficulty walking, poor balance, and trouble with fine motor skills. Boom. Overnight. ⠀
I remember my stomach sinking as I put the pieces together. I knew. I KNEW it was ALS. I stayed positive and didn’t want to scare her, but I felt this deep, terrified assurance about where we were headed.⠀
For the next two months, I fought relentlessly to get her into the U of M ALS Clinic. I nagged her PCP, called U of M weekly, and watched my inner fire rise. I realized how unafraid I could be to make waves. ⠀
If you’ve ever tried to get into a specialist, you know the difficulty. It felt impossible. Yet, there I was, zero medical expertise, trying to convince U of M to see her because I was SURE she had a very rare, difficult to diagnose neurological condition only they were qualified to treat. ⠀
I didn’t care how others saw me or that I might be wrong. I wasn’t afraid to be foolish or make eyes roll. Comfort zone be damned. Gram was sick and I was convinced I knew why. ⠀
If you’ve been here for a while, you know how the story ends. By the grace of God, U of M agreed to see Gram in September. After a full day of testing, we watched Dr. Feldman confirm, “Sandy, you have a disease called ALS.” She died five months later.
And so my thoughts ended the other day with…what if I trusted all my intuitive nudges with that level of ferocity? ⠀
We all have that capacity, friends. And you might have similar moments as this if you give it some thought. Be fearless in the pursuit of your own truth and trust your body to reveal it. I know we live in a world that glorifies fear and submission, but we can choose boldness. ⠀
I’m a major work in progress, but am here to share my experience in the trenches.
It’s funny. Growing up, I never considered my dad to be the “intellectual type.” He’s the physical labor, dirt-under-the-nails, salt of the earth, work-alongside-not-bark-orders sort of guy. I now realize intellectual doesn’t always mean suit-and-tie, but I give my younger self a break in terms of my dichotomous thought process.
Anyway, it turns out my dad’s voice is one from my childhood I hear a lot. Because damn, the man gives sage advice. The three I come back to most include…
(1) Pay attention. It’s the only thing in life that’s free. (I would not be who I am if not for him *constantly* saying this. I used to laugh, but always took it to heart.)
(2) It’s all about staging. (He can maneuver a semi like nobody’s business.)
(3) Don’t lie. Just don’t do it. When you lie, you have to lie again. And again. And again. And again. And pretty soon, the lies grow so intense, so crazy…your entire life becomes a lie because you have to keep lying your way out of your other lies. And that is exhausting to keep up and really hard to remember. And even scarier, you actually start to believe your own bologna. So, as hard as it might be, just be honest. Take responsibility. The truth will come out and you’ll wish you would have told it from the start.
I put that last one in my own words because it was part of a bigger conversation we had at the dinner table when I was probably 6 or 7. I’d never actually seen Pinocchio, but I remember imagining my nose growing long as my dad talked to me and Emily. Memories are a funny thing, yeah?
All that to say, I think on these words a lot lately. And I’m glad my dad chose to impart them on us girls when he did. They stuck. And always will.
In no way is this post written from an “I’ve arrived” mindset. I am in the trenches of this idea and this work, daily grappling with its meaning for my life. So, I’m not here with advice…I’m in this place with you.
The idea of trusting my body makes me go 😳😳😳. I’ve spent my entire life trying to control it, never trusting it, feeling betrayed by it on regular occasion. But when I stop and think of ALL THE WAYS we are taught to deny what we feel, is it any wonder?
“You can’t be hungry, you just ate lunch.”
“Feelings aren’t rational.”
“Maybe you should get that checked out.”
“There’s nothing to be angry about.”
“Just ignore it.”
“You’re not busy enough if you have time to notice that.”
“I’m sure it’s nothing.”
“Only married people can have sex.”
“Follow this diet.”
“Take this prescription.”
“Set your alarm.”
The list goes on and on. Don’t even get me STARTED on the ways we are taught to deny our bodies when it comes to sexual pleasure and physical intimacy.
I mean, geez! There are entire industries devoted to eliminating symptoms and numbing sensations, perpetuating our already regular thoughts of “I shouldn’t feel this way.”
I am so far from where I want to be in terms of trusting my body. (✌🏻 just keeping it real.) But I’m awake to the truth that…
…every knot in my throat
…every upset stomach
…every heavy eye
…every gut clinch
…every tense muscle
…every deep breath
…every collapsing rib
…every racing pulse
…every heart flutter
…every internal “yippee!” or “hell no”
…they all mean something.
Our bodies are temples of wisdom, not machines to control. All the years we spend praying for signs and looking for billboards…our bodies already know.
When I tell people ALL MY ROADS is a romance novel, I feel smallness and insecurity creep in. My inner critic says, “Why are you writing romance novels when you care so much about mindfulness and healing and inner work? Non-fiction would sound more educated and intellectual.”
I don’t feel small about the actual story I brought to life. I feel small because I assume the world’s perception of a romance novel is smut and drama and two unhealthy people being codependent. And for good reason. I mean, correct me if I’m wrong.
ALL MY ROADS has gone through A LOT of rewriting, revising, tweaking, and expanding. The story I wrote a year ago – the one I let a handful of friends read – is not the same story I’m editing today. (It’s the same novel, but much more intentional and less “drama for the sake of drama.”)
Ken and Stacey’s story was born out of my desire for expanders: people and relationships who model the sort of mindfulness and depth and connection I’ve sought my entire life, AND struggled to find numerous examples of in my day-to-day. Not because I don’t have wonderful family and friends! But because I’ve always been a hungry-for-more-while-loving-the-norm sort of person. And my social circle has historically been quite small.
Fiction, for me, is a huge source of inspiration and hope and growth and expansion. And as a writer, my characters are real in a way I can’t convey in words. My desire for this novel, and all future novels, is to tell a story of love, family, and friendship that models the rich possibilities of relationships. To unfold the work and beauty of pain and healing.
ALL MY ROADS is sexy and passionate and detailed…don’t get me wrong. But it’s also spiritual and nuanced and rich. It walks a path I wish I’d known existed when I was younger; one I hope to illuminate for others and myself. More on that to come.
WHEN YOU LEARN TO HAVE YOUR OWN BACK, YOU STOP HOPING OTHERS WILL DO IT FOR YOU.
If you want to change your life, change the way you show up for yourself.
The critical voice in your head? Teach it compassion.
The choices you want affirmed? Speak into them yourself.
I’ve spent a lot of life seeking the validation of others; choosing what they thought was best for me (big and small things) and then trying to fit in containers I wasn’t meant to fit in. It’s a shitty, defeated feeling to hear the music in your own heart and continually dance to the music of others. But, it’s also human nature. We want to self-express, but we often want security and attachment more. So, we abandon in ways we don’t realize…until we realize.
And if these words are giving you all the feels, I see you. Oh, I see you. And don’t let me fool you. I may have my own back in ways that were once a huge roadblock for me, but I’ve got work still to do.
Just remember…deep down, you know what having your back feels like. And you teach others how to show up for you. Rather than finding your worth in their reaction to your choices, choose your worth FIRST and then see how they react.
Nobody gets to decide what fulfilled, or authentic, or aligned looks like for you EXCEPT YOU. There’s only one opinion and person you have to live with 100% of the time for the rest of your life…and that’s you.
We might as well dance to the music in OUR soul and learn to have our own back, because our relationship to self is the one earthly connection we’re guaranteed forever.
Consider the expectations and deal-breakers you have in other relationships. Are those also expectations and deal-breakers in your relationship to self?
Ok, pull out that list from yesterday and get ready to write again. (If you missed yesterday’s post, start there, and come back once you’ve made your list.)
Complete the following sentence:
“My life WILL be more abundant WHEN I AM NO LONGER a slave to…”
This sentence is different. It implies action and possibility. Which things from yesterday’s list are within your control? I mean TRULY within your control.
Take ownership. Be honest with yourself. Even if you don’t know how to control it…even if you don’t think it’s in your control TODAY…which things are possible for you to manage? Which things can you impact, even if slowly?
Write them down. Make another list. If it looks the same as yesterday’s, awesome. If it’s shorter, are you sure you can’t control the things you left off? Positive? (And I’m not saying every single thing is within our control! I’m just asking.)
The more you write these things, the more you claim their existence and the more likely you’ll be to conquer them.
Do you think God wants you to live in poverty or abundance? I thought poverty for the longest time because “less” and “struggle” always seemed more Christian to me than “more” and “thriving.” Anyone else relate? Somewhere I picked up the belief that life as a Christian should be hard all the time. Like suffering is our lot. Which is absolutely RIDICULOUS because God sent His Son to die a tragic death in order for our lives to be FREE and ABUNDANT and BEAUTIFUL.
How much more proof do I/we need that He wants us to chase (and hustle for) freedom and joy and more?
If you’re accepting your shackles in the name of Christian bondage, I see you. I was you. But I implore you to consider the God you’re serving. Is He a God who desires a life of richness and generosity for you? Or a life of burnout and scarcity?
And this isn’t me condemning hard work. But there’s a difference between working and withering, and there is no prize for the latter. None. Much as we glorify being strung out.
Finish the following sentence and write/ type your thoughts somewhere you can revisit them tomorrow.
“My life would be more abundant if I wasn’t a slave to…”
Quite the question, ey? If you’re struggling to finish it, let me offer some ideas.
* Someone else’s schedule
* Chronic pain
* My emotions
* The weather
* Others’ opinion of me
* My phone
* The clock
* The scale
* My inner critic
Which parts of your life are holding you hostage? *Hint: they’re probably the things you’d remark about to others and follow with “but that’s just the way life is,” or “but everyone deals with stuff like this.” That might be true, but it doesn’t mean your reality is illegitimate.
Take some time. Write them down. Call them out.
Don’t be scared. Fight the temptation to be cynical. Think. Write. Keep living.
If you want to share, I’d love to hear in the comments. Especially if saying them aloud would help you claim their reality in your life.
Some of mine: TIME / someone else’s clock. Fear. My gut. My bank account.