Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Sometimes you just can't quit.

By the time you read this, I hope to god I am in Rapid City, South Dakota. I hope I am not in a sketch hotel and that's it is just a really great deal. A steal of a deal that people pass up. I hope it has air conditioning, a bed bug free bed and wifi. I just hope all of these things because it will have been a ridiculously long day of travel. If you do not follow me on Instagram, you should. I'll try to post pictures of our adventures and of course, anything really hilarious I come across.

But onto a somewhat serious topic.

I have a blog reader who has been a reader almost from the very beginning, which I'm not kidding, I think was 2008. Yikes. But she's kind of one of those undercover readers you don't know is there until you get an email out of the blue and they tell you that something you wrote made them pause and feel compelled to write you. Which is really amazing, and just.... I just really love it.

I recently received an email from her and though I don't know her at all, she feels like she knows me through my blog (which also is very cool), and she wanted my advice. And it's just kind of humbling when a person is willing to tell you what's going on in their life and see if maybe I have advice or a solution. Because honestly, it helps. I don't know where I'd be without total strangers helping me, so I'll return that favor.

Unfortunately, her and her husband are really in a tough spot. They've been having marital issues for a few years. They've handled a bout of infidelity a few years ago, went to counseling and did the whole bit. But lately, things aren't the same. The spark is gone. They argue a lot. Both of them basically feel indifferent towards the other. And now when they argue over something pretty dumb, it snowballs into something huge and someone will resort to saying, "So maybe we should just get a divorce?". So basically, that's where they are at and she wants to know how I do it.

And to that I say, I fly by the seat of my pants.

One thing I have learned in ten years of marriage is that it is hard and it sucks a good portion of the time. I think the real benefit for me is that when we were first married, I worked for a senior volunteer program. And when I got married, all of those volunteers were just thrilled and gave me loads of advice. But the best two pieces of advice I ever got were:

  • Start how you mean to finish. This actually came from my boss and she said it's so important that if you are going to be that wife that makes your husband's lunch, leave little love notes in his car, set his clothes out, have dinner ready at 5, etc- then you better be prepared to do that forever. Because as soon as you stop, he feels upset and like you're neglecting him. You'll get mad he's being a baby. He's mad because you're mad and that you don't understand how he feels, etc. And it's so true
  • It's going to be really awful, but no marriage makes it to fifty years without the awful. And it's also true. Every person I know who has been married for the long haul have all told me they hit real rocky periods in their marriage where they questioned their spouse or if this was right for them. But it always comes around. It's like the tide, it's good and it's bad. You just have to work really hard at it. 
I can't sit here and tell you that I'm 100% thrilled to be married every day. I would be an absolute liar. There are days where I think I've really hit the end of my rope and I just want to cut my losses. But then there are times where I look at Matt and think I'm really in the sweet spot. I have a husband that despite his faults, is really ridiculously great. I mean, this is a guy who will run to the movie theater to get me popcorn just because I want it. 

One thing we learned in counseling was you can never, ever threaten a break up or divorce unless you are 100% committed to it. And you can't be that way until you know you aren't sad, mad, angry, confused, etc at that other person. You can't break up or divorce someone and still feel all of this pent up emotions because you'll only lash out at those who don't deserve it and you'll never give anyone new a fair chance. 

And I know how hard it is to be in these ruts. It's really terrible. The only thing that gets Matt and I threw it is forced quality time. Let's face it, there are times where I would much rather be alone. I'd rather not socialize. I really do have to fake it until I make it with him. But I've never regretted it. We go to bed angry some nights because again, sometimes we just need to be up early the next day. We don't have time to hash it out until we both feel there is a resolution. That has served us well- usually going to bed angry helps us put it into perspective the next day when things aren't so emotionally charged. 

I am a firm believer that a lot of couples are babies. Total babies when it comes to marriage. People give up too easily. I don't think marriage is supposed to make the other person happy all of the time. We're each in charge of our own happiness and then you just have good times together. And I hate to say it, but Dr. Phil is right when he says you should do something every day to make that other person feel special. That's really hard to remember sometimes, but I think we both try to do that. I've learned to value him emptying the dishwasher and that being a way to say he appreciates me. Which, sucks. I'd rather get grand romantic gestures, but Matt's brain just doesn't work that way and I have to be OK with that. Taking out the garbage and cleaning the cat litter box can be sexy, folks. 

So it's just a really long winded way to say, it'll get better. Don't give up. Try really hard. Be open to the harsh truths when he says you suck as a wife in certain areas. Don't be hurtful for the sake of being hurtful when you tell him where he really drops the ball. It's OK to be sad and feel embarrassed that you aren't June Cleaver. Who wants to be June Cleaver anyways? I'll tell you that if Matt and I can bounce back from the multitude of issues we've had, you can too. You really, truly can. 

Do you have a really inspiring piece of advice about marriage that has served you well? Leave a comment, because my reader assures me she won't comment but she is reading. 

Killing Time

While I'm out on my fabulous South Dakota road trip vacation, I'm not leaving you totally empty handed! I'll have book reviews to keep you going. Of course I would! I'm such a giver.

Killing Time - Linda Howard
Killing Time
Returning to the entrancing supernatural territory of her popular novels Dream Man and Son of the Morning, New York Times bestselling author Linda Howard has written a sizzling new novel that is her most daring, exciting, and original yet. 

In 1985, with much fanfare, a time capsule was buried under the front lawn of a small-town county courthouse, to be reopened in 2085. But just twenty years later, in the dead of night, the capsule is dug up, its contents stolen. That same night, one of the contributors to the capsule is brutally slain in his home–with no sign of forced entry or indication of a struggle. One by one, others who had placed items in the time capsule are murdered.

Besides his suspicions about the sudden, mysterious appearance of Nikita Stover, the chief investigator, Knox Davis, has absolutely no leads. And while Nikita’s no murderer, she seems to be hiding plenty of secrets. With more at stake than anyone else realizes, the smart-talking Nikita is determined to catch this cunning killer–while at the same time battling her own deepening feelings for a man and for a world in which she doesn’t belong. 

When readers crave a seductive novel of unrelenting suspense with a paranormal twist, Linda Howard delivers time and again . . . make that Killing Time–a captivating, character-rich story that races along on a breathless plot full of action and intimacy, romance and danger, thrills and intrigue.

I am such a fan of Linda Howard and I keep saying it and it just will never get old. What I love about her books is that she perfectly mixes some romance in with some thriller and it's just enough to keep you going and you'll be left looking for her next book and sad that it ended. 

In this book we have Nikita who is really from the future coming back into the past to stop a killer. We have Knox who is a present time investigator trying to figure out the murders as well and he comes into contact with Nikita, having no idea who she is or that she's from the future. Then they start developing feelings and we have a couple of really steamy scenes. The only issue I had was that there were some holes in the story where clues could have been put into the story to keep the reader guessing. At the end of this I almost felt like there was a part two that could have been written because I didn't fully understand the motive of the bad guys. I mean, I do... but there could have been a lot more explained. What you will get out of this is a fast read, a decent story line compared to other books like it, and the ending isn't totally what I expected. I guess I didn't expect Nikita to pick the time period that she did and Knox not put up a fight? But maybe I would have felt the same way had the tables been turned? I'm not sure. 

Is it the best book in Linda Howard's arsenal? No, not even close. I wouldn't start your Linda Howard addiction with this book unless you know you'll continue reading. She has done so much better but honestly, I didn't dislike this book as much as others have. I'm always entertained by Linda. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Help for the Haunted

While I'm gone on my trip, I've got a few book reviews lined up for you so you won't totally be without your Sara fix. It's OK, I'll be back. AND, Matt assures me we can bring my laptop because it has the camera card reader thingie so if the hotel in Mitchell isn't a total piece of shit, I'll be able to give you some kind of an update.

I know, you're just as excited as I am!

But to kick it off, let's start with a review.

Help for the Haunted - John Searles
Help for the Haunted
It begins with a call in the middle of snowy February evening. Lying in her bed, young Sylvie Mason overhears her parents on the phone across the hall. This is not the first late-night call they have received, since her mother and father have an uncommon occupation, helping "haunted souls" find peace. And yet, something in Sylvie senses that this call is different than the rest, especially when they are lured to the old church on the outskirts of town. Once there, her parents disappear, one after the other, behind the church's red door, leaving Sylvie alone in the car. Not long after, she drifts off to sleep only to wake to the sound of gunfire.

Nearly a year later, we meet Sylvie again struggling with the loss of her parents, and living in the care of her older sister, who may be to blame for what happened the previous winter.

As the story moves back and forth in time, through the years leading up to the crime and the months following, the ever inquisitive and tender-hearted Sylvie pursues the mystery, moving closer to the knowledge of what occurred that night, as she comes to terms with her family's past and uncovers secrets that have haunted them for years.

I'll be straight up- this would be kind of a fascinating book for book clubs. This wasn't a book I rushed through, it wasn't one that I could not put down. In fact, it took me well over a week to read it because it didn't pull me in enough to pull an all-nighter. The only thing that really kept me going was every time I thought ugh, I've had it, the author would drop another clue. Something really weird that made you think that maybe it's not at all what it seems. 

I feel terrible for Sylvie. It's clear her sister has some serious angst issues. Her sister is the classic rebellious teenager who has issues with what her parents due for a living. That happens to be helping people rid themselves of ghosts, demons, haunted things that linger in this realm that really need to go wherever dead things go. They do conferences and drag their girls around. Sylvie wants to believe that her parents are just really devout Christian's doing the Lord's work. Until Sylvie is with her parents when they are killed in the middle of the night and she sees their bodies. She's hounded by detectives to provide information and though she's named someone, she isn't actually sure. She also doesn't believe her sister and with good reason. 

Overall? Decent book. It isn't gripping. I don't know if I'd even call it a thriller because I didn't feel that, "I can't wait to find out who did it" feeling you get with a good thriller. It was a mystery and when we find out what transpired in the church in the middle of the night, I wasn't really shocked? No, I shouldn't say that. I was a little shocked because it came out of the blue. So much so that honestly, it felt like a zinger thrown in for the sake of having this momentous ending but it doesn't work because you never saw it coming because it's a character introduced at the end. Which, I don't know. It just felt like the author wasn't totally sure where he was going to go, but he had to go somewhere and let's give them a jolt at the end for added measure. 

I will say this would make an interesting book club read because there can be a lot of discussion on not just the parent's profession, but how they parented their children. The really cool thing is that the author, John Searles, has a goal to chat with a book club in EVERY state about Help for the Haunted. If your book club signs up to do this, could win a tote bag of books for every member in the group. If you are interested in that, sign your book club up HERE

Monday, July 21, 2014

Copper Falls? Oh you mean the Land of a Lot of Stairs.

While we didn't get to go to Copper Falls on Saturday, we decided Sunday was the day. Even though I was sore from our hike before and my body was still trying to replenish my blood loss from being eaten alive by mosquitoes, I decided to hell with it all- we're going.

But this time we left Twinky home because I'll be damned if I drive over an hour and not see some damn waterfalls.

So off we went. We also took a quick drive through Ashland, Wisconsin and Matt did not let me stop at the local bookstore because he is a fun killer.

But Jackson enthusiastically told me this park looks way better than Pattison because they had an actual playground AND because mom remembered the bug spray this time.
 So we started hiking. It had been years since Matt and I had been here (like ten??) and I remembered it to be a really easy hike. Unfortunately, an easy hike for an active 22 year old is a little different than what an easy hike as a chunky 32 year old would be. Mostly because I really don't remember there being stairs and there actually are a lot.
 I mean, I was wearing shorts and my thighs were sticking together because I was so sweaty. But the kids were kind of loving the waterfalls.
 We took our obligatory one arm shot where Olivia photo bombed us. But right after this my neck was sweaty so I decided the hair had to go up.
 So we walked and walked and then we found a beachy area. The water was actually really warm but I was so sweaty. Like, I cannot explain fully how sweaty I was. It was like I had come out of a pool. I had sweat pooling in my sports bra. I'm not even joking.
 So we kept moving because by this point I was wanted to be done. We were only like 30 minutes in and I basically wish Matt's back would hold out long enough to carry me back to the car. But then we found this cool log that looked like a heart and I made the kids take a picture.
And shortly after that, we found another pretty observation spot. I think the kids were getting sick of me talking about bedrock, granite and lava formations. Maybe I sounded delirious. 

 Even Matt was sweaty. But the best part is that not one of us was bitten by any kind of bug. Take THAT, nature.

 Oh yes. The last part of the trail I kept seeing signs for the wheelchair accessible path. And this was one of them. I'm sorry, but if I was in a wheel chair, there isn't a chance in hell I would go down that path. I'm telling you that that path was overgrown, totally not even in any way and far bumper than the rugged path. It was kind of hilarious.

What was not hilarious was college students talking about how they would be millionaires if they made iPhone charging stations in forests. I think I stared at them for too long and they probably thought I was mentally handicapped but come on- I hate nature too but even I can appreciate the value of looking at trees and shit.
 But we made it through the entire Doughboy Trail (no, really- that's what it's called and aptly so) so we played on the playground.
 And played some more.

As I'm chugging water as if I hadn't had any in days, I see a pack of 5 20something, dirty college kids coming out of the forest with backpacks. As it turns out, they had hiked to the backpack campsite area (way off the Doughboy Trail,  like on a real hike) and had spent 2 days out there. Which got me thinking, I wonder if I could handle that? They had a small tent and camp rolls and nothing but what would fit in their backpacks. I looked at Matt who said he'd give me a dollar if I did that.

A dolla make a girl holla is what I say.

So.. maybe.
But within minutes of getting on the road, this was the scene from the back seat. Matt was driving and I decided I'd do my best to belt out every Bryan Adams song my phone had on it. Which ended up being 36 of them. Poor Matt looked like he hated his life which is too bad because from our house to our first hotel on the South Dakota trip? Almost 13 hours, baby!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Blood donation in Pattison.

So this weekend I decided that in order to get ready for hiking my ass off (hopefully) while in South Dakota, I would "train". And by "train" I mean, make my family hike out into the nearest Wisconsin forest for a long time until I think I might die.

That lasted about one hour and thirty seven minutes.

The original plan was to go to Copper Falls State Park which is almost a little less than two hours away in Mellen, Wisconsin. But time got away from us and we had a birthday party to go to in the evening, well Olivia did, so we decided to just go to Pattison State Park which is maybe 20 minutes from our house. We brought Twinky with thinking he could use the exercise since he's kind of a porker.

Except we got there and dogs can basically only go on one trail and it's not anywhere near the waterfall, so that meant we caught up to some random trail just beyond the camp sites. Which, awkward walking down a road past everyone's campsites? But we found it and off we went. 

And because I am such a stellar parent with poor planning skills when it comes to spur of the moment things, I failed to bring bug spray. But I wrongly assumed we would be fine. Actually, we were fine for about 20 minutes. Then you end up being really into the woods and you would have thought those mosquitoes hadn't been fed in days. We were essentially swarmed but I again, wrongly assumed, that if you just hiked faster they would leave you alone. 

Which is wrong because that makes you sweaty and they apparently like that. 

We made it about 45 minutes before everyone started yelling at me that it was time to turn the fuck around (Matt's words) because we were going to die (Olivia's words) and that all of their blood was pretty much gone (Jackson's words). So we turned around. And yes, it was even worse on the way back because if there was such a thing as mosquito head wind? We were in it.  

Finally, once we reached the end where we were back on the road, I asked the kids to show me their "We hiked and it was awesome!" faces. Clearly, Jackson is smiling but he's also giving me the little kid equivalent to the middle finger, which is a thumbs down. Olivia just stood there and let me know her socks were wet. 

Twinky was the best of the bunch, the one who complained the least. He was happy to be back on grass where he could rub his butt on the grass. (He's started this thing where it's like dog masturbation I think, he just rubs his penis and butt hole on the grass. He's tried doing it on the carpet but I think my yelling discourages it.) (I mean, what do you say when people come over? "Welcome to my home. Don't mind him, he's just pleasuring himself on stained carpet. And Stumpy the cat does want you to aggressively spank him. If you just do it, he'll leave you alone.") 

But the one thing I learned on Saturday's adventure was that I have poorly misjudged my abilities when it comes to all day hiking. Basically, I'm going to try to tough it out but I'm legitimately worried about my stamina. This ol' gal is out of shape and the fact that my thunder thighs have made their triumphant return should have appropriately clued me in. 

God help us all. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Revealing Us

Let's get the weekend started! Are you reading Lisa Renee Jone's Inside Out series with me? If not, you should be. Woo.

Revealing Us (#3) - Lisa Renee Jones
Revealing Us (Inside Out, #3)
The third installment in the sexy Inside Out erotic romance series—in the seductive tradition of Fifty Shades of Grey.

You've discovered Rebecca's secrets. You've discovered Sara's secrets. Now Sara will discover "his" deepest, darkest secrets...but will those secrets bind them together--or tear them apart?

OK, so this one was better than book two. Sara and Chris have gone to Paris where Chris says that's where she will find out his dark secrets. And, I'm going to be honest here, when I found out what his secret was? Total let down. I mean, I expected it to be super awful and traumatic and what it is turns out to be a really tragic accident and ridiculous guilt he places on himself. Seriously. For having two books to build up his "demons", I really expected a lot more. But, nonetheless, at least we have that figured out. I don't think that's it (or at least I hope not), though. 

I will say, Sara is starting to get on my nerves. For as many times as she says she's not going to leave and she can handle whatever he has to reveal to her, she does a fantastically terrible job at not running at every chance. She can't follow directions and I think her life would be a lot easier if she just could do what she's told and stop acting like an asshole all of the time. So overall, this book has made me not like Sara at all. She really needs to pull her shit together in book four to redeem herself. 

Probably the best part of the book was that we find out, a little, what is going on with Ella. The epilogue has set us up for book four. Also what's weird that I don't know if many readers picked up on, but there's a line where it's acknowledged that Rebecca's body was never found. So... what? That story line isn't done?  Is it possible she's not really dead and Ava is just a crazy loon? What in the hell is evening happening here? I'm left feeling confused, but optimistic. I'm going to keep going because you know how I am with a series, once I start, I shall keep going out of principle and all of that. I can't be a quitter. But damn, I really want Sara to come around and stop being an insecure jerk and just trust Chris for once. Like, he had a life before her, obviously he wasn't celibate. Calm down, crazy pants. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

So, not a totally terrible week.

I have SO many things to share with you since I've learned how to get my pictures off of my phone and onto my computer. All by myself, I'm going to just add in here. I want to call Matt and work and show off my skills but I don't think he'd be happy. He mentioned having to climb into machines today so probably wouldn't appreciate me calling for something dumb. Dumb, but totally awesome. So here's what my week has been like: 

The kids have been sucking up as of late. I plan to fully enjoy this since I hate unloading the dishwasher. So I woke up one morning to find this. Don't worry, Daddy doesn't know where they go either and he's a grown up. 

I went to a book signing for Brian Benson. Who, like I've mentioned to probably 317 people this week, is amazing, humble, gracious, and handsome. Seriously. And let me just fan girl it a minute, because Olivia and I? Oh yes, we're mentioned in his Huff Post blog about his bike book tour. I know. It's a big deal and Olivia said she really wishes that I'd carry a recent photo of her because we could have given it to him and her picture could have been featured. But you can read the article HERE. And if you have not ordered his book yet, Going Somewhere: A Bicycle Journey Across America, you need to right now. I'm going to finish it up on my long ass drive to South Dakota next week, but I already told Matt for my birthday I want a bike. He said OK. I'm kind of terrified, but more excited because I really do want to ride across at least two states someday. I may as well get some practice in now. 

I did the Glow Run with my friend Andrea. It ended up being a ton of fun even though we walked it. Gorgeous night in Duluth and we saw the Super Moon after we turned around. Which honestly, wasn't that impressive? I was expecting more, I guess. I did not do the Color Run the next morning. I actually woke up around 4 to get ready but realized I had a migraine and a head cold from hell. No way was I going to rally. So I'm really disappointed because it turned out a lot of people I knew ran it and they all had perfect weather and looked amazing. *sigh* I am signed up for the Color Run in LaCrosse in September, so there's that. It's not a total Color Run bust this year. 

My little brother got married. And even though I knew it was happening, I was just really emotional about it. Thankfully, I kept my tears to a minimum and I didn't embarrass them by having to blow my nose. But it was just a small affair at the courthouse because their lives are BUSY, but it was kind of amazing. Their vows were lovely, the ceremony reading was lovely, and my new sister in law looked beautiful. But she wasn't going to have flowers since this was all kind of last minute, but I couldn't let that happen. So Travis gave me the scoop that she was wearing a purple dress so I called our local florist, Engwalls, who were able to whip up this bridal bouquet literally last minute. And it matched her dress perfectly. But the best part is that I am going to be an auntie and they are having a little girl. Seriously- Wednesday was maybe the best day that I have had in a long time. I'm so excited for them. So you can assume I'm busy planning her baby shower and I really need the distraction, so this is just perfect. 

I got my hair cut and colored. Which, normally not a big deal? But I only get my hair cut maybe twice a  year because honestly, I can't afford it. It's an expense that is the first to go when I'm cutting things from the budget. Everyone else gets a hair cut and I put mine off until it's really just too much of a mess to handle. But my hair is really thick and naturally wavy, so once it gets to the point where I can't get a comb through it, it's time to go. So this was my before picture. 

And after. Well, day after. It takes forever to straighten my hair but I much prefer it to the wavy. But I got highlights and an inch cut off and I promised my hair lady I would be back sometime in October. But this was me on my brother's wedding day so I tried extra hard to make it look nice. 

Well, that was my week. Next week I'm working a bunch before our trip but I have posts set to go for while I'm gone, and of course, I'll be checking in as much as I can. I'll be on email and Facebook as well because sadly, the world keeps trucking along even when I'm on vacation. Which is totally crazy.