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Renee Swindle’s “Shake Down The Stars” – A Review

shake

Not so recently, I was the lucky winner of the latest novel of Renee Swindle, A Pinch of Ooh La La. I was happily surprised by this win as I had tried for it on a whim and had just finished Ms. Swindle’s second novel, Shake Down The Stars. For years and years I waited for another Renee Swindle book as I loved  her first, Please Please Please so very much.

Now, before I begin this review I must tell you that I’m forgetful. Let’s just…put that out there. I say and do things on the fly. I hoard notebooks. I write myself notes on an app on my phone. It’s how I live. I’m saying all that to say that I immediately wrote a review for Shake Down The Stars which I fully intended to post here and upload to Amazon. Who knows how that went awry, but in one of my cleaning frenzies yesterday, I uncovered the abandoned review, and well, better late than never…right?

In this ultimate comeback novel, the main character Piper won me over from page one. You see, hooking and reeling me in the beginning is important as I have the attention span of a… wait… what was I saying?

Oh, right. Piper. What a mess! But quite frankly, I need for my characters to be a bit of a mess, so I know they’re real. Fortunately, Renee Swindle shared my sentiment in this brilliantly crafted and tightly written novel where she presents readers with a character who immediately resonates. Be it Piper’s alcoholism, (whether she acknowledges it or not), family turmoil or unimaginable loss, there is a little part of this character we can all relate to.

It is all these parts of Piper that made me ask the question over and over: Who will love you at your worst?

Though Piper isn’t overtly in search or love, or any one thing in particular, it’s a question she seems to want the answer to herself. While dealing with the unthinkable in the only way she knows how, drinking until she can no longer think nor feel, engaging in reckless and promiscuous behavior and clinging to an unhealthy back and forth relationship with her ex husband, Piper often looks for answers in the stars. Star gazing is a passion of hers, and after hitting rock bottom, the stars, it seems, are all she can hold on to.

It takes the chance meeting of a perfect stranger to bring Piper’s starry gaze into focus and force her to confront her demons and, once and for all, decide who she really is, and if the real Piper is worth loving at all.

Since her breakout novel Please Please Please, I’ve found Renee Swindle to be synonymous with creating shockingly real and relatable characters and terribly realistic stories. Her much anticipated follow up proves consistent in presenting readers with a complex and flawed character that we have all at one point either known, seen or been. 

Filled with detailed descriptions, familiar settings and sharp, snappy dialogue, Shake Down The Stars is an engaging and compelling read that I highly recommend.

Now…on to A Pinch of Ooh La La!
 

On Life and The Fast Lane

And just like that, it’s been four and a half months since I’ve blogged.

I could follow that up with the usual. How I’ve been busy, in pain, depressed, etc. but the fact remains…it’s been four and a half months since I’ve blogged.

I remain amazed and in awe that during my period of silence here and barely tweeting, “Can’t Get Enough” continues to do well, people continue to follow me on Twitter and Instagram and I still have some faithful followers of this tired, old blog.

To detail the happenings of these past months would take a long, drawn out post that I don’t want to write and I’m sure you don’t want to read. But, to be as brief as possible, I started an intense weight-loss and work-out regimine that required all of my attention (apparently) and as a result I lost nearly 50 pounds.

transformation

I also went blonde.I re-entered the work force, temping at a warehouse for a couple of months before the contract ended, and now I’m basically back where I started. Except, I now have the first draft of a novel thanks to NaNoWriMo. Yes, I participated in and completed National Novel Writing Month. I began rewrites on my WIP, but quickly became…unmotivated. So, there’s that.

Otherwise, I’m existing and trying to find ways to be more present, both here, and in life. My birthday is approaching, so it’s getting pretty dark over here.

Accountability

When I sort of accidentally began this journey, accountability was a big thing for me. I talked about it. Owned it. Showed it. Through daily full body Instagram photos, I am holding myself accountable to myself and to (I’d like to think) the world for my fitness and health, whether I do or don’t meet my goals for that day, week or whatever.

Just recently, I’ve begun adding food pics to the mix, which I had been doing from time to time before, but that’s when I was flaky about it all and could easily have had a salad for lunch and fried chicken and mashed potatoes for dinner. You’d see the pretty picture of the salad, but you wouldn’t see and I wouldn’t speak of the fried chicken.

I guess it’s like the proverbial tree in the forest. If I eat it and no one’s around to witness it, does that mean it didn’t happen? Well, I knew that couldn’t last because even if I didn’t post pictures of every meal, I repeat, I post full body shots of myself every single day, so you would know something went awry, somewhere. I wouldn’t be telling the truth. I wouldn’t be telling my truth. And there are many parts to my truth.

The truth is, if this were five days ago, I’d have either a vodka cranberry or a glass of wine in my hand. And if I’m going to tell the truth, five days ago, I DID have a vodka cranberry in my hand, and followed it up with several more. And let’s just throw a couple of shots of tequila in there for sport, because that happened, too.

Also, a hangover happened, and though I’ve posted a vicious hangover selfie on Instagram, I made sure I got myself together before I posted my daily shot, and I still went walking/jogging.

I haven’t had a drink since Sunday and that’s in part because I’ve been thinking a lot about this accountability thing and also because a friend challenged me to a strict seven day fitness thingy that doesn’t allow for alcohol.

It’s been easy. Unbelievably easy until today, when my day wasn’t so good, when my relationship isn’t glowing that perfect glow, when I’m so annoyed/pissed/mad/sad that I just want to numb myself with a vodka neat or a whole bottle of wine. And yes, I can take down a whole bottle…and a half.

So, far I’m resisting. Sipping iced water and channeling this negative energy into new words and promoting Can’t Get Enough. And I think I’m able to resist mostly out of stubbornness and a small part of me thinks it may be an around about attempt at sabotage because my husband of course lives with me, knows my habits, my weaknesses and unfortunately, my triggers.

It’s good to get that off my chest. I’ll let  you know how it turns out tomorrow. Honestly.

Walking and Writing

So, something happened. Not that thing discussed in extensive detail right below this post, but another thing, or to be more accurate, things.

I started walking again. Now, for those of you who don’t get here often, I haven’t been wheelchair bound or anything of the sort. But, due to an ankle fracture, broken bone in my foot and the general shitty-ness of Lyme disease, my afore established exercise regimen came to a screeching halt. That was four months ago.

I hadn’t made any solid plans to start up again, but on Wednesday when I decided to walk the dog (about ten minutes, three to four times a day) my husband decided to join me and make it a joint exercise effort. I was game, but I didn’t think we’d go as far as we did.

We wound up walking over three miles. It was midday, so it was pretty hot and it took us just over an hour. The dog wasn’t too happy about it, though. I, however, felt fantastic and decided that that day would be my Day 1.

Day 1 of how many you may ask? Well, I don’t have the answer, yet. I don’t want to jinx myself or set myself up for failure by setting hard goals, but what I have done is made myself accountable to my Instragram account, where every morning, before I do whatever workout I’m going to do (right now it’s walking) I post a picture of myself. And I’m talking full body shots. Nothing from the face up with clever angling that makes me look cuter and thinner.

This is the true definition of no filter. It is what it is. Take me as I am, and how I will be, at Day whatever.

Also, I’ve been at the writing table actually writing for the past three days, averaging 1100 or so words a day. It’s chapters for a novel I plan to pitch and it’s going just swell.

Now, I generally link to Facebook and Twitter when I post my daily picture, but if I forget, am in a hurry, or my mind is cloudy as usual, feel free to follow my Instagram account (@therealtenille) and watch my journey, day by day. And oh, cheer me on! Call me out! Keep me accountable!

Let’s do this.

Because there’s a reason.

robin

Today there is an assortment of Robin Williams photos and quotes to choose from, and I’m sure an overwhelming amount of them appear on the blogs, websites, and profile pictures of people everywhere. I chose the one accompanying this post because One Hour Photo is my all time favorite Robin Williams movie. It was dark, horrific, yet touching and relatable.

Yes, relatable.

Fans, friends and family of Robin Williams, we all have this in common: We received the news yesterday like a punch in the gut. We were all at once, shocked, confused and deeply saddened.

A heavy bulk of us also have this is common, which also, I’m sure is the topic of discussion on many a blog: we deal with, have felt or seen the effects of depression.

I’ve talked about it here before. I talk about it quite often, actually. There’s a whole category dedicated to it here. And like many, on my good days, my mask does it jobs, hides the tears that most times I have no explanation for, hide the emptiness and sadness in my eyes. Also like many, on my worst days, I can’t get out of bed, can’t stop the tears from falling, and sometimes consider other…options.

There are reasons. Could I name one? I could name several, but there would still be those who have their own feelings and judgements about suicide. Of course there’s help and maybe there’s hope, but I think the point that many people miss is that no matter how much help, how much hope there is out there, a person in the deepest pit of depression can see none of it.

The most furious my husband has ever been with me was when I confessed to him not long ago that I had seriously considered suicide early in 2012. I had mentioned it before, but he always thought I was kidding.

I wasn’t.

I was feeling the effects of late stage Lyme Disease, and at that time I hadn’t been diagnosed. The only thing my doctor could tell me was that I was experiencing a neurological emergency. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t get out of bed for days. I was starting to lose my vision.

One Sunday when my children were with their father and my husband was at work, I saw my chance. The only thing that kept it from happening was that I was out of bullets (and I never, ever run out of bullets) and I was in too much pain to get up and drive to the store. The next day I was properly diagnosed and began treatment.

That wasn’t what I would call a wake up call for me. Things still get heavy enough for me to topple over, but I think back to that day a lot. I think about my children who were only nine then, and who themselves struggle with so much at their young, delicate age. Much of the time, I’m their only cheerleader. What would happen if all of a sudden, I wasn’t there?

That’s what keeps me on track mostly, but like I said, things still get heavy, even in the seemingly best of situations.

I don’t have a witty or pretty way to wrap all this up, but I will say this: You don’t know, you’ll never know, until you know.

It’s time…

…that I said something, did something, finally after what… a month or so…let my own words appear on my own blog. I’ll admit, I’ve gotten a little comfy in my new life. My only responsibilities being to wake up, get the husband and kids off to work and school, cook meals, and keep the house in some sort of order. And, now that we’ve been in our new place for nearly three months, daily maintenance takes maybe an hour.

No reason I should be napping, or watching every show known to man on demand. No reason I should have stacked all my notebooks in the closet where they wouldn’t be sitting there mocking me, reminding me that I haven’t completed a story, a blog, an essay, nothing since I’ve been here.

I feel pretty bad about that. Which reminds me, I also feel bad. I’m in the midst of a Lyme flare up and just for shits and giggles, depression decided to pull up a chair as well.

These shouldn’t be excuses. And when I think about the fact that I could have written a whole novel during the time I’ve been sitting here napping, watching t.v. and drinking beer, I want to well…crawl under the covers, watch t.v. and have a beer.

But enough of that.

I’m at the writing table right now, typing these words. I’m reminding myself that I have a book coming out next July, an actual book with my name on the cover which is hold in my hands proof that writing is what I do, or at least have been doing, and damn it, I need to get back at it.
cant

So…here goes.

Instinct

tummy

This was a telling tweet. But I sent it out as I send most tweets, light heartedly, once it’s gone, it’s forgotten. Yes, it had started with a tummy ache, which with kids, is just another day at the office for a parent. I rubbed it, hugged him to make it all better and watched him sleep.

Then he couldn’t make it through the day in school the next day, and began to lose his appetite. And when the low grade fever appeared I figured was a stomach big than would just have to run his course.

But my boy who normally runs everywhere he goes couldn’t stand up straight. He walked hunched over and moaned in pain. He lay in my bed while I put up groceries, and then he let out a scream I will never forget. I dropped everything and drove him to the first hospital I could find, his twin sister in tow.

After six hours of labs, scans and tests, he was diagnosed with the one thing that I had pushed to the back oft mind as one of my outrageous hypochondriacal fears. It was his appendix, and it was ruptured.

It was the first time I felt the weight of being away from family and friends. The first time that I realized that my mom was now more than three hours away as opposed to just around the corner.

But mostly I realized that for two days I had dismissed my son’s pain as something far less serious than it was.

Not that I or anyone could have predicted or prevented it, but still, there’s that old mommy guilt. There’s the what ifs and the woulda, coulda, shouldas.

So today here we are, an emergency surgery later, on day six at the Children’s Hospital. He’s much better than he was before, but not well enough to go home.

I’m trying to make the best of it. Caring for him and reading and writing and keeping my fingers crossed that I can take him home soon.

And I guess that’s it. All I can say and all I can do. I appreciate the well wishes.