Category: books

wild: from lost to found on the pacific crest trail

WildTP_Books-330I finished Wild by Cheryl Strayed this morning.

Doug took the kids to school so I could have a few minutes before the Valentine’s Day parties descended.  I read this book because a friend told me it was worth reading. And of course now I want to add hiking the PCT to my bucket list—something Doug and I can do together once all our kids are up and away. Is that something that’s unique to me? Or do other readers all of a sudden find themselves considering things because they read about it in a book?

So I probably won’t actually hike the whole PCT. But I would like to get my backpack out of the garage, dust it off, invest in a new pair of hiking shoes and go on a few trips with my family while we have this time together.

When I added this book to my Goodreads list, I noticed some reviewers giving one or two stars to the book. Curious, I clicked on their comments. Keeping in mind that the author/narrator is a real person, I found their comments hateful. There are a myriad of ways to respond to grief. It takes something out of us—and it’s unique to the individual. Grief is an impossible emotion with which to empathize. And I am so thankful to the author for being honest about the depths to which her grief took her.

She didn’t gloss over anything—not the way she hurt herself or others, the drugs, or the affairs. She lost. She grieved. And here, she recounts her journey out of that darkness—a tangible journey along the PCT. I found her experience moving, full of falls and re-starts. Untrained, and full of desperation, she did something many of us would never attempt.

I wanted to share some of my favorite quotes I found along the way…

I ached for the shelter of my tent, for the smallest sense that something was shielding me from the entire rest of the world, keeping me safe not from danger, but from vastness itself.

As close as we’d been when we were together, we were closer in our unraveling, telling each other everything at last, words that seemed to us might never have been spoken between two human beings before, so deep we went, saying everything that was beautiful and ugly and true.

As if everything gained was inevitably lost.

Perhaps by now I’d come far enough that I had the guts to be afraid.

The kindness with which it was given blunted the heat and tedium of the day.

That was my father: the man who hadn’t fathered me. It amazed me every time. Again and again and again. Of all the wild things, his failure to love me the way he should have had always been the wildest thing of all.

They opened up inside me like a river. Like I didn’t know I could take a breath and then I breathed. I laughed with the joy of it, and the next moment I was crying my first tears on the PCT. I cried and I cried and I cried. I wasn’t crying because I was happy. I wasn’t crying because I was sad. I wasn’t crying because of my mother or my father or Paul. I was crying because I was full. Of those fifty-some hard days on the trail and of the 9,760 days that had come before them too.

I didn’t want to hurt for him anymore, to wonder whether in leaving him I’d made a mistake, to torment myself with all the ways I’d wronged him. What if I forgave myself? I thought. What if I forgave myself even though I’d done something I shouldn’t have? What if I was a liar and a cheat and there was no excuse for what I’d done other than because it was what I wanted and needed to do? What if I was sorry, but if I could go back in time I wouldn’t do anything differently than I had done? … What if I was never redeemed? What if I already was?

Her death had obliterated that. It had obliterated me. It had cut me short at the very height of my youthful arrogance. It had forced me to instantly grow up and forgive her every motherly fault at the same time that it kept me forever a child, my life both ended and begun in that premature place where we’d left off. She was my mother, but I was motherless.

There was only the stillness and silence of that water: what a mountain and a wasteland and an empty bowl turned into after the healing began.

He hadn’t loved me well in the end, but he’d loved me well when it mattered.

Where was my mother? I wondered. I’d carried her so long, staggering beneath her weight. On the other side of the river, I let myself think. And something inside of me released.

There was no way to go back, to make it stay. There was never that.

Thank you, I thought over and over again. Thank you. Not just for the long walk, but for everything I could feel finally gathered up inside of me; for everything the trail had taught me and everything I couldn’t yet know, though I felt it somehow already contained within me.

Have you read Wild? What did you take away?

cover reveal: portals of water and wine by R.L. Haas

One of my favorite things about my life right now is that I am friends with writers and authors. I am reading the words of people I know. I have held their hands in mine, touched their skin, and seen tears in their eyes as they share their hopes, their dreams, and their fears. Those things look a lot like mine. And today is one of my favorite days because I get to celebrate with a sister-writer-friend as she gets ready to release her book. This woman’s words have fed me and nourished my soul. And I can’t even tell you how excited I am to read this book, and to hold this gorgeous cover in my hands.

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Book Description

“My skin prickled. For a split second, everything around me hummed. I played the word back in my head, slowly, syllable by syllable: Alonthiel”

Naya knows she has heard the name before, but where? A dream, perhaps. The word itself aches of ancient origins, magical and sacred. And it’s better than Naya could have dreamed. She finds it all: magic, strength, and more answers about her lost mother, just hours from the home she’s lived in her whole life.

And the man, the one with alluring green eyes, the same man she’s been drawing in her sketch book for weeks. He’s real. And magnificent.

Better still is the realization that she isn’t an outsider in Alonthiel. Naya belongs.

When a dark force threatens to raze Naya’s paradise, she must harness her newfound fire —  or watch Alonthiel fall.

Exclusive Excerpt 

The war had waged for nineteen years. Alonthiel had been overrun with the Fledgling Armies, the children of Ash and Iron. They were the sons and daughters born once to Alonthiel, now so twisted and dark that their former Fae heritage was barely a drop flowing through their veins.

There had been a treaty, but it had been broken…somehow…no one could even remember the reason anymore.  They had come in the night, with their feathered manes and glowing eyes the color of boiling blood and their fingernails set with iron. They had no need for swords, save the ones that grew from the ends of their hands. They were a deadly force, led into battle by their captain Flail, the son of the Fledgling King.

The sounds of children laughing had been replaced with widow’s wailing. The smashing and splashing of men’s glasses and bar-house celebrations had turned into the sound of metal on metal, metal on flesh.

The music was gone.

King Aboras had been crowned for only six days, a rushed ceremony without much pomp or fanfare. He was the fourth King since the war had begun. There was no separation of monarch from common man in the eye of the sword. He crouched in his tent, eyes fixed on the maps splayed on the table in front of him but there was no focus or direction there.

He knew that this would be the last night. His armies were exhausted, running on little sleep and handfuls of food they gathered from the nearby woods. The supplies were sapped, and their powers were dwindling down to sparks. This was the end.

And so, in the darkness of the night with only the stars to provide light, Aboras gathered his people together, every last one that still lived. They circled around their king, loyal to the end. He could not lie to them. He told them of the losses, of the depletion of stores and the draining of magic. The end was coming; they should gather their families and run to the mountains, over the river that the Fledglings could not, would not, cross.

No one moved. Not one child tried to run, not one husband left his family. They all stood. None would leave their king.

————–

This book will be released on December 1, 2014.

Click here to preorder on amazon and here to find it on goodreads.

About the Author10665233_10153248387318642_1714676422807467737_n

R. L. Haas is one of the wild ones, writing Faerie stories from her little self-declared cottage surrounded by Midwestern cornfields and never enough coffee. Her nonfiction work has appeared in such online publications as SheLoves Magazine and Literary Orphans. She lives with her beloved husband and equally wild daughter, along with their oversized Great Dane. They are ruled over by two fluffy cats. She blogs about her faith, her heart and her ever-growing literary obsessions at dramaticelegance.blogspot.com.

Follow her on twitter, facebook, and instagram to keep up with all the things Rachel.

 

 

 

 

 

Photo credit:

Cover design by Megan Mahen Illustrations

Author photo by Jennifer Upton.

book review and giveaway: Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker

I folded his clothes and placed them in the drawer. The onesies and sleepers and tiny t-shirts overwhelmed me with their cuteness. The special baby laundry detergent left little scent on the clothes, but somehow they still smelled like babies and all the hope and life they promise. I closed the drawer and stood, still getting used to my new post-baby body. It wasn’t what it had been, and I’m not sure it ever would be. But in this moment, it and I weren’t hating each other. I looked at his nursery, filled with clothes and toys and diapers. And I wrestled with the tension of how this little three month old boy had so much, when I knew other little boys were wasting away because they didn’t have enough food, let alone enough clothing or shelter.

I loved my son. I loved his blue eyes, his sleepy expressions and the way his blond hair stuck up around his head. He was long and lean just like me and his daddy. I loved how he was quiet and would just stare at us, slow to crack a smile that other babies gave away freely.

I loved snuggling him close, and the way he sucked at my breast, eating quickly and efficiently. He didn’t waste time.

I wanted to give him all the best things I could give him. And even in that euphoric love, I knew this is how mothers generally feel about their children. My love for my son was no different than the love of mothers all over the world. We are hard-wired to give ourselves to our children. And I wrestled with the unfairness and the tension that I could provide him with so much while so many couldn’t give their children anything. 

The discrepancy tore at me, breaking me open. I couldn’t wrap my head around how I could have so much when so many had so little. There was a temptation to duck my head and just live my life the best I could with what I had. To listen to my own heart and my own wants and take what I had been given and pour it into more.

But I also found an invitation. I found an invitation to wrestle with the tension, to ask the hard questions. An invitation to hear stories and to see the common thread of humanness that ties us all together. It was an invitation to be part of something bigger—to be part of a global change. It was an invitation to use the lottery of birth to share, to become a blessing. It was an invitation to hear the ones whose voices have been stolen, speaking into them and creating space where their voices are heard. It was an invitation to enter into the suffering of others, even as I sit here on my couch.

//

51CoG28Bc0L._AA160_I’m a writer. So one of the ways I have engaged this tension is by writing about it. Jen Hatmaker wrote the book I would love to write. I read Interrupted when it first came out, and was undone. She put all the thoughts and feelings and words to something that had been plaguing me. She spoke about our privilege and turning our lives upside down—about really engaging the world in which we get to live. How our privilege gives us the opportunity to be more than just another vapor, but a chance to make a real and marked change. Interrupted is her journey into this tension, and the steps she took as she learned about the heart of God, and his desperate love for all people.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

“You do feed souls, but twenty-four thousand of My sheep will die today because no one fed their bellies; eighteen thousand of them are My youngest lambs, starving today with plenty of food to go around. If you truly love Me, you will feed My sheep. My people are already crumbling and dying and starving, and you’re blessing blessed people and serving the saved…All of a sudden I saw my exact reflection in Peter: devoted but selfish, committed by misguided.”

“…can you see why when Americans say democracy, the world hears greed? What seems like basic freedom to us sounds like vast consumption to everyone else…We appear indulged and entitled and oblivious to global crisis and our contribution to the disparity.”

“We stand at the intersection of extreme privilege and extreme poverty, and we have a question to answer: Do I care?…Of course, all I can do is make the tiniest ripple in the ocean. That’s about all you’re good for too. But it’s foolish to become paralyzed by the scope of suffering or discouraged by the limit of our reach.”

“I realized I was completely normal. But my Savior was the most un-normal guy ever. And it was His un-normal ideas that made everything new.”

“We don’t get to opt out of living on mission because we might not be appreciated. We’re not allowed to neglect the oppressed because we have reservations about their discernment. We cannot deny love because it might be despised or misunderstood. We can’t withhold social relief because we’re not convinced it will be perfectly managed. We can’t project our advantaged perspective onto struggling people and expect results available only to the privileged.”

“There was one Judas, but eleven disciples who were forever transformed by Jesus’ broken body. The risk of encountering a few weeds is not sufficient reason to avoid the whole field of human suffering…”

“Ultimately, it is not nation or race, church or citizenship that gives people value. It is not sinlessness or innocence that makes us precious. It is not that Jesus looks at us as helpless or powerful, poor or rich, weak or strong. We are loved because we are living images of God, made in his likeness and created for the heights of his glory and the depths of communion. Our very God took on our form for the love of humanity…”

I am forcing myself to stop here. There are so many more things that resonated with me. I know some of those quotes may be hard to read—but I promise on the other side is life. If you’d like to keep reading, the book is available now at any of your preferred booksellers. But I also have a copy to give away. (I’ll order one via amazon and have it shipped directly to the winner cause my lovely daughter added some artwork to the cover of the book the publisher sent me.)

And if you’ve read this book, I’d love to know what parts stood out to you.

Comment below to be entered in the giveaway and I’ll pick a winner next Wednesday, September 3.

cover reveal: somewhere between water & sky

Today I get to participate in the gorgeous cover reveal of Elora Ramirez’s new book.

Title: Somewhere Between Water and Sky

Author: Elora Ramirez

Release Date: September 18th

Cover Artist: Sarah Hansen of Okay Creations

SBWaS AmazonGRSW

About Somewhere Between Water and Sky

I heard it said once that every human is a story with skin.

If this is true, paragraphs would be etched in the scars on my wrists.

Whole chapters could be written about the way my heart pounds when I startle awake.

And every single one of my tears could fill a book.

But stories, with all their promise, only leave room for disappointment. I don’t have room for that anymore. I left it all—the hope, the love, the promise—back in my old life with the ghosts I’d rather forget: Jude. Emma. Pacey.

Kevin.

This is how I dare to move forward and to believe in a new beginning. I let go of the old. I just grab the new and run. I don’t wait around anymore. I can’t.

Waiting leaves room for the voices.

Somewhere between water and sky, I’ll find a way to burn these voices to the ground.

Add on Goodreads

 

Exclusive Excerpt:

I heard it said once that every human is a story with skin.

If this is true, paragraphs would be etched in the scars on my wrists.

Whole chapters could be written about the way my heart pounds when I startle awake.

And every single one of my tears could fill a book.

I watch the people sitting around me on the bus. The single mother with two rowdy toddlers, the older couple on vacation with cameras strapped to their necks, the boy rapping beats under his breath and writing in a journal—all of them breathe into this poetry of life.

Normally, I’d want to know their stories. I’d wait for hints of who they were inside, the poetic shifts that make us human. Now I just watch.

The boy rapping pauses with his hand in mid air and thinks for a minute. Breaking into a smile, he nods vigorously and lowers his hand to his paper. I frown. I used to have a piece of that poetry inside. It’s just all a little broken now. I don’t know how to fix the one thing that used to put me back together. The poems still come; I just don’t know what to do with them anymore. If I’m feeling particularly brave, I’ll attempt to scratch them into a journal.

Usually, I just write them with my finger on my jeans. No one needs to read them anyway. Besides, I can’t hold on to them for very long. The silence is on fire and the sentences and scenes that used to extinguish those flames do nothing but fan it hotter and brighter. I’m a new person here—no one knows anything about me. All of my journals are in various trash cans around the city. I fill one up and then throw it away, shedding the skin and finding someone new underneath every single time.

This is how I dare to move forward and believe in a new beginning. I let go of the old. I just grab the new and run. I don’t wait around anymore. I can’t.

Like clockwork

the words disappear at dusk

empty cans filled up

like dust.

Rapper boy looks back up and catches me watching him and then offers a shy smile. My fingers pause their lines and curl in to the protection of my hand. I flip my lips upward into a quick grin and then look away before he can strike up a conversation.

I don’t want to know his story.

Stories, with all of their promise, only leave room for disappointment. I don’t have room for that anymore. I left it all—the hope, the love, the promise—back in my old life with the ghosts I’d rather forget: Jude. Emma. Pacey.

Kevin.

Something like grief catches in my throat and a small burst of air escapes through my parted lips.

I miss him. I miss him and I can’t miss him. If I give into these feelings…this emptiness…I shake my head and wipe the stray tear on my cheek.

This is ridiculous.

Reaching into my bag, I pull out my phone. One missed call shows itself on the screen and I frown. No one has my number. I swipe the screen open and scroll through until I notice UNKNOWN NUMBER in red font.

Red like blood.

I shudder.

After the life I’ve lived, I’m nothing if not over-dramatic. It’s whatever. I feel I’ve earned it.

With a few more quick swipes, I delete the notification and sigh the misgiving away. There’s no voicemail, and so there’s nothing to worry about yet.

No harm, no foul. No one knows your number. No one knows your number.

I’ve learned different but I’m choosing another way of living. I repeat these phrases in my head, tapping the rhythm of the words on my knee.

 

About the Author:

1555334_10153643110030004_531682707_nElora Ramirez lives in Austin, Texas with her chef-husband. At the age of four, she taught herself how to read and write, cutting her teeth on books like Dr. Seuss and writing anywhere she could find the space–including her Fisher Price kitchen set, the pages of picture books and Highlights Magazine. Since then, she’s grown to love the way words feel as they swell within her bones. Writing holy and broken is her calling, and pushing back the darkness and pursuing beauty through story is her purpose. She embraces the power of story and teaches women from all parts of the world how to embrace theirs. She has a knack of calling things out , the truth and the detail, the subversive threads that make a life a story. She loves hip-hop, wishes she lived by the beach and cannot write without copious amounts of coffee, chocolate, music, and her husband’s lavender liqueur.

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