Tuesday, April 11, 2017

13 Reasons Why you should watch with your kids.

I haven't read the book, 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher, but I'll be purchasing a copy at our local, independent bookstore, "Let's Talk Books", this week. The Netflix series is haunting, raw, and painful to watch. To say I'm glad I watched it would be inaccurate because it was uncomfortable and heartbreaking, but it was absolutely a worthwhile experience.

I have four kids - two still live at home and are about the same ages of the characters involved. They talk to me about their lives, their struggles, their friends, their dreams... but they don't like to share the grittier parts of wading through high school. The parts we "got through" and expect our kids to "get through", too. The parts that involve alcohol, lying, cheating, drugs, gaming, risk-taking, sex, rape, love, need, depression, anxiety... suicide. The parts I know I've tucked into the dark recesses of my mind, hoping my kids will never know any of these horrifying aspects of life. The parts I don't talk about because, until recently, I didn't think my kids needed to know the details of my high school experiences, whether they were first-hand or not.

But they do.

Not because they need examples of what or what not to do--they've already sorted most of that out on their own, no thanks to the adults who think they're helping when it's possible they aren't. They need to know because even though we remind them regularly we were once teens, we forget how specific examples and detailed stories lend credibility. Maybe they would trust us a bit more if we stopped sugar-coating our teenaged experiences and started telling the raw truth. Maybe they would talk to us more if we weren't so all-knowing and simply admitted we don't have the answers, leaving off the "but together we can figure it out" because they're so far ahead of us on that.

Together, we can figure it out but not necessarily in the perfect-world-kind-of-way and not so blatantly as to make our kids go running in the opposite direction.

I watched the series with my kids. We talked about the actions and reactions of the characters and the events that transpired, but we didn't give input into what we might have done differently because I don't think we could have. They gave me insight into what I have forgotten between the layers of redesigning myself into this thing called adulthood. I gave them insight into how adults think and admitted I don't always know, or even want to know, how teens manage their intricate lives, their stresses, their social circles, their own development into adulthood. That was probably one of the most difficult things I've ever admitted, both to them and myself.

And let's be honest - it's not because I don't want to know; it's because I'm afraid to know.

I used to think we had solid relationships. The tell-me-anything kind of rapport that only happens in the most open-minded, communicative, non-judgemental kinds of families. I never dreamed that my kids kept secrets to protect me because they inherently know adults are fragile, too, even though we're supposed to be their safe spot to land. And while the series, and I'm sure the book, emphasizes that you can't go back--you can only move forward--you can certainly look back to see where you've been and how you got to where you are so you can figure out if you need to change directions.

We're doing okay--so far. My kids are pretty amazing, incredibly resilient, just as I was in my teen years. This show didn't change our lives, exactly, but it did. It opened a different, darker, more honest kind of communication.

It's hard to revisit where I've been and how I got to this moment because it's uncomfortable and heartbreaking, but it's absolutely a worthwhile experience.

Here are my 13 Reasons Why to watch this series with your kids and read the book, if you haven't already:
  1. It's difficult, and we should do difficult things together so we aren't facing our struggles alone
  2. It provides an opportunity to talk about things that really matter
  3. It addresses rape culture
  4. It addresses social stigma
  5. It shows how painful a small, seemingly benign action can be 
  6. It illustrates the distance between teens and their parents and other adults who are supposed to provide support and be positive role-models
  7. It deals with bullying when it doesn't look like bullying
  8. It touches on the damaging effects of social media
  9. It shows how we're all connected, even when we think we aren't
  10. It tells us that any action is better than no action, regardless of how imperfect it might be
  11. It tells a universal teen story, and that's terrifying
  12. It forces you to look at yourself, your kids, and your interactions with them and their friends
  13. It's absolutely worthwhile, even if it hurts or brings up painful memories so you can do better



Friday, March 31, 2017

On Alligators and Paris

You know you really need a vacation when your dreams include everything from alligators to Paris.

This week, I've had two dreams that have stuck with me. The first involved alligators, court hearings, and selfies. The second involved good friends, Paris, and shopping. Usually, my dreams are a mixed-up collage of all that's happened in the day as my mind tries to work through the weirdness to make sense of it all. These dreams were nothing like that.


The first one, the one with the court hearings and alligators, left me feeling both uneasy and accomplished. I'd been to some kind of hearing and despite having rehearsed my lines, I had opted to the tell the truth - which didn't make anyone happy but eased my conscience, so it must have been the right choice. As I walked home, following a sidewalk that bordered a river, I noticed a couple reptile-like heads bobbing in the water. My logical brain dismissed them as an over-active imagination, and I continued on. After all, I live in Canada, and alligators don't exactly thrive in this region of the world.

It must have been raining because the water started lapping at the edges of the sidewalk. As I got closer to the first lump in the water, several more appeared. By now, it was obvious they were, indeed, alligators.

Did I run? No. Did I back away? No.

I dug my phone out of my pocket, presented my back to the impending threat, and took a selfie that I immediately uploaded to Instagram and Facebook. Yup. I was that person.

And then, of course, I woke up. In real life, I'd like to think I'm not an idiot, but this dream proves otherwise.


The second dream is much more delightful. It was so fantastic, I hit snooze on my alarm twice in an attempt to recapture it, but we all know how that part of the story ends.

I was in Paris with a few of my oldest and closest friends from high school, and we were staying in a modern, luxury hotel. Our suite had a perfect view of the Eiffel Tower along with the rest of the city. We shopped, we chatted, we ate, we laughed, and not once did any of us pull out a cell phone or snap a photo. We were very much living in the moment, savouring every detail, and enjoying our longtime friendship...

Until the obnoxious chime of my alarm disturbed the peace.

I'm not going to search the web or crack open a book on dream interpretations - mostly because I'm pretty sure I won't like what I'll find, but I will take a moment to think about what these two dreams mean to me. For the past few weeks, I've been thinking about living life with purpose - really paying attention to the who, what, and where of it all. I'm not about to give up social media or my cell phone addiction, but I do think I need to spend a little more time focusing on the real world around me. I need to budget my time because it isn't infinite, but it is valuable. Every so often, my dreams speak to me, and this time, I think I got the message loud and clear.





Monday, March 20, 2017

Love you forever, sweet Panda Pooch.

Last week, we had to say goodbye to our precious pooch. She came into our lives 10 years ago, a rescue who undoubtedly rescued us. I told people she was my fit of rebellion. I wanted a dog, and my husband agreed, but I didn't bring home the creature he had envisioned. Instead of a small to mid-sized spaniel mix, Panda was a purebred mutt of gigantic proportions. She was my mid-life crisis Ferrari, only she turned out to be the most dependable Toyota.


The shelter told me she was about a year old and fully grown, but within a few months of her joining our family, she grew a couple inches taller and gained ten pounds... possibly the result of too much love and spoiling. Her nose easily crested the top of the kitchen table, where she happily snagged anything within her reach... birthday cakes, entire hams, and apples... she really loved apples.

The shelter volunteers had named her Dot, but my older kids were going through a Yu-Gi-Oh phase and decided she needed a Japanese name, so they tossed around a number of unpronounceable options from their favourite Manga shows. In the end, the youngest suggested "Panda" because she looked like one, and pandas are from Japan. It was cute, different, and appropriate - so who were we to correct a five-year-old on the origins of pandas?


Over the years, she was my constant companion. I said we got her for the kids, but she always was my girl. After getting the kids safely to school, we settled into a cozy routine. I'd write, edit or format, and she'd snore softly at my feet. She rarely barked to announce visitors, occasionally howled if she was feeling vocal, and she groaned like an old man when forced to move or do something she didn't want to. If we had unexpected company, usually of the animal type, she'd growl low and menacing, ready to protect her people, but we never knew her to be aggressive.

When my husband took work in another province, spending weeks at a time away, she promptly filled his space on the bed, keeping me warm, letting me know we were safe. Stoic, dependable, and sensitive, she supported us all through some pretty rocky times.


She'll always be part of our family, her soul is embedded in my heart, and her energy continues to filter into every corner of our lives. It's only been a week, and I know time will soften the sharp edges of grief, but today, with the kids back at school, my husband at work, and the silence of the day surrounding me... I miss her.




Tuesday, November 29, 2016

"Victoria" by Daisy Goodwin - Review

As a fictionalized history, "Victoria", by Daisy Goodwin, touches on everything from Victoria’s precarious relationship with her mother, to her childish infatuation with Lord Melbourne, to her love for Prince Albert. Her immaturity shines through in her continued dependence on Lehzen who was once her governess, but continues to care for her charge by taking on the role of lady-in-waiting. Victoria is often described as flighty, inconsistent, and emotional, which is expected of a teenager, but not of a queen. Her lack of socialization as a young child has left her friendless and suspicious, so it’s only natural she bonds with the dynamic Lord Melbourne, the current Prime Minister. Not only does she rely on his advice in matters of state, but she also depends on him for guidance in her personal life and relationships. This reliance quickly turns into infatuation, which, of course, cannot be publicly acknowledged. When Prince Albert, her Coburg cousin, is introduced, he comes across as being awkward, formal, and unyielding. Despite his faults, Victoria sets aside her disapproval of him and falls in love.

Overall, this is an easy and engaging read that combines historical fact with speculative prose to bring to life the Victorian era. Small details such as the red boxes, Victoria’s love and care of Dash, and fashion and hair styles create a realistic setting, illustrating what life might have been like for these fictionalized personalities who lived in the 1800’s. I would have liked to see more of the relationship between Prince Albert and Victoria, as her change of heart from Lord Melbourne felt abrupt. Even though this wasn’t a love story as much as a coming of age story, there’s a jump from flighty, infatuated child to confident engaged woman that feels incomplete.

I received a pre-release copy of "Victoria" by Daisy Goodwin via Netgalley for an honest review. 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

"The Whole Town's Talking" by Fannie Flagg - Review



Written with simplicity, "The Whole Town's Talking" by Fannie Flagg chronicles the birth, life, and death of a small town in Missouri. Flagg introduces an extensive cast of characters through a series of vignettes that highlight the development of the town while providing snippets of the inhabitants' lives.

Based on the title and description, I expected something of a mystery with an element of the supernatural, but this book is a straightforward social commentary on the growth and development of mid-western life in the US. Nothing strange or unusual happens, as promised in the book blurb, however, Flagg takes the lives of ordinary people and writes them into something extraordinary.

The opening remarks about the crow and the closing epilogue feel forced--dropped into the text like an afterthought to allow the book to come full-circle. Halfway through the novel, Flagg births a character who becomes a central figure in Elmwood Springs. Although her life touches most of the other characters, much of it is exposed via gossip and speculation. Her death, while not a mystery to the reader, causes a stir when her will upsets the entire ebb and flow of the town's life. In effect, her demise results on the death of the town. The epilogue provides an explanation for all that occurred, but it feels more like a gimmick, and I believe no direct explanation was necessary. With the revelation of what happens to the disappearing residents of Still Meadows, the reader could have figured out the rest.

Additionally, after forging a book steeped in history and tradition, with believable characters and events, and carefully crafted to retain interest, the revelation of the crow detracts from the excellent realism and story-telling that comes before. Crows are smart, but there are some things they can't physically do, regardless of knowledge and intelligence.

Overall, this is a pleasant book that's easy to read with engaging characters. I enjoyed the relaxed cadence of the story, reading about the townspeople of Elmwood Springs, and following their histories.

I received a pre-release copy of "The Whole Town's Talking" via Netgalley for an honest review.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

New NaNoWriMo Adventure for 2016

I've participated in NaNoWriMo every year since 2009. I don't always "win" the 50 000 words in 30 days challenge, but I believe it has helped me grow as a writer and a person.

NaNo isn't about writing a publishable project. It's about pulling together a community of writers who live around the world. We cheer each other on in real life and online. We encourage, we share, and we write about anything we want.

This year, I'm taking things a step further and am a Municipal Liaison for the "Ontario: Elsewhere" region. This group encompasses all the smaller areas throughout Ontario who don't yet have enough participants to be declared their own region.

I fully believe everyone has a story in them. You don't have to call yourself "a writer" to write. During NaNo, anything goes. Keep a journal. Write your memoirs. Write the kind of story you'd like to read. Try nonfiction or creative-nonfiction. Finish a project you already started or challenge yourself with something new. In the end, it doesn't matter if you reach the 50 000 word goal. What matters is that you tried, you challenged yourself, you exercised your brain, and you met a lot of amazing people along the way.

If you're located in or near Northumberland County (Ontario, Canada), check out our in-person meet-ups. We'll have writing prompts, snacks, friendly ears, and limitless encouragement.



Monday, September 26, 2016

Alice-Angel of Time by E. Graziani: Editor's Review



Everyone loves a happy ending—especially when it comes to young adult romance. Unfortunately, Alice of the Rocks by E. Graziani didn’t give us what we expected. The love story was sweet, the characters memorable, but there was only one ending Ms. Graziani could have written to maintain the integrity of the novel, and that’s what she gave us.

Lucky for us, a sequel was in the works, ensuring that readers wouldn’t be left disappointed, especially since they had been left wanting more after the first book. In Alice–Angel of Time, Ms. Graziani brings the Tuscan countryside of Italy back to life, along with her memorable cast of characters, including Alice, Claudio, and Leonardo da Vinci, to bring the story to its true conclusion.

Written with warmth and elegance, detailing a landscape lush in beauty, Alice–Angel of Time is everything a sequel needs to be and possibly more. While the characters remained the same, their dilemmas changed, forcing them to think beyond their immediate needs and resources. When Alice couldn’t conceive of a viable way to safely return to the past, the intervention of plausible future science propelled both her and the plot forward. When Claudio needed to find a way to escape Renaissance Italy… well, I won’t give away spoilers, but suffice to say, it happened in the least expected way.

Ms. Graziani has a knack for creating perfectly imperfect characters who take up space and make themselves at home in your mind. Alice is smart, determined, and resourceful, yet stubborn and selfish enough to be believable. Claudio, who on the surface is the perfect book boyfriend, also carries his flaws alongside his strengths, making him all the more desirable.

This two-part series is what Disney movies are made of: feisty characters, troubled villains, and unexpected heroes set against a scenic background of beauty and elegance. Suitable for most ages, this series will captivate any reader who is a fan of romance, history, and strong female characters.



Below, you'll find the book blurbs and covers for both books, but first, don't forget to check out the rest of the blog tour stops; they're a virtual tour of Alice and Claudio's adventures in Italy. The complete list of stops can be found on the Writerly Yours website. The next, and last, stop on the tour is a return to E. Graziani's blog for a recap of this amazing journey. 

Alice of the Rocks by E. Graziani

Born in 1495 and raised in 2012, Alice Ferro’s life has been anything but normal. The only problem is, she doesn’t know it. As a 17-year-old in 2029, she has an ideal life, complete with loving parents, the latest technical gadgets, and a summer vacation in Italy. Upon arriving in Florence, sensations of surreal memories begin to surface, leaving her puzzled and confused.

Knowing that reconnecting with his lost love could be dangerous for both of them, but willing to take the risk, Claudio Moro seeks out Alice in her new world. His very existence in 1512 is at stake! Having been accused of both treason and murder, he needs Alice to help clear his name and redeem his family’s honour. The question is, will Alice remember their love and care enough to leave her perfect future to redirect his doomed past?


*Available for Kindle, Kobo, and in print.


Alice-Angel of Time by E. Graziani

The dramatic conclusion to Alice of the Rocks!

Their love transcends time, space, and conflict.


Alice Ferro did not travel 500 years into the past to save her soulmate from persecution only to discover her journey had been in vain! Forced to return from 1512 Italy to 2029 Canada without him, she cannot focus on family, school, or friends as thoughts of Claudio constantly flood her mind. When she discovers her love’s future is dire, Alice decides she must return to the past to save him once and for all.

With some help, a bit of deceit, and a lot of determination, Alice sets off to rescue Claudio. Unfortunately, she hadn’t planned on things going so terribly wrong, and she soon finds her own life in peril.


Written with charm and intelligence, the sequel to Alice of the Rocks encompasses everything you could want in a young adult, time-travel romance. Adventure, true love, intrigue, and dynamic characters fill the pages alongside the elegant landscape of Renaissance Italy.


*Available for Kindle, Kobo, and in print.