Thanks so much to The Loft Literary Center for sponsoring this post. Don’t forget to enter below for a chance to win a slot in one of the Loft’s online writing courses!
By definition, a blog is an expression of ego. The blogger has carved out a piece of cyberspace to share herself and her opinions, and expects others to come to her and read them. Unlike an editorial in a newspaper or an essay in a literary journal, no third party has vetted the blogger’s commentary. She is self-published. Her words must carry their own authority.
People seem to be reading fewer blogs these days. We’ve all said it.
“I don’t read blogs as much as I used to.”
“I just don’t have time.”
“Comments are way down these days.”
I fall into the same camp. Part of me is too easily distracted by everything else demanding my attention – mainly email and Facebook notifications, as much as I hate to admit it – and the other part of me just isn’t as into it anymore. I feel like I’ve read it all before. Aside from a handful of my very favorites and a handful that I know personally, I’ve struggled to find anything that really grabs me.
When I do find one though, I latch onto it with both eyes.
I love blogging. I’ve been at it for 6 years now, and have never thought of quitting or even of taking a break. Granted, I’m not the best, most consistent blogger out there, but I do what I can with the time that I have, and I’m generally happy with my little space on the internet. I hadn’t really thought that there was too much more I could learn about blogging.
Then The Loft Literary Center contacted me about trying out one of their writing courses. Most of the options were geared towards fiction writers, so I chose Becoming a Standout Blogger: How to Create, Write, and Grow a Compelling Blog. I wasn’t sure what I would learn from the class or even what the other students would be looking to learn. Monetization? Page views? Social media? Conversations on blogging are so heavy with those things these days.
I’ve always been a believer that having good content is the best thing you can do for your blog. As soon as I received the course overview, I was super excited to see that the topics all revolved around just that. From finding your voice to engaging your readers, all while keeping in mind length and best practices for web writing, Becoming a Standout Blogger is all about writing and creating good content.
Our instructor, Patrick Ross, has set up the course with the following tools:
easy to navigate weekly lessons
3 – 5 links to other articles for students to read that pertain to the lesson
Weekly class forum and discussion questions. Each week I’m pleasantly surprised at how much insight the handout and articles and discussion questions have given me. For example, one lesson this week was how the essayist could employ the inverted pyramid tactics of the journalists to grab their readers upfront and keep them reading.
Weekly peer review forum
The content that Mr. Ross curates for the class provides a huge wealth of knowledge, but the forums are where the heart of the class really lies. In the weekly forum, students can reflect on and start a conversation about the week’s discussion questions. In the peer review forum, students are encouraged (but not required) to submit a post and have their peers provide feedback. I love both of the forums because they not only introduce me to new-to-me writers, but I’m getting to know more people through their outlooks on blogging itself, without the pressures of social media and page views and clicks.
In talking with a friend about blogging and courses and conferences a few weeks ago, I mentioned that I attend more for the community. I go to conferences to be with my people, not to learn anything. “I’ve been doing this for 6 years,” I would say. “I’ve changed platforms, designed my own site, figured out HTML.” I’ve even been through a few uncomfortable blog identity crises. I didn’t see what else I could learn about blogging, really.
I’m glad that this course was able to change my mind. One of the articles used in this week’s lesson encouraged bloggers to make learning a priority. Be a student. Because there’s always something else you can learn.
Now for the fun part. Leave a comment here for an entry to win a slot for yourself in one of The Loft’s online classes. So tell me, what have YOU learned about blogging lately?
Giveaway will end at midnight on Friday, October 31, 2014. Entrants must be over age 18. One entry per person.
To find out more about The Loft Literary Center, visit them at loft.org. Classes usually run 6 weeks and are offered for all ages in topics ranging from fiction basics to self-publishing to memoir. If you love writing and have been looking for something to challenge you and amp up your skills, The Loft is a great place to start.
When I picked Rachel and Claire up from school on Monday, the first thing out of their mouths was not actually “Oh, Mommy, we missed you so much! You look stunning, by the way.”
It was more like, “MOM. Do you know what BOOLIA is?” Well, hello to you too.
And I was like, “You mean bully? Bullying?” Because a) like most first graders, they have terrible recall on the actual names of things, and b) they had recently watched a cartoon on cyberbullying. A cartoon that had me answering endless questions about “mean emails,” and “Mom, did you ever receive mean emails when you were a kid?” and then the complete inability to fathom that when I was a kid, there was no email.
“No, MOM. EeeeBOOOOLIA! It makes you really really sick and you throw up your HEART!”
So I said, “Ohhhhhh. You mean ebola?”
My first thought is that of course they talked about ebola, since we got an email from the school about protocols and precautions, and there is all of one University of Texas student currently being monitored because she was on the plane with the latest patient.
“So did you guys talk about ebola today at school?”
“YES! S______ said that you’ll throw up your HEART! And DIE!”
Ah. Fear mongering playground talk with first graders. My favorite.
“Well, not exactly.” I mean, I’m sure that’s true, that one would, in fact, die if that happened, but I tried to explain that you couldn’t exactly vomit up your heart.
So Claire responded, “But S_______ SAID!”
Well, shit, it must be true then.
And that led to a fun and completely confusing-to-6-year-olds conversation about how one might catch ebola, how the doctors will try to help them, and don’t forget, you will probably throw up your heart and die.
So thanks, S______’s over-reacting parents. Next time I see your kid, I’m telling her about Santa. And the Easter Bunny. And how vomiting up your heart ISN’T EVEN POSSIBLE, YOU NOVICE.
Today was my birthday. I’m 36. I was planning a whole post about how, other than getting to go see a movie in the middle of the day with Christian, today really was just another day. But then I looked back and read last year’s post, and it pretty much said the same thing. So. Newsflash. It’s silly to expect birthdays with young kids to be anything special. I know this. When my mom friends are angry and frustrated that their Mother’s Days aren’t the magical, pampering experience they expected or wanted, I’m the one giving them the pep talks, reassuring them that Mother’s Day with young kids is HARD, but it won’t always be this way.
So that’s what I’m telling myself. I don’t want to complain. I got to kind of sleep in while Christian got the kids off to school. We went to a mid-day movie together (Gone Girl…have you seen it? I read the book and all, but DUDE.). A friend brought me a birthday present and some beer. And now I’m settling in with a grilled cheese sandwich, a Newcastle, a little work, and some Walking Dead. 36 can only go up from here!
I’m going to start off by saying right up front that this book – Get the Behavior You Want…Without Being the Parent You Hate – has pretty much changed my outlook on parenting. Family doctor and parenting expert Dr. Deborah Gilboa has put together such a well-organized, easy to read manual on effective parenting, with advice for whatever phase of parenting you’re in.
I hate to break it to you guys, but I am pretty much a perfect parent. We eat dinner as a family just about every night, my girls are doing well in school, and I take my well-behaved children on fun outings where absolutely no one loses their shit, like ever. Basically, my life is a damn rainbow.
But every once in a blue moon, I lose my way on the parenting path and start to see that I’m headed down a wayward road. It happens gradually; I fall into a routine of ease and laziness, overlooking this behavior or that attitude. But before I know it it’s all Lord of the Flies up in here.
It starts with us
It was during one of those phases that Dr. Gilboa’s book fell into my mailbox. It’s not only given me great ammunition in small doses against a lot of my most notable parenting challenges, it’s also given me ideas for changes to make that will make this parenting gig a little more pleasant. Seeing as this is something I’ll be doing for several more years, putting the work in is worth it.
Get the Behavior You Want…Without Being the Parent You Hate is broken down into four parts:
- Part I: Respect – That’s My Kid!
- Part II: Responsibility: Count On It
- Part III: Resilience: Raising Problem Solvers
- Part IV: Making Change Happen: How to Actually Get Kids to Do This Stuff
The first three sections cover topics that parents may not necessarily struggle with, but should keep in mind when raising awesome kids. Things like being a good guest (respect!), asking how they can help (responsibility!), and managing relationships with siblings, friends, and teachers (resilience!).
Gilboa explains WHY it’s important to teach kids these things, then goes on to give real action items broken up by age group. And if there’s one thing I love, it’s an actionable item for those times when I’m just out of ideas and I’m all, “Seriously. Someone please just tell me what to do here.”
But the meat of the book lies in Part IV, where Gilboa goes beyond the tidbits of advice she’s given, and gets down into the nitty gritty of how parents can make change happen for their kids. And I have a secret:
It starts with us.
So all you have to do is change how you respond to your child’s words and behavior. Your change will lead to their change. — Dr. Deborah Gilboa
Problems and solutions
Each of my children comes with their own special challenges when it comes to parenting them, and juggling those different challenges is often where I struggle. Life would be much easier for me if their problems came straight off the conveyer belt and I could just methodically hack at them one by one.
Claire tends to get easily frustrated and gives up on herself before she’s really even tried.
Rachel is impulsive, and not in a good way.
Zoe suffers from – how should we say? – “I’m the littlest, and I’ve gotten away with so much for so long, that now I’m really pushing my boundaries and seeing if you’re serious with these attempts at disciplining me.” You can imagine that one’s going over REALLY well at preschool.
I was able to pull specific strategies from the book that have given me more guidance in their individual challenges:
When Claire gets frustrated because she can’t ride her scooter as fast as her sisters, I remind her that it’s not a race, and I just want her to do her best. But throwing the scooter in the neighbor’s yard is not acceptable, and you can either continue riding it around the block or carry it. Or we’ll leave it here for another neighborhood kid to enjoy.
When Zoe puts on her sassy pants, we swiftly inform her that she’s being disrespectful and give her options for more respectful ways of communicating. Being respectful to her teacher is important to us, but if we let her get away with having a little attitude at home – no matter how cute it can be on a 4-year-old – she will most definitely try to push those same boundaries at school.
Finally let’s take Rachel as an example, because this is an area in which I feel we’ve seen great improvement.
Have a plan
Lately Rachel’s temper has been getting set off at the smallest thing. We read only one story at bedtime, but she wants two. She’s bored and wants to watch TV, but we’re screen-free for the moment. Regular stuff that might cause a kid to groan, but for her, it causes all-out tantrums. She completely loses control of herself and her actions. As a parent, it’s extremely difficult to control your temper when your child is flailing her arms and hitting you.
One of the things Gilboa stresses the most in Part IV is that as a parent, you must have a plan. Things will go so much smoother if, when these challenges arise, you have a roadmap of how you are going to handle it. We were able to take several things from the book and put them together into a plan that worked for us in quelling these terrible tantrums.
- Remain calm, but stay firm, because this behavior is unacceptable. The angrier I got, the more out of control she got. I had to keep myself in check. (That part is HAAAARD.)
- Deliver consequences. Items thrown across the room (or at me!) will get taken temporarily, or sometimes permanently, depending on the item. I’ll throw out a cheap, plastic toy, but the favorite blankie becomes mine for the time being.
- Do not respond to irrational behavior (as long as she is safe from harming herself or anyone else). Every time we opened our mouths to try and calm her, it was like going back to square one. Depending on the severity of the situation, we choose to either leave her in her room alone to chill or sit with her, but we do not respond to her verbal lashes.
Maybe we’ve just been lucky, or maybe this stuff is really working, but each tantrum got increasingly shorter and spaced further apart. Before we instituted The Plan, we had a stretch where they happened several days in a row, and I thought I was going to LOSE my MIND. But the most recent time, within minutes of being left to calm down, she emerged from her room, all hugs and sincere apologies. And I am not even kidding you, I feel like I have my child back.
Your kids will love you. They will not always like you, and they will not always thank you or be able to explain your value. But they will love you. So don’t hold back on what they need. Don’t hesitate to guide behavior for fear of upsetting your child. To change a behavior, we have to get out of our comfort zone. – Dr. Deborah Gilboa
Think your parenting can benefit from Dr. Gilboa’s strategies? Purchase your copy of Get the Behavior You Want…Without Being the Parent You Hate on Amazon and start reclaiming the joy of parenting. You can also find Dr. Gilboa on her website, Ask Doctor G, and on her YouTube channel.
I received an advanced reader copy of this book for review. Amazon links are affiliate links.
Tuesday was one of those days that you have a lot you really hope to accomplish, and then the universe just kind of body checks you into submission.
(I say “hope to accomplish,” because honestly, the only things I NEEDED to do that day were make sure the Zoe was fed and entertained and pick up the big girls from school. The rest of the day was relatively open, and I had mentally filled our schedule with a list of incredibly stay-at-home-mom-ish errands that weren’t essential, but you know, I don’t think it’s an accident that all of the spoons in my kitchen have mysteriously disappeared, AND there happens to be an IKEA nearby, with a Garden Ridge on the way home when I really need a wicker basket to put by the front door for soccer cleats and shin guards. It’s like some kind of First World Housewife Science or something.)
Tuesday I was also very tired. My back has been bothering me the past few days – no sciatic pain, but a general achiness that makes me want to kill people – and my run that morning was less than stellar. Add to that the 4-year-old that just would not. stop. talking, and it’s safe to say my patience was in short supply.
So you can imagine the string of mental expletives that ran through my head when I went to start the car and I had no car key.
I know exactly when this happened. Monday afternoon when Zoe and I walked over to pick Rachel and Claire from school, I felt something fall out of the hand that was holding my keys. I turned around and say my key fob sitting in the middle of the street, so I ran the few steps back, grabbed it, then hurried across to the sidewalk before the oncoming traffic ran me over. We live in this super inconvenient spot that’s practically right across a busy street from the elementary school, but because it’s not an intersection, there’s no lights or crosswalk or even a stop sign. We basically have to wait for a break in traffic and hope for the best (hooray for school zones!). So I had to do this all while holding Zoe’s hand with one of mine, and making sure my phone didn’t fall out of my pocket with the other. Ninja style.
I couldn’t figure out how the key fob fell off of my keyring, but I didn’t really have time to contemplate it, with the oncoming traffic and all. I just grabbed it, put it back on, continued on to the school, and forgot about it once I picked up my very loud, very shouty children.
And now here I was, sitting in my car on a Tuesday morning, realizing that my damn key must have fallen off with it.
Tuesday, you’re a foul beast, but now I know your friend Monday had a hand in it.
I went to look for it. I nervously stood on the median in the middle of the street while cars whizzed past – NOT during school zone time, by the way – while Zoe sat obediently out of the way in the corner of someone’s front yard, but nothing. I found the busted keyring, and a Lone Star bottle cap, but no key.
The bad news is I didn’t get my spoons or baskets. I declined Christian’s offer to run home and bring me his key, because I’m not a high maintenance girl, and in the grand scheme of things, this wasn’t anything that couldn’t wait another day. I can deal with shoes on the floor and stirring my coffee with a fork for one more day, if I must. The good news is that Zoe and I got to hang out at home. We rode her scooter and bike around the block a few times. We snuggled on the couch watching a terrible Monster High movie. I considered picking the big girls up early, because I missed them so much. Or maybe it was because, although I love days with my girl, I really needed someone else to bear the brunt of all the “Did you see me take that bite of applesauce?” and “Watch me swing! No. Stand HERE. Now watch!” and “Mom, do dogs know that they are….dogs?”
I almost cried from relief when Christian walked in the front door at lunchtime, handed me his car key, and said “Let’s go get lunch!” I will never again underestimate the freedom that a car key can bring. Or the madness that a chatty 4-year-old can bring on. Or Tuesday. I will never underestimate a Tuesday.
It’s safe to say that Twitter, at least for most of us bloggers, isn’t the same as it used to be. The days of sitting around on Twitter, chatting with our friends, while our kids napped or ran circles around us or unrolled 8 rolls of toilet paper, but it’s okay because the 6 minutes of quiet were totally worth it, and that’s why you recycle anyway…well those days are over, at least it seems so. I look at my twitter stream now, and all I see are tweets that link to posts I’ll never read, tweets that link to Instagram photos I won’t look at, and tweets that link to Facebook status updates, which is seriously the most annoying thing in the world.
And then I went in and looked at my own twitter profile, and guess what I saw? Tweets that link to posts I have written, tweets that link to posts I have read, and tweets that link to Instagram photos no one ever looked at. Twitter has gotten insanely boring, and I’m part of the problem.
So I’ve been trying to chat it up more there.
I’m not sleepy. Why am I not sleepy? Make me be sleepy.
— Leigh Ann Torres (@latorres) September 28, 2014
No one replied. Which helped, I guess, because then I just kinda, you know, went to sleep.
My garage smells like rotten broccoli. Possibly dead squirrel. — Leigh Ann Torres (@latorres) September 29, 2014
I could tell by the way that time seemed to stop twitter-wise, that everyone was concerned. I mean, was my house infested with cute, furry rodents, or did my garage freezer go kaput? I felt the need to clarify. I mean, dead squirrels happen, but I can’t have the neighborhood association thinking I have unsafe food handling practices.
Definitely leaning towards dead squirrel. — Leigh Ann Torres (@latorres) September 29, 2014
…And few things are worse than burnt popcorn. Later I went out to open the garage doors and air out the stench, but….
Good news! The dead rotten squirrel smell is gone from the garage. That’s the fastest decomposition I’ve ever witnessed.
— Leigh Ann Torres (@latorres) September 29, 2014
To which someone replied “Texas heat FTW!” Seriously.
There’s a fly in my bathroom that I’m pretty sure is Jeff Goldblum.
— Leigh Ann Torres (@latorres) September 30, 2014
— Spider (@YungSpiderNigga) September 30, 2014
And with that, my Tuesday was complete, at least until the ebola virus started breaking out on Facebook faster than it ever would if we were all hanging out with the infected.
I ran. I RAN! I ran.
It was only a mile – 1.09 if we’re bring specific – but it felt so, so good.
Actually I’m lying. It felt terrible. I’m so out of shape.
I survived the mile with no pain, really. Honestly, my back was a little off that day, so after the run I did my therapy and hoped for the best. My legs and hips are sore, good feelings that mean I challenged my body in a way it hadn’t been challenged in a while. My back is feeling…okay.
To back up a little bit here, this was my first run since January, when I finally hung up my running shoes because the sciatica was too painful. I went straight to an orthopedist, where I learned that sciatica isn’t really a diagnosis; it’s a symptom being caused by something else. In my case, that something else was a herniated disc.
Few things make you feel old like having a herniated disc.
My journey to wellness has been a roller coaster of frustration, small victories that didn’t last long, and painful setbacks that did last long.
I visited a chiropractor regularly for several weeks. She told me that by visiting her x number of times per week, I could get better in several months. I eventually stopped going because I was busy and stressed (LTYM season), running around to doctor or therapy appointments or meetings almost every day. I needed a break, and the regular adjustments didn’t seem to be helping anyway.
I started physical therapy with the orthopedist’s PT branch in March, where I learned about McKenzie method. I usually left there feeling pretty good, but even just sitting in the car on the way home was enough to put me right back into pain mode.
In April, with no end in sight, I relented and went in for a steroid shot. I laid face down on the table, and the doctor injected me with a shot of cortisone right in the lower back. And the pain was gone. It was like a miracle. I kept expecting my left side to be weak when I walked, or expecting pain to start shooting down my leg, but there was none. I was all, “Did you see that? I got up from that chair and didn’t want to cry!”
Seriously, it’s the little things.
But alas, it wasn’t meant to last. I got the shot just days before I left for the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop, and I can tell you that I never would have survived that trip – flights, hours sitting in sessions – without that shot. It was a godsend, but a short-lived one. Within weeks I felt the pain creeping back again. Like that psycho ex-girlfriend that just won’t go away.
And honestly, I felt like this pain was never going to really go away.
Here’s the frustrating thing about this injury, and probably any injury. You don’t know what’s really going to work for you unless you try all the things. And that takes a lot of time, and before you know it’s you’ve been living with this pain for months. Everyone has a different opinion on what will help you. And a lot of the time, those opinions contradict each other.
The orthopedist said I’ll likely have flare-ups the rest of my life. They seemed to think PT would help, but if that didn’t work, “You should get a steroid shot.” And if that doesn’t work, come back and get another one. They didn’t seem to think I should ever run again.
The physical therapist said that I could be better in 6 – 8 weeks. He seemed to NOT want me to get a shot, because although that would alleviate my symptoms chemically, it wouldn’t really solve my problem. But I would run again someday.
The chiropractor was all for getting a shot if it helped manage my pain, but she still wanted to see me 87 times a week for the rest of my livelong days. (I’m exaggerating.) (But not by much.)
When the physical therapist cut me loose after 12 weeks or so, waiting to see what the orthopedist would say at my follow up, it was just kind of a “Well, good luck to you!” send off.
That’s when I really started to feel helpless.
Some days I felt better, some days I didn’t, and the fluctuations weren’t consistent with any of my treatments. Around that same time, a friend who was suffering from a similar issue recommended her therapist, who specialized in Active Release Therapy. I was no stranger to the name Dr. Wag, since a few of my other running friends had also waxed poetic about him for their various injuries. But the most enticing part? This friend was feeling loads better and was back to running and CrossFit.
When people ask me how ART differs from regular physical therapy, the only way I can think to put it is, “Well, it’s kinda like a good, old fashioned butt rub.” Also it’s important to note that I am not a doctor.
When you’ve been in pain for so long, sometimes it’s hard to tell if you’re improving, or if you’re just so used to being in pain that you’ve kinda grown accustomed to it. Me and pain, best friends forever!
Twice a week I would go in and lay on a table and move my leg around while Dr. Wag tried to convince my stubborn muscles to let go of that nerve and give my poor aching rear end a break already. Over time the ART, along with some Trigger Point therapy and me doing about a million McKenzie press ups per day, really started to work. After maybe 3 months I was able to say I was at 85%, then 90%. Unlike the other doctors and therapists, I felt like here they treated ME, not my symptoms. Dr. Wag knew that getting back to running was important to me, and from the beginning, that was our goal.
I went from feeling like I would never get better – and I’m not being dramatic; I really did think that – to actually feeling better.
And then I was given the okay to slowly start running again. Slowly. I haven’t run since January. I am extremely out of shape. I started off slow, to see how my back held up. And it felt so damn good, until my legs got tired and my breathing was off, and my brain was confused because it was accustomed to leisurely strolls to the voice of Ira Glass and now there was music coming from my earbuds and the expectation that my body was supposed to move faster.
Dr. Wag thinks I will definitely be able to train for a half marathon in the spring, “Or maybe even a full!”
Slow your roll, Doc. I don’t plan on running a full marathon until, well, never.
But for now, I hope my body is indeed ready to run. Because my mind is more than ready.
A few weeks ago at a splash pad, my friend Lori asked if I thought Christian and I could get away for a weekend and drive up to party town Thakerville, Oklahoma for some kid-free time and to gamble and the WinStar Hotel and Casino.
I told her I didn’t think so. I mean, who would watch our kids?
“Just drop them off with your parents in Dallas on the way up. That’s what we’re doing.”
And I said, “Oh, Iiiiiiii don’t knowwwwwww……..probably not…..” Big sigh of disappointment.
But Lori was all, “Come on. It’s your anniversary weekend! They’ll be fine! It’s just one night! We can play some poker, enjoy time with NO KIDS, and, I don’t know, Tears for Fears or somebody is playing there that night….” Her voice started to trail off, but not before I caught onto the most important bit of information.
And I was like, “WHAT? TEARS FOR FEARS?”
I LOVE Tears for Fears. I’m a little young to be a true child of the 80s, so I was originally introduced to them through their 1993 album Elemental, which featured one of my favorite songs of all time. I still remember sitting and watching it over and over on MTV. Because yes, kids, MTV did show music videos at one time.
And she was all, “…..Do you like Tears for Fears?” She looked at me incredulously, like I had just admitted to carrying Justin Bieber’s love child.
And I was all, “Are you kidding?” I started sit-dancing on my little towel and jamming out, “Break it down again!”
And she was all, “…………”
And then I was like, “Shout. Shout. Let it all out!”
And she looked at me like, “…………..”
And I looked at her like, “………..Sowing in the seeds of love! The seeds of love!”
And she was all, “Well, yeah, I guess we can –”
“SOWING IN THE SEEDS!”
So then I went home and completely flooded her Facebook wall with Tears for Fears YouTube videos, because although she’s 3 years older than me, she obviously isn’t hip to the music of her 80s brethren. I will forgive her.
We booked the hotel, nabbed some VIP-seating concert tickets, and then I was like, Oh. Maybe I should call my mom and make sure they can actually watch my kids that weekend.
This was a big step for us. See, I’ve never really left my kids with anyone else before. We stole a night away a couple of years ago when my mother-in-law was in town, but that was here in Austin. We were only a few miles away. This time they would be in a completely different setting where they’ve never slept before, and I would be over an hour away. Where would they all sleep? Could my parents and sister handle all three of them, plus my sister’s daughter? Would they brush their teeth?
I may be a bit of a control freak.
And then Lori was all, “Who cares?”
We got to Thackerville around 2:00, checked in, and headed downstairs to the casino to find our friends. Massive doesn’t exactly describe the WinStar – it’s an understatement – and I regretted not bringing my step counter, because I imagine I walked about 10 miles in the 22 hours we were there.
We hadn’t gambled since we got married and spent a couple of days in Shreveport. You know, the post-nuptials trip that you don’t really want to describe as a “honeymoon,” because spending 2 days in a musty-smelling riverboat isn’t exactly how you want your honeymoon to be perceived. But it is what it is. Christian was looking forward to playing some Blackjack, but I hadn’t planned on much of anything. Some of those Blackjack players were SERIOUS. I was like, “Dude. This is a $5 minimum bet. Take your drama over to the $10 table.”
Lori taught me how to play 3 Card Poker, so that’s where I lost most of my money. The odds were crappy and there was a $.50 ante every hand, but what the hell. It was more fun and comfortable and I didn’t have to pretend I wasn’t holding a flush, which is a shame, because I actually do have a killer poker face.
Now you may laugh and say, “What in the hell is Tears for Fears doing playing in a ballroom in a casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma?” I’ll tell you what they were doing. They were killing it.
Sometimes I think about bands that have been together for 30+ years (they did break up from ’91 – 2000), and I wonder if they still love the music, or are they just keeping their noses to the proverbial grindstone? Do they still get a thrill playing their biggest hits, or do they groan every time they have to play the songs that gave them their greatest success?
I really hope not. Roland and Curt (can I call you Roland and Curt?) really did seem to have a great time on stage with each other and with the rest of their band. They were personable and funny and oh-so-British.
The next day my children were all present and accounted for when I picked them up, and 30 minutes into our drive home I kinda wanted to take them back just a little.
And now, a million concert photos.
If there is one sentence I can say to sum up how I truly feel about Anna Whiston-Donaldson’s Rare Bird: A Memoir of Loss and Love, it would be this:
This book is a gift.
And I will always feel like I cannot do this book justice in a review.
Just over three years ago, Anna was an ordinary mom with two children. Then one day, just over three years ago, Anna’s life was turned upside down when she lost her 12-year-old son, Jack, in a freak flash flood.
That summed up all I knew about Anna’s story before I read her book.
What I didn’t realize was how much I would be changed by reading Anna’s story, how much her journey through grief and pain and faith would comfort me. How it would make me a bigger believer in forces at work that are larger than all of us.
Rare Bird is not meant to be a sad book. There are moments that made me tear up, moments that made me sob, and moments that left me heartbroken as Anna and her family grapple with the fact that life must indeed go on after losing her son. But as one makes their way through the book, Anna’s journey is peppered with surprises, signs, and incredible wisdom. I came away in awe of the unshakable faith in God that Anna describes Jack having. I came away comforted by the closeness that Anna felt with God as she grieved.
“It’s about anger and profound sadness, but also about a flicker of hope that comes from the realization that in times of heartbreak, God is closer than our own skin. It’s about His being real and showing up in the pain.” – Anna Whiston-Donaldson, Rare Bird
Whether you’ve suffered a tragic loss or not, Anna’s words are relatable and her voice real. Because Rare Bird is not a story of a little boy dying. It is the journey of a family who endures one of the most difficult things imaginable and how they come together, fall apart, and live through this terrible time. Throughout the book, Anna is incredibly honest and transparent about her fears, her doubts, and even her faith, and how each of these plays a part in her tumultuous trek through grief.
But best of all, Rare Bird leaves the reader filled with hope in the knowledge that our loved ones are still with us long after they’ve gone.
Rare Bird is a gift.
You can find Rare Bird at the following retailers:
You can find Anna at her blog, An Inch of Gray.
I received an advanced reader copy of Rare Bird for review. All opinions are my own.