Monday, June 30, 2014

Waking Up White

I could really go on and on about race in this country, so I decided to read one book on it. It was... interesting.

Waking Up White - Debby Irving
Waking Up White: And Finding Myself in the Story of Race
Waking Up White is the book Irving wishes someone had handed her decades ago. By sharing her sometimes cringe-worthy struggle to understand racism and racial tensions, she offers a fresh perspective on bias, stereotypes, manners, and tolerance. As Irving unpacks her own long-held beliefs about colorblindness, being a good person, and wanting to help people of color, she reveals how each of these well-intentioned mindsets actually perpetuated her ill-conceived ideas about race. She also explains why and how she's changed the way she talks about racism, works in racially mixed groups, and understands the antiracism movement as a whole. Exercises at the end of each chapter prompt readers to explore their own racialized ideas. Waking Up White's personal narrative is designed to work well as a rapid read, a book group book, or support reading for courses exploring racial and cultural issues.

I'll be honest, I had a really hard time getting into this book. You can tell a LOT of thought and research went into it because clocking in around 250 pages there is a LOT of information. I will say maybe the most disheartening thing is that after spending weeks to get through the book, one of the very first lines in the "Tell Me What To Do" section says, "The bad news is that unless you set yourself up for success, trying to do something helpful can actually perpetuate racism."  So, great. I feel like I have basically wasted two weeks of my life. Thanks. 

I will say that I did find myself pondering issues she brought up in the book after I finished a chapter. I feel like sometimes I am one of a different breed because while I'm big on believing things in your past shape who you are today, I also think you need to get over it. It's not really productive to use something that has happened to you personally as a crutch in the future. And I get that some people just are not able to get past that. But I will say that a little piece of me feels agitated when I watch discussions on race and there will always be an African American person refer to slavery as affecting them personally right now. I really don't think it's a fair argument to say that because something happened to an ancestor of yours way long ago, that you feel personally attacked. To me, that's pretty disrespectful to the people who were treated horrifically as a slave. It's not really fair either. I know that every day since reading the book, I try to analyze my actions toward someone- no matter their race. Am I being judgmental because of their disposition in life? The way they have their pants sagging? Because the woman is dressed provocatively? And I find that I do judge. I do. I think maybe because I've always lived my life knowing that people will judge me based on my appearance so I try really hard to portray that I'm educated, that I respect myself, and that I value what I have to offer to others. 

What I did enjoy about this book is that it doesn't just cover one form of racism. It wasn't covered a lot but there is definitely "reverse racism" whereas African Americans will judge a white person person just as harshly. And it's obviously not limited to these two races, we have a plethora of them in our world and it's just hate all around. I agree that this would make for a really great book group book because there are discussion points throughout and it's interesting to see what other people's take would be. 

Overall? It was... interesting. I didn't find it to be a rapid read because it kind of reads like a PowerPoint presentation you'd get at a diversity seminar for work to enrich your customer service skills. There are great things to take away from the book but I was left feeling like there was no real solution, that anything we do try to do makes us look like we're still just a racist trying to hard to not be one. It also didn't leave me with any hope that things would be better in society someday. That we're just on one big racism wheel and unless you can get everyone every where to recognize what we're doing wrong, it'll be too little, too late. 

BUT. If you are a fan of memoirs and you are interested in the study of diversity and race in the American culture in particular, I highly recommend this. You can learn more about Debby Irving through her website, HERE

Friday, June 27, 2014

Sanctuary

Third book in a series! Let's do this.

Sanctuary - G. Michael Hopf
Sanctuary: A Postapocalyptic Novel (The New World Series, #3)
Surviving the attack proved to be more than they could have imagined…
 
Months after a super-EMP attack devastated the United States, the country is now unrecognizable. Major cities are run by gangs, survivors are dying of starvation and the government is falling victim to lawlessness. Those who were prepared for the end find that they weren’t really prepared at all.
 
While some seek vengeance for their losses, others are determined to restore the nation. Gordon, Samantha, Sebastian, Barone, Connor and Pablo are all on different paths, but they are all in search of a home away from chaos. They are all in search of a sanctuary. 


I'm just going to keep saying it- the scenario these books propose is a totally real one, and it's also absolutely terrifying. I know I'd be one of the first dead because I don't do well with hunting food and I would be that person trying to help everyone else while someone is stealing my wagon of food. So just know that before you think we can be post apocalyptic buddies. 

I've read the other two books in this series and so when I started this one, I didn't know what to expect. At the end of the second one, I found myself really not liking Gordon though I understood why he was the way he was. He has military training, he knows what to do to survive and he sees a larger picture where everyone else is focused on making it through the day alive. I struggled through this book because you can tell the author has military training and experience, which is a good thing, but he talked about things and I was lost. I felt that way in books one and two as well, but this one was maybe a little more confusing for me. 

The entire book is just one game changing thing after another. After awhile it got a bit frustrating because you just want it to end. Just... someone decide who is going to be in charge and then here we go. But no. There's indecisiveness on that, whether the country remains as the United States or if it changes into something different altogether or just half and half. It's a lot of drama. I am not a huge fan of political thrillers but my dad is and I know he'd absolutely love this book. Also anyone who has served in the military would probably love this because they know that this is a potential reality and would better understand the implications of some of the things we read about. 

Then, just when I feel like things are as settled as they can be, it ends with a cliff hanger. We find out about Sebastian (or do we? Do we really believe what Hunter says? Or is this just another plot dot on the story time line??), and it leaves us with Haley thinking about everything that had happened. And then.... when the hell is book four coming out? Because you can't leave us like this. Even though I struggle through these books and I can't get through them as quick as I usually can, I'm invested. I can't  skip the next book, obviously. I'm in, dammit. I'm in. 

(Also? The author should be proud to note that while I won't last long, I did purchase a non-electrical can opener. I can't bring myself to hoard cans of non perishable food, but I'll at least be able to open the the few cans that I have.) 

Check out the author's website HERE, or purchase the book on Amazon HERE

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Sweet Tooth

I'm not kidding you, the only reason I picked this book was because as far as first lines goes? This may be the best ever.

Sweet Tooth - Tim Anderson
Sweet Tooth
What’s a sweets-loving young boy growing up gay in North Carolina in the eighties supposed to think when he’s diagnosed with type 1 diabetes? That God is punishing him, naturally.
This was, after all, when gay-hating Jesse Helms was his senator, AIDS was still the boogeyman, and no one was saying, “It gets better.” And if stealing a copy of a gay porno magazine from the newsagent was a sin, then surely what the men inside were doing to one another was much worse.
Sweet Tooth is Tim Anderson’s uproarious memoir of life after his hormones and blood sugar both went berserk at the age of fifteen. With Morrissey and The Smiths as the soundtrack, Anderson self-deprecatingly recalls love affairs with vests and donuts, first crushes, coming out, and inaugural trips to gay bars. What emerges is the story of a young man trying to build a future that won’t involve crippling loneliness or losing a foot to his disease—and maybe even one that, no matter how unpredictable, can still be pretty sweet.
And I can't start my review without sharing that first line, can I? 
To a boy whose ideal snack was Little Debbie Zebra Cakes, the existence of a disease like diabetes seemed like the dark work of a mean God. 
Tell me, doesn't that make you think- "I'm all in"? I don't know what I'm going to be reading, but I am all the way in, no questions asked. Because if it doesn't, I don't know if we can be friends. I just don't know how we'll overcome this. 
I am a huge David Sedaris fan and I'll tell you right now, I don't put this in the same category of Sedaris. Maybe some day, but not right now. I will say I did enjoy it. I probably would have enjoyed it a lot more if I was diabetic or a gay man, but overall, it wasn't bad. I will say though that all of the dialogue about masturbating as a young man and even some of his adult adventures have left me terrified to experience what will be my son's future teenage years. I have no idea if he'll be gay or not but I can tell you right now that if all boys do these kinds of things I am terrified and I don't want to know. 
I'm also going to maybe insist on him having his own Kleenex or something in his room just to prevent any weird embarrassing situations w here he's asking me for towels and Lysol. I just... I can't. 
Some of my favorite parts of the book is when he talks about living with diabetes and just how unjust that is for a kid and even as you grow into adulthood. Just... I can't even imagine not being able to eat all of the candy in the world. It's not right at all. And even though he goes through puberty and sexual urges as a young, gay man, I can tell you as a totally straight girl, I empathized and I could relate. I remember staring at boys on the bus and feeling funny and then terrified at the same time. I want to run as fast away from them while at the same time try my best to get them to do something. I had forgotten how incredibly awful and awkward that age was until I read this book. 
Then I started worrying about my daughter who isn't far off and DAMMIT, Tim Anderson. DAMMIT. 
The book is funny, it's slightly uncomfortable, it definitely eye opening, and it's something you should absolutely read while on the bus or something and try hard to not break out in tears laughing. Or groaning in sympathy because we have all been there. Good lord, haven't we all. 
Tim does have a website and a blog that you can check out. Otherwise you can get his book off of Amazon now. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Last Day of School. Bring on the sads.

You guys. I'm so behind in updating you on life and the kids, I'm going to try really hard to get totally caught up. So let's start with the last day of school, shall we?

That was actually a week ago now. I felt really bad because usually on the last day of school I have cute little post cards my kids hand out to their classmates with our contact information so we can arrange play dates. That didn't happen this year because I was dealing with the miscarriage, being sick, prepping for face surgery, just a lot on my plate. I usually have this really thoughtful gift for their teachers and this year I got them two books, a gift card and a handmade card. I did write out a really nice note in each of them because we are so lucky to not only be in a really great school but they have great teachers. This year especially, was pretty stressful for me, and their teachers are just really kind people.

I'll post later about Jackson's kindergarten graduation because oh-my-god it was adorable. But this was him on his very last day of kindergarten. He had Mrs. Androsky for 4K and then kindergarten this year and I can't even tell you how much we love her. She is a GREAT teacher and I am so incredibly thankful Jackson had her because she got him to love school. I  never had to fight him to go to school and you can tell she loves those kids like her own. He worked so hard on his sight words and reading because he wanted to show her what he could do and he never wanted to disappoint. Plus she was just a ton of fun, you can tell those kids enjoyed seeing her every day and she just works so hard to bring out the best in the children.
I got to come in and help kids read this year and you just get attached to them. So I was glad I got to pick the kids up from school on their last day so I could see the kids from his class and wish them a good summer. His teacher got a really good opportunity at another school so I'll be bummed to not see her every day, but we're really excited for her. She is a fantastic teacher and this district is so lucky to have her. 

Then my Olivia... good god she has matured this year. She has always been a really hard working, studious kid but this year her teacher really brought out the best in her. We've been lucky to have fantastic teachers every year, and lord knows I loved her first grade teacher a TON, but Mrs. Milroy was amazing. I really appreciate the fact that their school is pretty no nonsense. Kids have responsibility and even though they are so young, it's known that school is their job. Parents go to work, students come here and this is their job. Her teacher helped her excel even more at math this year, really pushed her to go further than some of her classmates. Not only that, but they got to make actual books (like, she's a published author, this kid. I have a hard copy book of her animal report that they spent months working on and researching.), and they covered SO MUCH material this year. Every day she'd come home telling me what they'd learn and she was so into it.  Every day she would rave at the fun activities her teacher planned, learning how to cook things during "snazzy snack", learning about organizations in our community and helping to raise money for the animal shelter, their Flat Stanley project, and hearing about her teacher's children. She absolutely adored her teacher and honestly, I think she'd go home with her if she had the chance! HA!
This teacher got my kid excited to read encyclopedias, maps, and dictionaries. And can I just say that her teacher was really amazing at boosting self esteem? She always encouraged Olivia to push harder, do better, give a little bit more and she always did because she knew she could. On a personal note, her teacher is just the kindest soul- the well wishes during my miscarriage were just the nicest thing ever.

So every time I hear people complain about their kids' teachers, or Common Core, or just school in general- I know I am lucky. My kids are incredibly lucky to be in such a fabulous school. I have never once felt like I couldn't ask for help or guidance, and any time I ever had a question on what they are doing in school, I got a ton of resources. And not just from their teachers, but other teachers. Maybe it's because I take the time to make a personal connection, volunteer, help out wherever I can, maybe it's just that they are really great people. Regardless, it was another fantastic year.
And to fully bring it full circle- here they were on the first day of school this year. I can't even believe how much the grew in one year. 

One year. 

Next year, Olivia will be in third grade. We have instructions to keep working on multiplication over the summer because they start third grade with no review. No more babying these kids- they can do it. Jackson starts first grade and they get going right away on reading. He can read level one and some level two books right now, but we're going to keep practicing. His teacher gave the students some math and language arts work books to practice over summer and he is just whipping through them so I'll have to get him a few more. 

But that's it. Another year in the books. 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Prophecy's Power

I about fell off my chair when I saw the third book of Brenda Dyer's Prophecy series was out because I absolutely loved the first two and I'm a junkie to this series.

Prophecy's Power #3 - Brenda Dyer
Prophecy's Power (Prophecy, #3)
He kidnapped her heart 

For Natalie Tortelli, everything comes down to a hard-won fight. She’s survived an insane mother and a cold, indifferent foster care system. To stand apart from everyone and everything is to trust only in herself—and that suits her fine. But all that changes one night when she happens upon a handsome stranger, murdering another. To make matters worse, the killer takes her captive and claims he’s part of a vampire race that protects humans from demons. Caught in a dangerous world she doesn’t understand, Natalie has no choice but to trust in him. But her pride won’t allow her to fall for the sexy kidnapper. 

She stole his soul 

Soren from the Fourth Clan of vampires loves his life. With an endless supply of demons to fight, and willing women to share his bed, why wouldn’t he? Love is an emotion he cares nothing about. But the foundations of his philosophies are shaken to the core after he has to detain Natalie. She’s unlike any woman—vampire or human—he’s ever come across. When it comes time to let her go, he finds he doesn’t have the heart to release his wild and sexy captive. 

The power of love binds them 

Together, Soren and Natalie attempt to unravel the secrets that haunt her past—which might tie both of them to the vampire prophecy. Though their passionate relationship is more than either had expected, both hesitate to fully entrust themselves to one another. But if they don’t, death may be the only thing that unites them.


You know I don't mince words when I tell you what I think about a book. First of all, loved the book. Second of all, hated Natalie. I did not like her from the word go. I really liked Soren, even from his limited involvement in the previous two books, so I was pretty stinking excited to get "his" story. But dammit, why does he get paired with hard knock, bratty Natalie? Come on! 

Granted, Natalie has had a hard life. She was almost raped as a child, kills a demon, her mother goes insane and she ends up in the foster care system only to be tossed out as soon as she reaches adult hood. I can understand how she ends up a little jaded. I get it. But my problem with folk like her, just like real life folk with the same "I'm going to lash out at the world because life is hard and mean" attitude, is get over it. Seriously. We all have seriously awful things we overcome at some point. What she ends up doing is punishing Soren because she's a brat. 

And it makes me mad because I really like Soren. Dammit. 

Not that Soren is a peach either. He has his own issues but he seems a bit more logical than she is when it comes to figuring out what needs to be done and why. Sure, he kind of rears his arrogant and misogynistic head towards the end but he pulls it together. I only wish Natalie would have pulled it together a little sooner so then we wouldn't have Soren almost dying. Because that right there would have been an unforgivable tragedy and I would have had to hate her for real. 

But the series is moving right along nicely. We now know three of the prophecy's children, all are very different from one and another which makes me wonder where the hell we're going for the rest. And what the hell is up with Ace? I kind of liked Ace and now I'm thinking I need to go back and see what I missed because I don't remember him being such an alcoholic douchebag, but here he is in all his glory- a total douchebag. I'm assuming one of the future books is going to be featuring him but I bet the next one is Sin. I bet the author saves Ace for last because it feels like we're building up to his story and it's going to be a doozy. I'll end by telling you overall? Loved the book. It's right on par with the others and if you've been disappointed in other series going stale over time, you won't find that in this one. They just get better and better, and more complicated. Absolutely love it. 

If you haven't started reading this series, you should. It's really everything that you want out of a paranormal romance series and more. Please visit Brenda's website HERE, or even her Facebook HERE. And though this one JUST came out, I'm already anxious for book four. And I'm sure Brenda wants to enjoy summer and see sunshine, but get cracking. You've got a junkie fan over here on edge. :) 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Hard as Mason

I'll give you some book reviews to read while I'm having surgery and recovering. Aren't I the greatest?

Hard as Mason - Cindy B. Wells
Hard as Mason
Laura Bellamy is a rising star at her San Francisco company. She is smart, beautiful, professional, respected, and driven to succeed. Unfortunately, the greater her success grows, the more her husband’s insecurities are revealed. The couple has been married only three years since busy Laura took a chance on finding love on an internet dating website. 

But once the honeymoon ended, the more she tried to make their marriage succeed, the more Greg’s true colors stained their crumbling relationship. He is jealous, paranoid, and cruel. Adding to their pressure-cooker marriage, he focuses his insecurities into pressuring his wife to start a family and give up the career that makes her happy.

Laura has worked with the same company for longer than she’s known her husband. In that time, not only has she loved her career, she’s also enjoyed her friendship with Mason Paladino. Mason is a fellow executive who is witty, sophisticated, and a bit of a goofball who sports a gorgeous swimmer’s body. For too long, the friends have suspected they share romantic chemistry, but neither will break their vows. If the right conditions present themselves, will they act on their simmering desires? Would it be wrong to deny their love? Can Laura trust her heart to show her the right path after failing miserably with her husband?

When Greg’s insecurities push him over the edge from cruel to criminal, will Laura stay, or end the toxic relationship? And if he catches her with a new man, how far will his anger drive his actions to tear them apart?

Find out what happens to Laura and Mason in book one of the Sultry Tides series by Cindy B. Wells.


So when I started this book, I had to keep reminding myself this is book one in a series. Even at the end of the book, with the cliff hanger ending (of sorts), I was a little perturbed but then again, it's the first in a series so I'm OK with that. Things are going to all get resolutions in a future book and so I'll wait patiently. 

I'm going to be honest, I kind of don't like Laura. I know her marriage is a mess, and I know Mason's marriage is a mess and on the way out as well. I know all of this, but the goodie two shoes part of me is screaming, this is all wrong, wrong, wrong. And I so very much liked Mason. I see Mason as the hopeless romantic, the kind of guy who would be used and abused by women and always have a broken heart. I see Laura as this go getter, fast track career woman, who wouldn't ever be able to focus enough on a partner and start a family. Which is the reason her marriage is a hot mess in the first place. 

I loved the erotic scenes in the book, I loved the romance of dating a person and trying to really woo a girl, I loved Mason's thoughtful gestures. I worry that this will be one of those relationships that start out super hot and heavy and then give it a few months and it's like, they realize this was just rebound and therapy for broken hearts. For their sake, I hope it doesn't go that route. 

What I also enjoyed was the story line with Greg. He's a complete loon. I really liked it because I think this is a really common issue in marriages- people don't really lay out their expectations on what married life is going to be like, what their family planning expectations are, and just being able to handle successes and failures. So many marriages are doomed to fail because these things are never discussed, it's just assumed you'd work it out and that's just never going to be the case. But Greg is a nut job and honestly, I'm kind of worried for Laura. I don't think anything good is going to come of that at all. 

With that said? It's a strong debut. Sure, a few things I'd work on (didn't love some of the descriptors, like refer to a penis as meat, "lady juice", things like that, but admittedly- I'm funny when it comes to things like that, so this could just be me being a nerd.), but overall I was really impressed. I went in thinking it would be so-so, but I had a hard time putting it down and I already want to read the sequel, so I consider that a success! 

The book is available on Amazon!  

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Life via my phone

I'm in the process of taking pictures off my phone and putting them into organized files on my computer. Mostly because between photos and music, my phone is totally full.

Oops.

So let's see what I've got here.

Airborne Toxic Event at First Avenue in Minneapolis. I can't remember when this was. Good lord, my memory is going already. 

I really hate it when people open their doors in drive thru. If your window doesn't work, you need to walk in, this is ridiculous. I do remember this guy dropped his latte because his arm was too short and he started yelling at the person in the window. Like it's her fault you've got a hoopty car window. 

Batman and his shameless self really doesn't need explanation. 

Airborne Toxic Event again. Same venue and everything! They are really great live, so I go whenever I can. 

Oh, this was... last summer? Maybe the summer before? Canal Park in Duluth, being total tourists and sitting the moose chair. 

Jackson diligently practicing writing his name. We have learned if you have him do it on a dry erase board, he'll do it as many times as you want him to. 

Ice cream truck in our new neighborhood, last summer. Seriously, the first drive through this year and they were out of snow cones. Unacceptable. 

For the Halloween dance show this past year, Olivia got to dress up in her costume. Well, she was going to be Ariel and her dress was snug at the bottom so we had to come up with a plan b costume. We came up with Ladybug Girl based off the book, borrowed some wings and antennae and the tulle skirt and it came out adorable. 

Twinky, post hair cut/beauty salon day. He loves it. 

Sunday cuddles in bed. 

Me at the John Mayer concert a few months ago. That was a GREAT show. Philip Phillips opened for him and he was just really great as well. 

We'll do another photo dump soon. This shall keep you busy until I come back from surgery. :) 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Sloth & Surgery

So, right up front- I'm having the surgery tomorrow. I called the doctor and they told me basically they don't care what I do, it's on me. I then called the oral surgeon who didn't seem to care either way but mentioned they'll add another waiver form to my packet that I fill out in the morning, which is a bit alarming.

Part of me wants to wait another four weeks just to ensure nothing crazy is going to happen because with my current run of luck, I'm admittedly more than a little nervous. The other part of me says that I cannot handle the pain in my face another day. I told my friend Shirley yesterday that at this point, my fear is that in another four weeks I'll look like Sloth from the Goonies.



And that's a real concern because sometimes it feels like my face is falling off. The entire side of my face hurts and this morning it was visibly swollen as was the gum near my loser tooth.

The best part is that I've been searching online for more information about having a bone graft done and here's what I've concluded:

  • I will never, ever, EVER get another root canal in my life. I would rather them just pull the damn thing and give me a fake tooth. Seriously. Logically, I know that once you get a root canal you are essentially leaving a dead thing in your mouth and leaving a dead anything in your body doesn't sound like sound medical advice anyways. I just assumed that dentists and oral surgeons knew what they were doing. 
  • As it turns out, I really feel like root canals are a total scam. I think they do this to get you in the door knowing you're going to have issues and will need further work. 
  • Hey- when you pull a tooth out and don't replace it? Your body is all, "Oh, you don't need this bone anymore, let's get rid of it" and systematically like, dissolves it, which is where I'm at now. So if you pull a tooth, I don't care what they tell you- REPLACE IT. 
I am assuming I won't be in the mood for blogging tomorrow but I'll try to post something on Facebook to say hey- I didn't die. If you don't hear from me by Saturday/Sunday, assume the worst? I'm also creeped out that I'll have dead people bone in my mouth. I'm an organ donor so I'm grateful obviously other people are, but this feels different than an organ. Mostly because they took someone's bone out of their body, put it in a Ninja Bullet or something and bone dust will then get shoved into a hole in my face and stitched up, and then we hope my body doesn't say, "oh hell no, get this out NOW" and all heals nicely. 

Just so I can drill a giant hole in it in about 4 months and put what looks like a screw anchor into it. 

Then I get a fancy new tooth that screws in. 

The whole thing is weird and makes me feel like I'm on the fast track to dentures or something. *shudder*

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Hurricane Sisters

I don't even need to read a synopsis of her books anymore, I just know I'm going to love them and I go for it with no questions asked.

The Hurricane Sisters - Dorothea Benton Frank
The Hurricane Sisters: A Novel
Best friends since the first day of classes at The College of Charleston, Ashley Anne Waters and Mary Beth Smythe, now 23 years old, live in Ashley's parents' beach house rent-free. Ashley is a gallery assistant who aspires to become an artist. Mary Beth, a gifted cook from Tennessee, works for a caterer while searching for a good teaching job. Though they both know what they want out of life, their parents barely support their dreams and worry for their precarious finances.

While they don't make much money, the girls do have a million-dollar view that comes with living in that fabulous house on Sullivans Island. Sipping wine on the porch and watching a blood-red sunset, Ashley and Mary Beth hit on a brilliant and lucrative idea. With a new coat of paint, the first floor would be a perfect place for soirees for paying guests. Knowing her parents would be horrified at the idea of common strangers trampling through their home, Ashley won't tell them. Besides, Clayton and Liz Waters have enough problems of their own.

A successful investment banker, Clayton is too often found in his pied-a-terre in Manhattan--which Liz is sure he uses to have an affair. And when will Ashley and her brother, Ivy, a gay man with a very wealthy and very Asian life partner--ever grow up? Then there is Maisie, Liz's mother, the family matriarch who has just turned eighty, who never lets Liz forget that she's not her perfect dead sister, Juliet.

For these Lowcountry women, an emotional hurricane is about to blow through their lives, wreaking havoc that will test them in unexpected ways, ultimately transforming the bonds they share.


First of all, every time I read one of Dorothea's books, I want to book a flight to Charleston. I swear to you- one of these days I'm going to spend a solid week on the beach and just soak it all in. Second of all, I love the cover of this book and I need that umbrella in my life. 

I'll start by telling you how much I absolutely adored this book. I love how it switches character point of view seamlessly. All of the characters are flawed, but you love them anyways. You don't get irritated with them. Even when Liz is critical of Maisie of something, yet Liz is guilty of it with her own daughter. It's just... family nailed down perfectly. The story is really about a family trying to figure out how to be happy together. They all have issues with each other and with themselves, but at the end of the day they are still a family- you have to work it out. 

In this story you'll deal with Ashley, who is an under employed college graduate kind of floundering through life. Ivy, who is the gay son living with his tech savvy partner in San Francisco and his parents are a bit unsure what to think about that. Maisie, 80 something and spry as ever living in sin with her "driver", Skipper and has a llama named after her. Then we have Liz and Clayton, both waffling through life as well and as their marriage hits the skids because Clayton is a bit of a dog, they have to figure out where they go from there. But let's not forget Mary Beth, Ashley's friend. She has issues of her own and while I thought her story line was just going to drop off into nothing, the author rallied and gave her a great ending that totally works. 

I will say that I was pleasantly surprised to see the author take on an issue such as domestic violence, especially with a younger demographic. I think it's really important for young women to take violence and abuse against them seriously. A really great point is brought up in the book: we always look to the women and say, "why don't they just leave" when really the question of "why do we let men behave this way" is what really should be asked. I just think that's so great and if nothing else, it raises awareness to the important issue of domestic violence. It's happening all around us in places we least expect it. But don't be fooled, it may have a serious story line running through it, but this is still going to be a really fun summer read. You will laugh, you will have your heart strings tugged a bit, and you're going to just love this book. You will, I promise. 

Dorothea has a Facebook you can keep up on and a website. Please check those out and see what other books you're missing out on. I've read quite a few and they are all really wonderfully written. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Meds for the ol' ticker and face falling off.

Hi lambs. Well, they say when it rains, it pours and obviously that isn't limited to regular problems, but will also carry over to body problems as well.

After three weeks of trying to get a regular doctor appointment in regards to my blood pressure, I had to actually lie to the really rude appointment desk person to get one. No, scratch that. I lied to her, got to leave a message for my doctor's nurse, and then someone else called me anonymously and told me how to get a same day appointment.

Which sounds like something from the Game of Thrones but I assure you, it is not. It's our modern day health care system. I haven't gone to the doctor in five years and suddenly, this year I'm in someone's office at least once a month. Apparently, 2014 is the year for everything to fall apart on me.

But I had this magical appointment on Thursday. The issue has been my blood pressure. It's consistently been 145/90 for over a year. At every appointment I've gone to I've heard, "Whoa- that's really high. You need to have this looked at." and yet, nobody looks at it. Not my doctor, not the OB, not the Urgent Care doctors, nobody does anything about it other than look at it on my chart and comment how high it is. Apparently, unless it's part of your visit when you scheduled the appointment, it doesn't count as a real problem.

So when I went in on Thursday, my doctor was like, "Well, it is high. It's way too high for a 32 year old. And you've lost weight, so even though you're obese, it still shouldn't be this high." And that's right, I'm obese. Because on top of feeling like my chest is going to explode, my face hurting, and a miscarriage, I also want to hear I'm obese. I'm 5'3 and 181 pounds. I'm not even a contender for The Biggest Loser at this point.

Anyways.

So after much discussion she asks why I haven't been put on high blood pressure medication. I think I stared at her for a full 10 seconds before I said, "I don't know. You're my primary care physician, I should ask you that since I was here not even 3 months ago for a physical." She then goes into back pedal mode saying how you know, they don't rely on one visit to determine that... etc etc. I finally leave there with my prescription in hand and then, her telling me that I should postpone my oral surgery scheduled for the following Thursday as a precaution.

Normally, I would be ecstatic about this except that my face? It hurts. And when I say it hurts? I mean it feels like it's caving in. Everything on that side of my face hurts. Half of my nose hurts, my ear hurts, my eye ball feels sore, not to mention it is now impossible to chew on that side of my mouth. So now I'm in a situation- do I:

A) Be a good patient, reschedule for next month, allowing my new meds a full month to kick in and do their job and suffer through the pain or,

B) Call the oral surgeon, tell him the meds I'm on and see what he says and hope he says let's do it anyways because obviously I shouldn't have this pain any longer?

Then on top of that, I can tell my hormones have leveled themselves out post miscarriage just fine because the headache situation this week has been pretty brutal. I'm really thankful that I purchase ten ice packs when they went on sale because I've been solidly going through them all week and weekend. Ten is great as far as rotation goes. I keep having random periods of cramping and that's annoying all on its own.

Oh yes. And then this week, I also get to go to the dermatologist. My mom's bout of skin cancer last year has freaked me out since I have since learned that skin cancer isn't necessarily a mole, it can look like weird patches of dry skin and oh yes, have those. She had three different types of skin cancer, one of which is genetic and lord knows if it's bad and genetic, it's bound to hit me at some point. It's only taken me a freaking YEAR to get into a dermatologist because apparently, we have a shortage of those around here. So while it's not a convenient week to go and I really can't handle being in yet another doctor office this week, I'm going because god knows when I'll get in again. Then Thursday is maybe my oral surgery, putting me out of commission for Thursday-Sunday I'm sure. I've been reading message boards about dental bone grafting and everyone is saying how it's not an "easy" recover like the pamphlets say and that you will feel like you've been hit in the face with a sledge hammer.

So that should make for a lovely weekend.

Good thing I stocked up on ice cream and have it hidden under bags of frozen vegetables in the basement.

Friday, June 13, 2014

White Dog Fell From Sky

What a super intriguing book. Seriously. Very interesting.

White Dog Fell From Sky - Eleanor Morse
White Dog Fell from the Sky: A Novel
Eleanor Morse’s rich and intimate portrait of Botswana, and of three people whose intertwined lives are at once tragic and remarkable, is an absorbing and deeply moving story.

In apartheid South Africa in 1976, medical student Isaac Muthethe is forced to flee his country after witnessing a friend murdered by white members of the South African Defense Force. He is smuggled into Botswana, where he is hired as a gardener by a young American woman, Alice Mendelssohn, who has abandoned her Ph.D. studies to follow her husband to Africa. When Isaac goes missing and Alice goes searching for him, what she finds will change her life and inextricably bind her to this sunburned, beautiful land.

Like the African terrain that Alice loves, Morse’s novel is alternately austere and lush, spare and lyrical. She is a writer of great and wide-ranging gifts.


First of all, the story taking place in South Africa was really interesting because I hadn't actually read anything in that setting. Which I always like right away because obviously having never been there myself, I really rely on the author to give me a setting- describe to me what I should be seeing in my mind and Eleanor Morse does a fantastic job of this without giving you too much. The story of Isaac, who sees his friend murdered, is pretty amazing. I mean, I don't know what Africa was like in the 70's, but I think about what it is like now from what I see on the news and to travel to another area and essentially be dumped somewhere has got to be terrifying. 

Enter a really great dog which is the first thing he sees in his new setting and enter Alice, a young American who ultimately saves Isaac. It's just a really intriguing novel and although some of the cruelty that we read about is a bit harsh and a little hard to take it- it's reality for so many. It makes you think about us as human beings, how are we able to inflict that kind of pain onto other humans and just not walk away damaged. I know that if I did any of the acts described in the book, myself as a person would be damaged. I couldn't ever stomach that yet so many people are essentially raised with the mindset of that being completely normal. It's really a fascinating look at human nature. 

My only complaint about the book was that a lot of focus was put onto Alice and her failing marriage and it really feels like it needs to be more of Isaac's story. It's like this could have gone in a different direction almost and I wonder what that would have been like. Either way, it was a solid book. It wasn't overwhelmingly great and it wasn't awful. It's a decent, solid book. 

If you're looking for things to fill up your summer reading list, pick it up and let me know what you think! 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

A whole stinking DECADE!

You guys, today? Today is kind of a big deal. It's a milestone that for awhile there, I didn't think we were going to get to but by god, we did.

As of 2 p.m. this afternoon, we will officially have been married for a whole ten years.

 And we're still as cute as we were all the way,
back then. I mean, look how stinking young we looked. Sometimes I look back at these pictures and just think how much we didn't know. There was so much heading our way that most couples would have tossed the towel in and gave up. And lots did. Of all of the people we know who got married the same year we did, only one couple remains other than us. Out of a lot.
We certainly haven't had it easy and we totally had no idea what we were doing. Honestly, it feels like old hat to us now but things are bound to come our way again and we'll have to figure out a new way to be. I'm sure of it.
Had someone told me on my wedding day how incredibly difficult it is to be married and how hard you'd have to work every day for it, I would have called them a liar. It was so free and easy when we started but man- life is hard. Life is hard all on your own, and it's harder when you have a partner because you have to keep growing, but try to grow at the same speed as them so you're always a cohesive team. Nobody can sprint ahead of the other. When one lags, you've got to give up what you're doing and help them out.
That's before you even add kids to the mix. It is exponentially harder once you do that. Nothing is ever easy with kids and man, I could have not picked a better dad than Matt. I really couldn't. He is tremendous. Sure, he gets cranky and he's usually always grouchy, but he's the guy that deals with unpleasant things like bodily fluids, broken toys, and outdoor experiences.

Here are some fun things we've dealt with in our first ten years of marriage:

  • Buying our first house! Man, it was a total dump when we bought it but we were really sad to leave it. 
  • Despite the fact we tackled a lot of home improvement projects from hell. 
  • We had a baby! Baby Olivia gave us our first really tough year. Who knew babies were so stressful?
  • I had post-partum depression and it was awful. Matt was really great and honestly, without him I maybe wouldn't have made it. 
  • He lost his job, we struggle with depression, we have marital issues, we enter marriage counseling. And cry a whole bunch. 
  • We're super broke but having another baby!
  • We have Baby Jackson and all feels right in the world. He's even cute so that's an added bonus. 
  • No choice but bankruptcy. Dark year in the Strand house. 
  • We have pets that are all mentally deficient. Matt volunteers to assist our poor cat in heat. Does not hit her g-spot and it became a really awful few months with lots of cat moaning. 
  • Matt gets fabulous new job. We hardly see him, but he loves it and that's worth the world. 
  • I quit my job. Last two weeks as a stay at home mom and get new job. 
  • Kids start school, we are grossly overwhelmed. 
  • Matt and I learn how to give enemas and do poop flush outs. We're slightly ashamed this is what our lives have come to. These are our glory years. 
  • We take many family trips, two which include airlines. I hope the kids don't remember them as traumatic experiences like I do. 
  • We decided to move. It was scary. 
  • But then we moved and it was awesome!
  • Then Sara commits Matt to being a dog owner. He reluctantly agrees and as it turns out, Twinky prefers Matt to any of us. Matt hates this, yet reluctantly and begrudgingly walks the damn dog every night no matter the weather. 
  • We suffer the loss of baby #3. But Matt's still awesome and great. 
  • ??
Who even knows what's next for us. That's a really brief list of some highlights. It's kind of crazy to think back and remember all of the good, and the bad, and think- we made it

I remember times where I was so sad and depressed that I thought we weren't ever going to get through it. We might, but it'll never be the same and I didn't know if as a couple, we could handle that. And I was right, we aren't the same. We aren't even close to how we were when we first got married. I'm not in love with Matt anymore. That faded away long ago, as it does. But I love him far more than I ever could have in the beginning. I have a far better appreciation for him as a man, as a husband, as a father, as a person. Matt is easily, the hardest working person I have ever met in my life. He's never afraid to learn something new, he's never afraid to try a new experience. He is willing to do pretty much anything I sign us up for or put on the table. When things get really awful, I know that he would drop whatever he was doing to help me. I used to wonder if he actually loved me, but I don't anymore. As I've gotten older I've learned that just because he isn't a very emotive kind of guy, he shows me in other ways. 

This is the guy who will get out of bed at midnight to get me a shake if I want it. He'll run and get me nachos from random bars, movie theater popcorn, he'll leave work to bring me lunch or shovel me out at work. If one of the animals leaves a gross mess on the floor, he'll leave work to come clean it up because I can't do it without vomiting everywhere as well. He takes on the home improvement projects I spring on him at the very last minute and goes with it. 

He's a really great guy overall. He just is. And I love him a whole lot. Plus, he's still really hot especially when he is working on the house and has the tool belt on.... anyways. I'm really lucky to have Matt. I can't see myself without him. Even in the worst of times, I can't imagine a life without him with me. He's my rock when I need him to be and that is better than butterflies when I see him. I don't have that any more, but it feels different. It's like my other half is there and all is right again. I wish people knew that it does get better. Marriage is the hardest thing I've ever done, it's harder than parenting sometimes. But the spot Matt and I are in now? I wouldn't trade it for the world. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Exposure

One thing you should absolutely know about me is that I? Am a HUGE Linda Howard fan. I have almost all of her books and I love them all. Seriously. You have no idea. I have re-read some of her books over 20 times. Because I love them that much. So, imagine my surprise when I found a book at the library book sale that I had never even heard of. I obviously bought that baby and yay, it was amazing.

Exposure - Linda Howard
Exposure: The Cutting Edge/White Lies
The Cutting Edge

Brett Rutland is a bull. As the top troubleshooter at Carter Engineering, he's used to getting his way. When he's tasked with cracking an internal embezzlement case, he meets firm accountant Tessa Conway. She's beautiful and interested, but falling for her will not only test Brett's control, it may also jeopardize the case—especially since she's the prime suspect.

White Lies

Jay Granger is shocked when the FBI shows up on her doorstep, saying her ex-husband has been in a terrible accident. She keeps a bedside vigil, but when Steve Crossfield awakes from his coma, he is nothing like the man Jay married. Ironically, she finds herself more drawn to him than ever. She can't help but wonder who this man really is, and whether the revelation of his true identity will shatter their newly discovered passion.


The great thing is that these are like, two mini novellas put together. From what I understand, she has a few of these and now I'm going to have to be on the hunt for them because I am determined to own all of her stuff. Like a totally crazy fan girl. 

Obviously, I loved both books. Linda writes two kinds of stories, one is like, business partners who shouldn't, but want to and do. The other is, secret spy and woman fall in love, danger and death happening but he's all deadly and hot and who even cares what's happening because YES. Linda Howard is the reason why I have a weird obsession with romance novels with a military focus. Boardroom executive? He's alright, but hot, buff guy that can shoot intruders? All in. 

That being said, I loved both books. See? I'll keep repeating it. The first one is kind of great because I knew how that was going to play out (always do) but I'm always fascinated with how dumb people are. Like, he just automatically assumes the worst, and she acts like a "I'm too tough for this yet I'm crying like a baby anyways and not eating.". Regardless, totally loved it. The second story was my favorite because I just mentioned, yes to super hot spies and such. I mean, the premise of it was kind of creepy but if you get past that, all in. I would totally want to be Jay Granger in that book, I would have totally stuck by Steve the whole time too. I just... *sigh*. So dreamy. 

So if you are in the mood for a romance book, I recommend this one. Or seriously any Linda Howard book because I am a ridiculously over the top, Linda Howard enthusiast. TEAM LINDA. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Time just keeps trucking along.



I've gotten lots of emails asking how I've been considering I've been a bit quiet the last few days. Overall, I'm OK. I can go several hours without crying and that's always a good thing.

Friday was pretty awful. I honestly didn't know what to expect with a follow up ultrasound. Thankfully, I asked my mom to come with me because at the last minute I didn't know if I really wanted to go alone. So she came and that was really helpful. I think having her there made me not break down in total tears because she would have told me to buck up and I would have. But I'll be honest- I couldn't look at the ultrasound. I just took the doctor's word for it that things looked good. My uterine lining is still ridiculously thick so all of that has yet to come out and then that means my HcG levels drop. Those have to go back to zero. Which means sometime this week (probably Thursday) I'll go in real quick to get a blood draw to see where I'm at. I keep going until that is back at zero.

Physically, I feel better. Not great, but better. I'm still having cramping but the contractions stopped around Saturday night. I felt fine most of Friday until after my appointment and then they started up again. On Saturday Matt and I ran errands and that wasn't smart. I ended up in a lot of pain and who knew walking around that much would trigger contractions? *sigh* But let's just say I was mighty thankful that I had put extra pads into my purse because I went through quite a few. And I had a really awkward moment while getting frozen yogurt when I just absolutely knew I was passing a blood clot or something. I remember the first time that ever happened to me after I had Olivia and it was disgusting. Thank god the place had a bathroom and Matt stood there holding my frozen yogurt, not totally sure what was happening.

He's a good guy, that one.

We went out to dinner at a really shitty place on Saturday. I mean, it was pretty gross. But we had planned to go see a movie and I'm just not a huge movie person so unless I'm in the mood, meh. So we opted to drive to Two Harbors instead and walk out to the lighthouse. Poor Matt didn't have a jacket so he basically froze his nipples off and I couldn't make it all the way to the end without feeling ridiculously crampy, but it was nice to be alone with him for awhile.
Sunday was kind of rough. The kids were coming back from spending the weekend with Matt's parents and I was missing them, but also wasn't sure if I could just deal with the loudness after having such a quiet weekend. But it turned out to be fine and they were missing me and spent an hour telling me all about their weekend. 

Yesterday was a bit of a rough day. I am working alone and full time hours this week since my boss is on vacation, and that's fine. I thought I was OK to be here all of that time but it proved to not be the case. Maybe it's too quiet so I just sit and think? I cried a few times at work yesterday. Not just because of the miscarriage and thinking about that, but I'm really frustrated with the health care system in general. I need to see a doctor for my high blood pressure before I have surgery next Thursday for my face. Do you think anyone cares? Nope. The soonest I can get in is September and beyond. If I tell them what my blood pressure is all of the time, they tell me to go to the ER. Which, great. If I had decent health insurance I would. But I don't and I cannot afford that. I don't even care which doctor I see at this point, I just want someone to tell me if it's safe to go under general anesthesia or if I should post pone the surgery. Which I don't want to do because my face is killing me and I want this damn tooth out. 

*sigh*

So far, my week is shaping up to be a bit rough. I really hope I have enough money to do something fun this weekend with the kids. Their last day of school is Friday and they keep asking if we're doing anything. I was hoping to go to a different zoo than our local one and combine it with Father's Day, but we'll see. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Sea Creatures

You guys. Just... order this right now because you need this book in your life, right now.

Sea Creatures - Susanna Daniel
Sea Creatures
When Georgia returns to her hometown of Miami, her toddler son and husband in tow, she is hoping for a fresh start. They have left Illinois trailing scandal and disappointment in their wake: Graham's sleep disorder has cost him his tenure at Northwestern; Georgia's college advising business has gone belly up; and three-year old Frankie is no longer speaking. Miami feels emptier without Georgia's mother, who died five years earlier, but her father and stepmother offer a warm welcome-as well as a slip for the dilapidated houseboat Georgia and Graham have chosen to call home. And a position studying extreme weather patterns at a prestigious marine research facility offers Graham a professional second chance.

When Georgia takes a job as an errand runner for an artist who lives alone in the middle of Biscayne Bay, she's surprised to find her life changes dramatically. Time spent with the intense hermit at his isolated home might help Frankie gain the courage to speak, it seems. And it might help Georgia reconcile the woman she was with the woman she has become.

But when Graham leaves to work on a ship in Hurricane Alley and the truth behind Frankie's mutism is uncovered, the family's challenges return, more complicated than before. Late that summer, as a hurricane bears down on South Florida, Georgia must face the fact that her choices have put her only child in grave danger.

Sea Creatures is a mesmerizing exploration of the high stakes of marriage and parenthood, the story of a woman coming into her own as a mother, forced to choose between her marriage, her child, and the possibility of new love.

You maybe don't know that I have a total reader crush on Susanna Daniel. I have read her first book, Stiltsville, so many times I can't count. That book was the first one I could quote out of and there is a line at the end that every time I think of it, I tear up just a little bit. I have purchased more copies of that book than any other and it's one of my most highly recommended books. Her latest book, Sea Creatures, is going to be such a tough rival. I loved it so much I can't tell you which of her two I loved more. It's like picking a favorite child, sometimes you just love one a little more at certain times. 

One of my favorite things about Susanna is that she has this ability to write where you are being punched in the gut all of the way through the story because it may  not be your story- but you identify with it. It's like she knows the secrets you don't even tell you closest friends and she just lays them bare on the page. You're left reeling, looking around to see if people are watching you because you just feel like it's all being projected across your face at the same time. This is one of those books that you just can't stop. 

In this book, we're centered mostly around Georgia and her son, Frankie. Her husband, Graham, has all kinds of sleep issues but they are dangerous and in retrospect, it makes for a terrifying home life for Frankie. Which is maybe why he's gone mute. While Georgia is grieving her mother's death, dealing with their heaving home life, questioning how good of a mother can she possible be when her child refuses to speak, and now she's thrust into an oddly comforting work relationship with a hermit who lives on a stilt house. What struck me through this entire book is that nobody is ever really who they seem. No matter how much you're around a person or what you think you know, you only know what they want you to know or show you. There is so much more to a person than just what you know. 

What I love about Susanna is that her books really center around marriage, how difficult it can be especially when raising children. A lot of similarities can be drawn between her two books but both have vastly different endings. There is a passage in Sea Creatures that I instinctively highlighted because it sums up what I've said for years about marriage: I don't believe on being in love for years. It's impossible. You just get into a groove and it changes. It changes for the better, you just have to look for it. 

"Anyway, long story, I know, but after I hung up with him I had this thought: I don't love him like I did. But I love him in a new way, and we are in this thing together. We are going to raise these children or die trying."

And.. isn't that just it? That's all any of us are trying to do. Maybe that's why I loved Stiltsville so much. That last line, where the wife thanks her husband for her life... it just kills me. Because even though Matt and I are nothing like the couple we were in the beginning of our relationship or even the beginning of our marriage, we're a bit better. We've fought battles together and against each other. I sometimes wonder if it means more to me because of those experiences? I don't know. But what I do know is that Susanna Daniel gets it and for that? I will always be a die hard fan. I cannot recommend this book enough. It's so amazingly well written, the story just pulls at you and just when you think it's going to be smooth sailing tragedy strikes and Georgia's world basically implodes. And the very end? The last chapter in regards to Graham? Confirms, you really don't know what another person is dealing with- people hide all kinds of things. People make choices that make no sense to some but in the end, bring such peace to the ones that matter that everything seems destined. It's just... so god damn good, this book.