Friday, June 28, 2019

Living with brain impairment: dumb stuff

Living in a post AFE world is really strange. I'm lucky to have found a great online support group of other survivors and have connected with several of them. I know a lot of them go through similar things and some don't have much impairment in any area. We really are all different, no two paths or the same and sometimes that's lonely.

I was talking to someone the other day as we were waiting in line to check out at Target. Just benign chit chat with a stranger and when the cashier gave me my total, I completely blanked out. Suddenly I didn't know where I was, if I had my kids with me, what I'm supposed to do, how do I pay, why am I buying stuff, what do I do with this stuff, how am I going to get home, etc.

The closest thing "normal" people have to relate to is you know when you take a nap and wake up hours later having no idea what time or day it is and you felt like you've slept for a decade? It's like that, but scarier.

This woman looked concerned, obviously, and asked if I was OK. I said I was but I'm just forgetful (haha) and I struggled to figure out what I was supposed to do. Thankfully, she was a decent person and helped me use the card reader because I couldn't figure it out, it was like looking at a foreign object. I have my PIN written in marker on the front of my card because I can't remember it anymore. By this time Olivia wandered back and she helped me get back to the car. By the time we loaded things in, my memory "snapped back" and I knew exactly where I was, how I got here, who I was with, my plans for the day.

This happens all of the time. I often have people say, "well you look normal" and I do. I look normal. Looking at me you would never know this happens. You wouldn't know sometimes I forget how to get dressed. You wouldn't know sometimes I forget how to brush my teeth or how to fix my hair. You wouldn't know that sometimes I can't tie my shoes or I can't find my way home. You wouldn't know that I can't always tell you my phone number, address, or birth date. I know I have four kids but I don't always know how old they are or when their birthday is.

Sometimes I'll go to a doctor and they'll give me instructions on what to do with my next medication. I won't remember it. Sometimes someone will explain to me how to do something, even easy things, I won't remember it. If I'm doing any kind of an activity (typing, texting, scrolling on my phone, cooking, putting things in my purse, putting shoes on, etc) and you're talking to me about something? I won't remember it. If we're in a crowded place and you're talking to me? I won't remember it but I'll also struggle to follow because I can't focus on just you. If I'm reading a book I sometimes have to read chapters four or five times before I understand what I just read. Sometimes I never do.

I can't put those numbers in order. I was playing a few weeks ago and realized that's a good example of something I can't do. I can't tell you which is the highest or lowest number. I can't always count coins or cash. I can't do any math in my head. I can't figure out a tip. I have a hard time dialing a phone number. I can't read recipes or follow them.

I could go all day with things that I can't do. What I can do is try to help myself. A couple of years ago my friend Shirley bought me an Erin Condren planner and I loved it. The following year I bought a significantly cheaper store bought knock off and I hated it. Last year I bought an Erin Condren planner for myself because it REALLY helped me stay on track. Every appointment, every thing I need to do goes in my planner. I need to grocery shop? I put it in there. I need to run an errand? In my planner. Olivia needs an outfit for band concert? In my planner. Literally EVERY THING goes in my planner. The entire family knows my planner is basically our family's Bible. I'm not kidding. If you ever hear me say, "I'll remember that", I am lying to you so I don't look impaired and I will not remember.

I hate, hate, hate looking like I'm not normal. I don't like looking like I need help with basic, common, dumb stuff. I know that I DO need help, I don't like people seeing me in that moment, I feel self conscious and dumb. Rational? NOPE. But it is what it is. 
So about a month ago I ordered my 2020 calendar because I already have doctor appointments lined up for 2020 and some book reviews, school calendar stuff, etc. It was time to get my new one. 
Look how pretty it is! I'm all about colorful stuff so I went with this one. AND put my name on it just because I could. 
I also got some notepads (because I write a lot of random notes of things to remember), bookmarks, and some address labels. Want a really good gift idea for me? ADDRESS LABELS. 
Isn't it pretty? Truly. It has a lot of sections in it that I didn't use in my last planner but I want to use in this one. I told my therapist I'm going to start a grateful journal and write things down that were good from each day, and the worst thing from that day and hopefully one outweighs the other.

Do you have ways to stay more organized? I'm taking ideas now because I'm really struggling.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Book Review: The Echo Park Castaways

I feel like I don't read enough middle grade books, which is a shame because there are some real gems in there that even adults would like, and this is one of them.

The Echo Park Castaways - M.G. Hennessey

Nevaeh, Vic, and Mara are veterans of the Los Angeles foster care system. For over a year they’ve been staying with Mrs. K in Echo Park. Vic spends most of his time living in a dream world, Mara barely speaks, and Nevaeh is forced to act as a back-up parent. Though their situation isn’t ideal, it’s still their best home yet.

Then Child Protective Services places Quentin in the house, and everything is turned upside down. Nevaeh really can’t handle watching over anyone else, especially a boy on the autism spectrum. Meanwhile, Quentin is having trouble adjusting and attempts to run away.

So when Vic realizes Quentin just wants to see his mom again, he plans an “epic quest” to reunite them. It could result in the foster siblings getting sent to different group homes. But isn’t family always worth the risk? 


Let me start by saying that if you are in charge of purchasing for your library (public or school) or classroom, this is a really fantastic read that you need to strongly consider. It raises a lot of really good discussion points that could also be tied into kindness and even anti-bullying. I'm not kidding when I say that this book can cover so much which is astounding because it is only 200 pages plus a couple of pages for a very nice Author's Note (also worth reading).

In this book we follow Vic (who thinks he's a super spy), Mara (who speaks mostly Spanish with very little English so she's mostly quiet), Nevaeh (who is almost to high school and has plans to make it someday as a doctor), and later Quentin (who Asperger's and doesn't understand what it means to be in the foster care system because he's new). We swap between points of view (except Mara) as we go on a "quest" to find Quentin's mother.

The ending is really sad (I thought) but also kind of nice because it turns out they all have something key in common and while on this quest they learn a lot about each other and the way they feel about each other, but they also learn what it's like to have a family. We also get to see a really sad glimpse into the reality of the foster care system but we also see how sometimes a case worker's hands are tied and they have to make quick choices and don't always have time to think the long term ramifications through. We see mental illness, we see deportation, we see illnesses, and we see these children brave their way through it but also their vulnerability at the end of the day.

As a mom this really broke my heart because I can't imagine how any of my four kids would fare in the foster care system, and I really have a greater appreciation for the good foster parents out there who do their best with kids with all kinds of backgrounds. This is a real testament to never knowing what someone else is struggling with concept.

I'm so glad I got to read this one, it's a really wonderful book and if your child(ren) need something to do to get them off of Fortnite, this is a good one to give them. It's geared toward ages 8-12/grades 3-7, but it's a thoughtful book for any age.

   
I received an ARC for this courtesy of HarperCollins and MB Communications (thank  you!) but all thoughts are my own. This post also contains affiliate links which help keep this blog going. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Book Review: Being the Grownup

I saw this book come up as an option to review and I literally JUMPED on it because parenting is really hard and it actually sucks a lot of the time and something my friends all say is that those What to Expect books are garbage because pregnancy is nothing. You see a doctor regularly and they help you. Nobody, and I mean nobody, helps you as a parent. You're expected to know how to raise a human and it's really freaking hard. Especially when you get a kid like my Penelope who brings you to the brink. Daily.

Being the Grownup - Adelia Moore

Children need adults to survive. This, despite the profound change our digital era has wrought on family life, remains the essence of parenthood. Being the GrownupThe Natural Authority of Parenthood begins not with what should be, but with what is: If you are a parent, it is your job to provide shelter and safety, to make decisions about education, childcare, health and nourishment, to create the habitat that is the context and crucible of family life. Being the Grownup helps parents translatetheir determination to care for and protect their children into the clarity they need to communicate authority with a firm confidence, whether for bedtime, screen-time or mealtime. Just as she would in a clinical conversation, the author shifts the focus away from disciplinary strategies and back to the core of parenthood, the relationship between parents and children as it evolves, moment-to-moment, from the dependence of infancy to the autonomy of young adulthood.

Being the Grownup zeroes in on the core challenge for every parent, the hard work of building a relationship that combines trust and connection with confident authority children can feel and rely on. Relationships take time, and so does learning about relationships. Readers will not find bullet points or formulas. Instead, to more fully understand what happens moment to moment between parents and children, and what patterns between them may strengthen or undermine parents' authority, my readers will find moments in the parent-child relationship examined from a variety of angles. Each chapter delves deep into a topic, including attachment, temperament, family systems theory and body language, making connections from theory and research to everyday family life.

No one book can tell you what to do in every situation with every child. There are simply too many variables. That's why it's important to know more about what to think about parenthood and the relationship you have with each of your children: Being the Grownup helps you do that.


Let me start by saying I have four kids ranging from almost 3 to 13 years old. I have been doing this mom gig for awhile and I know enough now to know that every stage is great and awful at the same time. I also can tell you that you will forget a lot of the awful and a lot of the great. You have a general idea of how you child was but the every day stuff you forget. I know this because I have Facebook and every day I look at the Memories area and I see how awful my older two were that I completely forgot about. Apparently seven years ago they flooded the basement and carved into the new drywall in the dining room.

And here I've been telling people they were so good, never any problems. Ha!

So I'm not a spring chicken and I have children so I go into this book with a different perspective than maybe a new parent or even a non-parent. Because we are at our parenting best when we have no children.

I will tell you this book is FULL of information and perspectives but I will also tell you this is not a book you sit and read cover to cover to relax before bed. It just isn't. I have read it in chunks because I kind of thought about what I read after each and in some, tried to use some of the information she gives us to see how it applies when you're really on the battlefield.

Though it's not a relaxation read, it's a great one. The author reflects on her time parenting young children and presents scenarios we are all familiar with and have experienced, and you immediately trust this person because they get it, they know what you're dealing with. She reflects on her options on how to handle situations but also recognizes that parenting back then is vastly different than parenting in 2019, that we have completely different challenges added in.

Something that jumped out at me, that I've thought about a lot is found on page 78 in the "What Matters?" section:
"...your kids also learn your values through the organization of your household, the expectations, curfews, chores, rules about calling home, and so on."
It kind of goes with the concept that we're all on a cycle, and what we do as parents is modeled after what our parents did, etc. So if we think a tidy home with rules and chores for everyone is important, that is behavior our children will later model as adults. If our children live in chaotic environments, parents are late making them late for school, nobody cleans up after themselves, etc- that's often how they end up as adults and I can recognize that in many people I know.

Overall I really enjoyed this book. If I had to nit pick I would say having the sections labeled differently would have been helpful. There are chapters more focused on babies and small children development but the section wouldn't necessarily make you think that way. Also, there are sections that touch on teenagers and even talk about technology, but I didn't know that by looking at the chapter names. Really a silly thing to point out, but in the spirit of we can always improve, that would be my only thought. Oh! I want to also mention this book is extremely well researched and put together. In the back is an extensive reference section so if you wanted more information about literally anything in this book, the information is there and that's really amazing.

Overall? I'm actually giving this a 5 because I spent a lot of time reading and re-reading areas and seeing how it applied to how I've parented so far but also how I think I might as we reach milestones down the road. I love the idea of natural authority and how that doesn't mean dictatorship. I highly suggest this for any parent out there wondering if you're doing it right or having no idea what to do at all, and even the people who know they are messing up but want to get better- you can definitely turn the boat around with this book.

   
Thank you to Hollow Hill Books and author Adelia Moore for my ARC of Being the Grownup in exchange for review! Affiliate links are used within this post which help keep this little ol' blog going. 

Have you read any great parenting books lately? I'd be interested in which ones! 

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Book Review: An American Marriage

Normally I don't read Oprah Book Club picks because, while I think Oprah is pretty great, her book picks are always kind of blah. Except for that James Frey book that turned out to not totally be a memoir, but fictionalized memoirs are a real thing now and I think we all have him to thank for it. I actually really liked his book. The last time I read an Oprah book is when I read The Story of Edgar Sawtelle and it was so bad I told the librarian at my public library (where I got the book) and I wrote a letter to Oprah. Did she read my letter? Doubtful. But if she had she would have heard all the ways in which that was a terrible book.

I got this one for my birthday and I had been eyeing it up at Target after I heard about it on a podcast and I finally got to it.

An American Marriage - Tayari Jones
Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. In this deft exploration of love, loyalty, race, justice, and both Black masculinity and Black womanhood in 21st century America, Jones achieves that most-elusive of all literary goals: the Great American Novel. 

Let me be upfront, I feel like reading this book as a white person is a completely different experience than reading this book as a black person. I feel like that's how it's supposed to be, so any criticisms I have of this book, take it with a grain of salt because your experience may be vastly different. It was really hard for me to identify with these characters and understand the dynamic between them and their families and everything in between because this isn't a life I know or understand. I can't ever understand and I won't pretend to because I'm as white as white gets.

So with all of that, I really struggled through this book. I will say it's an incredibly fast read and I got through it in one sitting because I desperately wanted to know what was going to happen with Roy and I felt like the end of the book was incredibly heartbreaking. When I put the book down at the end I really didn't know how I felt. On one hand, I recognize that law enforcement and the American justice system is not set up to help black people and it isn't necessarily set up to find the truth.

In this book we have Roy and Celestial, who are recently married and the book starts off with Celestial very much not wanting to go back to Roy's hometown to visit his folks. She gets an uneasy feeling and Roy brushes her off. Which, let's side note- never, EVER brush off a woman's intuition. We're always right. Roy comes to learn that years later, but I knew right then that her feeling was going to be pivotal. Anyways, while there we see the uneasy relationship between Celestial and Roy's parents, we learn a truth Roy had "hid" from Celestial, and then we jump to Roy being accused and ultimately sent to prison for a rape of a woman he did not commit. But even though we know something to the core of us, the justice system is set up to make us all believe maybe they DID do it? and we start second guessing the truths that we know. And of course, Celestial knows that there are things about Roy she doesn't know so maybe  he COULD do this.

The majority of the book are letters between Roy and Celestial and they learn more about each other through letters than they ever did dating (which is also another thing to think about, we're getting married but how much can you really know of a person? Is it possible to know everything?). But ultimately, can a love survive something like this? What would you do if your spouse was accused of something and sent to prison- could you stick by them? Would you stick by them? It gave me a lot to think about in terms of my own marriage but I can't imagine what this would be like if I were a black woman. The stigma around your spouse being in prison, or a black man- of course you were in prison, that sits with you for life. Also, are people going to believe him that he didn't do it long after he's done his time? No, that's not likely.

I think this book questions what a marriage is, I think it questions your feelings on systemic racism and our own bias and conclusion, and it questions America, is it really the land of the free? I have a lot of other thoughts but it gives away some key points in the plot that are perfectly timed in the story so I can't talk about them. I will say real quick it reminded me of the Kavanaugh hearings where his side really based his defense on how can she possibly remember his face after all this time, and in this book that wasn't even a thought, "Of course the rape victim could identify him, you don't forget that."- it was an interesting turn of the tables and I thought it was smart for the author to subtly include that.

Overall? 4 stars. It was a quick read and it got me thinking about different things. This would lead to a rather spirited book club read, and I can see why it's gotten the buzz it has. Well deserved.

   
This post contains affiliate links and that helps keep this blog going. Thank you! 

Monday, June 24, 2019

Exercise and Ears

Weight loss... it really sucks and every time you think you've hit rock bottom it's like the ground says "just kidding!" and drops from under you.

That was kind of my last two weeks.

I continue my walking and I'm really battling fatigue. Fatigue and rain. I've discovered if I walk when it's chilly (like 45 degrees or below), I lose feeling in my hands and feet for awhile, so I've stopped doing that because I don't like that feeling. That basically means I haven't gone out and walked as often as I planned because we have yet to have summer in northern Wisconsin. It's raining and cold today, too and I'm basically over it. I hate living here.

I did get some information about a Weight Loss Exercise Class led by the physical therapists I saw last year at the hospital system I'm in. I recently had a doctor tell me I may be a candidate for a weight loss surgery and I just don't think I can do it. It would be great but the diet to follow before and after? I can't, you guys. I would be starving myself. I want to eat what I want. I know my portions and what I eat isn't my issue right now, it's my lack of movement, so I think I'm going to join this class and see what happens. It meets twice a week, it's $5 a class and it's an hour each time. I feel like if I have someone showing me what to do I will be much more successful. PLUS! It's an hour out of the house so I'm always up for that.

Next up is Lucy. I think I blogged a few months ago that we took her to an ENT doctor and he said she might have some hearing loss but she definitely had fluid in her one ear but we'd come back in a few months and check it.

Well it's been a few months and we came back to check it.

It turns out that she still has fluid in both ears (like WAY down there) and she has a 30% loss of hearing in both ears, which puts her in the mild hearing loss category. Mostly this means a lot of her speech issues is an apraxia and hearing loss combo and that explains a lot of her deficits. Most letter sounds and combinations, she can't hear. If you go outside and hear a waterfall or tree leaves rustling? She can't hear that. When I whisper to her? She can't hear that. When we talk quietly during bedtime story? She likely can't hear it.

It explains SO MUCH.

It also really sucks and is heartbreaking.

The plan right now is for her to have surgery in mid-July and have her ears completely drained, tubes put in, and her adenoids removed. Right now it's pretty clear she doesn't breathe like you and I do, and that might be why she's not able to keep her tongue in her mouth when she speaks. The tongue muscle isn't doing it's job so while we're doing exercises for that, we need her to breathe normally for it to really work. So that's why adenoids are coming out.

We'll be holding our breath because after her surgery we'll know (hopefully pretty quickly) what kind of hearing loss she has. It's either due to the fluid/lack of air flow in her ears, it could be because the parts of her ears aren't functioning properly, a mix of those two, OR it could be a brain thing. Meaning she can hear it, but her brain doesn't know what to do with the sound, if that makes sense. It's kind of a toss up. But I feel like she fully understands what we're saying, and I feel like she knows what she wants to say but it's abundantly clear she doesn't know how. The thought is there but she doesn't have the ability to form the words.

I'm just bummed at the timing of this. She'll have her surgery mid-July and our current speech pathologist is only with us until July 31, then she becomes part of the school district's speech team. Which is great, I'm sure they are great, but Lucy has formed an attachment to our current guy and I feel like he has a good handle on where Lucy's deficits are and where to go. We'll be really bummed to not be in his hands anymore.

So that's the scoop. I'm really nervous about it. I know the surgery is like 10 minutes and not an issue at all. My issue is a fear of anesthesia and it's all me. In my head I know it's routine and fine but I also know that my procedure was routine and went very wrong quickly and it's not anything near the same time but trying to not let her see my fear is tricky. So I'm certain I'm going to cry the entire time. No question. HA! But let's hope her hearing loss is something we can correct and it won't slow her down.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Goats + Macaroni + Pizza = 15

If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram you would have seen last week Matt and I celebrated 15 years of marriage. Kind of a big deal because years 2007-2012 were so rough that I honestly didn't think we were going to make it and it's been a struggle to get through some patches.

But we've made it.

It's weird to say I think we're in the best part of marriage right now, but it's true. Considering we're really broke, we're really stressed out, Matt has to do a lot more to keep the house going and help me on really not great days, and I'm trying to keep going everyday and keep up with my appointments and go in with a positive attitude, we are EASILY at the hardest, most stressful part of our journey. Surely nobody could have predicted this is what our life would be like right now but here we are.

So when I say we're at our best? I mean it. I know every day that when it comes down to the end of the line, Matt is my ride or die. He is literally going to be there and see me to the end no matter how awful it is. I can't imagine holding anyone else's hand when I get bad news. I can't imagine laying next to anybody else. He really is, no kidding, the only person I truly feel safe with. And I don't mean safe like I'm in danger, but I know he's going to take care of me. It's really the best feeling. Anything can come our way and I know we'll be OK. I don't think you can get to this point without time and awful things happening, to be honest.
On our anniversary, for the second or maybe third time EVER, I had flowers delivered to me. I was so surprised and I LOVE THEM. He also got me a bunch of candy a cute card. 
And then I read the inside. Still a jerk.

That night we decided were going to take the kids out to eat and we would go somewhere in Canal Park which is where we stopped to take photos on our wedding day. 
These photos are 15 years apart and we have aged SO MUCH. I could hardly believe it when I looked at the photos on my computer.
After dinner we went back to Brighton Beach and we let the kids throw rocks. Can we all appreciate Penelope's stance and hand gesture? And Lucy trying to copy? I seriously love everything about this picture. Even whatever it is Jackson is doing. 
Again, these kids are so weird and I love them for it. HA!

That weekend though, Matt arranged for ALL THE KIDS to spend the night somewhere other than our house.

Let me repeat that- we were KID FREE FOR AN ENTIRE NIGHT. It's so rare that happens and I was so grateful because I was just saying I really miss hanging out with just Matt. I'm not kidding when I say we get to go on one date a year. One. We are not that couple hiring babysitters, and having four kids makes it really hard to get them all somewhere. Thankfully between both Grandma's all the kids were accounted for. 
We got to try a new restaurant I had heard about and lord knows this isn't a place I would bring kids to. (This was after shopping in a store that's a pain to bring kids to. Very exciting day.)
If you know me in real life you know I always order Chicken Strips or a Cheeseburger (well done, as done as done gets, burn it if you have to). Always. Everyone laughs.

YOU GUYS- I ordered macaroni and cheese. They had my usual and I decided that I'm a big kid now, so logically I order macaroni and cheese. It was alright. Dare I say too much cheese? It was kind of too much. 
Then we got to go to a grown up movie, Shaft, and it was really pretty good. It was us and maybe 5 other people in there but I really liked the movie and this isn't even my go-to movie genre.

The next day we decided to go on a quick lunch date since we had no kids and I had a coupon (ha!) so we went to Vitta Pizza in Canal Park. 
I'm glad I didn't bring the kids because they wouldn't have eaten anything in there but we each ordered a small pizza and waited. 
It's not often we look happy by lunch time on a weekend, usually by this point everyone is fighting and we've both declared we're taking a nap.
The pizza was really good, though! I really liked mine and now that I'm looking at it again I kind of want to ditch the kids so we can go again.

Overall? I'm going to declare this our best anniversary yet. This was the year we wanted to go to Hawaii but that didn't happen. We'll go someday.

Book Review: Our Stop

I'll have another post for you later today, but let's get started with a really cute RomCom that's actually pretty perfect for your ride to work!

Our Stop - Laura Jane Williams
What if you almost missed the love of your life?
Nadia gets the 7.30 train every morning without fail. Well, except if she oversleeps or wakes up at her friend Emma’s after too much wine.
Daniel really does get the 7.30 train every morning, which is easy because he hasn’t been able to sleep properly since his dad died.
One morning, Nadia’s eye catches sight of a post in the daily paper:
To the cute girl with the coffee stains on her dress. I’m the guy who’s always standing near the doors… Drink sometime?
So begins a not-quite-romance of near-misses, true love, and the power of the written word.
Have you ever read the Missed Connections column in a local paper or even on Craigslist? I used to just for fun on my lunch break never thinking I'd see anything that could have been me but that's what the basis of this book is. Daniel sees this cute girl on the morning train and decides to put this out there in the hopes that maybe this girl sees it and it maybe becomes this grand love story. Nadia is kind of the disorganized/hot mess you love anyways because she's just a series of misses. Fortunately for her, the day she spills coffee all over the front of her dress is what really gets Daniel to notice her.

Overall? This book is cute. I found myself smiling throughout and trying to envision the near misses and the anxiousness of running down the street to get to this train on time, etc. Once they "connect" there are a real series of missteps getting in the way of a first day and we find out more about their friends and the circles they each float in more than we do about them. The ending? The ending is really adorable and I loved it.

My only real complaint about this book is that it is slow. The whole first half could have been pared down a bit and I would have liked to have an epilogue or some kind of "One Year Later" chapter or something to see what happened beyond the last page, basically I'm left wanting more. I didn't totally love Nadia's character but Daniel's was kind of sweet. The kind of guy I'd date? Not really, but he's that sweet/thoughtful/makes an effort kind of guy you want in every solid romance movie and I just really liked the effort he put into the entire story.

Surprising part of the book? The section on grief. You don't expect to read about grief in a romcom but specifically how men grieve a loved one and how that takes on different forms and it's a completely different journey than what women go on, and I thought that it was a really interesting part of the book and grateful it was included but also because it was done really well.

Overall? I'm giving this one a 4. It wasn't an hit out of the park, drop everything and read this, but it's more of a great book to listen as an audio book perhaps on your way to work or something light to read on your lunch break or at the park.

   
Thank you to HarperCollins and Avon Books for my ARC of Our Stop! All thoughts and opinions are my own. This post does feature affiliate links which help keep this blog going, thank you! 

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Book Review: The Dirty Ones

I'll be honest and tell you I only bought this book for the cover and the description. I had finished reading another book by this author called 18 (truly, you have to read the review) because I said in there that I wanted anything and everything this author has written. It felt like fate that not long after I started seeing teasers for this book and I ended up buying it a year or so later because I'm poor. But then it sat here on my shelf because I have this weird problem of really wanting a book and then not reading it because I don't want it to be over.

Rational?

Probably not, but here we are. So I finally got into it and um.... it wasn't all that.
The Dirty Ones - JA Huss

They said write what you know so that's what I did. I wrote dirty, I wrote erotic, I wrote the truth.
And then they called me a liar. But it's not me who's lying, it's them.
Our story isn't for everyone. It's not even for us.
So if you're looking for the fairy tale and the stupid prince on his dumb white horse, move along. You've got a hold of the wrong book. This is not your story, this is not your life, and this is not your opportunity to dip your frightened little toe into the dark pool of water and "try new things" and then pull it out and decide... #NotForMe.
When you go in with us you go all in. So make a decision before you turn this page.
Because I'm making one promise with this book.
Just one.
We are The Dirty Ones and this is our truth.


I am not going to sit here and tell you this book is terrible because it wasn't terrible, it just isn't want 18 was for me and it wasn't at all what I expected. Honestly, from the description I was expecting orgies and basically a novel of porn and this was far off the mark. The book does give you a couple of alright sex scenes, a couple of really weird orgies but it was also mostly a bizarre mystery?

Each of "The Dirty Ones" had an eventful senior year in college and they all remember their time in the tower a little differently so one of them, Hayes, decides to bring them together after a book called The Dirty Ones finds itself on the New York Times Bestseller List, and that's no good because this could be bad for all of them potentially. The way they talk about their memories immediately reminded me of the book Vox by Nicholson Baker that I read way back when I was far too young to be reading dirty books, but it's like memories morphed into fantasies. Kind of? It's hard to really explain it. Anyways. So it becomes clear that something is amiss so they are trying to figure out who all of the weird sexual acts were really about, who programmed them, and why.

This book was really lacking in a few areas for me:

  1. It doesn't really go into detail what the hell happened in the tower. We all kind of know how they got there, we heard about notes, but I really wanted more detail of what they did and with who. Don't tease me saying they were "dirty" and then give me literally no information on what made them dirty. 
  2. The love triangle between Connor-Sofia-Kiera is so weird to me. How can you be jealous and then not care at the same time? That's stupid. Then we throw in Hayes and we have a weird love square and we make it more weird with an orgy?
  3. Bennett and Camille.. the way their story line works out is odd and it feels like the author had no idea what to do so she takes the easy way out and never explains why. 
  4. The mystery and how it's figured out? COME ON. First off the ending is ridiculous and completely over the top implausible that I couldn't even deal. It wasn't even worthy of an eye roll. 

I have a lot more thoughts but I can't go into it without spoiling it. I really want one of you to read this and tell me if I'm wrong. I was kind of in a crabby funk when I read this so maybe I was more critical but I just couldn't get behind this one. The couple of hotter scenes couldn't save this one for me. Two stars.
   
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Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The Mixtape Tour: also known as Mom's Night Out

I want to start this post and tell you I am not the adult who went to this concert to do something she didn't get to do in her childhood.

My very first concert was the August 11, 1991 stop in St. Petersburg, FL of The Magic Summer Tour. My uncle Ron won tickets off the radio station and gave them to my mom to take me. I was 9 years old and I remember it vividly.
I got this t-shirt and I wore it for pajamas for years. I had two New Kids on the Block tapes, I had a Joe doll (even though I wanted a Jordan doll, but apparently all the stores had left were stupid Joe dolls that Christmas) and I used him in lieu of a Ken doll for Barbie because my mom couldn't afford to get me a Ken doll. I had every NKOTB poster my mom could get out of old magazines at her work. After the concert my mom bought me a VHS tape of the show and I watched it countless times. Honestly, I wonder if she still has it somewhere in her basement.

So all that to say, I've been there and I've done that. I was 100% going because my friend Tammy wanted to go and she bought my ticket.
Tammy is one of my best friends and I'm willing to do a lot for my friends, but I'm also not going to say no to a night out, so there's that.
The concert was going to feature New Kids on the Block but also have appearances by Tiffany, Debbie Gibson, Salt N Pepa, and Naughty by Nature. So overall, a pretty fun lineup. 
It turns out I knew a LOT of people going to this concert but I didn't run into anyone. I will say I was taken aback at how completely buck wild some people were in my section. Totally loved all of the 90s inspired outfits and hair because those all required creativity and resourcefulness. Totally could not believe the women around us who were trying to throw their panties. Granted, we were in the damn balcony on the far end of the arena, I have no idea how they thought their panties were going to magically fly across the place but I feel really bad for the people they landed on. 
Anyways. So NKOTB came out and they were OK. It's weird to realize these guys are all pushing 50 so when they come out with injury tape on their shoulder (looking at you, Donnie) or looking like they did not age well AT ALL (cough, DANNY, cough), or pretending they are 21 again with all of the crotch grabs and stage grinding (Jordan? Really?) it's almost embarrassing. I was embarrassed for them. It would be like seeing your dad on stage doing this. No. Just, no. I liked the songs, it was a fun bit of nostalgia but man. No. I'm old and I know it. 
I actually felt bad for Jonathon because you could tell he wasn't into this like they were. I mean he's gay so the 30something women in the crowd isn't in his wheelhouse so that maybe is part of it, but he looks like he's more equipped to live the quiet life. Oh god! And the fake crying on stage! Ugh. Jordan and Joe were both guilty of this and I don't know if it was supposed to be a fake cry or just a display of overly emotional moment? I don't know, but it was cheesy as hell. 
Tiffany came out, did her one hit. It was good, she looked good, she sounded good. She would come out later and sing another two, but honestly I have no idea what they were because I don't remember her ever having more than one hit. 
Debbie Gibson was next, and I'll be honest, I was never into her. I always thought she was lame, but my friend Tammy liked her so she thought that was fine. I will say that when she came out again she sounded really squeaky? Then she did a ballad with Joe from NKOTB and oy. Just oy. 
Salt N Pepa was next and I'm telling you what- they were the highlight for me. I've always enjoyed them and some of my favorite memories involve their tape, Very Necessary. We used to listen to it in our friend's garage and they had one pair of rollerblades that fit nobody and we would take turns and go back and forth in their garage on them. So that was fun. They were great, they rap just as well, and both of their sets was fun. 
The best part? Super impressed with at least the folks around us who knew all of the words and could rap them just as well. I may or may not have had my moments. 
Naughty by Nature were also there and I don't think many people knew who they were? They knew the chorus to "OPP" but who DOESN'T?! Losers without a radio on the 90s, that's who. But anything else? Nope. 

As a whole? It was pretty alright. Would I go again? God no. I've now seen NKOTB twice and I feel like that's enough in my life. I'm not usually a big fan of nostalgia concerts, but it was a fun night out and Tammy had a really great time.

Next concert? I'm taking Olivia and Jackson to see Shawn Mendes on Friday and they have no idea. So that will be fun.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Book Review: Therapy

I feel like I'm forever behind in my Goodreads challenge but at the same time my stacks of books to read are shrinking so who knows what's going on. The plan is to kill it this summer and read a LOT. It also doesn't help I now have two monthly book box subscriptions so I legitimately have to keep on top of those or they get out of hand. Ha!

Therapy - Kathryn Perez

Sometimes you have to get lost in order to be found... 

I’m needy. 

I’m broken. 

Cutting breaks through my numbness, but only opens more wounds. 

Depression, self-harm, bullying....that's my reality. 

Sex and guys....that's my escape. 

The space between the truth and lies is blurred leaving me torn, lost and confused. And while the monsters that live in my head try to beat me-- the two men that I love try to save me. 

This is my story of friendship, heartache, and the grueling journey that is mental-illness.

Warning: Due to possible triggering subject matter and some sexual situations this book is not recommended for anyone under the age of 17 years old.

I fully know that by writing this review I am going against basically every single person who read it. I also feel a little concerned that people are holding this up as either a really great love story or a really great example of overcoming something and both of those are so disturbing to me I don't know where to even start.

First up, let me say that I didn't purchase this book on my own, it came as one of the books in The Bookworm Box over a year ago and it's been hanging out on my shelf since. Secondly, in no way am I going to downplay mental health and struggles because I am that person. I have severe clinical depression, severe anxiety, PTSD, depersonalization/derealization, suicidal ideation, I have countless other mental health obstacles and I go to therapy every other week, I'm on a boatload of medications to keep me from killing myself, and I see a psychiatrist every 4-6 weeks. I am not the person to come at saying I don't get what its like so please don't @ me. Third, I was incredibly not popular in school. I wasn't the one being pushed and hit in the hallway, I was just a step above that but I didn't have a group to hang out with. I was the girl sitting at the far end of the table trying to participate in conversation in the hopes I'd be invited to sit there again or that these people would talk to me in class. The only people who spoke to me were the boys who wanted to copy my homework and the girls in a similar boat of never having a date or being asked anywhere. I wasn't even cool enough to have a rumor spread about me and almost nobody would be able to match my name to my face in the yearbook.

With all of that said, this book was maybe... I won't say it's the worst I've ever read because I can think of a couple more that were actually worse, but this is maybe in that group.

We have Jessica, who so clearly has a host of mental health issues from page one and anyone with zero experience in those could identify, is a hot mess. She's depressed, she has sex with anyone and everyone all of the time, she cuts, she has an inability to speak and be honest, she lives in a crappy home, and of course- all of the popular kids are horribly cruel to her and school staff don't see it and don't care. Then we have Jace, popular, sports star, rich, has a plan in life. He kind of likes Jessica but not in that way supposedly and Jessica is in love with him after he helps her but she doesn't know what love is because she's got zero self worth, self esteem, and a poor self image.

They end up having a hot night of sex and she ends up pregnant (after blatantly lying to him because she's selfish on top of everything) and OOPS! She then lies again when he gets angry at the prospect she's pregnant (because by now he's at college and this proves she flat out lied to him so frankly, he has a right to be angry) and says she isn't but gets an abortion and that kind of becomes the catalyst for her going off the deep end and Jace struggling in his own right. She basically goes into hiding but Jace finds her after a horribly gross HIPPA violation (which this moment was one of the ones that made me want to throw the book because this would never happen and this entire plot point is over the top ridiculous), and confronts her with all of the things she confessed in her first, court ordered, therapy with (wait for it)... his fiance.

I know. You're rolling your eyes and you have every right to because it gets more ridiculous from here.

Both still have feelings, she's messed up, he's kind of an asshole and I really thought maybe he was a good guy, there's more therapy/group sessions, she meets Kingsley, and I just can't.

I really can't, you guys. This book was so completely awful that I finished it and immediately went to the reviews online to see what I missed and they are GLOWING. They make this out to be some great love story that transcends a lot of awful and no. This is a really fucked up love story and if this was my friend I would tell her to get some serious in patient help and stay the hell away from all of these people. It's clear that Jace sees her as a second chance after he couldn't save his sister and is that the kind of romance you want? You want to be there because your boyfriend is trying to make up for his sister's death? Really? He's not a hero, he's a guy who doesn't know what he wants.

Please baby Jesus, do NOT go to this book if you are looking for a book about overcoming bullying and mental health- this book is not it. This was maybe the worst example for any of those issues and honestly I worry about girls who read this and feel like they connect with Jessica because she isn't not a character to connect with and if you do, PLEASE SEEK HELP. If you are looking for an amazing love story? This is not it. It goes over many years, has huge plot twists, and the whole thing is just a waste. I didn't like this one to the point where I wouldn't even consider something else from this author, that's where I am, you guys. I just couldn't. And maybe it's me, maybe I'm too picky, maybe it's too close to home, maybe there's a lot of reasons I'm giving this such a poor review when it's rated so highly everywhere else but man... this book was bad.
   
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Monday, June 17, 2019

Weight Loss Monday: Routine!

I have really struggled with knowing that once I get a routine, it'll get easier. I know this, I completely know this, but it's so hard. The good thing is that I feel like I'm getting into one, I just also really want to be lazy and sleep.

So far, most mornings (like 3-4 a week) I take the little girls on a walk and push the double stroller and we go for about a mile. If you remember my last update (two weeks ago), I mentioned that I was going to try two miles, and I did that twice.

It was pretty horrible.

So I'm back to going one mile and when I feel a little more confident and less like death at the end, I'm going to add more in.
I do think this week I'm going to start adding in work outs from BeachBody because I'm learning through copious research that I need to do more if I want to feel like I don't look pregnant. I'm really struggling with knowing that I look pregnant, I have a huge stomach, and while psychologically I know this isn't my fault, this is completely because I'm on corticosteroids to live, but I really hate it. It reminds me of the trauma I've been through and it just really makes me angry. If I was just fat I'd feel like I would eat better and exercise more and problem solved.

And I'm not saying there is anything wrong with being this size and looking this way. There isn't. I feel like it is a visual representation of everything I struggle with mentally. Does that make sense?

Anyways. 
I saw a thing last week saying we should have 120 minutes of outdoor time a week for optimal health. Combine that with talking to this couple who just finished walking the Superior Hiking Trail and I have this weird goal... to hike the SHT.
Now don't panic, I know, I absolutely KNOW this sounds insane. Can I track 300+ miles on my own? All in one shot?

No.

God, no. I might be super depressed but I'm not delusional.

I'm going to really look into the logistics of this and I just... I just feel like I could do this. So I don't know. Don't even listen to me, I'm clearly nuts.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Book Review: The Unhoneymooners

What a dang week. Honestly, you guys. I've had a lot of people interaction this week and I'm just completely over all of it. Ugh. The worst is that this was maybe my easiest week of the summer? Next week starts summer school (Jackson is doing it to get familiar/comfortable with his new school), tennis, Little Gardeners class for Pep & Lu, speech, doctor appointments, and god knows what else I didn't write down. I need a nanny. Or to win the lottery so Matt can be home all of the time to help me take kids to things. It's just really exhausting. I won't even get a nap ANY OF THE DAYS.

I'm going to stop talking about my life right now and give you this book review which again, YOU ABSOLUTELY NEED this book. I know I'm doing a lot of shouting but if we were at lunch chatting right now I'd likely be very loud in my declaration of love for this book.

The Unhoneymooners - Christina Lauren

Olive is always unlucky: in her career, in love, in…well, everything. Her identical twin sister Ami, on the other hand, is probably the luckiest person in the world. Her meet-cute with her fiancĂ© is something out of a romantic comedy (gag) and she’s managed to finance her entire wedding by winning a series of Internet contests (double gag). Worst of all, she’s forcing Olive to spend the day with her sworn enemy, Ethan, who just happens to be the best man.


Olive braces herself to get through 24 hours of wedding hell before she can return to her comfortable, unlucky life. But when the entire wedding party gets food poisoning from eating bad shellfish, the only people who aren’t affected are Olive and Ethan. And now there’s an all-expenses-paid honeymoon in Hawaii up for grabs.



Putting their mutual hatred aside for the sake of a free vacation, Olive and Ethan head for paradise, determined to avoid each other at all costs. But when Olive runs into her future boss, the little white lie she tells him is suddenly at risk to become a whole lot bigger. She and Ethan now have to pretend to be loving newlyweds, and her luck seems worse than ever. But the weird thing is that she doesn’t mind playing pretend. In fact, she feels kind of... lucky.


I'm just going to throw out there that if ever there was a character that was like me in every way, it is Olive. Her awkwardness around guys? Me. Her inappropriately time sarcasm? Me. Looking kind of questionable in outfits? Me. Terrible liar? Me. Pessimistic and feeling like things are too good to be true and when is the other shoe dropping? Me. I loved Olive as infuriating as she is. I also kind of loved Ethan because he kind of reminds me of Matt in some ways and that was really fun.

Anyways. In this book we have a wedding that ended hilariously horribly so Olive and Ethan end up having to take the honeymoon so it doesn't go to waste because nothing was refundable and you couldn't change dates. The only problem, they hate each other and they have to pretend to be newlyweds and you can see how this is going to go. The ultimate theme of this book is that lying will get you nowhere in the long run and it always comes out one way or another. The banter between Olive and Ethan is so great (and funny) and I can really appreciate it because that's how Matt (my husband) and I talk to each other at times and it's just fun.

I absolutely loved every page and I found myself rooting for Olive and Ethan the entire time, I was laughing, I loved the ending, I loved the entire thing. If there is one book you add to your summer reading list, make it this one because it was worth it. I couldn't put it down at all and I was really bummed it was over. This would make for a terrific movie, no question, and though this was different from the other books I've read by Christina Lauren (the Beautiful Bastard series), I really enjoyed this one a lot. I feel like anything I say isn't doing it justice and I hate that because this was maybe one of the funnest books I've read in a long time, easily going to make a top ten of 2019 list for me. No doubt.

   
I stalked my local Barnes & Noble for several days waiting for this and I found it misplaced on the wrong shelf so OBVIOUSLY it was a sign and I had to buy it. Anyways, all opinions are my own and I can't wait to hear what you thought of it. Maybe use these handy little affiliate links to keep this little ol' blog keep going. Smooches. 

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Book Review: Queen Bee

You guys.... it's only Thursday. It feels like it needs to be Friday and I need to be excited about sleeping in tomorrow. But no. It's only Thursday and I have one more hellish day of this incredibly long week. Ugh.

So I say this every June I think, but it isn't summer until I have the latest from Dorothea Benton Frank. It's always one of my go-to reads to kick off summer and her books always make me happy. 

Queen Bee - Dorothea Benton Frank 
A woman wounded by her past comes to Sullivan's Island, South Carolina to find new meaning in life and to find herself. As she takes up a new hobby of beekeeping, she begins to come into her own and rebuild her life. When a new friend comes in and she finally allows for something more than just "friendship", everyone will realize that life could use a little taste of sweetness.


In what is sure to be another classic, Dorothea Benton Frank weaves a fun tale of self-discovery, love, and friendship with her signature charming wit, indelible poignancy, and hallmark themes.
The thing about Dorothea Benton Frank is her books are always fun. You can always relate to them, you love the characters, as flawed as they sometimes are, because they are always like people you know. This could be your family and she always expertly nails what a personality is, what that personality would say or do in any given situation, and she can have you laughing and crying throughout the same book, and this one wasn't any different. 

So this one is a book around two sisters and a mother who really is demanding and Holly is the one left to care for her after her sister Leslie left the island. Well Leslie is back because she's had a pretty big shakeup in her life, but coming into the routine and life that Holly and their mom has isn't easy. They butt heads but ultimately they reconnect to each other and that's the main piece of this book. We also have a little romance thrown it, but don't call this a romance novel, we have bees (and Holly- who talks to her bees all of the time), the cute little boys next door, and tons of times where I laughed out loud. All of the characters are so completely set in their ways and aren't necessarily open minded (looking at you, Leslie) and throughout the book things change and happen and you can see them (slowly) turn more laid back and willing to roll with the punches versus "my way or the highway" and that's what makes you feel like this could be your family.

It really was the best, light, summery read to basically kick off my summer reading list. I also want to mention how much I love these books because every time I read them I want to go to this place. I feel like I've read enough of them that I would fit completely in with these fictional people and it would be totally normal. 

It should be noted that while this is Lowcountry Tales #12, you don't have to read anything before this, these really are stand alone novels, and I suggest you read any/all of the ones you can get your hands on! I really, really enjoyed this one and if you're looking for the perfect summer read for vacation, the beach, your backyard, wherever? This is the one you need. 
   
Thank you to TLC Book Tours and William Morrow for my review copy, all thoughts and opinions are my own. Let me know what you think of this one! This post contains affiliate links and that helps this blog keep going. What is on YOUR summer reading list?