Five Minute Friday: Pass

This week the topic for the Five Minute Friday link-up post is Pass. What is a link-up? Essentially a link-up is when you join other bloggers and write on a similar topic. You share your blog posts with one another and begin conversations via a host site. You can head over to Kate Motaung’s page to check out other entries from inspired bloggers. Here’s my five minutes of uninterrupted, unedited writing on this week’s topic:

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About a month and a half ago I got a random message from a friend I had lost connection with a few years ago. We hadn’t lost contact because of a falling out or a fight; life just got in the way for both of us. It was a Sunday night and my phone went off. In the message my friend asked me to run a quarter marathon (10k) with her on April 30.

My initial reaction: laughter.

I even read the message aloud to my husband in my most obnoxious scoffing voice.

I was not in shape and definitely had no business committing to a longer distance run at that point. Exercise was not on my radar at all. However, something inside me told me that this request was not one to pass up. Attached to the run came an opportunity to reconnect with someone I used to adore. Attached to the run came the chance to say that I was able to accomplish something I wasn’t sure I would ever do again. Attached to the run came all the emotions and anxiety that had held me back for so long. I gave my heart a moment to process the consequences of getting back into running competitively.

And even though every part of my brain wanted to send back an emoji of crying laughter I decided to type three simple letters in my response. I said “yes.”

Tomorrow is race day and I feel confident that I will make it to the finish line. All I needed was the accountability of a race and a race day companion to remind myself that this was once a passion of mine. I’m not out to break any records tomorrow, in fact I plan to take it nice and slow and soak up every moment. This is an experience I’m so thankful I didn’t pass up on.

The Ameri Brit Mom

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The Outbreak: Looking For Inspiration

I’m working on a post-apocalyptic story  for a current project. I’m really getting into this story and have already shared it with some people for critiques and feedback. The ending I had originally written was not satisfactory so I’m reaching out to my blogging community for some inspiration. Take a look at the story below and comment or email me some suggestions about directions I could potentially take this piece. Any feedback is appreciated. Thanks!

The Ameri Brit Mom

 

The Outbreak

by Lauren Sisley

Grandma was lucky that she didn’t live to see the war.

Not that I knew much about her, but what little I had learned from the funeral gave me the impression that she wouldn’t have been too upset to have missed the bloodbath. Over a six day period I joined my parents in a strange country. Growing up in my American bubble I didn’t anticipate the differences I would experience in England. Dad prepared me the best he could, but the country had changed so much since he lived there as a child. If he had it his way Mom and I would have stayed behind while he settled the matters of Grandma’s estate. But as always, mom won the battle.

Six days ago my life was safe. I was going to school, playing soccer with my U16 team, and reading all the fantasy fiction I could get my hands on. It’s funny how death and war can turn a world upside down.

Two weeks ago when Dad got the call from his cousin in Southampton the discussion began about whether or not we should all pack up and head to England as a family.

“Ainsley and I have never been before. We would like to see the country and know what life was like for you back home.” Mom pleaded with Dad one night over dinner.

“It isn’t safe, Lillian.”

“That isn’t so. All of the rebels are on the continent. England has not been attacked and they won’t be as long as Cooper is head of the military.”

Dad was reluctant, but eventually he gave in as he usually does to mom’s breathtaking brown eyes and perfectly symmetric smile.

Yesterday was the funeral. We spent the days leading up to the funeral sorting through boxes and visiting lawyers to reconcile the estate and Grandma’s will. It was raining on the day of the funeral. I met several of my second cousins for the very first time as they came to pay their respects to the stranger in the casket. I smiled and embraced people I had never met who shared some of my inherited traits.

“You would have loved her, dear.” My dad’s cousin, Elizabeth said as she kissed my cheek with her leathery lips. “You look like your grandmother did at your age.”

I wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not. I took a look at the aged corpse with ropey gray strands of hair sticking out in every direction. Her skin aged well. So, if Elizabeth was right at least I had the promise of resilient skin to look forward to. My hair on the other hand had no hope.

As our departure time neared, Dad handed the keys to Grandma’s flat over to the real estate agent and we loaded a taxi with our suitcases.

“London Heathrow Airport, please.” Dad instructed the driver as we entered the cab. The cab driver looked to be of Indian descent and spoke little English. Instead of a verbal reply he offered Dad a nod of understanding.

We were cruising the M5 enroute to the airport. Dad was fidgety as he always was before travel. His eyes were glued to the horizon as though he were trying to take mental photographs of a land so familiar yet so foreign to him. Mom was gripping dad’s hand and drumming her fingers on her knee. It was her nervous habit. I pulled out a book from my carry-on luggage and began to lose myself to the pages of mythical creatures.

We came up to usual morning traffic outside of London and the cabdriver tuned into BBC radio. The morning report was being read by a man with a thick accent. He spoke quickly enough that I only caught every other word. My ears readjusted and I began to block out the radio and continued to read. A few minutes later there was an interruption to the regular news program.

“As of 8:25 this morning England has declared war against the rebel forces in Europe. Rebels have broken through the southern borders and are moving north toward London. All flights in and out of the country have been grounded. Sergeant Cooper has mobilized all forces in the south. He asks all citizens to be patient and vigilant as the rebels are handled. Please report any unusual activity to the Foreign Affairs office or your local MP.”

Mom and dad exchanged a worried glance. The cabdriver looked back at the three of us. We each wore fear on our faces.

“Where to then?”  The driver questioned.

With nose-to-tail traffic stalled on the motorway we had no way of getting out. The cab driver turned the engine off and we sat in silence.

“Clive, do not panic. Where should we go? Can you think of anywhere we would be safe?” Mom asked Dad who was sweating and trying to act brave on my behalf.

“We shouldn’t go back to Southampton. It’s on the coast and the rebels could be invading right now.” Dad spoke quickly and as though he was struggling to take in deep breaths.

“Excuse me, Driver, about how far are we from downtown London?” Mom asked the man behind the wheel.

“Fifty kilometers from airport.” The driver answered her in his broken english.

“Clive, what if we check into a hotel? Wait out this invasion?” Mom offered.

You would never guess from my parents’ interaction that my father was once a professional athlete. He’s one of the strongest men I’ve ever seen in real life. He moved to America when he was eighteen to play college soccer, or football as he calls it.

Mom has always worn the pants in their relationship. I’ve inherited her strong will and ability to bring calm to the stress my father bears. He blames his nerves on his childhood. He never talked much about growing up in Southampton. And even on our inaugural trip to his childhood home did he mention much about living here previously.

As my parents talked through a plan I tried not to make it obvious that I was listening. I kept my eyes glued out the window with my hands in my lap.

It is unlawful to plagiarize any of the original work from The Ameri Brit Mom. No permission is given to reuse this text or ideas without written consent. Always give credit where credit is due.

24 Book Challenge: The First Book in a Series

The following is a book review by The Ameri Brit Mom. This is book #6 from The Ameri Brit Mom 24 Book Challenge in 2016. This post expresses the genuine opinion and experiences of The Ameri Brit Mom and is in no way endorsed by authors, publishers, or outside influences.

Title: The Selection

Author: Kiera Cass

Publisher: Harper Teen

Copyright Date: 2012

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Picture credit: Goodreads

For the past couple of years The Selection series has been really popular among the ninth grade girls in my English classes. I’ve watched this series turn reluctant female readers into confident ones as they devour the pages quickly and with excitement. Whenever someone prepares to present about this book there is always another student in the room who gasps, “I loved that book!” uncontrollably. As a result of all the love this book gets in my classroom this title has been on my TBR (To-Be-Read) list for a while so I was excited to get it out of the queue.

America Singer lives with her family in the country of Illea. She is from one of the lowest castes in the nation where she is being trained to work as a musician. Over the past several years she has fallen in love with Aspen, a boy of an even lower caste, but they have found ways to kindle their star crossed love without suspicion.

Things are going well for the love birds until news comes out that Prince Maxon will be hosting a selection at the royal palace to seek out a wife. The promise of wealth and power for the family of the chosen wife as well as her mother’s own urging cause America to put her name in the running to represent her province in The Selection. When she is chosen to embark on the adventure to the crown America is torn apart, but she puts her family  before her own desires. Soon after her arrival to the palace it becomes clear that she is a front runner for Prince Maxon’s affection and she pays the price of his feelings with her relationships with the other girls in the contest, her forbidden love for Aspen, and the dangerous rebel attacks on the palace during her stay.

The Selection was a mash up between a couple of popular stories. When trying to explain the plot to my husband I drew multiple comparisons to well known tales/shows such as The Bachelor, The Hunger Games, and the story of Queen Esther from the Bible.

The Bachelor

Some parallels which can be drawn between The Selection and The Bachelor would be that the Prince of Illea has come of age and is need of a bride. Instead of going about the dating process the traditional way Prince Maxon undergoes a live televised program where he will court thirty-five women (one from each of the provinces.) The process will eventually lead to the selection of a wife.

The Hunger Games

The Selection is similar to The Hunger Games in that it is set in futuristic America. China has defeated our country before being invaded and overtaken by the troops of Lord Illea, the namesake of the newly formed nation. There is also a strict caste system in place across the country. And along the lines of the districts in Panem from The Hunger Games, each of the provinces of Illea will have a woman chosen at random to represent their province in the Selection. Much like Katniss Everdeen, America Singer is reluctant to be called upon to represent her home on the televised competition, but discovers that she is a natural and finds herself successful.

Queen Esther

The last comparison I made between the book and a famous story is that of Queen Esther. The process for determining a wife for the eligible Prince Maxon is reflective of the process that Esther took part in to win the heart of King Xerxes. The women are all brought to the palace and treated royally. Each woman is at the beck and call of the young prince and spends her days waiting for the privilege to spend one-on-one time with the heir to the country’s throne. Also, like Queen Esther, America Singer shows that she is not romanced by the wealth and power of the prince and oftentimes breaks the rules of the game by asserting her will without fear of consequence.

This was a very quick read. The author drew me into the plot from page one and didn’t let up until the abrupt ending. This is the first book in a series and so the ending was not clean and tidy. Most of the loose ends were left dangling. The rest of the series includes: The Elite, The One, The Heir, and The Crown (to be relased in May.) It’s clear to me why young adult readers have been flocking to this series. And now that I’m attached to America, Prince Maxon, Lady Marlee, and Aspen I’m looking forward to continuing the series!

The Ameri Brit Mom

“To-Be” Verbs: The Irresistible Novel

I’m in a really great place with my writing. Book number one is pretty much written. I’ve dedicated my upcoming summer to sending out query letters to agents and publishing companies. I’ve also begun working on a second book (sneak peek to come soon!) In addition to my novel writing I’ve been working with my church to write and edit the quarterly magazine which highlights things God is doing in the lives of our members. It’s all really exciting stuff that I thoroughly enjoy.

Lately I’ve been doing some reading of the book The Irresistible Novel by Jeff Gerke in order to sharpen my writing skills. Most Saturdays I’ve taken time to highlight one chapter from the book. Each chapter is about a controversial subject in the writing world. Within the chapters Gerke gives opposing viewpoints about that principle and ultimately leaves it up to the writer to make an informed decision about what to include or exclude from their writing. Today’s topic is the ever-debated “to-be” verbs.

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“To-Be” Verbs

Most of us had that teacher who refused to give credit to any paper containing “to-be” verbs. Some feel strongly that these verbs should not be found in any formal writing. Many people think this way because these verbs weaken writing and should be replaced by stronger verbiage. The “to-be” verbs are is, am, are, were, was, be, being, been.

This age old argument roots itself in the state-of-being rule. “To-be” verbs fall under the umbrella of state-of-being which means that technically they represent a permanent condition. The sentence “I am hungry” actually carries the denotation that you are hungry at all times. Although current language rules and connotations go beyond the understanding of permanent state-of-being that is the root of the argument.

Throughout time writers have grown to notice how the use of “to-be” verbs weakens sentences and scenes. Oftentimes when a writer uses a “to-be” verb it holds back the text from something better (ex: “Spain is great” can be replaced with “I love the food and culture of Spain.”)

The other school of thought is that “to-be” verbs are such a part of our natural language that it destroys the authenticity of writing to eliminate it completely.

My Current Project…

If you can’t tell from this post or other writings I’ve done I tend to agree with the second argument rather than the first. While I recognize the legitimacy of the “to-be” argument I also realize that the type of writing I typically do contains the occasional “to-be” verb. When I notice that a sentence or scene weakens the text I can almost always trace the weakness back to the “to-be” verb. However, there are other instances when I leave well enough alone. As long as the verb doesn’t impede on reader interaction with my characters and plot I tend to leave them.

Some people will not agree with me. Some writers completely oppose the use of these verbs and can’t stand to read them. We all have our own preferences when it comes to reading and writing. I like to keep my “to-be” verbs as long as they aren’t taking too much away from my story. But, to each his own. The more I write the more I’m learning that rules don’t really exist. There are plenty of issues out there that a writer must be educated on in order to find their voice, but there are plenty of successful authors who disregard rules or follow them to a “T”. It’s all about preferences and style.

 

 

 

Work IT

Work IT

 

As many of you know I’ve taken the plunge and am in the midst of a couch to 10k training regimen. In less than two weeks I will be competing with thousands of other runners in the Columbus Cap City Half Marathon/Patron Quarter Marathon. Now while I’m not looking to break any records I have enjoyed the journey to getting back into shape. There have been some ups and downs, but I’m glad that I’ve gotten back into the habit of running on a regular basis.
Running has always been an outlet for me. It’s a chance for me to take a time out from whatever is going on to focus on myself. Some days those running breaks last longer than others, but each run requires a few essentials to make it happen.
First and foremost I have a supportive family who has committed to giving me the opportunities to run daily. They challenge me to be my best and pick up the slack when I’m too tired or sore to do anything post-run.
Besides the amazing support coming from my husband and daughter I’ve relied heavily on a few devices to get me through my workouts. As you can see above, I’m kind of in a pink mood. My current fitbit cover is pink, my iPhone armband is pink, my hairbands are pink, and in a perfect world I would also have a pink flipbelt. (I don’t currently own one, but boy do I wish I did!)
What are your workout essentials?
The Ameri Brit Mom

Adventures of a First Time Soccer Mom

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A few weeks ago my family embarked into uncharted territory. For the first time our daughter was going to participate on a sports team. A lot of emotions came into play when making that decision. The worst of the emotions was realizing that she was actually old enough to sign up. I’ve always known that once she was around other kids her own age that my daughter would thrive, but I had no idea how much she would enjoy and look forward to all things soccer.

Anticipation built as we neared the commencement of the season. We spent weeks traveling from store to store looking for the best deals on soccer gear. Financially, it’s a little bit of an investment. Soccer requires shin pads, socks, balls, and specific colored shorts. The trickiest part of the whole ordeal was locating ensembles in her itty bitty size.

For weeks we built up excitement for the first practice. We counted down with our daughter and every day she woke up asking if she had practice. It was a fun time. When the day of the first practice finally arrived so did a massive thunderstorm. Minutes before the practice was scheduled to begin the coach e-mailed to cancel. It was so heartbreaking to our three year old who could barely do anything except think about practice all day.

As a family, we decided to practice anyway. We passed the ball. Worked on scoring, and had a blast.

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Her first official practice was a cold one. The wind was blowing and all of the players showed up in jackets. As parents, we sat huddled under a blanket cheering our little player on through chattering teeth. However, she wasn’t bothered in the slightest about the inclimate conditions.

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The coach approached us and asked my daughter if she was ready to play. Her response was a chanting, “I am, I am!” while jumping up and down and raising her hand in the air.

I watched as many children shied away from the others. Like my daughter, this was the first experience for most of the team. Unsure how to respond to one another each player kept to themselves and close by mom and dad for that first practice. Except for our daughter who took on the role of “Team Cheerleader” as she encouraged her new teammates and herself (we will work on humility at a later age) during each drill and exercise.

We are two weeks and three practices into her inaugural season. With each time on the field she has become a more confident and aggressive player. She’s one of the smallest kids out on the field, but she plays with heart.

Nothing warms my heart more than watching my daughter enjoy learning something new. This has truly been a wonderful experience thus far, and I am so thankful that a friend told me about a league open to her age bracket. I could get used to the soccer mom life.

The Ameri Brit Mom

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Book Review: For the Love

The following is a book review by The Ameri Brit Mom. This post expresses the genuine opinion and experiences of The Ameri Brit Mom and is in no way endorsed by authors, publishers, and outside influences.

Title: For the Love

Author: Jen Hatmaker

Publisher: Nelson Books

Copyright Date: 2015

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I am a member of a small ladies’ book club at my church which I co-founded. We call ourselves Women of the Word and we meet once a month at a local coffee shop. Every few months we like to find empowering books to read together and throughout our last term we chose For the Love by Jen Hatmaker. This book is taking bible studies and book stores by storm. I’ve seen it referenced on reviews, mentioned by famous female speakers, and sitting atop some best seller lists. I was really excited when we chose to read this book as a group because I was intrigued by all of its publicity. And it did not disappoint.

Let’s be clear from the start: Jen Hatmaker is hilarious!

When I began to read this book I immediately fell in love with Jen’s raw honesty. She isn’t afraid to tell it like it is, and she doesn’t ever fear stepping on others’ toes. Through her testimony and short essays Jen paints a picture of a life of the typical mom in western culture doing her very best to represent Christ in every avenue of her life. But, she isn’t afraid to show her mess-ups. There are no cover-ups in this book. Sometimes when I read books by women and for women I feel like the authors dress up their lives and paint their lives full of flowers and sunshine. Not Jen. She isn’t afraid to own her mistakes and use them to encourage other women.

I think what I found so empowering about this book is that Jen was a success story of Christ using her talents to reach others. I was encouraged that I don’t have to have myself together 24/7. It’s okay to slow down. It’s not a sin to take a little time for you.

This book covers a wide range of topics. Jen opens the book with a section entitled “Your Very Own Self” where she discusses the unrealistic expectations most women put on themselves, positive attitudes, and aging. All of her personal anecdotes are relatable and comical.

Next, Jen moves on to talk about family in a chapter entitled, “All These People Who Live in Your House.” This section is about motherhood from all different stages. It also touches on marriage in one of my favorite chapters “Marriage: Have Fun and Stuff.”

The third section of the book is entitled, “Friends, Neighbors, Strangers, and Enemies.” This portion is about interacting with other people in positive and negative situations.

The final section of the book is entitled, “Church, Church People, Not-Church People, and God.” This is one of the hardest sections to swallow for most. In this portion of the book Jen talks about relationships within the body of Christ. She touches on theology and the things of the world which can suck a once-godly relationship dry.

Throughout the book Jen inserts Thank You Notes which serve as a comic relief. I loved the timing of each Thank You Note chapter. They all seemed to fall right after a pretty heavy chapter which challenged me to think or act differently.

This is a fantastic book about how we as women hold the rest of the people in our lives together. And with that power comes the responsibility to be honest and forthcoming in our interactions. This book is anti-competition, anti-facade, anti-works based faith and is pro-loving each other as we all try our best at this balance beam act of life.

The Ameri Brit Mom