{Book Review} On The Island:A Novel by Tracey Garvis Graves

On the Island (On the Island, #1)On the Island by Tracey Garvis-Graves

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was recommended to me by a co-worker, who said that she recently read it in her Book Club. They chose the book because it is written by an Iowa author.

Because I’ve always enjoyed every book she’s recommended to me, I went ahead and purchased the Kindle version and started reading.

On the Island is a quick read, and one that I read almost in one setting. I got sucked into it pretty quickly– within the first couple pages as I learned about Anna and TJ, two people that were stranded on an island together as the result of a plane crash.

The one thing that you might not expect is that TJ is a high school student, recently in remission from cancer. Anna is a 30 year old high school teacher. She is also his tutor, who has been hired by his family to spend the summer with TJ. Anna is supposed to be helping TJ get caught up after missing so much school.

Anna, TJ and his family are supposed to be spending the summer in the Maldives, but TJ’s family has left a few days prior. TJ and Anna were flying out later, because TJ had insisted that he stay behind a little longer to go to a party with his friends.

The seaplane they take to get to where the family is staying crashes when the pilot has a heart attack. Anna & TJ are stuck on an island, with no idea of when (or IF) someone will find them.

That’s where I will end with the storyline, because I don’t want to reveal any spoilers.

I enjoyed reading this because it was told from both Anna’s and TJ’s point of view. The author did a fantastic job of describing the island, their adventures, and the changing relationship between the two characters, despite their age difference.




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Bye, Bye, Harley

motorcycleBack in 2009, we bought a brand new Harley-Davidson motorcycle. We paid cash for it back then, and spent a lot of money on upgrades. We had a hell of a lot of our savings invested in this bike. It was my husband’s dream motorcycle. A pure splurge.

It was gorgeous. All black with shiny chrome trim on everything. My husband worshipped this motorcycle and kept it in mint condition, polishing it every time he rode it. It had low miles, and it still looked brand new.

Until the day it was totaled.

A family member borrowed the motorcycle a couple months ago and was out for a ride on it. A woman driving a minivan (who to this day, I will swear on every fiber of my being was looking at her phone) was at a stop sign and pulled out in front of them. Thankfully, no one was seriously hurt, but the motorcycle was done for.

I think what upsets me the most is not that they were in an accident, but the way the other driver reacted– especially since it was HER FAULT.

Several witnesses stopped to check to see if everyone was OK, and this driver (a woman in her 30s) didn’t think that anyone needed to be called. She was annoyed that the witnesses were telling her to call the police. She never checked to see if anyone was hurt, and really behaved as if this accident was just a big fat interruption to her already busy day.

Over the next few days, when I got her name and other information, I did what most of you would do. I checked her out on Facebook. (Of course you would do that!)

She is a wife. She’s a mother of three young children. She works in a job with children in one of the surrounding suburbs. She is a Christian with a husband that works for a church. The more I scrolled through her Facebook page, the more angry and resentful I got. No mention of an accident (still to this day), and no care or concern for the people she injured. We had to hassle with her insurance company for a month, we were the ones that were out a vehicle, and we were the ones inconvenienced– playing middle man between insurance adjuster and repair shop.

I refuse to dwell on that anymore, but I still would love to cross paths with this person someday.

While we were waiting for her insurance company to decide what they were going to do, we started discussing how unsafe motorcycles are. How the injuries could have been much worse, how it could have been US on the motorcycle. Now mind you, I’m not anti-motorcycle. I know that my husband takes every precaution when driving. He pays attention to traffic, he had extra loud exhaust pipes so others could hear him approaching. Three headlights across the front so people could see him better.  He’s a good driver.

In all honesty, it’s not the motorcycles and their drivers that are the unsafe ones. It’s the other drivers around them that usually cause the accidents.

When it became quite apparent that this motorcycle wasn’t going to get fixed, we debated on what to do with the money. Buy another motorcycle? There was no way we would ever get as much as what we paid for it originally, so we’d have to finance a new one. That wasn’t going to happen.

Because we bought the motorcycle for my husband to enjoy, we tried to think of things we could spend the money on to enjoy as a family. Take a trip? Buy a new vehicle? We didn’t really need either of those.

So what did we buy? Stay tuned.

That One Yellow Rose

I’ve written many times before that I am firm believer in signs. Signs that we are either taking the right, or sometimes the wrong, direction in life. Signs that are not only gently pointing us where we should go, but sometimes even giving us a firm shove in case we can’t take a subtle hint.

My grandmother passed away a couple weeks ago. She was 93 years old, but this was so unexpected. It was a heartbreaking loss for our family, but the one bright thought I constantly remind myself of is that she is finally HOME. She is reunited with my grandfather that passed away 13 years ago. She is with her ten siblings again and her parents. What a joyous thing to think about.

Back to the signs.

It’s certainly no secret that I’ve mentioned numerous times over the years how much I miss our old church. Not even the church itself, but the people there. The activities we were involved in . We were happy and we felt like that was a good time in our life when we were attending that church. We’ve never been able to quite find that same experience again. We’ve found other churches and met new people over the years since we’ve moved but never that certain something. That something-I-can’t-quite-put-my-finger-on making us look forward to going back each week.

While sitting at my grandmother’s visitation a couple weeks ago, a deacon from the church got up to speak.  He said some very nice and endearing things about my grandma– her love of angels, flowers (especially yellow), and her fondness for a good slot machine.

But there was one comment that really struck me.  This deacon mentioned how important my grandmother’s faith was to her.  How important she valued her relationship with God, and how being a Christian defined her.   He then went on to say that her relationship with God was so strong and her faith so much a part of her life that she has passed it down to her children… and her grandchildren.

Woops.   That part?  Not so much true.

We don’t have a relationship with God.   We don’t attend church, and don’t put our faith as one of our top priorities.   We don’t pray, unless you count “Please God, don’t let this police officer pull me over for speeding right now” as a prayer.   Or “Dear God, please don’t let them cash my check before I get paid on Friday.”

So I sat during the rest of that visitation and thought about my grandmother’s faith. I thought about years my grandparents were married and the strong relationship they had with their church and with God. I thought about how many times I was told that when Grandma faced trouble, she pulled out her rosary and prayed.

I knew that my husband and I needed to get our family back to church. I knew I owed it to my grandparents to carry on a strong faith in God to my children. And even my own grandchildren.

The next day, during the funeral mass, I kept thinking about it as I recited the prayers I remembered from my childhood and sat in the church I grew up in.  The church my parents were married in.

imageWe got back to my parents house after the service, and my mom noticed something. The little rose bush outside the window, sitting right outside the window where my grandmother ate breakfast and drank her coffee everyday… the little rose bush that hadn’t bloomed all summer… had one single yellow rose blooming.

She’s here and everything is going to be all right.

Review: “People I Want To Punch in the Throat” by Jen Mann

Mann_-_Punch_in_the_Throat_-_final_coverI’ve been a fan of Jen’s website “People I Want To Punch in the Throat” for a long time. I’ve always been envious of her, because she can say what’s on her mind in a way that we all wish we could. She’s bold, she’s snarky and she just flat out makes me laugh.

So when I saw that Jen had a new book come out recently, I knew I had to get it. Each chapter is a different essay featuring various comedic stories of her life. Meeting her husband on the internet, trying to get into a certain Mom’s group only to hear it’s already full. Even a story about picking her child up from school in her pajamas, only to be asked to get out of the van and come into the school.

Jen seems to be one of those girls we all want to be friends with. She’s the life of the party, the one that always has all the funniest stories. I felt like I could relate with everything she was talking about in her book, all the while laughing my ass off.

Would you like to buy her book? CLICK HERE TO BUY NOW!“>

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That Time When I Talked Myself Right Out of Being a Blogger.

selfieSeveral months ago, I saw an advertisement on a local website looking for people that would be interested in teaching a “How To” class at the local library. It could be any topic, any interest, any hobby. I thought it would be incredibly fun to teach a “How To Start a Blog” class. I called the local library and signed myself right up to teach this quick 60-minute class, and I was incredibly excited about it.

I had been blogging for over 8 years, surely I would have some pointers to share, right?

Over the next few weeks, I researched and planned. I had an outline, a really super cute powerpoint presentation with accompanying packets for each participant… and I practiced over and over what I was going to say.

I had a handful of people attend the “How To” class that day, and I was excited that they seemed really interested in what I had to say. They really wanted to hear my advice, and listen to my experiences.

In the workshop, I told the participants that the most important thing about starting a blog was one simple task. One thing that needed to be done before deciding on a name, before choosing a platform or a template, and before writing a first blog post.

The almighty advice that I stressed was so important?

Find your niche.

As the class went on, and for days after I came home… I kept thinking about that important piece of advice. And then this crazy question popped up in my head.

WHAT THE HELL IS MY NICHE?

Where do I fit in the blogging world? I’m not a foodie, I’m not a crafter, I don’t blog about anything specific. I don’t write about travel, or photography or even the latest clothing trends.  My posts in one week could run the gamut of whatever words I could eek out in a few minutes of free time.  My Facebook and Twitter followers were growing by leaps and bounds, but there was nothing of substance that was keeping them around.  I had no niche to settle into.  No main topic, no specialty that I could call my own.

Well, unless you count “word vomit” as a specialty. I write about whatever the heck I want. I write about something I hear on the news, a book I just finished, a story about something my husband or daughters did, or even a giveaway I’m hosting for the week.

After a couple weeks of thinking about what direction my blog was heading, I learned that my blog was really just a website that had a severe case of ADHD. I hosted giveaways, I had a weekly Sunday linky, a weekly Iowa blogger feature, and then I just threw in whatever else I could think of. I was so busy trying to post something every day that I lost myself in the blog. I had no direction, no plan, no NICHE. Instead of focusing on CONTENT and trying to just write, I spent my time trying to get followers. I didn’t take my own advice that I was teaching to those workshop participants.

And that, my friends, is when I talked myself out of blogging.

So now, here I sit… almost five months later, missing this blog like crazy. So many times I’ve thought of things to write about, and so many times I’ve sat and started at a blank screen. I dropped off the face of the blogging world, and I struggle to find my way back in. The fluff is going bye-bye, and it’s time to get back to basics. While I still don’t have a niche or a specialty, I know that I enjoy writing and would like to do more of it.

Stay tuned.