Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Fall Up

Confession: I have a book hoarding problem. It's not enough to land me on the TLC show Hoarders, but it's enough where Matt is demanding I make some decisions. Which he clearly doesn't mean because he put four new shelves up for me. I also have a problem with buying books that are pretty and then they sit on my shelf for me to read them and I always think, "Meh- I'll do that AFTER I read a new book I've yet to purchase.." and you can see how this got out of hand.

So with that, I've been on a mission to read as many of these unread books as possible off of my shelf, in between review books. I have had this book on my shelf well over a year, maybe closer to two years, but it came in one of my boxes from The Bookworm Box. It's signed by the author and isn't the cover pretty??


I wanted to jump. 
He made me fall.

As a celebrity, I lived in the public eye, but somewhere along the way, I’d lost myself in the spotlight.

Until he found me.

Sam Rivers was a gorgeous, tattooed stranger who saved my life with nothing more than a simple conversation.

But we were both standing on that bridge for a reason the night we met. The secrets of our pasts brought us together—and then tore us apart.

Could we find a reason to hold on as life constantly pulled us down?

Or maybe there’s only one direction to go when two people fall in love at rock bottom—up.


I'm a sucker for a cover and you know it as well as anyone. I'm sorry this has been on my shelf, unread, for so long because I really enjoyed it enough that this would be one I would gift to friends because it's a fast read with a good story.

So we have Levee Williams, a successful pop singer seemingly on top of the world, but she currently finds herself on top of a bridge, wanting to jump. Enter Sam Rivers, a successful entrepreneur, also is on top of the bridge, for completely different reasons. He senses Levee's longing to jump and in an attempt to prevent her from doing that, he strikes up a conversation. Which they do a couple of times over the next few days.

Over time, they begin a relationship and that's when they both learn about each other's past, and Levee is forced to acknowledge the fact that she's working herself into the ground and her empathy is eating her alive. She's doing too much for everyone except for herself and she has to make serious changes in her life. Sam doesn't know if he has it in him to make the jump into a long term relationship, particularly with someone who needs so much support.

Drawbacks of the book were honestly really minor and I didn't think about it until I had finished the book, but their trauma that led them to that point were kind of glossed over. I feel like we learned more about Sam's trauma than we did Levee's. It's briefly mentioned in the book that Levee doesn't communicate with her parents at all and that's never really addressed again, and it feels like a string that was dropped, basically.

Things I liked about the book mainly center around Sam, I really liked his character. He's flawed, but he's trying. He has good intentions and you can tell he's just a genuinely guy. Levee is alright but she's almost.. childlike in a sense, and Sam has her best interests at heart from the start despite learning that she's famous, where lots of people would have taken advantage of that.

Overall? I'm giving this book a good 4 stars because I really enjoyed reading it and I was kind of bummed we didn't have more. I liked this enough that I really want to read other books by Aly Martinez and I'm going to put them on my Christmas wish list for sure.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Rheumatology, and being rare. AGAIN.

I'm so tired right now that I can't even muster the energy to find my last medical update to link to it in this post. Surely it must have been a week or two ago? I can't remember. I do know I mentioned I would be seeing rheumatology and that I was hoping it would give me lots of answers, being cautiously optimistic.

I went. My appointment was early in the morning, and it was raining pretty hard. I watched it rain as I waited and waited. By the time I got called back the nurse was telling me she knew me from somewhere but couldn't place it, and because I have a terrible memory now I had no idea who she was. It's always awkward when this happens because usually I can remember everyone, I once had an amazing memory. Freakishly so. Alas, I had no idea who she was so it made for an odd check in.

After some time my doctor came in. She's clearly an immigrant because she has a thick accent and here's another fun fact, post AFE I have a hard time understanding what people are saying as they speak to me, even more so with an accent. It's like my brain can't keep up translating words and understanding at the same time. Oh well. You get what you get, and I went through why I was there. She seemingly had no idea and goes on to tell me how everyone had an abnormal ANA (blood work lab result) and so what? It means nothing!

Well super, but I was sent here, so please help me.

She checks my joints, she asks me more questions, and decides that I need more blood work and x-rays. She's going to send me over to the lab, I should come back to see her in five weeks.

I leave there feeling pretty damn dejected. She looked at me like she essentially felt sorry for me and is sad that I'm clearly crazy. Which was only affirmed when she had me taken to the lab in a wheelchair.

No, I am not kidding.

I cried all of the way to the lab and when we got there, I got out of the wheel chair and the guy who escorted me seemed kind of mad about it and huffed off like I was a total waste of his time. Which, whatever buddy.

When I get called into the lab, I learn I'm getting 14 vials of blood, have to pee in a cup, and get three x-rays done. Seems a bit crazy, but alright.

By the time I got home I was feeling pretty awful. I learned within a couple of hours that my pee had bacteria, but they didn't do a culture, so they needed more pee. I went to the lab near my house, peed in the cup AGAIN, and came home. Only to find out on Sunday that my pee couldn't be cultured for an infection because it was contaminated. Um, how do two samples end up contaminated? I'm a professional pee-in-the-cup person, I've had four children, I know how to pee in cups. So whatever. I have no symptoms so she wasn't worried.

What we DID find out?

- I don't have lupus
- I don't have rheumatoid arthritis
- My C-Reactive Protein is elevated. That has something to do with inflammation?
- I have bone spurs in my lower back
- She ran other blood test and my results for "antiphospholipid syndrome are equivocal"

What's antiphospholipid syndrome you ask? Well thanks to Google, I've learned it's an autoimmune thing where your immune system attacks proteins in your blood and causes clots, basically.

In order to be tested you usually have to have an "event" like several miscarriages/still births that aren't from another cause or thrombosis, and then you're given this blood test. But in order to be diagnosed, she said I have to have another blood test in 12 -14 weeks, and if my blood shows the antibodies again, then that's my diagnosis. Scary because she said if that's the case I'm looking at blood thinners for life, and that doesn't guarantee I won't have clot issues, stroke, etc. Even better? Let's say I have a blood clot in my leg (which is common with this if untreated) and it breaks off, I could have a pulmonary embolism. She said it's possible my AFE was the "event" and my subsequent stroke and hemorrhaging issues could have been because of this, which they wouldn't have known about because I had no reason to be tested for it. But along with this, I have several of the "risk factors" for thrombosis (blood clots): high blood pressure, obesity, and estrogen replacement.

Wait, what?

The estrogen replacement your endocrinologists are making you take so you don't have bone loss and heart disease?

You know it, lambs.

Honestly, I cannot fully express to you how absolutely sick and tired of all of this I am. I'm over it. Why can't I have something normal like lupus wrong with me? I mean, lupus is terrible and awful, but people know what it is. I can't even pronounce this syndrome, let alone spell it. The only good news is that I'm not able to have babies anymore, because this thing could make that a problem. But that's a non-issue, so that's good.

It's all boiling down to this one blood test I take in 12-14 weeks.

Not like I'm anxious or anything.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Lucky Boy

If ever there was a book completely relevant to the times, this would be it.


A gripping tale of adventure and searing reality, Lucky Boy gives voice to two mothers bound together by their love for one lucky boy.

Solimar Castro Valdez is eighteen and drunk on optimism when she embarks on a perilous journey across the US/Mexican border. Weeks later she arrives on her cousin's doorstep in Berkeley, CA, dazed by first love found then lost, and pregnant. This was not the plan. But amid the uncertainty of new motherhood and her American identity, Soli learns that when you have just one precious possession, you guard it with your life. For Soli, motherhood becomes her dwelling and the boy at her breast her hearth. 

Kavya Reddy has always followed her heart, much to her parents' chagrin. A mostly contented chef at a UC Berkeley sorority house, the unexpected desire to have a child descends like a cyclone in Kavya's mid-thirties. When she can't get pregnant, this desire will test her marriage, it will test her sanity, and it will set Kavya and her husband, Rishi, on a collision course with Soli, when she is detained and her infant son comes under Kavya's care. As Kavya learns to be a mother - the singing, story-telling, inventor-of-the-universe kind of mother she fantasized about being - she builds her love on a fault line, her heart wrapped around someone else's child. 

Lucky Boy is an emotional journey that will leave you certain of the redemptive beauty of this world. There are no bad guys in this story, no obvious hero. From rural Oaxaca to Berkeley's Gourmet Ghetto to the dreamscapes of Silicon valley, author Shanthi Sekaran has taken real life and applied it to fiction; the results are moving and revelatory. 


I am really glad I stuck it out with this book because I'll be honest, the first few chapters weren't enough to grab me. Had this been a library read I probably would have dropped it off because I'm kind of a book snob and if I'm not hooked in that first chapter, I don't give it any more time. The exception being this one was a book for review and those I try really hard to finish because I feel like I owe it that much. You want my opinion on a book, I'm going to finish it and weigh in.

With that said, I have to give it a solid 4 stars and I'm telling you right now that if you aren't already sympathetic towards immigrants, even those who come illegally, I really invite you to read this. The great (and maybe really sad thing) is that the author, Shanthi Sekaran, did a lot of research in preparation for this book so she spoke with fostering and adoption agencies, immigration lawyers, people who work in immigration detention centers, and all of that information goes into telling this story. I call it sad because the treatment Soli receives as an illegal immigrant is pretty appalling, and it's just heartbreaking.

We have two mothers, Soli and Kavya, both immigrants but in very different ways. Kavya is desperate for a child, unable to bear children of her own, so ultimately her and her husband turn to adoption. Enter Soli, who is our illegal immigrant who naively travels to the US, and finds herself pregnant. (And let's not sugar coat it, her travels to the US are horrific and she arrives abused, assaulted, and pregnant, this isn't a story of lost love, it's awful.) Soli decides to have her baby, a little boy named Ignacio, but being an illegal immigrant she automatically doesn't have some very basic rights. She loses her child, who ends up with Kavya.

Kavya, desperate to have a child, falls in love with the little boy and there begins this long, exhaustive fight over who should keep the boy.  His biological mother, in a detention center awaiting deportation to Mexico? Or Kavya, an American citizen who just wants to be a mother? There are no winners here. By the time I finished this book my heart hurt. Sure, it's great that the little boy has two options for a home, both with very different lifestyles afford to him, but how do you choose? You see both sides, and as a mother I can't imagine being in either one of their positions, and it's heartbreaking. Soli? When you look at her story alone, start to finish? It's awful. It makes me want to bring these people myself from Mexico because the way they are coming and the treatment they endure? It's unreal. Coming to America is no vacation, it's a terrifying journey these people embark on with such high hopes and they don't even know if they are going to make it. None of us can imagine it.

I so very highly recommend this book. When I hear about the Dreamers in the news, this is the book I'll think of. When I hear about contested adoption placements, this is the book I will think of. It's not going to be one that I forget any time soon.

Monday, September 25, 2017

The Day I Died

No, this isn't me talking about my story, but rather a book review! As I write my book I have been reading as many stories of people who have died and come back just to get an idea of what has already been done. A theme I'm finding is that a lot of them are really centered around religion and I know mine isn't going that avenue at all, so that already sets me apart. Sadly, there aren't a lot of books focused on amniotic fluid embolism and I'm sure it's because so many die, it's truly not something you should survive. When I find a book that references that, I automatically purchase it, which is how I came to read this one.

The Day I Died - Melanie Pritchard
In her honest work, The Day I Died, Melanie Pritchard tells the harrowing tale of her sudden death and miraculous healing through the remarkable accounts of those who witnessed it and those closest to her. With powerful insight, Melanie touches on the myriad of emotions and reactions to her miracle, which is approachable to anyone who has experienced tragedy or suffering. By defining her miraculous experience through faithful trust in Christ, the extraordinary reality of God's mercy comes shining through. 

Alright. I have to be upfront and tell you I didn't read the book description, I just saw it mentioned on the AFE Foundation's website so I purchased it blindly. When the book came in I was admittedly worried to read it because while I think people should follow what their heart tells them... religion isn't my thing. So much of it makes no sense to me and I just can't follow something blindly. I'm a science gal, basically.

I went into this book excited anyway because the thing about surviving an AFE, something so rare most doctors can't even identify it in the moment, is that you look for other survivors. You compare stories, you look to the survivors who have gone down the road of recovery for guidance, and you feel like you owe it to the ones who didn't make it to raise awareness. That's how it is for me, and I think I'll always feel that way.

This book, for me, fell flat. I have a lot of things I could say about the book but I won't because it's someone's personal testimony. Their experience.

What I will say is that it wasn't what I hoped for. Essentially, it's the events of her AFE told in multiple ways, from the point of view of her family and friends. What they felt, how they processed the events, and in between it's small commentary from Melanie. She speaks about her faith and how she believes it's what carried her through, that somehow God lined everything up for the event to happen but also that the right people were in the right spot at the right time. I don't disagree with that so  much but all of the religious overtones were just too much for me.

Overall? I'm giving this a 1.5/stars but I'll round up to 2 for Goodreads. I just didn't enjoy it and hearing the same story over and over again just in a different point of view was redundant and made me lose interest. Whomp, whomp.

Friday, September 22, 2017

It was a day at the beach. Kind of.

I have to start by saying I only have these and the pictures my friend Andrea took that show all of us in the photo. It's really hard to get six people together consistently, even more so when you have two toddlers who want to run into the water or eat the sand. We had someone take our picture and I'm not thrilled, but they'll do. I had high hopes, I spent so much time trying to coordinate outfits and in the end, we all match, but I feel like a whale.

My second mistake was trying to do this by the water. We had just gone to Florida so Penelope thought this was the ocean and Lake Superior is NOT the ocean. It's freezing and it kind of smells, to be honest. We also found a bunch of questionable things laying on the beach so it was an experience.

So in the span of 15 minutes, this is what we got, because Penelope had a full on melt down and Lucy fell asleep.



And because I couldn't get myself together to get her one year portraits taken, this is it. This will have to do. 
I really, REALLY want to get photos done this fall and have something to send out in our family Christmas card. Which is optimistic because usually by this point in September I have my cards almost done but this year.. I don't even have my list organized. It's a mess. I might have to break down and send just a photo card and give up on hand making 100+ cards because I just don't care anymore. We'll see.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Another doctor down!

It's really becoming little, stupid things that I'm clinging onto at this point. Things like crossing a doctor off my schedule. It's very exciting.

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned I was all done with the neurologist, and that's frustrating. Don't get me wrong, I love saying I'm down to six doctors in my rotation, but at the same time.... I'm no better. Neurologically there isn't anything they can do to help me. My memory and cognitive ability will either get better over time... or it won't. They don't know but we all hope for the best. That is pretty frustrating and defeating because I'm still getting confused if I'm in a store, or basically a place where lots of people are. I get disoriented, confused, will get lost, and it's scary. I cannot fully explain how scary it is to all of sudden have no idea where you are, why, if you brought your children, how to get home, etc. I wouldn't wish that kind of fear on anyone, so to be told there isn't anything they can do? Well that's a bummer.

Today's post though is to talk about me being down another doctor, the pulmonary doctor, or the guy who has been monitoring my lungs and my sleep. I started going to him this spring because  my level of exhaustion is basically ridiculous. I know everyone says, "Oh man, I've never NOT been tired, hahahaha!!" and I get it, I would have said that to someone in my shoes a year ago.

I'm telling you, you have never in your life been tired like this.

The bummer about panhypopituitarism is that my body produces no hormones, which I've talked about a LOT. I keep banging that drum because people genuinely don't understand what that actually means. The most important one I'm without is cortisol, and it's the one that gets you going in the morning. When you catch a second wind during the day? Thank your pituitary gland for pumping our cortisol. You know when you get so stressed out, or go through a physical stressor and you almost feel like your body braces itself? Yes, that's your pituitary gland helping you out. I've got none of that. So I never feel awake, just from that alone.

Add to that, I will go about my day and I feel like a toy with half dead batteries. You know how something just drains of power until it's dead? That's how I feel EVERY DAY. By dinner time I'm so close to passing out that I often do. As soon as I sit down, I'm out. I physically cannot just power through it. The worst is when I get that feeling around lunch time because I worry about falling asleep and not being able to hear Penelope and Lucy get up from naps.

So the point is that I went to the pulmonary doctor to see if maybe my quality of sleep is so awful at night and that being the cause. I got a CPAP machine and have used it for almost 3 months now and so my appointment yesterday was to review my progress. Am I using it correctly? Is it working?

Good news, I'm using it 100% correctly and it's working! I went from 10-12 events per hour (episodes where I would stop breathing in my sleep) to 1-2 per hour on average. That's pretty great. Matt says that when I put my mask on, I'm OUT for the night and not a damn thing wakes me. I hardly roll over or anything. I get at least eight hours of sleep every night, sometimes upwards of ten (when I go to bed early because I just can't go any longer) so in that regard, I should be super awake!

I'm not.

While that is really frustrating, it's also kind of great because it means we've ruled out one more thing that it could be. I have lots of other things to rule out, and that's a bummer, but this is one less thing. My quality of sleep is so much better and I will never not have my CPAP. I'm not kidding, you don't know blissful sleep until you have used one regularly. It's worth every penny.

So I'm all done there, and I go back in like five years to get the new machine but other than that, I'm DONE!

Tomorrow I see a rheumatologist to look at the possibility of an auto immune disease. Which, that sounds depressing but I'm really going in so hopeful. I don't want a disease, OBVIOUSLY, but I really want a thing to point to and say, THIS is why I feel so awful all of the time.

Where there is a problem, there is a SOLUTION! Right? That's what I'm hoping, at least.

I'm sure tomorrow will be just getting to know you/basic information/labs, etc and I won't walk out of there with the golden ticket, but I'm still nervous and kind of excited. I just really want to know why I've been hit by a bus every day. It's really like having the worst flu of your life- that's how I feel every day. I refuse to believe that's normal.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Frazzled: Ordinary Mishaps and Inevitable Catastrophes

No, that is not the title of the book I'm working on, but it honestly would fit, wouldn't it?! Instead, I got this book in the mail last week for review and I was pretty excited. I read the first book by this author, following these characters, and I really enjoyed it. As did my kids, who quickly took this book and they actually read it before I did!


Things are looking up for Abbie Wu: this year she’ll run for class president and get a brand-new shiny locker. Until—she doesn’t…

In her second tumultuous misadventure, Abbie Wu tackles more unbelievably unfair and calamitous middle school days. From facing locker thieves and battling diabolical cats to having absolutely no idea what to build for her science project, Abbie Wu is still in perpetual crisis.

From author and professional doodler Booki Vivat, this second story follows Abbie Wu, your favorite hilariously neurotic middle school girl, as she tries to come up with solutions to what seems to be a series of inevitable catastrophes.

Akin to Smile by Raina Telgemeier, Frazzled: Ordinary Mishaps and Inevitable Catastrophes is heavily illustrated, embarrassingly honest, and sure to appeal to anyone hoping to figuring out how to survive the ordinary mishaps of middle school. 

If you have a kid who doesn't really enjoy reading, especially chapter books, because it feels daunting, I am a big fan of graphic novels and books like this that are similar to Diary of a Wimpy Kid or The Dork Diaries books, there isn't a lot of text and it's broken up by illustrations. It makes for a fast read (as an adult, I got through all 207 pages in an hour). It has characters and a story line that a lot of kids will relate to: the struggles of middle school, sharing a locker, trying to make new friends, and of course, the dreaded science fair.

The story follows Abbie Wu, who is described as a neurotic middle schooler, and that's pretty accurate. Abbie is in middle school now and the excitement of her own locker is quickly squashed when she learns she has to share a locker with someone she doesn't know- a totally new, unknown girl named Jessica. While she's plotting all of the ways to unceremoniously kick this girl out of the shared locker, she discovers Jessica is in her science class and because the universe is cruel, they are assigned to be partners for the upcoming science fair where they have to come up with an invention.

All of this is the end of the world and awful for any middle school kid, but Abbie finds that making a new friend is kind of hard, but kind of worth it. They also work really well together, Jessica is the ying to Abbie's yang, and they come up with a great invention... that hits some bumps. Abbie also discovers that maybe having your own locker isn't so great.

Overall? I'm honestly giving this book a solid 4 out of 5 stars. It's a cute read, I think it would be a good read for third grade and up, but honestly I bet some solid first and second grade readers could get through this easily. It's definitely the kind of book I would give to a reluctant reader because it's just enough to feel like a challenge but one that they can absolutely conquer.. easily, and be proud of themselves for finishing!

The book releases on September 26, 2017 so it's on pre-order right now but it's SUCH a great price, it's worth picking up and saving for Christmas or giving it to a student to get a jump start on their recreational reading.
But if you have a kiddo that you think will enjoy this, I also recommend her first book with Abbie Wu, also at a really great price for a hardcover: 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Book progress.. this is daunting.

I've never done anything super ambitious in my life, something that requires a lot of patience, time, and work. I mean, I guess growing four humans is a thing, but aside from that, I've got nothing.

Well, nothing I can remember anyways.

I've been doing some journaling, and every once in awhile I start working on what I think might be my book about AFE and the aftermath, but then I get overwhelmed. Everyone tells me to just write- it'll come. Which, I guess that might be helpful to them but for me it's just not that easy. I used to blog and just do it, words would just come out and without any effort at all, I could make people feel something. Now I feel like.. it's just not there. Like that part of my brain isn't firing on all cylinders. I want people to read the book and feel a gut punch. Feel like you are right there with me on what have been my lowest, most private moments. There have been so many things I have wanted to blog about, share on Facebook, tell someone, and I just haven't. In my head I'm saving them for the book but I'm scared to put it all out there.

Then I think, well, a total stranger isn't going to fully understand how far I have fallen if they don't know where I was. So then I feel like I need to explain where I was, what kind of person I was, and that really is the only way someone can appreciate what my reality is now. I also think, I kind of have to explain my marriage and why it is the way it is.. otherwise me screaming at the nurses how dare Matt do this to me, after everything I've been through with his sorry ass!, won't really make any sense, will it?

I just feel like I have a lot of story and so little room to give it, if that makes sense.
So in the meantime, I have been sorting medical records. I separated out my actual hospital stay into one pile and the rest into the specialists I've seen. I'm slowly going through each pile, highlighting things I want to remember (or more realistically, refer back to because we know damn well I won't remember) and it's a very daunting task. I've learned some new things that I didn't know (or at least remember) and I'm trying to come up with a list of questions to ask my OB and anesthesiologist because they have both told me I can ask anything, anytime. So that is really great.

The worst though, by far, has been reading my mental health records. That is not for the faint of heart and unless you really want to know what your therapist thinks about you after you cry hysterically on the couch for 60-90 minutes, DON'T DO IT. Ugh. I had to stop but I know I need to go back to them. A lot of holes in my timeline will get filled by reading those because I know I've been brutally honest with her. All of the awful, dark, scary things I'm too scared to tell Matt or my family have happened in there. And it should be in the book. People, I don't think, understand what a toll this takes on a person. I consider myself to be a fairly logical, strong, common sense bearing person and if something like this could take me down? What would it do to someone who wasn't these things?
So there's that. Also new, well developing over the last few months, is this super fun rash on my face. On the left is my face, right away in the morning, no makeup or anything. On the right is my attempt at covering it up. I have this fun rash that has started on one cheek and is slowly creeping over my nose to the other side, and it feels kind of like a sunburn. Some days it's worse than others and it was noted in my file for the rheumatologist because it could be a sign of lupus. Which, that's exciting.

(Sarcasm.)

I go on Friday to that doctor and I'm kind of nervous about it. I'm sure it'll be all questions, maybe some labs, but I 100% do not think I'm walking out of there with any kind of diagnosis. It's thought that all of my issues have got to be an auto-immune thing because nobody else knows so I'm shipped off to the next specialist. I keep saying there should be some kind of punch card system and once I hit 10 doctors I get a prize or something.

I also see my pulmonary doctor on Wednesday and I can't really remember anything about him but in my notes I wrote that I really like him and he's super nice. So there's that. I'm going in with questions for him as well.

But today I see my therapist. I go every other week and honestly, she's so great and keeps me off the ledge, literally. I've said (quite a few times this week) that had I not started seeing her last November or December (whenever it was), I would have killed myself already. She is worth every dollar my insurance is paying for, which I'll be paying for come January. It's been a rough last week so I'm anxious for my appointment.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Into the Dawn (First Force Series #5)

I don't know how long you've been following my blog, but I have been reading this series since it began and I look forward to the new book every time Cindy McDonald emails me to say, "Hey- it's ready!". I also need to confess that my secret love is for romance books that are... kind of insanely not possible but I love them anyways. Would this story happen in real life? Psh, probably not. Do I care? No I do not because my love for a romance novel trumps all of it. You give me a romance novel with a military character and I'm even more all in. Cindy gets me. It's like she's writing these just for me. Swoon.


While on a camping trip in the Colorado Rockies, First Force operative, Casey Rhodes and Hawke International operative, Peyton Mattock were having the time of their lives. Separated by an ocean, the two operatives rarely saw or heard from each other, but on this short vacation the sparks ignite the flames of passion they believed to be real, but now cannot deny. Peyton insists that on this lover’s holiday they leave all weaponry behind—after all, what would they need them for? Casey reluctantly agrees, and it seems like a wonderful idea—until Peyton goes missing. 
Trapped in the middle of every-lovin’ nowhere, unarmed and alone, Casey must find the man she yearns for and fight with primitive weapons, alongside an unlikely ally to gain his freedom from those who have an unbelievable scheme!


I have read this series from the very start and I have really enjoyed all of the books. The stories are kind of crazy and unbelievable, but the characters make up for that easily. The other great thing is that though this is book five in the First Force Series, they are all stand alone, so you aren't going to feel like you don't know what's going on. Each book has an independent story line and the previous characters only feature a cameo, but their story doesn't bleed into the next.

The story centers around Casey and Peyton, both are in a governmental/military like job (Casey is a First Force member but Peyton is not, though he does a similar job) and they travel all over the world doing dangerous things, but on their off time they get together and you know... do grown up things like  have sex basically the entire times.

Anyways.

This time Peyton has arranged for him and Casey to do some camping and hiking in the Rockies where he has a cabin that mostly sits vacant and he admittedly hadn't been there in years. Once he gets to the area though, he quickly learns it has become a "quiet zone", free from all modern technology thanks to a bizarre little community full of people who suffer from EHS- electromagnetic hypersensitivity. All of these people get sick, in various degrees, to electromagnetic waves that come from all wifi based things (computers, phones, TV's, etc), fluorescent lights, power lines, etc. It's not a recognized medical ailment so these people have all picked up and made their own EHS free community in the middle of nowhere, led by an odd leader- Ben Lorde, and his even stranger sidekick, Darius Woolfe. Clearly, it's an odd little cult, and as cults do- this one kind of implodes once the end game is revealed.

But to get there, Casey and Peyton have to start their camping trip, and they do. They meet up, have some great sex, try to befriend a wolf named Elvis, and finally set off into the rugged terrain of the Rockies on horseback with some mules to carry their stuff. All is well until Peyton goes fishing alone and basically all hell breaks loose, but I won't go into that for you.

This reminded me so much of one of my guilty pleasure books, Linda Howard's Cover of Night, because the premise is so unbelievable you can't help but love it. It's almost a similar set up, with them in a rugged area trying to get out and around the bad guy, middle of nowhere with no technology to access, etc. I really enjoyed this book and finished it in one day. And though Peyton wasn't a First Force member, his backstory (the little that we got of it) was interesting, but I'm glad that we "met" him through Casey. She and her twin brother, Clark, are both First Force members and (I see you throwing in that OMG moment with their biological mother, Cindy!) have their own troubled past and shaky beginnings. Are we going to learn more about this? I hope so! I know Smitty's story is next, but man... it makes me highly anticipate Clark's story because I assume we'll delve more into that potential story line then.

Overall? I'm going to give it 5 stars. I know, I don't give them out often but I really love this series, I'm invested in these characters, and this was right up my alley. I know not everyone is going to get into the hokey story line, but what can I say? It's my guilty pleasure.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Journey's End SPOTLIGHT



Book Details:
Book Title: Journey's End: Death, Dying and the End of Life
Authors: Victoria Brewster & Julie Saeger Nierenberg
Category: Adult Non-Fiction; 558 pages
Genre: Resource/Educational
Publisher: Xlibris
Release date: July 20, 2017
Tour dates: Sept 4 to 22, 2017
Content Rating: PG-13 + M

Book Description:

In Journey's End, we write about death, dying, and end of life issues. We attempt to define and describe these real-life circumstances, and we discuss ways to proactively deal with them. Multiple personal and professional perspectives provide valuable insights.

What is dying like for dying persons, for loved ones, and for those who lend support in the process? Each experience will have unique qualities. Everyone dies in his own way, on his own schedule. While we explore the dying process, we make no assumptions about how any particular death will unfold.

Grief and bereavement support, training tools, and educational resources are included.

Buy the Book:


Meet the Authors:




Victoria has a master of social work degree. She has worked as a case manager with older adults for the past seventeen years and as a group facilitator. Her past work experience was as a therapist with children and families, and as a case manager for adults with mental health issues. She just launched a consulting business, NorthernMSW to focus on end of life issues, planning, training, and advocacy, along with memoir writing and life legacy writing.

Julie was inspired equally by her professional backgrounds as a biomedical researcher and long time educator. Julie values open and lively discussions based on interview and research findings, trends in health and wellness, and exciting new modalities of treatment and professional education. She believes it will be through such discussions that we will create new and more satisfying cultural paradigms within which we may live all the days of our lives with dignity and quality of care.

Enter the Giveaway! (ends September 30)
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Thursday, September 14, 2017

Next year? Teenager. HELP ME.

The thought of Olivia eventually becoming a teenager has always been kind of a distant thought, not something I've really put a lot of stock into. But time is a funny thing, it keeps rolling even when you aren't ready and I need to get ready because next year? Next year Olivia is going to be 13.

I've got a year before I really cry it up, so this year I was overly excited about her birthday. I had convinced Matt to get her a GREAT gift and I splurged and got her the jacket she really wanted from none other than Hollister. She informed me that only babies wear snow pants to middle school and she absolutely was NOT going to wear a matching jacket/snow pants set. I do remember freezing my ass off at the bus stop in middle and high school, wearing shorts and sandals in the dead of winter and only a hoodie because I was for damn sure NOT wearing a huge jacket.

I can't even argue with her because my mom would sell me out immediately.

The very cool thing was this year we were going to just go out for dinner but joining us would be my cousin Stephanie, her husband Kyle, and their daughter Cedar, who just turned two. They could only visit for the day and I was so excited. I only have four cousins and she is easily the most like me and that's probably why we get along so well.
We went to dinner at Grandma's in Canal Park because it's good but also it was the restaurant Matt and I ate at while I was in the early stages of labor with Olivia. We had walked around Canal Park and ate lunch and then that night I would be in full blown, holy-hell-this-is-horrible labor. It holds a fond place in my heart, basically.

My cousin got Olivia a hair straightener (YAY!!! This means mine won't get stolen during sleepovers again!) and a bunch of other stuff I don't remember. I was just super pumped about the straightener.
Her present from her siblings was a book (from Jackson- he used his free book from Barnes & Noble for her), a fidget cube (also from Jackson), and new makeup (from Penelope and Lucy because Penelope ruined all of hers.. a post for another day), and my super talented friend Jessica made a custom make up bag for her. 
I was so excited to give her the jacket, Matt asked me afterwards how much it cost and I told him to not kill my high, man. Just go with it. 
The big present? The big present was a phone.

I know. I've been on the fence for so long but now that she's at middle school and doing activities where she needs rides, it really only made sense. So she got a phone, has a ridiculous amount of restrictions, can't have any kind of social media, and we'll be checking her phone nightly. She was so incredibly surprised and kept thanking us the entire night.

She's had it for almost a week and so far, so good. She's kind of funny because she texts me as she's getting on the bus, when she got to school, and the entire journey home. I know more about her day now than ever before.

My sister in law and brother got her a gift card that she's dying to spend. I am SO glad my sister in law and niece were able to make the drive up. It's a two and a half hour drive and it really just kills your entire day so I'm so appreciative that they came.

After dinner we ended up walking around Canal Park a little bit because there was an incident with someone locking their keys in the car (not me!), and that was unfortunate because someone in our group also discovered they had Shingles that day in a really unpleasant region (not me!), but we made the best of the situation.
The kids climbed rocks! 
Penelope threw rocks at everyone (you see that crazed look in her eye?!). 
Olivia did a great job at entertaining all of the toddlers. 
The really terrible thing? I got next to no pictures. Seriously. Do you think I got one with me and my cousin? No. What in the hell?! Someone grabbed this one of everyone, minus Kyle and Matt.

The next day it was super sucky to miss my cousin before she left because I had a doctor's appointment, but Penelope and Cedar got to play for awhile. They became fast friends and Cedar gave Penelope a run for her damn money. 
It's kind of fun that they are so close in age, same with my niece. I hope that they all grow up knowing each other. I always wanted to have extended family to hang out with and I just didn't. 
But these two played for quite awhile, Cedar bossed Penelope around, and I wish I had seen it because my mom said Penelope's reaction was priceless!! She's so used to bossing Lucy around, it was a total shock to her to not automatically get her way. 

Overall? Olivia said this was her best birthday ever and that I was "mom of the year". I'm documenting this in case she forgets that in a few weeks when I say no to something. 

I told Matt that next summer I really want to drive to visit them in Ohio. That's not too far from us (certainly closer than Florida) and I've never been to Ohio, may as well check it off our map! 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Class Mom

I have to tell you, I saw Laurie Gelman on some morning show a few weeks ago promoting her new book, Class Mom, and I knew right then and there I had to order the book immediately. I ordered one for me and one for Jackson's teacher as part of her back to school teacher gift. I knew this book would resonate with me because I was the PTO President of the elementary school my kids went to way back when Olivia was in Kindergarten. I was a newbie mom and made the absolute rookie move by emailing the school to say, "I'm new and I can't make the PTO meeting but I'd really like to help out!".

You know what happened?

I got roped into the role of Vice President because "I would hardly have to do anything, maybe lead a meeting once in awhile" and I figured no big deal. Little did I know the President had some kind of midlife crisis, left her husband, and sailed out of town leaving me, the rookie newbie parent, to lead the way.

And lead I did for five years. Yes, FIVE YEARS. Why five years? Oh, because I couldn't get out, lambs. I was sucked in. I couldn't find a replacement, people thought I was doing an OK job, I turned the sinking PTO ship around, but I was not loving it. I could write my own book someday on what it's like to really be the PTO President.

Someday.

So you see why I needed this book. And lord alive, it was like someone was looking in on my life.


Jen Dixon is not your typical Kansas City kindergarten class mom--or mom in general. Jen already has two college-age daughters by two different (probably) musicians, and it's her second time around the class mom block with five-year-old Max--this time with a husband and father by her side. Though her best friend and PTA President sees her as the-wisest-candidate for the job (or oldest), not all of the other parents agree.

From recording parents' response times to her emails about helping in the classroom, to requesting contributions of-special-brownies for curriculum night, not all of Jen's methods win approval from the other moms. Throw in an old flame from Jen's past, a hyper-sensitive -allergy mom,-a surprisingly sexy kindergarten teacher, and an impossible-to-please Real Housewife-wannabe, causing problems at every turn, and the job really becomes much more than she signed up for.

Relatable, irreverent, and hilarious in the spirit of Maria Semple this is a fresh, welcome voice in fiction--the kind of novel that real moms clamor for, and a vicarious thrill-read for all mothers, who will be laughing as they are liberated by Gelman's acerbic truths.

I absolutely adored this book. I honestly don't think you can appreciate it fully if you aren't a parent and have never been through the school system with a kid. You just can't understand the greatness of this book until you've been in those trenches- looking at the other parents, silently judging, hoping to find an ally in the class, preferably one that doesn't mind that you swear and who would be open to lunch dates where you gossip about the other moms. You have the working moms who you almost never see, the stay at home moms who know everyone and come to school in their yoga pants complaining about how they need to lose weight and you roll your eyes because that bitch can shop at every store in the mall except Lane Bryant, and then you have the parents who never show up. You hear about them but you never see them and you start to wonder if they are even parenting their children at all because they come to school in pajamas every day and steal your kid's snack.

This book covers it all.

You even get the new teacher who is kind of bizarre and you wonder if she maybe has a mental illness but you aren't trying to rock the boat because you have zero interest in home schooling, you're standards are to just keep your kid alive and you figure your child will learn along the way. Probably.

I loved this book because Jen Dixon, the class mom and main character, is what we all want to be. She's saying and thinking what we're all thinking. You have the lack of volunteers, the allergy mom, the lesbian moms, the financially well off-too-good-for-the-rest-of-us mom and of course her tag-a-long friend, the hunk of a single dad that you don't mind sitting next to on the field trip bus.

In the middle of organizing classroom parties, Jen is training for a mud run, getting too flirty with an old classmate and questioning why she feels so unsettled in her life (mid life crisis?).

Jen is all of us. She just is.

I loved this book. So much. On page 255 there is this line, part of a conversation between Jen and her husband:

"I think about how I look just a little less attractive every day. I think that when I'm sixty, Max will just be finishing high school. I wonder if I should have had a career instead of a bunch of jobs. I wonder why you love me and when you might stop. I worry that I'm not a good enough wife, daughter, mother, and friend. And I worry that if this is it, this is my whole life, will it be enough?"

Cue gut punch because THAT IS MY LIFE. It's all of our lives, isn't it? I just so highly recommend this back to school read because you need this. You need a funny book with a story line we've all had play out in our own lives in some way, and you need to feel like someone gets you. Laurie Gelman gets you, lambs. She does. I do, too. Treat yourself.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Back to school... the struggle is real.

I am the first one to tell you that school honest to goodness should be year round. I am not that mom that needs/wants this much together time with my kids. I love them to bits but at some point I am sick of the noises and messes they make. 

Admittedly, I was kind of nervous for the start of the school year because with all of my disabilities and limitations, change is not great for me. It's like a fish swimming upstream, I can't just turn around and go the other direction, my brain just doesn't function that way anymore. With Olivia going to the middle school, it's going to be a year of firsts. I don't feel confident as a parent because it's a whole new school, new way of doing things, at the same time I'm letting go a little bit of the control. It's up to her to do homework, solve problems, arrange her after school activities at school, ask for help if she needs it, etc. Whereas Jackson is still at elementary school and I know what the expectations are. I know where he is, what he's doing, I know the routine- we've already done it before. 

Also new this year? Olivia rides the bus! At first she was excited. Over summer she got a little annoyed because friends are still being driven to school and she doesn't know why she has to take the bus. Well, you have to take the bus because school starts at 8 and I'm not trying to get up and moving that early with three other kids. So on the first day she wanted me to walk with her to the bus stop. 
So I did. And we spoke to the neighbor who informs us there are lots of kids (usually) and in the winter the stop isn't always shoveled/plowed out. Super. But Olivia was very nice, and I could tell she was so anxious to get on the bus. 

Because she's a good girl she obliged with a quick photo before the bus stopped. I started tearing up because it really hit me in that moment that she's moving into a new phase of childhood, one that I won't get to dictate or control- I'm just a bystander offering support and guidance when she needs it. It's really up to her and I can only hope that everything I tried to teach her about being good in the world made some kind of impression on her. So as I'm thinking all of this, and I'm feeling anxious and a little bit sad but also very proud, the bus pulls up and I tried to give her a hug but she instead said, "Mom, stop crying. It's fine. See you after school."  
And just like that, the oldest piece of my heart rolled off on the bus. The walk home is fairly short and I had to hurry because Jackson had yet to get ready and I left him to guard the house since Penelope and Lucy were still sleeping.

He is far less dramatic. My favorite boy is in fourth grade this year and that feels so weird to me. I can't even wrap my head around the fact that he's in fourth grade. It seems like just yesterday I was bringing him to 4K and he was so sad to not be with Olivia.
He's a different kid, he's sensitive but doesn't want to show it. All of his friends are essentially girls, he doesn't really fit in with all of the other boys at school and they aren't particularly nice to him. He's a weird little kid but he's the sweetest and funniest. He has a distinct laugh that he can't control and he isn't always confident in himself. I think it's hard being raised among all girls but I keep thinking he's going to be a great partner for someone someday. He let me take his picture in front of his locker and when I turned around, he was gone. Just like that. No hug, no kiss, nothing. 

Sigh.

I went all day just dying to know how it was going for either kid. It was far too quiet in the house. I told Olivia I would try to meet her at the bus stop after school, and it was a nice day so I managed to get both girls in the stroller by myself and I walked for a few blocks with them.
Penelope kept saying, "Sissy, are you??" as loud as she could, as if Olivia was going to jump out and surprise her. 
Finally! We saw the bus coming down the street and the girls were SO excited. 
The only picture Olivia would let me take of her coming off the bus and she was clearly embarrassed that we were even there. HA! But it was great to see her. She had a great first day and absolutely loves middle school.

Did I mention it was also her birthday?! Yes. I'll talk about her birthday and how great that was later this week. Tomorrow we are going to talk about a GREAT book for back to school that I think you all need in your life. Truly. It was hilarious.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Medical Update... not as cool as Weekend Update.

Lots of interesting things to talk about this week. I didn't realize how jam packed my September was going to be with medical stuff, but here we are.

I think it was last week when I told you about my last visit to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Scheduling my appointments there is kind of a nightmare because I live far enough away that I can't just drive there and back in a day and see doctors. I have to spend the night the night before my appointment, hope that my appointments don't go too long in the day so that I can drive back and be well rested. I generally don't drive much after 5 p.m. because by then I'm absolutely exhausted and running on fumes. I hang out at home so if I doze off it, not awful. If I doze off in the middle of rush hour traffic? Not so great. So though my next appointments were going to be in September, they had to be pushed out to October 31. I'm attending what I'm calling the "fat kid class" in the bariatric center and then I'm meeting a doctor in the Women's Care Clinic to explore my estrogen replacement options. Which sounds thrilling, right?

Well, when I spoke to the scheduler on the phone she told me there is a "short" questionnaire I would have to fill out and bring with me for them to scan into my file. Which, alright- that sounds fine.

And then it came in the mail. I didn't give it a lot of thought, just threw it on my desk and figured I've got some time, but then when I was waiting for something to download, I figured I would page through it.

Holy balls, lambs.
It's twelve pages asking me about my "perceived stress", sleep patterns, depression, and sexual function. The perceived stress things are hilarious because honestly, I feel like I should have two questionnaires, pre-AFE and post-AFE, because that would show how far I've fallen.
The sexual function section?! I'm not a prude by any means but JEE-SUS. We're just getting right into it, aren't we?! Needless to say I filled out all twelve pages and filed that into my Mayo folder. Sounds like that appointment is going to be a treat.

In therapy, I talked a lot about my recent visit to Mayo, my frustrations at being shuffled to one doctor to the next, and then I talked about my marriage. About how my support system isn't totally stellar and how I wonder if I'd be further along if it were better. It's literally the only hour in a biweekly span that I feel like someone gets it and validates my feelings. Helps me work through them. Then I come home and I just feel so.. discouraged and sad.

Sigh.

At my local endocrinology appointment, that was frustrating. Not only was I late (which is so not like me) but I almost wasn't seen because I couldn't remember my birth date. I had to explain about my memory issues and she didn't sound totally convinced but honestly, who comes to this appointment for fun in my place? Honestly, let's be real.

Then when he comes in, and I really like him a whole lot, he doesn't seem super interested in seeing me. He knows I see the endocrinologists at Mayo and it's like he's trying to shuffle me out of there? I don't know. I'd much rather stick with him and the point is for me to kind of phase out of Mayo unless I have some kind of major problem. But I'm explaining all of my issues and he's like, "Yeah, those aren't fun.." and then NO SOLUTION. I think the problem is everyone hopes "the next specialty clinic" can fix me so it's not really their issue anymore.

The really cool visit was with my psychiatrist, though. It doesn't sound like a thrilling thing but I got the results of my GeneSight testing, which is a test based on your DNA. It gives you the lists of drugs that might work, might not work, and gives you indicators why. This was my next option because I've been on a variety of different anti-depressants, in different classes, and nothing works.

Interestingly, remember when I was highly suicidal on the Cymbalta? And everyone was like, "Oh, that's mild and works for almost everyone!" Yes well, that's in my "significant gene-drug interaction" also known as my "big time no-no list". All of the other drugs I've taken (Celexa, Lexapro, Paxil, Zoloft, and Prozac) are in my "moderate" or "moderate no-no list".

Sure, that sounds bad and it is because it's all of the cheap stuff, but at least I feel validated. I don't feel like a whiner. It confirms serotonin based things aren't going to do it for me, which is what he (the psychiatrist) thought all along.

I am on Wellbutrin right now, but that's on my "big time no-no list" and while my suicidal thoughts are still there they aren't like they were with Cymbalta. So we're going to experiment and double my dose. Which means in the next two weeks we're going to know if I REALLY can't do it or nothing happens. The trick is that while this test is really cool, it doesn't factor in brain injury or trauma, so my DNA says one thing but my body processes drugs differently know. This can only be used to point us in a general direction.

The drugs that "should" work on me aren't great. Either they are new and fancy (Trintellix, Fetzima, etc), and EXPENSIVE, or they are "old and dirty" (Norpramin, Anafranil, etc) and have really awful side effects for not a lot of improvement. They basically aren't commonly used for a reason.

Here's what we also learned: my DNA really wants me to be a prescription drug addict. Pretty much every single drug on the market that is commonly abused and easy to get hooked on is what my DNA wants. Guess what it doesn't want, or at least shows up on the "big time no-no list"? Methodone and other drugs used to treat addictions.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Just kidding, because that's not funny. It's serious.

Also things I shouldn't be taking, ibuprofen (seriously), Propranolol (which is what I use for my migraines and blood pressure), and most mood stabilizers (sorry, Matt). Interestingly, drugs used to rev you up, get you going, give you more energy? I have no issues with those but we've tried three and they do nothing for me, even at the highest doses- an example of me processing stuff differently.

So overall, I'm a genetic mess (and they can even tell me that both parents gave me this crap shoot deck I'm working with). It's really a neat thing that science can do this now, and while it's disappointing in a lot of ways, I feel better knowing I'm closer to finding something that works. The journey to finding a depression medication that does something positive for you is harrowing and I can understand why people give up. I get it.

I have no appointments this week (yay!!) but teh following week I have therapy, I see my pulmonary doctor, and I see rheumatology. I'm nervous for that one.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Ra Ra Ra... Cheerful Cheerleader

Admittedly, I only know that Olivia participated in cheerleading last year because I vaguely remember writing a check and signing something, but mostly because my amazing friend Andrea got her to every practice and game, and somewhere in there got her photos taken. And she took a ton of pictures and shared them with me.

Other than that, I would have forgotten all about it. I didn't go to any practices or games. I didn't see anything because I was either in pain or exhausted.

Last year our family was amazingly gifted "The Best Christmas Ever", and I know I didn't blog about it, but only because I still don't know what to say. To be surprised by friends and strangers, people from this community, and businesses, too and basically gifted Christmas? What can you even say to convey what that fully meant to your family? I still have a hard time wrapping my head around it, to be honest. But one of the things included was from the local cheerleading team, letting us know that they would waive the fee for Olivia to participate in cheer this year. It's not a huge amount, but to guarantee that she could do this was so great because things are tight right now. That isn't even an exaggeration.
So cheer has officially started. They have had some practices and already cheered at two games. It's been pretty great to watch her, she absolutely loves every second of it.
Some of her best friends are doing it again, too and it is so fun watching these girls grow up. It seems like we were just starting kindergarten and now we're moving onto the middle school.
Even better? That was my first high school football game since... I have to guess maybe tenth grade? This was my school and I'm not really a fan of sports, I have no idea what I'm watching. Hockey? That I understand. Football? Nope. Seems completely stupid. Dammit if I didn't have a great time, though. Our team won the home opener, the cheerleaders did a great job, and would you believe the high school has baton twirlers now? Where was that when I was in school?! Sigh. The new stadium is amazing and you can't sit in those bleachers and not feel Spartan Pride.

I hope this is something Olivia continues with things like this- I so enjoy watching her little face beaming with excitement. Well, not little anymore. Olivia is officially a 12 year old tween today. I can hardly believe it.