Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Updates & such

So many things have been constantly cropping up since the Summer that my poor little blog has been severely neglected.  But because so many things were happening and I was so stressed out, a step back was needed & helped immensely.  I have also cut WAY back on my Facebook time (I'm down to maybe 5 minutes a day) as well as took FB off my phone.  There was just too much drama from too many people so the downtime from FB & my blog was definitely needed. 

On to the updates :-)  Lightning is allergic to dust mites & is now on medication targeted specifically for that allergy.  He may also be asthmatic, but the allergist needs to look into that more before trying a new asthma inhaler with him.  It's also increased my home work load as I'm having to launder his bedding every week now rather than every other week.  We're working on getting a dust mite pillow slipcover & mattress slipcover to help the rest along, but it's got to fit into the budget, and right now it doesn't.

Dare and Bess are both doing very well and enjoying school.  The furballs (dog type:  Luna & Twinkie, cat:  Rowan) are showing their age, but still seem to be enjoying life.  Twinkie has lost the bulk of her hearing, but can still see well enough.  Both of the dogs have joint issues in the winter, so we've done what we can to ease that.  I bought a couple of buckets so I can give them warm water baths on the warmer Winter days so they aren't miserable with cold water & we have non-stinky dogs.  Rowan's in the best shape of the furballs, but she's also the youngest.

Donald is going overseas in January & will probably be back around June.  It's going to throw a real wrench in getting anything done at the office, but it may actually help with the budget.  We'll get family separation pay for each month he's gone & hopefully will get a discount on our Verizon bill since he'll be on military orders.  It's going to be a crazy time, but we'll get through it.

Thanks so much to Zaira for tweeting me about the Jessie episode on Narcissism.  I'd been looking for a way to start talking to the kids about Narcissism in general so they had some clue what it was, and this was a great platform to begin with.  It was very kid oriented and I was able to not mention the N at all in reference to the show...it was more "what would you do if someone made you feel like Bertram's mother made him feel?"  So informative to see the kids' reactions, too.  Bess is going to be eleven in January and she's turning out to be just as curious as I am.  She's beginning to ask more questions about why Grandma doesn't like me & why I don't like spending time with Grandma.  It leaves me walking a very fine line between being honest with my daughter & demonizing her Grandmother, but I'm trying very hard to let her make up her own mind.  It's not easy, but I think it's the best thing I can do for all of my kiddos.

In other NPD news, Donald & I have come to a much needed understanding.  I realized one of my biggest gripes is that he never EVER discusses the issues he has with his mother with the kids.  In my mind this leaves them wide open to not know how to deal with the manipulation and emotional abuse.  So I talked to Donald about how he needs to talk to the kids about what to do if someone (not specifically Grandma, because he's not ready for that yet) makes them feel bad or hurts their feelings so the other person can feel better about how they see themself.  He agreed that he needed to start doing that, so now we're BOTH in our own ways talking to the kids about how to care for themselves.  That's pretty freaking awesome :-)

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Summer goodies

Just a short post to share some of the recent things I've concocted in the kitchen.  First up are the cold coffee drinks.  Still love to have my caffeine fix when it's hot, but I CANNOT drink hot coffee in the summer.  So here are some lovely frappucino type coffee creations you can make at home.  (I'm trying to avoid Starbucks because geez they're expensive!)

The first recipe I happened up on is for a caramel frappucino which you can see here. Although I have tweaked it a bit to my own tastes the standard is pretty good.

Next up is a Mocha Cookie Crumble frappucino that I pretty much Squeed over because of the chocolate fix.  

And then I found ALL THE COFFEE THINGS and my brain kind of shut down for awhile.  But feel free to explore the coffee goodness LOL.

And last but not least, I made some pretty awesome banana bread that was even fairly healthy.  Happy Summer cooking, y'all!

Banana - Nut Bread

1 cup mashed very ripe bananas (about 3 small)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt
1/4 cup margarine, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg white
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chopped pecans (or walnuts)
baking spray with flour (this stuff was pretty awesome)

Combine first 7 ingredients in a large mixing bowl; beat at medium speed of an electric mixer until blended.

Combine flour & next 3 ingredients; stir in pecans.  Add flour mixture to banana mixture, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened.  Spoon batter into an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 3 inch loaf pan coated with baking spray w/ flour.  Bake at 350 for 1 hour & 5 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool 10 minutes in pan on wire rack; remove from pan, and cool completely on wire rack.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Book review: Ten Days by Olivia Mayfield

Ten Days

3.5 stars for Ten Days. This is a retelling of a short story by E. M. Forster according to the author's note. I've never read the original story so no idea how close to the original idea this one is, but props to Ms. Mayfield for the retelling.

This was also my first foray into the "new adult" category that has recently come out. I wasn't sure what to expect in regards to how different it would be from "young adult" literature, so this could be regarded as a learning experience for me. The sexuality was more than with YA, but less than that found in most adult romances. Basically, I think any 17 year old would be fine reading it, but that may not be the case in other new adult books. (And really it just depends on the maturity of the person reading the book.)

The premise of the story is that humanity has moved underground and is entirely dependent on a machine, which has taken on deity aspects throughout the book. It's kind of a standard story from what I remember of high school literature, but the heroine is likable and the reader can tell she is really trying to find her place in the world. I was a bit appalled by the sheer rampant death and destruction at the end, but I believe that was again an homage to the original story.  Overall the story was a pleasant experience and I'll be looking for more from the author.

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Suckage of being a Responsible Adult

I've been doing the on/again off/again thing with my blog.  This has been a very trying year so far in that I'm so very, VERY tired of constantly having to explain to Donald why he needs to continue to work on his boundaries with his mother.  It really feels like I'm living in the office all the freaking time.  If I'd wanted to be a counselor 24/7 I'd have gone into mental health rather than marriage & family and looked for an inpatient psychiatric ward.  Ugh.  Not loving it.  At All.

Anyhow, the fabulous Jesse Blayne wrote another of her very insightful blog posts In Good Company which made all kinds of light bulbs go off in my head.  Donald does not discuss his frustration with his mother to the kids.  EVER.  Now, I'm actually fine with him not talking about what bothers him about what she says/does/breathes around him.  What I'm not fine with is that it has never occurred to him to discuss with the kids (or let them discuss) things the MIL has done that bothered them.  Every single visit with the MIL leads to the boys getting upset in some fashion because of her obvious favoritism of Bess.  Has he ever talked to them about this?  No...but that shouldn't really surprise me because he (unlike the INFJ that I am)  doesn't ever see patterns and apply them to his own life.  (Getting off that tangent & going back to the current one...)

So guess what I'm going to start doing?  I'm going to start encouraging the kids to talk about anything that bothers them about the MIL.  Because they deserve to be listened to and to be able to reason things out in their own ways.  (This is something Donald was never allowed as a child so it's a very foreign concept for him.)

Also (this is where the title of the post comes in) had an interesting conversation with Bess about the MIL regarding a nickname the MIL had created for Lightning during a visit at her home.  Lightning apparently was reminding her of her youngest son (who she buts heads with all the time) and so she created the nickname of Gumpy Pants #2 for him & thought it was hilarious.  Because neither I nor Donald was there, Lightning was called this oh so charming name for over a week.  After the kids got home Lightning let me know he didn't like the name.  I talked to Bess about it today and asked her what she thought about it.  Bess said that MIL couldn't have meant anything mean by it because she loved her grand kids and tried not to be mean to them. (Did you catch that - tried NOT to be mean to them.)  So we talked about how making up nicknames that make fun of people aren't very nice and that it wasn't very nice of MIL to make up that name for Lightning.  Yay, right?  Until I realized the same principle applied to my nickname of Borg Queen for the MIL :-/  Which kind of sucked.  A Lot.  *sigh*  So in order to set the good example (even though my kids don't read this, let alone KNOW I have a blog) I'm going to refer to my MIL as either MIL or the N (narcissist for those who don't know) and leave off with Borg Queen.  (At least on the blog...probably not in my head.)

Angel & Faith: Season 9 Book Review

This series comes after Buffy the Vampire Slayer:  Season 8 graphic novels.  I've been really looking forward to it and so far it has not disappointed.  Here are the reviews:

Angel & Faith: Season 9 Volume 1: Live Through This (Angel & Faith, #1)

4.5 stars for Live through This. Breezed through it in one night & definitely did not regret the purchase. Angel is his usual mopey, humdrum self (I'm a Spuffy gal), but Faith really managed to bring it. I loved her evolution in Buffy Series 8 & she's making me root for her even more in this establishment. I don't think it's too spoilery to mention Giles very much has a place in this collection (since he's on the cover and all.)  For anyone who's a Giles fan, this series gives a ton of background info on our favorite Watcher.  Can't wait for the next compilation to come out ;-)

Angel & Faith: Season 9 Volume 2: Daddy Issues (Angel & Faith, #2)

4 stars for Daddy Issues.  Didn't enjoy this one quite as much as the first volume, but there was some GREAT back story on Giles. Plus, Drusilla (you have to read it to get the awesome factor of this.) Faith is and has been the major pull of this series for me...Angel is just too damn broody. I'm intrigued to see how this Giles resurrection may play out and don't for a minute believe something naughty didn't transpire between Faith & Giles during their time together. Plus....Willow!   Impatiently awaiting the next Nook edition ;-)

Angel & Faith: Season 9 Volume 3: Family Reunion (Angel & Faith, #3)

Family Reunion gets 4.5 stars And gets favorite status because it has all 3 of my favorite characters from the Buffyverse: Giles, Willow, & Faith. Now to be fair there is only a mention of Giles, but we've gotten so much background info on Giles from this series that I'm counting it anyway.

Connor's back in this installation and he isn't the least bit annoying (perhaps it was the lack of Cordelia.) The gang + Willow travels to Quor'toth to bring magic back to the world because it is slowly imploding without it. Willow agrees to give Angel the scythe of Slayerness to help in his quest to resurrect Giles because Giles died while holding it. Faith is wonderful and has really kept this series going for me as the Broodiness of Angel is not something I enjoy. (He's actually much easier for me to take as Angelus b/c he has a sense of humor along with the evil.)

Quor'toth manages to bring out the BAD in the gang, and it's interesting to see how they all handle it. I'm literally waiting on the edge of my seat for the next issue which is SUPPOSED to bring back the King of all Watchers...I'm really hoping they manage to somehow take 20 years off him when they bring him back. Cuz I'm totally shipping Giles and Faith since season 8 of the Buffy graphic novels ;-)

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Book review: October Daye series 1-6

So I read through the first 6 books in this series not once, but twice.  And in the interest of not having to do 6 different blog posts, I'm combining all six books into 1 blog post ( because it makes my life easier.)  I <3 the world Seanan McGuire has created here, although I wasn't hooked until the third book.  Without further ado, here are the reviews:

Rosemary and Rue (October Daye, #1)

 3.5 stars. First outing with October "Toby" Daye series. Love the world building, fae intricacies, and Shakespearean references. Love Toby who kicks ass and takes names, but wish that she was better at taking care of herself (its the counselor in me.)

Other characters I <3 - Tybalt (hello yummy king of Cats), Sylvester & Luna, Dare, & the Luidaeg (she's the perfect blend of old power & nursery rhymes. I adore her.) Figured out the major plot about 3/4 through, but it didn't stop me from enjoying the book. And people will die in this series. People you will grow to love will suffer. It's not as dark as Game of Thrones, but it's just dark enough for me. Can't wait to read more ;-)

A Local Habitation (October Daye, #2)        

The second in the October Daye series gets 3.5 stars. In this book readers got to meet a Cyber Dryad, learn how a Bannick cleans, and see Toby's car blow up. We also get to learn more about Toby's maybe relationship with Connor (which I'm on the meh side of.) More fun awaits with Tybalt, the Luidaeg, and Quentin (of which all three characters I'm a huge fan of.) While I didn't guess all of the plot line, I guessed enough not to be totally surprised by the identity of the murderer. This was another fun romp into the realm of McGuire's Fae.

An Artificial Night (October Daye #3)

5 stars - Wow. I liked the first two October Daye books, but this one just blew them out of the water. Everything came together and meshed seamlessly in this book. And adding a Firstborn as a childhood bogey that Toby has to bring down? That was pure genius. I had chills by the third chapter in and had to take breaks for silly things like eating & taking care of the house/kiddos. You will not be able to put this one down.

I'm firmly on Team Tybalt for the series for many reasons, but the simplest is Connor simply couldn't keep Toby alive & Tybalt can. Until our girl can learn to take care of herself (which is looking impossible at this point) she needs someone who will keep her alive. Connor isn't that someone. Plus...King of Cats.

May! May is filled with the stuff of awesome and I'm hoping we get to keep her for some time. Also, Spike! Who doesn't love a little rosebush shaped cat?

There will be rescues, revelations, and many, many tears along the path to Babylon. This one hooked me for the long run with Toby & Seanan McGuire.

   Late Eclipses (October Daye, #4)       

4 stars - It seems like loads more stuff happens in each book since book three...and I'm loving it. We've got a ton of characters by the end of this book that weren't there in the beginning & I do love my character driven plot lines ;-) So you'll get to meet Walther (very cool professor/alchemist), Raj comes back (he's just as fun as Quentin), we get MUCH more of May in this one (& she's a hoot!), and so many other interactions I can't remember just now. 

Toby does her very best to get herself killed (as usual, unfortunately. Her allies are getting ever more determined to keep her alive, so hopefully we'll continue getting books about her.) There is running (always the running with Toby. Maybe Seanan could write a Doctor Who reference in one of these for all us Whovians.), racing against time and poison, and endings you may not have anticipated.

Connor is well, he's meh to me because I think he's dwelling more in the past than in the present where Toby's concerned, but he doesn't totally suck here. Tybalt (who is my latest book crush and I swear Seanan based him on Mr. Darcy *sigh*) is clever, alluring, honest, and saving Toby's life...really too many times to count at this point. Here's hoping she wakes up and smells the pennyroyal soon.           

 One Salt Sea (October Daye, #5)

5 stars - Read through this twice before I could write the review. This thing will grab you, pull you into the Faerie world, bring to you tears and terror, and make you want to do it all over again. What a freaking ride!

So very much happens in this book it's hard to narrow it down enough to put into review format. You're going to get back story on the selkies, the Roane (sp?), and the Luidaeg. You're going to learn what madness can drive a person (or a pureblood Fae) to do. You're going to see the lengths Toby Daye is willing to go to for the protection and safety of those she loves. And if you have any emotions whatsoever you're going to cry. A lot. There's a ton of info. on the Undersea Fae in Toby's world here (that was pretty awesome) as well as a run in with a former member of Devin's family. You just need to read it.

Okay, spoilers below.....you've been warned.

I'm not a fan of Connor. He reminds me too much of people I know in my real life and I wouldn't choose to put anyone with him who had an ounce of independence. But...Connor does good in this book. And I was actually sad for and because of him (for once.)

Tybalt! If I wasn't already team Tybalt I would be after this book. <3 the chemistry between Tybalt and Toby that every other character in these books is aware of except for Ms. Daye herself. (To be fair I think most of that is because Toby knows as a changeling she doesn't have any real chance with him...or does she?)

I can't wait to find out more about the mysterious Arden the Luidaeg mentioned as well as what happens in a year when the Luidaeg calls the selkies' time due. This series just gets better and better!

Ashes of Honor (October Daye, #6)

5 stars - Again, read through this twice before writing the review as I just wasn't ready to leave Faery quite yet. Toby is acting with absolutely no regard for her own life in the beginning of this book and her friends fear for her. I believe it was stated that they believed she was trying to join Connor and they were opposed to this idea as they really wanted to keep her around. ITA with that and just lapped up all the Tybalt goodness in this book. One of the things I love so much about Tybalt is he calls Toby on her shit. He doesn't put up with it and doesn't bow to her. They fuss and squabble, but always have each others' backs. If you're a Tybalt fan you need to read this book. Yesterday.

Other things that happened: holy crap Etienne (Sylvester's stick in the mud knight) becomes a real person! That was pretty awesome to see. Quentin and Raj get to hang out (they're always fun.) Someone in Tybalt's court is trying to overthrow him, and Duchess Riordan raises her snotty ambitious head into the game. It's non-stop pretty much from the time Toby runs into some kids in an alley until the end.

The Luidaeg makes a few appearances, but not as much as in One Salt Sea. There are areas of Faery coming to light which haven't for centuries and we get to see just how much damage Toby can take in her new and improved Fae body. Can't believe the next book doesn't come out until September, 2013!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Perhaps long overdue...

I've hesitated in blogging on this particular subject as it is not comfortable.  While it took me some time to blog about the narcissist in my life, this is something that wanted to stay buried deep inside.  It didn't want to come out at all, because if it came out then I would have to acknowledge that it happened.  And I don't know many adults that want to acknowledge trauma that they can't quite remember from their childhood.  So here's a deep breath....and what I'm willing to share with the world at this point.

I'm not going to explain what trauma is.  There are so many different definitions and types and depending on who you talk to it means one thing or another.  I look at trauma as something that hurts you so badly it takes years and sometimes even a lifetime to recover from it.  If anyone wants an official definition do some searches at medical sites as well as mental health sites...all the "official" definitions can make your head spin.

I've experienced trauma as an adult that I remember clearly and at the same time it's like I was in a glass box looking at everything, but not really feeling any of it.  Lightning was diagnosed with multiple congenital heart abnormalities when he was still in utero and quite frankly that's what saved him.  There were tons of doctors and tests and I felt a bit like a lab rat through the last 1.5 months of that pregnancy, but he was born safely.  And the day after he was born he was flown in what looked like a baby rocket to have open heart surgery.  It was a horrible experience for all of us and I wouldn't wish it on anyone...he was 3 weeks old before I got to hold him.  He was in a medically induced coma the first time I saw him after he left on the baby rocket for his surgery.  It.  Was.  Awful.  But...I remember it.  And I'm very grateful every time he has a checkup where his pediatric cardiologist says his heart repair is holding.  We had one of the best surgeons for Lightning's particular procedure perform his surgery and if we are very, very lucky Lightning will never have to have another surgery.  (Many thanks to Dr. Mohan Reddy of Lucille Packard Children's Hospital for giving my son the chance to have a life.)

I don't remember what happened during my childhood that made me block so many memories.  There's a very clear suspicion that involves the father of a friend who I used to have sleepovers with....I remember going over to that house so many times and then suddenly never going there again.  I remember not talking to my friend for years.  Literally I would not ever speak to this girl and I didn't know why.  There have been dreams and speculation since I gained my master's degree, but nothing definite.  There is a quiet horror in not knowing what the hell happened to me.  There is raging anger that someone forced me to do things I didn't understand.  There is acknowledgement that I will never again be coerced into doing something I don't wish to do.  And there is patience...patience that if I get to the point where I can remember without imploding, then the memories will come back to me.  

There is tons of information on abuse in literature, but I'm more interested in trauma.  Trauma is less cruel I think than the word abuse is...not entirely sure why I feel that way, but there it is.  Because it can happen to anyone.  Nobody knows what they can't comprehend until it happens to them.  Disassociation is a tool we use to survive something we normally would not be able to deal with.  If you are a trauma survivor don't let anyone belittle your experience.  Many people will not understand what you went through.  That's okay.  If we were all traumatized there'd be all kinds of zombie apocalypse shit going on in the world.  Those of us who have experienced trauma and have climbed out of the prison it can put us in are unique.   We may have to be patient with those who don't understand....and with ourselves when we have setbacks.

I found this blog post by Michele Rosenthal to be very helpful....please share it with any others it may help  -->

Friday, April 12, 2013

Book review: The Rising by Kelley Armstrong 3.5 stars

The Rising (Darkness Rising, #3)

This was not my favorite book of the series mainly because I had so many unanswered questions at the end of the book. Pleased with the relationship settlement among the characters overall...the young adults showed some pretty great levels of maturity. I would love to see a continuation of this series with the Project Phoenix kids and the Project Genesis kids as the main characters. That would be the perfect opportunity for Kelley Armstrong to answer any questions her readers had about Cabals and the purposes the kids choose to pursue.        

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

SO the drama

This post will chronicle the recent events which transpired between the Borg Queen (my NPD MIL) and my family during the kids' Spring Break from school.  It will be edited at least three times before posting (trying really hard to keep the grammar issues down) and will hopefully be at least a little bit funny.  The title I completely stole from a 2 parter of Kim Possible because it was very appropriate.

Donald had previously ended his counseling prior to this visit as both he and his counselor thought he had accomplished what was needed and he was good to go.  That assumption has been usurped by Donald's complete and utter inability to keep any type of self-care going while the BQ was in the same city.  The BQ left today and Donald is going to see his counselor in the morning.  Thank the Gods.

We didn't realize when plans were made for the BQ to come out during the first part of Spring break that it was also going to be Easter weekend.  Even though we're not Christian, we still celebrate the holiday of the Bunny & the candy as well as have an egg hunt because we live in the United States.  It's kind of a thing here.  Anyhow...I believe it was the first day of the BQ's arrival that she announced her intention to dye eggs.  The BQ is no longer allowed to boil eggs in our home because she damn near burned our home down several years ago leaving eggs boiling in a pan for 5 hours.  (No I'm not kidding.  This actually happened.  I have pictures.)  So after announcing her intentions she informs Donald we will need another 2 dozen eggs.  Yeah.  Not happening because it was GROSS outside & we weren't doing an egg hunt in that shit.  So I compromised with Donald by telling him I'd get 1 dozen white eggs & we'd dye them & 6 brown eggs.  The kids could then use those & some filled plastic eggs for a small indoor egg hunt then we'd do another egg hunt later in the week outside when it wasn't gross.  An accord was met and all was good in the kingdom.  Until it wasn't.  Because while Donald assumed we'd be using regular old egg dye from the store, the BQ had brought this special egg dye she keeps in jars from her house.  This shit apparently stains everything.  Remember that self-care thing I mentioned before?  The resulting mess involved Donald bowing and scraping to his mother while trying to keep the kitchen table from being stained and completely forgetting he was supposed to feed himself lunch.  I was upstairs during this debacle because I've made it very clear to Donald that it's in our marriage's best interest (and my sanity) for me to spend as little time with the BQ as possible.  

Later the same afternoon Donald decides he needs to vent to someone about the problems he's having with his mother.  He chose me (wasn't I the lucky one) as his receiver and proceeded to rant about what she was doing that was driving him mad.  I pointed out that him venting to me was a bad idea because I wanted to strangle the woman before he stared and this just gives me more impetus to strangle her.  I then pointed out how his self-care was sucking and told him to go back to his counselor.  He wanted me to craft him a self-care guide   on how to survive his mother.  After again pointing out that I wanted to strangle her (I really shouldn't have had to mention this more than once) I told him that was something to talk to his counselor about.  Then he ate.  All was well once more.

Other fun anecdotes that occurred during this most recent visit was the BQ talking about the stress of her work situation and how one particular colleague was so toxic (her words, not mine.)  I had to get up and leave at that point as it was a struggle not to burst out laughing at the irony of the situation.

One last thing I must mention that damn near resulted in the strangulation of said Borg Queen was when she called Donald to come get Lightning because the child had gotten sick.  My general rule with the kids is you don't take them with you if you can't/won't take care of them.  I get that he threw up, but that little boy cried for 30 minutes after he got back to our house because he wanted to go back to Grandma's hotel.  30 fucking minutes.  He passed out after that.  From now on the BQ isn't going to get to decide who she wants to take, she's going to get the choice to take Bess one night, and the two boys with one parent the next night.  Because all three of my kids deserve love and I'll be damned if I'm going to let the BQ (who is obsessed with Bess & sees her as the daughter she never had) hurt my boys because they're not girls.

We always have the day after effect that to me feels like recovery from a hurricane after the BQ departs.  That's where we are now and I'm hoping the remainder of Spring Break isn't as draining as the first part was.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Book review: Insurgent 4.5 stars

Insurgent (Divergent, #2)

 The world as Tris knows it has changed and now those who are left are scrambling to survive. Tris/Beatrice and Four/Tobias are traveling together with some other survivors to try and stop Erudite from taking over the world as they know it. What they can't know is that there is a far bigger issue on the horizon.

I have to give Veronica Roth props for showing the effects significant trauma can have on a character. Tris struggles throughout the entire book to come to terms with events that happened at the end of Divergent. And she is expected to help lead a rebellion against those trying to take power while dealing with her own version of PTSD. It can be likened to those who are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan who are facing horror everyday, but still expected to fulfill their duties and operate as normally as possible. The feelings and emotions Tris felt in this book are not that far off from actual trauma reactions and if for no other reason I think people need to read this book.

Going to avoid getting spoilery because I don't want to give anything away, but I did want to mention what I found the funniest part of the entire book. During their visit to Amity, Tris gets into an altercation with Peter (no one should be surprised by this) and is given a drug the Amity use to keep their people "happy." Tobias was rightly pissed off when Tris got high as a kite and when the drug finally wore of he had the best line in the entire book. Can't wait for the conclusion later this year!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Book review: Divergent 5 stars

Review of the second book (Insurgent) coming soon ;-)

Divergent (Divergent, #1)

5 stars for Divergent, the first Veronica Roth book I've read. I'd heard good stuff about this book from my fellow Twitter book worms and I LOVED the cover art so when I was flying out this weekend I grabbed it for the plane.

Inevitably it seems all other YA Dystopian books are compared to The Hunger Games. I've read both and the only comparison I will make is the ending of The Hunger Games made me almost physically ill and I generally do not enjoy the feeling of bile rumbling in my stomach at the end of a book. While Divergent is Dystopian it never made me feel physically ill and I just bought the second book whereas I won't touch the rest of The Hunger Games trilogy. Take that as you will ;-)

I don't want to get too spoilery so I'll try not to really get into detail on the characters. I will say that Beatrice/Tris really seems the exemplify the inner struggles most 16 year old girls go through in trying to decide what they really want out of life. Granted, most 16 year olds these days aren't going to have to make the same decisions Tris did, but she shows many characteristics of teens in today's world.

Other characters that made good impacts on me: Four (really loved him), Tori, Tris' mom (whose name I don't think was ever mentioned), & Will. I never really connected with Christina or Caleb for some reason. They were just kind of...THERE in the story for me. There are some characters who are very easy to dislike and others who are more complex. The characters were quite diverse and overall I enjoyed reading them.

One last thing...you may never feel comfortable looking at a butter knife again.

Can't wait to read the next book ;-)

(This section comes from my recent second reading of Divergent.)  When I first read this book I was in quite a bit of physical pain from a nerve injury and interestingly enough it influenced the first reading. Everything I put into my first review still holds true, but I would like to add that both Tris and Four seemed older than their ages of 16 and 18 (respectively) in the book. In fact I would go so far as to say both displayed a level of maturity that would put them in their early 20's. Tris did strike me as a 16 year old when it came to interpreting relationships and I loved the slow and tentative way Tris and Four became more than just student and instructor.

Also, there have been criticisms that because of events that happened at the end of the book Tris didn't have appropriate emotional reactions. In light of those events I would posit to say that Tris acted just as any person would with the same type of training in a combat situation. You act first and react later. And that usually leads to PTSD symptoms and guilt (it's a natural progression into the 2nd book.) Getting reading to dive back into Insurgent after I go back over some of my fave Tris/Four moments.          

Thursday, March 21, 2013

In the Fog

So....I've been having real issues with seasonal depression since about February.  Why February?  Because normally February is the time when Winter starts to sulk away and Spring begins to poke her head around this corner.  But this year Winter has been throwing herself a merry little party & Spring got held up at the gate.  And it has been withering me.  Didn't help that Donald had his tonsils removed in February (talk about a sensory overload for an introvert already fighting off SAD) and that Winter's continued to throw herself a party all through March.  March!  We're supposed to have blue skies, flowers, and birds out by now!  

I'm an INFJ (it's a Myers Briggs personality preference if that seems like another language) and so I pick up on little things that end up making patterns (to me anyway) and eventually explain themselves.  There's been this one website hanging around in my Tabs that for some reason I've not gotten rid of.  The site is called Out of the Fog and is a help aid to those of us who have people with personality disorders in our lives.  For some reason I hadn't let that website go...and then I figured out it was because I WASN'T out of the fog...I was most definitely in its midst.  

Another clue to the depth of the depression I'm currently in was an article I read about a psychologist who served in Iraq who just couldn't escape his own depression and PTSD.  That man was a help to so many and ended up killing himself because he just couldn't get away from the misery.  You can read about this hero here, but what clued me in is that he had many of the same characteristics I have when I'm depressed.  And it hit me that if this Winter continues on much longer, I'd find a way to end it myself.  Which really sucks because I have three kiddos that I love more than my own life so....yeah.  It presents a problem.

So here's my coping strategies:  1 - take the time I need to just be here and not beat myself up over what I'm not getting done.  2 - Read.  When I get really low reading saves my sanity.  3 - Don't worry about my creative writing right now.  The ideas will be here when I'm more able to focus on them and not just getting through day to day.  4 - Spend time with the fam, but don't be afraid to get the introvert time I need.  They'll get plenty of happy me the rest of the year and I need lots of alone time right now.  5 - Embrace the funny.  Laughter is a wonderful balm to almost anything so if I can find it, I'm going to enjoy it.

Speaking of laughter, here's a hilarious piece of a Middle Earth fan playing Gollum as a counselor ;-)  http://www.themarysue.com/gollum-somebody-that-i-used-to-know/

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Book Review: Splintered by A. G. Howard 5 stars

I'm posting a pic of the cover, but the computer image doesn't do it justice.  


Goodreads: Splintered

Two things drew me to this book: Melissa Marr liked it enough to write a review about it and the cover is AMAZING. I probably would have bought it for the cover alone because it just captivated me. The colors are magnified beyond what you usually find in a YA novel cover and provided a playground for my eyes the first time I saw Splintered in a bookstore. Way to go, cover artist whoever you may be!

Upon opening the book I discovered another thing that made me appreciate it....purple ink! The hardcover is printed in dark purple ink throughout the book. LOVE IT! How many authors/publishing companies will thing to change the ink color in a printing?

Now to get into the meat of this thing...it's obvious the author has a love for the works of Lewis Carroll and she displays that marvelously throughout the book. I suspect the author also has at least a working knowledge of the mental health world in the United States....she may even have studied Psychology or Human Services at one point. There are several Jungian vibes to this book that with the combination of the previously mentioned criteria has made this a personal favorite. (I don't know if the author intended this or if I'm just reading Jung into it, but the result was fabulously provoking either way.) I don't want to give too much away with Splintered (which is rare because most of my reviews have a spoiler section) but you really do need to just read the book to appreciate the art of it. All of the main characters were well fleshed out and the world making was brilliant. Will definitely be keeping on eye on the works of A. G. Howard in the future.        

Friday, February 8, 2013

Light at the end of a Very Long Tunnel

Our holiday experience with the BQ and the resulting fallout with Donald and I had me fairly depressed.  I've been in a funk for about the last month because of Winter, and bills we can't pay, and lack of employment on my part.  It's just been gloomy and dark and quite honestly I wasn't sure if I could stay in my marriage for another holiday.  Then something amazing happened.

It was a small thing, really.  But when you're dealing with NPD in a very dysfunctional family, you'll take the happy when it comes.  Donald and I had been talking about the BQ's demand to see the kids over Spring break.  (I saw demand because it's never asked or requested.  It's in the form of "I want the kids over Spring Break.)  Donald is still of the opinion that the kids should have the opportunity to spend time with the BQ.  I'm of the opinion they should stay as far away from her as possible.  We try to compromise on that and have agreed that as the kids get older they can make their own choices on spending time with her.  Anyhow, Donald is terrible about trying to make plans that are more than 30 days out.  It frustrates him because he would like to be able to plan things in advance, but it never really works.  So I volunteered to come up with what I thought was a reasonable plan for the BQ to see the kids over their Spring break from school.  The idea was the BQ could come out and spend either the first half, or the second half of the kids' break with them and we would make our own plans for whichever half she didn't use.  Donald agreed this was a good plan and said he'd call the BQ over the weekend.  At this point (because Donald has been working on boundaries with his counselor) I pointed out that since we wanted the BQ to acknowledge both of us in dealing with kidlet matters that I could very easily just send her an email with the info. and CC him on it.  He agreed and I sent the email out that afternoon.

A couple of days later he gets a text message from the BQ saying she'd accidentally deleted the text from me (I found that funny since I didn't send her a text) and wondered if he could just send her the info. again.  He sat there and looked at his phone for about half a minute or so and then he just busts out with "NO.  You can contact (oops I just realized I have no name for myself on here....we'll go with Callasyndra since that's my username) for that info."

I kid you not my jaw about hit the floor in shock and amazement.  This was a VERY GOOD THING.  I'd been waiting for something like this for 10 freaking years and it was finally happening.  It was so wondrous I was afraid to move and interrupt whatever had magically just made my husband stand up to his mother.  The he looked up from his phone and grinned at me saying "That felt kinda good."

Later that weekend he gets a phone call from the BQ where she again does her very best to just get him to divulge the sensitive Spring break info. over the phone.  He again tells her she needs to go through me because he's terrible at planning.  After he gets off the phone with her he says "That's the 2nd time she tried to circumvent you."  I told him it'd been going on for 10 years, it's just that he was seeing it now.  Apparently counseling has been very good for him.

Long story short the BQ sent me an email where she correctly provided the dates I had given her in the supposedly deleted email and stated which ones she would prefer.  The next time Donald spoke to her over the phone he informed her that she needed to quit using him as a middle man to avoid me.  I'm sure she was less than thrilled, but it felt like my husband was waking up from a spell that had been holding him all these years.  Patience may yet win out in the end!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Book review: Daughter of Smoke & Bone 5 stars

So far this has been my favorite book I've read this year.  Laini Taylor reminds quite of bit of Neil Gaiman in her writing style (or at least in this book she did) and I fell in love with the overall product.

Goodreads: Daughter of Smoke & Bone

The only thing I knew when I bought this book and read it was that I'd heard tons of good stuff about it. There really were no preconceptions going in other than I hoped it would be worth the purchase. This book was so much more than I was hoping for. It's a fairy tale. It weaves a tale of cultural difference explosive enough to lead to war and interlaces it with a droll sense of humor. This book covers the cost of war on people and their families in a much more palatable sense than The Hunger Games without the added horror script that I couldn't stand.

I really can't say enough how impressed I was by the cultural aspect of this book.  There was a part where two characters were talking about creation myths from their two different cultures.  That was simply GORGEOUS and such a huge part of the world making IMHO.  How many authors will go so far as to create creation myths for their worlds?  (Note to self:  do that for fantasy story you're working on if it ever gets going.)

My absolute favorite part of this book, however, is Zuzana. Because every young or old person deserves to have a best friend as fervent as Zuzana. I have so much love for the sheer normalcy and happiness that Zuzana gave to Karou's life. Karou's family was also a favorite.

Can't wait to get Days of Blood and Starlight to see what happens in the aftermath ;-)          

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Comfort food for the Winter

One of the best defenses I have against Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is making comfort food during Winter.  And while we're almost out of Winter (thank the Gods!) I'm still making comfort food.  Cuz the SAD doesn't go away until the Spring sun breaks through.  So here are some of my favorite comfort foods to get through the Winter.

Shepherd's Pie

2 medium onions, chopped (or 1 large onion)
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1.5 pounds ground lamb (I sub either beef or turkey)
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
1 cup chicken stock
1 heaped tablespoon flour
1/2 cup white wine (not cooking wine, something you would actually drink)
1/2 cup water
seasonings to taste:  parsley, thyme, salt, & pepper
1/2 teaspoon terragon
3 large potatoes, peeled (this does mean LARGE potatoes.  Use twice as many small potatoes
                                            to get the right consistency.)
1 stick butter (I use light butter to make myself feel healthier)
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup cooked corn (I use either canned or frozen)
1/2 cup carrots, chopped
Colby/Jack shredded cheese (use however much you want to top the mashed potatoes)

Cook onions, garlic, and ground meat together until meat is browned.  Drain off fat & add tomato paste, chicken stock, & flour.  Cook for about a minute then add wine & water.  Add seasonings to your taste then simmer gently for 15 minutes (or until your potatoes are done boiling.)  Boil potatoes while the meat mixture is cooking.  Mash potatoes then add butter & milk & salt and pepper to taste.  Put meat mixture in a large greased backing dish (circular is better to get a good platform for the mashed potatoes.  I have a cast iron stock pot that I do the whole thing in.)  Spoon the corn & carrots over the meat mixture and spread mashed potatoes on top so the meat & veggies are completely covered.  Sprinkle with cheese & bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Another favorite is chili & here's an awesome recipe for Chicken Chili

Southwestern Chicken Chili

And finally, an all veggie stew you can make in your crock pot

Ratatouille Bean Stew

1 cup dried garbanzo beans
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 14.5 ounce can of chicken broth
1 4.5 ounce jar sliced mushrooms, drained
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large zucchini, sliced
1 medium red or green bell pepper, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning (or to taste)
1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes with Italian style herbs, undrained

Soak beans as directed on package for 6 - 8 hours

In 3.5 to 4 quart slow cooker combine garbanzo beans, onion, garlic, broth, mushrooms, & salt.  Mix well.

Cover, cook on low setting for 10 to 12 hours.  About 35 minutes before serving stir in zucchini, bell pepper, Italian seasoning, and tomatoes.  Cover, cook on high setting an additional 35 minutes or until veggies are tender.

(Because this last one is a crock pot meal you can be really versatile with the timing.  You can do the large part of the cooking overnight, put the inner part of the crock pot in your fridge, then pull it out about an hour before you want to do the last part of the cooking.)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Book review: Ever After 4.5 stars

Here's my review of Kim Harrison's just released Ever After (The Hollows #)

Good Reads - Ever After

Fans of The Hollows will love this installation in the series, but as always with Ms. Harrison at the helm there are no safety nets. Ever After is a more than worthy follow up to one of my faves in the series, Pale Demon and gives tons of growth in the Rachel/Trent will they/won't they saga. I read this thing in one day and now have to wait for next year for the next one to come out :-/ That's the only truly suckworthy part of the series IMHO, but it's worth the wait. <3 all the details Kim Harrison puts into this world. It's amazing the work she puts into that....it's like the woman can actually SEE the world as she's writing it. And who knows, maybe she can ;-)

Other thoughts on the general storyline:  it does seem as if there will be a pretty significant plot line with the vampires coming up in the last two books.  It will be very interesting to see how that goes given that Kisten told Rachel that vampires don't really lose their souls.  It seems Rachel is in fair weather again with her demon brethren and may have dubbed herself protector of a new generation of daywalkers.  

Okay, SPOILERville coming up, so don't read past this if you've not read the book yet!

Highlight to see the SPOILERS ;-)

That douchebag Nick is back and I swear he better meet an untimely end by the end of the series or I will be royally pissed! (I'm sure I wasn't the only fan to smile an evil grin when he was given to Newt, but still...the prick needs to die.)

That safety net I mentioned earlier? Yeah, what happens is almost, but not quite, as bad as what happened to Kisten. The only reason it's not as bad IMO is that you don't have to read the death scenes. But it was awful. Kick in the gut want to puke awful.

It seems that Jenks is becoming more of a shoulder to lean on for Rachel as Ivy is slowly becoming less of an influence in Rachel's life. This seems to be good for both of them as they're both growing and becoming less dependent on each other, but it's also slightly painful as the ending of a close relationship can be. <3 how Jenks is keeping it together both with Rachel & his kiddos. These two I think will be close throughout the end of the series.

Okay, I never really or truly thought Al could be a romantic possibility for Rachel until I read this book. And I still think if that were to happen it would have to be tempered with another influence.....Trent. There's this whole bruhaha about Trent getting back with Ellasbeth (aka Miss Drama Queen) but I don't buy it. Unless Trent gets what he wants because the man is FINALLY beginning to realize he has the right to be happy. And I'm starting to lean toward a poly relationship between Rachel, Al, & Trent. But....we will see what the next two books bring. I'm really, REALLY hoping to avoid anymore heart break in the last two books, but with The Hollows there is never any guarantee of that.          

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Dealing with the Holidays

I think enough time has passed now that I can write about my holiday experience this year.  I'm going to preface this by saying I was finishing up my master's degree (which meant unpaid hours for internship & LOADS of paperwork at the end) as well as doing all the normal holiday crap that drives me batty (baking cookies, designing Holiday cards, addressing & mailing Holiday cards, buying gifts, wrapping gifts, mailing packages, & not sleeping enough.)  So it's not an exaggeration to say my stress level was maxxed out, my SAD was thoroughly ingrained, and I was pretty miserable overall.

Donald has been doing a great job with his counselor on trying to understand how growing up in a dysfunctional family affected him.  He even did a homework assignment to figure out what boundaries he wanted to set for the Borg Queen while she was out.  With all this positive stuff going on I thought surely the visit couldn't be terrible.  Yeah.  That was a mistake.

When the BQ got here Donald was at work during the daytime for the first couple of days.  Not that big a deal really because BQ took the kidlets with her to her hotel room.  We did the normal talking just long enough to make it look like we didn't despise each other and I mentioned to BQ that we would really appreciate it if she could watch the kids for the afternoon of the next day so Donald & I could actually have a date.  She said that would be fine.  That night I reminded Donald that he had wanted me to talk to his mother about the date thing for the next day.  Everything should have been fine.  However, in dysfunctional families old habits are hard to break.  VERY hard to break.

The next day Donald comes downstairs (he was still working nights during all this, so he slept later in the morning than I did) and sees the BQ is already here.  So he walks up to her and says "What are our plans today?"  I was in the kitchen & at first thought he was talking to me.  Then it hit me that he was asking his mother.  This is when I started seeing red.  It got worse when she replied "Oh I'd like to take the kids to get pictures with Santa."  (It was a week before Christmas, so this was going to be an all day thing.)  So...apparently the conversations I'd had with the both of them had never happened.  Only...they did.  But as in the past, any plans I made with Donald got put on the back burner so he could make his mother happy.

I went upstairs to get away from them (mainly because I didn't want to have an argument with Donald in front of the kids) and a few minutes later Donald comes upstairs.  He's completely oblivious and asks if I'm ready to go.  When I informed him I wasn't going with them because we had previous plans that just got cancelled he got the "deer in the headlights" look.  Then he tried to make it my fault.  "You want mom to have to take all 3 kids by herself to get pictures with Santa?" he demands in an outraged voice.  "Nope", I replied, "you should definitely go with your mother.  I'm going to spend some me time today since our plans got derailed."  He walked off in a huff after that.

About 20 minutes later he calls and asks if we can still do our date later that day.  His mother volunteered to take the kids to a movie so we could have some alone time together.  I agreed and we did go out later that day and had a fairly good time.  So date day wasn't a total disaster, but Donald never followed through with anything he had talked to his counselor about the entire time the BQ was out.  It's like watching an addict relapse and it's heartbreaking to see.

We shall see what the future holds.  I've talked to Donald about how he can't follow through with his mother and he may be beginning to see what I'm talking about.  But I also don't want to deal with this for another ten or even another five years.  The holidays are stressful enough without the added addition of the Borg Queen.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Book review: The Taker 4.5 stars

Since the last book review I posted went over so well, I'm posting another one.  This is a fairly short book review because the book was very complex and writing about it was....complicated.  Here's a link to the book, and the review ;-)

Goodreads: The Taker

The Taker gets 4.5 stars and I don't know what you've heard about it, but it isn't anything you're going to expect. I spent 3/4 of the book trying to figure out what it was actually about...because this thing really makes you think while you're reading it. I finally decided the best description I can give without totally giving the complex story away (if that's even possible) is: this is a tale about yearning to be accepted. It will take you places you never expected to go and is not a book to take up lightly. It may even make you re-evaluate decisions you've made in your own life. Nicely done, Alma Katsu.          

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Book review: The Hero & The Crown

I've debated for awhile on adding book reviews to my blog and figured...well why not?  Books have been my means for sanity at many points in my life, and they are old friends to be cherished.  Going to start my very first book review with a favorite from childhood ;-)

The Hero & The Crown from Goodreads

I was in sixth grade the first time I read this book. My English teacher had a copy of it on her bookshelf of lending...I must have read it at least four times that year. I read it again when I was working on my undergraduate degree, and now ten years or so later am writing my first review on it. Did I mention I named my daughter after the main character? Yes, it really is that good.

Some of the following may be considered spoilery, so proceed with warning...

I love the worlds Robin McKinley creates. This time around I read The Blue Sword first The Blue Sword and got that taste of Damar. That book was also rated 4 stars, but while I liked Harry, I genuinely love Aerin. Aerin is that girl that you always know who was teased because she was awkward, different, and unrepentant for being so. I see so much of myself in her from my youth, and now that I've read the book again I was able to see her from a completely different perspective. As a youth I could never understand how she was able to leave Luthe and go back to Damar. As an adult, I cherish the way she and Luthe handled their relationship....because it never really ended. And I see so many parallels between this book and The Last Unicorn that I never would have seen as a youth. There is love, loss, heroism, and true greatness in the characters of both The Last Unicorn and The Hero and the Crown. I really can't describe how glad I am to have found a copy of this book in the sixth grade as it truly made an impact on my life.        

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The FLU that keeps on giving

I was unlucky enough to catch this year's version of the FLU last week....this thing is STILL kicking my ass. It's been a week since I got sick, but with the gift that just keeps beating the crap out of me, I've been nauseous, dizzy, and coughing crap up.  If you get the FLU this year PLEASE take the time you need to recover from it.  This is not a silly version...this is a beat you bloody and take names version.  Take your sick days, drink plenty of fluids, and sleep.  A Lot.