Looking Back, Moving Forward

It is Evan’s first day of preschool. I will tell you all about it once I’ve accepted that fact that this is happening. And I promise you there will be pictures. But as much as we are excited about moving forward, I couldn’t approach this milestone without looking back.

Saying goodbye to Evan’s sitter on Friday broke my heart a little. She has cared for him since he was 12 weeks old. She’s comforted him when I couldn’t be there. She’s fed him more breakfasts and lunch than I have. She’s put him down for more naps than I have. For the last two years, he has spent more weekday waking hours with her than with me. She has had a very large role in raising my child from the baby he was to the toddler he is.

Two years ago, almost to the day, I was returning to work from maternity leave. I was an anxious, tearful wreck. I was sure I couldn’t leave my baby with a near stranger. I was sure she wouldn’t care for him the way I would. How could she, with 4 other kids to watch? I was terrified about leaving Evan with anyone else. I gave her a written notes on how to feed him, change him, and soothe him.

But after a few days, I realized we could do this working/daycare thing. And after a few months, I realized Evan was still thriving. I was new to this caring-for-a-child thing, but she had 20+ years of experience to balance that out.

Now, we had our ups and downs. I sat in her house sobbing for an hour one day when she forced me to accept the reality that he was hungry and I didn’t have enough milk and I was going to need to consider the formula I spent 6 hard months avoiding. I spent many annoyed days home with a perfectly healthy kid because she had deemed him “sick” unnecessarily. After doing it for a year, she gave me a hard time about cloth diapering to the point that I finally just sent in disposables.

But she also got me through the challenges of introducing solids and dropping naps. She reassured me that I was doing a good job, even when I felt like I had no idea what I was doing. My son was more loved because he had our love and her love.

This isn’t goodbye forever. No one is moving. We can still visit and she’s offered to watch him on school holidays. But I know that if I am feeling this strongly about the end of this two year relationship, that it will be even harder on her and on Evan. Change is a part of life and this is Evan’s first big experience with that. I know he is going to love school. I know he is ready for this new phase. But I wish I could explain to him why he isn’t going to be seeing his sitter every day .

I promised her I wouldn’t share the last picture I took of her and Evan on Friday online. She thought she looked like a mess. She had just spent ten hours caring for other people’s children for the fifth day in the row. Of course she looked like a mess. It’s a hard job raising other people’s children. Her work day is longer than mine. Her tiny clients are more demanding than mine. She doesn’t get to go our for lunch or take a personal day.  I am going to respect her wishes and not share that photo here, but I know Evan will love her in it just the way she is.

The Graduate [Wordless Wednesday]

I shared one graduation photo on Sunday…

… but here are a few more.

Evan was pretty content playing on the lawn for most of the ceremony and Ben was looking pretty happy up there in his gown.

As the ceremony went on, Evan became a little more interested in what was going on.

And when Ben stood up to receive his diploma and hood…

…Evan thought he needed a buddy…

…and then he thought he would stay up there.

We’re all a bit proud of our graduate.


We Were Liars [Book Review]

TitleWe Were Liars
Author: E. Lockhart
Genre: Contemporary YA
Pages: 240
Year: 2014
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Source: Personal Collection
Rating: 4.5/5


The wealthy Sinclair family summers on their private island on Cape Cod. But when she was 15, after her parents got divorced, Candace suffered a mysterious accident and she hasn’t been back since. Now she is 18 and itching to return to the idyllic days of running around the island with her cousins, the “Liars.” But things are not so idyllic anymore.

My Thoughts:

This book was ADDICTIVE, a read-it-in-one-sitting book.

I would have given it the full 5 stars if my reading experience wasn’t slightly marred by the very campaign attempting to prevent the marring.

This is not just excellent YA. It is excellent storytelling. E. Lockhart is simply a fantastic storyteller. I am pushing We Were Liars on everyone. Including you. Go read it right now.

Buy It Now

TSS: July in Review

Well that was an unproductive blogging month. Not even worth recapping. But life still went on.

Evan and I had a busy month together.

I read four books, which I may or may not ever tell you about.

We met Ben in Minneapolis.

My mom came to visit.

And we went on a little road trip to Bonita Springs.

We discovered some new places around town.

We went to Santa Fe.



Where we watched Ben receive his Masters in English.


And Ben came home.

That’s what I was doing while I wasn’t blogging.

If I Still Read Books, I Would Read These Books

I’m not very good at reviewing books, and I’m only sort of okay at reading them, but I can still grow a list of books I WANT to read like the best of them. So I am breaking my radio silence to share some books that I wish I were reading.

Plus, it’s just been a long time since I’ve done a TBR post.

I felt like Jennifer Weiner had a little slump there for a few books but I loved her last one and this one sounds so good.

This is my intellectual add. I probably won’t actually read it. Because that would require me to read something other than YA.

I adored Lydia’s first book. Of course I will be reading this one.

I will be devouring this the minute it arrives in the mail from Jen. (Get it?)

I haven’t actually read anything by Jojo Moyes before. But I keep meaning to.

This one has been on my TBR for awhile but I swear I am pushing it to the top. You can thank Erica.


So what would you like to be reading?

This Side of Salvation [Book Review]

TitleThis Side of Salvation
Author: Jere Smith-Ready
Genre: Contemporary Young Adult
Pages: 384
Year: 2014
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Source: Public Library
Rating: 5/5


After David’s brother died, his family got religious. And then his parents got SUPER religious and joined up with a group of people who believe in the Rush – the rapture at a specific time and place. David doesn’t buy it and neither does his sister. But when they come back from an after-prom party the night of the alleged Rush, they find their parents gone. The two, along with David’s best friend and girlfriend go on a search, while – in alternating chapters – we learn exactly how they got to this point.

My Thoughts:

This book solidified my love of Jeri Smith-Ready. You all know I adored her Shade series. But, it turns out she can write about more than ghosts and solstices.

This book stays engaging by alternating between the past and the present. I would finish one chapter and just keep going with the next and the next. It was a perfect read to cope with this year-long reading slump.

I loved David. I loved Bailey. I loved Mara. The parents drove me crazy. The teenage angst was perfect. The conflicted relationships with God were realistic. I simply loved this story.

I hope you all check this out. I know Jeri’s Shade series wasn’t for everyone, but this book is. I can’t wait to see what she comes out with next.

TSS: June in Review

It’s hard to believe the year is half over and it’s time to wrap up June. Well, I’m a day early. But I won’t finish a book by tomorrow. So here I am.


YOU GUYS. I had my best reading month all year! I finished 5 books and it was amazing. I am sticking with YA for awhile to keep this up.

  • The One by Kiera Cass
  • Siren’s Song by Heather McCollum
  • This Side of Salvation by Jeri Smith-Ready
  • Hemingway’s Girl by Erika Roburn
  • The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wicker

Look for those reviews soon…

I also reviewed:

And shared:


I am actually going for a run this morning. A real, legit run. I got injured in early April so it’s been nearly 3 months since I’ve gone on one. And I have suffered for it. But I’m excited to hit the pavement again. Despite the humidity and heat.

I tried to do that ab challenge in June that everyone was doing – and I made it much further than everyone else I knew – but I gave up around Day 22. It just got too hard. Thinking about doing a yoga challenge in July to stay active while I can’t actually get to the gym or dance class.


Evan is a handful. Ben left and he seems to be pretty terrified that I am also going to leave. Other than daycare (where he has always been comfortable with me dropping him off), he barely lets me leave the room. Ben’s sister is here this weekend helping me out (she was getting me ice cream as I typed this), which is great, we’re going to see Ben next weekend in Minnesota for a wedding (where I plan on promptly handing Evan over to someone and then running away), my mom will be here the weekend after that, then just one more weekend on my own before we head to New Mexico for Ben’s graduation. I can do that. Right?

The Sunday Salon.com

Summer Shorts ’14: A Discussion with Author Jane Cawthorne and Narrator Dawn Harvey

June is Audiobook Month and the audiobook community is giving back! Spoken Freely, a group of more than 40 professional narrators, has teamed with Going Public and Tantor Media to celebrate June is Audiobook Month (JIAM) by offering Summer Shorts ’14, an audio collection of poetry, short stories and essays. All proceeds from sales of the collection will go to ProLiteracy, a national literacy outreach and advocacy organization.

Throughout June 2014, 1-2 stories, poems and essays will be released online each day via Going Public, as well as on various author and book blogs. As a “Thank you!” to listeners, pieces will be available for free online listening on their day of release. As a bonus for those who purchase the full collection from Tantor Media in support of ProLiteracy, there are over 20 additional tracks only available via the compilation download. You can purchase the collectionHERE. Special pricing of $9.99 through June 30th, in celebration of JIAM. $14.99 from July 1st forward. You can read more about the project here.

Today I have the pleasure of hosting author Jane Cawthorne and narrator Dawn Harvey. Their contribution to this project is Something as Big as a Mountain. Since I had both Jane and Dawn, I thought I would host a little discussion about the making of an audiobook and the interaction of author and narrator.


As an author, what is it like to have your book turned into an audiobook? Do you struggle sharing your words to another voice?

Jane: No because I wrote a couple of plays and one was produced many times. I got used to hearing my work interpreted in a variety of ways. It was a really important thing for me to learn as a writer. I try my best to write in a way that conveys my intention, but readers bring their own experience and knowledge to the text and they interpret it in their own way.  The tone, inflection and delivery of the words can change everything. Often these changes are for the better. Most of the time, I don’t know how a reader is interpreting the work as he or she reads, but with an audio book, it’s right there.
How do you ensure that you do your best to capture the voice created by the author?

Dawn: Before I even think to go anywhere near a microphone, I have spent a lot of time reading and analyzing the work.  I pull out character and story information, research places and names, research accents and dialects, find voices for the characters and make a note of anything that I don’t understand or that doesn’t seem right to me.   I’ve been quite lucky in that, with several of the books/stories that I have narrated, I have been able to communicate with the author prior to recording.  By the time I get into the recording booth, I know the stories and the characters almost as well as the author does.   Many times while preparing books I have found errors or discrepancies in the material that had been missed by the author and his/her editors.  You know that you’ve studied the material very well when you catch things that all other have missed!   By discussing with the author anything that has me confused or that doesn’t sit right, I ensure that I am telling the story that they want to have told.  At the end of the day, by working together in this way, we create a better reading experience for readers (where I have helped to correct the manuscript) and a better listening experience for listeners because I have told the story that the author was trying to tell.  When you can’t clarify things with the author, you do the best you can with what you’ve got.  The internet helps sometimes.  In either case, and particularly with a good writer, their voice speaks to you through the writing itself.  If you get the story, you hear the voice.

Can you describe the author/narrator interaction? Do you work closely with each other?

Jane: Dawn had me listen to an early take. She invited me to comment and I felt free to make suggestions. But really, it was great so I think I might have made a correction on a place name pronunciation or something minor like that. Dawn’s voice is really deep and sonorous and she has a very serious take on this work, probably more serious than me. I can be a little self-deprecating. But the serious take is appropriate because it is about a big challenge. When I first wrote it and did a public reading, I got  kind of choked up. Of course Dawn can keep things on a more even keel and stay professional. In other words, Dawn can read it better than I can.

Dawn: I work as closely with the author as the author will let me!  I try to collaborate with them as much as possible.  But I can add that Jane’s case was different from the other works I have done because I have known Jane for a long time.  Several years ago, I was in a play she had written called “The Mother Auditions”.   We bonded during that show and have kept in touch ever since.  As well as being friends, we support and appreciate each other’s professional works.  So, working with Jane was easy.  I was never afraid she would be offended by my questions or comments (always scary when you point out imperfections in someone’s baby!) nor I by her’s.  We both wanted to create the best listening experience we could and egos can get in the way of that.  Neither Jane nor I operate that way and I knew that going in so that helped to make this a really great experience.

Tell us a little bit about Something as Big as a Mountain. It is autobiographical, yes?

Jane: Something As Big as a Mountain is about my experience as a novice mountaineer. I have always been a back country hiker and I had started doing some climbing and I decided at almost fifty years old that I’d go mountaineering for the first time. Who does that? I wasn’t consciously aware of my real motivation. Part way through the trip, I realized I was trying to prove to myself that I could accomplish something so physically demanding after recovering from cancer. I was trying to prove that I was better and the illness was behind me. As a mountaineer, I was a bit of a disaster, but in terms of showing myself I had moved past a bad time in my life, it went pretty well.

How did you approach Something as Big as a Mountain? Is it a challenge to narrate an autobiographical story?

As I have already mentioned, Jane and I have known each other for several years.  I went to a public reading she did a few years ago where she read an excerpt from “Something as Big as a Mountain.”  I loved the piece.  When you listen to the story, if you haven’t already, you’ll be taken by Jane’s style of writing.  Her descriptions of the scenery and her experiences in it are so incredible.  So, when Xe Sands invited me to take part in this project, I immediately thought of the story I’d heard Jane read.   I contacted her to ask if I could use that story I had heard her read at the public reading.  I was thrilled when she immediately said yes.  She sent me the story right away – but it was the wrong one.  She had sent me “Weight”.  I read it but I knew it wasn’t the story I had been thinking of, the name of which I didn’t remember.  Turns out that I must have gone to two readings and Jane and I were each thinking of different ones.  She then sent me “Mountain.”  Subsequently, Xe indicated that she was looking for some bonus pieces so “Weight” ended up in the bonus material.  Well, that was a good story but a major digression from the question.  I knew Jane but I didn’t know about her fight with cancer until I read the whole story.  The excerpt I’d heard her read didn’t mention the cancer if I recall correctly.  I can’t imagine I would have forgotten.  So, I knew Jane and now I had found out this thing about her past that she has had to live through.  I lost my best friend to cancer a few years ago and that sits just in the back of my mind all the time so this story hit home with me in terms of what Jane had gone through because I knew what Deb had gone through.  I think that being Jane’s friend made me even more connected to the story than I might otherwise have been.  As a narrator, being connected to the story is the key to any good narration and I have never felt so connected to a story before.   I am very proud of how this story turned out and I’m sure my connection with Jane is why it worked so well.

It is necessary to have this connection in all stories.  In autobiographical ones, there is a feeling of greater responsibility in “getting it right” because these are events that really happened, not a fiction.  Fiction can be interpreted by the reader.  Best not to be “interpreting” too much in autobiographies or you can get away from the truth of the author.  I guess that would be the biggest challenge of audiobooks in general but I didn’t feel that challenge in this particular case for the reasons I stated above.


Thank you Jane and Dawn for taking part in this project and giving us a little inside look at audiobooks.  Something as Big as a Mountain is fantastic, and I urge you all to take a list. Plus, if you purchase the full collection, you’ll get an additional short story, Weight, written by Jane and narrated by Dawn (which I, personally, think I liked even more).
Listen to Something as a Big as a Mountain:

A little about Jane Cawthorne:

I’m a Canadian, living in Boston and am currently completing an MFA in Creative Writing at Pine Manor College. When I first started writing professionally, I wrote opinion pieces for newspapers and magazines, taking up the topics that haunted me as a teacher. My shift into fiction started with a few creative non-fiction essays. I tried my hand at short fiction and wrote a couple of plays as well. Now, I’m working on a novel. I don’t talk about work in progress because, in the immortal words of Gord Downie, “no one’s interested in something you didn’t do.” I’ve also recently joined the Crabapple Mews Collective, a group of writers helping each other publish great work.

A little about Dawn Harvey:

I am also a Canadian and I live in Calgary, Alberta.  I’ve been performing most of my life but somehow along the way I also picked up both Bachelor and Master of Laws degrees.  Sometimes life leads us in strange directions but mine, thankfully, led me straight back to the arts several years ago after a short hiatus.  I began narrating audiobooks about 3 years ago and am absolutely loving it.  Take a girl who loves to read, talk and act and give her a job as an audiobook narrator and you pretty much have bliss!  I am so thrilled to have been included in the Summer Shorts program this year with so many talented narrators.  Thanks Xe Sands – sure hope we can do this again next year!

Check out yesterday’s posts

Mike ChamberlainThe Statement of Randolph Carter, by H.P. Lovecraft @ MV Freeman’s blog
Dufris/AudioComics, Audio Theatre: Cask of Amontillado, by Edgar Allan Poe @ Jenn’s Bookshelves
John McLainThe Black Cat, by Edgar Allan Poe @ Going Public

and don’t miss tomorrow’s:

Tanya EbyThe Girl at the Gate, by Lucy Maud Montgomery @ Miss Susie’s Reading & Observations

And, finally, a big thank you to Xe Sands for organizing this HUGE project and, as the month is wrapping up, a big congratulations as well!