Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Workout Wednesday: Stella needs to find some groove

I'm doing such a horrible job working out, I'm almost ashamed I'm even talking about it. I think there are only two things keeping me motivated to try, this blog and what I have planned in April.

First up, you guys are HARSH but in a good way and I need to be called out on my crap when I suck. And right now? I suck. I know it, you know it, we all know it. I will tell you that this week I've done my recumbent bike a few times for at least a mile each time and I've done my treadmill twice. Fun fact, tomorrow I'll talk about my visit to the pulmonary place for testing, but guess what? You guys- my wheezing is a thing. It's not just me being fat, there's something not super with my lungs. So last night I ran on my treadmill for a song and then walked for another 10 minutes and swear on your life, my lungs were on FIRE. I had a wet cough, wheezing, my chest felt like it had been hit by a semi, the whole bit for almost an hour afterwards. I did the doctor online thing and they recorded this in my file (in case I forget by the time I get to my appointment which is 100% likely) and told me not to do that again until I see them. So I'll stick to my bike for a bit and hope for the best.

But you guys, it's practically February and I have this thing in April. I need to lose like 60 pounds by then, ideally.


On Black Friday I decided on a complete whim, after being complemented on my eyes online by a lovely women's group, to sign up for a boudoir photo shoot. I almost did one years ago but couldn't because Matt's grandma was having a birthday party the same day and that was more important considering it was her last one, literally. But I wish I was as fat now as I was then because shit, bitch- I was THIN compared to now. This time I am going into it 100% terrified knowing full well my body is not in any way sexy. I'm reading a book right now where the character is in the process of losing weight but still sees herself as massive and everyone around her assures her she's hot, she just doesn't see it. I hope that's the case here but man... I don't feel it. I don't know what I was thinking. I'm just glad that I didn't do March or February, I still have some chance to tone something up. These photographers are amazing though and everything I've seen has been incredible and beautiful so I'm cautiously optimistic. I'm giving them (hopefully) to Matt as an anniversary present but it's a surprise!! Don't tell him. I might be more nervous to give them to him because in a previous conversation, AFTER I booked this, he mentioned how he thinks this kind of thing is dumb so that's great. Hopefully they'll be so great it'll change his mind.

I just really wish it were summer, or at least warmer, so I could get outside for walks. I might actually take up mall walking because I feel like I could find a friend to do that with me at least. Matt went down to a local agency to see if we qualify for a reduced cost YMCA membership because no way could I afford a full priced one, but I know I have friends who go there and I do better with a buddy. I need someone to do things with me, preferably someone in just as rough of shape as me. Ha! That way we can trip over equipment and feel like we are going to die together!

What are you doing? Are you doing anything to stay in shape in 2018? Have you ever done a boudoir photo session?

Modern Loss

I picked this book for review for a couple of reasons, I liked the cover, and I liked the topic. There are a lot of books out there about grief but this one felt different.

Modern Loss - Rebecca Soffer and Gabrielle Birkner

Inspired by the website that the New York Times hailed as "redefining mourning," this book is a fresh and irreverent examination into navigating grief and resilience in the age of social media, offering comfort and community for coping with the mess of loss through candid original essays from a variety of voices, accompanied by gorgeous two-color illustrations and wry infographics.

At a time when we mourn public figures and national tragedies with hashtags, where intimate posts about loss go viral and we receive automated birthday reminders for dead friends, it’s clear we are navigating new terrain without a road map.

Let’s face it: most of us have always had a difficult time talking about death and sharing our grief. We’re awkward and uncertain; we avoid, ignore, or even deny feelings of sadness; we offer platitudes; we send sympathy bouquets whittled out of fruit.

Enter Rebecca Soffer and Gabrielle Birkner, who can help us do better. Each having lost parents as young adults, they co-founded Modern Loss, responding to a need to change the dialogue around the messy experience of grief. Now, in this wise and often funny book, they offer the insights of the Modern Loss community to help us cry, laugh, grieve, identify, and—above all—empathize.

Soffer and Birkner, along with forty guest contributors including Lucy Kalanithi, singer Amanda Palmer, and CNN’s Brian Stelter, reveal their own stories on a wide range of topics including triggers, sex, secrets, and inheritance. Accompanied by beautiful hand-drawn illustrations and witty "how to" cartoons, each contribution provides a unique perspective on loss as well as a remarkable life-affirming message.

Brutally honest and inspiring, Modern Loss invites us to talk intimately and humorously about grief, helping us confront the humanity (and mortality) we all share. Beginners welcome.

It's not every day that you say you've just read a book about grief that was funny. Not only funny but makes jokes about the topic and leaves you feeling like you hope you get to grieve soon to turn it around like this. No mistake, grief is gut wrenching and awful, it's a punch to the gut, the stripping of every boundary you have, but it can be so much more than that. 

This is not your traditional how to book on how to grief and go through the phases of grief, but it is a collection of rather short essays about grief, death, and trauma. Grief doesn't always mean there's been a death but it can mean the change from one phase to another. If you lose a long term relationship, you grieve that. If you have a traumatic event happen to you and you've become different (emotionally or physically) you grieve what could have been while trying to accept what is. Spread out over the book are cartoons to lighten the mood, and my favorite was page 190 called, "There's No Will. What the Bleep Do I Do Now?" HA! The book makes you feel wrong at laughing as people are telling you their stories of grief but it feels so right. 

I was most interested in the section about triggers. If you've followed my story for awhile, you know that I have PTSD among a litany of mental health issues and one thing I'm struggling with are triggers. Are pregnant women always going to be a trigger for me? Why are baby blankets and empty lotion bottles a trigger? I feel crazy. This explores the nonsense that are triggers, some are legitimate and obvious, some aren't, but they are important and play a role in recovery. You can use a trigger for good instead of evil, so to speak. I'm not quite there yet but I'm trying. (At the same time I'm stimulating the economy and keeping a mental health professional employed. HA!) 

Overall? I'm giving this one a solid 4.5/5 stars. My only knock is that it's a bit long and a few essays were meh so they could have been excluded, but for the mot part, this is kind of a great book to give to someone who is dealing with grief. It's not your run of the mill, "everything happens for a reason, you'll be fine" but it's more, "you might not be fine but some of the best people are teetering on the edge and it's totally cool". It takes the pressure off from being OK quicker than you need to be. 

You can find your copy of Modern Loss on the HarperCollins website as well, a handy little site full of tremendous books that will keep you busy for quite awhile.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

A week in the fabulous life of... me.

I don't want anyone to sit at home and be jealous of my fabulous life, so I'm going to talk about last week in the Strand home. 
 Last week Lucy started teething again. She's getting all four of her incisors (eye teeth) and it's been brutal. One day she's cuddly and adorable, the next it's screaming and crying over every single thing. By Friday I resorted to Tylenol because I just couldn't handle it anymore. I need to also mention how great her bed head is. This girl SLEEPS and sleeps hard. 
 After my psychiatry appointment on Wednesday, I no sooner walked in the door when I got a call from the school saying Jackson had a 101 degree fever and needed to come home. So I went to get him, stopped off for Tylenol and Motrin for him, some soup, and some gatorade and we came home. He was out of school the rest of the week but seems to be better now, so crossing fingers, he's going back tomorrow. 

Cue bad mom alert, he is the only kid who did not get a flu shot, so on Wednesday I went to bed feeling guilty and worried. What if he gets the flu and dies like all of these children on the news? Next year I have to remember (ha) to get them all done. Doing them all at once isn't feasible so I need to think of a different strategy. 
 Last week was hard. It wasn't the hardest week I've had but it was definitely challenging in its own way. I felt like we had so much going on, but by Friday I knew it was going to be OK. I went to dinner with two fellow dance mom friends and it was so great. I didn't realize how much I needed that and it was great to connect with them. 
 Saturday Matt and Olivia went to the Father Daughter Dance and I went with my friend Tammy to a string art party a friend was throwing. I hadn't seen her since high school and Chera (the friend) looks amazing and I'm glad I medicated and got myself out the door. 
Even better? I didn't have a panic attack, so while my medications are expensive as hell and I have no idea if I can manage to pay for them long term, they do work, so that's something. I was able to sit around strangers and the sound of 20 people hammering nails didn't send me over the edge. I was pretty proud of myself, and exhausted, by the time I got home. 

I got some reading done, I got some scrapbooking done, I'm trying so hard to find a normal rhythm to what I can do now and it's tricky, that's for sure. 

Monday, January 29, 2018

Father Daughter Dance 2018

Every year Matt and Olivia go to the Father Daughter Dance held locally with a friend of ours and his daughter. Usually Tammy (Chad's wife and my BFF) and I go do something fun while they go out. This year her and I went to a string art class and I'll show pictures of that another day, but today? Today I'll share pictures from the dance. 

Olivia picked out her own dress this year and found a shirt for her dad to match, she even told me it'll be her Easter dress because "it's just a waste to buy a dress I'll only wear once." You guys- she is getting so big. I can't even handle it.  
 Thankfully her dad wasn't embarrassing the entire time. 
 Probably my most favorite picture of them ever. EVER. 
 Olivia and Kennedy, who is two years older than her. She was born shortly before Matt and I got married and I've known her mom since she was pregnant with her, so 14 years! We used to work together and her pregnancy with Kennedy was brutal. I was terrified to have a baby solely based on her experience. Ha! 
They had a great night, they even danced together, but the guys got to catch up and the girls got to run around, shoeless, and talk about the middle school. I kind of hope they continue being friends because it would be fun to have second generation friends with the two of them but we'll see. 

Friday, January 26, 2018

Baby Come Back

You need to see my review from yesterday so you understand why I am obsessed with these books.

Baby Come Back - Molly O'Keefe


I sold my soul a long time ago to pay my father’s debts. Now my life is a prison: no friends. No family. Nothing it would hurt to lose.

I never should’ve touched Abby. I tried not to, but she is beautiful, magnetic, sexy. Everything I want but can't let myself have.


She seduced me not knowing who I was or what I really do in the shadows. I should have resisted her, but I wanted to be the man Abby thought I was for as long as I could.

But all debts must be paid, sooner or later. And mine are paid with blood.

Now Abby knows who I am, what I am, and she’s run from me.

I would have let her go for her own good. But when I find out she’s carrying my baby — there’s nowhere she can hide…

Alright, I thought I loved Bad Neighbor, but I think I love this one even more! We have Abby, a self proclaimed shots girl with no real future or purpose, low self image, and no confidence. We have Jack, paying the debts of his father to the mob as a punisher/enforcer and he hates it. Fate aligns when Abby shows up to The Moonlight with her friends/coworkers for an event and spies Jack, looking dark and sexy but reading a book at the bar. Intrigued, she goes to make conversation and sparks fly.

They embark on a three day sex binger but quickly life reminds them that this relationship isn't going to work so Abby leaves, only to come back and see Jack murder someone in cold blood. She runs, OBVIOUSLY, and Jack goes after her. She's pregnant and that presents challenges for them both when he catches up to her. How is Jack going to handle the mob? Can Abby save herself from a boring, unfulfilled life, and do right by her baby?

You guys- I LOVED THIS BOOK. The sex scenes are great but not even over the top, but Jack... I kind of loved Jack. I kept picturing the guy from The Matrix with a Hispanic twist the entire time. The best part of the book is the end has an appearance from Jesse and Charlotte from book one, gives you glimpses into the future for them all, and ends feeling like a complete book duo. Truly, Molly O'Keefe cannot fail.


Thursday, January 25, 2018

Bad Neighbor

I know you're hoping this is a story about a really terrible neighbor but NOPE, it's a great book. Like super great.

Bad Neighbor - Molly O'Keefe

He's sexy... He's dangerous... He's right next door. 

I gave up everything to save my sister from a monster, and now I’m lying low in this rundown apartment so I can stay out of danger. Hiding from everyone.
Except for the guy in apartment 1A.
He’s rude. Silent. Muscled, mysterious, and hot as hell. I don’t know if he likes me or hates me, but the more time I spend with him, the less it matters.
I want him.
And for the first time in my life I'm going to go after what I want.

She doesn’t belong in my world.

From the second 1B moves in, I know she’s keeping secrets. She doesn’t belong here, much less with a street fighter like me.
But that doesn’t stop me from craving her. Her softness and sweetness. She’s a drug, and suddenly I’m addicted.
I know someone is going to try and hurt her and I can’t let that happen. But unless I push her away and get her out of my world, that someone could be me… 

I'm going to make a little confession. When I was 16, I would ride the city bus all over town. I came across some pretty nice people and of course, some sketchy people, too. I used to always talk to this guy, I can't remember his name anymore, but he was always at the downtown stop so we'd get on at the same time every day. I was coming from my dance/baton class and who knows where he was coming from. But we'd talk, every day, at the stop and on the bus. We had a lot in common, we were always listening to our own Discman's but we'd compare CD's, my bag was always full of them. But one day, he wasn't there anymore. In the place he always stood waiting was a copy of Nicholson Baker's Vox. (Links below) I immediately thought it was from him so I picked it up and decided to start reading it on the bus.

I could not put it down.

It was filthy. Bizarre and filthy. I can't remember details but it was basically about two people having a conversation over the phone, connected through a number in the back of a random magazine, talking about their sexual fantasies. I can't remember all of them but I remember reading a scene where she was effectively having sex with three painters in a hall way and it was so strange but I couldn't get it out of my head. Even now, almost twenty years later, I remember that part of the book so well.

I never saw the guy again, I don't know what ever happened to him, but I still have the book. I'm convinced it was from him and this was some strange sexual thing for him. He was probably a straight up pedophile and I should be grateful I wasn't molested on the bus or something but... yeah. Still have the book.

Which brings me to this book. Strange intro to this, but oddly appropriate. In this book we have Charlotte (which is a great name to use here because it's almost too good girl sounding), running away from her sister's "sociopath" boyfriend. Then we have Jesse (kind of bad boy sounding), a hot guy who does illegal fighting in the basement of their building, he gives off "I hate everyone and am bad news" vibes" and scares the bejesus out of Charlotte. Kind of. She's both attracted and terrified, and a lot curious about him. With their early run in's being completely volatile, Charlotte doesn't know his story or why he's like this. Jesse knows he's not good for her, knows she's hiding something, but dammit if her softness and bumblebee curtains doesn't lure him in like a siren song.

There is a scene where a couple are doing various sex acts on Jesse's bed and Charlotte comes storming in to complain about music, only she sees all of this. She sees Jesse in the corner watching them, watching her. That scene made me think of Nicholson Baker's VOX immediately and that alone  made me love this book so much. I can't tell you what happens beyond this moment but just know this book is ridiculously HOT, Jesse is bad boy heightened because you never know where he's going with his mood, and I liked Charlotte. She had the potential to be annoying but nope, I kind of loved her. She reminded me of myself and this book led to some great moments with my husband later. We'll leave it at that.

Five stars. Easily. I'm reading the sequel, I'll post the links for that below, but review will come later.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Winter is long and it's killing me.

I hate living in Wisconsin more than anything. More than vegetable. I hate it more than vegetables, lambs. It's serious, my hatred of Wisconsin. I'd move but Matt really likes his job here and we aren't going to find a place that is as good to us as they are so we stay. 

But I hate it. 

I'm stuck in this house and there are only a few moments that I venture out, mostly for medical appointments. It's cold and I'm a Florida born girl through and through. 

I often see people with seasonal bucket lists and I always feel like it I made one for winter, maybe I wouldn't hate it so much, but I'm also lazy through and through. But here's what we've done so far: 

 Jackson got his hair cut and spends over an hour in the bathroom every morning to achieve this look. I don't understand it but whatever, he gets up at 5 a.m. every day just to do this so at least I don't have to fight him to get up in the morning, I'm considering it a win. 
I hate winter, I believe I've mentioned this. But one day it was warmish so Matt took the girls out when I took Jackson to tennis. Lucy had never worn boots or snow pants so that was an experience all on its own.  
 Penelope was all about it but didn't understand why we were insistent on her wearing mittens. She learned pretty quickly that snow is cold. 
 Then Matt decided to load the girls (including kid of the year Olivia who helps so much with the girls) and drag the sled down the road. Lucy was loving it... Penelope not so much. 
 She also is difficult to take a picture of, this is what I get when I say, "Penelope, smile for mom!". 
Lucy, on the other hand, is pretty damn cute. We're a week away from 18 months old, I can hardly believe it. 

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Adventures of Popcorn and Jellybean

If you know me at all you know that my love of literature extends to children's books as well so anytime I have the chance to review one, I jump on it.

The Adventures of Popcorn and Jellybean - Robert Gillespie
Popcorn and Jellybean had never ventured down the path beyond the big tree. But since they never really did anything exciting and even though it made them a little nervous at first, they decided it would be a fun adventure for a couple of days since. What could possibly go wrong? Plenty, as it turned out, if the explorers were not prepared! Join them as they took on new challenges each day, learn how to survive by following the behaviors of the animals they encountered, and go where Mother Nature led them. And who knows, maybe we would learn as well! 

If you're in the market for a really cute book that doesn't have your cookie cutter characters, this one is for you. We meet Raisin, Popcorn, and Jellybean (often referred to as JB) who venture on a five day adventure down the path beyond the big tree. The book itself is long, much too long for my two and one year old to listen to in one sitting so we broke it up into a few reading sessions. A good reading group this would be for are your first and second graders, beginning chapter book readers. The words are easy, the text is clear on the page making it an easier read visually, and there are illustrations that correspond with the text. One thing I noticed right away is that there aren't as many illustrations as I would have liked, though maybe for a beginning chapter book reader that isn't a deterrent.
Penelope telling me I had to read the book!
The story itself moves along pretty well, we have JB and Popcorn on their grand adventure but they encounter problems along the way, find solutions, and do kind things for others throughout. The story gives you lots of opportunities for asking your child questions about the book, you can ask them to guess how JB and Popcorn are going to solve a problem, how can they be kind towards others in that moment, etc. The first thing came to mind is maybe using this as a classroom read along, or maybe a good book if you're doing one on one work with a student having a harder time. The book itself is a little larger than a regular chapter book, making it easy if you wanted to read side by side with a kiddo, which is really nice. Oh! I thought this would also be kind of a cool read for the youngest group of Girl or Boy Scouts, they could probably work this story around with a fun project or maybe before their first walk into the woods to clean up and take out what doesn't belong there, like JB and Popcorn do.

My two and one year old can't give me a great opinion about it but the fact that Penelope (two) wanted me to keep reading it is always a good sign, she's a tough critic when it comes to books! I'm going to give this one a solid 4 stars. My only complaint is wishing there were more illustrations because what was there was cute, and maybe the length wouldn't make this a good book for the young readers but more towards elementary age children.


Uncaged (Corps Security 3.5)

I didn't realize this was only a novella until I looked it up. It is shorter than the other books but not by that much, honestly. There are also sneak peaks of way into the future, too if you're into that.

Uncaged (Corps Security 3.5) - Harper Sloan

Greg Cage’s life is more fulfilling than he ever could have imagined. He’s married to the love of his life, has an amazing son, and in a few short months, his family will grow again with the birth of his twin girls.

The past year has been a tough one for the Cage family, but they are now on the road to healing by learning to let go of the past and looking forward to their future.

When situations beyond his control threaten to take away so much of what Greg holds close to his heart, he has to learn that he doesn't always have the control he tries to maintain in their lives. Will he be able to handle the stress of knowing his wife and newborn daughters are beyond his protection?

Join the Cage family as they embark on yet another one of life’s journeys with a rambunctious four-year-old, pregnancy complications, and the fear of the unknown.

Will the love that Greg and Melissa share hold true as they fight to overcome the obstacles that face them?

Let's get the details out of the way, this is NOT a stand alone. You should read the first three books as some of the details in this way give away previous books, but you absolutely HAVE to read CAGE, because this is a continuation of it. You have to. You know I don't mess around with that kind of thing, do it. 

You guys know I loved Cage and his book, even if Melissa was a total annoying damsel in distress. If anything, this novella was strange for me because the Melissa we know from the first book is 100% different in this one. She isn't whiny and helpless, but I suppose it's because she's the center of the drama. In this novella we find Melissa totally knocked up with twin girls but we know it won't be smooth sailing. Melissa gets into an accident and the her and the babies' future is in danger, leaving Greg to put it all back together on his own. 

Really fast read, but it was take it or leave it. I'm a 50/50 split on novellas, it has to be REALLY good, like enough to almost warrant a full book, for me to love it. This one wasn't terrible, and if you're a fan of Greg and Melissa's, you'll love it. I will say maybe the biggest meh moments for me are Cohen's chapters in the books. Honestly, can we just not with child point of view chapters? Please? It's just too corny and lame and to be honest, I skipped over them completely. I don't have time for that garbage. 

So I'm rating this a 2/5 stars. It's just ok. It isn't anything to write home about, but it is a fun addition to this series.


Monday, January 22, 2018

Sharing memories when you have none

One of the things about me, a good indicator of my OCD, is that I have to be even with all of my kids. My mom was even with my brother and I and I just never want one kid to feel more special.

They drive me nuts equally. Penelope a little more most days.

Each one of my kids have a scrapbook detailing their first year. I documented my pregnancy, how Matt and I felt, pictures of their siblings getting ready, labor and delivery, and then every month until their birthday, ending with their first birthday party.

It's a pretty extensive project but it was important to me that my kids know how they began. I want them to be able to look back and should they not have memories themselves, it's OK because I did it. I documented those big moments and maybe someday their spouses or partners will love it, or their kids will think it's cool, or they'll know how much I loved them when I'm gone.

Except Lucy.

Lucy doesn't have one. I'm just starting this for her and I've only got my belly photos done but it was then that I realized I can't remember my pregnancy. I don't know if I had morning sickness, when she moved, what I was feeling, Matt's reaction to her coming, nothing. I can't remember labor and delivery and each month? Forget it. I can't tell you when she walked, sat, ate solid foods, rolled over, none of it. Looking at these photos and having it driven home that I don't remember and those likely aren't coming back is a trigger, and it's upsetting.

I am so upset that Lucy is going to get the left overs, the crappy end of the stick, the lamest of everything because I just can't give any more. I am really angry that this has happened to me and I don't understand why. The greater purpose isn't here and I am so angry. I really want to get passed the angry phase but I feel stuck.

I am so tired of people comparing their normal memory loss and forgetfulness to what I've got going on. I know they do it to make me feel better or convince me that this is normal, but I have had countless doctors tell me it is not, it's not going to get better (most likely), and that I'll notice I'm losing memories I'm forming now, I just won't remember what I can't remember. It's frustrating. I can't remember last week, when I try it's just a weird void of blackness. I know I did something, but I can't remember any of it. How am I supposed to live like this? What's even the point of trying to find joy if I won't remember any of it when I need it the most?

Friday, January 19, 2018

Family outings and adulting.

It's honestly pretty rare that all six of us leave the house together, let alone to do something. It's just a lot of work and I'm not sharp enough to watch the kids like I used to. I am like a fifth kid for Matt so you can imagine he's not totally excited to go out, either. But for New Years Eve this year we went to our local Children's Museum and spent an hour playing. 
The big kids didn't really do much because they are too old to enjoy this place, but they were pretty good sports about it.  
 Penelope's favorite was a toss between a big slide and this fan that would blow items up the chute and they'd fly off. She was over here for a long time. 
 Jackson would diligently retrieve the items so she could keep doing it. 
 Lucy was all about the slide. This poor child hardly leaves the house, and I feel like a terrible parent saying that but it's true, so everything is new and amazing for her still. We've only taken her to the park a handful of times because I'm just not up for it, so Lucy hasn't had a lot of slide experience. She loved it, though!
 It took her a bit but after some time she realized it's easier for her to go backwards on her tummy. 

In other news, Matt and I are busy being adults.
Not only did he hang up the painting I did, but we bought real lamps. These aren't your Target or Walmart lamps, they are for real lamps that cost $50 a piece and so heavy that I could kill someone should I have to. Don't break into my house, I will bash your head in with my fancy lamp. Probably wouldn't even dent it. That's how great they are. 

It's ridiculous that our life has come down to lamps being the most exciting part of the month. 

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Into the Night

I have to be honest and tell you I am fangirling over Cynthia Eden so hard, you guys. She's awesome.

Into the Night - Cynthia Eden

Two FBI agents are caught in a merciless vigilante’s crosshairs in New York Times bestselling author Cynthia Eden’s electric Killer Instinct series

Lives will be ravaged as two FBI agents confront a mastermind serial murderer in New York Times bestselling author Cynthia Eden’s new Killer Instinct novel

Sheltered in the shadows of the Smoky Mountains is the suspect who’s summoned FBI agent Macey Night’s fears to the surface. Every day that the “Profiler,” a vigilante serial killer, escapes justice is another day she’s reminded of what it is to be a ruthless predator’s prey. Capturing him is a craving deeper than anything she’s felt in a long time. But Agent Bowen Murphy, equal parts sexy and volatile, seems hell-bent on changing that. Working together—needing, living, and breathing each other—they’re entwined to distraction.

Bowen’s used to operating on impulse: act, don’t feel. Now Macey and the controlled terror behind her beautiful eyes has him rethinking everything, including his rule to never get close to a colleague. He’s willing to fight for a future with Macey, but the consequences of love could be deadly.

I read book two, I have yet to read book one, but it's OK because while this is book three in the series, it's a stand alone. You'll be fine if you jump in right here! In this book we start with Macey Night, strapped to a table about to be the next victim of her co-worker who is a bizarre serial killer. Fast forward a few years and Macey has quit her job as a doctor and has started a career in the FBI, determined to find her attacker and bring him to justice. She gets a lead on his whereabouts and sets out, with her partner Bowen Murphy, to hopefully catch him before he kills anyone else.

Except they get there and he's dead. Bodies are piling up, serial killers who have been on the run for years are suddenly being caught by The "Profiler" and it seems he knows more about Macey and Bowen than anyone else. They quickly realize that they are the center of this bizarre crime saga and are racing to piece everything together and bring this person to justice. Nothing is as it seems and nobody can be trusted.

I LOVED THIS BOOK. I finished it in a day and a half, and while I kind of had a guess (and was right) the accomplices and the larger story? Had no clue. That came out of nowhere but suddenly everything lined right up when I was worried we'd be left with loose ends. The ending is perfect, the story grabs you immediately, and Cynthia Eden is a writer that knows what a reader wants- a story that never dulls and is always moving forward. I cannot get enough of these books!


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Workout Wednesday: working through anger

I'm on this kick to do better this year and hopefully get fit, or at lease less obese, and it's hard. I feel like I have a lot of obstacles to get around and I get easily frustrated because I know what I used to be able to do and frankly? I'm pissed off and angry that I am here. Again. I'm so sick of being reminded how much I have changed since my AFE. It's tiring. 

I also have to be honest and tell you that while I did work out this week, I only did it when I was angry. And not just angry at my situation, but angry at my children. My husband. My life. The sounds of their laughter get on my nerves and I want to throw something. My husband telling me about his hard day at works makes me want to punch a wall. Then someone starts crying and I feel like I'm going to hurt someone. 

It scares the absolute hell out of me. 

So I'm trying to separate myself from the situation as much as I can and I have been going to my basement to walk on my treadmill. On this particular day, it was really bad. It was a level 11 of anger and it took me a solid 20 minutes to calm down enough to feel like I could rejoin everyone else upstairs. I missed dinner. I missed hearing about their days. I missed the time of day we all sit as a family and talk about what is happening. My chair sat empty as an obvious reminder that I am not the same mom I was. I am not a great mom right now. I'm trying but I feel like I'm failing in all areas. 

We're Going To Be Friends

Easily one of the most recognizable songs that I sing to my kids willing them to nap time is The White Stripes' We're Going To Be Friends. I remember when it came out I was surprised that this was the same band putting out Seven Nation Army, but Jack White is a quirky kind of guy so maybe it isn't so strange. I do know that when I was listening to a toddler radio channel on Pandora this song would come on frequently and that's when it struck me that this is kind of a great kids' song that adults love. 

And now its a book. 

We're Going To Be Friends - Jack White, illustrated by Elinor Blake

I don't have to tell you how much I loved this book because you already know. I loved this book, you guys! The words itself are pretty spectacular and it's hard to read this book without singing it, but my two toddlers happen to love my singing. 
The illustrations, though? You guys. Stunning. They are stunning. It's a beautiful combination of pencil drawings with the strong red and white color scheme (which ties in The White Stripes origins)... 
 ...and some pages feature the drawings against photographs. It's just a aesthetically pleasing book to page through.  
The book itself came with a code for a download of the song which I think makes it a fun sing/read along book for your beginning readers. (Or grown up's who fancy themselves as great singers, too.) Even if you didn't take advantage of the song download (which you should) the book itself is an easy read, contains lots of Sight Words for your beginning reader, but also has enough repetitiveness to make you anxious and unsteady reader confident. I so very highly recommend this book if for no other reason than having a fun retro-like kids/adult book on your shelf. 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018


I'm steadily reading this series and fortunately this counts as part of my Beat the Backlist challenge, so that's a bonus!

Beck - Harper Sloan

I’ve always been good at wearing masks. Not letting anyone see the real me. I’m content being the happy-go-lucky best friend. The strong willed boss. The independent woman who doesn’t need a man. 

But the truth is I’m just as broken as the rest of you. I’m terrified that all it will take is one person to make all my carefully constructed walls crumble into fine dust. So I guard my heart with everything I have. Determined to never let anyone get close enough to hurt me again. 

All is perfect until HE walks into my life. No… he doesn’t just walk. He struts his good-looking, sex-oozing self right into my space and demands that I see HIM. Making me want what I know I can’t have. 

So I did the only thing I know how to do. 
I run. 
But he just won’t let me go. 

The second I see her, I know she will be mine. I see past the gorgeous smiles and heart-stopping laughter. I see HER. She doesn’t want me to know her secrets or the past that haunts her, but I make it my mission to find out. 

To make her mine. 

She can run all she wants, but it will never be far enough to stop me from coming after her. 
She’s it for me and she knows it. 
She’s just too scared to admit it. 

Alright, so this is book 3 in the Corps Security series, but it's fully a stand alone. Each book connects with the others and some story line overlaps, but if you didn't read book 1 and 2 you won't be lost. Secondly, if you like romance but don't want to hear details so much, this book is not for you, nor is the series.

In this book we have Dee and Beck, two characters I'm on the fence about. Well, I don't like Dee so I guess I'm not on the fence with her. But Dee has clear mental health issues that extend all the way into her childhood, so as an adult she is a fake adult. She's as fake as they come, she acts like a bitch for no reason, pretends to be the mothering type with her friends, a man slayer, bad ass, independent woman. When REALLY she's insecure, unhappy, has PTSD, completely unable to tell the truth about how she feels, and has a bizarre obsession with not getting close to anyone and being pissed off with herself for not doing it. The majority of the book is all around that, and how Beck just takes her crap and sticks with it until (no shocker) he gets the girl!

Then all hell breaks loose with a drug addict/gunman, a master criminal, someone dies, and someone gets engaged. If you're following along you get little updates on previous characters, one of them are pregnant with twins! But what makes the whole thing crazy is the fact that Dee is crazy for book 1 and 2, and 3/4 of this one but faced with a gunman? Calm and totally OK. Not freaking out. She doesn't even panic when she meets the master criminal. Nope, calm and collected. Which is so bizarre and implausible I almost threw the book right there.

Overall? I can only give this book 3/5 stars and that's being really generous. I liked book 1 and 2, but book 3 was a dud and I think it's all because Dee is nuts and I don't like her. I don't think those type of characters are endearing and you can't redeem that. The only thing saving this book is Beck being such a great guy and Dee's right- she doesn't deserve him.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Sometimes when you think you're helpful, you're being lazy.

I'll start this by saying that my feelings about this are no way indicative of every person who is or has been in my position. I'll also put out there that I used to do all of these things, be that person, but I genuinely thought I was doing good.

I used to be one of those people who heard about suicide and immediately thought, "That is incredibly selfish. You're surrounded by people who want to help you and you don't even care enough to let them help." I was that person, no question. Full stop.

Then I became suicidal and I realize what an asshole I was. I wasn't helping by pointing any of this out, but what I was doing was trying to guilt the person into staying here. Guilt is not a reason to stay on Earth. Nobody should stay here because of what they can do for you, whether that's supporting you or just being the person under a title in your life (mother, father, friend, spouse, etc), or because you have fond memories and you like that person: that is not a good enough reason for them to stay alive because what that is is YOU being selfish. You're thinking about what you would be feeling with them gone instead of what it feels like for them to be alive every single day.

Sure, some depression is passing. We all have days where we think, "fuck it all, I'm done" and we have them in varying degrees. Some of us say it, don't mean it, and that's that. Some say it and maybe think about it in passing but it's enough to convince them it's just a bad day. Some people think about it hard, really weigh it out, but ultimately it passes and they are able to move on and be OK. Then there are some people where it is like a continuous loop of negative in our head. It's a cassette tape that never ends, it's on repeat, and you never shut it off. At best you can turn the volume down a bit but out of nowhere it gets cranked up and you suddenly feel like you have no control over it. If you hear something enough times, you agree with it. It's making valid point and it starts sounding like a better idea every day.

One of the resources available to all of us are suicide hotlines. I have called it one time in the last year and it was the worst 12 minutes of my life. I got a young sounding guy, sounded like a young boy, and he was reading of a terribly written script and when I detailed why I felt the way I do, he gave me silence. He had no answers for me, didn't have any information about where I should go for help, and I hung up that phone feeling worse than ever. I don't remember how I got through that night but it was hard. While I laid in my bed, with tears streaming down my face and my husband asleep next to me, I remember countless friends telling me to "reach out" if I need help.

So I did.

I made a lot of phone calls. Maybe because it was the middle of the night, but I got no answers. No returned texts. Nobody even returned the missed call they had to have seen on their phones. I can't fault them because we're all busy with our lives and I get it. I hate talking on the phone, so I understand about anxiety. I also know that nobody wants to be the last person someone talks to, it's a lot of pressure. What if they kill themselves, is it because of something you said? Did you motivate them to jump off the bridge?

I get it.

I could go on and on, but I won't. I will say this though, if you know someone who needs help, who is maybe on the fringe, do something. If they matter to you, do something. Call around and find the mental health resources in the area, sit with them, bring them food and hugs, let them cry no matter how uncomfortable it makes you, listen to them, don't tell them to be grateful or think of everyone who has it worse because in those moments? This is worse than cancer. It's worse than babies with cancer. I'm not kidding. In those dark moments the tape is so loud and it says every negative thing. It overpowers everything good in your life and you just want it to stop. If ending your life makes it stop, it is worth it, in those moments.

I won't pretend to tell you I've beaten it because I very much haven't. While my medications quiet the noise, I still hear it. The medication numbs my ability to plan but I still want to die each and every day. The medication slows me down and makes me tired, and I don't think I'd have the energy to do anything even if I had a solid plan. I'm also not begrudging anyone around me. I think you all genuinely think you've done everything you could or are comfortable doing. I get it. I'm with you, I don't know what I would do if the tables were turned. But I ask you, I beg you, please don't tell me to call a hotline, to reach out, to be grateful, to look at all of the good around me, because none of it helps and none of it matters. Give me an actual solution.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Crafty Saturday : kind of a thing

I haven't done a Crafty Saturday post in well over a year, possibly closer to two years. To be honest, I don't craft very much anymore. I've lost interest, my brain doesn't function great so trying to think about what to do and how to do it is really tough, and I feel very overwhelmed. But in recent months I've started feeling guilty because the kids love the scrapbooks, they spend a lot of time looking through them and talking about what we've done, and they subtly (or not so much) remind me that Penelope and Lucy will like it too.... if only I'd keep up with it. So I'm trying. 

This week I did two pages and finished putting together the Michigan trip album (from 2010). I forgot how good it feels to get things off of my desk and scrapbooking has always been a great way to get that feeling. 
They aren't great, but I guess it's a start? 
I'm so behind in photos so I've been trying to do the ones that are easiest thinking I'd gain momentum. And I was but now I'm out of adhesive and the thought of going to the store is overwhelming. 

Also this week I went to a painting class with my friend Tammy. The instructor was kind of rushed and it felt like a complete frenzy because there were multiple projects being done at once... it was just a lot. So our paintings were.. kind of interesting.  
In case you can't find up, we're in the lower left hand corner, front row. We're going to a string art class next for one of my friends, that should be fun, too. 

Friday, January 12, 2018

You Don't Look Adopted

Calm down, I am not adopted! But this is a very cool book about someone who is and what that can be like for someone.

You Don't Look Adopted - Anne Heffron

Adoption can be tricky. It's a wonderful thing to be chosen, to be brought up by loving parents, but in order for this to happen, there has to be an initial abandonment, and this loss can settle like a seed of unease in the adopted person, quite possibly affecting the entirety of his or her life. 
Anne Heffron, who'd been adopted at ten weeks old, embarked on a three-month journey she called "Write or Die", leaving California for her birth place, New York City, in order to do the one thing she'd been unable to do her entire adult life: tell her own story, and not the one she'd heard all her life that began, "The day we got you." 
You Don't Look Adopted is an intimate look at what it means for an adopted person to live in the world as someone who was both chosen and given away. 

I'm giving this one a solid 4 stars, right out the gate. I'm not adopted but I was able to finally "get it". I never used to get it when people had a disconnect and never felt part of something because of their adoption, or maybe they just don't know one of their parents, because I have few memories of my dad. He didn't want us, he couldn't contribute,  he was an alcoholic and that was more important. I eventually gained a step dad but I never felt like I was missing out, like a part of me is unfulfilled. But after reading Anne's book I get it.

I've not been shy about my struggles this last year and being suicidal but I never had a good statement to wave and say, THIS! This is how I feel. In Anne's book early on there is a line,

"What does valuable even mean? It means worth protecting, worth keeping alive. It means that sometimes I cross the street without looking both ways because I don't care if someone hits me."


Another line that just called to me was on the next page, I think, and its in relation to her writing this book. She says,

"If you think your voice is dangerous in its ability to hurt the ones you love, you learn to keep it quiet. And then the real trouble starts."

I'm writing a book now and I struggle with writing my truth how I see it versus sparing feelings. I shouldn't spare feelings if it's my personal truth, right?

The entire story, from her childhood to adulthood, the author is able to show us why hers was different, what mistakes she made, what points of her life were maybe impacted by being adopted. It's written honestly and beautifully, your heart strings will be tugged hard. As a mom, I can't imagine what it is like to hand my baby over. I think when we look at certain issues we only see one facet of it, we don't look at the full circle. People often say that love can fix anything but that's not really true. This book highlights how that can be the case. Even the best of parents can't fix all of the broken pieces, fill all of the holes. I have no connection to adoption myself but I really felt the impact as if this was written for me. I love this author's voice so much, it makes it an easy read.

If you, or someone you know, is adopted this would be an excellent book for them. Maybe a great read for a newly adoptive parent, so you avoid the pitfalls of screwing your kid up more? HA! But truly, this book is so well written, it's going to be one I hold near and dear for a long while.