The Hart Home│A Year Ago Today

A year ago today I was waking up heavily pregnant. I was exhausted. We were also passed the second week that my aunt was told that she had left to live. She was an hour away from me. I had planned on going back that day, but I was just so pregnant and tired and really was not in the forgiving mood for other family members that would be there.

aunts

I laid in bed for a good hour, staring at the ceiling weighing out my options. If I didn’t go and I waited, I would probably miss seeing my aunt for the last time. While I had seen her the previous weekend, she was still up and talking, but according to my brother, she was going down fast and was sleeping most of the time now. I would also regret that for the rest of my life. If I did go, it would be exhausting and I would have to deal with a lot of things.

I pulled the cover over my head.

My husband found me soon after. He made me sit up.

“If you don’t go today, you won’t get tomorrow.”

Damn it, I really hate it when he’s right.

“And we both know that if you don’t get another visit in before she passes, you’re going to regret it. You have to go.”

Did I mention, that I really hate it when he’s right?

I threw on a pair of leggings and a sweatshirt and slipped into my sandals. I texted my cousin and asked if they needed anything. I went on a hunt for glutenfree pizza from one of the many pizza places around me. When you live in Virginia and have a gluten intolerance, you rely on your jersey pizza. I finally found it at the pizza place we don’t usually go to and was on my way home.

When I got to the house that so much of my life had transpired in: birthdays, holidays, bringing home my husband– I wasn’t prepared to see my aunt so far gone already. It was clear that within the next day or so, she would be with Jesus. She had been talking to my uncle who had died when I was 12 when she was still awake and was talking about seeing other people who weren’t there. If I ever questioned if we lived after our physical body dies, it was this that gave me hope that there is more after this.

In some ways, it turned into just another visit. We sat talking about life, the baby and my teaching life. It must have been a comfort to her to know that we were all there and that life would go on even if she was missed every single day. My mom and I had looked over at the same time to see my aunt struggling to take her last breaths. Surrounded by my mom, myself, my grandmother, my cousins, my brother and my uncle, my aunt quietly slipped away. And just like that, it was over.

We sat with her for a couple of hours as the reality didn’t even sink in that she was gone. The hospice nurse came and pronounced that she was gone. It still didn’t feel real. My mom and I sat with my cousin as we watched the funeral home take her. The men were there too, but there was something about that moment between us women. It was always us four, even when my cousin and I were younger.

After that everything was a haze. My grandmother had to be moved to assisted living. The house was being sold, my uncle was leaving with my cousin for Virginia. I suddenly had all of these family things in my own home and I was slowly coming to accepting the idea that my aunt would never get to meet my son even though she had been looking forward to his arrival so much. Then it was the funeral and then it was like everything that was my aunt was suddenly gone– my aunt herself, the house that had been my center for many years and with it, was the last of my childhood. I would become a mom 2 months later and life has not been the same since.

It would take more time for me to realize the impact that losing my aunt would have one my life. It was my aunt and my grandmother who I would go to when I needed help and advice and suddenly, my grandmother seemed 20 years older than she had been last year and my aunt was no longer here to call or visit. My aunt was like a mother to me in many ways, she always made sure I had things– new clothes for sorority life, makeup, jewelry, etc. She was also the first one to read my manuscripts and avidly read all of my blog attempts and then would drive me crazy with her commentary to my grandmother about my blogs (usually ones about dating).  Christmas was always a huge deal at her house so was every other holiday including our birthdays. She was the heart of our family and since she left us, it’s been strange trying to rebuild that center.

A year ago today, life had changed as I had known it.

Note: This was scheduled to appear yesterday, June 10, 2019, on the first anniversary of losing my aunt, but I couldn’t get through writing it. So, it appears now, after writing and revising this many times over since yesterday afternoon. 

Book Review│Hattie’s Home for Broken Hearts by Tilly Tennant

hatties homeThere are few things in life that can level you emotionally, socially and physically all within a couple moments. Heartbreak has got to be one of the worst, most longest lasting ones that can have that kind of power over you that can level you in every which way. Often when you are made to feel that awful, you seek comfort in what is familiar. For Hattie Rose, her heartbreak leads her home and in coming home, she finds herself in an entirely new set of affairs.

From Paris to Dorset

Hattie Rose was living her life in Paris. She loved her life in the city of lights and is established in her path. However, Hattie soon meets with a heartbreak that devastates her and leads her to make a huge mistake at her job. Ultimately, she is forced to leave her job and with the loss of her employment, she also decides that she has to leave Paris behind her as well. She decides to return to her cliffside hometown in England and takes a job at Sweet Briar Farm, an animal sanctuary for abused goats.

Sweet Briar Farm

When Hattie arrives back in Gillypuddle, she takes a job at an animal sanctuary for abused goats. We meet her boss, Jo, who makes it known early on that she is not too fond of her new employee and prefers her goats to people. It takes some time for us to learn that Jo is harboring a secret life and heartbreak of her own. The farm also brings us, Seth, the handsome veterinarian that catches Hattie’s eye and Owen, an equally as handsome newspaper reporter who helps unravel Jo’s secret past.

Theme of Loss

Throughout Hattie’s Home for Broken Hearts, we meet characters that are navigating their lives following a large loss. when Hattie first returns home, she learns that her parents are navigating a tragedy and then we meet Jo who is working through her own as we watch Hattie rebuild her life from the one that she had left behind her in Paris. Throughout the tears and the anxiety of loss and the unknown Tennant also intersperses humor and laugh out loud moments that show us that even in the worst of our grief, we can still find the simple joy that brings us to the new lives that we build after we are leveled by our old ones.

Book Information

Hattie’s Home for Broken Hearts: A heartwarming laugh out loud romantic comedy by Tilly Tennant is scheduled for release on July 10, 2019, with ISBN 9781838880019 from Bookouture. This review corresponds to an advanced electronic galley that was supplied by the publisher in exchange for this review. Pre-order pricing is available through the link provided above.

 

The Hart Home │ The Girl That was Gone at the Crossroads

In my early 20’s I had graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in art history and journalism. I was set to go to graduate school for art business. I saw a world of possibilities in Europe, and art and everything that lay before me. I had finally ended things with my high school into college sweetheart and was ready to embrace the life that I had been building for myself.

And then I collided (there really is no other way to describe it) with the first person I ever truly loved. That love was steeped in such a part of me that was that artsy girl who loved life and reading and traveling. And then after many months of being together, he turned the tables on me and I ended it because I thought I was protecting myself from him and from my feelings. To go from having someone who would call me ten times a day and talk to me for hours, send me flowers and court me in every sense of the word to then flip the way that he did hurt me in ways that I wouldn’t even realize for years.

It derailed me from my life as it was. I fell into a deep depression, it took me years before I felt like I could trust anyone again and to stop encompassing bad habits that I thought were making me get over it all, but in reality, were just causing more damage. He took from me that artsy girl I was and it’s a piece of me that I have never quite recovered. This was a turning point in my life where I abandoned the life I had and I pursued education and went full force with that instead of becoming the art history professor that I had wanted to be. I pursued education because it felt good to me to take all of that hurt and do something good in the world with it instead of allowing it to fester and become something I used to hurt someone else with.

Only now, I am finding myself again at a crossroads in my life. I am graduating this summer or fall depending on when I get to defend my dissertation and then I am done with my Ph.D. I will have gone as far with it as I had wanted to do with art history and I also know that I am at the point where I am ready to leave the classroom. In my heart, I know I have done as much good as I am going to do and to stay would just make me bitter. My husband and I were talking about all of this last night and he told me that while he has gotten glimpses of that girl that has been gone every once in a while, he never really got to know that side of me because the side he did get was a woman trying to save the world and growing angry when she couldn’t get funding and couldn’t make something better for her students and when you teach in high poverty like I do, this is a frequent if not daily occurrence. He told me that he would love to meet the girl that has been gone, she seems pretty cool.

With this time of my life and my time as a classroom teacher coming to a close, it’s also a chapter of my life closing that began 10 years ago with that collision. I am looking out on that future that lays ahead of me again where I am completely finished with school and have countless options ahead of me. And this time, I have my real true love by my side and our handsome little boy along with me for the ride into the next chapter of my life.  Thankfully, my boys are just as goofy as I am and we take really great family photos at weddings:

fam

We decided last night that as we look for our family’s forever home we’re going to add to our list of wants a space that I could make a studio so that I could start painting and doing pottery again. My best friend also started to send me jobs closer to her so that we can find ourselves together and start going on adventures again like we used to. I am thankful that this is going to be a very blessed season of my life filled with love and support from those who have known me the longest and have been around for this crazy ride. I am also excited to embrace that side of myself that I buried when my heart was completely broken. I would like to see who that person is now that she is older and in a much better place in her life.

Book Review: The Swan Thieves

Elizabeth Kostovaswans was first published in 2005 with her best-selling historical vampire thriller, The Historian. Today, there are more than 1.5 million copies in print and a Sony film adaptation is in the works. Much like that novel, Kostova sets up The Swan of Thieves.

The Artist and the Academic

Here, Kostova creates a central, academic hero that becomes engrossed within a mystery. Each chapter ranges in time from past to present, encompassing the lives of painters Beatrice de Clerval and her uncle Olivier Vignot, whose lives are beautifully described and played out through their art and letters.

Juxtaposing the past with the present, Kostova creates her academic hero in Andrew Marlow, a trained psychiatrist who is bent on asking the tough, prying questions and unraveling the mystery that is key to the plot of the novel. The mystery being that one of Marlow’s patients, renowned painter Robert Oliver, tried to slash a painting in the National Gallery. Marlow becomes increasingly obsessed with Oliver and his reasons for attempting to do what he did, when he uncovers Oliver’s obsession with a stolen batch of letters written in French that he continually reads and obsesses over himself.

Living Up to The Historian

Fans of Kostova have waited with great anticipation for her next novel. Fans of The Historian will not be disappointed by The Swan Thieves, in fact, it is rather easy to see much of Kostova’s budding writing style continue on into her latest novel.

The intrigue and ability to build a deep and entangled plot is clearly evident in Kostova’s second novel. Accompanied with the lush world of Impressionism and 19th century life, Kostova delivers with The Swan Thieves: A Novel. Kostova has a great gift for writing. It will be a long wait to see what her third novel will bring to her already impressive quality of work.

About the Author – Elizabeth Kostova

Kostova was born New London, Connecticut and raised in Knoxville, Tennessee where she graduated from the Webb School of Knoxville. She went on to complete her undergraduate degree from Yale University and a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Michigan.

According to a press release, in May 2007, the Elizabeth Kostova Foundation was created to help support Bulgarian creative writing, the translation of contemporary Bulgarian literature into English, and friendship between Bulgarian authors and American and British authors.

The Swan Thieves: A Novel by Elizabeth Kostova was published by Little, Brown and Company on January 12, 2010 with ISBN 0316065781.

What if we’re all just a little bit Peggy?

Anyone else love the show Mad Men? I have watched it in its entirety at least twice. I loved the clothes, the attitudes, the smoking even in doctor’s offices and of course, just how broken Don Draper is and how he affected everyone around him. And then, of course, there was my lady love, Peggy. I always felt like I was Peggy.

peggy-cigarette

One of my favorite Don moments was when he visits Peggy in the hospital after she gives birth to her surprise baby. She’s beaten and broken, but then Don gives her the best kind of advice when he says:

“Get out of here and move forward,” Don says. “This never happened. It will shock you how much it never happened.”

The first time I saw that scene, it hit me right to my core because it made me remember that time in my life where I employed the same kind of logic. I was in my early 20’s and fresh out of college. I had my first “real-world” boyfriend and was hopelessly infatuated with him. I was also ridiculously responsible the majority of the time, but with him, I found it easy to let go a little bit and explore life…and love.

So, on a weekend away together things got a little crazy and it also didn’t go the way of responsibility, even though we both very much were. I didn’t know it then, but in making those choices, I came to a fork in the road. One of those decisions that you don’t know at the time, but will, either way, lead you down a different path.

I could have made the choice to take a huge risk and find myself in an unplanned pregnancy and kiss my graduate school acceptance and life in New York City goodbye, or I could take a pill and pretend like nothing ever happened.

I took the pill.

It surprised me how easy it was to do it. I thought to myself, I will never know so why think about this anymore? After that, I didn’t.

For years. It was the easiest thing to just forget. I never thought about it. It just slipped into the vast nothingness of my subconscious and there it stayed, for years.

Until one rainy April day after I broke up with my next “real-world” boyfriend who I pretty much only dated because he reminded me of the first real-world boyfriend. I never said that I made very healthy choices in my 20’s, now did I? It brought up a lot of unresolved issues I needed to work through and in that moment of seeing this, this became one of them. The guilt didn’t hit yet though, and it wouldn’t for some time.

Not until, the months leading up to my wedding which was the biggest transition and commitment of my life, I began to think about so many things that had led me to the man of my dreams and the new life that lay before me. We had discussed starting a family and since we are both over 30, that it was time to do it sooner rather than later. Just like that my overwhelming desire to be a mom kicked into hyperdrive. It was overwhelming, very close to the time a couple years ago where I became obsessed with the idea of being a foster mom until I realized how hopelessly screwed up our child protective system actually is. However, this was different. This was a desire to be a mom that almost burned.

And so did that long buried decision I made at 22 years old and all the guilt that came with it. How could I now want something that before I was so quick to dismiss because the timing wasn’t right? And how easy that choice was and how easy it was to ignore for so many years?

I was reminded of Peggy again when she tells Pete the truth about where she went in the earlier season and says:

“I could have had you in my life forever if I wanted to,” she says almost dreamily. “I could have had you. I could have shamed you into being with me. But I didn’t want to… I wanted other things.”

Yes, I knew it was my choice because I wanted other things. I wanted to make something of myself and see the world and write books and study art. I didn’t want to be burdened with a man that I, though very into, wasn’t really committed to and who lived 6 hours from me.

I wanted other things.

Until I met my husband and then, I really did want those things with him. And so, I prayed. A lot. I prayed for forgiveness for possibly destroying another life, for the callousness of being 22 and thinking it was just something that never happened and was so easy to be shocked by how it never happened. To God for breaking all kinds of rules and not being considerate of myself or anyone else.

I had a long list.

Within a month, I was…at last…very much pregnant.