Friday, March 5, 2021

Book Review: A Story of Karma

I feel like I'm on a non-fiction kick here, but that's alright. I do have a bit of a break before my next ones so don't worry. I'll give you time to catch up.  

Also, how pretty is this book cover? We should also give Jackson a round of applause because he made the little pom pom garland and that's a hint for our Etsy shop revival, so stay tuned. 

A Story of Karma - Michael Schauch

In 2012, Michael Schauch and his wife, Chantal, undertook an expedition deep in the Himalaya of northern Nepal, into a remote valley that had been closed off to outsiders for decades. They led a team of artists (a photographer, a musician, and a painter), with the objective of capturing a moment in time through their unique lenses. As a mountaineering fanatic, Michael had a second (and less conspicuous) goal to climb an unknown mountain he had only identified through a photograph. What unfolded in the mountains forced him to question his values and his own identity, and eventually resulted in meeting a little girl, which was the most profound encounter of his life. Little did either know that from that moment they would completely change the trajectory of each other’s life.

A Story of Karma recounts this journey, and the years that follow as Karma (the little girl), and Michael and Chantal grow their lives together amidst the complex dichotomies and backdrop of Karma’s 17th-century Himalayan village; the impoverished and polluted Kathmandu; and the modern world of Vancouver, Canada.
What a beautiful, beautiful story. If ever you wondered if there is something higher than us that subtly guides us the way we are meant to, I feel like this evaporates that. I couldn't put this one down, and I didn't realize how much I needed this kind of read. When the world seems so damn bleak, we need stories like this. 

We have family friends who have had the opportunity to travel the world and every year we look forward to their Christmas letter to read about their adventures. Also amazing is seeing all of the worldwide friendships they've accumulated from those travels. It makes me think that is the point of life; we are supposed to come together and learn from each other. Which is where this book comes in. 

The relationship that Michael and his wife have with Karma and her family is really one of the most heart-warming things I've read in a long time. What started as a trip to hike on a trip of a lifetime and developed into changing the life of two girls, their family, but also Michael and his wife. I also next to nothing about Nepal, so I learned so much about the country itself but also how education works (or doesn't, really) there. 

I know that many places in the world don't allow girls open access to education, or maybe don't value education as we do in the developed world. I always find that sad, but when I read stories like this where education is brought to people, the eagerness to learn is what makes me so happy. I love that the friendship between them all, that spans the globe, continues even now. 

Overall, I really enjoyed this quite a bit. It took me a solid Saturday to get through, and I read it on a weekend I was feeling especially low and what a good pick me up it was. The writing was solid, you feel like you're on this trip with them, and you'll find your good spirit in the world a little bit brighter. 

A huge thank you to Michael Schauch for providing a copy for review, I am honored to have been asked. I think this would be a great read even for a book club because it could invite the conversation on how you can have this effect on children in your community. Think of how lovely the world could be. 

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Thursday, March 4, 2021

Book Review: Gory Details

The pandemic really hasn't been all bad, I've kind of started doing new things just to keep things interesting. One thing was getting back into crafty things and, exciting news, I'm going to revive my ol' Etsy shop! More on that another day, but yay. Secondly, I've gotten really into podcasts over pandemic, but the only ones I really SUPER love are murder shows.  

I should probably talk to my therapist about how much I really love listening to people talk about murders and murderers, I get that. But you know what? I know a lot about what not to use to clean up a crime scene and you know.... the more you know, am I right? But I've discovered I have a weird interest in all of the gory details of stuff (but I still can't watch a horror movie, I don't get it, either) so when I saw this book, I had to read it. 

Gory Details - Erika Engelhaupt

Infused with Mary Roach-style humor and science, this narrative illuminates the gross, strange, morbid, and outright absurd realities of our bodies, the Earth, and universe.

Filled to the brim with far-out facts, this wickedly informative narrative from the author of National Geographic's popular Gory Details blog takes us on a fascinating journey through an astonishing new reality. Blending humor and journalism in the tradition of Mary Roach, acclaimed science reporter Erika Engelhaupt investigates the gross, strange, and morbid absurdities of our bodies and our universe. From the research biologist who stung himself with every conceivable insect to the world's most murderous mammals, this entertaining book explores oft-ignored but alluring facets of biology, anatomy, space exploration, nature, and more. Featuring interviews with leading researchers in the field and a large dose of wit, this provocative book reveals the most intriguing real-world applications of science in all their glory. 
First thing we  need to talk about is this cover. It's creepy and weird. It is also glow in the dark, which I did not know. I had this on my nightstand (because it's clearly a soothing read for bedtime) and around 2 a.m. I had to get up to pee. I open my eyes and almost straight peed my pants and bed. 

That is when I discovered that the cover glows in the dark, and all I saw was a skull and bugs. 

*commence panic attack*

So props to the cover design department for this one, you've taken a good couple of years off of my life. Thanks for that. 

The book though? INCREDIBLY INTERESTING. I'm not going to lie, I flew through this book. Each section really isn't that long so you can get through this rather quickly. You can easily bounce around the book if you want to read this by specific chapter instead of start to finish, and I know that sounds weird but if you don't like bugs you're going to skip the Part 4: Creepy Crawlies chapter, for instance. (Not going to lie, that's the entire section I got little icky with.) The book covers why certain noises get to you, why clowns are creepy, most murderous mammals (guys- it talked about meerkats and I had no idea those things were so awful), pee in the pool, would your dog eat you if you died (dogs are more inclined to do that than cats so come at me, #teamcat4life), and the beginning chapter about the morgue? My favorites. Section 2 is everything you're familiar with, or at least have heard of, if you watched every episode of BONES (like me). I have to say some of the footnotes were hilarious and informative. One of my favorites was about hamsters being nasty. I don't know why I loved it so much but I couldn't stop chuckling when I read it. 

Which maybe says something about me as a person but hamsters ARE gross. 

I love the author's humor throughout this, which could have gone real sideways while trying to be informative and weave actual science in it, and I loved it. I learned a lot throughout, and I have also permanently screwed up my Google search history and I strongly do not recommend doing that. 

*DO NOT GOOGLE THE THINGS YOU'RE READING ABOUT*

If you are looking for an interesting non-fiction book, if you like true crime podcasts and shows, this book is 100% for you. You will love it. 

A huge thank you to TLC Book Tours for having me on this tour and sending a copy for review! Please let me know if you read this one so that we can chat about it. Also, if you are a crime podcast listener, tell me which one you're loving because I'm working through a few. 

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Monday, March 1, 2021

Life Round Up: Pom poms and Books

I feel like life is just getting away from me. Someone said that I should write something down every day, or take a picture every day, but some days I just don't know what I should try to remember. You know what I mean? It's hard to remember what you should remember. I do think I need to try to journal again or something. It's so tiring to think about this stuff.  

Instead, let's talk about what I've been doing lately: 

I started making pom poms over this pandemic and it has kind of become a mindless thing I do and it calms my anxiety. I've made quite a few garlands and it's kind of fun. 
Now I feel like I need to come up with more ideas on what to make with pom poms. Maybe I can bring back my Etsy shop and sell something, I'm not sure. 
I have been making some bigger ones and I'm going to try to make some bunnies or something. Clearly, I went and got a ton of yarn and yeah. If you need a garland, you let me know. I've got you, boo. 
We've been having a hard time with Penelope as of late. I think she's growing and she's the third kiddo, our house is chaotic as it is, and I wonder if she sometimes feels lost in the shuffle. We have such a weird school year so right now none of the kids go to school on Wednesday, it's basically a work-at-home day. We were doing her work, she really just hit a wall at one point and I thought I had to turn the day around for her. I decided I would take just her out to lunch, we went to the craft store to pick up a few things to do, and it was a good couple of hours. Sometimes Penelope just needs a recharge of love. 
She was having a pretty good rest of her week at school. We spent some time this weekend doing crafty things, drawing, and reading. 
This week the book COVET comes out and I'm so stinking excited about it. I ordered two candles for my shelf that go along with the books and look how pretty the packaging was? I am a sucker for a pretty seal! 
The candles are so pretty, though I don't love the smell of the Grace candle. Jaxon's candle is pretty nice though, but they are so stinking pretty. 
I keep forgetting to share this with you and I don't know why. So last year (yeah, that's how late I am..) I ordered myself a Birthdate Candle, just to see what it was. I ended up buying some for birthday gifts for friends last year, too. 
I love the candle. I haven't even burned it yet because it's so pretty, but the smell is pretty fantastic for mine. I don't know if every candle is the same scent or if it is different for different people or what. 
The horoscope type stuff on the back was actually incredibly right on for me. I totally believe in that kind of stuff and I am a sucker for horoscope anything. If you're on the fence on ordering these, it's a pretty cool gift. 
Last week I suckered Jackson into helping me take the little girls to the middle school for a photo op. Well, I didn't tell him photos would be taken but he was a trooper. Penelope and Lucy were all about it though! 

Other than that, I've taken a lot of naps? I don't really do a lot during my days. I haven't felt really well. This week though I have my appointment with my new psychiatrist. I'm really kind of nervous about it and I just really want it to go well, so cross fingers. Next week I have my neuropsych testing consultation and I'm legit nervous about that. 

I do have some interesting book reviews coming up though, so watch out for those!

Friday, February 26, 2021

Book Spotlight: Gerta

Happy Friday, lambs! I hope you have a good one and that you have a pretty good weekend lined up. I don't have much planned, Olivia is doing a school thing for a good part of the day tomorrow and Matt is working so I think I'm going to do crafts and... clean my office?  

I know, I'm living a thrilling life, calm down. 

I also need to get more reading done. If you are also in that boat, and you are a fan of historical fiction, here is an incredibly interesting book that needs to be on your radar. 

Gerta - Katerina Tuckova

1945. Allied forces liberate Nazi-occupied Brno, Moravia. For Gerta Schnirch, daughter of a Czech mother and a German father aligned with Hitler, it’s not deliverance; it’s a sentence. She has been branded an enemy of the state. Caught in the changing tides of a war that shattered her family—and her innocence—Gerta must obey the official order: she, along with all ethnic Germans, is to be expelled from Czechoslovakia. With nothing but the clothes on her back and an infant daughter, she’s herded among thousands, driven from the only home she’s ever known. But the injustice only makes Gerta stronger, more empowered, and more resolved to seek justice. Her journey is a relentless quest for a seemingly impossible forgiveness. And one day, she will return.

Spanning decades and generations, Kateřina Tučková’s breathtaking novel illuminates a long-neglected episode in Czech history. One of exclusion and prejudice, of collective shame versus personal guilt, all through the eyes of a charismatic woman whose courage will affect all the lives she’s touched. Especially that of the daughter she loved, fought for, shielded, and would come to inspire.
Full disclosure, I am not finished with this one yet but I wanted to give you some insight as I go because though I'm not always a huge historical fiction fan, sometimes one just grabs me. Obviously the story of a young mother being herded away from home gave me visuals of the migrants at the southern US border. I pictured the women who were pregnant, with children already, walking miles and miles for some kind of safety and as I read this book that is what I'm picturing it. At least in the US, this piece of Czech history isn't touched on at all and I know I know a small amount of history of that region as it is but it is heartbreaking to know that things like this affect an entire family for generations after. 

If you are a fan of historical fiction, you will really enjoy this book. If you're just a history buff in general, I think you'll be greatly interested in this and it may inspire you to learn more about this time. The book is a translated version and so far, it has been done incredibly well. I'm roughly 240 pages in and I've only had a few bumps but it might be more me and my cognitive issues than issues with the actual translation. It does flip back and forth between time periods, which I think keeps you more invested throughout. I do think we've got a lot of different perspectives happening at once and I'm having a hard time holding all of these strings in my mind as we go, seeing how they weave together. I do hope this gets easier as the book goes on. 

Thank you to Over the River and Amazon Publishing for gifting me a copy, I am trying to push myself into reading things I think won't be in my wheelhouse and so far, I've been pleasantly surprised. This is also my second book this year that has been translated and they both have a beautiful rhythm to them, I imagine an audiobook version would almost be soothing to listen to. 

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Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Book Review: Eastern Lights

I feel like I was doing so awesome on my reading in January, but now that I'm approaching March I'm wondering where my gumption went. I do have an ambitious March, so cross your fingers that I can get my mojo back, lambs. 

Eastern Lights - Brittainy Cherry

I once met a man on a cold Halloween night. He dressed as a superhero, and I dressed in red. For one night, I was his break from reality, and he was the temporary fix for my broken heart.

Two years later, I was given the opportunity of a lifetime to become a senior editor at one of the biggest magazine companies in the world. The only catch? Nail an exclusive interview with New York’s finest bachelor: Connor Roe.

To the rest of the world he was becoming one of the wealthiest men in New York City. To me, he was simply my once upon a time superhero.

My job was to get an exclusive interview with New York’s hottest bachelor. Never in my life did I expect him to want an exclusive with my heart, too.

The only problem with my growing feelings for him? I was set to marry his new business partner. 
You know I am a huge Brittainy Cherry fan. I will read anything she gives me and I have yet to find one I am not in love with. Not a shocker, I completely loved this one, too. 

The best thing she can do is write a story that pulls you in and also breaks your heart, but makes it all better again. I mean, if there was ever a one line description of literally every book she has written, that would be it. She always writes the best characters and Connor in this one was right up there. He is a solidly great guy and he's every guy we want. I absolutely loved him. I also really loved Aaliyah and sometimes the gal gets a little meh for me, but I really liked her. 

I'm going to tell you right off this was a 5 star read for me, and I am over the top excited for the next two books in this series. Eastern Lights is book two in the Compass series, but they are all completely stand alone, so you'll be fine no matter where you jump in. (You'll remember that Connor was in the first book, but he was the assistant... and in this book he's all grown up and making moves.)The only, and I mean ONLY thing I wish were just a *little tiny bit more* was their relationship. I mean, I know what happens, but I wouldn't have hated a little more romance. My other issue? I feel like the steamy scenes aren't as.... present in Brittainy's more recent books? I'm not saying sex sells but... I'm saying she writes it well and I wouldn't hate it if there was just a bit more to the scenes. The added drama towards the end was just... I'll be honest and say that kind of thing in romance books is basically part of the formula and I'm kind of over it. Even though that's that... 

I still loved this book. I laughed, I cried, I swooned (kind of a lot), and I had an audible sigh at the end. Now I can't wait for the next book because that is Damian's story and I am DYING FOR IT. 

I really want to talk about some of the details in this (including how Connor and Aaliyah's story started) but I feel like I'd be giving out details that you need as this rolls out. I just loved this. Have I mentioned that yet? The reoccurring theme in this series is a chance childhood/teen/young adult friendship that later on morphs into a lasting romance... so know that going in. Brittainy Cherry can literally do no wrong for me and she is 100% an auto-buy for me. 

Thank you to Social Butterfly PR for having me on this tour and indulging my love for everything Brittainy Cherry. 

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Monday, February 22, 2021

Neurology is full of adventures

I posted on my Instagram last week but I feel like I'll just recap it here to stay consistent. I'm nothing if not consistent, guys. 

If you've been following for awhile you would know that neurology is just one of the many specialties that I visit, but I don't go very often. This summer I went for migraine follow up because my medication just wasn't working, and that's when I discovered that the super great neurologist I've had was now gone. I've gotten information that she is at one of two places in town but to be honest with you, she bounces around to different practices every couple of years and I just can't keep up. I was reassigned to another guy who really wasn't helpful at all. 

He wasn't even that nice. 

I had specific questions about my memory, if it'll get better, what should I be concerned about, etc. and his actual response was, "Oh... that's interesting" and he left the room. That was the end of my appointment. In this appointment notes he indicated that I was just depressed. 

To say I was angry is a complete understatement. I decided right then that I was going to get a second opinion, from literally anywhere else, because that's just terrible. 

Fast forward to last week.. or the week before? I honestly can't even remember when this was now. I had Matt come with me though because I feel like doctors take me more seriously if I have him with me. I don't get brushed off and they actually ask me questions versus make assumptions just to get me out the door. 

We met with a very nice nurse practitioner who stated that most of the people she sees with my issues are elderly, so quite frankly, I'm kind of an anomaly, and she is a little out of her wheelhouse. The point of the appointment was to gather information to see if I needed to see a neurologist and which one, OR if another specialty would be better suited for my issues. 

We spent over an hour answering questions, she actually took a copy of my two pages of notes, she went through things one by one. I felt like she was taking me seriously and treating this like it was something to be looked into. After almost two hours, the game plan going forward is: 

  • A new MRI. She suspects there has been some kind of change in my brain, so a new MRI is being ordered and it'll be compared to the ones I've had in 2018 and 2016. If there is no change, that's a whole other ball of issues we'll deal with if we get to it. If there is a change, then I guess we deal with that. I honestly don't know if I'm hoping there is a change or not at this point. 
  • A sleep deprivation EEG. I am absolutely exhausted every day. I know a lot of you are like, "Ugh, same!" and no, no it isn't the same. It isn't even close to the same. I know what kind of tired you're thinking of and this is not that. Have you ever stayed up for 36+ hours and then had to drive a long distance and then go to work? You're so tired even your hair hurts because your entire body is screaming to shut down already? That's me on a good day. I have many days where out of nowhere, it feels like my body is literally shutting down. I have to get to a bed, or a couch, somewhere that I can lay down and I will fall asleep for hours. I can't do anything to keep myself awake, it really feels like I have no control of my body shutting down. Frankly, it is kind of scary. But because I'm in this utter exhaustion state 95% of the time, my brain just isn't working well. Almost all of my issues get worse the more tired I get, which makes sense. She wants to see what my brain waves are doing, but specifically when I'm tired. 
  • Neuro-psych testing. I'm a little nervous for this one because on the one hand, maybe I've gotten better in some areas and that would be reassuring. On the other, what if I'm worse? I don't know if I want to know, to be honest. I've put off retaking this for a couple of years but it turns out that I can't put it off anymore. So I'm a little nervous. 
Once all of that is done, I'll meet with a neurologist in June who will go over everything and what it means. Some concerns are that I'm getting worse, certainly. Another option is I've not gotten worse but I also haven't improved at all, which means the chances of me getting better are diminishing to nothing. The other possibility is that I may be having seizures or on my way to developing them. Some of what I call my "brain blinks" sound like possible seizure activity to her. The other possibility is that I am a repeat stroke risk and that we need to look into that. 

It sounds like a LOT, and it is, but I also left there feeling hopeful. I mean, having seizures and maybe a future stroke sound awful, but I guess at least I'd know? I can prepare for it? I guess it would be better than being surprised and terrified. I don't like surprises, but at least this might help me feel less scared? I don't know. I say this now but I'll probably be terrified if it happens so ignore me. 

That's my scoop. In March I see rheumatology and endocrinology again, and I think I am going to bring Matt to endocrinology for sure. I don't think that guy takes me seriously at all. Now that gastroenterology has basically given up and said it is either auto immune related or my adrenal insufficiency not being well managed, I feel like I am starting all over from there. 

I'm just crossing my fingers I can get some solid answers, either way. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Book Review: Kingston and the Magician's Lost and Found

Happy Tuesday! I didn't get near enough reading done this weekend, but fortunately I finished this on Friday, so hopefully I can really get myself motivated this week to keep myself on track. 

Kingston and the Magician's Lost and Found - Rucker Moses and Theo Gangi

Kingston has just moved from the suburbs back to Echo City, Brooklyn--the last place his father was seen alive. Kingston's father was King Preston, one of the world's greatest magicians. Until one trick went wrong and he disappeared. Now that Kingston is back in Echo City, he's determined to find his father. Somehow, though, when his father disappeared, he took all of Echo City's magic with him. Now Echo City--a ghost of its past--is living up to its name. With no magic left, the magicians have packed up and left town and those who've stayed behind don't look too kindly on any who reminds them of what they once had. When Kingston finds a magic box his father left behind as a clue, Kingston knows there's more to his father's disappearance than meets the eye. He'll have to keep it a secret--that is, until he can restore magic to Echo City. With his cousin Veronica and childhood friend Too Tall Eddie, Kingston works to solve the clues, but one wrong move and his father might not be the only one who goes missing. 
I feel like I have already read more middle grade books in 2021 than I did in all of 2020... but maybe not. I don't know, but this was pretty fun. I think my son would have totally loved this a few years ago, and it was definitely a quick read. Even better? This book features a strong, intelligent, and diverse cast of characters, in a not-used-enough setting of Brooklyn, New York. It's exactly the kind of book we need on library and classroom shelves. 

The hard thing about reading and reviewing middle grade as a grownup, a mom no less, is that the choices characters make often drive me nuts. I also realize that these are children making the choices so they are bound to be dumb, but King makes some pretty cringeworthy decisions so that drove me a little batty. I'm not big on fantasy and such, so I can't tell you how well that aspect was done, though I will say I didn't totally understand the "echoes". I am fully cognizant that I am old and uncool, so take that with a grain of salt. I really loved the greater story of loss and grief, especially for this age group, which I think is such an important topic to normalize in middle grade books. 

I also had a hard time because in some parts King is in the now and present, but then he's in a different realm. Full disclosure though, this isn't because of poor writing, it is completely because I have a hard time with following that thanks to cognitive impairment. The book started slow, but once I got the rhythm of the writing and the story, I felt like it took off for me. Overall, this was fun and definitely different from my usual fare, but I'm glad I gave it a try. It's a solid 3 for me. 

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