Book Review │ Tell No One by Barbara Taylor Sissel

With school winding down for the year and having finally finished writing my doctoral dissertation, I am all about looking for books that offer me an escape from my own reality. I am very much into books that are full of great plot and drama as well as those that take you to places that are far away from your everyday life. I am thoroughly enjoying escapism through reading.

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Tell No One by Barbara Taylor Sissel gave me all of what I have been seeking in a book lately. At the heart of a novel is an old truth: lies within families will fester and boil over in unexpected and shocking ways. They will trickle down among generations and touch lives that weren’t even yet considered when the lies began.

Beginning with a deathbed wish, family secrets spill over through the voices of two siblings as scandals emerge in the family. Several plots lines run throughout the book involving financial crimes, PTSD, addiction and secrets so scandalous they cannot be spoken about. Sometimes other people’s choices and actions will shape us even though we think we are consciously avoiding being taken in by them. Also, sometimes good and bad go together and are not often so clearcut, but rather survive in our world as a gray area where distance sometimes means the difference between the two.

Overall, Barbara Taylor Sissel delivers with Tell No One. She creates an immersive world where you remain the entire time that you are reading her book. As you read, you feel as though you are part of her story, watching as a family comes to terms with things long buried and ultimately meets a dramatic, action-fueled end at the conclusion of her narrative which in turn, will hopefully lead to what everyone is searching for: forgiveness both of other people and of themselves.

Tell No One by Barbara Taylor Sissel shows the complexities of families and of the demons we both acquire from our families as well as though that we create for ourselves and in turn, unleash onto our families both consciously and unintentionally.

Tell No One by Barbara Taylor Sissel will be available for purchase on May 14, 2019. It will be published through Lake Union Publishing with ISBN 9781542040457. This review was written after receiving an advanced electronic galley from the publisher in exchange for a review.

Book Review: One Summer in Paris by Sarah Morgan

parisWhen I was in my early 20’s, I broke up with my high school/college sweetheart and packed up my life for a semester abroad in Paris. I am all about books that take me back to Paris, especially those that are about a newly single woman navigating her new world in one of the world’s most beautiful cities. I was so excited when I received the galley for Sarah Morgan’s One Summer in Paris.

Morgan’s novel focuses around two women from different worlds: Grace and Audrey. Grace is an American who was looking forward to celebrating her 25th wedding anniversary with her husband whom she books a trip to Paris for. Only, he really surprises her when he tells her that he wants a divorce. Grace packs up her life and her heartbreak for Paris where she finds herself in an apartment of a bookshop. It is here she meets Audrey, a teenage Londoner, who is also working through her own heartbreak. Audrey with her limited French language skills begins to work in the bookstore and forms an unlikely friendship with Grace. Together, the two become their own sort of family.

Inevitably, David, Grace’s husband, decides that he doesn’t want to be with his mistress, Leesa, and wants to reconcile with Grace. This is where the story lost me a little. He is still sleeping with Leesa, but has decided that he rather be with Grace. I felt like he didn’t suffer enough to make up for his crimes and it was here that I was a bit turned off.

Overall, though, this novel is a light summer kind of read that will make you laugh out loud at the scenes between Grace and Audrey. The premise that landed them both there as well as how a small town part time teacher could afford to buy a summer aboard left me guessing, but if you can get past those plot holes, you will definitely enjoy this quick read about heartbreak, female friendship and the power of moving forward in your life even if your heart is broken.

One Summer in Paris by Sarah Morgan is scheduled for release on April 9, 2019 from Harlequin with ISBN 9781335507549. This review was created after reading an advanced electronic copy of the novel from the publisher.

 

The Chop That Was Part II

When I started trying to get pregnant, I stopped dying my hair. At that point in my life I was becoming a mom and as such, I would worry about anything and everything from that point out. I used to love dying my hair. I had been doing it since I was 16. I have had every color from orange to purple to deep reds to black. Today, it is my natural dirty blonde and no longer hanging down my back but stopping at my shoulders:

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In college, when I was living in Paris, I had a girl I was living with embarrass me by pointing out the beginning of the gray hair that I already had. It was just a few strands at the time, but when she was loudly going off about in as we stood on a street corner surrounded by a bunch of people, it was just humiliating for me at 20 years old. It was also the first time I had noticed it.

By the time I was done with my masters program and was set up as a tenured teacher, the few strands had become a full on strip. Now, once that I had the baby, my slim strip was a full blown patch. When I went back to work my students even asked me if I had done it on purpose or if it was a birth mark. Instead of being embarrassed though, I have embraced my natural hair color and my big, white strip. I feel as though it is just part of this new season in my life.

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I never knew hair could be so liberating. Looking back at all the times I changed it though, they often coincided with hard parts of growing up: changes in jobs, ups and downs (and breakups) of relationships, moves, etc. This season in my life also marks one of the most settled ones of my life.

The Chop That Was

I am an old soul and as such, I have always been drawn to different times and old things.

I also have difficulties letting go.

Lately, it has been my hair. I had grown it out for our wedding and it was all the way down my back for the first time since I was little. Only, up until I had gotten engaged I was bleaching my hair to hide an every widening white streak that I have in the front. Half of my hair was so fried, but I was so attached to it.

It was the hair I had at my wedding nearly two years ago. It was the hair that I had throughout my pregnancy and through my nearly first year of motherhood. My aunt was still alive when I had that hair too…I had attached a lot of meaning to my hair.

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And so it took a great deal for me to finally cut off about 5, very damaged and burnt ends that are now in a bag in my car because I still couldn’t part with it, but I couldn’t wear it anymore.

It would mat up just by existing and brushing it often hurt because it would get and stay so knotted because it was so damaged. I feel like a new person today. My hair is light and curly and no longer two-toned. The chop, however stressful, was definitely needed and worth it.

Like most women, I feel like when I make a drastic change with my hair, I am making a step towards making a drastic change in my life. In many ways, this is already true. Another season of my life is ending and that is the part where I am a newly wed and a new mom. I am entering a phase of my life where my education will at last be complete and my focus will be on my family and my career.

God willing we will also be finally selling our townhouse and moving into our family house. As always, I am hoping this all will afford me more time to write and maybe even start that podcast that I have been day dreaming about doing lately. Now, I have a curly new hair cut to do it with.

My middle schoolers, the most honest (and sometimes mean) group of people in my life even said to me today that I now looked beautiful and my hair was no longer “just there.” I love them and their lack of filter for just about everything.

Baby Led Weaning is a Life Saver

It is a fact that my son did not want to be born.

I did EVERYTHING I possibly could to start labor.

I walked, ate hot food, bounced on a ball, did all kinds of stretches…everything, but I would not dilate and the moment the doctor said they were willing to induce, I jumped on it because being 42 weeks pregnant with a nearly 10 pound baby is life’s slowest form of torture.

Only once he was born, all our Logan wants to do is grow up. Physically, he is ahead of every benchmark. He was already trying to roll over in the hospital and was picking his head up. By 6 months old, he was using his play stroller and taking steps. There is no stopping him.

Baby-Led Feeding

I started him on home made purees at 4 1/2 months by almost 6 months, he was grabbing the spoon from my hand to feed himself. I did pre-loaded spoons for awhile that he would take and eat from, but then we reached a point where even that was frustrating for him so, I began to research baby led weaning.

It really freaked me out at first because I was terrified that he would choke. However, it has been such a life saver. He is so much happier when he has strips of food in front of him and he tries so much more food now. This morning he ate more than half of his breakfast.

It’s also teaching me more about foods. It makes me have to cook for my family even on nights when I am exhausted from work and school. I know what’s in food now and I have finally shifted over to a almost completely organic food list. We replaced cow’s milk with fortified almond milk. Even the cleaners I have used have gone from whatever name brand my mom used to get to plant based products. Logan continues to change us everyday and it’s almost fun to see what new challenge he’s going to give me and how quick I can figure out how I’m going to be the best mom for him.

What It’s Really Like

A lot of the time I get from people the “I don’t know how you do it all” comment.

And the truth is, I really don’t either, but I’ll give you a glimpse into what it’s really like.

It’s 3:30 AM.

The dogs are snoring on the floor. My husband is snoring on the couch. Our son is in my lap nursing as I am writing.

I am exhausted. I wanted to go to bed early tonight, but I also wanted to finish this last chapter. It’s the first time today that my son is quiet enough and preoccupied enough with food to let me do this without having to be walking him or rocking him or snuggling him.

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He comes first. Always. But in this moment, my work finally gets to come first. My son will eventually nurse himself back to sleep and I will get a good chunk of work done.

It’s now 4:30 AM.

I quietly get us back into bed if I am lucky, but more times than not we make it to the recliner and I hold our son as I get 2 hours of sleep before my late alarm for work will go off. I will shower and throw on whatever dress I can find and am out the door to complete my 2 hour long commute.

It is now 6:45 AM.

I autopilot the hour into my job, praying the entire way that there isn’t an accident that will make the entire highway a parking lot. I review over and over again the lesson I plan on teaching and where everything is in my room that I need to get together for the lesson.

It is now 7:45 AM.

I am at work, signed in and am setting up for the day. I have 10 minutes before the kids come in. I make sure I have everything I need and my board set up for the day. My day consists of teaching 3 block classes and attending PLC meetings or using prep time to prep for my classes.

It is now 2:40 PM.

I am probably in my car. I get a few seconds to breathe before I am either commuting home to take my son from my husband before he goes off to night school or I am heading deeper into the capital city to hold my office hours for my night class. I will be there until about 10:00 PM.

It’s a four hour class on reading. I go through office hours, probably eat something, grade my papers, talk to students who come in and then I teach the class for four hours.

Then I walk to my car and finally get to drive the hour home.

I take my son from my husband because chances are he has been up and fussy all night because I am not home to lay with him at bedtime like I do or let him nurse himself to sleep. With any luck he will go down for the final time and I will either get to have some sleep myself or I will be up again writing and nursing a baby at 3:00 in the morning.

It’s hard being working mom and going to school full time. It takes a lot out of you and often times, you are giving up something else in turn. For me, I largely lack a social life because my free time at the moment goes to my son and on the rare occasions that he is tired with me, we both get to have that wonderful nap that never will fully catch me up on sleep.

I remember when I thought it was hard to be 20 something weeks pregnant, writing my doctoral comprehensive exam and being in bed with the flu. I laugh at that time now. That was easy when I think about it now.

French Scenes & Mommy Life

I was 20 years old and riding a train to either Versailles or Fontainebleau. At that time in my life, I was a devoted student of art history who waffled between going to graduate school for art history or maybe doing something entirely different and going for something like nursing because as passionate as I have always been about art, I have also always loved taking care of people too.

I sat chatting with my professor about what I wanted to do and it was to my shock that he flat out told me that I was not cut out for a doctorate in art history. A woman who was older and had come with us as a graduate student overheard the entire exchange and later pulled me aside and gave me the best advice: follow your heart no matter what other people tell you.

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20 year old me in Paris, France. 

And in the end I did. I turned down 3 graduate school acceptances for the museum side of art history and went into teaching. In the end I found a way to integrate my background in art with my passion for education and literature. I had no idea I would ever hit that point had you asked me as a 20-something on a train to a former royal residence, however, I think it’s pretty cool that in the end I became that person.

I don’t know what made me think of that little piece of my life today, but I did. I loved that part of my life. I loved living in the art library and taking days filled with art history classes and memorizing a million slides. Some times like today when I am thinking of that time in my life, I really do miss it.

I miss the c’est la vie of it all.

Then I look at my almost completed doctoral dissertation…began writing my final chapter today and I watch my son carry on his living room expeditions and I know I am right where I am supposed to be even though I do wish I was able to take more museum trips and I wouldn’t mind another afternoon researching in the art library, but maybe that will be my life in a future season.