Friday, February 28, 2014

Missing- work ethic

I tell you, almost every single day when Matt comes home he looks exhausted. And he really is. Matt works, on average, about 75 hours per week. Nobody can ever say that he has a terrible work ethic or doesn't do his job to provide for our family. He really does and he goes above and far beyond.

Every day though, he comes in looking exhausted and I always ask him how his day went and what did he do. Mostly because he's kind of the everything guy at work. He makes tools, fixes tools, fixes machinery, fixes problems on other people's projects, troubleshoots things, basically does whatever needs to be done. As of late though, he's been really frustrated with some people he works with. The majority of his coworkers sound like pretty decent guys. The age really varies, as do the personalities, but it seems like a pretty common mix of guys that would work in a machine shop.

The largest issue is the lack of work ethic. And by that, I mean guys who just don't show up and don't even bother coming in at all. They make their own schedule and see no issue with that. Then you have people who will not, for anything in the world, work beyond their 40 hours a week. But you can bet they are the first clamoring for a raise and the first to complain about not having enough paycheck to cover bills. Matt says he usually just shakes his head and leaves the break room, which sounds about right because it takes a lot to get Matt to voice his opinion. But I can tell it's wearing on him.

Then I was having a conversation today with a woman who said her husband has been laid off for awhile and just cannot find anything. I told her that if they are really strapped- McDonald's is hiring. She completely scoffed at me and said he's going to hold out for something that pays at least $20 an hour. I had to just walk away from her.

Because it's so much the opposite of how I see things.

I feel like, if you're without a job or you have a job that doesn't pay your bills- you work more. You get a job wherever you can even if it is flipping burgers. Because a job is a job. I don't think it's realistic to expect a job that will hire you at $20 an hour to start. Sure, it'd be nice. I've never even had a job that paid that much in my life. I know of quite a few places that are hiring and sure, it's minimum wage or a little bit higher, but it's at least something. It's so frustrating to hear the argument that you can't make ends meet on minimum wage. I get that, I really do. I don't think it's realistic anymore to be able to live on one income.

It seems to me, the issue isn't that the minimum wage is too low. The issue seems to be a combination of people having no work ethic and being completely lazy and unmotivated coupled with a sense of entitlement. Just because your friends can afford the Coach purse doesn't mean you need one. You cannot afford it. Hell, they probably can't afford it either. They probably bought it on a credit card. I guess maybe that's also my issue with unions as well. I think fundamentally, the idea of a union is a great idea. I'm all for protecting worker's rights and making sure people are in a safe work environment. But people want these really outlandish incomes but they want to check out at 40 hours, no questions asked. I don't really understand that. I was always raised to finish what I started. Which even now, if I'm at work I will work until whatever I started was finished or I got to a good stopping point. I can't even tell you how many hours I've worked for free at all of my jobs because I felt a sense of responsibility to get something done. I'm not saying people should work for free, but in places where I've worked overtime wasn't an option but the job had to get done. I'm not even saying that kind of work ethic should be rewarded, I'm saying it should just be expected. I think employers have a right to expect a high level or work out of the people they are paying.

When people ask me why Matt works so much my answer is always that we have bills to pay and what else would he do? He'd come home and be bored on the couch. I don't need to work necessarily, we could get by without my check, but I work because I enjoy having a place to be every day. I like interacting with new people , I enjoy my coworkers, and I like having the feeling I'm needed somewhere.

So the next time you complain about not having enough money- I encourage you to look at how much you work. Do you work your 40 hours and get the hell out of there? That might be your issue.

I'm hoping the coming weeks will get better for Matt at work. When he's stressed out, it stresses me out, and then the kids get the trickle down of that. I'm also hoping that things turn around for us financially soon so we can at least plan a mini summer vacation with the kids. Just a little road trip a few hours away is all I'm asking for. That's not so much to ask, is it?

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Phlegm for days and I might start hooking.

Lambs, I have not died. It's been forever, but I assure you it's because I have been sick. And by sick I mean, barely functioning. This is the first day in FOUR WEEKS I have been awake past 7 p.m. I now have severe bronchitis and when I say phlegm is coming out of every hole except for my ears, I am not lying. Let's just say if I was pregnant, I would think I had lost my mucus plug.

But enough of that. Let's talk about why I might need to be a hooker and soon.

Remember the super traumatizing story about my dental history from hell? Yes, well it hasn't ended. In fact it's only just begun. About 6-8 weeks ago I noticed that my face, specifically the sinus area that was originally completely closed off and rendered "non-functioning" after a major surgery in 2001, was hurting. Like, a lot. So instead of going to the dentist, I went to the doctor in the hopes that anything they do my health insurance would cover. Because in the first pony show, health insurance didn't pay for the surgery because an oral surgeon did it while cutting the roots off my molar and inserting rods to hold those molars in. So, because I am not rich, I'm trying to go the other route.

The doctor had no clue what to do so put my on a ridiculously strong anti-biotic that gives you the yeast infection from HELL for ten days. And by "from hell" I mean you want to claw your own vagina out. It was horrible. I also got really sick in the middle of all of this so that was not awesome.

But I'm four weeks beyond that visit, have been sick the entire time, and my face hurts. A lot. So I went to the dentist on Tuesday for my regular cleaning, along with Olivia. He does an x-ray and immediately tells me my last molar on the top on that side? Has to come out. The metal rods in my tooth have cracked it. This sucks because it's partner, the far back molar, has been gone since 2008 because of a similar thing. My only option for chewing capability on that side is a fake tooth which is roughly $5,000. Which is not going to happen.

More alarming is that in the x-ray he can tell that the cyst that was in my sinus before? Has made it's triumphant return. He can't tell me how large it is, but there is clearly something there. So now I am being referred back to my oral surgeon to map out a game plan. We did a quick phone chat and they told me to plan on about $15,000 up front.

UP FRONT.

*insert manic laughter here*

Bitches, I don't have $15,000. I currently have $186 in my savings. I have about the same in my checking. The likelihood of me having this at my disposal ever? Slim to none. Even if I got dental coverage through the state on my own, it would not cover this. I can get Care Credit, but it only goes up to $5,000.

So now tomorrow I have to call the doctor and see if I can get that ENT referral immediately and go that route before my face blows up. I also now need to schedule to have that tooth removed which is going to be brutal. It's not like a regular tooth because I have four metal rods holding it into my face. I can't even speak of the pain I experienced the first time around with the other molar, and I am not looking forward to this at all. I'm also not looking forward to having to have sinus surgery, AGAIN. The first go around was horrific. I was in pain for months afterwards. You truly have no idea how crucial your sinuses are until you've had this done. I couldn't eat for weeks, it was straight broth (which is why I'm not a fan of soup anymore). I couldn't drink out of a straw for a YEAR. A full year, folks. I had stitches in my nose, the roof of my mouth and my gum line. I had to lay flat for weeks. It hurt to move but eventually you have to pee so bad (and shower) that you have no choice. I really don't want to do this again. This isn't just a clean out of my sinus, before it was a large mass removed. They had no idea what that mass actually was, but it wasn't cancerous so they never tested further. This time I'll have to have it biopsied again, obviously, so who knows. I'm sure it's not, I'm sure I'm just a freak that grows random things in her body for no good reason.

But that's not all, because it never is. It gets better.

Olivia? My dear Olivia is eight and needs braces. Which we knew. Except I had assumed, foolishly, it'd have to wait until all her permanent teeth came in. Which is true. Except they did an x-ray and lordy lordy, her permanent teeth? Well no wonder no more baby teeth haven't come out. The permanent teeth are so crowded they are going sideways, not down. So her dentist gave us a referral slip for the pediatric orthodontist to see what he advises: do we wait and chance it, or remove four or five baby teeth now, wait for the adult teeth to come in and then do braces right away? Either way, I'm looking at around $700-950 per tooth.

I'll let you do the math.

I'll also need that up front, but don't worry- the consultation is free.

And I can't not do it. I don't want her to have teeth problems as she gets older and I don't want her teeth to get crooked. So somehow, some way, I'll make that happen if they think that's best.

I told Matt to tell his boss to either get dental insurance for employees or build him an on-site apartment because he'll never be able to leave. We'll see what he chooses.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Free

I have lots to catch you up on, and that will have to come tomorrow. Tonight I have a book review for you and I have to sort out college stuff. Because yes, updates on that.

The Free - Willy Vlautin
The Free
Award-winning author Willy Vlautin demonstrates his extraordinary talent for confronting issues facing modern America, illuminated through the lives of three memorable characters who are looking for a way out of their financial, familial, and existential crises, in his heartbreaking and hopeful fourth novel

Leroy Kervin is a 31 year old Iraqi War veteran living with a traumatic brain injury. Unable to dress or feed himself, or cope with his emotions, he has spent the last seven years in a group home. There he spends his days watching old sci-fi movies until he awakens one night with a clear mind and memories of his girlfriend. Realizing what his life has been he decides it would be better to die than to go on living this way. A failed suicide attempt leaves Leroy hospitalized where he retreats further into his mind in order to make sense of his existence.

Freddie McCall is a middle aged father working two jobs. He's lost his wife and kids, and is close to losing his house. He's buried in debt, unable to pay the medical bills from his daughter's childhood illness. As Freddie's situation becomes more desperate he undertakes a risky endeavor he hopes will solve his problems but could possibly end in disaster. Just as Freddie is about to lose it all, he is faced with the possibility of getting his kids back.

Pauline Hawkins takes care of everyone else around her. She cares for her mentally ill father out of a deep sense of obligation. As a nurse at the local hospital, she treats her patients and their families with a familiar warmth and tenderness. When Pauline becomes attached to a young runaway, she learns the difficult lesson that you can't help someone who doesn't help themselves.

The lives of these three characters intersect as they look for meaning in desperate times. Willy Vlautin covers themes ranging from health care to the economic downturn and housing crisis, to the toll war takes on veterans and their families. The Free is an extraordinary portrait of contemporary America and a testament to the resiliency of the human heart.


Let me start by saying I am SUCH a fan of Willy Vlautin. His books aren't ones I would have picked up in a bookstore on my own, but instead I was actually mailed The Motel Life and Northline a few years ago. And it wasn't for review, it was a thank you for reading and reviewing another book not related to him, and someone from the publisher sent me this box of books and these two were in it. Well I read them, LOVED them, and have always kept my eye out for Willy Vlautin since then. 

So it's like fate that this one came around for review, so I jumped on it. 

The thing about Willy's books is that they don't fit the mold. Normally with books I can tell you what happens in sequence and it's a story, there's a start, a climax, and an end. Willy's book aren't necessarily like that. I feel like they are more like diaries of American life- it's the every day story of people with real struggles and there isn't always a conclusion. It's a snap shot of what life is like for them. 

Which is exactly how this book is. It is a snap shot of the lives of three characters that intersect and each character has a totally different struggle in life. You have the woman who takes care of everyone, it's just ingrained in her to help everyone. She tries to help a runaway who ultimately doesn't want help and it's a difficult situation for the woman. We have a military veteran that is disabled and hurting who decides to screw it all and end his life. Except it doesn't work and he's having to figure life out anyways. Then we have the single dad who is financially strapped and on the brink of losing it all. Each one of these scenarios are things you could go to any city in America and find someone who fits this bill. They struggle with the economy, the health care system, the mental health system, every stack is against them. 

Yet they keep going. 

Willy's books essentially read like American documentaries and are just so great. This one is no different. I read this book learning more about different plights and seeing a different perspective on things and I just feel like no matter how bad things are in my life, I'm not in any of these categories. Each character is so wonderfully developed that you feel like you know them. The entire book is based around the questions- what is freedom and are we ever really free? 

I cannot highly recommend this book and his other books enough. If you are looking for seemingly perfect story development, really great writing, and a story that just hits it all the way home, this is it. Your search this year is over, you've found it, and you're welcome. So, so good. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Ignorance really is bliss.

I think I have a few blog posts with this title, but really. Ignorance can be such a blissful thing. So last Thursday I had a doctor's appointment. It was all based around the blinding pain in my sinus, my jacked up ankle, and scary looking freckles.

And I don't think it's a coincidence that this song played on my way there:


Because that appointment? Was pretty god damn sobering, people. Let us recap it together:

1. My face? Yes. That's bad. She kept referring to me as "special" but quickly following that up with, "and you don't want to be special". She must have said that three or four times. Basically, my sinus should be non-functioning. It's there but it doesn't do anything. I had surgery years ago to basically clear out the infection from a broken nose (read it all here). It was a really horrific surgery and an even more horrific recovery. I would burst forth 100 children from my vagina with no medication before I willingly do this again. But alas, it's in pain and that means something is wrong. So it's being treated with a really heavy duty anti-biotic that makes me vomit and feel the worst. If this doesn't work, it's off to an ENT specialist complete with a CAT-scan and the realization that I will likely need surgery.

2. My ankle? Jacked up. She definitely things I have a severe sprain and possibly, just maybe, I have cracked the inside ball of my ankle. But where it is makes it so that I can't really do much about it. Basically ice it, wrap it, and hope for the best.

3. Scary freckles?  Yup, no good. After my mom's skin cancer issues this summer I'm terrified. I now have a referral appointment in June and I just hope nothing changes before then. I don't care what you think, tanning is bad for you. After seeing my mom recover from skin grafts and the aftermath? It's not worth it. Your couple of days/weeks with darker skin isn't worth it. Don't let vanity kill you because that's what you're doing. It amazes me how concerned people are about what they put in their bodies with food but they'll bake their skin away without a second thought.

The most alarming thing from my appointment? My blood pressure. I was at 146/91 and I felt great. Incredibly calm, relaxed, the whole bit. God knows what I'm at when I'm having a bad day. But she sat me down and it hasn't gotten better in six months. She doesn't know that, but I do. My OB told me in June that things were bad and I was 138/86 then.

Normally, people just make some changes and things get better. For me, I live in this constant state knowing full well I'm going to get cancer. It'll be skin, ovarian, or breast at least. Maybe a brain tumor. It's terrible to know I'm a time bomb waiting to happen. I feel like I'm prepared for that although I know that when I get that information I'll be a mess. But to now hear I'm a prime candidate for a heart attack and I'll only be 32 in March??

It's sobering and terrifying.

Because that could happen any time. It could happen in my sleep and I might not ever know.

So after some internet research, the two things I can do are cutting my caffeine and eating better. Every thing on that list otherwise are things I don't do anyways or I have managed. So the caffeine is rough, but do-able. The diet? Oh god. I'm like three days in and I hate it. I hate fruits, I hate vegetables. I hate shakes and smoothies, I'm really struggling. It's not just a matter of if I eat it enough I'll learn to like it. I am having a hard time physically ingesting it. I swear to you it's like a mental thing that makes it really hard to just eat a strawberry. I can't even explain to you what goes through my head but it's awful. I normally joke about it and my friends laugh and think I'm nuts and maybe I am. But unless they can give me a medication that makes me not care what I eat, then I don't know what I'm going to do.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

A Beautiful Wedding

There are times as a book reviewer when you love a book so much and you worry that you can't express that love enough to make people go out and buy the book. At the very least, go to their library and borrow it.

This is not one of those times.

Because there are other times when I am so angry at a book that I throw it, then curse myself for being fooled. AGAIN. Then I get angry again and decide that despite the wrath of the super fans, I've got to to do it.

A Beautiful Wedding - Jamie McGuire
A Beautiful Wedding (Beautiful, #2.5)
You know that Abby Abernathy unexpectedly became Mrs. Maddox. But what do you really know?

Why did Abby pop the question?
What secrets were shared before the ceremony?
Where did they spend their wedding night?
Who else knew about it . . . and didn’t tell?

Everything about Abby and Travis’s elopement was top-secret . . . until now. Fans of Beautiful Disaster and Walking Disaster will get all of their questions answered in this whirlwind tale of the wedding day (and night!)—and as with all good stories, this one will definitely have been worth the wait.


For those who are slow, this is the novella to A Beautiful Disaster, which is one of my favorite books of all time. After she wrote that there was talk she'd do a sequel so it'd be basically Travis's point of view, which she did and that was called Walking Disaster. I bought it because like a moron, I thought that instead of doing that, it would be the story of Travis and Abby's marriage since at the end of book one she proposed to him. 

WRONG. 

It was terrible. I was so angry because my first thought was that it's taking something you were really successful at, got famous for, and recycling it. Hey- instead of coming up with something totally original, let's recycle the exact same story and the fans will rejoice. 

And a lot of them did. People got tattoos of the cover, people are still in love with Travis and Abby. 

But then I was at Target and I saw this gem and I thought- OK. Gut instinct is to leave it be because it's going to be terrible. Except that I couldn't do that because there is something really wrong with me where no matter how bad a series is, I feel guilty and emotionally invested and I have to carry on no matter how much I hate it. Which is what led me to wasting an hour of my life while icing my ankle and reading this book. 

The worst part about this is that Jamie McGuire has essentially made me hate Abby. Don't worry, that collective gasp you hear is the sound of super fans gearing up to let me have it. But I don't hate her without cause. Basically instead of turning Abby's proposal to Travis at the end of A Beautiful Disaster into this romantic thing where she loves him and it's a young in love decision, it because a decision of "I love him, don't want him to go to jail, so I'm getting married impossibly young and without a real desire to be married, but more so I'm not alone while he's in prison". THEN, she doesn't even tell Travis. Instead, she lets him believe that it's just because she's that in love with him. He's impossibly in love with her and for him, there is no other future. But for her, she lets her past over shadow it. And I hate her for it. This book, to me, makes it clear she isn't good enough for him. Because she's starting a marriage out based on lies and deceptions. You know what happens with that? They end up on the Maury Povich Show in a few years. 

And to make it worse, it feels like the author essentially gave up about 3/4 of the way into the book. So, they get married in Vegas, and they come back... fast forward a year and there's a vow renewal. Wait, what? For all of the reasons of getting married so Travis has an alibi and doesn't go to jail, there is almost NO mention of any of that. Wait- there's like a sentence or two saying oh yes, first year was rough and oh yeah, investigators asked some questions, but who cares because there's a vow renewal? No. Never mind that none of the couple's original issues have been resolved: they both have trust issues, he has an anger issue, neither of them are confident in the other person's love for them, and they are both too impulsive to think about consequences. And yes, these are late teen/early 20's baby adults. I get that. But when this kind of book comes out, it makes me almost dislike the first book. I'm forgetting the reason why I loved that book to begin with. In fact, it makes me point out all of the flaws and then I doubt myself. 

I'm going to be honest- I'm so incredibly disgusted by this book that I have half a mind to write to Target and ask they pull this off the damn shelf. I haven't hated a book like this since I read The Story of Edgar Sawtelle and I actually wrote a letter to Oprah herself telling her what an incredibly terrible book club pick it was and what the fuck is wrong with her for loving all of the characters?? They were AWFUL. I am urging Jamie McGuire to seriously, let this series go. It's done, it's over. If you want to maintain your career as a successful author, please for the love of everything great and awesome, get an original idea. 

Until she does that, avoid this book. Avoid it and run for the hills. You'll be forever disappointed and the fact that this author can't help herself but recycling the same fucking story over and over again will make you question sequels forever. Yeah, I'm that jaded at this point. Don't even get me started on the fact that a NOVELLA was a whopping $15.00 suggested retail. Who the hell do you think you are?? Good lord. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Guardian for Hire

Oooh.... another good romance book! I've been on a roll as of late and that's good for me, and for you. I'm such a fan of buying books for my friends to read just as "thinking of you" gifts, and honestly? Any of the books I've been reviewing are so appropriate for that. Sometimes I even get sassy and gift them a cute hand towel and batteries. I don't even have to leave a card- they know who left it for them. HA!

Guardian For Hire - Christine Bell
Guardian For Hire (For Hire, #2)
Psychologist Sarabeth Lucking’s life is turned upside down when the upscale couples’ retreat she works for winds up embroiled in the biggest scandal of the year. With her reputation in tatters, she can’t imagine things getting worse, until her former co-workers are murdered, one by one. A bad-ass, ex-Army Ranger might be able to keep her safe, but something tells her she’s getting more than she bargained for...

Gavin McClintock grew up on the streets of Edinburgh, and protecting prissy Dr. Stick-Up-Her-Rear isn’t high on his list of things to do. Still, a promise is a promise, and he’ll need a clear head if he’s going to keep her off the growing list of victims. He didn’t count on the fire in her, or how distracted he’d be by her. As the flames grow hotter, he starts to wonder if she’s the one who needs protecting.

Will Sarabeth and Gavin outrun a killer and give into the passion burning between them?


I think what upset me most about this one? Is that it's the second in a series! Damn! Where have I been?? Fortunately, you didn't need to read the first one, they are all stand alone. In fact, I didn't even know this was the second in a series until I went looking for the book synopsis on GoodReads to give to you. But I think the fact I have just added everything Christine Bell has written on my "want to read" list tells you how much I liked the book. 

First of all, I love Gavin. I think I have mentioned I have a thing for retired military who are just jacked and need someone to fix them emotionally. Where were all of these men when I was single? Huh? Where were you all? *sigh* Secondly, I loved Sarabeth. Shorten her name, and you can see why. Love. I also totally could be Sarabeth. Like her, I'm very pragmatic and I'll get emotional but I also know when to set it aside and focus on what is happening and concentrate on that. 

So the jist is Sarabeth used to work at a couple's retreat which turned out to be a gigantic scam. She didn't know that until the very end and now people are turning up dead. Enter Gavin, hired by her friends, to essentially keep her safe until they can figure out who is carrying out these murders and why. But in this process, Sarabeth realizes that Gavin is really gorgeous. He realizes she is really gorgeous. Enter sexual tension! But here's what I really love- while in protective custody essentially, she is learning basic skills on self defense and she is learning how his business of security works (because what else do you do??), and while her first instinct is to say no way, she does it anyways. And she discovers that maybe she isn't this fragile person, that she can maybe take care of herself. Which leads to, easily, one of my favorite endings ever of her realizing that Gavin is great and she needs him. So she sets out to be all badass and stealthy and it turns out hilarious and yay because you know it's a good ending. And then the very end? What he does for her? Dammit, if Matt ever was even a third of that romantic? Panties dropped daily. I'm just saying. 

This was also a really quick read for me, and you'll have no problem getting fully into the book where you won't want to put it down. Great characters, good story line, and a great ending. You can't ask for much  more- I totally loved this book. You can add it to your GoodReads list here

Mr. Virile & the Girl Next Door

I am always up for a romance novel, especially when they aren't really long. Bonus if it makes you laugh at parts!

Mr. Virile & the Girl Next Door- Gwen Hayes

Online virile.com dating columnist Dane Martin has no plans to give up his reign as bachelor extraordinaire. He has a reputation to uphold, especially with the upcoming release of his book Coming on Strong.

Holly Winters, everyone’s favorite girl next door, thanks to her blog of the same name, gives advice, but she doesn’t always take it. When she meets Dane Martin, every fiber of her being warns her to turn tail and run. Instead, she risks her future as an authority on relationships, jeopardizing her upcoming self-help book for women struggling to find commitment among the Virile sycophants.

Has the Girl Next Door tamed the most Virile man alive, or is she just another notch on the bedpost?


Can I just come right out and say I loved these characters? I really liked Holly, mostly because I could really identify with her. She's smart, she's pretty but not in a "in your face" kind of way, and she's sarcastic. She also sometimes wrongly assumes the worst in guys. She's very much of the assumption that all guys want is to basically get in your pants and anyone worth your time will not be found in places like bars. Which, is true. I don't care what anyone says, I don't think you are going to meet your soul mate or whatever in a bar. Call me old fashioned, but no. 

Then we have Dane, who we find out was not the beloved jock in high school but rather the really unattractive nerd that nobody can two glances at. He is always on the prowl and doesn't really believe commitment is something he's meant for. 

Enter in a really awkward blind date neither of them knew about until right then. 

Then enter really awkward forced "dating" to drum up publicity for both of their upcoming books. 

Which is really an odd way to start a relationship, but slowly they discover they not only have quite a bit in common but they also enjoy time with one another. She is falling for Dane, but she knows she'd just be a name on the list. Except that Dane is unknowingly falling for her and can't quite reconcile that with what he believes to be true about relationships. 

Overall? I really liked this book. It was a fun read, it was fast, I laughed a few times, and I enjoyed reading to see where their relationship went. The bit about the tornadoes was a bit much for me, considering Holly (in her mind) remembers why she's afraid of tornadoes, but never shares that with Dane. I don't know if that was intentional or if the author let that bit fall to the wayside? It felt like an incomplete section of the book but other than that? Pretty solid little romance novel. I think you'll like it if you aren't into devoting an entire weekend to a book- you can finish this one up easily in an afternoon. You can add it to your Goodreads list here

Thursday, February 6, 2014

At the River's Edge

I am such a Mariah Steward fan and I'm also a fan of her Chesapeake Diaries series, so I'm glad I had the opportunity to read another one!

At the River's Edge - Mariah Stewart
978-0-345-53842-0(1)
After taking stock of her life, Sophie Enright has decided it’s time for a break. Between a law career that’s become criminally dull and a two-timing boyfriend she’s done with once and for all, Sophie desperately needs some time to think and some space to breathe. The perfect place to do both is easygoing St. Dennis, Maryland, where Sophie can visit with her brother while she figures out her options. Once in St. Dennis, she discovers a shuttered restaurant and makes a bold move that is also a leap of faith. Sophie buys the fixer-upper in order to finally pursue her dream career.
But Sophie’s labor of love becomes a bone of contention for her new neighbor Jason Bowers. The local landscaper has big plans for growing his business—until Sophie scoops up the property he’s got his eye on. And no amount of buyout offers or badgering from him will get her to budge. It’s hardly the start of a beautiful friendship. But when they’re paired up to work on a community project, they agree to put their differences aside, and sparks begin to fly. Then Sophie’s cheating ex suddenly shows up, looking for a second chance—and threatening to make Jason a third wheel just when his hotheaded feelings about Sophie were turning decidedly warmhearted. All Sophie wants is a new life and a true love. But what are the odds of having both?
I just love this. I really do love this series, and I love that each book is stand alone so again, you won't have to read all of the previous books in order to get involved in this one. It's just a fun bonus if you did because previous characters make their appearance in here and it's nice to see how they are even after their book. 
The book starts of with Sophie, a successful lawyer, finding her boyfriend having sex with someone other than her in his car. Unfortunate added bonus is that Sophie works with him and backseat fling, which obviously adds an awkward touch to the office. So to get over him she packs up for a week long respite and heads home to St. Dennis, Maryland. Her brother is a lawyer there and once she arrives she's pressured into moving there permanently to help at the family law practice. 
Sophie isn't sure if that's what she wants, what she really wants is to open her own restaurant. So in a hasty move with the help of family friend Violet, Sophie purchases a defunct restaurant that hasn't been opened, or cleaned, in years. Enter adorable hunk Jason. Who also wanted to buy the same property to open and expand his landscaping business. 
Throw in some sexual tension, a sweet love story, and family, and you have a really solid romance story. Nothing over the top, it's your classic romance. The story focuses more on Sophie's attempt at revamping her life so to speak, but then we have her falling in love with Jason and realizing the grass really is a bit greener in St. Dennis. (Did you catch that? I made a cute sentence referencing the landscaping! I'm so clever while on anti-biotics. HA!)
Definitely suggest this one if you are a Mariah Stewart fan or like a solid romance!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Ice Caves- CONQUERED.

Ever since the ill fated trip in a kayak to the sea caves of Bayfield, Wisconsin, I have always thought of maybe hiking out there in the winter. But ever since then, the caves have not been open in the winter. Mostly because it just hasn't been cold enough for a long enough period of time for Lake Superior to freeze over enough to allow traffic on it. And you can see from my pictures in the above linked post that we never got to go into the sea caves. Matt and I, in summary, make a really terrible team who should never, ever kayak together. We couldn't get it together enough to go into them. But they were lovely from the outside.

This year I am determined to be far more active. Which means doing stuff in the winter though I hate the cold, snow, and ice. I also am not equipped for the cold, snow and ice. I now have a winter jacket thanks to a really amazing blog friend, but I do not have snow pants or winter boots that are function over fashion. Their cuteness does not make up for the fact that they do nothing to keep my toes from literally falling off. But this year is the first year since 2009 that the caves have been open. We missed going on a really "warm" weekend when it was hovering around 28 degrees (it was practically spring that day!), but instead, we went the weekend after.

It was 6 degrees when our asses got out of the car. But, we bundled up. And by "bundle up" I mean Matt gave me a pair of his snow pants to put on over my base layer pants and my jeans. To say they were snug is a ridiculous understatement. I have never in my life felt more like a sausage link than I did at that moment.

But we hiked a total of six miles that day. Three out, three in. Here are some highlights:

 Quite possibly, the best picture of us ever.
I like this one because look- we are walking on a frozen lake. For those who have never seen it, Lake Superior is huge. So huge that you could mistake it for the ocean. It really looks like we are living on the ocean here. So this? This is terrifying. I have a fear of ice, and hearing all of the cracking of the ice? There were moments that my pants were at real risk of becoming wet.

We went with our friends Amber, Jeremy and Kennedy. Seeing the three kids climb under, through, and around ice caves was definitely very fun. I'm pretty excited they get opportunities like this.
 Sliding down a huge ice hill that almost looked like a frozen wave when you stood back.

 The caves are so tall in spots, it's kind of amazing to know a lake carved this all out.

Matt even crawled through some of the caves with them because in some, I got paranoid of someone getting hurt or stuck.


I absolutely love this picture of the kids sitting in a weird ice hole.
You can't tell, but Jackson is wielding an ice sword. He said he was an ice pirate and was really disappointed when I told him if he took the icicle home it would just melt in the car.
But what was super cool was that there were some of the neatest icicles I've ever seen. So I took one for the team and got a couple of pictures while laying on my back. Which is a little terrifying because they could fall on your face and all. Thankfully, no blood was shed on our Sunday adventure.
Can I just say how proud of me I was? Because not only did I hike it out there but I did it in the winter. I can count how many things I have done in the winter on one hand. It was pretty big. The kids already said if we can go back next year we should.
This was right when we had decided that we were going to turn around. Which was a good thing because the walk back? Completely brutal. By that time, the temperature had dropped, the wind had picked up significantly so we were walking into the wind the entire time. I now understand the importance of face masks. By the time we got back to the parking lot we all had icicles on our eye lashes, Matt was the only one without a completely red forehead, and I couldn't feel my toes. Matt had all of his winter gear on and I'm really glad I thought to at least grab scarves because that's what the kids and I used to cover as much of our face as we could. 

So that picture above? Is us before we turned around. 

This picture? Is us after the three mile hike back. In which at some point shortly after we started back, I basically fell into a hole. Or rather, my right foot sunk into a hole. It didn't hurt, I was able to walk back without a problem. Fast forward two weeks and that ankle? Is in so much pain I can barely walk at this point. I'm going to the doctor tomorrow for other things so I guess I'll add my bum foot to that list.
And finally, Matt and I before getting into the car. AT this point, my face hurt so bad and his was toast warm since he had his swanky face mask and hat I got him for Christmas. Thank god I thought to grab a hooded sweatshirt before we left home because I'm fairly certain that hood was the only thing keeping me from getting frostbite on my ears.

So that was it. That was out super fun family ice cave adventure. The plan this summer is to take the kids on a boat tour of the Apostle Islands mostly because I want to see them all, but I'll bring them and call it family fun. Actually, this summer is shaping up to be a pretty awesome one for sight seeing, so stay tuned.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

This Dark Road to Mercy

It's not often that I start a book and it literally consumes me. Fortunately for you, this time it did.

This Dark Road to Mercy - Wiley Cash
This Dark Road To Mercy
The critically acclaimed author of the New York Times bestseller A Land More Kind Than Home—hailed as “a powerfully moving debut that reads as if Cormac McCarthy decided to rewrite Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird” (Richmond Times Dispatch)—returns with a resonant novel of love and atonement, blood and vengeance, set in western North Carolina, involving two young sisters, a wayward father, and an enemy determined to see him pay for his sins.
After their mother’s unexpected death, twelve-year-old Easter and her six-year-old sister Ruby are adjusting to life in foster care when their errant father, Wade, suddenly appears. Since Wade signed away his legal rights, the only way he can get his daughters back is to steal them away in the night.
Brady Weller, the girls’ court-appointed guardian, begins looking for Wade, and he quickly turns up unsettling information linking Wade to a recent armored car heist, one with a whopping $14.5 million missing. But Brady Weller isn’t the only one hunting the desperate father. Robert Pruitt, a shady and mercurial man nursing a years-old vendetta, is also determined to find Wade and claim his due.
Narrated by a trio of alternating voices, This Dark Road to Mercy is a story about the indelible power of family and the primal desire to outrun a past that refuses to let go.
First of all, I loved this book. I loved it a whole lot. I think I loved it because I could absolutely identify with Easter. My brother isn't quite Ruby, but kind of close. I've only mentioned it briefly on my blog before because I maybe haven't totally reconciled it myself, but my biological father is kind of a waste. He's an alcoholic and on his better days he was abusive. While the intellectual part of me knows he didn't really want to care for my brother and I, the emotional part of me always kind of hoped that maybe in his drunken fog, there were memories of when he did love us and maybe even wanted us. Granted, our life would have turned out terrible if he were around and I'm thankful my mother had enough balls to get up and leave even if that meant traveling a difficult road. But even still, there is a little girl inside of me who always held hope that her dad actually gave a damn on how she turned out. 
Which is like Easter. Easter and Ruby are the products of a once promising relationship. Their mother, while raising them alone, is depressed, letting loser guys come around, and eventually passes away from a drug overdose. Easter is a pretty calm and level headed kid, used to having to care for her sister Ruby, and so that's what she does. She calmly walks down the road and calls for help. This lands them into a foster home. Until the day Easter sees their father, Wade, watching them on the sidelines of a baseball field. Easter knows her dad is basically a deadbeat. He makes false promises, is always in trouble, and nothing good would come of him being around. Except Ruby is younger and she just thinks it's their ticket out. So one night Wade comes to them and they run with him. Only because Ruby is excited and Easter can't take that away from her. 
Then the story alternates between Brady, their guardian ad-litem who was a cop before essentially ruining his career and his own family dynamic and Pruitt, the man who hates Wade more than anything who is on a mission to kill Wade and exact revenge because as it turns out, Wade stole a bunch of money. While Wade's actions are terrible, his motives are fairly pure- he wants his girls back. He thinks that he can raise them on the run, with stolen money, and no actual plan. Easter figures out what's going on and does her best to play along for Ruby's sake and she's far more mature than her age allows. She doesn't cut Wade any slack, as she shouldn't. 
I have a lot of thoughts about the ending of the book. I was actually kind of sad. I can't tell you why because that basically ruins it. I will also say I kind of disliked Brady at the end and the dick move he pulled. And the final act of kindness from Wade? It might be the beginning of my period, but I kind of loved it and I teared up. It's like he actually does care and it's the best he can do, and he knows Easter would understand. 
Basically, at only 240 pages, you need to read this book. It resonates with me because I can really identify with it and I just really loved it. It makes you really hope that Easter and Ruby have a good life where they end up. You really hope the other characters pull it together for themselves, but we won't ever really know. And I'm OK with that because it wasn't really ever about them, was it? It was about the girls. So often when parents split up, the kids basically get lost in the mix. Not this time. I feel like it was everyone else that got muffled out except the girls. And I really liked that. 
Check out Wiley's website, Facebook and Twitter. This isn't his first book and surely won't be his last. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Two-thirds of the way 30 Day Shred update

Land-ho, lambs! Raise your hand if you thought I would have quit my 30 Day Shred by now? It's OK to do that because if we're being honest, I thought I would have quit by now as well. You know how they say it takes 21 days of something for it to be routine? Well that's only kind of true. I'm in a routine more so I don't publicly shame myself than actually being excited to do it. That's kind of the added bonus to me tracking this via Instagram, Facebook and here. I know I'm clogging up your feeds and you know? I don't really care.

Because sometimes? Sometimes it's not about you. Sometimes people need to be publicly shamed when they get lazy. I am one of those people.

But you don't care about that, do you? You want to know if all of this is even worth anything at all. Well, let's see.

 Remember- this was day one?
 And this was day 14?
 Day 14 of my actual belly because I give zero fucks?
 Well here is day 22. BOOM.
Day 22 of actual belly because even still, zero fucks were given.

One thing that is not shrinking? My ass. Which, I guess I'm alright with. I still wish my stomach would go faster, but I'm happy with the progress I've made. I also wish my thighs would get cracking here. Sure, they've gone down a little, but with the amount of squats and lunges I'm doing? What the hell is happening?

When I started this entire progress I was 187 pounds. Which, is the most I've ever weighed, but I wasn't my largest, if that makes sense. At my largest I was 187 but a size 16. On day one of this I was 187 and a size 12, sometimes 14. Proof right there that your actual weight means nothing. But as of this morning, I am 179 and still a size 12, 14's are too big/baggy.

Am I on a special diet? No. Not at all. In fact, I ate fast food twice this week. I also curbed what I ate the rest of the day so I'm confident I'm well under my 2000 calorie intake. I have been drinking a lot more water. I have given up on the meal replacement and/or protein shakes because they all taste foul and even if I can get it down once, I know it's not something I'd want to do willingly again. So I've just increased my water significantly with the help of liquid water enhancer. Which, LOVE. Seriously. I found a strawberry watermelon one that has no sugar, no fat, no calories and tastes like kool aid. It's so good. Some flavors are terrible, some are alright but not anything I'd buy again, but this strawberry watermelon is lovely. I've now hidden it from Matt because he uses too much and at almost $4 a small bottle, asshole needs to conserve.

This week I'm going to try to eat vegetables and fruit. Which, is kind of a big deal because I am notorious for hating those. Like a lot. So, I'm going to take baby steps. I figure forcing myself to eat those is better than gagging through a protein shake, right??

But can we talk about level 3 of the 30 Day Shred? You know when "badass" Natalie doing the super moves looks like she's going to die, things don't look good for you. Never in my life have I ever done such a rigorous workout so we'll see where I am on day 30. I am worried because during my ice cave adventure (more soon), I sprained my ankle. And yes, I'm working out through a sprained ankle. I've resorted to wrapping it tight so that I don't go down like an elephant. But it's a week out and I'm not sure what is wrong with it but the more I rest/ice it? The worse it hurts.

So, that's not awesome. We'll see how it goes the next eight days.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Snippy snipperdoodles.

I think pretty much everyone who knows me knows that I would have a bunch of kids if I could. I really was the epitome of awesome pregnant lady. I had it easy both times and both my labor and delivery were breezes. Plus we ended up having really awesome kids who are ridiculously adorable and lovable both times. Some say you shouldn't chance your luck, but I saw screw them.

Except I don't say that to Matt because as it turns out, he's one of those people. He really wants to be done with kids. I really don't know if I want to be done with kids. On one hand, we are good parents who love our children and I don't care what Matt says- financially we could handle it. We'd find a way just like we did with these two. On the other hand, I think my mom is done watching kids while I work. I don't blame her. We were incredibly fortunate to have her as our daycare when the kids were smaller. I couldn't have another kid and make them go to daycare when the other two had the luxury of being with grandma all day every day and getting completely spoiled. Plus, I don't want to tie her down here. I think she wants to move away and as much as I would miss her, I absolutely understand it- I would go too. I also no longer have ANY baby stuff. We sold or donated it all and I cried so hard the day I gave our crib away. I can't even tell you how hard I cried and how angry I was that Matt just disregarded the emptiness I felt. I really felt like someone was ripping the option away from me.

But here we are, four years since that traumatic day in the garage, and I still feel like... maybe I'm not done. Maybe I want that third one. I don't feel like our family is truly complete. Matt does, he's very much done. He doesn't want any more. He's concerned about finances, he's concerned about sleep, he's concerned about having a middle child. Which, admittedly, that worries me too. I don't want my love bug Jackson to turn into the proverbial middle child. I know a lot of middle children and 80% of them are hot messes. I don't want me baby Jack to turn into a hot mess. So my plan of attack has always been to lay low and maybe sweet talk Matt into it.

Until yesterday.

Yesterday Matt came home early to make phone calls about getting a vasectomy. And I'll be honest- I was floored. We only kind of talked about it, and it has always ended with me not feeling sure I want to be done. So to say I felt like the wind was knocked out of me was an understatement. So now I'm faced with really coming to the conclusion that I guess we're done. I guess I don't really get a choice. Or, Matt's choice outweighs mine so we go with it. Which... I don't know how I feel. I know I feel sad, and I cry if I think about it for too long, but maybe that gets better with time. I don't know. I guess I'll have to find out.

But what DID cheer me up was listening to his options and watching him be a complete man child about it. Here's what it is:

1. Pay $700 out of pocket, drive a little over two hours to a Planned Parenthood in St. Paul, get a Valium and a local, snip snip, get in the car and come home.

2. Pay $1750 out of pocket, drive 15 minutes to the hospital in Duluth, get a bit more anesthesia but obviously not enough to knock him out, snip snip, drive home.

I don't think I need to tell you that option one would be worth every penny. The shitty thing is that we'll have to pay for all of it out of pocket because YAY, his insurance doesn't cover any of it but it does go towards our $4500 deductible. Frankly, this sounds like something that probably gets done out of vans in Mexico but he doesn't think it's worthwhile to take a vacation to Arizona with a side trip to Mexico. Something about drug runners and organ harvesting. Whatever. Sounds like he's a fun killing man child to me.

Either way, I apparently have to take him. Which is some bullshit because if I can push a child out of my vagina (TWICE) and walk through an entire hospital, drive myself home, and get dinner on the table and laundry done, surely he can drive himself. Baby. I told him the consequence of me going is that I will photograph him high on Valium, getting snipped, and probably make him go to IKEA with a bag of frozen peas in his pants. I mean, his choice.

So we'll see. If we go option one, they make us do a consultation to make sure we understand the ramifications of this and that's what I'm worried about. Because I know I will cry and they will probably feel sorry for me, and he'll get pissed off because I'm crying and tell them to do it anyways. Because that's how it always is when it comes to stuff. Matt isn't equipped on how to handle it when I'm emotionally upset. Not just angry upset, but when I am legitimately sad about something. He just usually walks away and hopes I figure it out on my own. Which I do. Eventually. It's just hard to feel like your feelings don't actually matter.