Even When You Lie to Me: A Book Review

We did a lot of reading this weekend. Our Pacific Northwest weather  was very persistent with rain, wind, and just damp. Luckily there is an endless supply of great books at out local library and it’s only a 5 min drive away!

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Even my son Leif spent his time with a book. Eh hem, upside down Baby Bear.

 

I decided to read Even When You Lie to Me by Jessica Alcott. Even When You Lie to Me is Alcott’s break through YA novel and I was very impressed with her prose and description about an improper love story between a student and her high school English teacher. Here is the synopsis:

Charlie, a senior, isn’t looking forward to her last year of high school. Another year of living in the shadow of her best friend, Lila. Another year of hiding behind the covers of her favorite novels. Another year of navigating her tense relationship with her perfectionist mom.
 
But everything changes when she meets her new English teacher. Mr. Drummond is smart. Irreverent. Funny. Hot. Everyone loves him. And Charlie thinks he’s the only one who gets her.
 
She also thinks she might not be the only one with a crush.
 
In this stunning debut, Jessica Alcott explores relationships—and their boundaries—in a way that is both searingly honest and sympathetic.

Charlie is a sympathetic character, if you have ever felt like an outsider (and who hasn’t?) you will relate to her socially awkward struggles. Alcott has fun incorporating classic love stories into Mr. Drummond’s lesson plans: Pride & Prejudice, Jane Eyre, and Wuthering Heights. Using these tragic love stories for Mr. Drummond’s lesson plans, Alcott sets the stage and tone of her novel. Charlie’s English teacher Mr. Drummond has all of the makings of a modern Heathcliff, he has a tragic past, he is mysterious, and he seems so close and yet out of reach for 17 year old Charlie. Alcott does a wonderful job of vilifying him to the point of being disgusted with him and then pulls him back into a some-what sympathetic character through Charlie’s eyes. Alcott played with the idea of age through Charlie and Mr. Drummond by making Charlie seem much older than 17 and making Mr. Drummond  as emotionally immature as a teenager.

 

I have heard of too many women who had teachers that were vulgar in their actions or speech. So as an adult reading this story, I wanted to protect Charlie from beginning to end. While reading Alcott’s novel I saw some of my high school teachers in Mr.Drummond. I had the cool young teacher that everyone loved and adored. There were also times when he crossed the line and became too involved with student’s personal lives (never romantically though). I also had a teacher that was a flat out perv. There were rumors that every year this corrupt teacher would pick out senior girls who he planned to sleep with after graduation. I saw first-hand accounts of him touching students inappropriately and saying obscene insults to his female students. So, which teacher was Mr.Drummond? The caring teacher who got too personal or the total perv? I think he was a little bit of both.

  As an adult reader I applaud Charlie’s feminist friend Asha who is wise beyond her years. She disapproves of the inappropriate behavior of Mr. Drummond, but still doesn’t totally hate the guy. She can’t help but smile at his jokes and succumb to his charm like the rest of her peers, but she is also wary of him. I think Alcott wants her readers to see Mr. Drummond through Asha’s eyes. She wants the reader to know that romancing his student is completely wrong, but she doesn’t let you forget that charm and charisma can easily sway high school students (and adults).

At one point Charlie asks “What is the sublime?” and Mr. Drummond responds, “The idea of something being simultaneously beautiful and terrifying.” Alcott took an ugly subject and with her thorough and thought provoking prose she turns it into a work of art. Alcott examined the subjects of body image, feminism, power, and sexuality through the intricate charters she created.

This novel was a quick read, but try to savor the text. Examine the way the book makes you feel and give it the thought it deserves.

I would love to hear your thoughts on Even When You Lie to Me.

♥R♥

The Maturation of Creative Writing

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I try to forgive my writing; if I had to put an age on my creative writing skills I would say it is still in the high school phase. Yes, I myself made it through high school and graduated from college, I even spent 3 years in the technical writing world, but my creative writing skidded to a halt after high school.

Also, I desperately need an editor, like yesterday.

I don’t have the patience of a mature writer. I quickly come up with a new writing topic, spend maybe two hours on it and throw it out there on my blog. Similar to a high school boy going to 3rd base for the first time, he has the passion, but shall we say no finesse? Finesse, patience, and skill take time to learn. I have to make many grammar, description, and wrong word choices before I craft that perfect sentence (I have yet to craft THE perfect sentence.). I will hopefully look back on these old posts and cringe at my lack of composure. Resembling the way I look back on my high school days and cringe at my ardent and wistful claims of undying love for the boys with all of the passion and non of the patience. I will be able to see the growth from where I decided to take my creative voice and start speaking of the intangible: pain, fear, and joy.

I don’t know when my creative writing will go from over enthusiastic high school kid to mature professional. Maybe that leap can’t be measured in a single occurrence, but I look forward to blushing and cringing at these early attempts.

♥R♥

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Throw back to Graduation from Western Washington University 2010

Picture Wall

This is a tutorial on how to make a picture wall based off of my expertise.

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Before

Step 1: Buy frames from craft store. (I buy all of the discount frames and just go with what I get.) Most of the time the frames just work together and I like more of an eclectic look anyway. Buy other design pieces that you can hang on the wall. I like to to go with rustic and metal frames so I like objects that complement this look. For example: horse shoes, old keys, barbed wire. You can make almost anything “go” on your picture wall, just stick to similar design elements.

Step 2: Print pictures in accordance to frame sizing. Make sure you pick pictures that are taken with a quality camera. Camera phone pictures are awesome for Facebook and Instagram, but when those suckers are blown up you don’t want to see grainy photos on your wall. EVERY FLAW WILL BE EMPHASIZED.

Step 3: Then comes hanging the pictures. Ask husband to do this.

Step 4: Ask him again.

Step 5: Accept the fact that he is not going to do it anytime soon and if you want all of the pictures sitting in their frames collecting dust off of your floor then you are going to do it yourself. They call this step “acceptance”.

In our house DIY stands for do it yourself if you can’t get the hubs to do it for you.

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After

Today was one of those days that my husband Miles had other things to do in the garage (tinker and pound stuff). So I decided to tackle the hanging portion myself.

Step 6: The main tools that I use are a pencil, hammer, and nails. Since I can feel my husband’s judgey eyes when I collect my tools I grab the tape measure and level to save face (even though I probably won’t use them). To be fair, when my husband met me I was hanging everything with thumb tacks so I don’t have the best reputation for “safe” hanging.

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Step 7: I don’t make any plans on how all the pictures are going to go on the wall. I just start on one end and work my way down the wall. Technical right? I eyeball the shit out of each picture and make a mark with my pencil for where the nail will go and then I drive the nail home.

Step 8: Repeat step 7 until all of your pictures are on the wall.

Step 9: Drink a beer while my husband corrects every little thing that bugs him about my winging it technique. Hey, you got to have balance in marriage (and apparently your picture wall).

Do all of these steps and you should have a pretty decent place to hang your pics.

 

Voila!

 

♥R♥

Another picture wall that my husband and I did together:

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My Favorite Child

DSC_2657Every day I look at my son and think to myself, he will do great things. I don’t know if every mother feels this way, or if it’s just my ego, but I am pretty sure my son is the best.

Does every mother feel her child is the next Einstein? I don’t know, sometimes I see my son playing with his toys moving beads on a wire from point A to point B and he does it in such a precise and calculated way that I have to wonder if every 7 month old puts that much thought into moving beads. Will he be a brain surgeon? A master engineer? Who can say with those bead moving skills?

Does every mother wonder if her child is going to be the next Mozart? When my son “sings” along to Caspar Babypants and sings lalalala over and over again in such a wide range of pitch I have to wonder if my son is the next musical prodigy. Will he play the piano? Mandolin?

Does every mother wonder if her baby is going to be the next Jesus? I mean who does he get those angel eyes from? Definitely not me but wait, his Dad’s eyes are pretty amazing. And when he gently pats my chest while he is nursing and holds his hand over my heart I know he is better than I ever hope to be and his love and compassion are incomparable.

All I know is that he has already mastered the role of son, to me there is no one better.

♥R♥

Revisiting My First Two Loves: Short Non-Fiction & The Football Player

My extremely talented writer friend Danielle Campoamor posted on Facebook that she was looking for some short stories about the moment you found out that someone was cheating. She is compiling these stories into what I am anticipating to be a great read. I emailed her the following story and I told her whether is it used in the piece or not, it was a wonderful writing prompt.

Thanks Girl.

My First Lesson in Cheating

Even after all these years when I look back on this memory I want to wrap my arms around my 15 year old self and say “You are better than their ugly words.” Because gossip and cheating go hand-in-hand in high school.

My first love was a senior, a football player, popular, and everything the stereotypical first love should be. Unfortunately this plain Jane book worm couldn’t keep up with him and he lost interest after a few months when a beautiful cheerleader caught his eye.

The first time I heard about the new romance between my football player and the cheerleader was in the cafeteria. I walked past a table of boys to get to the soda machine, I like to think they didn’t know I was there so their malicious talk was a little less cruel. One boy said very loudly and clearly, “I would ditch Rachel for (said cheerleader) she is so much hotter! Rachel is alright, but pretty average and kinda boring. I would make the same move as (said football player) did.”

I swear to God my heart stopped beating. I left my money in the vending machine without my soda so I could sneak quietly away. Their words echoing in my ears. How dare they judge the value of everything we shared off of my looks! How could they cheer him on and justify his betrayal simply because She was more beautiful?

I crumpled in a quiet hallway and cried through my Science class.

Looking back now, I see the naivete in myself and the foolish importance of superficial beauty that the young find so meaningful.

Update: Danielle used my story in her article. Yay! Read the full article here.

 

 

The Lazy Writer: Reading is My Crutch

Since I made my declaration of “I’m going to Write a Novel!” on FB, people ask me all of the time, “How is your novel progressing?”. To which I reply, “No comment…hahaha” or “Writers block is a bitch you know?” as I shuffle my feet and avoid eye contact.

I have a pretty extensive outline (which I am quite happy with) and tons of notes and ideas, but when it comes to the writing, well I don’t have  much. The few pages I do have I am not happy with and honestly it has thrown some water on my fiery passion of writing. I think damp is a good way to describe how I feel about my novel. I got caught up in the storm of a great idea and I was running full tilt and splashing in the puddles, but now the thrill has worn off and I am just wet and cold. To distract myself I read a lot.

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I have always been a voracious reader and a half ass/part-time “writer”. I read everything I can get my hands on. Lately, I have been on a huge Tudor/English court kick. Phillipa Gregory and Sandra Gulland are two authors who I highly recommend if you like the genre. I took a break from Henry the eighth and all of his dramatic descendants to read the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris. You have to love the sexy, sassy Sookie and all of her supernatural eye candy. But I have to wonder, is all of this fun reading just a delightful distraction?

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Are voracious readers all just lazy writers? Are we the crash and burn wannabe authors who just couldn’t hack it in the literary race? My story is the one novel I can’t buy off of the bookshelf until I write it.

Time to put on my rain boots and word sludge.

The Stupid Girl

Disclaimer to all readers: Please don’t read this article as me casting my emotional rod into the internet ocean for compliments. This narcissistic issue starts and ends with me.

“I am stupid.” I say this to myself often throughout the day. I whisper it to myself in the bathroom at work after I ask an obvious question to my co-workers. Every day when I leave the office, I think to myself, “I am the weakest link on my team.” Hell, I would vote myself off in most team situations. I inhale the word idiot and exhale in a rush of anxiety when someone asks me for directions within the town I reside. How do I explain that I can’t remember street names that I drive on daily? When people talk about North, South, East, and West they may as well be speaking a foreign language. My family has had to deal with more directional hysterics from me than anyone should have to in a lifetime. I thank God daily for their patience.

I think my stupidity complex started in elementary school when my class began learning multiplication. My teacher created a pyramid to chart the basic 0-12 multiplication table. Well let me tell you I was no Pharaoh of THAT pyramid. My peers started to progress, but I always stayed at the bottom. I think I got through the 2’s (2×2 =4, 2×3=6, etc.) and just stopped. For months I sat in shame at the bottom of that pyramid while I watched other children receive treats for their success. It was not the rewards that I coveted, my parents were generous people, I didn’t want for much growing up. I wanted to be equal with my peers, but I was always behind.

I hated sitting in class where the whispered words “You’re stupid.” echoed throughout my mind and bounced around the walls. School was my mirror, where I had to face the part of myself I desperately loathed. In high school I graduated with a 2.0 GPA, a courtesy from teachers who desperately wanted to see me succeed. Even living through the trauma of K-12, I decided to attend community college. The decision was due to my best friend applying. I thought, “I guess college is the thing to do”.

After my first quarter at community college which felt like a flash back to the nightmare of K-12 (Pre-reqs are the worst!) I began to look forward to class. I found a passion for learning aside from the anxiety of everyone finding out just how stupid I really was. I devoured the content of each class. I knew that my work was weak so I made up for it in participation. I volunteered my ass off. If the teacher asked a question, I was the first to answer. Extra credit, I was all over it. My GPA went from a 2.0 in high school to a 3.7 upon graduation from Western Washington University.

My time at WWU was a chaotic, wonderful, crazy time in my life. I was working two jobs and completely immersed in my English literature degree. I was finding my way and learning who the “adult Rachel” was. I had my setbacks as well though. For example, I remember being in a study group for a 400 level English class. I was with two very intelligent classmates (the Sheldon and Leonard of the English world) and I told them I felt bad because I wasn’t helping much with the assignment, they were just flat out faster than me. But in good humor they joked that I provided the tea and the study space at my apartment. I cried that night, all of my old anxieties and worries rushing back at me. The echo of “I’m stupid, I’m stupid, I’m stupid” was an earthquake inside my dark bedroom.  The next morning the emotional disaster that was my ego followed me onto the bus. I went to class with a residual “Stupid“.

Time reveals the magic of our past, hidden behind the black curtain of the present.

All of my life I had teachers and parents who believed in me. They were showing me their faith in a variety of ways. My 3rd grade teacher had me read one of my stories out loud to three other classes. My math teacher Mr. Sessions gave me extra assignments so I could graduate from high school. Upon graduation day he gave me a dream catcher that he made himself. My Dad paid for my first two years of college out-of-pocket, with only a 2.0 GPA from high school backing up my scholarly reputation. My Mom and step father let me live at home for four years after high school. They spent hours every week helping me with homework. None of those people would have gone to such effort if they did not see any potential in me. I will never forget how I almost fell to the floor when one of my classmates introduced me to his reading group as one of the most insightful, intelligent people in our class. That compliment was a cast for my broken confidence that was beaten down by yours truly.

I can look back now and appreciate my academic achievements; I can attribute graduating to not floating by on participation and extra credit. I looked like an idiot (often) and I survived. I hope sometime in the future I will look at this time in my life and realize that: I was good at my job. My novel was decent. I should listen to my husband when he patiently tells me that I am, in fact, an intelligent woman. Maybe one day I will realize that I am not the only driver in a constant state of lost. Tomorrow I will look in the mirror and tell myself, “You are not the stupid girl.”

The Struggle is Real

Don’t you  just hate when inspiration strikes at 7:41am when you are sitting at your work desk? Luckily I have an awesome coworker and friend who I can bug across the aisle, “Ashley, can you listen to my novel idea?” We look at each other with data-glazed eyes and talk about creative ideas and the light of humanity begins to shine again.

I am so grateful for my day job of project management and scheduling that affords me the money for my house, bills, and fun on the weekend. Although when that writers itch begins it’s hard to focus on the Excel sheet in front of me. In fact, I just want to run from the building, jump in my car, and drive home to my novel. Why do the waves of urgency hit at the most inopportune places/moments? I document my thoughts, but by the time I get home the rush has left, and I am stuck with uninspiring notes.

I’m asking writers out there, how do you schedule the time and more importantly the inspiration (as if it can be scheduled) into your 40 hour/week career schedule?

Happy writing/reading peeps!