Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The cusp of 3.

I often wonder if I am always going to feel the way I do now about Lucy's birth. My therapist says it might change over time but it might not, because your body will always remember what happened to it, like a reflex. I might not remember, but my body does so there is a natural fear response happening. Which is such a weird thing to think about but I suppose it's true.

It's hard to tell you exactly how I feel on this day. The day before Lucy was born is my last real memory and that's not even really true because I don't have memories like you, I can't replay a scene like an old movie in my head. What I remember are the actual snapshots that we took of the day.
I remember Penelope standing next to roses at the Rose Garden in Duluth. I don't remember Olivia or Jackson. I don't remember Matt, but I remember taking this photo. It's so weird, but mostly scary, to look at this photo and know that that person died the very next day. It doesn't look like me. Well it does, but I don't recognize it as me. To me it's like looking at an ex-wife of Matt, which is weird because I know it's me..... but its not. 
It's strange to know this woman is dead. She died the very next day and somehow I'm here in that body and nothing about it feels familiar. I cannot tell you how many times I have stood in that exact same spot to see if a memory would come, would I remember standing there? Would I remember what it was like to be pregnant? Would I remember what it felt like to have a baby inside of me? 
To say this has been a hard three years is an understatement. I can't remember all of the doctor visits, the medical buildings, the procedures, the lab work, the waiting rooms, the hope, the disappointment, the frustration, the desperation, the resignation that I've had in these three years. I know its there and I guess its best if I don't remember it all. 
Not one person in the whole world can tell me that I haven't tried to get better. That I haven't marched forward, kept swimming, climbed the mountain, done the work. I have taken bad news like a champ and not told anyone. I have accepted the looks from people who think I'm crazy, I've been told to "just deal with it" and kept my mouth shut even though I want to scream, "I FUCKING AM" but I don't. I've become a better person because I really believe if I do good I will get good back and I just so desperately need that some days. 
I have confronted really awful truths from my past that I haven't told anyone, ever. Matt doesn't know. My mother doesn't know. My best friends don't know. I can see things around me a little more clearly now which is bittersweet because I realize how awful some people are and I never saw it before. I have lost friends. I at least know which ones are fair weather friends too but that comes with its own wave of disappointment. I have battled crippling depression, I have sat in darkened closets and in my car in the dead of winter wishing I could just die and thinking that being alive is really the cruelest punishment of all. 
I have confronted the things that hurt me the most. Did you know that I never look at my scar? I think sometimes maybe I don't lose weight because if I did the scar would be more prevalent on me. It's just a scar, millions of people have them and ones just like mine, it shouldn't bother me, but it does. It brings feelings of anxiety and panic. I get a tingling in my chest and I can't catch my breath. I feel fear, like something is trying to get me and I need to run.

So I don't look at it. I don't look at myself in the mirror anymore because I don't know this person or this body. I want to be old Sara so badly and I know I can't and so I feel shame. I feel shame because I'm not pretty and I'm not skinny, and no matter how many times Matt assures me I'm still attractive I don't believe him because he has to say that. 
I hate feeling broken. I hate feeling like everything in my body is malfunctioning and there isn't a fix. Sometimes I lash out. Sometimes I scream in a pillow until my voice is raw. Sometimes I go on walks and cry so hard neighbors look at me, probably wondering if I'm OK or crazy. Sometimes I sit and my car and cry. Sometimes I cry in the shower. Sometimes I cry when the girls nap.  I have to deal with everyone else and their problems and I'm dying a little more inside. I know it's daunting when I tell people it's going to be like this forever, like "Ugh, we have to help her FOREVER?!" and believe me, what you feel? I am more angry than you are. Trust me.
And then I have Lucy.  Lucy is really the best thing in the whole world. I wish I remembered what it was like to be pregnant with her. I wish I could have seen her born or remember what it was like the first moments with her. I wish I remembered what she was like as a baby. What she smelled like. I wish I could remember what her fuzzy hair felt like. How little she was. I wish I could remember her looking at me like I was the greatest thing in the world. Or what it felt like to rock her to sleep, or hold her on my chest. The irony is that I don't do well around pregnant women or little babies because they scare me and are a PTSD trigger... which I never knew was a thing until I'm in the thick of it.
It's weird to think I took this picture on Sunday, but I don't remember. I can piece things together. I know we were at Thomas the Train, I know we were on a train, I know it was summer. Anything else? I have to ask Matt because it's not there. I know I think I'll remember, I always do, and then I don't and I'm angry that I'm so stupid and thought that in the first place. But I forget how quickly I forget.

So tomorrow Lucy is 3. Tonight I'll go to bed absolutely petrified of what will happen. I'll be scared, panicky, and sad all day. I will try not to show it because I don't want to ruin her birthday. I will cry when I go to bed. I will pull it together because on Friday she has a doctor appointment and I need to pull it together. On Saturday we have her party and I will try to not cry and not ruin it. I will try to smile and be happy. Because ultimately, nobody cares. And it's OK. It's not your burden. It's not your PTSD or depression. It's not your trauma. It's not your stolen memories. You aren't broken. You don't understand where I'm at. You don't know that all the therapy in the world can't fix this and suddenly make me normal. And it's OK.

I'll keep trying anyway. I will fake it until I make it. I will get through today. And the next. And even the next after that. I can only do what I can do.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Book Review: Lone Wolf Cowboy (Gold Valley #7)

You have NO IDEA how happy I was to open my book mail and find this gem in it because I asked my local library if they were getting this and they looked at me like I had a third eye, so that meant I was on my own! Lucky for you, it comes out TODAY. So order it and tell me what you think.

Lone Wolf Cowboy (Gold Valley #7) - Maisey Yates

As a former EMT and a wildland firefighter, there's no one Jacob Dalton can't rescue--except himself. Since his best friend's tragic death, Jacob has isolated himself...until Vanessa Logan returns to Gold Valley. He saved her life during a medical call years ago, and he's never forgotten her. The instant jolt of heat between them takes him by surprise, but he knows that giving in to it would only end in disaster...

For Vanessa, returning home was about healing, not about exploring her attraction with Jacob. He is the guardian angel from her past--with strong, capable hands and an irresistible mouth. A temptation she knows she can't afford. Until the chemistry between them explodes, and unites them in a way they could never have imagined.

Full disclosure, I have not read every book in the Gold Valley series, I think I've read three others and this one makes four. I could be wrong because I get this confused with the Copper Ridge series and I also sometimes put my pants on backwards so honestly, I'm always really very confused. Anyways, what I'm telling you is that you do NOT need to read these in order, it's totally fine. You will be fine. (Can I just say though? If Caleb is not the next story I will be very unhappy.)


In this book we have Vanessa coming back to Gold Valley after leaving several years ago. She was a wild teenager, fell into drugs and alcohol and experienced some really awful things, but after court ordered rehab she realized she had different options. She sobered up, became an art teacher, and took a chance on a job back in Gold Valley teaching art to troubled youth, which seems like a natural calling for her. Then we have Jacob who has a past full of demons which make him feel like isolating himself is better for everyone else but also a kind of punishment for himself. They meet, they hit it off, she gets pregnant, crap hits the fan. That's the gist of it. Basically.

OK, I'm giving this one a 4 and I'm teetering on a 3.5/3 only because I really wanted more of a boom. Something that puts her sobriety at risk. I expected a lot of things to happen in here that didn't (which I'm not telling you some of my ideas because then you know what doesn't happen and that kind of ruins it) and I'm on the fence on whether that's a let down or a bravo- thank you for going around the usual trope and doing something different. Kind of like we all want change until it happens and then we want what we know and are comfortable with. Ultimately though, I did enjoy this one. I really liked Vanessa, she was mindful and conscious of her strengths and weaknesses, she isn't the damsel in distress (which Maisey Yates does a great job of- the women in her books typically aren't looking for a knight on a white horse), and she knows what she wants and what she deserves. Even Jacob, who got a little dicey at the end there, was pretty good because he wasn't the overbearing alpha male but he also doesn't let people walk over him, he has a cool and calm confidence.

I wanted to share a couple of parts of the book I enjoyed:

"She was probably making sure Vanessa knew she had something for her to drink. Which often as a nondrinker Vanessa found to be an issue. Some people didn't seem to understand the concept of drinking for hydration, and not for altered consciousness." 

"'None of us knows what we're doing,' Ellie said, taking a bite of her sandwich. "I don't. I look at Amelia sometimes and I... I still can't believe I'm her mother. Some days I'm so bone tired I swear I'm a ninety-year-old woman. Other days I look around and think... how am I mom? And a teacher? And a widow? How am I all these things when I still feel like a high school girl who hasn't figured any of life out at all."
Overall, this was a good book. Fast read, a couple of steamy scenes, a good set of main characters, and a story to root for. If you're looking for a new series to get into, consider this one because I don't think you're going to be disappointed.

Thank you Harper Collins and HQN books for the ARC in exchange for review, all thoughts are my own and I will ramble on and on about a book if you saw me in person but I keep it short(ish) and sweet here because you have the attention span of a squirrel. Also, this post contains affiliate links and that helps keep my snack drawer stocked but also keeps this blog going, but let's be honest- the snacks are more important. 

Happy reading!

Monday, July 29, 2019

Weight Loss Monday: Hard realizations and truths.

I won't even lie, last week sucked. Last week sucked in a lot of ways and had some bright spots too, but for the most part..... it sucked.

Good news is that we had Lucy's speech appointment and she's going to keep getting speech services during the upcoming school year. That appointment was definitely the only highlight of the week for me.

The next day I had my psychiatry appointment, which I had been looking forward to, because it had been 12 weeks since my previous appointment so I felt like this might just be a check in. Maybe just a "increase the dose of Ritalin" appointment because the dose I was on (which was variable, I had a range that I could stay within, depending on my level of exhaustion for the day- so take more if I'm WAY tired and take less if I'm only a little tired).
Instead he explained that you can't just "take more" and it'll work better. I was at the top of the allowed dosage so if it wasn't working, and I felt no change in my level of tired, and I didn't feel any more alert and I didn't have any more energy to do stuff then the next logical step would be to change my medication.

And I knew this. I knew this, and I knew that it might come to this. The next stop on this track is Adderall. Now, do NOT misunderstand me- I understand the need for medication in the treatment of mental illness. I get it, I know it, I'm OK with it. I'm no longer in the "I don't need or want medications" camp because I'm not an idiot, I know that I need these. I am far beyond what nature, exercise, essential oils, chiropractors, yoga, CBD oil, etc can do. I have actual brain damage and I understand that now. I'm OK with it.

But Adderall always scared me. It's always been on the list of medications on my ladder. I have exhausted all of the other options that are in my "OK" list on my GeneSight test. I have done everything right and gone through the side effects and withstood the really horrible days where I wondered why I'm even doing this. But Adderall feels like a failure. Like I'm admitting defeat and I don't know why. I don't know why this one bothers me so much.

Matt picked it up on Thursday and I haven't taken it yet. I will. Probably not this week, if we're being honest.

On Thursday I had to do labs for endocrinology to see what's what. Most of my levels were pretty OK and that's good and normal. A couple of them were a little high.... indicating that I am close to the diabetes fan club and that is NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. I will stave myself if I have to but being diabetic is not going to happen. Also, I have too much chloride and something else which indicates I'm not getting enough oxygen. Common causes are sleep apnea (have that, but I also have a CPAP machine) and obesity. Which.... guilty. He reiterated that I have to lose weight. It will help the diabetes thing and now the breathing thing.
So that's fun, being told that great, you're walking and that's awesome but also DO MORE RIGHT NOW AND TRY HARDER. So I continue walking. The heat is killing me and I am really struggling with fitness in the heat. I'm going to have to increase myself to two miles because obviously one mile isn't doing the job even though I feel like a sweaty mess after it. I'm going to have to try doing home work outs too. Maybe I can do something in the morning and walk after dinner. I don't know. I'm stressed out and over it all.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Book Review: Something Like Gravity

I can't remember who I was talking to when I mentioned I really haven't read many books in the LGBTQ+ arena because it isn't my jam. I am incredibly support and pro everyone, it's just not the thing that really interests me. I can't really explain it but I normally leave those books for others to enjoy. But then this pretty book showed up at my house and I'm really enjoying the recent YA releases so immediately I was interested. I actually didn't know this was about a transgender boy until I was into the book and I felt like that was how it was meant to be.

Something Like Gravity - Amber Smith

For fans of Love, Simon and Eleanor and Park, a romantic and sweet novel about a transgender boy who falls in love for the first time—and how first love changes us all—from New York Times bestselling author Amber Smith.

Chris and Maia aren’t off to a great start.

A near-fatal car accident first brings them together, and their next encounters don’t fare much better. Chris’s good intentions backfire. Maia’s temper gets the best of her.

But they’re neighbors, at least for the summer, and despite their best efforts, they just can’t seem to stay away from each other.

The path forward isn’t easy. Chris has come out as transgender, but he’s still processing a frightening assault he survived the year before. Maia is grieving the loss of her older sister and trying to find her place in the world without her. Falling in love was the last thing on either of their minds.

But would it be so bad if it happened anyway?

I went into this book not realizing it had a transgender boy. I only read the first three paragraphs and assumed this would be solid, I'd enjoy it, all would be swell.

And then I started reading. I'll tell you right now that I am so glad I didn't skip this one and I am so glad it came into my life. I know there are others who have read this and are critical with how the transgender character was fleshed out and I guess I don't share any of their critiques. I really liked Chris and I thought he was 10000 times better than Maia. I didn't like Maia's character from the start because she seemed greatly immature but also self absorbed. Chris was just genuine and kind, beautiful and strong, just really such a great character.

The book centers on Chris and Maia told in alternating voices. Chris has moved to Carson for the summer to live with his aunt after a pretty scary and horrific event back home which have sent his parents reeling and unsure how to deal so him being in a different location while everyone gets their bearings straight and some perspective is the best solution. Maia is fresh off the unexpected death of her sister and her parent's subsequent divorce. Very much left to her own devices, Maia has tried to... I'm not even sure? Like try to become one with her sister because... I'm not even sure? To feel special? I don't know and I don't think Maia knows.

They come together when Chris almost hits Maia with his car. Naturally.

Over the course of the summer Chris would learn how to open up to someone about being transgender, how to handle those beginning flickers of love and lust, and how to really embrace the realities and challenges of being transgender.

I won't give anything away but I want you to know that the first love and the first heartbreak and all of the feelings that come with it? This author nailed and when I finished the book I could feel in my gut what each of them was feeling. Secondly, I love how the author tackled the horrifying reality of being transgender and experiencing violence and what that does to their family as well. That is a hard topic to handle and she did it really well. Maia's storyline and character development felt a little murky for me. I felt like I expected, and wanted, there to be more to her dark secret and I was a little disappointed when it was what we knew all along. I felt like in real life, that secret wouldn't have warranted the result that it did but.... we're in a book so we get what we get.

In the end, Chris was all that mattered and Chris was so well written for me that it trumps everything else.

Towards the end was a conversation between Chris and his mom that hit me so hard because I am a mom and I understand what she was saying and experiencing. They were talking about Christina become Chris and how Chris didn't understand how his mom was so supportive of the changes of being less girl but wanting to become a boy somehow crossed the line. On page 372:
"You have to understand" - she gripped my hands tights- "you were taking her away from me. That's why I was angry. I had to get all mama tiger on someone, and that someone was you." She coughed, trying to hold back her tears. "And I think I was grieving too, mourning you. I was holding on so hard to the person you used to be, I didn't realize you were still here." 
I feel that to my core. I am going through something with one of my kids where, though I love them fiercely and 100% supportive of their new path, I have to mourn what I had accepted as our future. When you're kids are born there are a set of milestones set in place: walking, talking, school, driving, graduation, first love, prom, college, wedding, grandchildren, etc. When something happens and you realize the future is uncertain and you don't know what milestones are coming, if any, a parent is going to feel sad. Maybe for awhile, maybe for just a minute, and I sometimes wonder if kids forget about that. It's their life and their choices, but as parents we will always want to see you go through these milestones. Even when my kids are 50, I still can't wait to see what they do with their life. All that to say, I could understand Chris's mother.

I highly recommend this book. It's a really great book that tackles transgender, family acceptance, death, grief, teenage love and loss and just being a teenager and how hard it is learning to navigate life and relationships. I really thought this was done well and just enjoyed it start to finish.

This post contains affiliate links which helps keep this little blog going. A big thank you Simon & Schuster for a copy to review, all thoughts are my own and I want to hear what your thoughts are on this book! Sound off below!

Monday, July 22, 2019

Walking Queen... young and sweet... only 37....

So... that didn't flow as well as the original but close enough. I don't know where you live but where I live (the very tip of Lake Superior) it was hot as balls all week. But you know what I did? 

 I walked like 5 times. I didn't take pictures every time because I forgot but! I took a picture of me on Monday holding my umbrella because it was sprinkling and looked like it  might downpour but I brought an umbrella because I am only kind of a wussy. I didn't end up needing it because it was still like 82 and I was so warm so the rain actually felt pretty alright. Tuesday was an OK day to walk. Wednesday it was even warmer so as soon as I got home I had to shower because not only was I sweaty and gross, but I couldn't cool down fast enough. Which, I'm finding I'm having a harder and harder time doing so that's inconvenient. Thursday I walked in the morning and promptly came home and ate two Bomb Pops for breakfast because I am a champion. Friday I ended up skipping my neighborhood walk and instead walked around Walmart for an hour with Olivia trying to find a birthday gift for her friend. I put in easily more than a mile and left there irritated to boot because she is the worst shopper. Never has any ideas, never knows what people like, it's just the worst. Saturday I walked around Glensheen Mansion and I was actually pretty tired when I was done so I think in all I did maybe a mile and a half? 

Sunday was rest day because I'm not a masochist. 

This week is going to be kind of stressful and a lot busy. 

Monday I have therapy (THANK GOD) and Lucy has speech where we go over her latest assessment. Tuesday we meet with the school district for an IEP/see-if-you're-bad-enough-to-qualify-for-services meeting. It's pretty bad that I hope Lucy scores low enough to be able to receive services as school. So... cross your fingers. Wednesday I see my psychiatrist to talk about my medications and I like that doctor so that will be fun. Lucy has speech again on Friday and then on Sunday we go to the parenting hell hole also known as Day Out with Thomas the Train! 

Matt is super thrilled. He remembers when we took Olivia and Jackson way back in 2011. 
I actually had to find it in a scrapbook because I didn't remember it and apparently it was hot, it was loud, people were rude, and we got suckered into buying two hats that cost me almost $60. 

So. Should be a good weekend. Ha!

Also, if you're on Instagram, you should come and enter my giveaway. It ends August 1 and I'm probably going to mention it every day until then to be annoying. 

Enter the super cute giveaway HERE!! 
Are you walking? Running? Squats? Eating ice cream on the couch for two meals a day? 

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Book Review: Where To? How I Shed My Baggage and Learned to Live Free

I have been trying to space out my book reviews for you because not everyone else is a maniac and reads non stop, some of you have actual lives and do fun stuff on a regular basis.

Which is why this book might be right up your alley!

Where To? How I Shed My Baggage and Learned to Live Free - Jennifer B. Monahan

When Jennifer Monahan announced her intention to leave her well-established career as a business strategy consultant and give up her rent-controlled apartment in San Francisco to do a global walkabout for an undetermined amount of time, her friends and family thought she was insane. But Jennifer was excited about taking the time to truly explore and immerse herself in a variety of cultures, so their scepticism didn’t faze her; plus she was used to traveling alone as a woman with only one carry-on bag. What she didn’t count on was discovering all the excess baggage she had been carrying with her from her past. 

WHERE TO? chronicles one year of Monahan’s life, primarily in the Guatemalan jungle, but also in Japan, Cambodia and Thailand. Living in a thatched-roof hut in a tiny village, Monahan connected with local shamans and participated in their ancient rituals, became fully integrated into the daily life of a local family, and ultimately faced down some of the greatest losses and long-buried pain she had experienced. WHERE TO? shares the six steps she took to heal and courageously create the life of her dreams, and includes a workbook for readers to do the same.

Right off the bat I will tell you I liked this book because I have always wanted to pack up my crap and travel all over. Realistically that's not going to happen because my health is precarious and I would be in real trouble should I get sick abroad. So that ship has sailed for me, but it doesn't mean I can't apply her concept and principles to traveling in general, even if it is within this continent because those don't really change for your destination. Secondly, at the very end of the book is a "Courageously Authentic Life Worksheet" and it's only 7 questions but they are BIG questions that require some real thought and reflection of your life, and that might mean confronting some uncomfortable truths.

I really enjoyed her journey from San Francisco all the way to Bangkok and everywhere in between. She completely uproots her life to go on this journey, not really knowing what the end result was going to be or what the plan upon coming home was going to be. She speaks with candor, she has some kind of frightening experiences, and certainly some frustrating ones. You know when we get pissy about a two hour delay in the airport? It's that times 791, which is what I imagine traveling abroad is like anyways. I really liked that everywhere she went, she made friends, the kind of friends you actually keep in touch with long after you've gone home and you know you can visit anytime.  She realizes some experiences she's had in life had become barriers to her even though she felt like she dealt with/got over/moved on from them so she found herself have to really get into them so that she could get beyond those barriers and get to a place that was freeing for her.

I'm going to definitely give this one 4 stars. My only quip was at times it was meandering and I felt like I wasn't understanding the exact point of a chapter or experience and how that played a part of the bigger story. It could have been refined a little better in some parts, basically. It really reminded me of the book Excess Baggage by Tracey Carisch so if you enjoyed that you will enjoy this one as well.
A big thank you to author Jennifer B. Monahan for providing a copy of this book for review and Pump Up Your Book for coordinating this tour! All thoughts of this book are my own, and this post does contain affiliate links that help keep this blog going. 

Happy travels!

Monday, July 15, 2019

Sara.... walks...

If you didn't sing that like Kanye West's Jesus Walks, I wonder how we've become friends. Honestly.

I don't know where you live but where I live (northern Wisconsin) it's been pretty dang hot outside. If you remember from last week, I'm pretty sure the sun is trying to kill me.

via MEME

It was like that all week so it was crappy for being outside. But you know who walked three times last week in the blazing sun and almost died?

Your girl, boo. 

I also wasn't followed by the neighborhood creeper either, so that was exciting. 

I would have gotten more in but on Tuesday I drove almost 4 hours away for a concert with Jackson (more on that... Wednesday or Thursday) and spent the night. But I think I walked about a half a mile from where we parked to the place and then another half mile back because I couldn't remember how to get back to the car and it's a really good thing my 11 year old son did. 

I didn't do anything Friday or Saturday because you know when you just need to relax and do nothing at home? 

I didn't do that. 

Instead I grocery shopped on Friday (I'm not kidding, I probably walked 1.5 miles in Aldi because that store has the dumbest layout ever) (and I'm angry because ALL of my produce? Looked GREAT on Friday, all rotting on Saturday, I'm so, so angry and it reinforces that Aldi's low prices aren't worth it). Sigh. On Saturday I took three of the kids and Matt to Target to get school supplies. I know, it's July and we have time, what is wrong with me

I'll tell you- I hate crowds. I'm not going to battle Susan over specific colored folders or wait for Karen to just pick a god damn pack of pencils because they are JUST PENCILS and your kid is going to lose them anyways. 


So I go now and I got all 3 of the kids who need supplies done for under $60. Not including the calculator that Olivia needs which was not in stock anywhere so you can guarantee I will buy that online because I am not going to go back to Target or Walmart until I absolutely have to. 

Which is hopefully mid-September. 

So maybe I did do something after all. 
On Sunday it was significantly cooler and felt like it was going to rain all day but was still 75ish, so I took the girls for a walk in the afternoon. I thought I was going to die by the time we came home so I found this 2 foot by 2 foot patch of shade in my front yard and sat in it. My shade moves as the day goes on so I have to keep moving my chair. But I read while the kids played in the pool. 

The plan for this week is to walk as much as possible. It's kind of becoming a relaxing thing for me so that's been nice. This week is also kind of stressful. 
  • Gastro follow up after my endoscopy and colonoscopy
  • Lucy has speech on Monday which is also a pre-evaluation evaluation from the school district to see if she qualifies for help, and I'm sure she will
  • Jackson starts therapy- I'm a nervous wreck
  • Lucy has surgery on Wednesday, I'm a nervous wreck
  • Lucy has speech on Friday which may or may not happen depending on how she feels post surgery
  • BUT! I get to hang out with Amy on Saturday and we're touring a museum and see some fancy gowns. 
This is when all of the summer stuff starts happening and it's like a down hill slide into fall now. I keep telling myself that I am going to buy season appropriate gear that fits so I can keep walking outside because it is infinitely better than being inside on a treadmill. Ugh. 

Friday, July 12, 2019

Got anxiety? Avoid Valleyfair. And take double up on meds. Oh, and I hit rock bottom.

I've kind of gone on this weird, super-mom/let's make memories/YOLO kick, and I kind of think Matt is fully over it and the kids are kind of have a love/hate with it. Olivia is all about it, Jackson would rather be napping or playing BitLife on his phone, Penelope can't be bothered, and Lucy is game for anything. 

And then there is Matt who is always mildly annoyed and completely done before we even get there. 

Overall it is always a fun family outing. *sarcasm*

In June though I was just on the Valleyfair website checking out prices and I saw that they had a sale for $29.99 a ticket through the end of June (which I see is still available on Sundays so I am disappointed I didn't get some awesome deal) and when you are buying six tickets you'll take any kind of discount. I decided we were going to go, we'd go on a Sunday so it was free parking, and it would be SO MUCH FAMILY FUN. 

It turns out I could have gone to Disney World, had way more fun and did more stuff, than it cost to do Valleyfair. Also, Matt got us lost and we got there later than I had planned and it was all very stressful. 
When we eventually got there we got through quickly because I pre-paid for our tickets, parking wasn't bad at all, and we took the kid photo. Ideally, everyone would have beaming, happy faces as they embark on an amusement park. You'll see we missed that mark. 

The plan was to go to the Family Care Center and get everyone measured and get their wristbands so they didn't have to do that at every ride, that actually turned out to be really handy and I highly suggest you do that especially if you have more than one kid. 

We saw some rain clouds, and I knew the forecast was iffy on our drive down but the tickets weren't refundable or transferable, which is kind of a crappy policy, but it is what it is. The big kids take off, we make plans for check ins so I could keep tabs, and Matt and I would hang with the littles.  
First stop was the carousel and they've been on one and call it "riding the ponies" so we knew we'd be doing this a few times during the day.  
It was Penelope's favorite thing and if she was allowed to sit there all day she absolutely would have. 

It started to sprinkle and we were going to tough it out. We got on some little train thing and as soon as we started rolling, the rain started to pour. I'm not talking, "Oh hey- better get an umbrella!", but a "Holy shit, get to a building!" kind of rain. By the time we get off the train, we're soaked. We take the littles and run to this indoor play area. I read on a family travel blog that this is a cool play area to "take a break from the sun" and it was a "huge play ball area". Obviously other read about this too because this place was packed. It also was not huge at all. It was very small, very crowded, very loud, balls shooting and flying everywhere, it was so muggy and hot in there, and then you have parents screaming at their children from one end to the other. 

Come on, you have to know THEY CANNOT HEAR YOU, walk the hell over there already. 

There was no other place to go except for maybe a bathroom, but I wasn't about to sit in there for gods knows how long. I had some anxiety putty in my purse and I kneaded the hell out of it, did breathing exercises and decided when it was a light sprinkle we were going. I didn't even care. 

By then, everyone was hungry. 

Guess what Valleyfair doesn't have? Indoor restaurants! 

Every food option means you're eating outside and if you're lucky you can grab a table with an umbrella or under this small area with a roof. I didn't see any others, but we found one and sat there. It smelled like rotting garbage but it was (relatively) dry.  
We get pizza and souvenir cups because you get free refills that day and thank god because we must have filled them up 15 times. Easily. Matt wasn't happy with how much it cost and I get it, but I'm a go-with-the-flow person and he isn't. He gets annoyed or angry and he stays that way. For the rest of the time. 

After lunch we decided to go to Soak City and swim. I purchased a cabana online because when I looked at weather two days before the city was under an "extreme heat advisory" and I knew I would never make it in blazing sun and heat for long and I was willing to pay for shade. 

Pay, I did. 

It says "starting at $69" for a cabana online. I didn't find any cabana anywhere for less than $150. Not one. So that's what we paid. 


I will say that the cabana would be an AMAZING idea if you were going to be there for a long time and had a few people. It comes with a fridge, two chaise lounges, SHADE, a fan, a TV, they bring you water and chips (even though it said popcorn and they brought me generic grocery store chips... lame) and there is a little patio table and chairs for you. It is 100% worth it because sometimes you need shade, or a kid gets pooped out and wants to lay down, this was a cool thing. You can also pick where your cabana is and we picked near the kid play area which was smart because Penelope and Lucy never left that area.  
It wasn't even that warm out, maybe high 70s, so the water was absolutely freezing. I had my suit on but never went in any water and took my suit off as soon as I could.  
Olivia and Jackson took off for water slides and I hung out here with Penelope and Lucy. Matt was wandering around mostly so I'm not sure what he was doing.  
Lucy absolutely loved having water sprinkled on her.  
So did Penelope but she liked spraying other people more, which came as no surprise. 

We didn't end up being in the water area for very long because we were hoping to go on more rides since we couldn't earlier because of the rain. So we got dressed and started walking.  
 If only. 
 We soon discovered there wasn't much for Lucy to ride on so we decided to lie and tell Penelope there weren't any other rides for her because Lucy would have had a fit if she couldn't go on something. Not the hill I was dying on that day. 
 I was really surprised they went on this train because this went on a track and they couldn't see us while on the train and I thought for sure Lucy would freak out, but they did really well. Definitely didn't want to do it again, but they also didn't try to climb out. 
 Penelope spotted the ferris wheel and she had been on a smaller one before when we went to the Wisconsin Dells and stayed at Kalahari, but Lucy was just a baby so she had no idea what was going on. As it turns out she was all about safety and wanted the lady to MAKE SURE her buckle was secure. 

Oh, and you know when people go on a "weight loss journey" and they have that one photo they use as their "before" picture as inspiration to get on the treadmill? 

I officially have mine, guys! 
I always say I have reverse of body dysmorphia because when I look in the mirror, I swear that isn't what I see. Overweight? Sure. I know this and I know I have weird fat pockets and it's 100% from my corticosteroids and it's completely not from my diet. I'm exercising every day and still. Still no progress and I look like this. Needless to say I am completely dreading our trip to Missouri in a few weeks and being in photos. I'll still be in a few but I hate this. 

To say this photo has had an impact on me is an understatement. 

Anyways. The day was long, the day was hot and rainy, the day wasn't at all what I had hoped it would be. Everyone was in a bad mood when we left and the big kids were upset that Matt was grumpy the entire time and basically ruined it for them. It was just really stressful. I'm glad we went because it was a fun day out of the house and we crossed something off our summer bucket list, I just wish it was a more fun day. 


The good news is that I was only a little sick the next two days instead of throwing up and feeling like death was really here for me. Super happy I remembered to bring my hat, I drank and obscene amount of water, I stayed in shade as much as I could and I used almost an entire bottle of sunscreen on myself. It also was a good trial run traveling with Penelope and Lucy at this age. They handled no naps fairly well until dinner time so I was hopefully the things we have planned for Missouri might actually happen. Crossing fingers. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Book Review: The Valedictorian of Being Dead

I was recommended this one by a friend and I had to get it because it's basically about an unconventional course of treatment to help with major depression. As someone who really struggles with depression and anxiety, but also suicidal ideation, I'm really interested in ways to fix that because the thought of feeling like this forever is completely unbearable.

The Valedictorian of Being Dead - Heather B. Armstrong
Armstrong shares her story of living with debilitating depression and the radical treatment she underwent to cure it. For years she controlled her depression with a mixture of prescriptions, but when their effects start fading, Armstrong experiences an 18-month period of deep depression fueled by suicidal thoughts. Scared of what will become of her and the possibility of losing custody of her daughters, Armstrong opts for a month-long experimental treatment. One of only 3 people participating, she receives 10 doctor-administered treatments, each of which induces a coma that leaves her brain-dead for a short period of time. 

I don't know if my review is going to be as helpful for you because I'm deep into depression myself so I think I'm looking at this book in a different lens than a person who isn't depressed, or at least who hasn't experienced depression like this.

I will tell you that her writing is rhythmic and I found myself pouring through the pages easily because it really felt like I was listening to someone tell me a story versus a robotic memoir without personality. This has personality. Interestingly, I didn't find Heather to be likable. It's funny how even when I'm down I still pull it together but I feel like I'm dragging across the finish line. I didn't get that sense from her and that's where it comes in that I think I'm seeing things in a different lens. My other quip is that I don't feel like we got the whole story, like we maybe only got bits and pieces. It feels like big things happened before she got to this point and if we knew what those were we could see her depression like she does. It feels like there is an assumption that we know who she is at the start of this and I didn't, I didn't know she had a blog and I am still not real sure what she does for a living. We know her dad wasn't awesome, but her mom and step-dad are supportive and helpful, but it feels like a weird dynamic we never know about but seems like maybe we should know something about it. Aside from that she is funny, you can relate to her comparisons and she does a good job at comparing facets of her depression to common things we're all familiar with so you can kind of understand what it's like.

The procedure itself seems absolutely awful and I knew after her second or third session that this is not something I would ever consider. The risks seem incredibly high for a maybe result. Oh! Biggest eye roll of the book is her constant reference to the size of the needle for her IV. Good grief. I get blood drawn a LOT and I have IV's a LOT and I need a special team from the hospital to do my IV's because my veins are just the worst now and the needle she had is not harrowing. It's a needle. We've all had it, calm down.

The ending of the book leaves you feeling hopeful, and it's interesting to look at it as a whole once it's done. Forget all of the fluff and filler, but all of the procedures she had and the entire path to get there, and it's really interesting what people are willing to do in order to not feel depressed anymore. I think it's an interesting read particularly if you're someone who isn't depressed but you know someone who is. We all do and we all have at least one person we're annoyed with when they always flake out on plans or always looking like a mess, and we wonder what their problem is. A book like this might give you a different perspective on what life might be like for them.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Weight Loss Monday: Walking with maybe predators. And the sun is trying to kill me.

I feel like I'm finally getting my groove back. Matt said I used to be super crabby if I didn't get my nightly walk in every night years ago when I was in my weight loss kick. I'm starting to get that feeling now but I am also really very tired so it's been a struggle to go.

Last week though I walked Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. The goal this week is to go every day. I'm not kidding. I am finding that walking in the morning pushing a stroller is really tough and it makes one mile feel like I'm walking to my death. In the evening, after dinner, I've been walking a mile and getting the itch that I could go further so I'm going to try. Two miles with the stroller is an absolute no-go because Penelope and Lucy are heavy. It's almost pushing 60-70 pounds and I know that's nothing to most people but for me? It's something.

I also discovered after really looking back at my notes and putting information together on my OWN that I think I have heat intolerance. Which, I know it sounds like I'm one of those crazy people using Dr. Google and diagnosing themselves but that's not the case at all. The last three summers have been kind of awful and full of days where I'm sick (vomiting, diarrhea, migraines, fatigue, and flu like symptoms) but they are sporadic and I didn't think there was any kind of pattern.

Oh but there is!

They always happen the day AFTER I've been outside for awhile on a moderately warm day. Just this summer alone I've had a few of these events (and they are the worst, no joke) and they have all started while I'm outside. I'll start with a headache, then I have to run to the bathroom, then I feel like I'm going to throw up everything I've ever eaten in my life, then I get unbelievable fatigue (it feels like I'm going to pass out because I am that tired) and I start to hurt all over. It'll last for an entire day, sometimes two. Nothing helps other than a ton of ice water and sleep.

I sent a message to my rheumatologist and my endocrinologist and I got varying information. Rheumatology didn't seem to care even when I point blank asked if it's possible I have lupus. I guess I'll have to bring it up at my next appointment again and see. Endocrinology was a little more forthcoming with information and while he didn't seem concerned or surprised, he did let me know that where I have brain damage and pituitary damage is where your body regulates your body temperature. So when you get warm your body tries to regulate it, same as when you get cold. Apparently I cannot do that so I'm at a significantly greater risk for heat stroke, so that's really fun. The only solution he has for me is to wear a hat, always be under shade, where loose fitting, breathable clothing, drink obscene amounts of water, and do whatever I can to not be hot.

I also realized on July 3 when I was sitting, in the shade, in the yard watching kids play and chatting with Olivia and her friend, I had drank 150 ounces of water that morning between 7-11 a.m.

And I didn't pee. Not once. Didn't even feel like I had to.

In fact, I drank more and more water all day.

I peed before I went to bed for the first time that day at 10 pm.

So clearly, something isn't normal.

Next up is my walks. I do the same loop every walk because it's easy to know when to turn around and it's easy for me to find my way home in case I get confused or disoriented.

On Saturday though, as I was almost to my turn around spot, a man was walking toward me and I didn't think anything about it. As he walked past me I just..... I got that feeling. You know when your gut is telling you something isn't right? You get that urge to run and look for help? That's what I got.

I turned at my normal spot and he kept walking the direction I had just come from. As I got around the block I just have an uncomfortable feeling and I actually feel unsafe. Something about this doesn't feel right and I'm not sure what to do. So I keep walking. I realize he's matching my pace but we're walking on parallel street. I slow WAY down mid block to let him get ahead of me. After was more than enough time for him to get ahead, I start going only to realize he stopped and was waiting for me.

I actually felt like I was being stalked. I'm not kidding.

I realize I'm maybe three blocks from my house now so I decided I'm going to risk injury and start jogging to get ahead of him. I'm clipping along at a decent pace and I just... I have a really uneasy feeling. By the time I got to my house (I live on a corner) I realize I have screwed up because now this guy knows where I live. He must have heard or seen Matt, who was working in the garage but had his saw pulled out into the drive, because he basically started booking it. I tell Matt what happened and he doesn't seem concerned, but I didn't see the guy again.

Not going to lie, I didn't walk yesterday because I'm mildly afraid I'm going to run into this guy again.

But it made me wonder, has a man ever felt that way? Like he's being stalked and followed, and been scared about it? I can imagine it isn't as frequently as women have. My entire walk home I kept running scenarios in my head, like what are my options? I can maybe run through some yards, maybe start banging on doors. I had my phone and I could have called for help but what if he grabs me and I drop my phone? How would they know where I was dragged off to? If I started screaming would anyone be home and willing to come out and help me?

My priority this week is to seriously get pepper spray or something to take with me. Even if I never need it, maybe just having an option would make me feel better. I don't know.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Book Review: Expecting Sunshine

*Full disclosure: I had this review typed and ready to go for last week (Friday) but I pulled it because I felt like I really need to include why I chose this book so that is why this is up today and why I have two posts today.*

Expecting Sunshine - Alexis Marie Chute

Anyone who has experienced—or knows someone who has experienced—miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth, or other forms of pregnancy and baby loss should read Expecting Sunshine, including those considering or already pregnant again. 

After her son, Zachary, dies in her arms at birth, visual artist and author Alexis Marie Chute disappears into her “Year of Distraction.” She cannot paint or write or tap into the heart of who she used to be, mourning not only for Zachary, but also for the future they might have had together. It is only when Chute learns she is pregnant again that she sets out to find healing and rediscover her identity—just in time, she hopes, to welcome her next child. 

In the forty weeks of her pregnancy, Chute grapples with her strained marriage, shaken faith, and medical diagnosis, with profound results. 

Glowing with riveting and gorgeous prose, Expecting Sunshine chronicles the anticipation and anxiety of expecting a baby while still grieving for the child that came before—enveloping readers with insightful observations on grief and healing, life and death, and the incredible power of a mother’s love.

If you read my blog you will know that I have four children. If you've read my blog for a long time you will know that I miscarried a child before I had Penelope. You will also know that I went through a fairly hellish delivery with Lucy and I've had some serious issues since then. I went into this book experiencing different kinds of loss than Alexis had but I could understand some of her feelings. I could absolutely relate to grieving, and trying to heal, but also trying to reconcile with a new future that you didn't plan.

In my case, I really struggled after my miscarriage because I could never understand what it was like to lose a life within you. We hear about it, we say we're sorry, and we move on when it's happening to others. When its you going through that and having to look on an ultrasound screen days later to see it is, in fact, empty, it's a completely different ball game. Even now it's five years later and I still think about that child and what they would have been. They would be going to kindergarten this year. I can't get too sad because I likely wouldn't have Penelope or Lucy and I can't imagine life without them now, but still. I get sad. My situation with Lucy could have been significantly worse because I could have died for good versus having died but come back. Lucy could have died. I don't talk about it much because people say I'm crazy, but after my entire ordeal I was told that I "most likely" will never be able to have a child again. I have all of my organs, but I no longer have working hormones, and they believe with all of the significant blood loss that it most likely damaged my ovaries. It's silly be we were DONE having babies after Lucy. That was it. Matt got a vasectomy anyways, as planned, and no more babies were going to happen. But still. Knowing that I no longer have that choice hurts. Every bizarre scenario goes through my head and none of them make sense because I'm 37- I'm not trying to have any more babies. What if Matt dies and I remarry and he really wants kids? What if in a few years Matt wants to try for another boy? What if I want to help a friend have a child? What if I don't feel "done"? What if.... None of it is rational but that doesn't make the thoughts go away. So I've gone through an entire grieving process of saying goodbye to that part of my life and walking into a new one.


I went into this book with big feelings and I came out with even bigger feelings. In here we get an up close and personal look at Alexis and her journey through grief having to say goodbye to her son Zachary as it becomes he would not be leaving the hospital. They learn of this during her pregnancy so it has to be a special kind of hell to know you won't get to see any of those milestones or even get the bare minimum of moments with your child. We see her gradual walk through the grieving process and the support groups, and the test it was to her marriage and her faith. I really could relate to her feeling like she didn't need medication or a counselor because that was me in the months immediately after Lucy's birth. I was so angry when either were suggested to me by people because it felt like they were saying I could be recovering better, like I can't even do that right, but when my delivering doctor mentioned it, that's when it sounded like something I really wanted to do. I honestly credit her for me being alive (a second time) because had I not gone to those first appointments, I would have killed myself. I know it and I have said it many times. I really needed a total stranger to me and the entire situation to validate what I was feeling because nobody in my life was doing that for me in a way that didn't feel like them placating me.

Alexis would go on to get pregnant again and the worry and anxiety throughout her pregnancy were completely understandable and expected, but that doesn't make it easier on her or anyone around her. It's hard to make someone feel better when you cannot predict the future but you also can't understand what it feels like to be in that exact situation, so while I don't know what that pregnancy would feel like, I really could empathize and relate to that isolation she felt.

Overall? A solid 4 stars. The book reads incredibly fast and reading it feels like she's sitting across a table telling you her life story so it's not the monotonous voice that some memoirs have. The only reason I gave it 4 instead of 5 was because I, as it turns out, could not read about her labor and delivery of her baby Eden. Since having Lucy I have PTSD and I have a really hard time being around pregnant people and babies (especially newborn babies), but in a fun development, I can't hear or read about babies. So if nothing else, I've learned that about myself and that's upsetting. So that's on me. If it were anyone else they would give it 5 stars because this is really terrific.

If you, or someone you know, has or is currently in the process of grieving of a lost child or even a lost experience, this is a really great book to look into as a resource. Forget the self help books written by men who have never experienced it, listen to someone who has hiked through it.
I received a copy of this book for review in exchange for review, all thoughts are my own. This post also contains affiliate links which help keep my blog going. Thank you! 

Weight Loss Monday: Working Out With Strangers

I think I maybe mentioned last week that I found this "Weight Loss Exercise Class" put on by the hospital system I go to. I saw it online and then one of my doctors mentioned it so I figured for $5, I could give it a try. They meet Mondays and Thursdays from 5:30-6:30 and that seems do-able.

So I went.
The best is that I did not read that information well because I got there at about 5 and I felt like I was completely trespassing. The place was quiet and virtually empty. It said to meet in the lobby and thankfully I knew where I was going because I did physical and occupational therapy here, but I'm also here every 4-6 weeks for labs so at least I didn't run the risk of getting lost.

That's kind of great.

At 5:30 the very nice physical therapist assistant came and introduced herself, and then one other person came to the class, which was great because at least I wasn't alone. We introduced ourselves and the instructor wanted to know a little of our health background, basically to see what we can and can't do.

Long story short, we got to do easy stuff because I'm a mess and the other person had a boot on their foot because they recently had surgery. Not today, aerobics.

Oddly, while I did feel like I worked hard (I was fairly exhausted afterwards and went to bed at 9 and Matt said I was asleep within seconds. For real.), I also kind of wanted to do a little more. Which is GREAT, I suppose, but also a sign that I could easily over do it and really hurt myself and that would suck.

I think I'm going to keep at it because it's a way to get out of the house plus I'm doing something good for my body. Truthfully, I didn't go on Thursday because I was sick but I do plan on going this week.

Other than that, I keep walking. I have been taking the little girls with me in the stroller so that's an added workout because they are like 50 pounds in that stroller. But they enjoy it and look for animals. Lucy is always VERY excited about the bunny statue in someone's yard and hasn't figured out it's not a real bunny. I do need to find a route that has more shade, though. Half of my route is fairly shady but I'd like to find more shade if possible because I think I actually have a sun and/or heat intolerance. All of my illness in the summer? Pretty sure it's heat or sun related because I seem to get sick shortly after being exposed to either so that's a fun development.