Monday, March 26, 2012

Review: Love and Loyalty

Visit Whole Latte Life here.
Whole Latte Life: A Novel
By Joanne DeMaio

325 pages. CreateSpace (March 12, 2012)

“Wishes are a mystery to me. It’s like putting your hope out there, opening a part of your heart to the constellations.”

Friday morning a new friend posed the question, “What’s your latest wish?” Stumped before the day even began, I was unsure how to respond; so I didn’t. Later I seized a few minutes to read her new novel when the words above appeared at the bottom of the page. I reread those lines again and again.

Friends since childhood, Sara Beth Riley and Rachel DeMartino meet regularly over coffee in their picturesque Connecticut hometown. They plan a Girls Weekend in New York City to spend their fortieth birthdays together. Complete with stops at the Empire State Building, Tiffany’s and The Today Show, the four-day celebration promises lasting memories. When Sara Beth walks out of a restaurant leaving behind only a note, the perplexed and overwrought Rachel searches Manhattan for her missing friend.

Sara Beth seeks a few days of freedom. She tries to cope with an unplanned child, the unexpected death of her mother and the indefinite postponement of her antique shop dreams. Struggling to reclaim her sense of self in a seemingly idyllic life, she runs away. She loses grip on her marriage, her three kids, and her best friend in a desperate attempt to regain balance and clarity.

Rachel also hopes the weekend will heal old wounds. The outing replaces the birthday trip her husband planned before his death two years ago. Widowed and her daughter away at college, her friend’s desertion leaves Rachel worried, confused and alone. When a mounted officer offers her company in the city, she faces more uncharted territory.

Rachel and Sara Beth are highly relatable and complex women facing unforeseen and life-altering challenges. Told from the perspective of four characters, their stories wind through their small town, Manhattan, and a seaside retreat on Long Island.

DeMaio’s lyrical language, combined with her exploration of the lingering power of our expectations and our choices, creates an inspiring novel of love and loyalty--loyalty to mothers, to spouses, to traditions, and to friends. Whole Latte Life is a beautifully articulated story of loss and redemption, lasting connections and unconditional love.

Whole Latte Life offers beach lovers, stargazers and girlfriends a warm story to share at a favorite café. Immersed in the world of Sara Beth’s losses and Rachel’s new beginnings, I now wish for a heartfelt conversation and laughter with friends.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Bucket List

Purple Gallinule
“Cross that off the bucket list,” Susan said.

“Was dancing to Thriller with a hundred children on your bucket list?” I asked with arms outstretched to the side.

“Not until today,” she said laughing.

The term is certainly familiar, but I never made one. My lists tend to be more tactical, survival strategies to meet the immediate needs of my family or various organizations.

I am a list maker--errands to run, groceries to buy, tasks to complete, calls to make, projects to tackle. My lists cover meetings, lunches, books, and contractors, lessons to plan, appointments for the pets, cars, house, and the children. Some lists get checked off in a day, others get saved for years. When my youngest child entered kindergarten, I had big plans for my newfound free time. That orange post-it note included a dozen items, some still not completed almost five years later. Sometimes I overestimate what I can accomplish in a day, week or year.

This idea of my own bucket list inspires hope and direction. What do I want to do with my days, my weeks and my years? Time to make a new list – below is a start. 
  1. Earn master’s degree – in progress (over 50% complete, yahoo!)
  2. Grow a hydrangea – I have killed six rounds of these bushes spanning two states
  3. Learn how to use every feature on the camera (without cursing)
  4. Attend a writer’s conference
  5. Watch whales in Alaska and/or Newfoundland
  6. Write a book

New ideas are percolating. Latest assignment on my checklist of things to do - add 95 items to bucket list. Do you have a list of experiences you hope to accomplish? Share a few! 

Friday, March 9, 2012

Magical Thinking

“You’re magical!” said the fourth grader earlier this week.

We built multiplication tables during a spreadsheet lesson. Sitting between two students, I modeled creating a table as well. The class unanimously decided to enter the products by hand rather than use formulas. Despite this first exercise on spreadsheets, I loved their eagerness to practice multiplication facts instead of the computer doing the work.

But I don’t need to practice my times tables. I can always remember eight times seven equals fifty-six. So after keying in the still-secret formula and dragging it throughout the cells, my table was finished before my students completed the two’s. I answered questions and shaded alternating rows and columns. I even had time to extend the table out to factors of twenty, rather than ten. The students gathered around and watched the size of my table double with a few mouse clicks and drags.

“You’re magical!” she exclaimed.

Sometimes it is easy to impress kids. I offered again to show her how to write the formula, but she said no thanks. She preferred me to remain magical.

Why was I unwilling to see myself as magical? Maybe just because I knew how the trick worked?

Last Saturday I attended a regional Destination Imagination competition as an appraiser. If you have never been or are unfamiliar with DI, imagine a school filled with hundreds of creative kids wearing funky hats, team shirts and big smiles for the entire super-long day. DI showcases imagination in a way that even a grown-up fits in with fancy headgear. I felt like a princess with my wild new hair, a magical princess.

After spending a day under blinking blue princess hair, I decided to roll with that idea. My student is absolutely right. I am magical.