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1. A Snicker of Magic, by Natalie Lloyd | Book Review

A Snicker of Magic, Natalie Lloyd’s sensational middle grade debut novel, begs to be read aloud and shared with an audience of dreamers.

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2. #628 – Virgil Creech Takes a Swipe at Redemption by Mark Myers

virgil creech 1.

Virgil Creech Takes a Swipe at Redemption

written by Mark Myers

published by Mark Myers                  12/19/2013

978-0-61587615-3

Age 8 to 13     222 pages

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“Welcome to the sleepy little town of Portsong, Georgia where there is a struggle a foot. Unbeknownst to the current owner, Virgil Creech has his selfish eyes set on taking back a dog he considers his. To be fair, as the youngest of nine bickering and bustling brothers, Virgil has always had to fight for the few things he could call his own. In this case, the property in question ran away from Virgil several months prior and now wants nothing to do with the boy, for he has found a happy home with the kindly Colonel Clarence Birdwhistle. Undetered, Virgil teams up with  reluctant friend, Henry Lee, to retrieve the dog.”

Opening

“That was a mark!” yelled Henry as he disappeared behind the row of elm trees to round up the ball.”

The Story

Four friends, Virgil, Henry, Willy, and Joe are playing in the town green (like a park) when Virgil kicks the ball hard and too high hitting Colonel Birdwhistle in the back of the head, knocking him out onto the pavement. The boys cautiously check to see if he is alive and Virgil accidentally causes Birdwhistle to hit his head again, knocking him cold. Later, at the hospital, Willy and Joe check on Birdwhistle and leave believing the boys have caused Birdwhistle to become blind. Willy, Joe, and Henry decide to find a dog, train it as a Seeing Eye dog, and give him to the Colonel.

At the city dump, the boys find a dirty, matted, and awful smelling mongrel. Henry gives the dog a half-hour session in leading the blind, and then takes the dog to the hospital, leaving it in Birdwhistle’s room. The Colonel takes the mutt home, cleans him up, and decides to keep him. The dog, now named Oscar, is now a happy dog.

Virgil realizes Oscar his is dog and is mad that Birdwhistle stole the dog from him. According to Virgil, Birdwhistle came right into his house and took Bertie (same dog, different name). Virgil is determined to get his dog back and enlists the help of his one friend, Henry Lee. Henry is determined to keep Virgil sway from Oscar. To complicate matters, a nationwide contest for a trip to Africa gets the town, including Virgil, up in a tizzy. Virgil knows he is the winner and must just wait for the day his name is called. When he returns from Africa, he will then get his dog back. But Colonel Birdwhistle has been entered hundreds of times by townsfolk who appreciate and admire him. Birdwhistle wins, causing Virgil to believe the Colonel has now stolen two things from him. He is madder than two Creech boys fighting over a chicken drumstick are. How will Henry contain Virgil and keep Oscar safe and with Birdwhistle. Can he do it?

Review

Virgil Creech Takes a Swipe at Redemption tells the story of two boys, Virgil, Henry, a British transplant, and the man’s dog, Oscar. Virgil is a mean boy, the last of nine boys. Not a day goes by that he is not beat or taken advantage by one of his brothers. In turn, Virgil always has a chip on his shoulder, beats up kids at school, must always get his way, and has no friends. Virgil’s temper is as short as a temper can possibly be. Henry is a kind, well-mannered boy from a fine family. After Virgil kicks a ball that knocks-out Colonel Birdwhistle, the boys, especially Henry and Virgil, are thrown together for survival.

The well-planned and well-written story will keep you turning the pages. The author understands the psyche of the twelve-year-old boy and offers explanations and comments throughout the book. At first, I thought these annoying, but as more and more pages turned, the narrative became more natural, the comments regarding boys in general became interesting, and the story became a smooth ride, except for the Virgil bumps along the way. Packed with humor, tender moments, and upheaval only two young boys can cause, Virgil Creech Takes a Swipe at Redemption will please adults as well as kids.

I enjoyed the story, which focused more on Henry and his life than on the main character, Virgil. As one reviewer has already pointed out, Henry should be the protagonist. Virgil is a perfect antagonist and causes most of Henry’s stress. Once Henry understands how Virgil treated his dog and how the dog ended up living in the city dump, he vows to keep Oscar with the Colonel. Even Oscar stays away from Virgil, refusing to go anywhere he can smell the boy—which is not hard for anyone to do. At one point, the author states that Virgil is the only Creech that did a selfless act. Not so, the two brothers who rescued Bertie (Oscar in a former life), and cared for the dog, albeit in a dump, thought only of the dog, not themselves. Seems any Creech could have a heart deep within his chest.

There are no illustrations in the story. Oscar is a small dog, one that Henry can easily pick up. The dog on the cover is not small. I do like the angry hate-the-world scowl on Virgil’s face. This accurately portrays the boy’s disposition. While reading the story, Colonel Birdwhistle looked very near the image on the cover. The houses seem out of place for an area of town filled with green grass. Maybe on the other side they would be correct. Having saidall that, for someone who has not read the story, the cover is inviting and makes you want to know what the scamp on the cover has done.

I am not overly fond of the trick Birdwhistle and George, Henry’s father, plays on the town when Birdwhistle decides not to accept the trip he won, without entering himself. I like the first part, but what is the difference, as Henry asks, between leaving for three months and hiding out, without your dog, for three months. The Colonel does not want to leave the town, where he feels accepted and a member of nearly every family, yet he is still gone from the children and the story hour Birdwhistle did not want to miss. It would have made more sense for the Colonel to feign an illness. The author wanted a twist that would delight the reader but I think this failed to hit the mark.

Kids who love adventure or family-spun stories will enjoy Virgil Creech Takes a Swipe at Redemption. For his first book, Myers offered readers a well-crafted story, less the twist. There is a second Virgil Creech story to be released this Fall. I cannot wait to find out what bothers Virgil enough to make his face “glow red.” It is entitled, Virgil Creech Sings for His Supper. There is no preview, so make of this title as you will. Just the idea of Virgil singing scares me.

For a middle grade boy’s perspective of Virgil Creech Takes a Swipe at Redemption  click HERE.

VIRGIL CREECH TAKES A SWIPE AT REDEMPTION. Text copyright © 2013 by Mark Myers.

To purchase your copy of Virgil Creech Takes a Swipe at Redemption go to AmazonB&NBook DepositoryAuthor’s Websiteyour favorite bookstore.

Learn more about Virgil Creech Takes a Swipe at Redemption  HERE.

Meet the author, Mark Myers, at his website:    https://portsong.wordpress.com/

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virgil creech 1

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copyright © 2014 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews

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evil fairies love hairm

Don’t forget! Evil Fairies Love Hair releases AUGUST 5th. As a reminder, the review is HERE.

Get it at Amazon   B&N    Book Depository    Clarion 


Filed under: 5stars, Books for Boys, Debut Author, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Middle Grade, Series Tagged: 1920's, boy's book, bullies, children's book reviews, family relationships, friends, Mark Myers, middle grade novel, Virgil Creech Takes a Swipe at Redemption

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3. Watching some Harry Potter!



Watching some Harry Potter!



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4. Inspired by the Sketch Dailies topic today, and how much I loved...



Inspired by the Sketch Dailies topic today, and how much I loved using ink yesterday I created this! I know how nice it is to snuggle with your best friend, especially if it is sort of smelly, but happy with a tail.



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5. Saying Goodbye

It is hard to say goodbye to an old friend. I am currently having to do just that. Sometimes, things deteriorate beyond salvage and the relationship must end. I have had this happen before, not very often – but it has happened.

In my younger days, I was a bridge-burner. I just moved on. I left high school and kept up with very few friends, mostly the ones who went to the same university. After four fun-filled years at college, I left those friends with every intent of doing better. I did not. Oh, I tried. For a year or two I kept up with some. But we all got scattered around the country and once-close ties severed. I predate social media, so we didn’t have that easy connection to tether me to my friends.

I have had to end relationships since then, though not as frequently. It was much easier to end friendships when I moved cities. I have lived in the same city for twenty-five years now and have no intention of leaving. So I can’t pack up and forget to give a forwarding address. Also, the aforementioned social media makes ending a relationship a public event. You have to be sure it is the proper thing to do before you push “unfriend,” or “block.”

What are some causes of ended friendships anyway? Here are some big ones. It isn’t an exhaustive list, you might have experienced other issues.

A trust violation – can be major or minor, equally damaging.

Priority shift – things become important to one and not the other.

Lack of support – a friend has stopped being there for you.

Selfishness – the friend who has all day to complain but has to go when it is time to listen.

Drift – Sometimes, friends just drift apart. It isn’t a willful decision on either side.

Friends can’t always be replaced. Depending on the length and emotional depth of the friendship, there can be a sizable void when the friendship ends. Pain. Regret. Panic, doubt, and second-guessing can even set in. Most of the time, there is even a grieving period when a friendship dies.

So it is with this friend. We’ve been through a lot together. There were entire days we spent together and I don’t regret them. They were good days… comfortable days. Never tight or strenuous, my friend and I got along perfectly. We fit together. I felt a certain contentment with this friend that I rarely feel. In fact, besides my wife, I’ve been closer to few others.

Why, do you ask, must this friendship end?

Is my friend moving? Did my friend betray me?

Loneliness_(4101974109)

 

No, due to old age, my friend’s elastic waistband ripped through the soft, cotton fabric and my favorite pair of boxers is caput. The friendship is no longer salvageable. I could save it for a dust rag or staining cloth, but that’d be weird… unlike writing a blog post about underwear.

 

 

Photo attribution: Bert Kaufmann from Roermond, Netherlands (Loneliness Uploaded by russavia)

 

 


Filed under: Learned Along the Way

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6. Read Me A Book

...

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7. Moon Swings - Remake :)


What I did on the right is a remake of one of my painting from way back. Hmm...my style has changed a great deal! :-/

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8. The Start of the Parade

In the distance I hear the band warming up – not a single note piercing the air sounds right. Each is singular, isolated, and the sound of them issuing from so many instruments almost hurts the ear. It is not melodious or rich. It sounds a mess.

People young and old run and walk around me, depending on their ability. The youngest citizens are aided by the hands of parents who steady their wobbly steps. The elderly are aided by their children, their children’s children, or a kind neighbor. No one is alone.

Excitement is high. I can see the shopkeepers giving out red, white, and blue buttons, pinwheels, and balloons on sticks to anyone who wants them. Somehow, today isn’t about profit or loss. Those cares will wait until tomorrow. Competition forgotten, today they smile together and serve.

The entire of Main Street is lined with flags – 48 white stars, seven red stripes, and six white. My own native flag boasts the same colors but in a much different configuration. I never saw it displayed so much when my home was there. Of course, as countries go, mine is old and gray while this one is but a newborn. In the latter years, one doesn’t celebrate birthdays with quite as much vigor as a youngster. One hundred and fifty years old today, I’m reminded.

This little town of Portsong is like any other in the country. It boasts nothing outside its borders that make it unique. It is known for nothing, remembered by few, and can’t seem to grow despite the mayor’s efforts. Yet there is something special here. While I cannot put my finger on it or label it properly, there is something that made this old Brit stay and set up shop.

I believe the allure is in the small details.  For instance, I have been asked to join the festivities no less than seventeen times since I came and sat on this bench. Five of those offers came from people I do not know and four more came from people who saw me at a distance and went far out of their way to make their inquiry. I have been here since just after sunrise and it is now nearly eleven o’clock. In that time, I have counted forty-three people of various ages who have passed me. Forty-two of them shared a smile and kind word with me. The only one who did not was little Esther Parsons and being two, she was in the middle of a fit about her bonnet, I believe.

In most places I have been, an old man on a bench can blend in… be anonymous… simply fade away into background. Not here. In this place this old man has been knitted into the fabric of the community so tightly that I believe I would be missed if I left. Yes, I believe there would be a hole in the quilt if I or anyone else took flight. And that is the loveliness of Portsong. Does it exist in other small towns? I am certain to some degree. It is certainly here to stay. As am I.

parade

The parade is about to start. As I leave my seat aided by the hand of a beautiful child with golden ringlets, I hear the marching band leading the way. No longer are they clanging individuals striking off on their own notes. Now they play as one group. Their sound gets closer. It is beautiful, melodious, and wonderful. Like this place, it is a collection of people working together in harmony.

I truly love it here.

 

-Colonel Clarence Birdwhistle

July 4, 1926


Filed under: Character Voices

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9. Ziv & Zebra a WIP by Sharon Vargo


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10. This Week: The Methow Valley Elementary Young Writers Celebration & Conference!

An EXCITING week ahead with the annual Methow Valley Elementary Young Writers Conference - ALL day Friday at MVES - and I am pleased to say that our keynote speaker/special guest for 2014 is the award winning and very excellent David LaRochelle -- all the way from the great state of Minnesota!

 David (left) pictured here with equally excellent illustrator Mike Whonoutka and their MN Book Award winning hardware for MOO!
David's voice and sense of humor offer just the right mix, and his experience of becoming a writer -- of the work and dedication to his craft -- will be a terrific compliment to the writing and illustrating that our students have been doing in their classrooms throughout the year. 

In addition, MANY 15-20 if I remember correctly, writers, illustrators, actors, musicians and cartoonists from the local community will be sharing their styles of writing and communication in a variety of kid-centric workshops and breakout sessions throughout the day. AWESOME!

And please don't miss the Celebration on Thursday night (5:30-7:00pm) where student work is on display and students get a chance to read from stories of their own. Its a really great night  and the kids love it!

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11. Harts Pass No. 203 & sign painting in downtown Winthrop!

The first BIG waves of summer tourism descended upon Winthrop this past Memorial Day weekend. And from my perch atop a friend's brand new local retail establishment, I couldn't help but notice that everything is looking pretty spiffy and inviting. The art brain was also working a little overtime this past week -- and at two drastically different scales (GIANT signs and tiny comics) to boot. "Lookin' good" to all and thanks for stopping by!

The almost blank canvas (letters lightly penciled in)...
...to early progress from the Genie Z Boom... 
...to getting pretty close...
... to the final touches...
...and the finished product!

0 Comments on Harts Pass No. 203 & sign painting in downtown Winthrop! as of 5/29/2014 4:23:00 PM
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12. The Lost Art of Listening

“Come, Henry,” Colonel Birdwhistle called as he shouldered his cane pole. “We should be on our way. The day is ending and your mother will be spreading supper soon.”

“But we didn’t catch nuthin’” replied the glum boy.Fishing_Drawing

“We didn’t catch ‘anything’, you mean. And catching fish is but a small portion of our purpose here. We are here primarily to enjoy each other and the beauty of creation. If a fish should happen to find our bait attractive, that, my boy, is simply a bonus.”

Unconvinced, Henry pulled at his pole hoping for a nibble that would keep them a little longer. Receiving nothing for his trouble, he reluctantly stood and followed the Colonel toward home.

The two had not gone far when they heard the sound of an approaching horse. Soon it came into view as it galloped their way. Noting its speed, they moved well off of the path. When horse and rider came alongside the pair, the man on top pulled back on the reigns bringing the chestnut to a stop in a cloud of dust.

“Hello there,” called the rider from atop his mount. “Is this the way to Warbler’s Ridge?”

“I believe it used to be…” began the Colonel.

“I’m in an awful hurry,” interrupted the man. “I have urgent business at the paper mill there. This must be the right way, it was given me by the sheriff. I believe Whitaker was his name.”

“Yes, Hub Whitaker is the local sheriff. But as I was saying, this road…”

“Big fella, your sheriff. I’d guess you don’t have to worry much about crime here with a huge man like that minding the wall.”

“No sir,” answered Henry. “Things are pretty quiet round here. But…”

“That’s good, son. Real good,” cut in the stranger. “Well, I ain’t got time to sit around here talking. Like I said, I’ve got important business in Warbler’s Ridge. So if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be on my way.”

With a click of his tongue and flick of the reigns, he urged his horse forward while Henry held up an arm in protest.

“Mister, wait!” called Henry in futility, for the horse was gone. Turning to his companion, he asked, “Why wouldn’t he listen?”

“Henry, you have just learned an important lesson,” returned the Colonel. “Some people don’t understand that having a conversation means listening as well as talking. If he had taken a moment to close his mouth and open his ears, what would he have learned?”

“That the bridge he’s headed toward fell into the river a long time ago,” answered the boy slowly.

“I believe he should figure that out for himself any time now.”

As if on cue, a loud splash could be heard from the direction of the river. The old man and his young friend ambled quickly to the river and past the horse to help the fallen rider out of the water.

“You okay, mister?” asked Henry.

“Why didn’t you warn me, son?” inquired the dripping stranger.

“We tried, but couldn’t get a single word past all of yours,” returned the Colonel. “You missed a turn a ways back and need to follow the river a mile north to get to the nearest working bridge.”

Once more on his horse, the humbled rider continued on his way with every intent of listening for an answer the next time he asked a question. Henry and the Colonel headed home for supper, laughing the entire way. They may not have caught a fish, but they netted a good story to tell.

 

Photo credit:  Ward, Lock, & Tyler of London [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 


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13. Read Me FOREVER

When books are your only true friends :) 

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14. Happy Nowruz 1393 :)

Happy Nowruz! Wish you all great times and happy events this year :)

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15. The Woes of a Being in a Relationship With a Runner

I’m sure it can be a little tough for spouses waking up to a cold left side of the bed…”Sorry Honey, out running.” Being in a relationship with a runner may mean pleading out of weekend plans because they’ve got their long runs, races, workouts, and whatnot. All night ravers and barhopping don’t exactly work well into the training program.
runner spouse pains
Air-drying our running shirts and tights across the banister, cupboards full of protein bars and Gu’s…the oft empty refrigerator. “Sorry Honey, I got hungry!!” That’s runger for you.

Certainly the friends and loved ones of a runner may suffer, they may not ‘get it’, they may not harbor ANY desire to worship the all-mighty mile, rock a Garmin tan so burned into your skin it lasts through winter, or not bat an eye about wearing ‘short’ running shorts in public. “Seriously, they’re not even that short.”

The thing is though, TRUE friends and TRUE loved ones may not always ‘get’ our running quirks habits but they will support us regardless. Some have argued that running is a ‘selfish sport’ and in some ways it may appear to be. But I will always argue that any selfishness is absolved so long as:

1) Every running KNOWS how lucky they are for any support they get.
2) Always thank those awesome people waiting at the starting line or watching your kiddies (or doggies, or plants, or comic book collection) so you can go for a run.
3) Running makes you a happier, more productive, better you.

Any runner who does that, not only DESERVES their running ‘me’ time but shouldn’t feel any ounce of guilt. Even if they’re dodging out of the marriage bed in the wee early morning hours and their spouse is left to spoon with a pillow. You’re not cheating…you’re a runner. ;)

1) What are some ways that you are lucky, what pillars of support do you have in your life?
2) How do you thank your awesome family or friends who think you’re crazy for this running thing but support you anyways?
3) How does YOU running make you a better person and how does that benefit your supporters?
Umm…if I didn’t run no one would want to be around me…fact. ;)

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16. The Quickest Way to a Runner’s Heart…

It’s that special time of year where every runner everyone is a little kinder, a bit more generous, and hopped up on hot cocoa and sugar cookies!! Amidst all the list making, if you REALLY want to win over the hearts of your family, friends, or that certain someone…you better have stashed away in that gift pile some brand spanking new running shoes!! ;)
rudolf running
Other acceptable presents that are sure-fire ways to rock the recipients’ holidays are:
* A Garmin
* An AWESOME running shirt
* BodyGlide
* A PR

…actually that last one you have to go out and win for yourself! ;)

Happy Holidays my runner friends!!

1) What’s something that you’re excited to be giving to someone this year?
2) It IS the spirit of giving but let’s be honest, is there one item in particular you’re really hoping to get?
3) Best holiday gift you’ve ever gotten? Best one you’ve ever given?
Gotten, wow, there’s a few. I think I’d like to share that I was SOOOOOO pumped when a talking PeeWee Herman doll was was unwrapped. “I know you are, but what am I?”

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17. My New Love Affair With Stretching and How it’s Rocking My Running

I love running (duh) but you may recall I’m not entirely in a Ménage à trois with stretching AND running. Don’t get be wrong, I KNOW how important regular stretching is to prevent injuries and improve your running performance. Heck, I write about it tons HERE and HERE…oh and I harp on it in my Competitor and Running Time articles.

But do I love it? Eh…we’ll say I would choke it down.

Then the world shook. You probably felt it actually. Remember THIS post where I talked about the BEST MASSAGE THERAPIST in the world?? Al Kupczak (aka also my BFF) literally solved a string of 3.5+ years of injuries stemming from my car accident. Side-not, getting hit by a car and almost losing your leg isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Well I mean I was able to run…but it was ugly, it never really felt like it used to, I couldn’t go faster than an easy pace without getting injured to where I couldn’t run at all. I saw lots of docs, tried lots of things…yada yada yada…finally got my butt up to Boulder, CO.

“Cait, you’re tight as h*ll.”
“I know, Al.”
“It’s not all your fault, there’s lots of scar tissue and calcifications stopping you from being able to stretch.”
“I’ve been TELLING PEOPLE!!! See, it’s not my fault, stretching doesn’t like me!!”
“Well now that I’ve broken all that up you CAN stretch now.”

[not verbatim but you got the gist]

It was an intense 12 days, saw Al Kup every other day for 2 hours at a time but…miracle beyond miracles check this out:
pre stretching
First day in CO…I’ve never IN MY LIFE touched my toes before.
mid visit stretching
This is only four days later after 2 treatments. I was able to touch the ground and even grab my ankles and pull myself closer to my thighs. [yes I'm wearing the same scrubby runner shorts, don't judges. I had to pack light...it's called rinse, hang, and repeat ;) ]

I had a lot of issues but the main ones were my hamstrings, adductors, and abductors. They were extremely tight and in a constant tug-of-war when I ran. When I left CO, Al sent me home with a bunch of stretches and some lovly parting words, “If you want to stay healthy you have to keep stretching.”

So I’ve been religious about my stretching routine.

stretching

I had to touch my toes to take that first shot!! Booyah! ;)


#proof

Now I want to also tell people that when you have a TON of issues [like I did, Al had a lot to work on, and fixed a pretty marked leg length difference] and you make changes, even ones for the better, your body is thrown for a loop. It takes time to adjust to the new running style.

Think about it, you do something one way for years and years, it will take time for the body to adapt. There will be weaker muscles not used to working as hard that need to get stronger and to avoid compensation injuries you’ve got to be careful.

So my new runner body IS going through lots of changes, sorenesses and tightnesses I’ve never had before. I call Al freaking out but his answer is always the same: “Stretch. Be patient.” He’ll give me the best stretches for the specific soreness and I am always amazed that *viola* a few days later the sorenesses are gone.

The world has been flipped upside down. I actually AM embracing a three-way with running and stretching. And I certainly hope you do too…preferably it’ll take you SOONER than I did to open up to the miracle of the stretch. ;)

Side-note here…this Arty Runnerchick is FINALLY on instagram!! You can check me out HERE…and see my very first picture. Awww…sooo cute…like a baby taking their first steps, except I’m a fully grown adult who was too lame to get on the site at a decent age. PS- I’m an artist, I post my art my choice…so don’t worry there will not be tons of selfies :P

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In case you missed it…check out my NEWEST running shirt!
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1) Do you stretch often?
2) Do you actually LIKE to stretch?
3) Are you on instgram?? Let me know!!

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18. Two Truths and a Lie: Running, Endorphins, Depression, and Self-Esteem

Okay, I’m sure every runner remembers that game “Two Truths and a Lie.” You come up with two stories or facts that are true then one that is, well duh, a lie. Trying to make it tricky for your friends to figure out the lie, usually you pick some pretty off the wall REAL things that happened. Well, here will be a little runner’s version of that.

Finally I may have a better shot at pulling one over on you guys, I’m pretty sucky at lying face-to-face, so now I can hide my smirks behind the words. ;)
keep running
Running Shoots the Brain Up With Endorphins = Puts You in a Happy Mood

Exercise causes the body to release ‘feel good’ hormones called endorphins. When these are picked up by the brain’s receptors it puts you in a happier, more positive mood. But let’s be honest and say that running gives you cooler endorphins than other forms of exercise. ;)

Endorphins released from running give the brain a similar kind of ‘high’ or sensation that people experience doing other not-so-healthy alternatives: drugs, binge eating, gambling…and if we’re going to acknowledge it as a true addiction…sex addiction?? (haha…wow, I’m so mature, right?) So people recovering from other addictions have found taking up running, or other forms of exercise, really helpful. Maybe LiLo should really stick with this running thing.

Running, because of the natural ‘high’, and the positive reinforcement of setting goals, putting in hard work, and reaching those goals, has also proven to be helpful with those struggling with depression. Running also introduces people up to a new community and friendships, so those relationships also help with feeling better. Finally, anyone who’s had a runner buddy can attest that some of the best free therapy sessions come from a good, solid run with lots of chatter.
eating cotton candy
Running Helps Bolster Confidence

Running is hard. Bam…straight to the obvious. It takes a lot of self-motivation, effort, and pushing your limits to achieve those goals we set. But, when those goals are fulfilled, there are fewer more rewarding sensations. Hello, how awesome is the feeling of crossing the finish line and earning a brand spanking new PR?!?!?

Going through that goal setting and goal fulfillment process instills a work ethic and helps breed confidence. Running has a great way of helping boost self-esteem because of that confidence. Also, it gives you a whole new level of respect for yourself and your body; you view this body as a vehicle for performance, something that can really DO big things!!

Running and Endorphins Solve All ‘Feeling Bum’ Moods and Sad Feelings

So really we could solve all of life’s problems if we all just started running, right? I mean, hello, we’ll then have a world full of people with brains chock-loaded with endorphins. We’ll eliminate all drug problems, all forms of substance abuse, we’ll save all those marriages destroyed by ‘sex addiction’, we’ll even clean up all of Hollywood so will movies be better??

There will no longer be anyone struggling with low self-esteem or depression either. Right?
turn left on the track
Okay, I think you see where I’m going and that last one is obviously the lie. YES, running does release endorphins but, sadly, they aren’t a cure-all for more serious underlying issues. While, I still think that having running as a positive outlet in ADDITION to other forms of treatment help with these things, running isn’t a magical cure-all.

I bring this up because I contributed a post to ‘The Anxious Girls’ Guide to Dating: Silencing the Inner Critic’ because it touches on some more ‘serious’ stuff I don’t always talk about here. Also, recently the British hurdler, Jack Green, has come forward saying he’s switching sports because he’s working to recovery from his depression.

Now the telegraph article sort of ‘blames’ the intensity of the sport of running for causing him to slip into this depression, while that may or may not be the case, I would like to say two things. 1) Yes, competing and training at such a high level naturally can put someone in the position of letting too much stress get to them, and when you’ve invested so much of yourself into the sport and you wind up falling short of your goals or injured, that can be a crushing blow magnified times a billion. 2) HOWEVER, I don’t think it’s as simple as that; as a professional athlete you go in knowing that you’re not always going to win and that running IS cruel because there will always be injuries, and it’s a sport that tests you like none-other. That said, you should have an underlying, true, self-motivated passion for simply running.

That is another whole other topic I could write on, but the main points I wanted to get out are that:
1) You should always run from within, truly love running. If you love the feeling of pushing yourself you can have a life-long relationship with running and that appreciation will get you through the ‘low points’ (ie: injuries, falling short)

2) Running is one of the best forms of free therapy and it certainly keeps many of us runners sane. But realize it’s also totally natural to have days where you feel crummy, most times running can HELP that…but it’s also not the magic bullet. If you need to supplement with other things…don’t be ashamed or shy. Plus, when you’re truly happy with yourself and your life it has a funny way of actually making your performance better. Shocker, right? [sarcastic font used...it's not a shocker...hehe.]

Run…be happy…my friends!!

1) Give me two truths and a lie on anything.
2) How has running helped improve your overall happiness, confidence, self-esteem, life, etc?
Way too many ways to count. Running keeps me sane! :)
3) What are some other ways, outside of running, that keep you happy in life?
Close friendships and family. Yea, my younger sib’s rock!

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19. Join Me For A Cup?

cups

There is nothing like a nice cup of steamy hot coffee with cream and conversation with friends.  Since all my friends are working or busy, I am having coffee with my other friends.  Today it is Toola.  … and no,  she is not sharing that second cup with me.  She likes two cups of coffee at one time.  It’s kind of hard to get her to sit down (obviously), but we must love our friends no matter what!!  It takes a lot of interesting people to make a world.    Enjoy your day!

~ Leslie Ann

 


Filed under: breakfast, morning, My Characters

3 Comments on Join Me For A Cup?, last added: 5/20/2013
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20. Renaissance Means “Rebirth”

And so begins my blog anew, retooled and with a new focus on things that make you lose your breath. Moments that make you stop and say to yourself, “Yes–this is what life is for!” And all that mundane stuff in between.

Renaissance means starting over, refresh, reboot. So it’s only fitting that it’s that time of year again: Renaissance Faire time! I know, technically it’s always that time of year somewhere, but here it happens throughout May. Sadly there has been so much rain that we have not yet dragged my nephew off to the land of jousts and turkey legs and the king’s roasted nuts, but there’s time yet.

Gentle readers, in the spirit of the Faire, I ask you: have you ever attended? Participated? Do you think it’s ridiculous? Do you go every weekend?What is your favorite part?

I have two favorite Faire memories–from the first I ever attended and from the last.

The first was in Deerfield Beach, Florida, and it was magical. My friends are crazy, and they love to make costumes. I call this crazy because I cannot sew and would never deliberately make myself an outfit that involves boning in any way. But they are amazing, talented individuals, and they love to dress up, so we all put on their incredible handmade costumes and went to the Ren Faire. The weather was perfect, the dill pickles were icy cold, and we stayed until the sun set over the lake at the edge of the Faire grounds. And as we took emotive pictures together against the pink-orange sky, an old drunkard came up and attempted to urinate in the lake. (That isn’t my favorite memory, by the way, that is just the fittingly inappropriate end to a lovely day at the Faire.)

The very last time I went to the Faire, I went with a different group of friends, including D. Some dressed up, and some did not. Once again I found myself in borrowed bits and pieces, because I like to immerse myself. D showed off his axe-throwing skills, and attempted to climb this tricky rope bridge, and I swooned appropriately. Then he got dragged up to dance (because there are never enough willing gentlemen) so of course I had to join him, and we shared our first dance. It rained and it poured, because apparently May is the rainiest month of the year in Tennessee, and we got soaked to the bone and ditched our friends to change clothes and watch movies all afternoon.

I would love to hear about some other favorite Ren Faire locations and memories, so be sure to leave a comment! Tell me what takes your breath away?


Tagged: costumes, friends, memories, Renaissance Faires, starting over

2 Comments on Renaissance Means “Rebirth”, last added: 5/14/2013
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21. Casting Mayberry

When I was a child, I loved watching the Andy Griffith show. It was a sweet situation comedy about a small town sheriff keeping the peace in rural North Carolina. The setting was bucolic. The cast was full of benign well-meaning people occasionally beset by antagonists passing through or creating problems for each other.

Let’s take a look at the functions of the different characters. 

The protagonist was the widowed Sheriff Andy Taylor. He had a shrewd mind hidden behind a good-old-boy smile. That was his secret weapon. The antagonists always underestimated him. His role was that of caretaker to a town full of people too innocent to protect themselves. His weakness was that he was too nice, bordering on enabling.

This was apparent when dealing with his sidekick, Barney Fife. Bumbling Barney meant well, but was often more of a hindrance than a help. He occasionally redeemed himself by luck rather than skill.

Andy’s Aunt Bee acted as the sweet voice of reason, but she occasionally got it wrong and this offered mild interpersonal conflict.

Otis, the town drunk, was usually a hindrance or complication to solving the story problem.

Floyd, the Barber, was the town gossip with feathers for brains. His tidbits of information sometimes helped and sometimes hindered.

Opie was Andy’s son and often posed important thematic questions. He occasionally got into trouble.

Goober and Gomer Pyle were goofy gas station attendants who innocently interfered. Their station was the portal to the town.

Andy was occasionally given a love interest who offered interpersonal conflict based on the occasional jealous pang or misunderstanding.

The antagonists were a series of moonshiners and petty criminals passing through. Once in a while they dealt with a real criminal (bank robber).

The characters not only offered local color, they were the source of interpersonal conflict. They aided or impeded and sometimes brought trouble to their door.

Andy’s genuine love for them kept him motivated to save them from their own folly and the bad guys who passed through.

There were no special effects, no guns blazing, no brutal murders. Sheriff Taylor was a loving but firm disciplinarian with Opie (and the rest of the town). Mayberry was a sweet place to pass a summer’s evening full of genuine love and kindness.

I doubt storytelling will ever return to that level of innocence, but the world could use a little country comfort these days. 

0 Comments on Casting Mayberry as of 5/24/2013 9:57:00 AM
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22. Best Summer Vacation or Bust

Summer is officially in swing, at least it is here in the South–and I guess it must be gearing up pretty soon in the rest of North America. Sorry Australia. As the weather warms up and my nephew collects spare change in his vacation jug, it puts me in mind of some of my best vacations. Actually it’s hard to choose a best. I’ve been pretty lucky.

Definitely one of the best vacations of my childhood would be the combined summers at Space Camp. I was technically a teenager, technically a middle-schooler, but I can be nerdy enough to admit that space absolutely turned me into an excited little kid and although it wasn’t really anything like the movie, Space Camp was an incredible adventure.

The first year was a whirl-wind. I didn’t know anyone, but it didn’t matter because everyone was a lot like me. I met Heidi right away, a girl who became a very dear, lifelong friend. Much from the two years actually blurs together now, in fact every time I think of a memory from the first year, I start to wonder if it was actually the second year. Which year did I get my head stuck between the bunkbeds? Which year did we build the rocket that was rather hideous and was named The Load Toad? Which year did we look at Jupiter in the giant telescope? Which year did we tour the training facility where astronauts practice weightless maneuvers in dive suits inside a ginormous tank?

I honestly can’t remember anymore. (My memory is terrible. Just ask D. He’s my official memory-keeper. As in, “Remind me to go to the bank. Remind me to eat dinner. Remind me what day it is.”)

What I do remember is that I had so much fun. Every moment was as thrilling as the breathless 4Gs of the Space Shot. Technically, it wasn’t Space Camp. Technically the first year was Space Academy (Level I) and the second year was Advanced Space Academy. Heidi and I were the only girls on the “pilot” track that year, but we hung tough with the boys and loved it. We trained hard and then executed 3 separate missions: We flew the shuttle, we performed experiments on the space station, and we assisted the other teams from the safety of Mission Control. I swear it was exactly like Apollo 13. Except without, you know, Gary Sinise. Or Ed Harris.

There were movies in the OmniMax and private tours of the museum. And So. Many. Dippin’ Dots. We even had our own turn in a big “weightless” metal water tank. Unfortunately I had allergies and was terrified of getting the benz (in 30 feet of water…), so I  snorkeled instead. Probably for the best because a tornado choose that moment to make an appearance, and we were unceremoniously hauled from the tank early and sent down to the safety of the basement museum, our wetsuits still dripping. I am, however, slightly haunted by my fear of scuba diving, and as I have never had a good snorkeling experience (stories to come, I’m sure), I hope some day to scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef.

One of the highlights of camp was meeting an actual astronaut, and somewhere there may still be photographic evidence. I wish I could say that Space Camp was where I learned not to lose my camera, but alas, remember what I said about my memory? If not, then perhaps your memory is worse than mine. That’s a scary thought.

I can’t speak for other programs, but my time at the Huntsville Space and Rocket Center was truly unparalleled, and I would encourage everyone to go–at least for the day. In fact, given what a good time he had at the Ren Faire, it might be time to haul the Star Wars obsessed E down to Alabama for the day.

What are some of your favorite vacation spots? Best memories? Feel free to share–I’m always looking for someplace new to go. As my dad always says, “You want to do everything.” Well maybe not everything–bungee jumping just doesn’t sound like something I should do.


Tagged: Astronauts, Being Brave, Dippin' Dots, friends, Middle School, snorkeling, Space Camp, Summer, Vacation

4 Comments on Best Summer Vacation or Bust, last added: 6/6/2013
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23. Imploding

The newest offering of the Defective Amish Detective is available now! You can get Vol 6: The Sausage Log Implosion on Kindle here: http://amz.to/11MckpP


I have to say this whole experience has been a lot of fun. When Giovanni approached me about this series, I was a little hesitant. I have always known him to have an outrageous sense of humor and I knew the Amish were handled with a great deal of respect. I did not know how we would blend the two.

What came out of it was a story with lots of heart and its own kind of zaniness. I think we manage to show the proper amount of respect to the Amish. Much of the slapstick falls on the Defective Detective, who is not Amish. What is he? Something of a repentant hitman. Both of our main characters have mysterious pasts that give them unique skills to handle the cozy mysteries we throw at them.

In the end, this series is about friendship and understanding. It is about two men coming from two different worlds and overcoming their differences to work together for the greater good. It is a pleasure to write and I hope you have as much fun reading it!

About The Sausage Log Implosion“Muck is Muck,” Eli the Blacksmith says.How does the Defective Detective go from having a near perfect day to one of the worst? Simple – someone stole his sausage log. Everyone has something in life that makes them happy. For G, it is the culinary delights of the Amish, including whoopie pies and sausage logs. When his favorite market is sold out, G wants to know why. The charming, but innocent, counter girl tells him that the butcher’s meat grinder has been stolen. When something goes awry in Amish Country, G can’t let it go. He joins his stalwart companion Eli and the two of them are on the case. They have two questions to answer. What happened to the meat grinder? And, how much muck is too much muck? This is one explosive implosion!

0 Comments on Imploding as of 6/30/2013 12:39:00 PM
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24. Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library, by Chris Grabenstein

A bit ironic as I was trying to escape from Chicago's O'Hare airport when I started reading this one!  Honestly, I wasn't in the best frame of mind when I opened the cover.  I was delayed, then canceled.  Many hours and gate-changes later, I was delightfully immersed in this book written so clearly for book lovers!

Kyle Keeley comes from a family of gamers.  Not just video games, either...board games too.  And in Kyle's opinion, the king of the game makers is none other than Mr. Luigi Lemoncello of Lemoncello's Imagination Factory.  Too bad Kyle isn't as interested in school as he is in games!  His friend Akimi has to remind him on the school bus that he was supposed to write an essay on why he is excited about the new public library.  The old public library had been torn down 12 years ago, and now there is a contest asking the 12 year olds of the town to write about the new library.  The winners of the contest will be able to participate in a library lock in before the space is opened to the public.  Kyle furiously scribbles his half hearted essay on an extra piece of paper on the bus ride to school.

Kyle is soon kicking himself about his lack of effort on the essay as he soon finds out that Mr. Lemoncello himself is going to judge the essay contest since he is one of the new library's biggest benefactors.  But here's the thing about Kyle -- he's not a kid who gives up and he finds a way to write a better essay and he tries to get it to Mr. Lemoncello himself.

Imagine everyone's surprise when Kyle is one of the 12 chosen for the library lock-in.  

What follows is a wonderful ode to all things library.  Cool state of the art gadgets, crazy technology, and all kinds of clues will keep book lovers glued to the pages once the 12 12 year olds realize that this isn't any old library lock in.  Lemoncello is Wonka personified, and the title dropping is a hoot.  All of the ideas wouldn't work without Grabenstein's tightly written prose and vivid descriptions.  This is a great book that I cannot wait to get into the hands of my book lovers come the start of school.

3 Comments on Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library, by Chris Grabenstein, last added: 7/21/2013
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25. 3 Ways Running Can Fly By and 500 Reasons to Update Your Running Shoes

Oh I’m so proud, I’ve been diligently helping spread the running infection. Last night I ordered my cute little high school friend a pair of running shoes. I’ve been working on her for months, when she told me she wished she could be a runner.

“Be a runner?” I said, “Anyone can BE a runner.” That’s the funny thing, most people think you either pop out with your Nike running shoes on or you don’t. The ones who don’t are sadly shunned from society, left to wallow away through life sans any endorphins via miles. ;) Just kidding.

running track

The cool place all runners get to hang out.


But I told her anyone can become a runner, at any age, and regardless of starting fitness level. Probably the greatest thing about our sport, regardless of genetics, if you are consistent with your running you WILL improve and get better.

The beauty of running a PR (personal best for any of you newbie runners) can be felt by ANYONE. You just have to work for it. Earning that sweaty, glorious time is tough but so worth it. It becomes tougher the longer you run, the improvement curve doesn’t always sky-rocket away like it does soon after you become a runner. That just means you have to work harder AND smarter. ;)

Back to my friend though, I’ve been so proud watching her go from barely making two miles and now busting out 6 miles. I was, however, APPALLED…I mean appalled at the raggedy-@$$ shoes she was running in.

When I say I was appalled, I’m not in ANY way judging her or disappointed in her AT ALL. Most new runners just really don’t have any idea how crucial it is to have the right kind of shoes. Also the age of their shoes. “My foot kind of hurt after my last run, I think I need a new pair…I love these shoes but maybe a year and a half is too long to still be using them.”
run from problems
A YEAR AND A HALF!! My mind freaked the freak out, only because I know how much a ‘dead’ pair of running shoes can turn into an injury bomb. Granted, she did other things and wasn’t logging mega miles in them, but still. A pair of shoes should never be out there on the mean streets logging miles if they’ve seen 500 miles or more. Time for a new pair, baby!

So I assessed her foot type and we’ve gotten her squared away with dem new running shoes. We also got to talking about things that make running go by faster and what makes those miles feel like an eternity:

1) The Scenic Route: Per minute, running on the treadmill feels like about 10 minutes. ;) Just kidding.
2) Training Partners: Having a training partner makes those miles zip by quicker too. I mean that figuratively AND literally if the workout for the day are repeats or a hard run. Working WITH someone and getting ‘towed’ along during intervals will wind-up with faster splits that ‘feel’ easier than if you were running alone.
3) Being fitter. The reason most non-runners think they can’t ‘be’ a runner is because running a few minutes feels KILLER and they don’t understand how anyone could run multiple miles. The reason is because they just aren’t fit enough. The body adapts, it grows stronger, cardiovascular fitness and endurance improves the more CONSISTENT you are with your running. Eventually you get to the point where 2 miles are easy because you’re comfortably able to run 4 miles, then 4 are easy because you’re regularly running 6 miles. You get the picture.

So now it’s your turn. Keep spreading this running thing across the lands…prove to the non-believers that ANYONE can ‘be’ a runner…they just have to try. :)

1) When did you start running? What caused you to try?
I sucked at all sports requiring an ounce of coordination. I can turn left.
2) Is there anyone you have inspired to become a runner?
3) What’s one thing that makes your running go by faster?

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