Thursday, April 27, 2017

Alex & Eliza (review)

*This post contains affiliate links that I may make commission from; however, all opinions are my own*

Raise your hand if you love a good Young Adult story? Raise the other hand if you are obsessed with all things Hamilton? Now that you have both hands up you should do the hokey pokey and whip out your credit card.

Alex & Eliza - Melissa De La Cruz
Their romance shaped a nation. The rest was history.

1777. Albany, New York. 

As battle cries of the American Revolution echo in the distance, servants flutter about preparing for one of New York society’s biggest events: the Schuylers’ grand ball. Descended from two of the oldest and most distinguished bloodlines in New York, the Schuylers are proud to be one of their fledgling country’s founding families, and even prouder still of their three daughters—Angelica, with her razor-sharp wit; Peggy, with her dazzling looks; and Eliza, whose beauty and charm rival that of both her sisters, though she’d rather be aiding the colonists’ cause than dressing up for some silly ball. 

Still, she can barely contain her excitement when she hears of the arrival of one Alexander Hamilton, a mysterious, rakish young colonel and General George Washington’s right-hand man. Though Alex has arrived as the bearer of bad news for the Schuylers, he can’t believe his luck—as an orphan, and a bastard one at that—to be in such esteemed company. And when Alex and Eliza meet that fateful night, so begins an epic love story that would forever change the course of American history.

I will be the first to tell you that I have not gotten on the Hamilton train because I'm not a theater lover like most of my friends and I never totally got into American history when I was in high school and only vaguely find it interesting now. Which probably makes me one of the worst people to review this book because I'm coming into this not with all of that excitement but more of a, "this better not suck" perspective. 

Which is really what makes me a GREAT person to review this because guess what? This didn't suck! It was actually really great and it makes me want to be on the Hamilton train but I'm super poor so that probably won't happen. But this was such an endearing love story and so appropriate because we're living in a time where boys and young men are almost encouraged to be absolute jerks in the pursuit of a girlfriend and young women are discouraged from telling the boy where to go and how to get there. Enter Eliza, she's no shrinking violet and she isn't going to be married off to just whoever because her parents are in a tough spot financially. She knows her worth, she isn't willing to settle for anything less than a love story and if that leaves her a spinster aunt, so be it. But she wants to be more, do more, and she knows she deserves it. Even if society doesn't get that yet. She's a gal born into the wrong time period. 

Enter Alex, a boy who has nothing to offer a woman like Eliza, he has no tremendous wealth or family name, but he has earned himself quite the reputation working under George Washington. Men look up to him and he has bright visions for the future of America, but he adores Eliza. He doesn't know what he has to do to win her over but he's going to give it everything he has. 

I have to tell you that if you want to get a kid interested in American history, you have to present it to them in a way that is exciting and fun. That is what the musical is doing and that's what this book is going to do. Get this into the hands of some high school kids who are struggling and ask them to draw comparisons of gender roles from the 1770's and now. And having not seen the musical myself, and only reading quick descriptions of that story line, the book and musical are very different. While the musical explores Hamilton's role in American history, the book focuses more on the love story of Alex and Eliza. We see more of Eliza before she met Alex, her ambitions, and how they came together. And while there isn't a lot of information in history books about their courtship and life before their marriage, the author does a really good job taking those liberties and giving us a story that feels like it would have been pretty darn accurate and I think, pairs well with an audience's expectations after being in love with the musical. 

Overall? I'm giving this 4 out of 5 stars. I can't totally give it 5 only because I started and stopped this book so many times and I had a hard time getting into it because historical romance (even the YA version) is just not my thing. But I had to give it some extra points because it actually makes me wish I could see the musical while on Broadway so bravo to the author! 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Every Wild Heart (review)

*This post contains affiliate links that I may make commission from; however, all thoughts and opinions are my own.*

Every Wild Heart - Meg Donohue
From USA Today bestselling author Meg Donohue comes a mystery, a love story, and a mother-daughter tale about two women on a precarious journey to uncover their true selves.

Passionate and funny, radio personality Gail Gideon is a true original. Nine years ago when Gail’s husband announced that he wanted a divorce, her ensuing on-air rant propelled her local radio show into the national spotlight. Now, “The Gail Gideon Show” is beloved by millions of single women who tune-in for her advice on the power of self-reinvention. But fame comes at a price. After all, what does a woman who has staked her career on being single do when she finds herself falling in love? And is the person who is harassing her in increasingly troubling ways a misguided fan or a true danger to Gail and her daughter, Nic? 

Fourteen-year-old Nic has always felt that she pales in comparison to her vibrant, outgoing mother. Plagued by a fear of social situations, she is most comfortable at the stable where she spends her afternoons. But when a riding accident lands Nic in the hospital, she awakens from her coma changed. Suddenly, she has no fear at all and her disconcerting behavior lands her in one risky situation after another. And no one, least of all her mother, can guess what she will do next…

Ah... who doesn't need a good chick lit in their life? We all do from time to time, and Meg Donohue just writes so beautifully you find yourself immersed in the story in no time. I immediately identified with Gail because I have three daughters (and one son) and my oldest is going to be in middle school next year and already I sometimes feel that chasm of teenage angst and the struggle of her wanting to just be a little kid but older than she is. I struggle with making sure I'm guiding her enough but also letting her make her own mistakes and learn who she is. 

It's a tough road, this parenting gig. 

So not only does Gail try to find the balance between being a good mom (a single one, at that) but she's also balancing out a red hot career with her own radio show which is ready for the big time. She finds herself with a crazy "fan" but also with a budding romance. Just as things start to heat up for her, her daughter has a scary accident which lands her in a coma. Her once overly cautious and timid daughter has seemingly turned into the polar opposite overnight and Gail has to juggle it all and decide where her loyalties lie. Can a woman have it all? Can she excel at every part of her life, even when they all demand the attention simultaneously? 

I'm giving this one a solid 4 stars. It's your standard chick lit, but it's not fluff. It has meat to it and you'll find yourself nodding along, chuckling at all the right parts, and you feel how torn Gail always is. I wasn't a huge fan of her other book How to Eat a Cupcake, but this one has won me over as a Meg Donohue fan. 

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Primal Key (review)

*This post contains affiliate links which I may earn a commission from; however, all opinions are my own.*

I have SO many review books sitting on my shelf right now that I need to just buckle down and read like a maniac. The good news for you is that your summer reading list should have no problem coming together if you stay tuned for my reviews.

The Primal Key - C.A. Hartley

Alex Clarke trains for one thing -- finding the broken bits of Grandmother's Carnelian Tablet. The relic, if mended, could reveal the location of The Primal Key -- the key to unlocking parallel dimensions. His family duty and his path are preordained, foretold centuries ago until . . .

Anne Clarke's curiosity gets the best of her. She opens a storage box, the one thing Mom insists she leave alone, and prematurely unleashes suppressed talents -- dangerous skills that can't be curbed once released. Worse, she accidentally leads Seth Barthony, Grandmother's murderous adversary, to the family's safe house. Seth's agents destroy their home and abduct Mom. As ransom, Seth insists Grandmother hand over the Primal Key.

As Alex scrambles to uncover clues to the Key's last resting place, Anne learns her new talents could help rescue Mom. But Anne's shaky and untested skills could, if forced, kill her and those she loves. 

Full disclosure, this book is the first in a series and I'm telling you right now that if you have any interest at all in the series, you're going to need to start with this book. Though the others aren't released yet, these are not going to be stand alone novels. There's no way they could be given the sheer amount of back story and information given throughout this book. This book is also geared towards middle grade but to be honest, I think a fourth or fifth grade student would find it interesting and be able to follow along and that perhaps sixth grade and up might not find it as interesting.

As for me, I can really only give it 3 out of 5 stars. I really struggled with just the sheer amount of information in the book, a lot of which is just overwhelming and almost not needed at all. For all of the time and energy that went into planning this story, coming up with an interesting back story to keep you going, the author really dropped the ball on naming the magical set of keys the book centers on. Of every clever name you could think of, she settles on "Crazy Keys" and I'll be honest, I had to re-read the section a few times to make sure that was the actual name of the item. And it was, which felt so half-assed I don't know what to think about it.

But the story progresses quickly, it starts with a bang, with Anne creating an unsafe portal passage before being captured and it sets the Clarke family on an adventure none of them are prepared for. Mom is hiding secrets, Anne has no idea how powerful she is, and her brother Alex (who has grown up thinking that HE is the twin with all the power) soon learns it was all a ruse to really protect Anne. The book itself has a few editorial mistakes that I'm sure young readers won't notice but parents and teachers most likely would. It's also a fun read as it does introduce kids to sci-fi/fantasy but also museums, history, and art as well.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Lucky Broken Girl (review)

*This post contains affiliate links that I may make commission from; however, all thoughts are my own.*

I know I've said it before, but I really enjoy reading book geared toward young readers, perhaps because I'm a mom of two kids in the 8-12 age group, but maybe more so because books were everything to me as a kid. I am always hopeful that I can find a book and give it to the right child and that's the one that starts a life long passion of reading.

Lucky Broken Girl - Ruth Behar

Based on the author's childhood in the 1960s, a young Cuban-Jewish immigrant girl is adjusting to her new life in New York City when her American dream is suddenly derailed. 

Ruthie Mizrahi and her family recently emigrated from Castro's Cuba to New York City. Just when she's finally beginning to gain confidence in her mastery of English and enjoying her reign as her neighborhood's hopscotch queen, a horrific car accident leaves her in a body cast and confined her to her bed for a long recovery. As Ruthie's world shrinks because of her inability to move, her powers of observation and her heart grow larger. She comes to understand how fragile life is, how vulnerable we all are as human beings, and how friends, neighbors, and the power of the arts can sweeten even the worst of times.

Easily the best thing about the book is the writing, it's written in the voice of a young Ruth and it reads as if a child her age actually is writing it. The book starts off with acquainting you with Ruthie and her family, a Jewish family having just immigrated from Cuba in the 1960's. Her mother is having a difficult time adjusting to life in America and relies on Ruth to translate English to Spanish for her. Ruth also has her own issues, at first being relegated to the "dumb class" she works so hard to get transferred to the "smart class". Finally, finally just as things are looking up for her, Ruth and her family are involved in a horrific car accident that leaves her in a body cast. Her mother begins to resent her because she becomes Ruth's primary care provider since they cannot afford a home nurse, and Ruth struggles with depression and anxiety.

It's an absolutely tragic story with a beautiful outcome that gently teaches children about tragedy, the vulnerability of life, persistence, and grief. It also highlights the cultural differences in America and what the challenges immigrant children face. I also loved the sheer optimism of Ruth's family about the opportunities America  holds for them. You can do anything, it's America! It's something so many of naturally born citizens take completely for granted, and I really appreciate this author showcasing that.

If you have a kiddo in grades 2-5 who enjoy reading, or perhaps they are an immigrant themselves, I highly recommend this book. It's a great selection to have as a classroom read and ask students what they think about Ruth's story, between her difficulties in school, her injury, and her fears as she recovers.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Mommy Awards 2017

A few months ago I had heard about this local event called the Duluth Moms Blog Mommy Awards 2017. Immediately, I wanted to go because it's an excuse to get out of the house, maybe meet some new moms, and get to know more about the Duluth Moms Blog group, which is relatively new, only launching in November 2016.

I was originally going to go with my good friend Amber but as it turns out, she's got a bum knee and was having surgery the same night as the event. Instead, I invited my new friend Nina because like me, she hardly gets out and splurging on herself is completely unheard of. So we went for dinner and almost missed the event entirely because we have so much in common. We weren't even fashionably late, we were actually dead last. Like, the door was locked and we had to knock last. HA!

And I'm not going to write about all of the details because the Duluth Moms Blog did an amazing job with their post, but I'll talk about the moment where I almost peed myself.

When we came in, everyone had done the tour and mingled, cake was already eaten, and we were coming in basically as awards were being given. Proof that my memory is horrendous is the fact that I had no idea how you would get nominated for an award so imagine MY surprise when my name was called for the "I Showered Two Days in a Row" award.
Joke is on THEM, though because I have not done that in over eight months. I got a certificate (which I am absolutely going to frame because I'll take any positive affirmations I can get) and some wine. Which.. I gave that to the person who actually nominated me, my friend Amber. I don't drink at all and Amber is a fan of wine, so I figured I'd bring it over along with a meal as she recuperates.
We took a group photo outside of Glensheen, courtesy of JaneCane Photography.
And of course, got one with my date, Nina.

I don't know what the qualifications were to get this award, and I haven't seen what Amber wrote, but it was a sweet surprise nonetheless. Thank you, dear friend. Thank you.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Adventures with four: month seven

Everything from this post is from March, which ended up being a HARD month for me mentally. I didn't realize turning 35 was going to be a "thing" for me because I'm not that person who cares about their age at all. I went on a trip with my friend Tammy (more on that later), and I.... I don't know. It was hard. Here were entries out of my journal: 
Came back from my trip. I'm in pain, absolutely everything on and in my body hurts and this is what I come home to. It only affirms that if I died, everyone in this house would be dirty and naked. The level of pissed off cannot be measured. The entire house is a freaking wreck. I can barely keep up as it is and now they want me to perform miracles. Sometimes I hate my family.
Penelope is so... tough. She's an absolute love bug some days but others she is so emotionally and physically draining. I'm not equipped to handle this. Lucy is great, though. She's pretty easy and that might be because she knows full well I can't handle everyone in melt down mode at once. Bless her little heart. But we have officially given up on thinking Lucy can share a room with Penelope. We've moved the crib into our room and it's just draining. I just want a solid night of sleep.
Penelope is the family animal whisperer. At least she thinks she is. She mostly hugs them a lot and tries to stick their tails in her ear. They don't enjoy it but they know surely she can't keep up with this forever. Right?
Lucy is starting to enjoy food. I gave up around month six for her and we're slowing starting back into it. She seems far more eager for the foods that smell the worst. Lucky us.
She also gets excited so easily. She'll shake her little hands, give us this face, and sometimes try to bounce on her bottom. She's officially too big (and heavy) for the swing so Matt moved it out of the living room.
Sometimes in the morning, on the days when I have the hardest time actually becoming mobile and getting up and at 'em, I just bring Lucy into bed with me and try to doze off. It never works as I'm paranoid I'm going to roll her off the bed but I try anyways.
Oh Penelope. You're lucky this poor dog is as tolerant as he is. Truly.
Nobody loves ice cream like Penelope does. She'll keep saying "eat" and "more" as if she's yelling at herself to shovel it in faster.
My friend Cassandra had her birthday. I tried to send a birthday greeting, this was the best I got. Lucy eating cardboard and Penelope saying "cheese" with her damn eyes closed. Sometimes you just accept that terrible is the best you're going to get.
Weekends are the hardest. Matt goes to work and I am here with all four on my own. I'm not in any way qualified to do this. I don't work in a day care for a reason, and I never wanted four kids for a reason. I can't even call it controlled chaos anymore.
Don't let Penelope's face fool you, she was just excited about this walk as Lucy was. It's still chilly here, I don't care what anyone says, but I'm trying. I've discovered even simple walks, which used to be so great for me, are so hard. I always feel like I'm going to just collapse and then I hurt so bad I can barely move the next day. It's tiring to be falling apart like this.

Check back tomorrow when I talk about the Duluth Mommy Blog Awards and how I walked away with one. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

No Getting Over a Cowboy (review and giveaway)

* I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review, and this post contains affiliate links that I may make commission from; however, all thoughts are my own.*

Who is up for a western romance? I think I speak for us all when I say, yes please.

No Getting Over A Cowboy - Delores Fossen

There are plenty of things Garrett Granger hadn't counted on losing—his child to miscarriage, his wife to another man and the family business thanks to a crooked CFO. He also hadn't counted on moving back to the family ranch, where he's met by another surprise—former flame Nicky Marlow, who is renting his grandmother's old house.

Nicky's been rebuilding her shattered life since her husband's death two years ago. But Garrett's timely arrival in Wrangler's Creek doesn't automatically make him the missing piece of the puzzle. Even if he does seem to adore her two-year-old daughter… Even if seeing him again stirs up old feelings Nicky would gladly keep buried, forcing her to wonder if moving forward has to mean leaving everything behind…

I am such a fan of Delores Fossen because her books are always a guarantee and you'll always wait eagerly for the next one and this is no exception. Also true to form, while this is part of the Wrangler's Creek novel series, it's a stand alone. It's book two, but you aren't going to be lost because she does a good job giving you what you need from the first book to fully enjoy this one. No worries! 

I can honestly say that I have read a LOT of books but the story line of a male lead character struggling with the loss of not just his wife (to another man) but his child (to miscarriage) is one I can't easily recall in any book, so right away I was hooked on this one because FINALLY, a new to me story line! I feel like, especially with the romance genre, the same story is just retold in different slight variations over and over again, and I think that's why the genre sometimes gets a bad rap. 


The book takes kind of a hilarious turn (which isn't funny, but kind of is if you're mentally picturing this) but just as Garrett returns to Wrangler's Creek, he discovers the place is rented it out to some widows. But of course, not just any, enter Nicky- she's reeling from the death of her husband while trying to single parent her daughter. Enter all of the cliche relationship hangup's you'll find in a romance, but also, it's sweet. And heart breaking. Garrett looks at Nicky's daughter and can't help but draw comparisons to what his child would have been like, what it would have been like to be a dad and a loving husband, to have that family unit. I really adored Garrett and maybe because he's just a decent guy dealt a crap deal in life. 

So not only do we have this, but a skeleton shows up and the scene needs to be processed, enter chaos. I found myself laughing at the hilarity of it all, this small house, all of these widows, a few kids, Garrett, and his mom- it's just a lot for anyone to handle, let alone Garrett. Delores Fossen always does such a great job at bringing you an entertaining story with a solid romance with it. I would honestly market this towards chick lit fan groups as well because for me that was what made this book such a gem- it's a good time read for sure. 

One lucky reader has the chance now to win not just a regular copy, but a SIGNED COPY of No Getting Over A Cowboy! In the meantime, I highly encourage you to check out Delores Fossen's website, Facebook, and Twitter! She is one of my go-to authors and I think you'll enjoy her as much as I do! 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Adventures with four: month six

I am absolutely horrific when it comes to updating you all on life with Lucy. I know I was pretty great about it with Penelope but I can barely remember when I ate last so the fact I even remember at all is something, lambs. 

I am fully aware that it is currently mid-April, but all of these pictures are from February, which is when Lucy was six months and Penelope was... something. I can't do the math in my head. But let's recap what I have written in my journal about life in February: 
My mom still comes every day  to help me with the babies. She brings the older kids to and from school, comes back and sits with me at least until I get Penelope in for a nap, then she drops the kids off after school. The time she spends with me is a LOT and I know it's an absolute pain. I know it really sucks to basically be caring for your adult daughter and her gaggle of kids. I know it, and it sucks. I don't feel good about it. I feel like my depression is getting worse. I feel like I am never enough.
Lucy is so great. She really is so great. She's adorable and I want to squeeze her all of the time. She is easy and laid back and it's like she knows she has to take it easy with me.
She is so happy. I always think I can't feel awful when I'm around her because she is always smiling.
Penelope is now at the age where she is a beast. Her in-utero nickname of Master P has been officially earned. She rules the roost here and some days it's all I can do to get myself to bedtime. But for every really hard and awful day there are those where she is an absolute love bug and all she wants is to snuggle. And I love it.
I can tell that Penelope and Lucy are going to be great friends. I think Penelope is going to be a bossy comedian, and Lucy will just take it, but it's going to be a cute friendship.
This one sums up life with these two. Penelope is always a comedian and Lucy is always slightly concerned for her safety or questioning if they should be doing this.
I don't have anything about Jackson this month, but Olivia is amazing. She is such a great help and has changed her first diaper. She refuses to change a poop one, which I don't blame her, but pee? This girl has it. And I don't care, I'll take any help I can get.
I'm gaining weight. The medications are wreaking havoc on my body and I feel so disgusting. I'm at my heaviest ever. Lucy doesn't care though. As long as I continue to bounce on the ball for her to fall asleep, she's fine.
Penelope has now become obsessed with hair. She really enjoys trying to brush  my hair. It's only a matter of time before I start running errands with a comb stuck in my hair.
Lucy can officially sit! Every baby has become an independent sitter at six months. I appreciate their collective consistency on this. The poor girl inherited her mother's thunder thighs so sometimes she just falls over simply because she's so damn round. But she's at least happy about the new view of the world .
Days are hard. Days are so long. I dread being alone with the kids. I am really struggling. I don't know if counseling is even working or just making me worse. But I also can't handle not going, it's become a beacon of hope, those appointments.

There it is, folks. My February update. Check back the rest of this week and I'll have a March update and a few other catch up posts. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Let the unpacking begin.

We told the kids that we weren't moving after all. To say they were upset and disappointed is a complete understatement. I'm still so angry about the entire process. Maybe I'm too nice of a person but it feels so morally wrong to accept two offers on a house, I don't care what kind of financial problems you're having, don't set someone else to deal with your crisis.

But alas, as it turns out, people being rude and selfish isn't a new thing and it's not something we'll see the end of, so I suppose we just deal.

I'm also absolutely sick of hearing people say "something better will come along" or whatever else people say to placate you so they feel better that they said something positive. I respect people who are fully honest like me and just say how it is- a house that had location, size, was handicap accessible/ready, and four bedrooms with potential for five in that price range is never going to happen again. That was it. It needed enough work to ensure they'd never get more for it in that state, but it wasn't anything Matt couldn't work his magic on.

The great thing about being in therapy is that I'm learning that it is 100% OK to acknowledge when things are shit, and it's totally OK to be angry. As it turns out, I'm completely angry.

But alas, I'm supposed to try breathing exercises to not let the anger manifest into something else, which (shocker) doesn't work. I just feel winded and tired after. Then I'm angry that I can't even doing stupid breathing exercises without feeling tired.

I also am learning that throughout the entire process of living with a mental illness is that nobody knows what to do with you. Everyone absolutely means well, and I recognize that. I feel like a jerk when I realize all of the things that are driving me crazy now are things I am absolutely guilty of doing myself and I am so apologetic. Truly. If I ever came across as condescending to you or that I didn't put weight to your words, I apologize. It never came from a place of ill will, but a place of ignorance. But here's a list of things people keep suggesting to me:
  • Vitamins. Yes, I know vitamins are helpful. For most people. I cannot take just any vitamin, herbal supplement, etc. My body chemistry is actually damaged. It's not even just serotonin levels for me, but I have no functioning pituitary gland so I have to fully rely on synthetic everything. I have to be extremely careful what I take, when, dosages, etc because even the slightest ripple can make a huge impact on my entire body. 
  • Exercise. Yes, I would LOVE to exercise. I want to. I'm gaining weight at an alarming rate because of the steroids I have to take in order to live, and I'm definitely not happy with where I am. But I also can't just get up and go. I take a medication that actually enables me to get out of bed and move, but it takes time for that to kick in. You know how during the day you feel your body get sluggish and tired but then you get a second wind? I don't get a second wind. You get that because your pituitary gland gives your body a shot of cortisol and everything gears up to go. I don't get that anymore so when I get sluggish I just start shutting down. I can take an extra dose of my medicine but I'm encouraged to get used to taking the smallest dose possible without feeling sick. Because if I don't take the medicine, or enough, I feel like I'm getting the worst flu of my life. The kind where you think, "This is it, I'm going to be featured as someone on the evening news who dies of the flu... in June". Everything on my body hurts, I can hardly move, even my eye lids hurt and blinking is excruciating. Same thing with the exercise. If I over do it? It's the same effect as not taking my medicine. 
  • Weed. It's almost become comical because it's countless people I know in real life, random people in the waiting rooms at the endocrinologist especially oddly enough, it's Internet doctors with a medical degree from Google, it's a lot. A LOT. And I just.. you know, if that works for you, more power to you. Truly. I have gotten to the point where I just can't even argue anymore and I just nod my head and shut up. It's not worth it. But in my head you bet I can believe I'm screaming because weed is not going to make my body produce any hormones. None. The mechanism that does that is 100% broken. Will it help for mental health? Honestly no because I'm as law abiding as they come so the stress of that alone would send me over the edge. But also, and I know this is wrong but I can't help it because it's just an ingrained belief I've had since little kid days, but I do not believe in getting high (or drunk) in any capacity as a way to deal with your problems. It's stupid and I don't care. I know a few people who use medical marijuana and aren't walking around like your high school stoners but it's not for me. That and my brain functions at an alarmingly slow speed as it is, nobody needs that to get any worse. 
  • Oils, salt lamps, and some kind of weird rocks people carry. I just.. no. Again, the things actually wrong with me are being I have critical parts IN me that are broken. 
I recognize that people mean well. I do know that I'm a unique case so people don't know what to do to help, they don't know what to say, and they feel awkward. People, at their core, are fixers. I really believe that. I'm a fixer too, if I see a problem, yo I'll solve it. (Or at least try really hard to.) So I am giving you permission to just say, "Man, it really sucks and I wish I could help but I don't know what to do." It's OK TO SAY THAT. But what you can do, which seems like nothing at all, but really does help? 
  • Be understanding if I flake on you. My depression and anxiety is so unpredictable that I think I might be just fine when I agree to hang out but come that time, I'm not. And I might be too anxious to tell you that I don't have it in me. 
  • There's a good chance I won't answer my door. Or respond to an email/text/call right away, if at all. Again, I just can't. Some days I hit my limit of being able to cope and it has nothing to do with you. Don't take it personally. 
  • I am trying SO HARD to be "normal" and get myself back into functioning but I struggle. Don't count on me for things but know there is a good chance I might just show up to help. If I feel good enough to help, I will come. I will. It's OK if you don't have a "job" for me, me just being there is progress for me and I'll take it. 
  • Be kind. I don't know how to fully explain it, but the Sara you know so well? She died. She died and she is never coming back. Every thing I used to like/hate, say/do, and feel? All gone. I'm starting from scratch. I'm having to learn about people again. Reform relationships. Fun stories or things we've done? I likely won't remember them. And I am so sorry. I know it hurts when I tell people I don't know what they are talking about, or I don't remember someone. I know it does because imagine how I feel. I've literally been plopped into a stranger's life and told to have at it. It's the exact same thing. I'm trying very hard, but please know it won't be the same. 
I know this sounds all very Debbie Downer and I don't want to be that way. It isn't a case of, "Well, just be positive" because that's not something my brain understands. I'm actually incapable of that right now. It (hopefully) won't be forever but it is right now. Just don't ever forget that when you hear that saying, "Everyone is fighting their own battle", it's true. I suit up every day and wage war with myself. Some days I do OK and some days I barely make it through. I'm trying every day even on the worst ones. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

1,001 Ways to Slow Down

*This post contains affiliate links that I may make commission from; however, all opinions are my own.*

No, it's not the most epic list for a blog post ever, but it's a review for a really uplifting (and gorgeous) book!

1,001 Ways to Slow Down - Barbara Ann Kipfer
This irresistible list book from National Geographic provides lighthearted quick hits of inspiration for those of us who feel overwhelmed--which is to say, all of us. Musings, activity suggestions, and illuminating quotes are paired with whimsical art on themes such as living in the moment, achieving balance, relieving stress, developing patience, and appreciating the world around us. -Slow living- sidebars, such as -Foods to Cook Slowly- and -Things to Do the Old-Fashioned Way, - are interspersed throughout the book.

Anyone who has followed this blog for awhile knows that I have had one hell of a year. That's not even enough of a statement to cover it, but it's the best I can do without any more swears. As soon as I saw this book come up for review option I had to volunteer immediately because I have always been guilty at going non stop at the speed of light, but while I'm not necessarily cruising at that speed anymore, I am having a hard time taking in the things around me.

But also?

I think no matter who you are, there are going to be things in this book you already do and don't realize it, but also so many opportunities to add something positive in your day.

Throughout the book are all of the different ways to slow down but there are also calm lists of different things such as Slow Movies to Savor, Handwritten Letters to Send (my favorite of the lists), Vacations to Help You Chill Out, Books to Take Your Time Reading (my second favorite list), etc. I had such a good time paging through this book, thinking about things, but also incorporating a few things to my daily routine so that I can be more appreciative. I am struggling right now with suicidal thoughts and depression so truly, if you know someone in your life that just needs a minute to themselves, this is a GREAT gift idea. Let's remember that Mother's Day is right around the corner, but this would make a great gift for someone you're thinking about. It's become a staple of my side table where I like to sit in the evenings and I automatically grab for it and page through a few pages every night. I'm including purchase links for not just this book but also the author's other book, 14,000 Things to Be Happy About, because that also sounds like something we could all use in our lives.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

A Simple Favor

*This post contains affiliate links that I may make commission from; however, all opinions are my own.*

I know I say this a lot, but I really do have a lot to fill you in on and talk about, but I also want to stay on top of book reviews. I have a couple for you this week and next, and in between those I'm going to fill you in. Stay tuned.

A Simple Favor - Darcey Bell

She’s your best friend.
She knows all your secrets.
That’s why she’s so dangerous.
A single mother's life is turned upside down when her best friend vanishes in this chilling debut thriller in the vein of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. 

It starts with a simple favor—an ordinary kindness mothers do for one another. When her best friend, Emily, asks Stephanie to pick up her son Nicky after school, she happily says yes. Nicky and her son, Miles, are classmates and best friends, and the five-year-olds love being together—just like she and Emily. A widow and stay-at-home mommy blogger living in woodsy suburban Connecticut, Stephanie was lonely until she met Emily, a sophisticated PR executive whose job in Manhattan demands so much of her time. 

But Emily doesn’t come back. She doesn’t answer calls or return texts. Stephanie knows something is terribly wrong—Emily would never leave Nicky, no matter what the police say. Terrified, she reaches out to her blog readers for help. She also reaches out to Emily’s husband, the handsome, reticent Sean, offering emotional support. It’s the least she can do for her best friend. Then, she and Sean receive shocking news. Emily is dead. The nightmare of her disappearance is over.

Or is it? Because soon, Stephanie will begin to see that nothing—not friendship, love, or even an ordinary favor—is as simple as it seems. 

A Simple Favor is a remarkable tale of psychological suspense—a clever and twisting free-fall of a ride filled with betrayals and reversals, twists and turns, secrets and revelations, love and loyalty, murder and revenge. Darcey Bell masterfully ratchets up the tension in a taut, unsettling, and completely absorbing story that holds you in its grip until the final page. 

I was torn on this book because while I loved Gone Girl, I absolutely hated The Girl on the Train because the latter felt like a cheap rip off of the first. That's kind of how I feel about this one. While I appreciate that the story is fast paced and you will fly through the almost 300 pages in no time, if you've read the either of those books, this story isn't going to feel new to you at all. I couldn't relate, or like, any of the characters and knowing that this book is set up to be "in the same vein" as those other books, I wanted this book to be better than those. I feel like if you're going to be similar, be better. Those books lacked character development, and this book could have excelled in that but it doesn't. In fact I dislike these characters more than even the ones in The Girl on the Train.

Stephanie is a blogger who is also a single mother after the death of her husband and her brother. She's doing the best she can and has befriended another "older" mom at her son's school and they quickly become best friends. The kind of best friends that picks up the slack of the other when needed, no question. When Emily goes missing, Stephanie realizes that something is really very wrong. Not just because Emily is devoted to her son and would never leave him alone like this but also because Stephanie has a gut instinct telling her not all is what it seems with Emily and her husband Sean. The book has several "blog posts" that all feel... off. If it were a real blog and those were real posts, as a reader I'd think something was very wrong about the tone of them.

Clearly, I can't give you more but know nothing is as it seems, there are twists and turns, bizarre revelations not just about Emily, but also Stephanie. (Can we talk about Stephanie and her brother? I had to just shake my head because come ON. Really? We're going to go that route for a character development plot line?! Oy.)

I can only give this book 3/5 stars and that's generous because it IS a debut novel. I really want to see what this author does for the next book but I implore you to not use the framework of existing stories, go somewhere totally new and different- really blow our mind. You'll be able to fine your own copy of A Simple Favor on the HarperCollins website, and I really want you to pick this up and tell me what you think. Did you see similarities or do you think there are enough differences between this and similar stories that it stands on its own?

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Life is cruel and optimism is pointless.

I could be one of those epic vague bloggers and beat around the bush, give you pointless drivel about why life is hard and woe is me, but you know I'm not that person. Instead, I've always been 100% honest with how I feel, what's happening, even when I know others don't want to hear it or it makes them worry.

I don't do it to be cruel, I do it because I have to get it out of me otherwise I will explode. When I was younger I feel like I did an excellent job keeping all of my troubles to myself and I worried about how my sad or depressed feelings would be for others and I never wanted to inconvenience people. But as I get older, and mostly because I've entered a new level of depression, I can't do that anymore. What I feel comes out, good, bad or indifferent.

So in my last post I mentioned how we put our house up for sale and made an offer on another house, which was accepted. Matt and I have been doing so well working on our finances (more on the last of our FPU classes soon) and making hard decisions. We have hit some pretty startling, and sobering, facts that hurt. First, we're broke. We're not like, "Oh man, I wish I could go to this concert but I can't because I'm broke" broke, we're more in the, "I'm not sure if I can buy groceries... maybe if I just pay half of the utility bill because I can't cut back on my medication and we have to make a full house payment" kind of broke. So we decided first and foremost, pay off all of the credit card debts that we could with our tax refund. Did that, and we're still broke. So then we decided that we'd sell the house and move into a new one that is markedly cheaper per month. Yes, it's kind of dumpy and needs a LOT of work, but Matt's so handy that in time it would be OK. Matt's truck is paid off so we're putting his truck payment towards other debt to hopefully snowball it and that would eventually help. We've made a lot of other changes to just stay afloat, but doing the hard math? Well it tells us that in about a year, maybe two if we're lucky, we're going to be in dire straights.

And not even of our own doing.

All of it would stem back to my long term medical needs (non-stop appointments with Neurologist, Primary Care, Endocrinology, and Mayo Clinic, not to mention my Psychologist and Psychiatrist) and medications from my AFE.

So at the encouragement of essentially everyone, I applied for any kind of assistance through the State of Wisconsin. Hilariously, we don't qualify. I'd like to know how in the world any of these programs can justify using your pre-tax income as the threshold. If Matt was actually bringing anywhere close to that home, we'd be in amazing shape. But no. He pays for our health insurance, he's taxed out the rear, and then what he does bring home is spread so thin. He can't work the ridiculous hours he used to because I am a hot mess and I am not in any shape capable of taking care of the kids by myself because I break down into tears and scare them.

I don't want to be a mess of a mom. I really don't. This is against everything I set out to be and I hate that I can't control any of it.


We were denied for all assistance, and WIC. We can't even get WIC and as I'm told by everyone, "Everyone gets WIC". Well we don't, folks.

So we had EVERYTHING banked into the basket of this new house. Hoping we'd make enough from our sale to fix a few things and it would all be OK. We spent our emergency fund on earnest money. We spent the last of our savings on new carpet for the stairs and hallway because everyone said if we spent that money it would make a big difference. Spoiler: it hasn't. The seller of the house we want is in obvious financial trouble herself and needs to sell ASAP and doesn't want to wait for us to sell, so she took a second offer. Which means basically, we have until midnight tonight to have an accepted offer on our house otherwise we aren't in the running for that house.

Which wouldn't stress me out normally because we've had like six or seven showings and all but one hated our house. The one who likes it, "had stuff come up" (join the god damn club) and is on the fence. We basically spent our reserves as a last Hail Mary to sell this house and SHOCKER, it hasn't paid off. That means if we don't sell this house in the next day, that means I get to stare at this stupid carpet and feel unbridled rage.

So the end story is that I am 99.9% sure we are going to lose that house. If we don't get an offer on ours today, we're pulling it off the market. Every other house that is four bedroom, and in our price range, in town is an absolute dump. It's either a dump, next to a sexual offender half way house, or in a disgusting part of town where I absolutely would not let my kids play outside. (So explain to me how my house is still on the market?!)

I can't even get into the nightmare that is showing your house when you are suicidal with severe depression. It's like every horrible, negative piece of "feedback" you could have thrown right at you. Some of them I want to strangle and just ask why they even looked at the house if it was too big for them? Why waste my time? Do you even know how difficult it is for me to get moving in the morning, let alone clean my house, feed the kids, and get them out of here for an hour or two? By the time I get home I just cry non stop because it's so physically taxing I can't think.

But I'm trying. I'm trying SO hard to be optimistic, and be the fearless, take-no-crap woman I used to be. Then I am reminded that person died in August and she is never coming back. I'm such an emotional wreck that I flat out told Matt today that every day that goes by only solidifies that I should have just died and stay dead. It would have been easier. The family would have had my life insurance, all of my retirement funds, survivor benefits, and Matt would have been swamped with help from my friends and family. Instead, I'm here, sucking up every last penny we have to stay alive and it feels selfish.

Yesterday Jackson, on his 9th birthday, told his friend at lunch that we aren't doing anything for summer because we're poor. He couldn't sign up for baseball because his mom couldn't pay for it and it's "too hard for her to leave the house a lot". I know he didn't mean it to be hurtful, but I sat there (I surprised him at school with a Happy Meal at lunch time) and I felt like the worst parent in the entire world. Then I go to the Realtor's office to be told that we tried but yeah... probably not going to happen. Cue crying in the Walmart parking lot for 45 minutes, pulling it together to go get Jackson's birthday cake, and crying the entire way home again.

I can't say it enough: every day it gets harder and harder to be alive. There isn't anything anyone can say or do to help  me, this is something I have to navigate on my own. It's like guiding a ship through fog basically. I don't know what is on the other side but I'm supposed to just keep going. I just don't know how long I can do that. The only bright side is that at least I don't feel like I'm being unnecessarily dramatic because I have both my psychiatrist and my psychologist who tell me that I have every single right to feel the way I feel and that they are at a serious loss on how to help me. Because (wait for it) most people die from AFE so there isn't anything out there on how to help people cope with this kind of thing. So we keep trying different things because eventually something will stick. Right? I'm not even going to lie to you and tell you I'm optimistic about that.