Book and Booze Reviews: Amateur Angel by Karri Thompson

Goodreads.com Synopsis: Only 18-years-old, Ashley is no ordinary teenager. Not only is she dead, but upon her death, she mistakenly enters the wrong line in the afterlife, a line meant for trained, guardian angels. With a pair of wings on her back, Ashley is sent to Los Angeles to replace another angel whose "assignment" was none-other-than Cannon Michaels, a current member of the band Sendher, the sexiest man alive, and Ashley's celebrity crush in life.

While exposed to Cannon's selfish, judgmental behavior and his reckless, rock-and-roll lifestyle, Ashley is far from meeting the requirements of a true guardian angel. She misses her family and friends. Will she ever be able to accept her own death? What will she do when she jeopardizes her position as an angel and Cannon's physical safety by falling in love with him?

Review: Amateur Angel  is a quick, easy read with an uplifting (but confusing!) ending. Ashley, our amateur angel, shows well-paced character development over the course of the novel and the story is set up to engage the reader. Woven tightly throughout are the threads of hope, acceptance, and love.

There were a few trouble spots in the novel that soured my perception of the overall work, mostly relating to Ashley's physical interest in Cannon Michaels. While I understand the intent of the author--to show that Ashley is still a very, very green guardian with a strong attraction to her ward--the execution came off feeling a little ... porn-y. Some of the descriptions concerning Cannon's physique were overkill; it was uncomfortable to read about the size of his manhood in a Christian-based novel aimed at a 14- to 18-year-old audience. Perhaps the descriptions would have worked in a chick lit novel, but they were a little much for YA.

Overall, I thought that the author had a good grip on her story, bringing us from beginning to end with few derailments. The minor bumps in the story are that--minor. There were a few spelling and grammar errors and the aforementioned gratuitous descriptions, but these only slow the novel down, not stop it. If you're looking for an easy read with a hopeful (but fictional!) glimpse into the afterlife, pick up a copy of Amateur Angel today.

I give it: 3 out of 5 books (a good read for when you need something to read)

About the Author: Karri Thompson grew up in San Diego County and attended San Diego State University, earning a bachelor’s degree in English, a master’s degree in education, and her teaching credential. She is currently a high-school English teacher in the East County of San Diego where she lives with her husband, their son, and two dogs. When she's not teaching, grading papers, or attending
her son’s soccer games, she novels, her greatest passion. Read more at Karri Thompson's website.

Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes and Noble


Where's My Tribe?

{ Image source: Julian Fong on Flickr }
It's a little past midnight and once again, I can't sleep.

I've been having this problem lately--either I can't go to sleep, I wake up in the middle of the night and stay awake for hours, or I wake up at OH MY GOD I CAN'T BELIEVE IT'S WHATEVER TIME IT IS o'clock. Apparently, these are called "onset," "middle," and "terminal" insomnia, respectively. If I could pick one and stick with it, I might be fine, but since it seems to change EVERY DAMN NIGHT, well, I'm generally tired.

For the past few years, I've been blaming it the fact that I am naturally a night owl and the kids, bless them, are not. Now, I'm not so sure--they've learned to let Mama alone in the mornings and go watch TV until she rolls her ass out of bed. Some days, this doesn't happen until (gasp!) 9:00am because they've gotten so good at being quiet and entertaining themselves until I can get my caffeine drip going.

The culprit tonight was that I made the mistake of browsing over to Michael Ellsberg's blog. One link led to another until I realized that I was back at The Blog of Tim Ferriss (damn, that guy is everywhere!) reading what is tantamount to an excerpt from The Education of Millionaires. I remember being stricken when I read this information the first time through, but this time, it got me thinking.

The part that stood out to me, specifically, was Step 3: Learn the Basics of Good Networking. I didn't watch the video (mainly because my husband was already trying to go to sleep), but I did click through to the article on Forbes.com outlining how to build your community of bas-asses (referred to there as "social economy"). In it, Ellsberg summarizes his method of building his community. It's earth-shattering, truly: spend time helping other people without expecting anything in return.

Come ON. This nugget of wisdom has been passed down through the ages. Every Abrahamic religion has some form of it in its holy book, and I would venture to say that most other known and unknown religions have a form of it too. And yet, this is insightful and genius. If you want shit from people, give it to them first!

I used to be really, really good at this. I mean, I greased skids and palms like it was nobody's business to get things done quickly, efficiently, and painlessly. To this day, people still call me up and ask me if I know someone who knows someone who can do something because they need an expert. And truthfully, I generally do know someone. Or, at least, someone who knows someone.

Unfortunately for me, my life has changed a lot in the past eight years, and I don't know people anymore. Of course, yes, I know people, but I don't know the people I need to know to make things happen in my bubble. I made a major shift from the single life and military service to stay-at-home mommy-hood and freelance journalism with a dash of struggling novelist. In the realm in which I would like to succeed, I don't know anyone.

I know that my community, my tribe, can be built. I do it every time I take my kids to the mosquito-infested toddler playground. I do it every time I go to a conference. (You know, like that ONE TIME that I went.) But right now, I'm straddling this line between domestic goddess and burgeoning author, and my best bet is to build my community online, through social media.

Can I tell you a secret? I hate social media.

It's not so much that I hate it, per se, I just hate that there's a record of who you are and who you were. I hate that people that you purposely tried to forget can come back and pluck you out of the ether. I hate that as much as you try to forge a way forward, there's always someone around to drag you back.

One of the things that I've personally struggled with is that I come from a math-and-science background and have had military training. In both instances, people are not creative. They are logical and follow formulae, whether they work or not. (Which, I suppose, makes them illogical?) Now that I'm working my way into the creative realm, people are just ... freer. They're more willing to dream, to take risks, to lay it all out on the line, even if it's bordering on the ludicrous. And when I try to follow that path, there's always the voice in my head screaming, "What are you doing? Why are you spending your time pounding keys when you should be in a lab or vault somewhere?" There is also the other, just as insistent, question of, "How can you expect to be a good mother when you used to [fill in the blank--use your imagination]?!"

Most of it is just me, I think--they're my fears, my insecurities, my battles. But they're still there, and they often cause me to want to wipe what I've done and start over.

That's where I am right now, again. I want to wipe my blog, my social footprint, everything, and start over. I already deleted my Facebook page, and I'm seriously considering doing the same with Twitter. I want to start up again, slowly, and work my way back along the path of my choosing.

Of course, starting over means that I have to start over. No friends, no followers, no pictures, nothing. But I have to wonder if it's worth it if it means that I can truly be who I am today, not who I was ten years ago. If it means that I can build my tribe the right way.

Food for thought. Care to weigh in?


Freeing Your Time

{ Image source: gfpeck on Flickr }
I was sitting in my kitchen this morning, finishing the dregs of my coffee and thinking about my day when I realized something spectacular: I only have one thing that I absolutely must do today.

For the first time since before college started (read: OVER A DECADE), I don't feel rushed. I don't feel like I have to go do anything. I don't have a weight pressing on my shoulders and my chest, pushing me to go, go, go, go, GO until I collapse from exhaustion at the end of the day.

I attribute this change to embracing the Tim Ferriss Method of time management--or, rather, the lack of time management. Time, in this case, is not to be managed. Every little crap thing that takes up your time needs to be managed and eliminated.

As I mentioned in this post, I spent part of my summer reading his best-seller The 4-Hour Workweek. I've been focusing mostly on elimination--eliminating email, draining interactions, useless junk in our house, etc. This is in line with what we've been wanting to do since before we got married, but just never really figured out how to do it. It's as if this how-to guide not only gave us a path, but gave us permission.

Initially, giving up living in my inbox was hard. Some days, it still is, especially when my husband asks me to check something that applies to both of us but was sent only to me. But I put up a really nice autoresponder, which not only has gotten fabulous feedback, but it's trained my friends to call or text me if it's really important or they want a response within 12-24 hours. I also unsubscribed from most direct email lists, keeping only the ones that I truly am interested in, read on a regular basis, or have to keep in order to maintain organization membership.

Eliminating our useless junk in the basement is time consuming, but by breaking the task up into bite-sized pieces, I've been whipping through it. It took me four days to go through one old record box, but I reduced the amount of unnecessary paper by 75%. In ONE box! I have two more to go, but I'm pretty sure that I can fit everything into one box, thus reducing our load by 67% or more. I've also managed to sell off several items that we just taking up space, thus earning money that is going straight into the Harry Potter jar. The kids, by the way, are thrilled with this plan--since beginning the Great Purge, we've more than tripled the amount of money we have in the jar. We also have some items that aren't exactly appropriate to be sold or donated, so we've just been giving them away. It's amazing what people will do when they see the word "free" in a listing on Craigslist.

Back to this morning: in glancing over my list of things to do, I realized that the only thing I had to do was go to the grocery store. I did my meal planning last night, but we already have so many of the ingredients that it took me less than 15 minutes to complete the list. This list, by the way, usually takes me an hour. There are about half the number of items that I usually purchase; it's going to cost the same amount, but only because I have to purchase a few supplements to compensate for cutting dairy out of my diet. And since everything else can be done this afternoon while my toddler is sleeping, I really only have to watch and/or entertain my kids for the rest of the morning.

Do I have other things to do? Of course. Are they necessary to do today? Not in the slightest. I may want to check my email though ...

Recommended Reading and Related Posts:
A Summer of Introspection at Rhymes With Tao
The Harry Potter Project: And So It Begins at Rhymes With Tao
How to Check E-mail Twice a Day ... Or Once Every 10 Days at The Blog of Tim Ferriss


How to Win $100,000

{ Image source: Hakan Dalhstrom on Flickr }
Start with $100,000 of your own money. Don't have that much to blow? Then start with however much you have and put it all on black.

If you're lucky, the Gods of Gambling will shine on you and the ball will land on black. If not, then you learned a very valuable lesson.

I learned this last March when my husband and I attended his company's casino night. We were all given $100,000 in play (read: fake) money to gamble away the evening, and he mistakenly put all of our cash on black. He won, and we were $100,000 richer.

Do you have any get-rich-quick stories?

Related Reading and Recommended Posts:
The First of Many on Rhymes With Tao
"The Start-up's Secret Weapon: Contests" or "How to Turn $100K into $12,000,000" at The Blog of Tim Ferriss


Lynn's Year of Awesome: Run a 5K

[Author's note: I wrote this back in April or May, but never published it because I couldn't find the accompanying picture. Obviously, I still can't find it, but I wanted to share it anyway. Maybe I'll add that picture in someday ... ]

Over the past year, I've attempted some pretty ridiculous things. And by "attempt," I mean "wrote them down and tried really hard at first but then gave up because the weather got cold and I hibernate in winter."

Anyway, one of those things on that list was "run a 5K." My reasoning was that although I hate running, not being able to run much farther than a mile was really bugging me. So I set the goal at 5K (3.2 miles, for those not in the know) and started training as soon as the weather rose above freezing.

[Updated 8/14/12: So a 5K is actually 3.1 miles, not 3.2. I guess I'm not in the know.]

This past weekend, I participated in the We're Looking for Trouble 5K. If you scroll WAY down, you can see that I came in 179th overall, 23rd in my age group, at 37:01 (which is a mistake, mind you ... I came in at 37 minutes even). This comes out to a 11:54 mile time ... which is almost two minutes faster than what I calculated on my taper run on Wednesday. Seriously. My taper run was a 13:46 mile, or a 42:46 5K time.

I woke up at 4am, nervous as sh*t. I tried to go back to sleep, but I just couldn't make myself do it. So after 2 hours of tossing and turning (and waking up my husband), the alarm went off and I popped out of bed.

I could barely eat. I had a few sips of water, but I wasn't really interested. So I just got into my clothes, woke up the kids, and loaded everyone into the car.

The race site is about an hour from where we live, in the middle of Maryland's Amish country. (Side note: Maryland has an Amish country?!) When we turned off the main road, one of the first sights we saw was the horse and buggy caution sign. Honestly, I thought it was a joke, but not even five minutes later, a man in a straw hat rolls by in his carriage. And they continued to roll by as the day wore on.

We were really, really early. Like, the fifth car in the parking area, before the volunteers had even set up early. So we sat in the car, listened to music, fed the kids, and waited. And waited. And waited.

When the registration booth finally opened, I was off like a shot to get my packet. It wasn't anything fancy, just my t-shirt, my bib, and some information on the Mediation Center, but I had my bib! With safety pins! That I could use to pin my bib to my shirt!

Yeah, that happened.

After picking up the packet, all that was left to do was wait. The kids ran around, I stretched, my husband tried to stay awake. The crowd started to swell, the lines for the toilets got really long, and as the appointed start time got closer, I got more and more nervous.

I shouldn't have been. When they called for runners, I headed for some people that looked like they ran about as fast as I did (slow), struck up a conversation (one was training for the Disney Half Marathon in January, one was checking something off his bucket list), and made sure that my music was already on. The race coordinators said,"Go!" And I went. Slowly, at first, then faster, then settling into a good pace.

The course was gorgeous. As I already said, we were in Amish country, but I didn't realize how RURAL this course was. We ran past fields beginning to sprout, old American Foursquare houses with blossoming trees in the front yards, and abandoned farmhouses. But I had 3G connectivity, and therefore my Ke$ha station on Pandora, so I was happy.

The last mile was a little tough. My left instep was beginning to hurt, then my left knee, and then my left hip. I could feel myself running off-balance, but the goal was to finish the race WITHOUT walking, so I kept going. Before I knew it, I was at the final curve. I didn't see my family at first, but then there they were, waiting for me at the finish line. I got a little burst of adrenaline and pushed it out with a smile.

I did it. Not fast, not well, but as far as I'm concerned, I can hang up my running shoes.

Or not. Racing is kind of fun.

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A Summer of Introspection

{ Image source: Jon Wick on Flickr }
I must start this post with an apology: I'm sorry I dropped off the face of the earth over the summer.

I wish I could blame it all on the unexpected and time-consuming events of the last two months (as listed in my last post), but it's not totally true. I've been undergoing a change in attitude about and expectation for my life, and I've spent a lot of time marinating in my own thought juices.

So here's what happened: through a long chain of events and book recommendations, I stumbled across The 4-Hour Work Week, by Tim Ferriss. If you haven't heard of him or read his work, he is the premier advocate and practitioner of Lifestyle Design (LD). Lifestyle Design, in this case, means maximizing one's income and time to experience everything that this world has to offer in terms of food, entertainment, and learning.

In reading his book, I realized that we may have a decent income that supports us well, but we have a definite poverty of time. I'm always running from one appointment to the next, and my husband is barely home in time to kiss the kids goodnight. The last vacation I took was sans Hubs, which is less "vacation" and more "corral the kids to avoid embarrassment and legal action." I became a full-on Ferriss convert about halfway through reading the book and started preaching, "Screw traditional working hours, we're going to travel the world!"

Once my enthusiasm and naivete wore off a little, I went back and took real stock of our lives. We're not at a point where we can truly screw traditional working hours and travel the world. Truth be told, I don't want to become total vagabonds. I don't want to divest ourselves of all of our worldly goods (or even put them in extended storage) and backpack through Southeast Asia. I just want to be able to spend fun time together as a family, travel without worrying about landlords or school, and enjoy the short time that we have on this earth.

I'm not totally sure how to make this happen, yet, but I do know that we have to extricate ourselves from the burdens that we bear. That's what I've been doing in my time off. In addition to thinking long and hard about what we truly want from and for our lives, we've been eliminating the useless chatter and clutter. That means checking my email only once a day, throwing out or selling stuff we're not using or don't need, and, yes, blogging less often. Part of my introspection includes trying to determine what is worth writing and what is better kept to myself.

Do I know the answers to that yet? No, I don't. I understand that I need a bit of an overhaul on El Blog, but I'm not entirely sure how to proceed. I do know that I don't want to waste my time or yours in writing drivel that you don't want to read, but beyond that, who knows?

While I spend more time thinking about myself, I encourage you to explore my archives, in which I write about myself. (Yes, blogging is awesome for the self-centered.) I'm going to continue my introspection and forge a way forward. I am also going on a writing retreat (yay!) and buying a house (YAY!), two events that will consume a crazy amount of time. Until then, my friends ...
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