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Mary T Wagner

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Running with Stilettos
by Mary T Wagner   

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Publisher:  iUniverse ISBN-10:  0595492428


Copyright:  December, 2008 ISBN-13:  9780595492428

Running with Stilettos: Living a Balanced Life in Dangerous Shoes

Inspirational and humorous slice-of-life collection of essays by award-winning journalist and criminal prosecutor.

After switching career horses in mid-stream from journalism to criminal prosecution, the author returns to the keyboard with an outstanding collection of essays from the heart. By turns funny, touching, courageous and enterprising, Running with Stilettos is a wide open window into one woman's mission to give every day her best shot ... in fabulous shoes.

Running with Stilettos took first place in its book category (memoir/autobiography) in the National Federation of Press Women's communications contest, earned a Silver IPPY Award and a Mom's Choice Award, and was a finalist in the Royal Palm Literary Awards.


From the national award-winning essay, "Wildflower seeds and beer"...

It started with a handful of small red and white carnations in a glass Coke bottle, propped charmingly and invitingly in the cup holder of a fifteen year old navy blue Ford pickup truck. It was February, and the dead of winter, and the slush at the curb was up to my ankles when I stepped out to the pavement on the way to an evening of Irish dancing. Flower gardening, never a successful hobby, was the furthest thing on my mind. Staying warm and dry was more like it.

A proper bouquet followed a few days later, and then the next week, a gift of a miniature rosebush with perfect white blooms and sturdy green foliage. It sat on the kitchen counter until the blooms shriveled, and the leaves dropped, and I finally put it out on the back porch to get some actual sunlight and toughen up. If it was going to live here, it was going to have to fend for itself.

When it comes to gardening, I freely admit to having a “black thumb.” Not black as in fecund, fertile, life-giving soil, Earth Mother, goddess of fertility and all things abundant. Black like the kiss of death. My ability to kill indestructible plants is legendary. Philodendrons. Cactuses. Even Venus Fly Traps…and for heaven’s sake, those things are like wild animals, they catch their own prey and feed themselves.

But the man who has laid siege to my heart for the past several months with a tidal wave of thoughtfulness, likes to garden. No, that doesn’t do it justice. He’s full-tilt nuts about it. Happy, happy, happy when he’s digging in some more English daisies or a new variety of columbine. Lots of things in his yard are watered regularly, and mulched, and tended, and flourishing. And it is forever a work in progress. "Done" is not a word in his vocabulary.

The stretch of ground around my house, on the other hand, looked like Death Valley this spring. I’d had some improvements done to the lower level of the house last fall, and all that remained of the few straggly rose bushes that used to snatch at my ankles around August, begging for water, and three huge bushes that had to come down for the workmen to maneuver were a handful of ugly stumps and some peony shoots. We sat on his back porch one warm spring day, surveying his flower beds, and he explained that he was really, really getting the urge to garden for about the next month. And it was going to either be his garden or mine. “How about mine?” I said. And so the fuse was lit.

My soul began to stir, but in small increments at first. I went out to a couple of garden centers and bought rose bushes. A couple of big expensive ones, in a spirit of cautious optimism, but mostly bushes that ran no more than five bucks. If I was going to kill them, if they were really dead plants walking, I didn’t want to spend a lot. I bought a new set of gardening gloves for three ninety-nine. They were sky blue with little pink tulips on the backs. I felt as ready as I’d ever be.

Professional Reviews

U.S. Review of Books
Mary T. Wagner's humorous collection of essays, Running With Stillettos: Living a Balanced Life in Dangerous Shoes, perfectly illustrates the value of a clever and apropos title that not only draws a reader in, but also foreshadows her charming delivery of a well balanced narrative comprised of ordinary moments portrayed as authentically funny without being deliberately comic, observant without being flowery, and emotional without being overly sentimental.

The themes covered in Running with Stilettos run the gamut from... dating, power tools, shoe shopping, chocolate addiction, friendship, tragedies, celebrations and the melancholy that comes with kids growing up and growing away, they're all in there. Wagner's existential observation is evidenced by the responsibility she takes to infuse her own life with meaning—despite the obstacles—via her passionately and sincerely crafted vignettes.

I made it forty-five days once. Forty-five days of grasping, white-knuckled determination, of denial, of yearning, of walking past the siren call of an unfinished Kit Kat on the kitchen table, of reaching for a pretzel instead of another Hershey Kiss. Chocolate sobriety ain't for the faint of heart.

Wagner's honest narrative both exposes and celebrates our human flaws and incongruities, illuminating the reality that we are all the flawed, but likeable, protagonists in our own lives.

I used to think that sex was the final frontier in human intimacy, measured in hushed and sacred increments of trust, and closeness, and sharing, and vulnerability. I was wrong. The much bigger leap of faith and reliance is getting on the back of a motorcycle, wrapping your arms around someone's waist, and with a touch wordlessly conveying, "Here's my life", I'm trusting you to keep me safe."

Perhaps the best explanation of what the core element of every well-conceived and well-written memoir should be comes from English singer and songwriter, John Lennon (1940-1980) in his lyric from "Beautiful Boy"... life happens to you while you're busy making other plans. Yes indeed. Life happens. Stuff Happens. Books happen. And Running With Stilettos: Living a Balanced Life in Dangerous Shoes by Mary T. Wagner, happens to be an inspirational and entertaining read with a wealth of resilience and wit that will resonate with readers from all walks of life—no matter their footwear. Life writing at its best.
Mary T. Wagner’s Running with Stilettos: Living a Balanced Life in Dangerous Shoes is a series of very personal essays; whatever the subject, this author’s humor and resilience shines through.

From the minute you read Ms. Wagner’s forward you become entwined in her life. Her essays run the emotional gamut of her day-to-day roller coaster life and you are invited to come along for the ride. Time and again, Ms. Wagner shows her mettle and proves that she is not faint-of-heart. She learns how to handle a cordless drill with expertise, climb on the back of a Harley and she come to grips with her father’s aging. Her words touch your heart, tweak your spirit and make you smile.

If you are divorced, you will laugh with understanding as you read about this long-time married, newly divorced mom with children, being thrust back in the game of dating or as the author calls her experience “turbo dating.” And, when it becomes obvious to her that her beloved horse Babe is beyond help medical help, you cry with her as she does what is necessary with dignity and compassion.

A portion of Ms. Wagner’s Blog biography shows her depth, humor and a zest for life to be envied. She writes "Award winning essayist, photographer and spike-heeled prosecutor with a penchant for Belgian chocolate, Irish castles, great shoes, long clean shorelines, classic cartoons, big skies and Lee Child "Reacher" novels. Multiple degrees earned in the "school of life" include mother of four, former girl scout leader, truckstop waitress, cocktail waitress, office temp, judicial clerk, and radio talk show host." All of this, while she manages to stay balanced.

Running with Stilettos: Living a Balanced Life in Dangerous Shoes received a 2009 Silver IPPY Award from the Independent Publisher Book Association.

Highly recommended.

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