Throwback Thursday: Durango 2009

When autumn rolled around during our first year in Amarillo, we were starving for sweeping mountains of bright color. We were missing autumn in east Tennessee and there were only a few older neighborhoods in Amarillo that had the kind of trees we wanted to see. On what felt like a whim, we packed up the kids and escaped to Durango, Colorado, in search of fall foliage and to ride the Narrow Gauge Railroad to Silverton. Continue reading

Writing Designing Reading Photographing

When I haven’t been talking to Jeremy about abortion, Monica Lewinsky, or what it means to give the middle finger, I’ve super busy with lots of creative and exciting projects. First and foremost is the novel. I just hit 121,000 words, which is still painfully long, but I refuse to cut anything until I’m done getting all of my words out. My goal is to finish by mid-November so I can print everything out and edit over Thanksgiving. It’s a reasonable goal as long as I keep this momentum. The end is close, so I have no more excuses to give. Also, I’ve convinced a few folks to be pseudo-editors on my behalf, though I’m happy to have a few more, if any of you are interested. I cannot open that circle too wide, though. Too much input is… too much.

I’m also working on a few design projects, so InDesign and Photoshop are opened daily. They love the attention.

Reading-wise, I’m about to finish a fantasy novel that is both boring and ridiculous. I appreciate a sensible effort to create a world of possibility in another realm, but if none of the proper names of people and places are easily enunciated, I’m entirely turned off. My eyes glaze over and I want to surrender. Unfortunately, I can’t stop reading it since it’s part of my Genre Writing class. When I’m not reading about goblins and elves, I’m reading a unique story called Mr. Sebastian and the Negro Magician by Daniel Wallace, who also wrote Big Fish. (Remember the 2003 movie with Ewan McGregor? Yeah, same writer.) I’m nearly finished, so I’ll post a review soon. It’s one of the books I picked up at The Lantern in Georgetown.

Finally, there’s some photography going on around here, which TOTALLY ROCKS MY SOCKS OFF. What a fun hobby, you guys! I just love taking pictures of happy people and giving them something to keep forever. My last session was with a family we know from church. There were laughs all around. Continue reading

So Jeremy asked about abortion.

Really. He keeps me on my toes.

I’m sure he’s heard the word before, not because abortion is our regular dinner conversation, but because he is always listening to everything going on around him. Case in point: we usually listening to sports talk radio in the afternoons, and there have been times in recent years when we’ve turned it off, like when Penn State was all over the news in 2011. We censor when we need to.

I’d been doing a good job of censoring the radio recently since voting on Amendment 1 in Tennessee has been a heated issue for weeks now. Whenever I sensed a commercial coming on telling us to vote yes or no, I’d flip the station. However, my reflexes weren’t so good the other day and as soon as the woman’s voice came over the airwaves, “Many flock to Tennessee for abortions–” Jeremy chimed in, “Mom, what’s abortion?”

Great. Fan-freaking-tastic.

Continue reading

TBT: The first race

Running The Middle Half with Lesli was special, not only because it was held in the city where we met, but also because I credit her with getting me into running races. She ran her first half marathon in 2006 and I was so inspired by it that I wanted to do the same thing.

She joined me for my first (her second) and together we ran the Country Music Half Marathon in Nashville on April 28, 2007. Had Lesli not tested her own will to run 13.1 miles, I’m not sure I would have.

Gotta love the picture quality from an old Samsung flip phone:

First half marathon

Photos from Corey and Gwen’s wedding

The primary reason we went to Washington DC last month was so that I could stand next to my oldest, dearest friend at her wedding. Since I was busy holding a bouquet and all, I couldn’t take my own photos. Here a few I snagged from her photographer.

Out of all the lovely pictures, this one captures our 22-year friendship perfectly. It’s my fave:

Best friends

This one is a close second:

Corey and Me on her wedding day Continue reading

Book Review: Left Neglected

The synopsis of Left Neglected prepares you for the accident. Sarah is a busy working mother of three, living the high life in Boston, working her tail off to give her children private school, a house in a prestigious neighborhood, and a vacation home in Vermont where they ski in the winter months. Her job demands her attention all day, every day, so much that she’s doing business in bed at night and in the car on the way to the drop-off line. And so it goes: Sarah crashes her car while fiddling on her cell phone and suffers a traumatic brain injury.

Left Neglected

Originally I thought Sarah would have the sort of brain injury that led to paralysis and perhaps she’d end up neglected by family members or hospital staff, but that’s not how it turned out. Her injury resulted in what’s called Left Neglect, a condition in which your brain quite literally does not recognize the left side of anything, including your own body. You don’t eat the food on the left side of your plate, you don’t see the left side of a room, and your left arm and leg become lifeless (not paralyzed, just ignored). It is a condition closely connected with stroke victims, but it’s entirely possible to have Left Neglect as a result of illness or a traumatic brain injury.

But back to Sarah. Of course her life is turned upside down from this event. She was speeding through life and it was brought to a complete halt. The book chronicles the year following her accident as she navigated rehab, relationships, and accepting the inevitable: her life was never going to be the same.

The story is written in first person, so we spend a lot of time in Sarah’s head, an essential component for a story about brain injury. Though there’s a bit of predictability at the end, I thought it was a well-writing cautionary tale about what life could look like if we all don’t slow down.

Medal No. 12 and Race Report

The odds were not in my favor. I’d not trained as well as I should have and whatever is spawning in East Tennessee right now invaded my sinuses with a massive army. The pressure in my ears is unreal. Chuck’s work travel schedule interrupted my travel plans to Middle Tennessee and that meant childcare had to be rearranged. And then there was tons upon tons of rain.

After sorting out a list of details and we were finally the road to Murfreesboro, Lesli and I encountered a large dog in the road who wasn’t fazed by interstate traffic. Even though I swerved to miss him and all the traffic swerved to miss me, I wondered if the Universe was trying to tell us something. The forecast for race day was wet with the potential for thunder and lightning. They won’t cancel the race for rain, but they would for storms. How annoying would that be after all we’d already endured!

We made it in time to pick up our bibs and enjoy dinner with friends. Take that, Universe!

With Lesli after packet pick up

Continue reading

Throwback Thursday: Baby Major

Our blue tick will be two years old in December and he’s topped out at 75 pounds. He’s turned into a fabulous running buddy and is fiercely loyal to our family. It is a miracle that this is the dog we ended up with, especially since his puppy phase was mostly miserable. Caring for him was like having eight toddlers with sharp teeth.

I took Major to the vet today for yet another ear problem. He’s prone to yeast infections in his ears so we got new medicine to remedy it. When the vet assistant came in the room, she said, “I just looked through his chart and he was only seven pounds when we first saw him!”

Yep. I remember that.

TBT January 23, 2013

The line between paranoid and cautious

On my run in the country this evening I was approached by three people in a pick-up truck – two men, one older than the other, and a young girl in the cab. Major didn’t bark or growl, but I was immediately struck with fear. Before the driver said a word, I thought, Am I about to get shot?

He was polite. He even excused himself for interrupting my run.

“Have you seen a brown pit bull mix running around?” he asked.

I shook my head, wishing I’d brought my cell phone. “No, I don’t think so.”

“He’s been gone about an hour and we think he’s nearby.”

I shook my head again and shrugged. I watched the driver reach his hand towards the console and again I thought, Is this when I get shot? Or is this an abduction?

Continue reading

Pinterest for Anniversary No. 14

I could post old photos of us from the last 18 years of being together, 14 of which have been as a married couple, but I’ve done that a dozen times. Here’s last year from Vegas, here’s the year before that when we were camping. Here’s a photo that was taken about five months after we started dating in 1996.

Instead, I’ll share with you a few of my favorite things I’ve pinned to my husband-specific board on Pinterest. It’s a dumping ground for building furniture, Mad Men references, and homages to beards and tattoos. Occasionally, I post something sweet to remind myself (and him) that this journey we’re on is the best. Continue reading

Conclusions on Gone Girl

GoneGirlWhen I read this book last year, I was hooked on every word, relishing the twists and giddy over all of the things I didn’t see coming. It was brilliant – right until the end. Then, like a sucker, I had fallen for a story that left me unsatisfied and ripped off, like I’d been taken on a fabulous date only to be dumped on the doorstep. I took to the internet and found solace with others like me who rejected Gillian Flynn’s ending. I also discovered that there was another group, just as strong, who defended the book in its entirety. We were at an impasse.

Before I dig in, I’m going to give you an out. For those who’ve not read the book (or seen the movie), turn away NOW so you aren’t exposed to spoilers. If you don’t care either way, go ahead, but I’m going to talk plainly about this story so consider yourself warned.

Continue reading

Tennessee may have lost to Florida, but…

…Jackson got a hug from a Tennessee cheerleader. Focus on the positive, people.

Jackson gets a hug

Here are a few other photos from the Vol Walk this morning. No comment on the game. Continue reading

“I cannot live without books.”

This morning, on my way from the bedroom to the kitchen, the tornado of books in the living room gave me pause. Judy Moody, Big Nate, The Strange Case of Origami Yoda… they were everywhere. My perfectionism surged and I started stacking books by size on the coffee table. Jackson, who was waiting patiently in the kitchen for his Strawberry Mini Wheats, got concerned.

“What are you doing?”

“The living room is a mess,” I told him. “There are too many books in here.”

I cannot live without books,” he said calmly.

My heart beamed.

“I know. Me neither. But we can at least stack them neatly.”

Continue reading

Channeling Eleanor Roosevelt and Tim Gunn

Eleanor RooseveltChuck and I are slowly making our way through the Ken Burns series about the Roosevelts, which we recorded while we were in Washington D.C. Last night we wrapped the episode retelling Theodore Roosevelt’s death and Eleanor’s discovery that her husband, Franklin, had been having an affair. The entirety of the series is excellent, and for someone who did a mediocre job in history classes, it’s a great refresher for me. While the parts about Theodore and Franklin are engaging, my ears perk to their fullest when the attention turns to Eleanor. She’s intriguing in every way politically and professionally. To get to know her more intimately, I plan to read through her daily newspaper columns that ran for nearly thirty years, concluding at her death.

Changing topics, but not really, I’ve been wondering lately if I’m living in the monkey house. It’s a Tim Gunn reference from Project Runway, and while that doesn’t carry the same dignity and prestige as quoting Eleanor Roosevelt, here me out. Several seasons ago Tim Gunn, mentor to the fashion designers in competition with one another, visited a finalist in his home to critique his collection. The designer raised eyebrows by using human hair on some of his garments. Tim was disconcerted and wasted no time gently telling Chris that he should be worried:

“I have this refrain about the monkey house at the zoo. When you first enter into the monkey house, you think, ‘Oh my god this place stinks!’ And then after you’re there for twenty minutes you think, ‘it’s not so bad’ and after you’re there for an hour it doesn’t smell at all. And anyone entering the monkey house freshly thinks, ‘this stinks!’ You’ve been living in the monkey house.”

What in the world does this have to do with me? Everything. More specifically, the novel. As someone who’s lived her life under the weight of self-doubt and skepticism, it feels completely unnatural to be this confident about my work of fiction. I love it. I insanely love it. I love it like a child. I’m protective of it, frustrated with it, gentle with it, concerned for it, and very, very much in love with the people I’ve created.

I love it so much that I wonder if it stinks and I just don’t smell it.


May We Be Forgiven

May We Be forgivenThis is perhaps the most unusual book I’ve read in a while. I’ve tried to nail down a better adjective, but unusual always comes back around – unusual and unique.

I bought the book while I was in Santa Fe with Michele, and after reading the first three pages, I wanted to read more. Of course, the first three pages did not prepare me for the next 477.

Frankly, I’m not even confident I could write an informative synopsis, but what’s the harm in trying?

Written in first person and present tense, we go alongside Harold Silver whose life used to be predictable and mundane. But after his brother, George, commits a violent crime, Harry’s day-to-day becomes one impossible situation after another. He becomes responsible for his niece and nephew, whom he hardly knows, as well as aging parents that aren’t his own. The web he weaves through internet sexcapades don’t help matters, and then the cat has a mess of kittens. All the mediocre college professor really wants to do is finish his research on Richard Nixon and forget his brother ever existed. Buying him an iPad was a really wrong move. Who knew you could start so much trouble through Amazon?

The book spans one year exactly, and after 365 days have passed, Harry’s life is on completely different trajectory. May We Be Forgiven is a dark comedy – emphasis on dark – and it earned A.M. Homes the 2013 Women’s Prize for Fiction.May We be forgiven Cranberry edition

A note about the cover: The first image reflects the cover of the book I own. However, I have to say the updated version is pretty clever too. You will understand the significance of both the lamp and the canned cranberry sauce within the first ten pages. I would say the first chapter, but there are no chapters.

Did I mention this book is odd? The fact that I’m still thinking about it tells me something important about the author. Despite the number of times I shook my head while reading it, or turned to Chuck and said, “This book is so weird,” the story left an impression on me, and in the arena of art, that’s a good thing. Whether or not you like a piece of art is almost irrelevant. If you’re still talking about it weeks after seeing it (or reading it), perhaps the artist (or writer) did her job. After all, where’s the inspiration in indifference?


The Lantern and my favorite banned book

There were two things on my To See list in Washington. The first was the Library of Congress and the second was The Lantern, a small shop for used and rare books. It’s run by volunteers and proceeds go to support the Bryn Mawr College scholarship fund. Win, win.

The Lantern is in Georgetown, and since we took a ferry ride on the Potomac from Alexandria to Georgetown on Friday, I anticipated floating back up the river with new books in hand.

The ferry ride was part of the pre-wedding activities, so the boat was full of family and friends. From the week, this is my favorite photo of Corey and me. Anchors away, my friend! So glad to be on the journey with you. ♥Corey and me 9-19-14

The bookshop was modest but organized, and if I had an extra hour to kill, I would’ve purchased a lot more than I did. Independent shops like these are my favorite, but only – and I mean only – if they are well-kept, thoughtfully categorized, and clean. The Lantern was all of these things. I browsed the stacks as quickly as I could while Chuck and the boys waited for me outside. God bless them and their endless patience. Since we had a ferry to catch, I couldn’t peruse too long.

The Lantern Bookstore

These were my finds. I spent a whopping $11:

The Lantern books

Finally, in honor of Banned Books Week, I’m posting a photo of my favorite banned book. No reader should be deprived of Nurse Ratched and McMurphy:

Banned Book Kesey

What’s YOUR favorite?


Throwback Thursday: My mom in the 60s

First, a story.

When I was in college (late 90s), I decided to come home for the weekend on a whim. I didn’t tell my parents beforehand (no cell phone, of course) but instead drove straight from my dorm room to the library where my mom was working. I parked the car, walked inside, and saw that my mother was working at the main desk directly in front of me. She didn’t look up from her work, so I calmly, quietly walked forward until I was standing less than two feet away from her. Finally, her eyes met mine and she let out a gasp. It wasn’t the sort of gasp that said, “Hey! You’re home!” Instead, it was one of shock.

“Oh my goodness!” she said. “It’s like looking in a mirror!”

For a split second, instead of seeing her own daughter, my mother saw her college-age self.

All my life I’ve been told I look like her, and it’s the greatest compliment. We have the same smile and very simliar eyes, and though her face is more slender and mine is more round, our features are close enough to one another that sometimes I see a photo of Mom and think, “Yep, there I am.”

While we were in Washington last week, we spent a couple of evenings with my grandparents. (Pictures to come!) In my grandmother’s office hangs a quilt with squares of pictures scattered throughout. One picture in particular stood out to me and it was this one:

The Thomas family in the 1960s

I’m assuming that it was taken in the mid-60s, and after this post goes up, I have no doubt Grandma or Grandpa will email me with the correct year. My mom is the only daughter and the oldest of four. This is one of those photos that when I look at my mother I see myself. Chuck disagrees, but I see it. Do you?

Gallery, Natural History, and the White House

Our second day of sight-seeing took us to the usual suspects. I was surprised and pleased that the boys enjoyed the National Gallery, even after Jeremy announced, “These people need more clothes on.” The Greeks and Italians loved their bosoms.

(Click photos for larger versions.)

Gallery gazing

It was nice to visit family – President James Monroe is my cousin, eight times removed:

Visiting our cousin

To be clear, we are unrelated to Napoleon Bonaparte:

Two women in a window


Red draping

Natural History

Yellow flower

Old Smitty

Gotta love the telephoto lens for White House photos: The White House

Speaking of the White House, we were hoping to score a tour this time around but our application was misplaced by the folks who work for Rep. Duncan. Boo on them.

Library, Air and Space, Archives

Yep, the Library photos are my faves. Will someone please paint my ceiling like this? (Click on the photos for a larger view.)

Color in the library

The untouchables:The Stacks

Most amazing view from the second floor of the Library:
The view from the library window

I love that donations to the museums come in all currencies: Donations

Men looking at suspended airplanes:Chuck and Jeremy at the Air and Space

Hot Air in the Air and Space

My heart swells:
Leaving the Air and Space

No pictures allowed inside:National Archives

Two of my favorite people on the planet:
Two favorite people

The Library and Me

We got home from Washington D.C. late last night, so today we are zombies climbing mounds of laundry. Seven days of visiting with family and friends, sight-seeing on foot, and celebrating nuptials will do that to you. Even though national monuments and museums absolutely count towards school for the boys, I had to find time here and there to do my own school work. Once I get caught up on Genre Writing assignments, I’ll start uploading and editing photos – of which there are many.

Even though we’ve been to D.C. a dozen times I had never been to the Library of Congress, so it was first on my list to see. Oh, friends. The architecture is magnificent. I’m sure those photos will be my favorite. The only bit that was anti-climactic is that they don’t allow tourists in the stacks. No touching or smelling the books. No running my fingertips along the rows of old spines. No pretending that my work is somewhere among the other published writers. I was able to observe the stacks from a long distance, behind glass, and I suppose that’s good enough if it protects those precious papers from people who don’t respect them.

Still. Would’ve been nice.

Here we are, the Library and me, at our first acquaintance:

The Library of Congress

TBT: A Salute – Re-blogging from 2012

On account of the date and it being Thursday, I felt it only appropriate to re-blog a post I wrote on August 28, 2012.

I got home late last night from Girls Weekend in Washington DC and spent just enough time uploading photos and editing a small few. Then I crashed into bed and watched mindless television.

There is much to post about Girls Weekend, but I will have to divulge more later since zoo classes are today and we’re all still sitting in our pajamas.

However, I will share this: On the flight from Atlanta to Washington, the pilot disclosed that there was a fallen soldier on board who was to be interred at Arlington. The pilot then requested that all passengers, minus the accompanying Captain, wait our turn to deplane. Obviously, we all did as we were told, because when you see something like this from your window seat, suddenly your plans for the day seem a lot less important.


Fantasy Photo Session

Fortunately for me, I know a fantastic dancer who’s gorgeous and has lots of great costumes. She let me play around the other night and I’m SO GRATEFUL because it was a ton of fun. I should be working on a thousand other things, but I just had to do this shoot. Had. To.

See? Gorgeous.

haley6 low res wm



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