Monthly Archives: May 2013

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

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I pre-ordered And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini from Amazon because their price was lower than what I would have paid in-store.  I figured my book would arrive on the release date –like it did when we lived in DC- or a few days later.  The day before the release (Monday) I got an email saying my book would arrive on Wednesday.  Okay, I could wait a day past release to get my book and start reading.  When it didn’t arrive with the rest of the mail I tracked it only to discover it wouldn’t arrive until the following Wednesday!

I could not wait another week to dive into what was sure to be literary awesomeness so I went to Target for a second copy I would return once my copy arrived.

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

And the Mountains Echoed
by Khaled Hosseini

I started reading that night.  The first chapter stole my heart.  Two children are told to go to sleep but they beg for a story.  The story that is comes next sets the theme for the rest of the novel; two people, one given what seems like a great opportunity, the other is left with a simple/non-glamorous life.  You would think the person with the great opportunity would have a far better life but as Mr. Hosseini shows, that isn’t always the case.

I was talking to Kyle about writing style and how great both Conroy and Hosseini are but in different ways.  Pat Conroy’s sentences flow in a way that is both decadent but comfortable.  He writes beautifully casual.  You don’t need to be proficient in classic literature to enjoy Conroy’s work but it is also anything but simple.  He writes like a good key lime pie classic, smooth, tart, sweet, and oh so comforting that comes full circle in the end.

But if Conroy is a key lime pie, Hosseini writes like a rich, decadent, and complex chocolate cake from the corner bakery.  His writing, like Conroy’s, is comforting and classic but it is rich in such a way that you don’t want to plow through in one sitting; you want to savor and prolong the experience.  There are many different layers –the cake- to Hosseini’s stories, all interconnected by a common theme –the frosting- wrapped in a beautiful package.

Hosseini writes in a way that doesn’t seem pushed or contrived.  Characters act like humans with believable emotions making tough decisions.   The conversations feel real, not perfect, which makes everything that much more authentic.

But I am sad to say I didn’t love this book.  I love the writing, I love the characters, I love the stories but the end did nothing for me.  His other two books, everything came together at the end.  The inner stories were more interconnected.  There were more curves and cliffhangers and right when you thought you had the story figured out, Hosseini would add another element.  This story had all that except it all didn’t come together for me tied with a neat little bow.   I don’t want to ruin it for others by giving away any details so I will end it (about the ending) here.

I enjoyed every page of this book.  I will probably read it again someday because the root of the story is so powerful and thought provoking.  It is not my favorite of Khaled Hosseini’s work but it still far exceeds  most of the other things I’ve read in my lifetime.  I am not disappointed that this book wasn’t all I was hoping it would be but it is important to remember that lightening rarely strikes the same place twice but it has so far for Hosseini with his first two books; the third strike wasn’t too far away though.

To give credit where credit is due, image stolen from www.amazon.com

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27 things about ME!!!

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In honor of my 27th birthday I thought I would share 27 things about myself.  

27.  I am OBSESSED with books.  I love the physical aspect almost as much as the literary.  I have over 700 in my personal library and I will not loan you a single one.  It is the quickest way to lose a friend.

26.  I cannot chose a favorite color, I love them all.

Go Gators!

Go Gators!

25.  I am allergic to cats, dogs, dust, cockroaches, and some tree in Georgia but I have been ‘de-sensitized’ so they don’t bother me as much as they used to; unless it barks when the kids are napping.

24.  A life dream of mine is to earn a degree (whether legitimate or honorary) from the University of Florida!

23.  I have never had a broken bone or needed stiches.

22.  I would rather get stung by a bee than watch baseball, golf, tennis, or NASCAR on TV.

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Sarge

21. Kyle thinks I took his dog when he joined the Army so he would come back to marry me.  Truth is, I loved Sarge and didn’t know if Kyle was coming back for him.  If he didn’t, I at least had his awesome dog.

20.  I will not share milk.  I will share any other food or drink but not milk.

19.  I do not like beans.  They feel like pellets of toothpaste.  Yuck.

The Hallucinogenic Toreador

The Hallucinogenic Toreador

18.  I have three older sisters.  The eldest is just five years my senior.

17.  I have had the same cell phone number since I was 16.  Call me!

16.  At birth, I weighed 11lbs.  Fatty, fatty me.

15.  Every night I watch NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams.  It has been a family tradition since I was little and it was anchored by Tom Brokaw.

14.  Salvador Dali is my favorite artist with his painting The Hallucinogenic Toreador being my favorite of his work.  His is such a strange man and the way he draws inspiration is so twisted.

13.  I am writing a novel that I hope to publish before I am thirty.

12.  My first car was  PT Crusier.  I loved that car!

11.  I HATE white noise.  If a sink is running, an AC humming, or vacuum is buzzing I get edgy, it makes my ears hurt.

10.  Football supersedes any other television event in my world.

9.  I used to say I wanted to be able to have a drink at my wedding so I didn’t want to marry before turning 21.  Kyle and I were married for ten months before I had my first drink, legally.

Me and Kylee the day she was born.

Me and Kylee the day she was born.

8.  Being the mom to four boys was my plan but Kylee screwed that up and I wouldn’t trade her for the world.

7.  I bleed Red, White, and Blue.  I have so much American Pride it is almost painful and I will be the first to stand up to anyone who talks negativity about the American spirit.

6.  I have a tattoo of Wile E Coyote writing ‘Super Genius’ on my lower back.  I bet you’ve never seen a tramp stamp more original.

5.  I love to read book that have been made into movies.  If I see a movie is based on a book I am quick to buy and read it so I can compare the two.

4.  Before graduating High School, I wanted to be a criminal psychologist, specifically studying serial killers like Ted Bundy.

3.  I have a white freckle (birthmark) on my belly that turns pink when I get sunburnt.

2.  I do not like to be cold.  Putting a cold can on my skin is a sure-fire way to get me cursing.

1.  I love my family.  My husband and kids are my world!  I have the best parents, sisters, brothers-in-law, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, in-laws and friends!  I would give and do anything for any one of them.

My little family!

My little family!

Ready to get out!

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Today is the last full day we spend in this awful house.  Looking back, has it really been so terrible?  YES!

I knew this house would suck the moment we moved in.  It was small, gross, and broken.  But it was temporary.  I figured could get over the bad parts as we wait for the new house but as I look back at the five months spent in this place I am relieved that our time here is done.

Critters run this place, not me.  I creep around corners expecting to see spiders, roaches, palmettos, beetles, centipedes, and rats!  I was brave every day.  I would slay the intruder without hesitation, every time.  I don’t think I was ever scared of the things that went bump in the night but I was plagued with anxiety, especially when it came to cane spiders.  One night Kyle and I killed four in a two hour timespan; three in our bedroom and one in the hall just outside our door.

Home, Sweet Hell

Home, Sweet Hell

The lack of central AC is normal in Hawaii but in our situation, it seemed extra crappy.  Our units were old, loud, and smelled like fish.  I preferred to not use them at all since we usually had really good airflow thanks to the trade winds.  But there were times where my annoyance with the AC’s didn’t compare to Kyle’s temperature tolerance and they were switched on.  I swear I could smell them from outside.

I don’t want to focus on all the bad of this house.  There is a lot of great qualities to living here including the view, the security, the seclusion, and now, the quiet.

I get to wake up every morning to a 180 degree view from Diamond Head to the Ewa side of the island.  I see ships coming into the harbor (military and commercial), planes coming and going (military and commercial) and millions of people go about their everyday lives.  I have stellar view that I will truly miss.

There is very little housing on this base.  So little that most people I talk to had no idea that there is housing on this base.  It is like our little secret.  Nobody ever comes up here so it is always quiet; I love it.

The absolute best thing that came from this house is the memories.

Kylee learned to crawl in this house.  She took her first steps in this house.  It was the first place she had her own room and a real bed.  She has evolved from an infant into a little girl with such a big personality.

We watched as Reece finally adjusted to all the changes.  He has a fondness for this house and screams “WE’RE HOOOOME!” when we get into the neighborhood.  It is in this house we finally let Reece go off into his room and play whenever he likes, without supervision.  He has grown from a rambunctious toddler into a little boy in the short time we’ve lived here.

Kyle and I began our Hawaiian adventure here.  There is an awesome hike just up the road that we have discovered is great for the kids and Mac.  We are able to get into nature without going too far which has led to some great memories made in an instant.  We can walk and talk and do something as a family just steps outside our front door.

I truly hate this house.  The four surrounding walls make my stomach turn every time I enter them again but my family makes it okay.  I will be sad when we leave it but –as cliché as is is- I will keep the memories with me, I don’t need this house to remember them.

The Perfect Sammie

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Next week I turn 27 and it seems it has taken all those years for me to create and appreciate a “grown-up’s” style sandwich.

I love sandwiches but I love them more when made by someone else.  There are very few things better than a simple sandwich put together by anyone but the consumer.  I could use the exact same ingredients, same techniques, same everything but the one made by the other person would be better.

Whenever I can, I like to treat myself to a deli sub when I go grocery shopping.  Nothing like unpacking the groceries then sitting down with a perfectly crafted sandwich.  I always get a ham and swiss on wheat with lettuce, pickles, and onion.  It was my go-to sandwich.  Kyle knows it; I only have to ask him to get me one and he knows exactly how to order it.

But it such a pain in the ass to go to the store every time I am craving a deli sammie.  I was looking for a reason to go to the store just so I enjoy the deli perk.  Paying $5.50 for one is good every once in a while but it really adds up if I get one every few days like I was for a while.

Isn't she beautiful?

Isn’t she beautiful?

It was clear the time had come for me to start making my sandwich at home.   Something more than boring bread, protein, cheese, and condiment.  My sandwich needed a little more personality.  I picked up a few things while at the store (no deli sammie this time) and pledged to do it myself.  I haven’t ordered a deli sandwich since.  I make it myself and it is better that way.  If Kyle wants one –by the way, he is in love with my sammie, too-  I jump right up to make it, I love making it.  This sandwich is my baby, my perfect creation, and I just love to share it.

The Perfect (Homemade) Deli Sammie

Ingredients

-Roll (French roll, sub roll, any dense bread so it can hold all the awesomeness)

-Ham

-Swiss (Kyle likes White Chedda, so I guess you can use any cheese)

-Iceburg Lettuce

-Tomato, sliced thin

– Red onion, sliced thin

-Dill relish (relish?  I know, sounds weird, but you can distribute that pickle flavor much better)

-Mayo (not Miracle Whip! I like Heinz mayo but I’m sure Hellmann’s would work too.)

-Sub Oil (I like Beano’s Sub Oil)

Directions

-Seriously? Directions?  Cut bread in half.  Pile all that shit between the top and bottom.  Done.

Substitutions

Don’t.  Just kidding.  I know people don’t like pickles or tomato or onion, so leave it off.  I once added avocado and bean sprouts but it just wasn’t as good.  I’ve also tried it without the mayo (to be a tad healthier) but the mayo makes love to the oil and together they really take the sammie up another notch.

It may seems silly that I wrote a blog post sharing a sandwich recipe but I felt it was only fair to the rest of the world to have the opportunity to experience the awesomeness that is MY sammie.

The Water is Wide by Pat Conroy

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Growing up there was a running joke in our family that went on for years that my mother is halfway through The Prince of Tides by Pay Conroy.  I didn’t understand this when I was little.  I didn’t know anything about that particular book or its author.  I remember thinking that it must be terrible because my mom couldn’t finish it but on the other hand, it had to have some sort of redeeming factor because she hadn’t given up over all that time.  I saw it once in her nightstand, sure enough with a bookmark somewhere between the covers.

One night just before Kyle left for basic training he and I were shopping.  We went into a bookstore and I made one simple request, “pick out a book for me.”  He picked The Prince of Tides I chuckled, remembering the running joke about my mom but Kyle told me it was one of his favorite books so we bought it.  It is now one of my favorite books.

Pat Conroy is one of my favorite authors.

When Kyle was asked to pick my next book he ventured out of my preselected pile and handed me The Water is Wide by Conroy.  I wasn’t thrilled with his pick but it’s author being who it was I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed.

The Water is Wide by Pat Conroy

The Water is Wide
by Pat Conroy

Not a novel, The Water is Wide is the real accounts of Pat’s life from 1969 when he taught as one of only two teachers on a small isolated island just off the South Carolina coast.  The kids are illiterate, can’t count, don’t know who the president it or the name of the country they live in.  These children have been neglected by the school system until a young teacher (Pat) comes to the island and turns things around.

Besides the beautiful writing, it is the relationships and interactions between Pat and his pupils that make this book great.  He connects with the kids in a way that the previous teachers have missed.  Instead of beating and whipping and demeaning his students like Ms. Brown does and suggests he do (she is the only other teacher in the small school) he jokes with them, even getting cocky.  His teaching style is bizarre but effective.  Pat takes the kids off the island for special events such as Halloween and to see the Harlem Globetrotters as a learning experience.  For most it was their first time off the island, ever.

Every great story needs a villain an The Water is Wide has one, The School Board, specifically it’s Superintendent.  Pat butts heads with Mr. Piedmont on every issues pertaining to his job, especially finance.  They fight about the gas bill, upgrades to the school and classroom, ventures off the island, and more.  Ms. Brown often reports back to the superintendent about Pat’s teaching methods which leads to more bad blood between Pat and the rest of the school system.

Given all the trouble Pat seems to be stirring up you would think his students wouldn’t be any better off than before Pat started teaching them but that really couldn’t be further from the truth.  In the year that Pat spent teaching on the island all of the students blossomed.  They learned history, math, ABCs, simple words, music, basic science, and geography.  It was his individualized teaching style that helped the kids, some of whom were only a few years away from high school.  He would focus on where each child struggled, encouraging them in a way that made lessons fun, not intimidating.

I really think every teacher should read this book.  Even though it is set in a drastically different teaching era than what we have today it really touches upon the basic fundamentals of teaching.  Pat shows how learning can be fun every child, no matter their skill level.  I would love to have Pat Conroy as my teacher when I was in school.

The only place where this book didn’t deliver was on updates.  I wish Pat would somehow go back and write an update on some of the people he introduced me to.  I want to know how the children faired after he left the island, how the island has progressed over the years, and about any evolution of the school board.  He wrote this short memoir just five years after leaving the island so there no question why there isn’t more of an update.  I can’t even say the lack of update takes away from the story; there was nothing to update at the time it was published.  I tried google-ing for updates but came up short.

This book, like all his others that I’ve read, does not disappoint.  I was hesitant to read it for years because it was a memoir and I usually prefer novels but this story read so cleanly it didn’t make a difference.  In fact, it could easily be mistaken for a novel if you knew nothing of Pat’s biography.

If you like to read and you have never had the experience of reading a single sentence written by Pat Conroy you are doing a terrible disservice to yourself.  He is a master of the written word.  He is like Paula Dean for literature, everything he writes is smooth and delectable and comforting.   Go to the bookstore –whether it be brick or digital- and buy one of his books. You won’t be disappointed.

To give credit where credit is due, image stolen from www.amazon.com

ISBN 978-1400008940

What would you grab?

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As I sit here watching news coverage of the tornado-struck Oklahoma I can’t help but to put myself in that situation.  What would I do?  How would I react?

Currently, we live in a place where ‘tornado’ isn’t a common word.  There is the occasional tsunami warning but from what I’ve been told, tsunamis are infrequent and cause little damage to most of the island.  We even get great warnings if one is one its way.  Also, I grew up in a place where hurricanes were an annual occurrence but we have days –if not weeks- of warning that one is coming. I have never had to worry about an immediate threat from a natural disaster.

Tornado alley aka. Where I am too chicken to live.

I’m sure there aren’t many options when an emergency like that is barreling down on you.  My only knowledge on the matter is what I’ve seen on TV and read in books.  Get into an underground shelter, if none are available get to the inner-most part of the house and get under/in anything anchored to the ground.  Ride out the storm and don’t emerge until everything is quiet.

If your shelter was taken care of and you knew you would be secure what would you take with you?  I know this question can include a lot of variables; tornado, hurricane, wildfire, tsunami and how much space you have at your disposal.  If it is a hurricane you could load up your car and trailer over a few days and drive to safety.  If it were a wildfire you may have days to prepare but only hours to implement.  Tsunami warnings only give a couple of hours but are not always accurate in gauging the size of the threat.  Tornados may have a general warning but the actual impact zone has only minutes to prepare and get to safety.

So, if you had only minutes as you run out the door to safety, what would you take?  What if you had a couple hours?  Let’s set aside the obvious, too.  Kids, pets, and anything or person whose life depends on you would be taken to safety.  What would you grab as you shot out the door?

In no specific order of importance, here is my list:

– The book Kyle and I lovingly call ‘the football’.  It has our marriage certificates, birth certificates, titles, social security cards, passports, and so much other paperwork that we would want to keep on us in an emergency.

– I would undoubtedly grab my external hard drive.  It has ever picture I have ever taken on it.  Good thing for social media today because most of my favorite pictures are already online but I want to make damn sure I have the originals.

– My computer.  All I would need is a wi-fi connection and I could communicate with those not affected by the event.  Plus my computer has so much of my important info that is not on my hard drive.  It could act as a lifeline and as entertainment for the kids.

– A camera would be helpful to document our situation.

– The book I am currently reading –and a few more if possible- to keep my brain occupied during the quiet times and entertainment for the kids.

– All applicable chargers and accessories.  What good is a dead phone or a radio without batteries?

I think if I had more than minutes before evacuating my list would have so much more on it but I think those are the most essential non-essentials that I would want.  Some would make getting back to normal a bit easier while others would keep my heart from breaking.

I talk all level headed now but if I were in a situation where I had to implement an actual evacuation I would most likely run around like a crazy person grabbing stupid stuff while leaving the vitals.  I would probably grab an entire box of books but forget flashlights or I would bring my toothbrush but no toothpaste.

I told Kyle that the only way I would move anywhere within tornado alley would be if I had my own basement or storm cellar.  I want to be able to take refuge in a moment’s notice and have it stocked year round with the vitals so I wouldn’t be worrying about stupid stuff during an emergency.  I am too much of a chicken and I worry way too much about the safety of my kids.  If I hear the sirens, I want to be safe, secure and as prepared as possible; not scrambling for a place to hunker down and hoping I have what I need.

To give credit where credit is due, image stolen from www.oar.noaa.gov

14,000 feet between me and Earth.

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Shortly after Reece was born I was the first time I asked Kyle to take me skydiving.  He chuckled “no”.  For me, there was something about bringing a new life into this world made me realize I didn’t want to waste a moment of mine.

Years went by and although I broached the question to Kyle a few more times his answer never changed.  No.  He just wasn’t interested in jumping out of a plane.  I could accept that for him but for me, I knew I would jump at some point.

A few weeks ago I saw a post online by a fellow Army wife asking if anyone was interested in skydiving.  She was looking to rally enough people to haggle a group discount with the company.  I was ready to sign-up but I really wanted Kyle to jump with me.  When he came home from work that day I asked.  Without hesitation he said “yes”.  I didn’t know what it was that changed his mind but I didn’t care.  I immediately signed us up.

So we did it!  We jumped out of a perfectly good airplane!

Bright and early Saturday morning we left the kids with a friend and drove out to the jump site.  All morning I was a crazy ball of nerves.  I wanted to jump but I was still scared out of my mind.  Kyle and I kept on saying to each other “we’re going to jump out of a plane!”, a statement precariously balancing between mixed emotions.

When we arrived, most of the group was already in the classroom watching a movie.  Kyle and I hurried in, grabbed our paperwork, and filled it out as we watched.  This ‘movie’ was the epitome of an anti-pep-talk.  It was the required ‘you’re jumping at your own risk and you can’t sue us and if you die and, well, that is possible but have fun’ movie.  I can’t lie and say this didn’t have me second guessing my desire to plummet towards earth with some precautionary measures and a prayer but I was not about to chicken out.

Once the paperwork was properly filled out –again, more ‘are you really sure you want to do this?’ paperwork- we went outside to watch other skydivers and wait.  It was so surreal to see other people glide down and know that we would be doing the same thing shortly.  After a short wait our names were called; one step closer.

Kyle would be jumping with Marcelo while Casey took pictures and video.  I would be strapped to ­­­­­Robby as Cado catches it all on camera.  We all loaded up into the plane, smooshed; no more chances to back out!

It felt so strange as we climbed higher and higher.  The company guaranteed the jump would begin at an elevation of 14,000 feet or higher and they proved this with an altimeter easily visible right by the jump door.  I watched that sucker glide past the numbers as we climbed passed each thousand feet.  I remember looking out the window and giggling in disbelief.  We were going to jump out of an airplane!

When we got to the designated altitude the door opened and it was time.  My tandem master gave me a few simple instructions and we walked to the opening.  Before I have a chance to think “what the hell am I doing?!?!” we were out and free falling!  I can’t explain why –or how- but I wasn’t scared.  It was so exhilarating!  I screamed!  It was so cold but the experience was so overwhelming that I didn’t care.  I laughed and made silly face and just took it all in.  My tandem guy was awesome.  He spun us and flipped us and jerked me around.

After what seemed like we were falling forever he pulled the parachute and everything stopped.  It was eerie how quiet things became.  Robby loosened up the straps and told me to take off my goggles.  The view was incredible.  We were just under the clouds at this point so nothing was obstructing our view of the entire island.  I was fricken SKYDIVING in HAWAII!

The landing was perfect.  Robby unhooked me and Cado lead me out of the drop site.  I met back up with Kyle, gave him a kiss and we excitedly compared experiences.  We then went to a theater room where we viewed our entire jump and pictures on a huge TV.  It was such a rush reliving the jump.  We –naturally- bought the pictures and DVD of our jumps which I have already published a bunch all over my and Kyle’s Facebook page.

I don’t think I stopped giggling until we left the skydive center.

I knew I wanted to skydive at least once in my life.  I figured I would do it and be done, never wanting to go again, but I do.  I want to keep jumping out of airplanes, haha!  Kyle and I jokingly tried to come up with a plan of somehow making it a part-time weekend job; he being the tandem master and I be the camera girl.

It was such a rush.

Ps.  If anyone who visits us wants to skydive that is a-okay with us!  We’re game!

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