It Ends With Us- Review

It Ends with UsIt Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

***possible spoiler ahead***
Excellent story, great writing, lots of heart. I’m not sure when I will read another one of Colleen’s books because it took so much of me emotionally to read this one. I loved that it’s written from a side of abuse no one seems to see. The victim is always thought of as weak when in fact it’s really not that simple. And the abuser is not always a monster. I hated that I fell in love with Ryle, and just like Lily I couldn’t get myself to hate him. Not completely. This ambivalent side of domestic abuse was masterfully dealt with by Colleen Hoover by placing the reader in a similar emotional position when it came to Ryle’s and Lily’s relationship. And thank you Ms. Hoover for giving me a happy ending. I would have been destroyed if that wasn’t the case.

View all my reviews

Interview with Allison Garcia

Please join me in welcoming Allison Garcia, author of Vivir el Dream and Finding Amor.

N: Tell us something about yourself that most people don’t know.

In college I DJ’d a radio show with my roommate…It was called The Allison and Charlene Show, and we won DJs of the Year. We were very silly and had loads of fun!

N: What’s your favorite scene in “Finding Amor”, and what makes it a fave? Would you care to share an excerpt from the scene with us?

Sure! My favorite scene is…oh my…this is hard. I’ve been staring at the screen for five minutes. I can’t pick! Also I don’t want to pick a scene toooo far into the book and give anything away. I kind of like the scenes where Emanuel meets his grandmother, Mami Sandra. I know a lot more about the character than everyone at this point, so the way she connects with Emanuel is pretty miraculous and outside her normal character. Also it turns out she has a pretty good sense of humor. Who knew?! Here is a scene where they are eating breakfast together in Nashville. I apologize for the large amount of Spanish. There are footnotes in the book! J

Mami Sandra let out a sigh and took another swig of her coffee. “Regresemos al río.”

Emanuel nodded and walked alongside her until they got to the railing overlooking the flowing waters. The sunset was brighter and glowed with a mixture of orange and red, like mangos and jocotes.

Vamos a comer por allá. El puente tiene bancos.

They walked up the steep bridge until they got to the top, where they sat on a metal bench, looking out over the river below, its surface reflecting the changing colors of the sky.

Mami Sandra swallowed another gulp of coffee and passed Emanuel a warm wrapped sandwich from the paper bag. “Okay, I’m awake now. ¿Qué querés saber?” She checked her watch. “Tenés quince minutos para preguntarme todo lo que quieras.”

Emanuel stopped with his biscuit sandwich halfway to his mouth. “¿Por qué habla español con acento?”

“Out of practice,” she responded with a full mouth.

“Why?”

“I don’t like speaking Spanish.”

“Why?”

“Because.” She picked off a piece of her biscuit and threw it to a group of nearby pigeons.

“Because why?”

Mami Sandra narrowed her eyes but didn’t answer.

Me dijo ‘todo lo que yo quiera saber de usted,’” Emanuel reminded her, taking another sip of the flavorless juice.

She swallowed hard and looked out over the river. “Me recuerda a la Guerra.”

Emanuel sat back. “Oh. Por eso salió del país, ¿verdad?

She nodded and tossed another crumb to the birds. “It really messed me up.”

He had a million other questions floating around in his mind. Why had she abandoned Mamá? Why hadn’t she helped her get papers or waited so long to help Emanuel? Why did everyone seem to hate her so much?

He nibbled on his sandwich and studied her saddened face and her leg that restlessly shook the bench, deciding that la Guerra might be the answer to most of his questions. So he chose an easier one. “¿Por qué me está ayudando?”

Mami Sandra glanced at him, a strange far-off look in her eyes. “I don’t know.” She shook her head and finished off her biscuit and coffee, tossing the garbage into the trash. “Fifteen minutes are over.”

Emanuel laughed. “Ni llegué a cinco.”

“Oh, well. Son mis reglas.” Mami Sandra shrugged. “If I’d known you were so smart, I wouldn’t have let you ask me questions.” She ruffled his hair and stood up. “Let’s go.”

Emanuel swallowed his last dry bite of sandwich, gulped down the juice, and followed his grandmother down the hill. He smiled. Mami Sandra was strange, but for a moment, she’d reminded him of Mamita. Despite everything he’d heard about her his whole life, he couldn’t shake the feeling that somewhere deep inside, she was actually a good person.

allison

N: If you could spend some real-life time with one of the characters in the book, who would you choose and why?

Emanuel, hands down. He is a cool kid. He is so strong and has been through so much, and yet the world hasn’t dragged him down. He has a good heart and a lot of love to give.

N: On the flipside, which character would you probably least get along with? Why?

Carlos. He is the worst. When my editor made me write scenes from his POV, I bucked back hard. But, alas, it helped grow the story. And, don’t worry, horrible things will happen to him. Mwahahaha

N: Let’s take off your author cap and put on your reader cap for a moment: what do you look for in a book, what sort of protagonists do you love, and do you have a favorite genre/sub-genre?

I’m a sucker for the classics. My fav book is Jane Eyre. But I also love Harry Potter and The Hunger Games and The Giver and And Then There Were None. My favorite recent book is The Hate U Give. I’d say I read whatever, as long as it has a good story and characters I care about.

N: What are your least and most favorite things about being an author?

I love writing. I haaaaate editing, though I love the final product. It is really awesome holding a book you wrote in your hands and seeing it on the shelves of a bookstore. Also I only have 2 books out, so next year I would looove to be in the black. J

N: Have you ever written a line, paragraph, or passage, and thought, “Darn, that’s pretty amazing, even if I do say so myself”? What was it?

Yes. There is one scene in Vivir el Dream, my book that has won 5 awards, where it talks about Juanita and her 3-yr old daughter Linda’s traumatic border crossing. So…I think the last line is the most powerful, but it needs context so here ya go!

Juanita had heard stories about people dying in the desert. Hundreds of people, maybe thousands. Searching for freedom and a better life for their families. She had heard other stories, too. Stories about what the coyotes did to women, stories she didn’t want to believe were true. She took a deep breath and looked ahead with determination. She wouldn’t be one of those bodies lying out for the vultures to find. They were going to make it.

All of a sudden, the old man in front of her stopped, swayed, and dropped onto the sand, dead. She made the sign of the cross over her chest and stepped around him, continuing on.

N:  When you sit down to start a new book, how do you decide whether it will best be told in the first or the third person?

I almost always write in 3rd person, and starting with Vivir el Dream, I have written stories from usually 3-4 POVs. I usually decide the main people I’d like the story to be about and go from there. I am a “pantser” so the story develops as I write.

N: Let’s talk tropes: do you have a few favorites that you enjoy both writing and reading? If so, what are they and what makes them your faves?

I sort of hate tropes. I don’t like things to be predictable at all. Though…I suppose I would say that I am a sucker for the underdog or for surprise declarations of love.

N: Describe your ideal fantasy writing environment—the beach in Monaco, a sidewalk café in Paris, a thatched cottage in the English countryside—wherever you can dream of.

I have written some really good stuff while down visiting my in-laws in Guadalajara. But I’ve already been there and I’ve never been to Italy, so I think there!

N: If you could choose one of your books to be adapted for the silver screen, which would you choose? Why do you think it would translate well to film?

This is hard because I see all of them in my head like a movie, but people seem to really love Vivir el Dream. I think the characters are lovable (most of them!) and it is very poignant. Finding Amor would also be cool. I can see people falling in love with sweet little Emanuel.

N: If I were to interview Ana and Emanuel what would they say about you?

Give us a break, Allison! I think they’d be mad about the next shoe that is dropping in Finding Seguridad (book 2 of the Buscando Home series) and the following shoe in Finding Paz (book 3). I like to make people squirm and care and worry, because these are real things that happen in the real world. I hear stories like theirs every day as a counselor. I want it to be authentic and not a fake, happy, perfectly-tied-up-in-a-bow ending.

N: Thank you so much. Finding Amor sounds very interesting. I wish you all the best in your writing career and hope you visit us again soon.

 

Buy Links

finding amor

vivir

 

Not Being Second (flash fiction)

***It’s been a while since I posted any flash fiction, so here it goes 🙂 Enjoy.***

“She wanted something else, something different, something more. Passion and romance, perhaps, or maybe quiet conversations in candlelit rooms, or perhaps something as simple as not being second.”

Nicholas Spark “The Notebook

She had read that quote and it spoke to her. It gave words to what she had felt now for years. Too many years of analyzing, blaming herself, trying to make sense of what she wanted. Her husband, her friends, even her therapist often asked her, “What exactly do you want from your marriage?” Until she read that quote, she had no way of articulating how she felt, even to herself.

Something as simple as not being second.” In her marriage, in her life in general, she had always come second. Or third. She couldn’t remember an instance where she had been first in someone’s life other than her own parents’. She was always the afterthought, the one who is useful but not fun or wanted.

When she first got married she found out quickly she was not at the top of her husband’s list of priorities. First came his own family, second his sports, third his career, and then herself. The wedding vows, for better or for worse, turned into maybe if nothing else more important comes up. Even in sickness she found herself a faraway second to career or family. Her needs were never met with a kind ear but rather a pointing finger at how inconvenient her requests were. Everybody, including neighbors she barely knew, were more important than her.

tree-738816_1920

She made excuses. Things would get better later on, marriage was a new thing to him, he’d come around eventually.

There were big gifts on Christmas and birthdays, attempts at appeasing her once in a while. Big gestures instead of the little daily kindnesses she really was looking for. She had never been much of a material girl. Never one for diamonds, expensive clothes, or fancy gadgets. She wanted her husband to ask her why she was sad instead of getting mad at her because she was sulking. She wanted her husband to side with her–or at least support her–when she didn’t agree with his family or friends. She wanted a hand to hold on to when she didn’t feel well. An attentive ear when she shared something that was important to her. Instead she got irritated looks and sudden changes of subject.

As the years went by things didn’t change. In many ways it got worse. The career was replaced by a crowd of friends, concerts, bars, parties… She stopped going with him. She stopped trying to be there for him because he was not there for her. No one to share that trip of a lifetime with, or her joy and excitement at having accomplished a dream. No one to talk to.

She blamed herself. She had put on weight, she was boring, she was an introvert and was uncomfortable in social situations he thrived on. It was her fault he didn’t find anything attractive in spending time with her, in talking to her, in sharing those small moments a marriage is built on.

She was unhappy. She was lonely. Tears danced in her eyes as soon as she woke up in the morning and when she fell asleep. She envied fictitious couples in literature and TV and bitterness filled her heart like noxious fumes.

The truth was she didn’t want anything complicated, nothing expensive or hard to do. All she wanted was to be first once in a while. Something as simple as not being second.

old-164980_1280

 

GIRL ON THE VERGE BY PINTIP DUNN RELEASE WEEK BLITZ

Hello Readers! Welcome to the Release Week Blitz for

Girl on the Verge by Pintip Dunn!

Check out the excerpt below, and
be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!

 

Congratulations Pintip!!

 

 

 

From the author of The Darkest Lie comes a compelling, provocative story for fans of I Was Here and Vanishing Girls, about a high school senior straddling two worlds, unsure how she fits in either—and the journey of self-discovery that leads her to surprising truths.

In her small Kansas town, at her predominantly white school, Kanchana doesn’t look like anyone else. But at home, her Thai grandmother chides her for being too westernized. Only through the clothing Kan designs in secret can she find a way to fuse both cultures into something distinctly her own.

When her mother agrees to provide a home for a teenage girl named Shelly, Kan sees a chance to prove herself useful. Making Shelly feel comfortable is easy at first—her new friend is eager to please, embraces the family’s Thai traditions, and clearly looks up to Kan. Perhaps too much. Shelly seems to want everything Kanchana has, even the blond, blue-eyed boy she has a crush on. As Kan’s growing discomfort compels her to investigate Shelly’s past, she’s shocked to find how much it intersects with her own—and just how far Shelly will go to belong…

Girl on the Verge by Pintip Dunn
Publication Date: June 27, 2017
Publisher: Kensington

Google Drive | BAM | Chapters | Amazon | B&N | Kobo | TBD | iBooks

 

 

A fish swims beneath the open staircase in my Khun Yai’s house. A real live fish, with its translucent fins fluttering in the water, its belly gold-scaled and bloated from regular feedings. If I part my knees, I can catch long glimpses of its lazy swimming through the gap in the stairs.

Of course, I’m not supposed to part my knees. It’s not ladylike for a twelve-year-old girl, not here, not in Thailand. The land where my parents grew up; the place that’s supposed to be my home, too. That’s what the banner said, when my relatives came to pick us up at the airport. “Welcome home, Kanchana.”

Never mind that I only come to Thailand every couple years. Never mind that I don’t look like anyone else here, with my American build and my frizzy, out-of-control hair. Never mind that I don’t look like anyone in my hometown, either, since I’m the only Asian girl in school. Never mind that the only reason we’re here now is because my father’s dead and my mom can’t keep it together.

For a moment, pain lances through me, so sharp and severe that it might as well slice my heart in half, like in one of those video games my friends like to play. I squeeze my eyes shut, but that doesn’t keep the tears from spilling out. Neither do the glasses sliding down my nose. And so the tears drip down, down, down, past my unladylike knees, through the gap in the stairs, into the fish basin below.

The drops scare the fish, who swims away with its tail swishing in the water, no longer languid, no longer lazy. So, even this creature wants to get away from me—from my grief, from my strangeness—as quickly as possible.

“There you are, luk lak,” Khun Yai says in Thai, coming down the stairs. She is my mother’s mother, and since we arrived, she’s used the endearment—child that I love—more often than my name.

“You’re up early.” She pats her forehead with a handkerchief. It’s only seven a.m., and already sweat drenches my skin like I’ve taken a dip in the basin. No wonder they take two or three showers a day here.

“Couldn’t sleep. Jet lag.”

“I’ve been up for a couple hours myself.” She eases onto the step next to me, her knees pressed together, her legs folded demurely to one side.

Immediately, I try to rearrange my body to look like hers and then give up. My legs just don’t go that way.

“What do you want to do today?” Khun Yai asks. “More shopping?”

“Um, no thanks.” I make a face. “Didn’t you hear those salesgirls at Siam Square yesterday? They rushed up as soon as we entered and said they didn’t have anything in my size.” My cheeks still burn when I think about their haughty expressions.

She sighs. “The clothes there are just ridiculously small. We’ll go to the mall today. They should have something that will fit you.”

I stare at her diminutive frame and her chopstick legs. “One of the salesgirls asked how much I weighed. Another grabbed my arm and said I felt like a side pillow.”

“They didn’t mean any harm. It is just the Thai way to be blunt.” She catches my chin and tilts up my face. “You are so beautiful. I wish you could see that.”

I could say so many things. I could tell her that I’m ugly not only in Thailand but also in the United States. Even though I’m not big by American standards—far from it—I could confess how the boys call me Squinty. How those Thai salesgirls snickered at my poodle-fuzz hair. I could explain how I’m from two worlds but fit in neither.

But I don’t. Because my words will only make her sad, and there have been enough tears in our family.

 

 

 

 

Pintip is a New York Times bestselling author of YA fiction. She graduated from Harvard University, magna cum laude, with an A.B. in English Literature and Language. She received her J.D. at Yale Law School, where she was an editor of the YALE LAW JOURNAL.

Pintip’s first novel, FORGET TOMORROW won the RWA RITA® award for Best First Book. Her other novels include THE DARKEST LIE, REMEMBER YESTERDAY, and the novella, BEFORE TOMORROW. She is represented by literary agent Beth Miller of Writers House.

She lives with her husband and children in Maryland.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads

 

 

Complete the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win!

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

 

Roller Coaster Ride

Living with someone who suffers  from a mental illness is like being stuck in a roller coaster ride for life. At first it’s scary but you can ride it out knowing–or hoping–the dips will eventually end but after a while, the non-stop changes in direction, rises and falls begin messing with your sense of equilibrium.

roller coaster dip

My youngest son was always an active, bright, and adventurous kid. There was never a boring moment with him. He could be just as sweet as he was horrible and he came to earn the nickname of Houdini because there was no restraints that he couldn’t break from. By the time he was three or four he had figured out how to unlock all the children’s safety locks in the house. Car seats were no challenge for him, and when I bought a four-point harness to keep him in child seats at restaurants and coffee shops, his future career as an escape artist was looking very bright indeed.

Art was strong in this one. He loved dancing, singing, and playing instruments. He was playing the guitar in fourth grade and joined the strings orchestra in fifth. By the time he was in high school he was playing with local orchestras and being spotlighted as a soloist. In his senior year we had the opportunity to visit New York city with his orchestra and he decided then that’s where he was going to study music.violin-374096_1920

All his dreams (and mine) came crushing down one evening when he walked into our living room and declared to my husband and I that he was Jesus and like Jesus he must die in order to save his friends. At first we thought he was high on something but this went on for days afterwards with Facebook posts and strange and scary behavior from him. He began going to bed with whatever “weapon” he could find (gardening tools, kitchen knives) because they were after him. Who they were was never established.

He would get in his car and drive for hours sometimes in the middle of snow storms or tornado watches and often would stay in the car all night because “the house was not safe”. It became quite apparent to us that something had shifted in his mind. His behavior became more erratic and risky to himself and us at the house.

canvas-1905732_1920

Since then he has been hospitalized five times before we finally managed to find the right cocktail of meds that made him stable. He was stable for a few years until recently when he lost his balance again. The roller coaster began again…

Living with a mental health patient is difficult enough, but the system makes it even more difficult. As parents of an adult we have no rights whatsoever. Patient’s rights to confidentiality–which I totally believe in most cases–dictates that someone who is going through a psychotic episode and thinks everyone is literally watching and out to get him has to be the one deciding about his treatment options.

This roller coaster ride means sleepless nights followed by days when your body is at work but your mind is at home wondering what he’s up to. It is long days at work followed by hours of mind-exhausting nonsensical rants, followed by more sleepless nights. It means not having a single knife or headache medicine readily available because they have all been hidden somewhere safe, just in case.

woman-73403_1920

I never liked roller coasters, not even as a child. I don’t like anything that keeps me off balance. I don’t even like rocking chairs because of that. The universe sure has a warped sense of humor to put me in this ride and keep me in constant chaotic shifting and turning. I want out but know I am stuck on this ride for life. He’s my son and I love him. Seeing him unstable and suffering kills me one cell at a time. And there is nothing I can do to help him.

 

NOTE: This last return to our roller coaster ride was due in great measure to unwise choices my son made. It is totally possible to control most mental illnesses these days as long as you are willing to make the necessary sacrifices; such as taking your meds regularly, getting enough sleep, keeping partying to a minimum, and staying away from any substance that will make your condition spin out of control. At some point my son became very comfortable in the knowledge he was stable and decided he didn’t have to be cautious anymore. Thus the sudden “dip” again. He is now on the right track and staying away from everything that may cause him trouble. Of course, there is no guarantee he will stick to it forever. I’m cautiously hopeful…

Her Hands

Today, during one of NVWP’s presentations I was given this picture and after we analyzed and talked about it for a while I felt I had to write something  down. I had to write what this picture was telling me at that moment. So here it is.

 

Her eyes speak of long, hard days, empty bellies and desperation, but her hands tell another story; the way they cocoon her baby, pulling him closer to her beating heart.“Here child, take a little of my strength, ride the rhythm of my heart, drink from the fountain of my endless love,” they whisper…

 

For more of her and other Great Depression photographs, click here.

A Hairy Affair

Today I bought a brush. A brush? You may ask, full of doubt of how the purchase of a hairbrush could possibly be fodder for a blog post.

I have needed a new hairbrush now for a long while, but every time I go shopping, I inevitably forget to buy one. I forget about it until the next morning after showering when I actually pull my old, ratty one out of the drawer to comb my hair. Unlike other people I know, I don’t normally carry a comb/brush with me and I very rarely comb my hair more than once a day. You see, I am totally inept at the art of hair dressing in any shape or form. I wear a ponytail, a bun, or a French braid. That’s it! I wash my hair, dry it half-way (because it would take hours to do it all the way), and put it up. No styling, no nothing.

woman-morning-bathrobe-bathroom

I know some women at work that religiously take out their brushes and make up kit to retouch their look a couple times a day. Hell, one of them even had a straightening iron and nail polish in her desk drawer. Yesterday I watched a friend of my son, who is in her twenties, take a whole hour to style her hair using a flat iron. I was in awe because I would sooner poke my eyes out than take that much time on my hair any day.

pink-hair-selfie-bun

The older I get, the more I begrudge the time spent in front of a mirror. When I was younger I wore very little make-up, but now I feel the need to wear foundation. If I don’t—with the tone of my complexion and acne scars—I run the very real risk of having people confuse me with a ghost, or worse, a zombie. I absolutely rue the ten minutes or so I have to spend every morning applying moisturizer, foundation, concealer, shade, eyeliner, mascara, blush and a touch of lip color. It just seems like such a waste of my time. I would much rather be reading or writing. But alas! One must not scare the crowds.

fashion-girl-makeup-paint

My hair, on the other hand, was always generously thick and abundant. Now it’s lightish brown but, for most of my life, it was multi-colored; very light brown with shades of gold and red. My mom’s favorite childhood story is the one about how people would stop her at the market when I was still a toddler, and ask her why she decided to dye such a young child’s hair? (check out this picture of me when I was about three or four.I was kind of cute, wasn’t I?)

BabyPicOne

I always had a love-hate relationship with my hair. I have worn it super long, long, bobbed and boy-short. As a teenager I still bothered doing “hair treatments” to bring out my natural highlights. I spent some considerable amount of time dry-brushing my normally out-of-control mane (check out my disco-phase picture when I was about 18-years old and had some serious strawberry blond hair).

New Doc 2_1

Not anymore. Once in a blue moon I decide that I’m tired of my non-look and I go to a nice hair stylist who charges me triple what I normally pay at Hair Cuttery to have a “good” haircut; you know, the kind you can actually wear down and makes you look like a superstar. Five minutes after I leave such places, my hair goes up into a ponytail because I can’t stand my hair flying all over my face.

person-woman-girl-blonde

But I digress…the point is I always forget to buy a new brush because it does not have that big of a role in my life as it has in other people’s lives (including my three guys). So remembering to buy a brush was kind of momentous for me today and I thought it deserved a special blog post. It’s a cool one with a zebra design that slides through my thick, always-entangled hair as if cutting through butter. What can I say? Little things make me happy.

 

Fourth of July Giggles (or Chuckles)

A fellow writer posted a seriously amusing short piece on the NaNoWriMo facebook page and I just thought it was too good not to be shared. So with his kind permission, here it is (I gave it a title because I’m a little OCD about that–I hope  you don’t mind):

A Fourth Re-Enactment

by Joseph Kennedy

Boston_Tea_Party_w

“Kids, it’s July 4th. You know what to do.”

“Fill the bathtub, and dump the tea in there.”

“Yep. Let’s get on with it.”

“Dad, you know mom gets pissed when we do this.”

“Recognizing our heritage is important. I’ll make it up to her.”

“The tea party took place in December. How about we leave her the ginseng?”

“All the tea.”

“It’s from Korea!”

“Okay. But then we’re adding the English muffins. Run down to the kitchen and get them.”

“Mom’s in the Kitchen with your six pack of Samuel Smith’s, a bottle opener, and standing next to the sink. She said it’s your move.”

“Damn. Okay kids. The Tea party is off.”

“Dad, the founding fathers wouldn’t have given in so easily.”

“Sam Adams had his own brewery.”

Caution: Whining Ahead

For the past week I have been a mess of self-pity and misery. After weeks of pushing myself like an evil overseer, I finally crashed. My energy level has dwindled to almost nothing, and my body has given up on me. Three days ago my neck lymph nodes swelled up making it very hard to swallow, and the rest of my body has been assailed by unexplained aches and pains. I know I am not really sick, just plain exhausted.

For the past few months (almost a year really) I have been waking up at six in the morning, going to work, writing during my lunchtime, running to the coffee shop after work, writing some more, and then writing and marketing my book at home until bedtime. This on top of my other every day responsibilities; teaching, cleaning, family and friends, appointments, and cooking. I have tried to go to yoga, but often my “responsibilities” have taken precedence over my general well-being and health. I go to bed after eleven, try to read for a few minutes to decompress, and normally go to sleep way after midnight.  I’m tired.

I want to be mothered. I want Sam Corra (We Will Always Have the Closet) to take care of me for a few days. I want to get home in the evening–after a day of constantly walking from my trailer/classroom to the main building and dealing with adorable but exhausting munchkins–and have someone say, “Sit there and relax. I will take care of dinner. Do you want a cup of coffee? Can I get you anything else?”

I want Jem (It Was Always You) to offer to go grocery shopping for me or run that package that’s been sitting on the kitchen table for weeks, to the post office. To tell me I deserve to rest and relax for a while.

I want to be mothered for a few days. Is that too much to ask? I have been mothering my men for over thirty years now. I think it’s not unreasonable to hope they can do the same for me for a few days. Sometimes it doesn’t pay to be the strong one. The one who never complains, the one who always keeps her cool, the comfort-giver, the problem-solver… I want someone to do that for me for a change.

I warned you this was a whining post. You thought I was joking, didn’t you?

gale_henry

The Queen of the Kings-A Memoir

When I think of my childhood the image of my aunt and her house are always the first thing that pop in my memory. I was named after her, Natalina, and I grew up both fearing and looking for becoming somebody just like her. She was the Queen of the Kings, a play on our family name which literally means kings in Portuguese (Reis).

My aunt was a formidable woman especially for her times. When I think about it, I get annoyed with myself for never having thought of asking more questions to those that knew her better. Most of those people are gone now and I am left with the little I know and a lot of guess work. She was fiercely private. Even those that lived under her roof didn’t know half of what was going on in her life and in her heart. She married late (I believe in her early thirties, which was unheard of back then), she looked like a movie star (and she dressed like one, too) and she broke more than one preconceived ideas about females back then.

2016-01-26_15.13.52

Unlike most of the women back in the day, my aunt was the so-called bread winner. Working as a bookkeeper for a city papelaria (stationary/bookstore)—and even though my uncle worked for a newspaper—she was definitely the “boss” in that household. Unable (or unwilling, not quite sure which) of having children of her own, she brought up four nephews and one niece and took my young widowed grandma and her two sons under her wing. She was often featured in the local newspaper because of her social and community involvement. Sports were one of her major interests. Very active in her sports club, Sporting, at one point she was the champion of ping-pong. It may not be a sport we usually think of as very athletic, but for a female at the time this was huge. She was so much into her sports that she enrolled each of her grandnieces (me included) as club paid members from birth.

I’m not sure if she ever learned how to drive, but she did indeed have a car, a Mercedes Benz that her husband drove to and back from both their jobs in the city and every other weekend to the little town of Caldas da Rainha where they rented a single family vacation home.  If she ever learned how to cook, she never used that skill. My grandmother had taken on the role of housekeeper who ran the busy home and watched over the young live-in maids—a job that could not have been easy considering it was a house with six young males.

I am often compared to her, something that fills me with equal pride and dread. Not only was I named after her, but people in my family always liked me to her personality; quiet, calm, cold and determined (or is it stubborn?). She passed onto me her great love for reading and writing. From her I learned to love the arts; opera, ballet, theater, and classical music. We spent almost every weekend at her house, sitting around a huge old-fashioned table, eating my grandma’s great cooking and enjoying each other’s company. I remember one time (or maybe it was more than once) when we all squeezed into her library, a small room lined with ceiling-high bookshelves, a couch and a piano. My uncle Eugénio was the only one that could play it, so he sat at the piano and we all sang along with him. Funny how you remember certain things and forget others. I loved that library and everything in it.

2016-01-26_15.07.15

However she also had the reputation of being “cold”, unemotional, and rigid. That’s the part I’ve dreaded all my life. I’m not cold, not inside anyway, and I’m sure she wasn’t either, but people seem to perceive me that way just like they perceived her. Her relationship with my uncle is still a mystery. They got along famously in spite of the many rumors of his womanizing. I have my own theories about it, but whatever the truth was it died with them. My uncle suffered from gout. He often had to be admitted in the hospital overnight because of it. We got so used to it that when he went in that time, we didn’t think much about it. He never came home though; he died of renal failure that same night. My aunt, the cold woman, was never the same again. Within days of his death, she stopped talking and functioning altogether. A few weeks later, she died. I think she died of a broken heart. Because in spite of what everybody seems to think about quiet, non-demonstrative women like her or me, we are a turmoil of feelings inside; they are our lifeline, what keeps us going and we hold on to those we love for dear life. When my uncle died, I think my aunt just lost that lifeline and found no reason to keep living.

I’m proud to carry on her name in spite of the cons. She was an amazing woman who may not have made a mark in history, but certainly left a mark in the life of seven nephews, niece and their children. I will never forget her. Long live the Queen!