Friday, June 22, 2018

I have lost my entire mind.

I've been told you aren't supposed to do things that could be considered rash or not thought out when you're in a depressive episode. You make faulty decisions and your logic isn't always on point. I should tell you that right now, I'm only on my Wellbutrin and that's really bad because that's when I'm at my worst. I'm in between drugs right now and need to have the previous fully out of my system before I add anything else in, so I'm struggling with life right now pretty hard. I try not to talk about the things that go through my head in episodes like this because it was scare the actual shit out of you so I keep it inside and patiently wait for my next therapy session to unload all of the blackness inside of me. 

But in these episodes I also make incredibly stupid decisions. I buy things I don't need and can't afford, I decide I don't need medication at all and get incredibly sick, I'm snappy and mean to everyone, I sleep more than I should but I'm so tired I can't stay awake, and then I get angry. I get angry that this is where I'm at in life and I miss the old Sara. I'm angry I can't just up and go, that I have to mentally prepare myself to do something and even physically I can't do what I once did. 

A few days ago I was particularly angry and in a "screw YOU, life!" moment I did something that was pretty stupid. 

I signed up for a 5K. 

Now normally this wouldn't be cause for alarm except for the fact I can only walk a handful of blocks before my body is screaming and the exhaustion sets in and I could nap on someone's front lawn. How exactly do I think I'm going to make it three miles?! I have no idea and all of the training in the world couldn't help me. Not only can I not run three miles, I am not supposed to exert myself because of the adrenal insufficiency and I'm pretty running counts as exertion. 

So at this point I am going to throw caution to the wind and I'm going to try to walk it at least. Which means getting a full mile down by the end of July, two miles by August, and three miles by September which gets me to the three mile mark just in time for this race. Can I do it? I have no idea but I most likely will die trying. 

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Book Review: A Game of Chance

The best part of Jackson having tennis in the summer means it's a guaranteed hour to myself to read. I occasionally look up to make sure he's still out there but for the most part I'm reading because I don't understand tennis. Their scoring is bizarre. Anyways, I'm going through my old Linda Howard books that I just ordered and I faintly remember reading this one long ago but I could be wrong.

A Game of Chance - Linda Howard
Romantic suspense, originally published by Silhouette Intimate Moments. The last book in the Mackenzie Family series focuses on Chance Mackenzie, a feral, homeless adolescent until rescued and adopted by Wolf and Mary Mackenzie. The stunning and aloof half-breed has built a career in undercover ops, first as a Naval Intelligence Officer, then as a private consultant. However, one particularly vile terrorist has always eluded the law. Chance and brother Zane find a way to lure Crispin Hauer in: They'll use his daughter Sonia as bait. First step: Make Sunny fall in love with Chance. What could be simpler? 
Alright, the general premise of this is almost identical to Loving Evangeline in that it's a guy seducing a girl to get information out of her with the intentions of walking away afterwards. It doesn't happen because the girl is so seductive and amazing that he can't imagine a life without her. This one has a more modern take at relationships and the guy doesn't speak to the woman as if she's a helpless moron so already it has that going for it.

The other perks being that if you're into a military romance, this hits the mark because Chance is a Naval Intelligence Officer, posing as an ex-Army Ranger turn charter pilot. Sunny is a courier on the side but always on the run from her father who happens to be a terrorist. Chance is after her, and information about her father, and prepared to use her as a bait to get it. He has a traumatic back story, as does she, so they end up being a great match for each other.

Overall I'm giving this one 4 stars. It's the Linda Howard I enjoy, it's short and a relatively fast read, it's got an interesting story with complex characters and it was a fun little read. Great for the beach or tossing into your purse to read little bits at a time, though there are parts you won't want to put it down!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Summer Bucket List

Every year I see people on Facebook posting things like their summer bucket list and every year I think to myself, what a great idea!!, and then never do it. We really can't afford to do a whole lot and now trying to do anything as a family of six is EXPENSIVE so we have to keep it to a minimum. Except I keep seeing things like older people talking about regrets and things they wish they had done as a family and it all boils down to taking the trip, doing the thing. You can always make more money, you won't always get that opportunity to do that thing.

If there's anyone who knows how short life is, it's me.

So we are going to do the things.

1. Go to the Dells: We are going to the Dells, specifically Great Wolf Lodge, for two nights in July. We've gone twice now and we've discovered Kalahari wasn't all that (at least when you have toddlers) so we are going to go back to Great Wolf Lodge. This time, we told the kids, so they are super excited about it. I don't know if we'll have time to do anything else while down there, maybe we'll head to a zoo or something before we hit the road back home, not sure yet.

2. Brainerd, MN: We are going to the Safari North Wildlife Park in Brainerd one day. We haven't ever been there and it shows up on a lot of lists around here so I figured we'd take the drive one weekend and check it out. That's going to cost us $60 just to get in.

 Lucy living her best life with her first smore. 

3. Hayward, WI: So another place I haven't been to but the big kids have, the Wilderness Walk in Hayward, Wisconsin. Another $60 but I have heard really great things about this place.

4. Como Zoo/Cascade Bay: This would be a recreation of a trip we did way back when Olivia was just 10 months old. It would mean spending the night in a hotel, so an added expense, but it would be so much fun. I'm thinking it makes sense to go to Cascade Bay the first day and then Como Zoo before we come home. That's going to be like $53ish to get into Cascade Bay but Como Zoo is free so as far as trip cost, it's pretty inexpensive. Sure we'd have the expense of a hotel but I bet I can get one for $120 or less if I start looking now.
Penelope ate a smore, but went back to eating chocolate and marshmallows separately. 

5. Canal Park Day: We have a gem of a place right in our own backyard, Canal Park. Every summer we spend the day throwing rocks, having lunch, getting ice cream, and walking around. We can do this anytime so I've left this one kind of loose. The last few years we've ended up doing it on Labor Day but we'll see.

6. Vista Fleet: The second thing I have booked for us. I wanted to do it this past weekend but with the crappy, rainy (and cold) weather, and Grandma's Marathon happening, that didn't make any sense. So I booked all of us tickets to go on a Family Fun Cruise around the Duluth/Superior harbor. This was a little more expensive because there's pizza and ice cream served but I figured it would be a fun Father's Day thing to do and I don't have to cook. Always a win.

7. Mall of America: It's basically a given that every August we make a trip to the Mall of America. We do it all up, rides, aquarium, shopping, food, Crayola Experience, the whole thing. This ends up being hundreds of dollars so Matt dreads it every year, but I try to pick up some school clothes off clearance racks while we're there so it's not without purpose. Matt still hates it. The kids love it.

I think that's it! That's a very full (and expensive) summer but figuring we're stuck to doing these things on weekends only, it fills our summer. The kids are gone for a couple of weeks to their Grandma and Grandpa's so that books out time we don't get them. Then we just have to hope for good weather which (at least around here) has been not great at best. It's not snowing, but it's been cold. We're maybe the only part of the nation not in a ridiculous heat wave. If you're melting, come to northern Wisconsin or Minnesota.. by Lake Superior. And a sweater because you will need it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Book Review: Loving Evangeline

The absolute best part about reading really old romance novels is that they almost never stand the test of time. Surely you can get over fashions and such but the voice of characters is fantastically hilarious and I forgot how much I love it.

Loving Evangeline - Linda Howard

Evangeline Shaw is the key to the conspiracy that threatens Robert Cannon's company. Classified software developed by Cannon's group is being sold to a foreign government without his approval. It isn't just theft or a case of corporate espionage -- it's treason. And the trail leads straight to Shaw -- who by all accounts has both the means and the motives.
Determined to handle his own investigation, Cannon tracks her to a small town in Alabama. But as he tries to untangle the knot that surrounds her, he finds himself questioning he's believed. The facts still seem pretty black-and-but his heart tells him she's no Mata Hari...

I have to give this one a 5 star basically because it's as cheesy and ridiculous as it gets. I had so much fun reading this and I suppose it was probably racy and sexy back in the day but now, especially in the era of #metoo this is so wrong it's fabulous.

So in this gem we have unsuspecting Evie Shaw, owner/operator of a marina, widow of 12 years, pretty, and pretty clueless about men. Then we have Robert Cannon, CEO of everything in life, steely gray eyes, lean like a panther (seriously, the amount of times you read the panther comparison is TOO MUCH! HA!), mean as a fox but also pretty sure he's figured out which employee is selling compromised information for money on the side. Which leads him to where Evie is, a small rinky dink town in Alabama. He's sure that she's somehow in on it because she followed the rogue employee a few times so in order to find out and break the case, he's on it himself. Forget the FBI or other authorities, this guy will circumvent them all and do it himself. As he's sleeping with her (which was amazing ridiculous) he's slowly ruining her life and putting her in a financial tail spin to get her to confess or something, that was never really clear. Of course, she isn't in on it and that's obvious from the word go but he's pretty laser focused on her guilt. It all goes to shit pretty quickly, he breaks her heart, and he struggles to see where he went wrong. It's just nuts.

Anyways. He says incredibly condescending things to her, he assumes that he would just take over her life and she would practically trip on herself to marry him, and he assumes that she can't think on her own. It's really enough to make you put the book down except it was so entertainingly hilarious and eye roll worthy I couldn't stop.

I am SO glad I spent $10 on a ton of backlist Linda Howard books because I'm diving all in now!


Monday, June 18, 2018

School is OUT!

So I'm like two weeks late, nobody should be surprised here. But I did take some pictures so I'll share them now before I forget and suddenly it's the beginning of next school year. 

 Jackson is officially a fifth grader now having successfully completed fourth grade. He apparently grew three inches this year and he doesn't believe it (neither do I) but he said he's kind of nervous for next year. I'm not, I think he will be just fine it's his first year of middle school I worry about. 
 I volunteered at his school in the afternoon for their Celebrate Success, as I always do, and I try to be out at the DJ booth area so I can take a picture of the kids with their friends. I got Jackson with all of his very best friends. 
 I love looking through all of the paper stuff he brings home at the end of the year. He had to make a book about transportation so I quickly skimmed through it and I loved his dedication. 
 I also loved this page because he had to specify which one was his mom and which was his dad. Nice, kid. 
 This was my favorite. Apparently at some point this year (probably on a birthday I'm assuming) they the kids all got to shout out things about Jackson that describe him and his teacher laminated it for him. I put it in his scrapbook but I thought these were all super accurate of him. Shares snack, best classmate ever, nice to people, always there for me, good at cleaning- these all made me smile the most. 

I wasn't awake when Olivia went to the bus in the morning so we had to take her last day picture after school. 
She finished sixth grade like a champ and managed to get all A's in all three trimesters in every class. Not that I'm surprised, she's the perfectionist in the group and she's naturally very smart. She got to go to ValleyFair (theme park) the day before because she's a "Super Spartan" meaning she got good grades and no trouble all year. I guess her and her friends had a great time and it was her first time there so I'm glad they had so much fun. I sent her with $80, she came back with $5 so I'm glad I sent her with more because some of her friends didn't bring enough money for lunch and water so she helped them out. 

They both had such a great year, I'm so glad we got through this year with as little drama as possible. Onto next year! Jackson's last year in elementary school and Olivia starts Spanish class next year! 

Friday, June 15, 2018

Book Subscription Boxes: May

I forgot to take a picture of my Bookworm Box but it was so lame you aren't missing anything. I can't even remember which two books I got, they have to be here somewhere that's for sure. 

Let's talk PageHabit, though. 
So this is what I got in my box. A cool pull light that I gave to Jackson, which already broke after two pulls, so that ended up being a bust. A very cool little dude bookmark I also gave to Jackson because I thought it kind of looked like him. A mini book which was meh, a nice bookmark, and a new book by Amanda Quick. I'm not a fan of Amanda Quick, not that I don't like her she just isn't an author I have to read. This one is a roaring 20's type book and that's maybe one of my least favorite genres, I really don't like historical stuff. I find them dull. 

This is my third month with a dud book selection (for me) so I have successfully cancelled that subscription. 

Instead, I'm strongly considering doing OwlCrate again or maybe trying out a new box. I'm kind of undecided. 

But let's talk about books I'm currently reading! I ordered a BUNCH of super old Linda Howard books so I'm going to be working my way through those. I forgot how short some of her older books were so I should be able to fly through them. I'm hoping to complete my Linda Howard library soon! I'm still trying to work through some series I haven't finished that I have on my bookshelf. I made the mistake of flipping books I haven't read on their side and it's glaringly obvious what a problem I have with buying books. It's.... it's pretty bad you guys. So I have to make it through these books before I buy more. I say that but... addiction wins, you know? I can't help it! 

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Book Review: Bleeding Love

I'm kind of on a Harper Sloan kick but I swear this is the last book of hers that I have so I'll move further down my shelf!

Bleeding Love - Harper Sloan

I've loved once. I gave everything that I had to that love. Blindly believing that nothing could ever take that feeling away from me. Away from us. And when my little world of happiness was ripped from my fingers, I felt a loss that still haunts me to this day. 

Now I use that lingering grief as a shield to keep my heart from loving again. It's that fear that keeps me from letting anyone, except my daughter, get close enough to make it hurt. To make my heart bleed when I inevitably lose again. 

Until the day I met Liam Beckett and everything I thought I had protected myself from was shoved back in my face. 

He's on a mission to prove to me that a love worth having is a love worth fighting for.

I think I have to move to a different Harper Sloan series or maybe stick with newer books because this one was just meh for me. I think the problem with this one is Megan, she's kind of the worst. Yeah, she is independent and a single mom but she's just whiny and annoying and completely has no back bone. If you liked her Corps Security series, you'll like this series because these are the adult children of the characters from Corps Security and it has almost the exact same voice, so it doesn't feel like anything new. Which is not what I was hoping for, I wanted a fresher take and I didn't expect the adult children to say the exact same things, if that makes sense. And the over use of the word "baby", STOP IT RIGHT NOW. Nobody talks like that. Oh! And "darlin'" too, that needs to stop. It's enough that I won't pick up book one or anything after this one. If I read another Harper Sloan book it'll be something completely unrelated to these. I can only give this 2 stars. 


Book Review: Beautiful Music

Fun fact: The very first book review I ever did on this blog, and what got me started, was Michael Zadoorian's book The Leisure Seeker. That was so long ago but (even with memory loss) I remember being so excited when his publicist for the book reached out to me to thank me for the review and she sent me a box of books, including The Motel Life by Willy Vlautin (one I really enjoyed). There was also a book called The Summer of Tiffany, a memoir written by a woman in her 80s and the publicist told me it's never too late to write my book. I think about that every time I hit a slump in writing. So when I saw that Michael had a new book coming and was contacted asking if I'd be game I said OF COURSE.

Beautiful Music - Michael Zadoorian

Set in early 1970s Detroit, a racially divided city still reeling from its violent riot of 1967, Beautiful Music is the story of one young man’s transformation through music. Danny Yzemski is a husky, pop radio–loving loner balancing a dysfunctional home life with the sudden harsh realities of freshman year at a high school marked by racial turbulence.

But after tragedy strikes the family, Danny’s mother becomes increasingly erratic and angry about the seismic cultural shifts unfolding in her city and the world. As she tries to hold it together with the help of Librium, highballs, and breakfast cereal, Danny finds his own reason to carry on: rock ‘n’ roll. In particular, the drum and guitar–heavy songs of local legends like the MC5 and Iggy Pop. In the vein of Nick Hornby and Tobias Wolff, yet with a style very much Zadoorian’s own, Beautiful Music is a touching story about the power of music and its ability to save one’s soul.

I wasn't born until 1982 so I'll be honest when I say a lot of the cultural references from the 70's went right over my head. But I think that's OK because Michael Zadoorian writes in such a way that you absorb the information, you can picture everything around him, and we can all relate to the middle school awkwardness. I don't care who you are, you were awkward. It isn't just middle school that's difficult to navigate (swimming naked in gym class? I'd rather die, thank you very much), but his home life isn't always easy. His father feels distant and unaware, likely stressed out to the max. His mother is emotionally unstable and to be honest, she reminds me of me in a way. Add to this the complexity of all of these characters, you can almost picture someone in your life that could play these characters in a movie and nail it.

The day his father brings home a new stereo changes Danny's life, but the book is more than that. It's about Detroit, Detroit in the 70's during the race riot time period, adolescence, mental health, it's so many real life things all balled up that you can't help but be immersed in it. You find yourself turning the pages, nodding your head, laughing out loud, all of the emotions. I just really adored this book and it feels like a perfect summer read. Maybe pack it on your way to your outdoor music festival, what a tribute. I have to also say, Danny had his coming to Jesus rock and roll moment with Led Zeppelin's Houses of the Holy album and I also remember the first time I heard that. Senior year of high school, my boyfriend introduced me to Led Zeppelin and I've been such a fan ever since. But that was the year that I went beyond what was on the radio and delved deep into the archives of rock and roll and reveled in the classics. Every emotion Danny spoke about? I felt it, I could identify with it. I can only imagine what life would have been like had I been introduced in middle school like Danny- I might be an entirely different person. And that's what music can do to you. Books, too.


Book Review: The Paris Wedding

I didn't expect this one to be as fast of a read as this was and was pleasantly surprised!

The Paris Wedding - Charlotte Nash

Ten years ago, Rachael West chose not to move to Sydney with high-school sweetheart Matthew. Instead she stayed on the family wheat farm, caring for her seriously ill mother and letting go of her dreams. Now, Matthew is marrying someone else. And Rachael is invited to the wedding, a lavish affair in Paris, courtesy of the flamboyant family of Matthew's fiancĂ©e - a once-in-a-lifetime celebration at someone else's expense in Europe's most romantic city.

She is utterly unprepared for what the week brings. Friendships will be upended, secrets will be revealed - and on the eve of the wedding, Rachael is faced with an impossible dilemma: should she give up on the promise of love, or destroy another woman's life for a chance at happiness?
Alright, so in this book we have Rachael, fresh from her mother's passing and at odds with her future. She isn't sure what she wants to do but she feels like the ten years she spent caring for her mother were the best years of her life just gone. She feels like she missed opportunities and she won't get them back. In the middle of her grief, because life loves to kick you when you're down, she receives a wedding invitation for an all expense paid trip to Paris to see the love of her life get married to a socialite. She's gutted and doesn't know what to do but is convinced in order to get over him she needs to see him get married, the door will shut, and she will be able to move on. She decides to take her best friend, who is hiding problems of her own, and off they go.

It turns out the groom isn't as excited to get married as he's portraying and when he sees Rachael again, the doubt creeps in.

I don't want to write any more than that because it'll give it away. This was SUCH a good book and I had no idea how this was going to end. Everything falls apart for poor Rachael and she's forced with the consequences of her bad decisions, her best friend is angry, and her future is up in the air. I really enjoyed this one, I enjoyed watching Rachael blossom into an entirely new person while in Paris and taking in all that Paris has to offer. There are so many things I want to squeal about but it will ruin everything for you but just know there is a love triangle, one guy turns out to be a giant douche, and the ending is sweet. I'm giving this one a solid 4.5 stars, it's not quite a 5 star but it's pretty darn close. Find it on the HarperCollins website HERE and do a little shopping while you're at it!


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

That time I did a boudoir shoot and what I learned.

Last October I joined a secret group for Mad Chicken Photography- their boudoir photos page. I had been kicking the idea around to do a shoot for years so I went into this thinking someday maybe I'll get the courage to do it. Then Black Friday rolled around and they were offering 50% off their session fee, making it more affordable obviously, so I just jumped on it and picked a date at random. I figured if I did it early enough in the year I'd give the end result to Matt as an anniversary gift.

Now surprisingly, I didn't lose any of the weight I wanted to and in fact, gained 14 pounds leading up to my shoot. I showed up that day at my absolute heaviest weight and lowest self esteem, totally not ready to rock it and scared shitless.

Thankfully Emily and Jes have your back because they transformed me inside and out. The images speak for themselves.

 (the one where Jes thinks I look like Taylor Swift)

These are being given to Matt for our 14th wedding anniversary. He's getting a lot more images than this, obviously, but I wanted to share some PG ones so you could see what my experience was like. But I left there feeling on top of the damn world, wondering if I could actually get fake eyelashes on myself and not look like 2009 Britney Spears. You know what I'm talking about.

I will tell you that though I'm wearing stilettos, lord knows I did not walk in them. I legitimately put them on sitting down, and shuffled as little as possible. It was ridiculous and never again. Matt's going to laugh when he notices because he knows how much I hate heels and how that isn't me in real life at all. None of this is me in real life, this is all pretend. In real life my hair is in a messy bun, I'm wearing lame, ill fitting clothes and I likely have no makeup on. I look at these and I can pick out all of my flaws, all of the things I don't like but I also see a girl I used to be. She's still in there.

I learned that I have to figure out how to see myself in a different light. Before when I didn't like what I saw, I actively changed it. I exercised and lost weight and I never felt great but when I look back at photos of me then, I wish I could have that again. I looked really great. It turns out that I don't know how to be OK with what I have right now. I don't know how to just get some self esteem. I can  have one really fabulous day and that will buoy me for a little while but when it wears off what do I do then? I'm not really sure.

I learned that I took myself for granted all those years ago when I lost all that weight. I should have been happy where I was at. I think that was legitimately the best I am ever going to get and I spent that time wishing I was thinner. Then I think, what if I end up larger than I am right now and this is as good as I'm going to get? That's a pretty horrible thought but I think it sometimes. I don't feel sexy 99% of the time. Matt has never said anything to make me feel that way but I can do enough damage to myself, I certainly don't need any help. So it's a process. I don't know how I'll be in a year but I hope better than where I am now.

My blog for Mad Chicken can be found HERE and I really invite you to go there because it has more photos than I do and it's pretty insightful on my experience, too.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

14 years

So today Matt and I have been married for 14 years. We have been together for 16 years total but we only celebrate our wedding anniversary. If anyone had told me ten years ago that we'd still be married, and happy, I would have laughed in your face. There were times where things weren't so great and I think we both thought about leaving and chalking it up to being too young to get married. We weren't mature, we hadn't lived life yet, we hadn't done enough as a couple before we got married to really know if this was our partner.

But through it all, Matt has proven to be my ride or die. Literally. He's there anytime I need him. He drops everything and comes. Whether it's me in labor, cat puke, dead bunny in the yard, or a poop explosion, he doesn't blink an eye. He does all of the worst jobs of parenting and home ownership and never complains.
He might not be emotionally supportive the way I need but he does his best in his own way. And I've come to appreciate that. You're never going to find someone who checks off every box but you can find someone who checks off a lot of them and you can be happy. 
We fight. We argue. We still have bad days but not once do I ever worry that this is it for us. I know that tomorrow is another day and we'll be just fine. 
He's always up for adventure. If I throw out an idea he's totally game for it. He does his absolute best to get me things I want, always provides what I need, and provides for our family better than anyone else could. He works his ass off every day and never complains. 
It's funny because now we've been together for so long I can't remember a time without him. I don't want to face anything without him by my side. I think about our future and I can't imagine what it would be like if he died before me, I would be heartbroken. I don't know what I would do, to be honest. 
He's the best guy I could have ever picked. He has his flaws, but so do I. I'm not a perfect wife or mom, I have serious flaws that I work on but he's makes sure I know I'm loved anyways, that he wouldn't want anyone else. That no matter what happens he is going to hold my hand and help me.

I can finally say we are at that stage where we feel secure in our marriage, that it feels like this was meant to be. It hasn't been an easy journey and we are sometimes dragging the other behind us, but we've landed here together. Here's to so many more years. Love you, babe.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Book Review: A Blaze of Sun

Two left, friends. I have two books in this section of the series that I want to finish and then I'm done! Thankfully this one was a really fast read!

A Blaze of Sun - Bella Forrest

Welcome back to The Shade... 

"Of course you know who I am. I'm a daughter of the darkness just as surely as you are his son..." 

Ever since his brief encounter with Emilia at The Shade, Derek's thoughts and dreams have been haunted with images of the mysterious, beautiful brunette. Plagued with guilt, he struggles to understand why he is so drawn to this dark stranger from his past. 

When Emilia suddenly appears again on the island, Derek is both terrified and intrigued. But this time, he is determined to involve Sofia and discover who this woman is. 

If only Derek and Sofia knew, Emilia is a mystery that should be left undiscovered...

I feel like this book had a lot of momentum in the plot which honestly made me fly through this one faster than the others. This book brings us Emilia, a threat to Derek and Sofia surely, but a greater threat to The Shade as well. Once you find out who she is you fully understand why she's here and why she's so focused on Derek and being the part that fulfills the prophecy. It kind of worried me because she's basically everything perfect and amazing that Derek could want so really, what would stop him from choosing her over Sofia?

Sofia, for her part, is less whiny in this book and puts more trust in Derek and his love for her and that was refreshing. This book finds Sofia trying to reconcile with her parents while at the same time trying to run The Shade while Derek is gone with Emilia to fulfill his one week obligation. That ends up being a colossal mistake and thank god Aiden was there when he was. Aiden kind of redeems himself, I think, and it seems the more he's around the vampires the more his attitude is changing.

We also learn of the elder who is basically king of all vampires, we meet Arron (leader of the hunters), and we find out that Kiev (Emilia's brother) wants Sofia for his own for his own shot at redemption but he's put to the test by the Elder to bring Derek and Sofia's future children. A lot of foreboding for the next couple of books which means I want to dig in as quick as possible. (That might take a hiatus because I have one review book and a bunch of shorter back list titles I want to get to first so we'll see. )

Overall I'm giving this book a solid four. I liked that the plot was quick and didn't linger too long on one aspect, we have some lose ends tied up, some characters finally meet their end, new ones are introduced and I feel like Bella Forrest is really shaping a complex but really great larger story.


Friday, June 8, 2018

Book Review: A Shadow of Light

I'm trying SO HARD to get through the series books I have started on my shelves and I'm working on back list titles. Does this stop me from ordering new books? No but I legitimately cannot stop myself. Matt might have to close down my Amazon account soon.

A Shadow of Light - Bella Forrest

Since the implosion at The Oasis and Derek's stay at Hawk Headquarters, The Shade has fallen into a state of utter chaos. To make matters worse, the citizens of Derek's kingdom have become suspicious of his loyalties and accuse him of siding with the enemy... At a time when Derek desperately needs full cooperation from his subjects, they wish to put their own King on trial.

Meanwhile, Sofia is being held hostage by the hunters. They are determined to rid her of her infatuation with the vampire. She submits to the strict routine and training they impose on her, but the only fuel that keeps her going is the thought of reuniting with Derek - something Reuben is fighting with every fiber of his being to ensure will never happen. 

...Until one day, out of the blue, Reuben appears to have a change of heart and comes to Sofia with a proposal; a solution that she never dreamed possible. A solution that would fulfil her heart's deepest desires and secure her and Derek's future together, forever.

But can she really trust this man who is so renowned for his hatred of vampires? Does she even have a choice?

To be clear, these are not stand alone titles, you absolutely have to read them starting from book one to understand anything that is going on and why some things are significant to the greater story. 

So in this book we have Sofia trapped at hunters' headquarters and Derek is going back to The Shade. Sofia learns who her mother is, learns she's crazy as a loon, and learns her dad is the same way just differently. Derek arrives to what is basically a civil war and his father has challenged him. A few key people die in this book so I'm kind of glad to see movement in that regards but it makes me wonder who else is going to go in future books because this author gives zero craps about your feelings, she will kill anyone she wants to on a whim. In a way that's really refreshing because if you can imagine yourself in this world you can imagine some deaths would happen on a whim so it feels more true to the story.

Sofia and Derek continue to struggle to be together. I don't know why they are letting mortality to get in the way. They are worrying about a greater problem that can be worked on later on instead of focusing on the fact they are supposed to be together and then worry about that stuff. Instead they are doing it all backwards and I'll be honest, I'm getting kind of tired of it. You know what else I'm tired of? Sofia's blind... love? Maybe it's not that but she continues to love her parents despite the fact they continue to be absolutely worthless in meeting her needs and considering what's actually best for her. She saves herself in this book though so I have to give credit where it's due.

We also see a return of Vivienne, which is great because even though she's kind of odd, she continues to be reliable and there when you need her and I've really missed her.

I only have three more books in this series that I'm going to read because I refuse to get stuck in teh series that never ends, and this one is exactly that. The fact that this series is like eight books long (the Derek and Sofia part) is ridiculous but I'm going to keep going because now I'm all invested. These are currently free on KindleUnlimited and worth the read, they are really quick to get through so you can probably pass me up since I can only read these between review books.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Art Night and Sneak Peek

Last week my friend Tammy texted me and asked if I was up for a last minute paint night the next day and I said absolutely. I need to get out of the house and last Friday was the first day I was alone with the two toddlers since my mom is currently in Florida visiting her parents. I was kind of nervous about it but I have to try sometime, right? 

Overall the day went by OK, I managed to get Jackson to school on time with both girls with me. Matt texted me to not forget them in the car and there's no way I could have since they were screaming the whole way back, they didn't realize they weren't going with Jackson. 

Anyways, the cried the whole way and thankfully it wasn't raining so I was able to take my time getting them out of the car. (I haven't put two kids in a car or taken them out in YEARS by myself, I always have Matt to help me.) So I was pretty damn proud of myself. We managed through the day, with Matt coming home at three to let me leave to pick Jackson up from school and it was alright. I did OK. It got a little dicey around lunch time and the girls not wanting to nap and I felt like I was going to lose it, but I ended up letting them cry and fight to the death over a pull dog toy (why they fight over it when we have two, I will never understand) while I did breathing in the other room. 

For the most part I think I'm competent enough to care for them on my own, it's my mood that gets me. I can go from zero to sixty in a second and I'm afraid of what I'll do if I get mad. I managed that day and I have maybe two weeks of this left? I have help lined up for part of each day, sometimes just for an hour or two, sometimes for the whole morning, and I'm feeling must more confident about this now. 

But Friday was still stressful so I was absolutely game to go out to eat and then paint away! We went to On the Rocks Art Studio in the heart of Canal Park, Duluth, Minnesota and their studio is a ton of fun and truly, someone with zero artistic ability can walk out of there with a piece their proud of. Our painting this night was the northern lights with a silhouette of Lake Superior. 
Not bad, huh? It didn't take as long as I thought it would and I was pretty happy with how it turned out. I'm not sure where I'm going to  hang it, maybe in my stairwell, but I do like it. 

So do you remember a few weeks ago I mentioned wanting to lose weight for a boudoir photo shoot and then I ended up gaining like 20some pounds? Yes well, I did the shoot anyways and I'm so glad that I did. I'll post more about that experience on another day but I'll leave you with a sneak peek of images. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Memorial Day, Beginning of Summer

I have always used Memorial Day as the beginning of summer and Labor Day as the end of it. It's when I do my wardrobe switch over, I pull out the swim toys, and we get the yard ready for summer fun. That usually means putting the gazebo up, getting the adriondak chairs out, pulling all of the summer toys off and giving them a good wash with the hose, the first lawn mow of the year and this year, putting up the new chain link fence. 

That's right, our yard is fully fenced in this year! It's only been a week so far but it's been really great to not have to worry if a toddler is running out into the road or if the dog is going to break his leash trying to eat the mailman. We've really been enjoying it and I fully enjoyed watching Matt do it by hand. He even put a tool belt on a few times. Swoon

We've even had a handful (literally not even whole days because the wind switched and came right off Lake Superior making our neighborhood 20, sometimes 30 degrees, cooler than the rest of town!) of sunny and warm days so we got out the very little pool. For some reason Lucy has become terrified of the bathtub and now the pool. She never used to be, there was no traumatic incident, but she's terrified- it's really annoying. 
This was right after Jackson splashed Penelope with FREEZING cold water. Needless to say she wasn't very pleased. Lucy just watched on, drinking Matt's water. 
 After the wind switched everyone got dressed again and I managed to get a picture of the four of them. I took a cluster of eight images, this is literally the only one everybody is looking at me and not crying. In the span of two seconds it's a range of emotions. Unreal. 
 I also kind of like this one too because it really sums up their personalities. 

The next day we tried to do the pool again. 
 And Lucy just sat in a chair and was cute. She occasionally got off to play with the water table or go down the slide, and finally demanded to swing in her swing seat.  
Penelope is all about hamming it up. Did I mention she is for sure going to start Head Start in the fall in their three year old program? I'm pretty excited she'll have some real structure for at least the morning. She doesn't seem AS excited but the last couple of days I've taken Jackson to school she thinks she's going, too. So we'll see. She can count to twenty by herself, can identify letters, colors, and numbers and we're working on sight words. We'll see. I think she's definitely ready for some kind of educational program so I'm optimistic about it. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Book Review: I Am Justice

I read this quickly over the weekend just to get this review to you this week!

I Am Justice - Diana Munoz Stewart

This bad-ass band of sisters plays for keeps.

She's ready to start a war
Justice Parish takes down bad guys. Rescued from the streets by the world-renowned Parish family, she joined their covert sisterhood of vigilante assassins. Her next target: a sex-trafficking ring in the war-torn Middle East. She just needs to get close enough to take them down...

He just wants peace
Sandesh Ross left Special Forces to found a humanitarian group to aid war-torn countries. But saving the world isn't cheap. Enter Parish Industries and limitless funding, with one catch— their hot, prickly PR specialist', Justice Parish. Their chemistry is instant and off-the-charts. But when Justice is injured and her cover blown, Sandesh has to figure out if he can reconcile their missions. With danger dogging their every move, their white-hot passion can change the world— if it doesn't destroy them first.

If you are in the market for a romance with a definitely strong, bad ass, take no crap lead woman, THIS IS YOUR BOOK. If there was ever a fictional character I wouldn't want to piss off it would be Justice. She takes down sex-trafficking rings and rescues women (and girls) from a fate her sister couldn't avoid. She's rough around the edges, sexy, and independent to the max.

Then we have Sandesh, who is not at all as I pictured and in the best way possible. He's former Special Forces, built to the max, sensitive, sexy as hell, and out to save refugees in war torn countries.

Sandesh and Justice end up being paired up on a mission that isn't the same for the both of them. Justice is there to take down a sex-trafficking ring that had been operating in South America which has moved to the Middle East, where it's easy to pick up orphans and nobody would miss them, and Sandesh is there to promote his organization and he thinks Justice is there to provide PR.

Here's what I liked: it was definitely fast paced, nobody can say this author (new to me) tip toes around the romance. The action was good, it happened almost right away, and the romance (which was very good) happened quickly. If you like your romance to take awhile, this might not be in your wheelhouse but I would encourage you to try it anyways because this is the start of what I think is going to be an exciting series. What I didn't like: I didn't like Justice! I know! It's crazy to say that but she is almost too alpha for my liking and she's bullheaded, she makes rash decisions without thinking through things and basically hopes for the best. Things always work out for her but man, that would be irritating in a person in real life. I will warn you that if you steer away from topics like rape and torture, this probably isn't going to be the book for you since that is the prevalent theme throughout the book.

The story is told in revolving points of view between Sandesh, Justice and the villain's (the sex trafficking brothers). Though it comes in at around 400 pages the fact that the action starts right away really helps make this a fast read. I'd be interested to see how book two fares.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Guts and Medication Roulette

I haven't done a medical recap in awhile and there's a few new things because OF COURSE.

So a few weeks ago I had seen a gastroenterologist to evaluate my stomach pains. They come randomly, it hurts on both sides evenly, it's worse than labor pains. I'm not kidding, I would rather be in full labor than deal with these. I've got constipation on top of it so I wanted to know if the pains were just because of constipation or something else. I go, the doctor is pretty nice, pushes on my stomach and it hurts, orders a ton of tests. An endoscopy, which is coming up later this month, which I'm terrified for. It's not the actual procedure itself, that's fine. It's the anesthesia. People who have not died on an operating table truly do not understand the fear of being put under to any degree. You just can't. That should have been routine and fine and it wasn't. This should be routine and fine and it probably will be but the idea of being put under is scaring the living daylights out of me.


So he orders an ultrasound too, and that seemed pretty uneventful. Fast forward the next day and I get a frantic call telling me I need to go in for an ultrasound immediately, like that week, it was imperative.

OBVIOUSLY when you tell a person with an anxiety disorder this they will start Googling their ailments and clearly decide that they are probably dying and dammit they knew it all along!

I go to the MRI and they tell me they can't say anything in regards to what they saw, someone will contact me. OK, not a problem.

I went TWO WEEKS thinking I was dying and then I finally called and was asking WHAT THE HELL.

Turns out, I have gallstones but no obstruction or something else, so that seems alright. I have a liver lesion, which is why I had to go in for an MRI. It's either cancer or it's not. Mine is NOT but I will have to have a repeat scan in six months because I have symptoms and issues related to a liver lesion. It could be the start of something, or it might not be. They are pretty sure it's benign and I get to wait six months.

Which, again, for an anxious person this is the worst thing ever. I'm going to give myself a damn ulcer worrying. But we still don't know what the issues with my gut are and I'm telling you, sometimes it hurts so bad I have to lay down and wait for it to pass. Sometimes it's gone within a few minutes, sometimes it lasts longer than an hour. There appears to be no rhyme or reason to it, not with certain foods, or medications.

Oh, that's the other thing. I have slow motility constipation (TMI, sorry) which is kind of a given considering all of my ailments. This is kind of par for the course with them so he isn't surprised by that at all and I can take laxatives daily forever or just deal. <== that's what he actually said. I'm not kidding. So I'm just always going to be constipated. If you've ever been it's NOT FUN and I'm just frustrated. So frustrated.

Next up is mental health, because WHY NOT. I was taken off of the Rexulti because it gave me tremors within the first three days and put on Vraylar. Brand new and super expensive, it was a low dose, normally used for Bipolar 1, also works as a mood stabilizer. I gained 14 pounds in two weeks despite eating less and exercising more, and guess what else I got?


Seriously. It was sporadic and super mild at first and only at night so I figured if this was the worst it got then I would be fine, I could handle that if it meant I didn't want to fly off the handle and break everything like Hulk. Except last week they got so bad I could barely do anything and it was during the day and I was getting nauseous from basically being a bobblehead all day. I couldn't open things, make the girls' lunch, couldn't operate a damn Swiffer, it was ridiculous. So I'm off of that and in a few weeks I'll try something else in a different class of drugs. But at this point I'm pretty frustrated and it feels like I'm playing roulette with side effects, it's kind of ridiculous.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Book Review: Locke

I have some fun posts and pictures of the kids to share but this week it's just been easier to do book reviews so I can catch up on them but also, I just haven't had time. I am working on end of the year teacher gift, some baby thank you's for someone, getting rid of books, and trying to clean my house up. Plus this past weekend we were in the yard almost all day every day so I feel like I'm living in an actual dump right now. Anyways, let's talk books. This is the last in the Corps Security series by Harper Sloan and I feel such a sense of accomplishment finishing a series you can't even believe it. I'm reading another by her that I got in a book box recently and then my Harper Sloan area on my bookshelf has all been read. I'm slowly but surely getting through my back list!

Locke - Harper Sloan
Darkness is the only thing I see. Ever since the day my life changed. The day that everything and everyone I held close to me ceased to exist. The day I lost it all and the demons of my past consumed my every waking moment. I tried to keep others at arm's length. Tried not to let my darkness taint them. Ruin them. Harm them. And whether I want to admit it or not, as much as I wish I could keep them locked out, they refuse to leave. Refuse to let me suffer alone. If I hadn't been so focused on keeping those demons from flying free, I wouldn't have missed how one perfect angel was able to sneak her way under my skin-refusing to let go. Making me want things I don't deserve. She consumes me. Her beauty knows no end. The love she promises tempts me every time she's near. But that pure heart that makes her MY Emmy is the one thing I'm convinced I'll destroy if I ever let her close. I'm a broken man. A broken man with too much darkness in his soul to ever let her light shine upon me. But even that doesn't stop me from craving her with every single breath in my body. **This is the final book in the Corps Security series. This book is not suitable for younger readers. There is strong language, adult situations, and some violence.
Out of all of the books I knew Locke's book would be really good because he was the most complex, screwed up guy of the bunch from Corps Security. He was a Marine hiding some real tragic secrets and when his Emmy takes off after watching Cooper die in front of her (literally), he's determined to bring her back. He's not sure he can be with her like he wants to because of his demons but once he gets Emmy she makes it damn clear that he needs to let her go or grow the hell up. 

We see Emmy's tragic past which isn't at all what I would have pegged for her so that was almost... disappointing? It felt easy and I wasn't in love with it.

I got frustrated with Locke because it was like he wasn't even trying to help himself and I hated how Emmy comes off as nice, innocent, naive in every other book and in this one she's a bitch and trash talking, and it's just a 180 from what we thought she was actually like. It almost feels like the author forgot the personality she gave Emmy from early on or something.

But Locke battles his demons, with Emmy by his side, and the best part? The best part of this book is that we get a glimpse into the future of Corps Security, which ties into another series she has which I'm starting. Part of me is thrilled we get more and another part of me is like, ugh... can we just let it go already? Start fresh? So we'll see how I feel about those when I'm done.

So for this one I'm going to give it a 3 star. It's not as great as I was hoping it would be but it wasn't awful, it had some decent sex scenes in it and Locke is the ultimate troubled guy we all want to save.