A Portrait of the week as a Monday + “Preschooled” by Anna Lefler

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It’s Monday. Morning. Monday morning. Not necessarily early (mid morning), but I could have used those extra two hours when everyone in my house is still asleep and I get to have my coffee in quiet splendor. I call those days ‘weekends without swim meets’ or ‘school vacation,’ and they don’t roll around often enough.

I have children who like to sleep in–a gene they got from their father. He is a sleeper. Me? I like to be up and going in the morning, or at least have the opportunity to read a book in bed with a cup of coffee in silence.

But most Mondays are not like that. Usually I have to force both my girls out of bed. And then they grumble and mumble because they’re not quite awake. Lunches are thrown together, breakfast is downed efficiently, buses are boarded on time but with sleepy eyes. Like I said, my girls are not morning people. And especially not Monday morning people.

Back inside, more coffee is usually poured and the laptop is squared away for writing (or just time killing). But today? I’m out of coffee and I headed to Starbucks, laptop in hand. Coffee is necessary on Mondays.

I hate the getting up on Mondays, but, as an eternal optimist, I kind of like the rest of Monday. Especially a day like today. The fall colors and a perfect blue sky. Everything seems possible on a Monday like this one. This is a day of beginnings, of hopes and challenges and possibilities. A whole week of possibilities.

Mondays are the day I promise to get new chores started, and to begin a new eating regimen. It’s the day I decide to start working out more, to get more active and to stay active. The day I decide to back some goodies and to get my life going in a forward direction, at least for this week.

By Monday evening I usually realize that at least a few of these things didn’t get going, but it’s this magic time, mid-morning Monday, when it all seems doable and possible. Lists are made, creative thoughts abound, the week’s potential seems endless.

While everyone derides Mondays, I look at in my eternally optimistic bent (at least once I get some coffee in my body and my girls out of the house). Mondays are the beginning of a week of potential. A week to start anew, to bring forth creativity and wonder.

So bring it Monday. I’m ready for you, and this 41st week of 2015. I’m going to tame you and make you all my own.

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Onto a fun look at competitive preschools, high octane parents, and the difficulties of young parenthood. Here’s Anna Lefler’s Preschooled.


Can new preschool mom Justine navigate the treacherous waters of competitive preschool, especially when she’s being circled by sharks in the form of other mothers, teachers, and old boyfriends? Who says the kids are the only ones learning the lessons?

The Premise

Justine Underwood is a pretty typical stay-at-home-mom (at least in my world). When she became a mother, she left her job at a law firm (the same firm at which her husband works) in order to devote her days to her child. Not really made for perfect domesticity, Justine navigates the waters none-the-less, and is almost left behind when she learns that most of her mommy-and-me friends have already secured places in high-end preschools, the ones that lead to the best kindergartens and schools in Santa Monica, California.

Luckily, Justine got her daughter into exclusive Garden of Happiness, and the book opens on parents’ night, where, thanks to a last minute meeting, she must attend alone. And that’s where she runs into an old college boyfriend, the one that broke her heart and got away.

Taking us through the first half of the first year, we watch Justine navigate the preschool world – committees, other moms, a dictatorial school director, and the ex-boyfriend and his ultra rich wife – all while dealing with her husband’s crazy work schedule with another lawyer known for using her looks and wiles to seduce her co-workers, regardless of their marital status.

Sprinkled throughout Justine’s travails are the are the stores of Margaret Askew, the school director and owner, and Ruben, a stay-at-home dad. Margaret is going through a messy divorce after her dentist-husband turned to new-age, and the school’s future is in jeopardy as result of his non-finances and 50-50 divorce. Ruben is attempting to write a sitcom while dealing with preschool moms and requisite committee participation, all which could be a boon to his career plans.

Add to this the travails of school politics, friendships gone awry, and escape-artist rabbits, making it clear that the lessons the children are learning are secondary to those being taught to the adults!

My Thoughts

Cute, funny, and lots of fun–those are my thoughts on Lefler’s Preschooled. Lefler, a comedy writer, seems to draw on her own California experiences to find real humor in the absurd.

The story is pretty much predictable, and the characters are at best two dimensional, but Lefler’s humor and style make Preschooled a book worth reading (and it makes me glad I live in the middle of the country in a relatively small town, where the preschool choices were limited). The three-sided story of preschool parents gives the story more range. Ultimately, Lefler story of three characters leaves us with the impression that there are many other stories roiling under the surface at the Garden of Happiness preschool.

I give Preschooled 3 stars. A great, fun, quick read told with quick wit. Perfect for vacation or a slow weekend.

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Rerun Post: My Rom-Com with Coffee + a new review of Hester Young’s “The Gates of Evangeline”

This is a re-post in honor of National Coffee Day! 

Coffee. This rich, intense essence of life;  the bold, earthy goodness that makes mornings more bearable. A whiff of the stuff can help my eyes open, get me out of bed a little faster.

But this wasn’t always the case.

I worked at Starbucks at the end of college and during the first couple of years of my marriage, and I loved it. I loved 10850685_10205448105143437_834895177_nthe smell of the place, the warm, enveloping dark, leathery feel of stores. But, and this is the weird part, I didn’t really drink coffee when I worked there.

Weird, right? I drank chai teas and teas and mistos (tea with steamed milk), and, every once and awhile, a frappucino. What was the strangest thing was that I could take a sip of coffee and tell you which beans they were–I had a great pallet for different coffee. But I never sat down and had a whole cup of coffee just to have a cup of coffee.

So, coffee and I were friends. Friends with benefits.  I got the taste factor, but I didn’t get the sitting and sinking into a cup of coffee thing. For years, we stayed in touch. Sometimes we would hook up with some Bailey’s (holidays), or at a friend’s house (as not to be rude). But it was a friendly nod from across the room. I understood the taste, and the caffeine stuff is obvious. But I was afraid of the intense love that was hiding behind the cute coffee mug.

Through early days of motherhood, through jobs that forced me out of bed in the morning, I stayed away from what I knew would be a darkly obsessive relationship with coffee. I spied it through the Starbucks drive-through, I even tasted its sweet loving embrace. But I wouldn’t let it have a real hold on my heart.

And then, Keurig. We bought one, and I decided it was time to have a cup here and there. I let it in. I fell in love. Slowly at first, and then all at once.

Pretty quickly one K-Cup at a time wasn’t enough. I was up to two in my mug in the morning, and sometimes another a little later. I couldn’t get enough. And that’s where I am now.

I’m fully immersed in this love story now. Every morning now, coffee has me at Hello. So much so, that I’m left my Keurig and went whole hog for the French press. We have two now: they big Mama 12-cup, and the 8-cup smaller version. Nearly everyday, one of them is in use. Because coffee is necessary, sometimes even more necessary than food.

Watch out world, no one can stop this endless love. It’s me and coffee forever.

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Okay, onto a review of The Gates of Evangeline by Hester Young.


A woman trying to get over the sudden death of her child is psychically drawn to an unsolved child abduction in Louisiana. Can she solve the mystery and heal at the same time?

The Premise

When Charlie (short for Charlotte) Cates starts to have eerie dreams of children, she’s sure it’s a manifestation of her dead son. Through chance and luck, though, she finds that her dreams are messages from children in danger, and she feels she must listen.

When her old editor offers her a chance to write a book about an unsolved child abduction in Louisiana, Charlie decides to turn it down. But the child comes to her in a dream, and she feels compelled to go to the renowned estate called Evangeline.

With the blessing of the Deveau family, Charlie delves into abduction and loss of the 3 year-old child more than 30 years earlier. Making new friends, she discovers family secrets and estate mysteries that are all part of the Deveau family. Through it all, Charlie finds herself starting to think she may be able to heal.

My Thoughts

The Gates of Evangeline is a very intriguing mystery that had me hooked almost from the get go. The book has supernatural and spiritual elements, which makes it even more interesting.

The characters were likable but not very complex, and their actions are pretty predictable. The fundamental mystery of the story was quite predictable, but the spiritual and mystical unknowns gave the whole story a nuanced quality that lifts it to another level. The romance of Evangeline as well as the actual romance between Charlie and another main character add facets that made me want to keep reading even after I solved the central conundrum.

After all is said and done, I give The Gates of Evangeline 3.5 stars. If the real mystery of the story were a little less obvious, it would be more. I’ll be keeping an eye on Hester Young, though–she tells a great, nuanced story.