Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Cinderella Ate My Daughter.

No worries people, put the phone down- there is no need to call CPS. Olivia is just fine, as it Jackson and are two mentally handicapped cats. Matt... well he is currently huffing in dry wall dust I think so the jury is still out on that. It's time for a book review.

Cinderella Ate My Daughter- Peggy Orenstein

The acclaimed author of the groundbreaking bestseller Schoolgirls reveals the dark side of pink and pretty: the rise of the girlie-girl, she warns, is not that innocent.



Sweet and sassy or predatory and hardened, sexualized girlhood influences our daughters from infancy onward, telling them that how a girl looks matters more than who she is. Somewhere between the exhilarating rise of Girl Power in the 1990s and today, the pursuit of physical perfection has been recast as the source of female empowerment. And commercialization has spread the message faster and farther, reaching girls at ever-younger ages. But how dangerous is pink and pretty, anyway? Being a princess is just make-believe; eventually they grow out of it . . . or do they?

In search of answers, Peggy Orenstein visited Disneyland, trolled American Girl Place, and met parents of beauty-pageant preschoolers tricked out like Vegas showgirls. The stakes turn out to be higher than she ever imagined. From premature sexualization to the risk of depression to rising rates of narcissism, the potential negative impact of this new girlie-girl culture is undeniable—yet armed with awareness and recognition, parents can effectively counterbalance its influence in their daughters’ lives.

I have to be 100% percent honest as I start this review- I am not a granola mom. In fact, I am probably the exact opposite of what I consider to be a granola mom. I'm not a helicopter mom, I believe girls can be rough and tumble and boys can be.. less boy. I don't really care what my kids play with as long as it isn't the dreaded Bratz or Monster High dolls because honestly? Have some class. I let my kids dictate what they play through their own interests and I don't really push anything onto them. I'm not freaking out over Red Dye #40 or *gasp* high fructose corn syrup.

The horrors.

I wanted to read this book first off to maybe gain a bit of insight into the mind of a young girl in the current society. I guess I just assumed it was so much different than when I was growing up (I'm only turning 30 in March, so I'm not that old) because everyone laments on and on about how society is different and jesus- look at all of these sexed up and pregnant teenage girls cursing up a storm. Obviously, I don't want any of these things for my own daughter and I have enough brains to know I have to nip it early to prevent that.

So I read the book.

And wanted to throw it against the wall. I am pretty sure Matt feared for his personal safety on more than one occassion (as I usually read while he sleeps because his snoring is out of control). I think the thing that sent me over the edge was beating the dead Disney horse to death. If I have to hear one more time how absolutely horrible the Disney Princesses, (or in fact- any character) are... I may scream. Raise your hand if you at ANY point in your life wanted to be a princess.

OK- that's pretty much everyone.

Now raise your hand if by wanting to play dress up and pretend you were going to a royal ball you feel you have gained an unhealthy expectation that a man should be taking care of you for life because your vagina prevents you from doing so.

Um, anyone?

That's because that is stupid. I don't consider myself a feminist because like it was mentioned in the book- I believe feminists really missed the mark with the whole movement because part of being a woman means you have a certain level of feminity. We can't ignore that to compete with men and still claim to be true to ourselves. That pretty much goes against the grain of the "we are equal" mentality.

But nonetheless.

I let my daughter and hell, even my son, play dress up and princess all of the time. We own pretty much every Disney Princess figure and movie and by golly- I love it. If I didn't think I'd get laughed at outright at my wedding I absolutely would have played "Some Day My Prince Will Come". Just shut your mouth right now, punks. There is nothing wrong with that. I think every girl should want to feel like her partner treats her like a princess... but values her at the same time as someone worthy of respect.

Enter pageants. Oh, don't get me started. I don't care what anyone says about the positives or purpose of a pageant dressing your toddler daughter as a hooker, they are totally wrong and you are giving pedophiles material on a platter. There is something inherently wrong with a parent who thinks it's OK to dress a girl up, put that much makeup on her, put those horrifying fake teeth in, spray tan and hair spray her to death and then tell her that her inner beauty is what is most important.

Right. She's getting that message loud and clear, isn't she?

I personally felt like the book was not to my liking. I disagreed with a lot of things said in the book and I'm so over hearing people say we should let girls do the same things as boys.. but they bring out girl Legos and everyone screams that how DARE they make them pink! If pink Legos made my daughter pick them up and use her brain and analytical skills to build something, then gosh darnit, I'm getting her the pink Legos. At the same time, if my daughter hated Barbies and would rather play with Transformers, whatever. I'll get her the Transformers if it helps her with imaginitive play.

It's our jobs as parents to use some common sense and guide our children as best as we can. Do I think it's reckless parenting to get your daughter a Bratz doll? You bet. Why have the conversation about how it's OK for the doll to dress like a slut but your daughter can't if you don't have to? Olivia asked me once why she can't have those dolls and I flat out tell her because they aren't dressed like classy ladies and that's what you want to be. On the other hand, is it realistic to get her a Barbie who is oddly proportioned? Probably not- but at least Barbie has a wide variety of careers. And honestly? If you are leaving the self image lesson to be taught through her play with a doll versus discussions with you, haven't you kind of failed as a parent anyways?

So overall... I'm on the fence. I appreciate all of the work she put into this book because I'll tell you what- the American Girl Place scares the crap out of me and I probably couldn't handle dealing with pageant moms. I think it also made me evaluate the things that influence my daughter and makes me more mindful to discuss things I perhaps wouldn't have before.

I'd be interested for you to read the book and let's open up a dialogue. How ARE other moms parenting their daughters and how are you really making sure she feels valued and respected not from just you and those around her, but having those things for herself?

As always, check out what other bloggers are saying about the book HERE. Peggy also has a website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Up close and personal... with my hole.

HA! How many sickos got here from a wayward Google search? Plenty, I'm sure.

Those of you who have been paying attention, I have a hole in my living room wall as a resort to my absurd want of some mother fucking baseboards. That was all I wanted, let us be clear. The problem with husbands having under used power tools is that they can sometimes get a little over zealous with them and you know, cut a hole in the wall and talk you into how great it would be to have a random cubby. In the wall. Of your living room.

At this point- we're too far in to go back. My fear is that if we had just covered it up we would have somehow missed the possible greatness of a hole in your living room wall, so we've continued on. Right now all of the walls are patched and ready for paint in the rest of my living room. The hole itself needed a lot of work: plaster and lath ripped out, electrical wires re-routed, a place for a future mini light fixture, new drywall up, and eventually, some carpet. It's a lot of work.

But here's where we talk about Matt. He's super handy. He really is- I don't question his skill or level of ability because even if he doesn't know how to do something, he can not only figure it out but he also has a contractor friend he can call to get some tips and advice. So basically- he is capable of doing most anything around the house. Hell, he was instrumental in putting the addition to the house on (yet.. the laundry sink is a project he continues to stall...) so I have to give credit where it's due. The problem here is that he starts off with all of this motivation and a clear plan... and then it drops off to nothing. I have to then badger him to finish the project when it's in the worst and messiest state of it.

Last week I told him he HAD to start taking plaster and lath down because we aren't leaving this project hanging mid stream like everything else. So he does. But what he failed to do, which I feel is a critical step, is to put some drop cloths down. At least on the furniture. But no. Dust and shit EVERYWHERE.
 I inhaled so much dust I was wheezing like an asthmatic fat kid after gym glass and every time I had to blow my nose or sneeze? Black dust came out. I'm going to go ahead and assume my lungs are compromised.

But Matt didn't care. Instead, his little Antiques Roadshow heart BEAMED when he found not one, but two old things in the wall inside of secret cubby.
 A book from 1927 about house wiring.
 And a book of matches from when phone numbers were only five digits long. Am I the only one concerned that whoever did the wiring did it from a wiring-for-dummies book AND had matches handy?
 After realizing I probably have to have my furniture professionally cleaned because the dust is literally that thick on it, I simmered down long enough to demand Matt start putting drywall up in the hole.
 Which he did.
This is what it looks like when you kneel in the doorway to the cubby area. It's such a bizarre little space? But I don't know. I feel like I'll be able to do something with it. Hopefully.

Tonight Matt is (hopefully) going to start sanding drywall because this weekend? I paint the living room. No more prolonging this. My living room is a fucking DISASTER and part two of why it's a disaster is coming tomorrow.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

KY Intimacy Experiment- The End. LAST chance to enter giveaway!

Here we are... the end of the KY Intimacy Experiment. Take advantage of entering in all of the previous weeks to win your own intimacy kit and see what this experiment can do for you. Entry options for each week!

One: Love Nest
Two: Not Just About Sex
Three: Everything Old Is New Again
Four:  Outside the Comfort Zone
Five: Fun and Games
Six: Getting Back In Touch
Seven: Sometimes A Fantasy
Eight: In Good Taste
Nine: Dangerous Liaisons

Before I leave you to enter as many times as you can to better your chances, let's just talk about Matt and I. I am the first to admit our communication has good days and bad days. After completing each challenge of this experiment, we're much better not just in the bedroom but out as well. I guess I never really thought that the connection you have with your partner in the bedroom has such an impact on your day to day life. One statement in the book that made an impact on both of us was, "Don't let a whole day go by without tending to your relationship.", and how true is that? So simple, but it makes such a huge difference in how both of our days go. Our relationship is already so much more improved than it was a few months ago and it takes work. At least after doing this experiment I feel like we are both on the same page and keep each other in check.

So... let's enter. I'll draw for a winner on TUESDAY, January 31st so make sure you get all of your entries in now!

GIVEAWAY

*You must be a follower via Google Friend Connect (GFC) and make sure you leave your comment with an email address.

Mandatory Entry:

*Comment on this post and answer the following question: what is one thing you'd like to change about your current relationship?

Extra Entries: (leave separate comment on each)

*Tweet this giveaway
*Link to this giveaway on Facebook
*"Like" Couples Place on Facebook
*Blog about my series

Good luck!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Menu Planning for Dummies

One of the things I get teased about the most is how meticulously organized my house is. I am ubber organized in everything I do and I am a firm believer in routine. Matt says I probably would have made a great dictator and I believe this is true.

I also get the "what the fuck is this??" when people come to my house and see the "Menu" header on my bulletin board with the calendar. I then explain how I plan all of our meals, and that dictates what I buy at the grocery store, and it's all organized and awesome. And every single person says "Oh, that's a pain in the ass" or "I can't do that" and I always ask, why not?

Because it's really easy and it saves you a ton of time during the busy week and it saves you money on your grocery bill.

Here's what you need:
*A calendar or a piece of paper
*Cookbooks
*A brain
*Pen/Pencil
*Grocery Advertisement for that week

I usually do this on a Saturday night while watching Dr. Phil reruns. (Don't judge me, asshole.) I plan my meals for a bi-weekly session and get all of those groceries in one trip, which is why I work off of the ad. If you are one of those people who say that you can't commit to eating pork chops on Tuesday because what if you really don't want pork chops on Tuesday? There are two options: 1. Make a list of 14 meals that you are going to buy and have them in stock in your house. Each morning, decide what off of that list you're making, and bam, you're done with that. OR, 2. You can just commit to whatever meal you planned for that calendar day. If it's Tuesday, and it's pork chops and you aren't feeling it... you won't eat as much, will you? Hello, weight loss.

So get your calendar or your list and plan out 14 meals. Check to see what is on sale at your grocery store and use that as your basis. I also look to see what I have going on different days, because if I'm working late or have a lot to do after the kid's come home, it's a Crock Pot meal or something easy like tacos, fajitas, stir fry, etc. As you write down a meal on your calendar/list- have a separate grocery list going and write down the ingredients you need. (Tip: If we are having spaghetti one night, I make sure to have extra sauce that I can re-use to make meatball subs another night. I try to utilize my left overs as much as I can to cut down on my grocery expense.)

Once you get this done, take your grocery list into the pantry/kitchen and see what you already have on hand. If you have something, cross it off your grocery list so you don't buy more than you need. OR, go ahead and buy that so you have something on hand to make your grocery bill less another time.

After I get a finished list, I go online and look for coupons. I try to match up as much as I can before I get to the store. I also look in the ad and if they have noodles or easy side dishes on sale for 10/$10, I make sure to add a few of those to my grocery list because that could help me out later on.

For breakfast meals it's always cereal, waffles, and/or toast. Except on weekends then I usually make pancakes, eggs, cinnamon rolls, etc. So I make sure to get enough to last me two weeks. Lunches for Olivia consist of a sandwich, a side, a treat and juice. My grocery store recently had 4 packs of pudding for $1 so I ended up buying 10 of these because that will last awhile. Lunches on the weekends I try to make them hot meals so I do chicken nuggets, fish sticks, grilled cheese, soup, etc and so I make sure to stock up on these things when they go on sale.

I've gotten it down to a science where I only spend $100 for two weeks of meals for us. I use coupons, take advantage of every sale, and plan. I don't buy junk and extras and I only get what is on my list. I'll be honest, it takes me maybe a full hour to plan my menu, make my list and coupon. But I figure one hour of my time when the kids are in bed to save that much money on my groceries? Worth it.

Then every morning when I get up, I check my calendar to see what's for dinner and I take the meat out to defrost and set what ingredients I can on the counter so everything is ready to go when I get home. It makes my life a thousand times easier too.

Do I cook every night? No. Stuff comes up and we end up grabbing a pizza- but that's OK. I just save that planned meal for my next biweekly schedule and we're good.

So there you go. Do you have questions? Let me know- I'm happy to answer!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Dear Sara: I smell like popcorn and rotten milk.

Hey bitches! It's Dear Sara Friday and this week it's going to be a mix of questions I've accumulated for the last three weeks. Not everything will get answered, but what I don't answer this week I'll finish up next.

I bet you want to know why I smell like popcorn and rotten milk, huh? Well I'll tell you Matt is not attracted to it at all so I may be onto something! But tonight we had a family PJ and movie night at my daughter's school and it was really well attended- double than what I thought it was going to be at least! So we had popcorn so though I didn't eat any, I just realized my clothes reek of it, which is fine. I also collected more milk caps to count (oh, there's a story coming on that.. just hold your britches) and I'm sure Matt is thrilled about it.

And on a side note, I think I need to get back onto my anti-anxiety medication again. I didn't have any panic attacks or anything tonight but I had a really hard time just going up to parents I didn't know. I was able to do it for awhile but as the night wore on I felt it getting more and more difficult. So yet another reason to make a doctor's appointment. Anyways. On with the show!
**
1. What are you listening to right now? My iTunes library is getting boring and I could use some new music. I hate to say it, but I've been really shitty with listening to new artists lately. I know, I have all the time in the world, right? Not right. But I have been listening to the Black Keys (their new album El Camino  is so many shades of wonderful), Manchester Orchestra as usual (I am rediscovering their album Simple Math and really appreciating the lyrics in it). Other bands that have been on repeat are Airborne Toxic Event, Deer Hunter, Snow Patrol (why hasn't anyone told me how great Snow Patrol was? You should be ashamed of yourselves) and I'm not a country music fan per say, but dammit. I love me some Lady Antebellum and their new album is really great.

2. Where did you get your fuckmill? I'm somewhat in the market for one, especially after catching a glimpse of my reflection in a window at work. I was standing next to my pregnant friend and I was the fat one. (not that pregnant people are fat, but you know, they gain weight.) I can't afford much right now and I don't want to spend my entire tax return. After several gym memberships in my lifetime, I feel a fuckmill purchase is the better option. Oh, you mean the one I never use anymore and is currently holding the three bags of clothes I no longer fit into that need to be donated? I actually bought this one and I know I didn't pay that much for it. I had it shipped to store for free and poor Matt had to wrestle it into the house. Seriously- don't buy one of these unless you have a bunch of people to carry it in. But it was easy to put together and it does a decent job. The only thing I would complain about is that the incline? There is no button. You have to actually lift it up on these "legs" so it's not as easy as it sounds and I've never used it.

3. As a former hiring manager at a company, appearance was a big thing with me and as it is with most hiring managers I suspect. Since you have tattoos, would you ever get one that is prominently displayed? Do you think companies are more relaxed about them now with changing times and as people in their twenties are in the workforce? Or do you still think it makes a difference and know that you'd always have to be covered up in a professional setting? I ask because I'm thinking about getting a tattoo and I'm 23, just about ready to get into the workforce. My degree is in marketing/PR, so it's somewhat a "chill" and creative setting at some places. My mom tells me it's tacky. This is a super good question because I have been thinking about getting another tattoo (I only have one) for my 30th birthday. My problem is that I have no idea where to put it since I want it in a place that is easily covered and people wouldn't see it if I wore a strapless/sleeveless dress or whatever. The one I have is on my right outer thigh, so you only see it if I wear shorts or a swimsuit. Here's my thing- I have a lot of friends with visible tattoos and while they are beautiful pieces of art... you might look ridiculous when you're 70. And wrinkly. I also think that girls... (covering my head) kind of look trashy with really visible tattoos sometimes. This isn't 100% of the time, but really- I just don't think it looks feminine. So for me, I like tattoos and what they can represent but I also think about what it'll be like when I'm older. Am I really going to want to get formal family pictures with my grand kids with this big ass thing visible? No, not so much.

4. Confess something. What do we not know about our Lambwhore Leader? I'll even go first- I'm a total fan of British Royalty. Um.. I'm not sure. I would say the majority of people who are outside of my inner circle of friends don't know that I suffer from pretty horrible anxiety and panic attacks. I'm a really outgoing person and friendly to pretty much everyone I meet but I have to mentally work myself into it. Having to call strangers on the phone makes me ill to the point where I will vomit. Put me in a crowded room with strangers and I feel on the verge of passing out. I haven't always been this way but as I get older I find that it gets worse. In order to combat this, I keep trying to put myself in really social situations in an attempt to outsmart my brain? It rarely works, but if I didn't do this I'd be a recluse. Ironically, I thrive when I'm out and about and I don't like sitting at home doing nothing.

5. Why aren't you on Twitter? A few reasons: 1. I don't like birds. I'm not a fan of birds and the fact that Twitter's mascot is a bird, I'm not a fan of Twitter. 2. I don't think anybody gives two shits about what I am doing throughout the day. I see people tweet things like, "I know, right?" and it drives me CRAZY. Mostly because I think, if you have nothing constructive to add to a conversation other than "I know, right", shut up. Just do us a favor and shut up. 3. I get all confused with the hash tags and shit. 4. Who has time to stay up on that? I don't. As of late I'm hardly on Facebook because it's just one more thing to do and I could be doing something more constructive... like micromanaging Matt on the hole in the wall living room project.

6. Does Matt ever get mad about what you blog? No. I always tell him what I'm blogging about and when he isn't busy watching stupid shows on TV he sometimes reads it. (Matt- if you're reading this, you should get off the laptop and start putting drywall up. Kisses!)

7. Would you consider yourself spastic? Um, do you mean like Turret's (is that spelled right??)? Because then I'd say no. I'm more of an undercover smart ass? I'm not that loud and boisterous person calling others out. Instead, I'm more of a laid back person who'll say things quietly to the people around me like, "Are you serious right now? I know she isn't wearing white pants with zebra granny panties because that would be Walmart runway right there". But I definitely say I wasn't a wild or crazy person. Friends- weigh in?

8. You talked about menu planning- how do you do it? I think I should do this to cut down on groceries but I don't know how to get started. Check back this weekend- I'll give you the run down on what I do. It really is easy once you get yourself a system and schedule. I used to do my grocery shopping monthly (it was amazing) but because I work part time now, we don't have that much money on payday to do that, so I do a bi-weekly menu and grocery shopping trip. I will also say I never have to run to the store in the middle of the week, so it's great.

9. Your big 3-0 is coming.. are you doing anything fun? YES! I am! I was going to wait to post more about it when I had all of the details worked out... but yes. I am going to Chicago with my friends Amy, Emily and Tammy and it's going to be great. We'll be going over St. Patrick's Day weekend (so the week after my birthday, but that's ok) because I get to see the river dyed green again! Then we'll do the pizza thing, be tourists, go shopping, maybe eat at a Triple D restaurant and just have a good time with some of my very favorite friends. I wish I could get all of my friends to come, but maybe this summer I'll do another big girls weekend somewhere fun. We'll see. But I am really excited to go to Chicago with my friends and just celebrate my really great life. But on my actual birthday I am hoping to have dinner with my family and eat cake. And maybe console my mom who said she wouldn't feel old until I was 30!

10. You went to Vegas last year (right??), are you going anywhere this year? We are really trying hard to save up to go to Florida to see my family. I think if I use my tax return and save a set amount every payday we'll be able to go. We'll have to drive because we can't afford to fly, but it'll still be fun. So... coming soon?
**

Phew. I need to shower because every time I type I get a whiff of rotten milk. *gag* See you tomorrow for Domestic Bitch Saturday, bitches.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Unintentionally funny, for sale, and obsession. All in that order.

I read to my kids every night. (So sometimes I can use it as punishment because it's their favorite thing and if they are REALLY bad then I tell them story time is in jeopardy. It works like a charm. Mostly.) We have a wide selection of books which is great because I don't find myself repeating the same books over and over again. Well... sometimes I do. But not as often as I imagine other parents do. Tonight Jackson's selection was called The Gym Teacher From the Black Lagoon and I totally got this one for free at the library book sale. What a score.

Anyways.

 Here's the book. Pretty innocent, right?
 Wrong. WRONG. Look at the gym teacher's shirt. Penn State, bitches. Do you see any girls in that picture? No. Um, so yeah. Someone should maybe question the author to see if he's secretly victim #231 or something. But the whole book is about how you shouldn't be afraid of your gym teacher. Let's see if THAT is on the shelf anymore.

Anyways.

I have been busy trying to get my Etsy shop into shape. I put a lot of things in the clearance section and reduced prices. I also have a few Valentine's Day things in there as well. AND... these cute new cards:
 Aren't they cute?? I have a few more projects almost done so hopefully I can add more stuff to my shop soon. You know, in my free time and all.

Every time I get sad or stressed out I like to shop. Even when I can't afford it. Last week I got the books I ordered from the Barnes & Noble bargain section (which if you don't shop in there often, you are stupid and I question our friendship). All of this cost me $24. Hardcovers, baby!
 I will full admit that the bottom three were purchased because their covers looked pretty. I'm superficial in that way, but it has never steered me wrong. I'm kind of excited to start reading these although my list of book reviews in the next three months is fairly hefty. Either way, I'm thrilled.
I also clean and organize like a freak when I'm stressed. At work yesterday I got laughed at because I had to straighten out paper. I couldn't take it anymore. The other day I organized all of the extra food in my pantry area by type, expiration date and color. Matt says he fears for my mental health. To that I say- you'll never grab the wrong pudding cups again.

Tomorrow is Dear Sara and I'll do my best to get a post out tomorrow night.. it'll be later than usual though. My daughter's school is having a family pajama and movie night that the PTO is putting on, and since I'm PTO President.. I'll be there. It'll be a fun night for people and it'll be a lot less work than the Harvest Fest in November, so I'm totally fine with it. BUT, get your questions to me for Dear Sara anyways- sarastrand9438(at)hotmail(dot)com.

Yours, Anonymous

A few months ago I had read a book called 13 Reasons Why and I told you how amazing it was. I am a sucker for books that hook me in immediately with a story line I can relate to. I think everyone likes to read a book you can identify with with just a hint of something extra. So when I was given the opportunity to review this next book, I jumped at it because I felt like it would have the same impact for me.

And I was right.

Your, Anonymous by Peter David Orr
Yours Anonymous is a teen/ young adult drama
When Ashley White, a “geek” to many of his peers, develops a nervous crush on one of Franklin High School's most popular girls, he makes the decision to express his feelings through love letters, cards and poetry... never imagining his words could kill.



YOURS, ANONYMOUS is about good intentions gone wrong. It is a story of how an innocent crush can become "stalking" and "creepy" when the unknown, cliquishness, and envy come together at the wrong time and in lethal proportions.

What makes this book so good, for me, was that you are immediately hooked. It's a short book of only 77 pages so I got this done in about an hour. I really had a hard time putting it down so I could switch over laundry and feed the cats, it was that good.

Raise your hand if you ever had a crush, particularly in high school. Yeah, that would be pretty much all of us who aren't embarrassed to admit it. Now, raise your hand if it was a crush on a "popular" person and you weren't popular? At least half of you are still raising your hands. This story is so easy to relate to because most of you have been there, you like a person but you don't have the confidence to really say anything to them, so maybe you start with little notes. The harsh reality is that kids are cruel and unpopular kids just know to do their best to not give anyone fuel to ridicule them.

Unfortunately for Ashley, he was "discovered" and a couple of mean kids blew it out of proportion. It also highlights that high school kids don't have the natural logic required to really understand what consequences could come with harmless pranks. In this case, Ashley loses his life, much to the upset of Mary Ellen Gerhard. She is a fellow student who has turned her senior project into an investigative look at Ashley's death and the events leading up to it.

Particularly interesting is that the entire story is written as a series of interviews she conducted in her investigation. I don't want to talk about what happens, but I will say that the different personality types of the students completely fit for what you'd expect happens. It's a short read, it's well worth it, and if you are one to read books on bullying- add this to your list.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wish You Were Here

I want to do this book review for you because I want to show that I also read for fun, not just for assigned book reviews! I also like the author a lot AND because I got the book on my Milwaukee trip with my friend Amy!

Wish You Were Here- Jen Lancaster
If You Were Here
Told in the uproariously entertaining voice readers have come to expect from Jen Lancaster, If You Were Here follows Amish-zombie-teen- romance author Mia and her husband Mac (and their pets) through the alternately frustrating, exciting, terrifying-but always funny-process of buying and renovating their first home in the Chicago suburbs that John hughes's movies made famous. Along their harrowing renovation journey, Mia and Mac get caught up in various wars with the homeowners' association, meet some less-than-friendly neighbors, and are joined by a hilarious cast of supporting characters, including a celebutard ex- landlady. As they struggle to adapt to their new surroundings- with Mac taking on the renovations himself- Mia and Mac will discover if their marriage is strong enough to survive months of DIY renovations.


OK. Now all of Jen's previous books had been memoirs, with my hands down favorite being Such a Pretty Fat. I've read every book of hers, but that one is hands down her best. Every book after it has gotten worse (for me) and basically feel as if she's trying too hard. The kicker is that she doesn't need to- she's a naturally funny person, but I feel like maybe she's done what she could with memoirs. So when it was announced she was doing a fiction book... I was thrilled. 


Until I read it. First off, the characters of Mac and Mia are obviously characters of Jen and her husband Fletch. Right away I felt let down that she didn't reach for something completely outside of her norm and try something new. Not the case. 


I thought I could really relate to the story though because it's about new homeowners and the nightmare of home improvement- we all know I've been there and have tales to tell. As I continued my reading I felt more and more disappointing because at a point it just becomes unrealistic and far reaching. I almost closed the book all together when the one contractor comes into the picture because it was just over the top. And the ending? Mike Holmes? Really, Jen? 


So if I had to give this a rating out of 5 stars, I would honestly give it one. It's a harsh rating, but it's deserved but this book was not nearly as entertaining as it could have been. 

Update on Olivia.

So many have emailed me about an update for Olivia, so I thought I would just post them on here so I don't have to email everyone every 15 minutes. Not that I don't love emailing you all, because I do, but I am kind of overwhelmed with life right now.

I have already spoken with her teacher and I am confident that things will be handled on a classroom level. I am going to continue talking with Olivia to monitoring what's really going on. Conferences come up in March so by then I'll know if things have gotten better, stayed the same, or gotten worse.

Today when I came home from a long day at work, on very little sleep, Olivia announces she peed her pants at school. Again. This is easily for fifth time this school year and I'm at a loss. I've taken the "it's OK, accidents happen" route, I've taken the "You need to try potty, even when you don't feel it" route, I've gone the "If you pee your pants- kids will tease you" route, I'm seriously at a damn loss. Originally, she told me her accidents were because she didn't want miss what was happening in class. Completely understandable, but there are plenty of scheduled bathroom times throughout their day that it shouldn't be a problem.

I'm at a loss on how to curb this now. If you have ANY ideas for me, let me know. I need some. I know that she shouldn't be disciplined for an accident but I tell you- my gut reaction is to be angry. And frustrated. I'm so frustrated over it not because this is new but because I've struggled with her bathroom accidents since she was potty training. First it was all of the poop accidents that turned out to be her holding it for so long she lost control. We all remember that, right? So this, to me, is just another phase of this. I don't understand why she has all of these issues. It's frustrating to say the least. *sigh*

In the meantime, I have a whole list of parenting books to read and I'm kind of excited to tackle this and report back to you. If nothing else, this has highlighted even more to me that there isn't enough help out there for parents with school age children. All of these parenting advocacy groups have no fucking clue and quite honestly, I feel outraged that more parents aren't speaking up about this. I understand why a focus is on infant and toddler development- it's the foundation for the child's entire life. I am just surprised with all of the issues of self esteem, bullying, etc that there aren't more resources out there for parents.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Terrible Tuesdays.

I've mentioned before how I don't really like Tuesdays. They are generally a pain in the ass and I'll take a Monday over a Tuesday any time. 

Today was just harder because I'm worried about Olivia, Jackson seemed out of sorts during toddler class, and I have a lot of things running through my head about the PTO at Olivia's school, bills we have coming up, and trying to plan a vacation to see my family. My head is overloaded. 

After working for a few hours this morning, I took Jackson to toddler school. My mom said he was kind of crabby today, but I chalked that up to him being up in the middle of the night because of Olivia. *sigh* When we got there, he was really good during circle time and even cuddled with me, so that was good. He wasn't interested in snack so much but I knew he had a decent lunch shortly before, so no worries. At the end of the parenting session, his teacher tells me he's kind of teary, asking for his doggie, and she thinks he is maybe getting sick. Ugh. So I get him into the van and I was dropping him off at Matt's work so I could go to Olivia's Girl Scout meeting. 

Apparently, after I dropped Jackson off with Matt, he threw up. All over Matt inside of his work. Which... is kind of hilarious? So I get the text while I'm hauling garbage out of the PTO closet at the school and reorganizing. I tell Matt to get him home, pajamas on, and if he has a fever give him something for it. 

Then I go into the Girl Scout meeting and man. Does anyone remember when I toyed with the idea of being the Girl Scout leader? But then I was the PTO Vice President at the time and was thinking I couldn't possibly take on another thing? I haven't taken it on, don't worry, but good god I wish I had. The girls run crazy, some of the older ones are just.... rude? I don't know. Maybe that's what second grade girls are like and I just don't know it yet. But it's disorganized and I feel like they aren't really doing anything? I almost wish I would have signed her up with a huge group instead of this small, made at the last minute group? But we got the flyer information for a Daughter/Dad dance which you KNOW I'm making Matt go to. Olivia is more excited to get a fancy dress and fancy hair. 

After we leave Girl Scouts, I had to run to the store with Olivia to get her classroom snacks for tomorrow since it's her turn to bring them. By the time we got home it was 5pm and I hadn't been home since 7:30 am. I'm informed Jackson is still puking, Olivia starts demanding dinner, and my cats are meowing for love. 

Folks, I'm tired. I am so emotionally exhausted, I am mentally exhausted, and I feel like I have nothing left to give to anyone. 

So it's about time I change that. 

I'm going to have a girls weekend in February with my friend Amy. It won't be all fun and games, I am going to see my friend Jessica who's been at the Mayo Clinic since December. Her spirits seem like they are waning, so I want to see her. It's so weird, she's the friend I've had the longest and though we've been apart for so long, having been reconnected a couple of years ago.. I feel weird that's she isn't here. Is that strange? 

And then the death of a recent coworker has kind of lit a fire under my ass about seeing my family in Florida again. I hate to be morbid but you really don't know when anyone is going to pass away and I don't want to regret not visiting. Sure, I could use the money to fix the giant hole in my living room wall, insulate the foundation of my house or put the god damn laundry sink in. I could. But then if someone got sick or passed away and I didn't visit them, I'd hate knowing I didn't take the opportunity when I could. 

So, I am trying to plan a trip for June. I'm going to be frugal and it'll be tight financially to make it happen, but I want my family to know my kids and vice versa. This also means... (drum roll)... 

my 30/30 list might be done. Unfinished. 

To be continued. :) 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Parenting kind of sucks. And so do other parents.

I have never been one to sugar coat things for anyone, but most especially you. I also am the first person to admit I am basically flying through parenting blind. I felt so prepared and educated when my kids were babies and toddlers, but once they hit school age- bam! You are on your own. Nobody has concrete advice that works, nobody holds classes on what you can do to solve the problems and resolve the issues that get thrown at you. Nothing. Suddenly all of the "experts" are clueless and it makes me feel duped into believing I really do have a support safety net of smart people to fall back on.

Because surely I could use one right about now.

So for my new followers, my darling daughter Olivia is six. She is awesome, cheerful, funny, smart, creative, and wonderful in so many ways. She's also in Kindergarten. She really loves Kindergarten, absolutely adores her teachers (she has two because the class is so large) and for the most part this school year has really enjoyed going every day. She even loves her homework packet every week and believe me when I gave a fist pump to baby jeebus on that because a lot of kids in her class hate the homework packet.

My daughter is also fairly shy in new situations and she is not that kid to just run up to you and say hello. She is respectful, kind, and sensitive. She has a tender heart and honest to god my fear in life is that her spirit would break because she seems like the kind of person who would suffer a crushed spirit easily.

For the past few weeks I have noticed that Olivia is having more pee accidents (at school and at night) and that is my first flag something is up. She seems more anxious, easily upset, and easily defeated. Any time I give her direction or tell her she can't do something, she literally looks like I have crushed all of the joy in her life. And though I know I'm parenting and trying to encourage positive behavior, etc... I feel like shit.

Then last week my mom brought her to school because I had to work and a classmate flat out told Olivia she had "vampire teeth". In front of my mom. My first reaction is, what kind of parent raised their kids to speak like that in front of another adult? Not even just the fact that they blatantly tease another kid, but to do it in front of an adult. Is respect a growing fad? My mom defended Olivia and I really thought that after talking to her about sticking up for herself we'd be OK. We had a talk that night before bed as we always do, but I realized my kid does NOT talk about anything. She just started crying when I asked her if any other kids say or do mean things to her.

I will tell you nothing in your life will make you feel as shitty of a person as that moment right there.

She tells me that there are boys that scream in her face on the playground, there are kids who push her and her friend off of playground equipment, there is one boy who teases her when she doesn't get her "center work" done as fast as him, and sometimes kids don't want to play with her. I basically felt like crying myself, but instead we talked through some things and she seemed to perk up.

The next day as we're getting ready for school, Olivia asks me for a bigger shirt. When I saw the shirt she had on, it fit perfectly, so I asked why she needed a bigger shirt. She then tells me it's because she's fat and you can see her tummy. Folks? My daughter is rail thin. She's tall and lanky. She's so skinny I have a hard time buying clothes for her because everything literally droops off her body. If anything, she needs to fatten up. She's six and only 40 pounds. On a good day. The girl is not fat. So I have to have the "you are not fat, you are beautiful just the way you are" talk with her. It felt inadequate because I know when someone tells me I'm not fat, I usually just say, "thanks" but in my head I'm really saying "moo". (Now, before you ask- I don't talk about my weight, I don't obsess over what I eat, I don't weigh myself, etc in front of my kids. In fact, it's a non-topic in the house.)

So then I take her to school and as we get to the door she grabs my hand and kind of walks behind me. Which... weird because this is new. It turns out, it's the boy who screams in her face on the playground. Then another kid in her class is like, "HEY! You can't go in there!" (meaning the area they have coat hooks- the rule is kids have to stay out until the bell rings). I get permission because I have Jackson and if I don't get in/out of there not only he, but I also will be trampled. So I tell the girl that she can mind her own business and that she needs to respect adults.

Good lord.

Olivia then breaks down into tears begging me to take her home. Obviously, I'm not going to do that because she needs to be in school but really- what do you say? She was hysterical and I couldn't even get her to tell me what was going on. After almost five minutes of reassuring her she was going to have a good day (and hoping this wasn't a blatant lie), she calmed down enough to go to class. I emailed her teacher and I think we have a plan on how to handle this in the classroom.

Since then, though? She is withdrawn. Today her and Jackson were being loud and running around the living room and after not listening to me to stop running, I sent them upstairs to play. Nevermind the fact they think being told to play in their rooms is the end of the world, she looked so sad. If I had beat her senseless- she would have had the same expression, no exaggeration.

At bedtime, she mysteriously changed her pajamas and when Matt asked her why, she just said she wanted new. Well, when I tucked her in I realized she had peed her bed last night. I asked her, and she lied. It's not that she peed the bed- it happens, but it's that she lied to both of us. So I told her she just lost bed time stories for the week. I have nothing else to punish her with really, she just really loves story time. (Especially because we read chapter books and every night is a chapter.)

But god dammit. I don't know what to do. I have a lot of issues here:

1. My kid is being bullied at school. In kindergarten. Wrap your head around that, folks.
2. I feel like I have to do something big for her right now because I feel like we're on that cusp of losing her? Not losing her as in life/death, but I feel like her spirit that I love so much is going away? Does that make sense?
3. I have read books, articles, studies, etc on all of this and none of it makes a damn when it's your own kid.
4. In the back of my mind, I wonder if I am unintentionally harder on Olivia than I am with Jackson because I have such high hopes for her? I feel like my parents had higher expectations for me growing up and sometimes that was hard. I knew I was loved, but sometimes I felt like I wasn't quite meeting the bar? So now I'm worried that I am inadvertently doing the same thing to Olivia. I don't know how to even change that because I don't realize I'm doing it. And that is a tough pill to swallow.
5. I feel a lot of pressure to do the right thing because I am worried I'm going to screw up my kids and they'll end up like those brats on 16 and Pregnant or something.

So there you go. I'm sitting here tonight with all kinds of funny things I could post right now, but this weighs heavy on my heart and my mind. I know I'm a good mom. I know that I try my absolute best. I do everything I can for my kids and yet it doesn't feel enough. Is this really how it is? Forever? Because I know for damn sure that chapter was never in the What To Expect books.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Weekend of Awesome.

So... you maybe noticed I was pretty much MIA over the weekend, right? I know a few of you did because I got a few emails asking were the Dear Sara post was, whatever happened to Domestic Bitch Saturdays, and yeah- where have I been?

I've been out, bitches. Deal.

I do have questions that came in for Dear Sara... I'll just combine them with next week. I had all the intentions of getting a post done for that, but I was on a date with my adorable and lovely friend Emily on Friday night. A few months ago she mentioned to me that one of her favorite musicals, Avenue Q was coming to Duluth and that I absolutely have to go. The bonus is that her husband who is super talented and has better taste in clothing than I do, was going to be in it and so I should double want to go. And then when she said we'd go to dinner before hand it kind of sealed the deal. (And honestly? This could have been the worst musical ever and I would have gone because I am sick of my house with it's dust and milk cap mountain- more on that another day.)

But if you have never seen Avenue Q, I suggest you find it and go. Seriously, you have to go. It's basically Sesame Street for grown up's with really fantastic puppets. Not to mention grossly inappropriate songs you should be offended by, but dammit- it's so true and you can't help but nod your head. And wish it was on your iPod. Songs such as..



Or..


And I have to say- all of the show clips I've seen on YouTube are no where near as good as the performance I saw, so bravo to the actors and actresses on Friday. My other favorite? The Bad Idea Bears. The Bad Idea Bears need to have their own show somewhere. On TV. It could be amazing.

Anyways. It was such a great play and the highlight was seeing the grandma next to Emily laugh hysterically when the puppets started shouting things about pussies and internet porn. That right there? I wish I had on tape. It was that great. I still don't know what was funnier- puppets shouting such things or the woman laughing hysterically and clapping like a hyena for more.

So then yesterday... shit. I don't know what I even did yesterday? Good god. I know I cleaned but you don't really care about that so much I don't think. I've been trying to get some new stuff done for my Etsy shop but Michaels is out of god damn adhesive. They NEVER have adhesive. Start rant: as a craft store, if you see that you are consistently running out of adhesive and know full well that when you have everything on sale, us scrapbookers use our 40% off coupon on adhesive, wouldn't you stock the shit? WOULDN'T YOU? If you were the Duluth Michaels store, you wouldn't because you are lame and stupid. End rant.

But right now, I'm going to clean copious amounts of what I'm sure to be asbestos laden dust particles off of my furniture. Matt started ripping plaster and lath and wouldn't you know, didn't put a drop cloth down. On anything. Don't worry- you'll hear more about that soon.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Winter makes people assholes.

Every year I am astounded how people suddenly forget how to drive, are rude, and generally irresponsible. Today is was cold enough to make boogers freeze and your eyes ache- when I went to warm up my van it was -12. For those of you who don't experience this, that means 12 degrees below zero. It's kind of a horrifying experience and I don't recommend it to anyone.

I realize nobody really enjoys your boogers freezing in your nose, your ears hurting, your eyes throbbing from the cold, but come on. You don't have to be a rude asshole.

This morning I took Olivia to school which involves me loading two kids into the van, driving a few blocks, unloading two kids, walking them into the school, help her get all her winter gear off, then walk Jackson back out, load him up, go to my next spot. It's a really tedious task. When I got her at school and was walking Jackson out of the school, we almost got run over by a minivan with a mom on a cell phone. Even though we were in the crosswalk and looked both ways, she literally whipped around the corner driving way too fast and then gives me the finger. Never mind I almost peed myself and pushed Jackson out of the way.

After I got myself to calm the hell down, I get him into the van all safe, and we proceed to drive home. Then out of nowhere, a car completely runs a stop sign (I didn't have one), and I slammed on my breaks. That car barely stopped in time. I rolled down my window, she rolls her down, and I yell, "Hey! You're in a neighborhood and you just ran a stop sign!" She gives me the finger and tells me you don't have to stop at all of them.

Um, really? Because I'm pretty sure that is a universal road law?

After I dropped Jackson off at my mom's today so I could go to work, I made a quick stop at the gas station to get a soda because I had a migraine coming on and needed some caffeine. While at the gas station, there was a guy taking his time at the coolers and I just waited patiently. He looks at me and is like, "stop rushing me!" Um, whoa. I'm standing here looking at my other options buddy. Once he left, I got my Pepsi and made it to the checkout. My soda was just under $2 and I don't have cash, so I gave the woman my debit card. She rolls her eyes at me and completely huffs at me.

Really? It's not like I'm trying to pay you in pennies- I'm using a debit card, which means little work for her. She has to swipe it, that's it. But she huffs at me. So when she gives it back to me and my transaction is done, I say, "Have a good day!" super cheerful, like I do with every cashier I encounter, and she mutters, "whatever". Really? What is the point of being rude to me? What did I do that warranted that kind of rudeness?

The kicker of just my morning? While walking into work, I'm following a guy, who saw me right behind him (maybe 4 or 5 paces) and he wouldn't even hold the door open for me. Good lord. I always hold the door open if I know someone is behind me. ALWAYS. It's just being a decent person- but this guy couldn't do it. And didn't care that I had my hands full of stuff.

Jerk.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Reader Rally- Mega Giveaway!

Currently Romance at Random is hosting a Reader Rally Mega Giveaway and you can enter to win several books. I am encouraging you to go HERE to check out all of the other blogs to see what books they are giving away as well as your chance to enter the GRAND prize for free books.

I am offering TWO book giveaways here on my blog for you all to try to win. Click on the book title and author name underneath each picture to be directed to the Barnes & Noble product page featuring reviews, overview, and other book information. Both of these books are romances... kind of. They aren't the sweep you off your feet and fall in love romances, but instead have a suspense element to them. Basically, they aren't your typical romance and I encourage you to give them a try.
Rebecca
"Rebecca" by Daphne Du Maurier

and

The Lantern
"The Lantern" by Deborah Lawrenson

Mandatory Entry:
*Must be a follower on this blog via GFC and leave a comment (with your email address so I contact you)

Extra Entries:
*Enter to win the Grand Prize (here) , then come back and leave me a comment saying you did
*Tweet this giveaway (leave comment)
*Facebook this giveaway (leave comment)
*Blog about this giveaway (leave comment and link)

Drawing will close on January 31, winner announced February 1. Good luck!

Monday, January 16, 2012

I probably should be a private investigator.

So do you remember how LAST January I was telling you about my van window being shot out?And how this had become a really unfortunate sick joke every year? And how I suspected it was the punk fucking teenagers across the street?

Yeah, pass the Rock Star Banner to me, because I was right!

So maybe I don't have actual evidence, but I have some information that is kind of awesome!

So for WEEKS I've been telling Matt something happened to the neighbors- they have been M.I.A and I see their car pull up, stay for less than 5 minutes and leave, maybe once every two weeks. Odd. And you know me- I'm kind of a vigilante in my 'hood so I'm freaking curious. Yesterday while Matt was hauling in milk caps (long story, don't ask) he sees the husband/dad/guy and goes over, knowing full well I would have been pissed had he missed this opportunity, and got the scoop.

TURNS OUT, the house is in foreclosure because he lost his job and they can't afford the mortgage, etc. The wife/mom and kids are living in a rental somewhere else in Superior and they need to be out by March. Sad situation all around for sure.

Except for me? Because all of my van windows are intact. *squee* Suck it, neighbors! Every year they lived there, every one's windows would be shot out in January, and the one year they don't live there, no windows shot out? The kicker is the wife/mom is the car insurance agent for pretty much everyone in our neighborhood- which makes me wonder, do they get commission based on claims? Seems a bit strange that it would always happen the first week of January every year.

The other great news is that I won't have to deal with asshole teenagers playing and hanging out in the middle of the street every day, refusing to move. I won't have to deal with four wheelers and snow mobiles going through my yard at all hours of the night, leaving garbage in my yard and being passive aggressive assholes. Sure, it sucks it's foreclosing because my property values go to shits because someone is fiscally irresponsible, but honestly? I hope I get new neighbors soon that are cool. And who knows? Maybe the new people will paint the house to a normal color instead of the obscene blue color it is now.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

KY Intimacy Experiment: Week 9- Dangerous Liaisons

I am going to be wrapping up the KY Intimacy Experiment this week, which means that the giveaway chances are running out. If you are just tuning into this- basically Matt and I are working through the KY Intimacy Experiment and I'm blogging about it. You can check all of the previous posts and comment on each one for added chances to win your OWN experiment kit!

Week One: Love Nest
Week Two: It's Not Just About Sex
Week Three: Everything Old is New Again
Week Four: Outside the Comfort Zone
Week Five: Fun and Games
Week Six: Getting Back In Touch
Week Seven: Sometimes Fantasy
Week Eight: In Good Taste

*****
Basically the summary of this week is that quite frankly.... being with the same person, in any capacity but most importantly sexually, can get boring. Maybe not boring per say, but it becomes routine. Routine isn't always terrible but too much routine can be a problem and in some cases, make a person want to look for something more exciting. Matt and I are lucky in that we haven't gotten to that point and I'd say we were fairly adventurous or at least try to switch things up if it feels like we are in a rut.

This week our daytime exercise was to find an activity that will be "fresh and exciting for both of you". Now, we're broke. Maybe we aren't completely broke, but all of the money we have coming in each month is earmarked for bills, current house projects or kid related things on the horizon, so we can't afford to do any adrenaline junkie activities that I would like to do. Instead, we have been stealing from previous weeks and trying to do more and more together.

For example- how many other couples re-wire electrical outlets together? He maybe wasn't scared but I certainly was. We've been doing our living room project with no fighting- an absolute first for us. I'm kind of proud of us, not even going to lie.

Our night activity was to try to keep the adrenaline going by using whatever you would be comfortable with- handcuffs, restraints, blindfold, etc. I'm not going to tell you what we used... but I will tell you it was a good night. I have to say that as this experiment winds down I can honestly say it's injected a little something extra not just in the bedroom, but with our relationship as a whole.

I will do week ten probably on Tuesday or Wednesday, so hurry up and enter all of the previous weeks to increase your chances of winning!

GIVEAWAY
*You must be a follower via Google Friend Connect (GFC) and make sure you leave your comment with an email address. 

Mandatory Entry:
*Comment on this post and answer the following question: if you could do an "adrenaline pumping activity" with your companion- what would it be? 

Extra Entries: (leave separate comment on each)
*Tweet this giveaway
*Link to this giveaway on Facebook
*"Like" Couples Place on Facebook
*Blog about my series

Good luck!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Dive.

It's time for another book review, I'm back into the swing of things everyone!

The Dive- Peter David Orr
The Dive by Peter David Orr
THE DIVE is a story of a man who goes to the extreme of faking his death in order to start a new life... and the woman who saves him from himself.
   Michael and Maria are flawed, yet redeemable characters who walk a tightrope of events that seem to be ripped from the current headlines.    You will see the world through their eyes as they struggle to find meaning, love and life. Readers uniformly agree on the THE DIVE'S intensely personal realism and overriding sense of authenticity.  
   A strong narrative storyline seamlessly blends elements of intrigue, high tension and romantic suspense.



The first you get from reading this book is that the author is smart. You can tell right from the get go because of the amount of detail that goes into the book. Between the political knowledge, the rich detail of the various settings that make it almost too easy to picture it in your head, to knowing that the author probably did immense research to put this book together. I will say that all of the detail was a little overwhelming in some areas and it doesn't necessarily make it a quick read. 

But I encourage you to keep reading because under all of that detail is a story that people can relate to. You know when life gets a bit overwhelming and you think it would just be nice to start all over? Go somewhere nobody knows you, you have no history, and start all over. This is exactly what Michael toys with in the beginning of the book and how a trip overseas puts this into action after meeting, and falling in love with, Maria. 

Without getting into detail, because it would absolutely ruin it for you, I will tell you that this book is an ambitious read that you'll enjoy. If you are interested in politics, international travel, or starting all over- this book is for you. 

I encourage you to check out Beachfront Press to see all of the books available. Hopefully I'll get a chance to review some more for you, but if you like to support authors, shop here. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Ten. (The one where I get mushy.)

So today is Friday the 13th but it is also the ten year anniversary of Matt and I's first date. Back then, I was fresh off of a break up from my first serious boyfriend and then my regretful rebound. I was working two jobs, full time in college, feeling kind of lost in life, and leery about getting into another relationship.

Matt was single, he had a job, he was going to college, and he worked with my mom at a local hardware store. So I knew who he was, but I didn't really know him.

My mom had been saying for months that I should go out with Matt, he was a nice kid who wasn't... well he wasn't like my first boyfriend. Which, by the way, I was engaged to when I was 17. Probably not the smartest decision, but I eventually got stuff turned around for me.

But Matt asked me out to a movie or something, and so on what I am pretty sure was Sunday, January 13, 2002 he picked me up at my house. We went to the movie rental store and got two movies, Pearl Harbor and The Fast and the Furious. I hated Pearl Harbor and cannot tell you what happened? I do know it was impossibly long. I also know that the house Matt was sharing with two other guys was freezing. To the point where you had to wear your winter jacket inside.

We completely hit it off and things went fairly fast. I knew right away that he was a good guy and that this was going to be long term. We moved into our first apartment in July, we got engaged in October, and were married in 2004, a little over two years after our first date.

Never did I imagine that we'd get married, have babies, make a home, and have such a great life. I'm glad that we've been able to weather the obstacles that have come our way. I'm glad I have such an awesome guy to call my husband.

So here's to our ten years and all that we have in front of us.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Dear Sara: One Hot Minute.

So the Dear Sara series was gone for a hot minute, but we're back and we're back with some... interesting questions. In no particular order:

1. What happened to the book reviews? You probably don't care, but my reading list most is made up of what you tell me I need to read. Your picks haven't been wrong yet, but have you stopped reading? Because I'm low on books. No, I haven't stopped reading. I do have book reviews to get done and some will be posted this weekend. My reading calendar kind of opened up for January so I'm trying to get through as many as I can but so far it's not been good. I have more books lined up for review, I have some giveaways happening, and more. Stay tuned.

2. Are you going to finish the KY Intimacy Experiment? YES! That too will be finished up this weekend, the giveaway drawing will happen next week and then I have a pretty cool promotional thing for you guys as well. So... stay tuned again.

3. What does your husband think of your blog? He reads it when he feels like reading but I always tell him what I'm blogging about, particularly if I am going to mention him. He has always been really supportive and is continually astounded by how great my blogger friends are.

4. Are you weirded out when random strangers email you about stuff? Do you respond to them? Yes, I respond to every email I get, especially if it is a reader. I think a lot of my readers can relate to me because we are pretty similar, so usually I strike up friendships with most of them and that's pretty cool. I get questions from readers who are going through something I've written about but don't necessarily feel comfortable putting it out there for Dear Sara, but I respond and hopefully I give them another point of view to look at? But no, I don't get weirded out.

5. I was wondering what TV shows you regularly watch and what TV shows are guilty pleasures. I personally am a TV junkie and watch a little of everything, including a lot of stuff on TLC--couponing shows, little people shows, shows with a million kids--they amaze and entertain me. So anyways...what do you watch and/or love to hate to watch? I love reality TV. I pretty much cannot stop myself from watching things like Basketball Wives, Baseball Wives, Love & Hip Hop, Mob Wives, Road Rules/Real World Challenges, Sister Wives, Hoarders, Intervention, Storage Wars, Extreme Couponing, etc. I'm kind of a mess. And I always DVR Dr. Phil because though I know most people don't like him, I do. Because I think he's kind of a common sense person and the advice he gives seems pretty fucking logical to me. I can't watch every show of his because I'm sorry, but shows about obese people just make me angry. Because I kind of don't feel bad? And anytime people are crying, switch the channel. That makes me sound terrible, but I have no time for people who just cry over life when they could make it better but instead choose to be lazy? And all of the wife shows? Every time Matt gets irritated by my lecture about proper towel folding and he complains? I put one of those shows on so he can see how good he really has it.

6. How is your 30/30 list coming? And are you really writing a book? My list is in serious trouble. The problem is that I don't think I can finish it all? I'm going to make a damn good effort to get a few more off before my dirty 30 in March, but some things might get rolled onto the 40/40 list. Yes, I am writing two books, though I don't think I'll finish either one before my birthday either. I'm trying, though!

7. I have been with my boyfriend for two years and he's mentioned getting married. It makes me nervous because even though I love him, I don't know if he is "The One". How do you know? I feel like I should just know, but then maybe not? I'm confused and worried about it because I think he's going to ask soon? Confession: I don't know when you know someone is "The One". I always believed in it until I was engaged and about 2 months from my wedding date. I remember telling Lisa, my maid of honor, that I wasn't sure I was making the right decision? Mostly because when you are dating or even engaged you could always leave. If stuff went bad, I could always just move out on my own and be done. Once you're married, and even more so when you have kids, you are kind of stuck? It's not as easy as moving your stuff out and blocking their calls. So I freaked out. Matt and I have been together ten years as of tomorrow (woot), and will be married eight in June and I will tell you know that being married is HARD. I think people give up too easily on marriage because it is very hard to compromise 24/7 every day of your life on things you don't agree on. I think there is a lot of pressure for people to get married but they don't ever talk about how difficult it is to be with someone long term. After awhile you start to get pissed off at dumb things they do, like how they take their socks off, and that just morphs into something bigger. But my advice is that if you trust the person with your life, if you love him unconditionally (and really? That means being OK with his sock removal process), and know that you could work through any problem (sickness, cheating, lying, money problems, etc) then you are OK. Because those three things together will get you through a lot. But I am a HUGE proponent to marriage counseling, even when things are good, and pre-marital financial counseling. You have to be on the same page about money because money can make or break you and I'm not even kidding.
**

OK. That's it for this week lambies! If you have a question for me, send me an email to: sarastrand9438(at)hotmail(dot)com.



Have a fabulous night and check back this weekend! (And someone get me a few more followers so I get off of the "666"- it's freaking me out.)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Cathy is pretty much dead. And should carpet match the curtains?

So.. Cathy is dying.

Don't know who Cathy is? Cathy is my bitch of a computer I've had for eight years. We've had some good times. Matt has repaired her and patched her up a lot, which I've appreciated. Mostly? There have been a few times (three) where he's reloaded my computer and you know- deleted my ENTIRE music library which, back in the day for you younguns', didn't have a backup like iTunes. No. It was all on your hard drive and you just hoped that when your husband said he was backing it up for you on his super duper software and other computer, that he included that.

But you hoped in vain because that asshole deleted your stuff three times.

Don't even get me started on my fonts that I spent MONTHS downloading and selecting for specific projects that he just lost.

*sigh*

But Cathy has turned fickle for me and I'm not happy. I've known for awhile that she's failing in her elderly age and any normal person would start evaluating their options to make a sound decision before she died completely. Except that wouldn't be me because I'm grossly unprepared to make decisions on anything. Do I go with another desktop but smaller, or do I bite the bullet and get a laptop? I don't know. I can't decide. There are so many pros/cons to both and I know that no matter what I'll hate my decision and wish I went the other way. Because I'm pretty much like that- I hate having to be the one to decide. Instead, I'd rather someone else make the decision so I am free to complain about it.

I'm sure Matt appreciates my approach to decision making as well.

So I need to decide because yesterday she just started randomly turning on and off and then making beeping noises. I think that would be the equivalent to a pace maker failing or something. Sad day for Cathy. I just hope Matt can get his shit together and back all of my stuff up before she for real coughs out on me. So in the meantime I'm using Matt's laptop with the broken "i" key. If I need to type anything with an "i" in it, I have to bang that key a lot. Imagine how long this paragraph has taken me.

In other news, we went and briefly looked at carpet last night. And holy balls, Batman- carpet is expensive! Jesus. If I hadn't already peed before we left I would have urinated on myself standing in Home Depot. Anything worth buying is like $2 a square foot. Now, I could go the cheap route and hate my decision (see above paragraphs) because the carpet won't be nice and soft, but I'll be able to eat and you know, pay my bills. But if I get the stuff that is quality, will last for a long time, and I won't feel bad making Matt sleep on when he snores too loud at night, that would be my entire tax return. I think. I'm not even for sure because I didn't have the guts to look up the price of the pad or installation. Matt even said I looked a little flush in the face.

And THEN, we have to switch all of the outlets from two prong thingies to three prong thingies and we have like 5 or 6 outlets in our living room. We basically spent $25 on new outlets, the new outlet box thingies, and covers. I felt robbed. But then when I saw that these toilet thingers that make your toilet not sound like a waterfall through the ceiling were on sale, we got one. Our upstairs toilet is SO LOUD, though Matt thinks I have a hearing problem. I think I'm fine because everyone else can hear it, so he's obviously deaf. Which sucks because if it comes down to carpet versus hearing aides, I'm going with carpet because after finding a used condom under it, that takes priority. Sorry, Matt.

Remember lambwhores, Dear Sara is tomorrow so if you have questions for me- now is your chance to email me- sarastrand9438(at)hotmail(dot)com. Make 'em good.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Dry. Like a desert.

Before I forget, I've been asked... so YES I am bringing back Ask Sara. Submit your questions (about me, for me, life advice, whatever) to sarastrand9438(at)hotmail(dot)com. I put it on the back burner for awhile only because life is busy and you know how it is. But the never fear- I'm hear to solve your problems again. 

YAY. 

Anyways. So one question I've gotten a bunch recently is why I don't drink alcohol. First people are usually shocked that I can be so bitchy, sassy and sarcastic sober. Second, shock usually turns to horror when they realize that yes, you actually can have an insane life sober and without drinking. So let me tell you- yes, I am a non-drinker. Always. (OK, I've had a beer, and I can count on one hand how many drinks I have ever had in my life)

But it's not because I'm usually too broke to drink, but more so because my biological father is an alcoholic. I don't have a relationship with him and basically haven't my entire life, but the effects of his drinking have stayed with me. When I think about my dad I don't have any positive memories of him and that's mostly because he was drunk. And.. not so nice. 

I also have a few of not being in control of my actions. I don't want to have one of those nights where you have to ask people the morning after what it was you did and where your other shoe is. I think about the cost of drinking... and figure I could spend that money on something better. I have no problem being with a group  of friends who are drinking, but if you are going to get sloppy drunk and be over the top where every single person is staring at you or you are on the verge on puking in my vehicle? Deal breaker. I don't judge people who do drink because it's every person's choice. I will be honest when I say I lose a little respect for people, specifically girls, who talk about drinking for fun. There is something kind of sad about people who sit at home to drink. A glass of wine at dinner? Sure. Talking about enjoy a bottle of whatever on the weekend? Sad.

But here's the thing- I like knowing I can have a good time without relying on alcohol. How many people drink to have a good time and end up looking like an asshole? Lots. But the best part is I will never be one of them. I like knowing that I may be outspoken, sarcastic, sometimes bitchy, sometimes funny, but always classy. You will never catch me looking or acting like a hot mess. 

Ultimately? My fear is if I do drink... what if I slip over the line of casual drinking an alcoholism? Have you ever met an alcoholic who knows when they crossed that line? No, because it's a gradual move. I look at my family and all that I have worked so hard for and I don't want my kids to have a parent like my biological father. They deserve so much more and it's my responsibility to give them that. 

So that? Is why this chicklet doesn't drink. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

All I wanted was some baseboards.

I'm a simple gal, really. Scoff all you want, but I like simple things and I just don't really believe in killing yourself for dumb reasons. I don't understand why you see homeowners go into massive amounts of debt for a killer backyard when you can only use it for three months a year (at least around here). Or when you see people re-doing things because their tastes have changed or simply because they think they can afford it.

Int his economy and being realistic on what you could sell your home for, it doesn't make sense to spend a lot of money. And I think people think if they throw down $10,000 on a bathroom that they are always going to see a return on their money. You might.... but assume you won't. That's my theory. Mostly because I don't have the cash to be throwing around.

But we've lived in our house for six years. We've done a lot to the house (added a bedroom and a dining room, gutted and replaced the ghetto bathroom which only highlight was that we had a garden hose for a shower, and made a larger storage closet upstairs utilizing wasted space), but we have a lot more to go. (No, the laundry room hasn't been touched.) But that brings me to this weekend. On Friday night, while watching a marathon of HGTV (which FYI? Needs to come off the air because it makes DIY-talentless people wield hammers and crowbars when they have no business doing such a thing.), that my living room looks like shit. The walls are cracked, full of weird holes, the weirdo putty shoved into a large hole for no reason (it was there when we moved in), the stairs make awful noises, but mostly? I feel like it wouldn't look like shit if we put some baseboards in, patched the walls (since all four walls had a different size baseboard), painted and put some new carpet in. Mostly because the carpet has an unfortunate smell that I just can't fix anymore. And it all started after I realized that brown walls (though I love this brown a LOT), brown furniture, and brown carpet make me feel like I live in a cardboard box. Except an expensive one.

 So see the wall to the left of my TV? You can kind of see the ghetto state of my baseboards.

Now, on Saturday night Matt said that he's happy to help, but that I would have to learn how to do some shit myself because he's not a work horse. (I know, I laughed at that too... it's so sad when dementia hits a person so young.) So I had to learn how to prep a wall for drywall compound or whatever that white stuff is. But guess what? Sanding sucks shit. I got it done though, and he showed me how to apply the white stuff and I have no interest in that.

On Sunday- I went to Home Depot and got us a drywall sanding block because according to HGTV, it's easier to use than sand paper. (Ladies- if your husband hands you sandpaper? Shove it up his ass and get a really snazzy sanding block.) While Matt was skiing, I decided that I was going to sand that drywalll stuff down and take it upon myself to rip up the rest of the baseboards.

Lesson number one is to never let me have a hammer. Or a crow bar. And especially don't let me have the two together because I will make large holes where baseboards should be. After making two fairly large holes that were beyond a "patch job" I decided I should just let Matt do it.

When Matt came home he laughed at me and said was an idiot. I'll take that because I did knock two holes into the wall. When Matt went to look at the wall he discovered a "small room" (his words) and said he was going to the garage. When he came back I was putting laundry away upstairs when I hear a power tool start up. And come down to see this:
Yeah, that would be Matt cutting a giant fucking hole in my living room wall to see what the secret room is about. But lesson number two? When you find unexplainable cracks in your wall like this:
It's maybe because the jackweasel that lived in your house previous put up drywall and only connected it to the wood on the ceiling... not actual supporting vertical beams like you know, a WALL would normally do. We discovered that while making a hideout fit for a troll in our living room.

And you remember that time I bitched the entire summer about our backyard looking like a home remodel nightmare gone bad? And then Matt was awesome and cleaned it? We've regressed.
While Matt was doing that I noticed that we have other holes in other parts of the living room that need more than a patch.
But the secret hideout? Looked like this when we got in there:
Someone handmade this rickety shelf and it was left in there. It's all plaster and lath (suck) with what I am assuming to be asbestos wallpaper (on the back wall) and that curved wall to the right is where the stairs are.
So. We now have a hole in the wall, and we can't make the opening and wider because there is a support beam right along the edge of where Matt cut. We have two options: 1. is to repair the wall like we never opened it up. 2. make the cubby some kind of storage (books and movies?), put trim around the door and have it be a weird thing in our living room. Any ideas on what you would do? Have any of you encountered such a thing? 

Basically, what turned into a maybe $250 job with new baseboards, paint, trim, etc has grown to a bit more of an undertaking. Let's not even talk about the carpet which is grosser than I feared. I discovered while cleaning up sanding mess with the shop vac that the carpet is actually not attached to the floor. And the best part? When lifting up the carpet to clean out what I could, I found a used condom. That wasn't ours. YAY.