Hello, Again

How was everyone’s weekend? I still have this blasted cold, but I’m on the upswing, I think. I was spoiled this last year from not getting sick. It was unbelievable, friends. All that social distancing and mask wearing, and for the first time EVER, I went through a whole year without getting the sniffles once. And the first week we swing back to the normal side of life, I’m down for three weeks. It’s ridiculous. I mean, I understand that being in the rhythms of community is important, but I am also a big fan of breathing through my nose. So, give and take, I guess.

It’s supposed to rain all week this week, and while I’m a fan of my garden getting watered without me lugging several gallons of it to my raised beds, I’m hoping that the rain will stop by Saturday. There are holiday festivities this weekend that depend on decent weather. And I really want my kid to experience those activities. I guess we shall see.

I’m still in that process of going through things, but in the worst way. I’m struggling, friends. It’s like, I look at a closet and think, “Yea, I need to go through that.” Then I shut the doors. Or, I open a tote from one shelf and look through all the contents with loving nostalgia, then place the tote back on the shelf, having done nothing to organize, categorize, or whittle down the contents in that storage bin. The closet looks the same as when I started.

However, today, I did go through one shelf in my office closet. It was a basket of candles. I pulled open an excel and listed every candle in the bin. I also opened and smelled the candles to decide whether or not they were still good (because candles do go bad) or even if I still liked the scent of them. Everything I kept was listed in the excel, and now I have a pile of candles to get rid of. Along with the pile of books. But all of this took an hour of my time today. Granted, I also had to check on my dog and watch a Tiktok video or three because focusing is hard, but at this rate, I’m going to have to pack things and move them to the new house before I actually decide whether or not I want to keep them.

It’s just 12 years of life I’m trying to sift through. No big deal.

Well, it’s time to go wake up the kid again. Until next time.

Streams of Thought

I don’t really know what to title this blog post. I thought about maybe “I’m back!” or “Blogging again!”, but honestly, I’m not ready to be completely consistent, you know? I just wanted to hop on here and leave a little love note to my friends and family that still miraculously check on this blog to see if there is a new post.

And I love you for that. Please keep checking back in, I promise my brain will settle enough at some point to bring back some organized consistency. But for now, just a little update.

After one full week of normalcy around here, we all promptly got a cold that is still hanging on to me with a vise-like grip, despite the copious amounts of medicine, tea, water, cough drops, hot baths/showers, and general rest I have tried to do with a three year old underfoot. It’s not covid, but my cough sounds like covid, so I’m also trying my best to avoid public places at the moment so I don’t scare someone who is spending their first day in the world without a mask, only to find some woman walking into the store hacking up half of her lung.

I also had a birthday, which was super low key. I had an amazing day with my husband and kid, but I realized just how much I have forgotten how to be social. Plus, a lot of my friends have gone in completely different directions in life over the last year or two, so coming out of this pandemic, I am sort of starting over in the friend department. Which is a little daunting to an introverted homebody who has not been exercising her social muscles for a year, and they have definitely atrophied. I mean, I’m going to stay in touch with my current friends, but most have or are soon moving away.

That said, I’m moving as well. Right in the middle of this fall (hopefully, if all the cards play as they are supposed to). It’s too far from where I am, but it’s far enough to be new. This honestly started with my husband and I swapping pictures of houses for sale on Zillow which somehow became a more serious conversation. Then we started looking at neighborhoods and home builders, and wham, bam, thank you ma’am, we signed a contract and the wheels are now in motion. We have lived where we have lived for almost 12 years. These walls have seen so much of our lives – our heartbreaks, our joys, our fights, and our growth as human beings (literally for my kid who was brought to this home after the hospital and now is over three feet tall).

So, I’ve begun the process of going through things, because no one wants to move things they don’t want. And of course, I started with books. I now have four neat towers of books on the floor of my office, waiting for me to figure out how I want to give them away. I’m excited with how I have organized the ones I’m keeping. I divided them by read and not read, with one shelf for general reference books. I figured out that I read a lot of young adult, but have a good bit of adult books and non fiction to last me probably until next year at the rate I’m reading them.

I am still reading. I keep a reading journal with brief bits of thought on each book, but I haven’t actually written a review for one in quite a long time. I am out of practice, I’m sure. I did write a book review for the children’s book, “What is God Like?” by Rachel Held Evans and Matthew Paul Turner because a) I was on the launch team but b) I would have done it anyway because I love both of these people. By the way, it debuted at number one on the NYT best seller list for Children’s Picture Books.

Well, I told myself I would write until my kid’s nap is over, which is now, so if you made it through this stream of consciousness, I love you. Thank you for checking in and checking up on me. Hopefully, I will make this consistent, and then I can confidently say I’m back, but I’m trying not to put too much pressure on myself. I mean, I still have to figure out that “being social” thing again, so there’s a good bit on my plate. Talk to you soon!

Taking a Break To Unplug

Isn’t it silly when someone announces all over their social media, or their blog, that they are going to take a break from social media or their blog?

Well…

I’m taking a break from social media and my blog for the time being. It’s nothing too dramatic, I’m just reprioritizing a few things in my life right now, focusing on some other things offline. It’s all good. I’m okay, my family is okay, all that. But these kind of breaks are really necessary and inevitable in the world we live in today. With pandemics and polar vortexes, not to mention the manmade drama of politics and social media, taking a step back and a big breath is a healthy thing to do.

So, without out being too dramatic, and with a little bit of self-awareness, I’m going to step back. It doesn’t mean I won’t be online or commenting every now and then on some platform, it just means I’m going to take a break from writing. In the meantime, stay safe, love one another, and I will talk to you later.

Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Anti-Diet Approach: A Review

Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Anti-Diet Approach by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch
My rating: 4 of 5 star

This book was recommended by a dietitian on Tiktok, which is probably not the last time Tiktok will be the source of a recommendation. I liked the idea of a holistic look to nutrition, that it requires both a healing of the mind and the body. And that was really what this book was about.

Basically, there are ten principles to follow (though they are not to be thought of as rules but more reminders). Principles like “Honor Your Hunger” and “Respect Your Body.” The introduction touched on the white supremacy and patriarchal influences that led to European standard of fat phobia.

It focuses the majority of the book on mental health and overcoming that instead of following some nutritional rules. It even has a chapter dedicated to eating disorders and another one dedicated to raising intuitive eaters. It was really helpful and encouraging to learn that nutritional health won’t get better until the relationship with food heals.

So if you are tired of diet culture and food police, and want another book that encourages body positivity and a healthy mental and physical lifestyles, this book is a must for your reference shelf. I know that it will be staying on mine.

There is no profanity, sexual content or violent content. There is a lot of discussion on physical attractiveness and eating disorders, so be aware of those triggers.

Fate: The Winx Saga: A Review

Fate: The Winx Saga created by Brian Young
My rating: of 5 stars

Apparently, this series is based on an animated series from Nickelodeon, but in a much darker context. The basic premise is that fairies exist. Our world is called The First World, and the place where much of the story takes place is in The Otherworld. In The Otherworld, there are seven realms, and all of them send their best and brightest to the private school at Alfea.

Bloom, our main character, is from California and doesn’t have magical parents. In fact, when her abilities appear, she has no idea what is going on. She is found by the headmistress of the school and brought to Alfea. She meets her roommates, all fairies with different abilities that affect the elements – water, earth, light, even an empath. There is the mystery of Bloom’s lineage and her connection with The Burned Ones, these creatures who are deadly and appeared around the same time that Bloom’s abilities appeared.

There is angst and teenage drama, wistful romances and dark secrets. Very much Vampire Diaries or The Secret Circle vibes. I like that the faculty of the school didn’t seem shady or mean, but genuinely care about the students and preparing them for the worst of circumstances. I think teen shows can miss the opportunity of adult mentors. Even Bloom’s mom, while probably a little intense at times, truly cares about Bloom in a really authentic way.

I know that not a lot of people have liked this series, especially ones who are familiar with the animated series or the books, but I haven’t seen anything so far that would make it completely unwatchable. Like I said, it reminds me a lot of The Secret Circle which only got one season so that might not bode well for this show. It also has Vampire Diaries Vibes as well, which had many seasons, so it will all depend on the fan base. And the real question is, with the popularity of Bridgerton (which I will review soon), are we still in a fantasy-watching mood as a society? Either way, I enjoy the mystery and the magic. I don’t mind the teen angst, and I look forward to watching more episodes!

There is profanity. In the first episode, there is a shirtless boy and a clothed girl in bed. Some chaste kissing, sexual innuendo, but nothing graphic. Violent content includes a mutilated body that has been burned, fight training, and choking by vine, but nothing explicit, and you don’t see anyone actually being attacked, just the aftermath.

Charity: Hope Mommies

The final organization I want to talk about this month is about something that is very close to my heart. If you haven’t been reading this blog very long, mainly for my book or film/tv reviews, you may not know that I am a loss mom. Before I had my kid, I was pregnant three different times. I had one miscarriage and two stillbirths before my rainbow baby.

After my first stillbirth, the hospital presented me with a shoebox filled with sweet encouraging notes, a candle, some lotion, and a sweet letter from another loss mom. That is the main mission of Hope Mommies, to provide support to mothers and families experiencing infant loss.

Speaking specifically about the Dallas chapter, they have a private Facebook groups, meet for dinner about once a month in various parts of DFW, and come together (before COVID, mainly) to put together shoeboxes of support like the one I received at my stillbirth (I actually received another one at my second stillbirth as well. I have been blessed to be able to be a part of some of these gatherings that put together the shoeboxes, knowing how much it meant to me, personally.

And, they usually host an event in October (which is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month) to remember the precious little ones. Sometimes it is a walk, sometimes a balloon release, sometimes it’s just a small service to remember. Plus, they host Bible studies using devotional books that were written by other Hope Mommies.

1 in 4 women experience pregnancy loss at some point in their lifetime. To have organizations like Hope Mommies, a community of women who support each other in their faith in Christ, is necessary. I hope to continue supporting others and walking with them in their journey just as these beautiful women have walked with me.

For more information about this organization, you can visit their website here.

Their Eyes Were Watching God: A Review

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
My rating: 4 of 5 star

This was the Life’s Library community book choice at the end of 2020. It is classic from the 1930s by Zora Neale Hurston. It is thought to be feminist literature because the main character is presented as a strong female character.

The story follows a woman named Janie. Raised by her grandmother who was a former slave, Janie was the product of a probable rape, which leads her mother to want very little to do with her. Janie grows up and marries the man who her grandmother sets her up to marry, but the marriage doesn’t last long. She gets married another two times in her life, and this book follows her life throughout those marriages.

People around her like to put her in boxes that she doesn’t quite fit into. While at first, she tries hard to meet the expectations of others, she eventually learns to trust herself and find contentment in the choices she makes, no longer caring about what other people may think. It is empowering, but also heartbreaking, as near the end of the book, she has to make very hard decisions that bring sad consequences. But her resilience through everything is beautiful.

This book wasn’t what I expected. Most of the classics I know are flowery in their descriptions, but Hurston really focuses on dialect, conversation, and moves the plot forward this way. This would definitely be a good audiobook to listen to (I actually listened to parts of this book instead of reading it completely). The story is meant to be read out loud. Very entertaining and definitely recommend.

There is a profanity in the book. Sexual content includes mentions of rape and kissing. Violence includes mentions of rape, whippings, there is a gun involved in a skirmish that ends up pointing in Janie’s face, and there are deaths and descriptions of dead bodies being buried after a hurricane.

Tiger: A Review

Tiger directed by Matthew Hamachek and Matthew Heineman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This intriguing, fascinating, and heartbreaking two-part documentary is on HBOMax right now, and it is a definite recommend.

Tiger Woods was a big name in sports when I was in high school. I remember all the commercials he was in, and I remember the scandal of his infidelity to his wife. But, as with all stories, there is more that what we see in the tabloids and on the screen.

The first part of this film covers Wood’s childhood. His strict upbringing with his father and mother who provided and prompted him with all the necessary tools to nurture his natural talent at golf. His childhood and adolescent years were not typical. His father was convinced he was going to be the next greatest social changer of his generation, right up there with Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. What incredible pressure to place on the shoulders of a kid.

The second part of the film covers his fall from grace. The trips to Las Vegas. The many girlfriends and mistresses, in particular they interview Rachel Uchitel. The role models who he grew up around who were not faithful to their own wives, including his own father. The way that the tabloids, the sponsors, the fans, even his own family used him for their own agendas, never really allowing him to find out who he really was. His entire identity was wrapped in golf.

And when his performance started to decline, so did he. When everything came out in the open, and he fell hard, it was just so hard to watch. But even though his upbringing was hard, his father really did love him. So does his mother. And as he finally comes into who he now is, you can see him finally enjoying life in a healthy way. At least, I hope so. I hope he has found happiness and contentment in his life after so many hard years.

This was a conviction to me about parenting, about being a good, kind friend, about caring for the people around you beyond whatever agenda you have. It’s about authenticity. And it ends on such a hopeful note. Even if you aren’t into sports at all, this is a good one to watch.

There is profanity. No sex scenes, but sex is discussed, primarily by his mistress and the tabloids. His dad’s friend hints at it as well. Violence includes beatings and navy seal training, the car accident he is involved in, and a tape of a DUI arrest.

Charity: SPCA of Texas

Throughout my entire life, I have had a connection with dogs, particularly rescue dogs. My first pets were rescues. My current pets are rescues. And before I had my kid, I was pretty involved at one of the local rescue animal sites, called the SPCA of Texas.

Of course, the organization is a little different from when I volunteered, especially after COVID, but I will share my experience with the organization and some of the exciting ways to get involved as well.

I started volunteering in 2015. I was started on basic cleaning duty – washing laundry and cleaning empty cages. But I moved on pretty quickly to walking the dogs who were in the adoption kennels. Eventually, I started fostering dogs in my home, and then began working with families who came in to adopt, matching them with dogs who were ready to be adopted.

There was no doubt in my mind that everyone who worked or volunteered at this place loved animals. And there were so many departments. There was the front-end who primarily worked with adoptions. The vet clinic that would see mainly dogs who were adopted from there but also some from the community. The behavior department that worked with dogs who need some kind of training or rehabilitation. There was even a farm section at the facility where I volunteered that housed horses, sometimes goats or donkeys. And there is what I call the “Rescue Team” who go on calls to investigate possible animal cruelty or neglect, or try to help owners who may have gotten overwhelmed in the care of their animals.

I gravitated towards the behavior department. The staff behaviorists would train us to work with all kinds of situations, but my favorite were the undersocialized, overstressed dogs. Seeing a dog come out of its shell, looking for comfort and connection was the most rewarding feeling for me. And finding homes for these newly rehabilitated dogs was a close second. I fostered 11 dogs in the two years I volunteered, and all of them found forever homes. I almost adopted my first foster, but I’m glad that I didn’t (though I think of that sweet pup all the time) because I wouldn’t have had the room or energy to work with the other 10 dogs.

My first foster. Wasn’t she a doll?

My favorite thing about this organization (other than the fact that I can play with dogs and call it volunteering) is that they really support their volunteers. We were given opportunities for training, education seminars, and some staff would even take the time to answer questions and problem solve with me. I was a part of the team, and that really made the difference.

And even though the traditional volunteering is still being put on hold, as far as I know, the SPCA of Texas is still working hard for the welfare of animals. I know the fostering program is still running (I still get all the emails from that group), and I know that the staff is still working hard to care for animals ready to be adopted. I look forward to the day I can return to the facility and volunteer in whatever capacity I can.

If you are interested in more information about this organization, you can visit spca.org. Also, they are doing a virtual Strutt Your Mutt event in May to raise awareness and funds to fight animal cruelty. You can sign up for that here.

The Fifth Season: A Review

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
My rating: 4 of 5 star

Last year, in 2020, N.K. Jemisin showed up on my radar with her book “The City We Became” which was a big hit among some of the readers I follow online. But before I read that book, I wanted to read something off of her backlist first. So, this is why I picked up The Fifth Season trilogy.

I’ve only read the first book, but so far I am hooked. To be honest, I wasn’t quite hooked until after 100 pages. There is a bit of a learning curve with this book. It is a science fiction that is based in geology and seismology. The world keeps have these cataclysmic events that set everyone back to a more primitive time. If they prepare for it well enough, then they or their children might survive the dark years when the dust from volcanos cover the entire earth.

Not only does it have a vocabulary learning curve, but it’s a book that throws its reader into the middle of the story. There are different types of people in this world. Stills, who are just normal, every day people. Orogenes (or the derogatory name Rogga) who can create, quell, or monitor the earth’s movements and volcanos by using the energy and heat around them. This makes them dangerous to stills because that energy and heat could come from them, leaving them dead. Finally, we have the Guardians, a strange group of people who care for, train, and monitor the Orogenes.

The story follows three women (whose connection is revealed toward the end of the book). Damaya is a young girl whose powers have gotten the attention of the Fulcrum (a training facility for Orogenes). When a child shows orogene abilities, there is fear in the community. Some parents or community members can kill the child, though they are encouraged to contact the Fulcrum and have the child removed and trained. Damaya’s point of view is one who is new to the Fulcrum and to training.

Syenite is an orogene Fulcrum member who has been attached to a mentor, Alabaster. Not only does Alabaster continue her training, but they are also supposed to breed together. It really exemplifies the animal type treatment that these people receive.

Finally, Essun (her story is written in the second person which was jarring at first since each chapter basically changed POV) is a middle aged woman who is an orogene but hides her abilities. She lives in a small town with her husband and two kids. Her kids are both orogenes, but she hides that fact as well, until one day she comes home to find her son murdered and her husband and daughter disappeared. She knows that her husband killed her son and kidnapped her daughter, possibly not knowing that her daughter was also an orogene, which means she is in danger. Essun sets out on a quest to find her daughter.

It touches on dehumanization in a hierarchal society, something that evolved over time through each of the cataclysmic events (called seasons). In addition to all of the story and character development, there is also the mystery of these huge obelisks in the sky and the stone eaters, something that will probably be revealed and discussed in the following two books.

The book is excellent. There was no real information dump. The reader is just dropped into the middle of everything and must patiently pay attention to the details in order to catch up. But it is well worth it. Looking forward to the next books.

There is a profanity in the book. Sex is used for the purpose of breeding, especially among orogenes, further dehumanizing them. There are some hints to child abuse. Also there are multiple sex scenes, some described in detail, but I wouldn’t say they were steamy. There is also a lot of death. The son of Essun is very young when he is killed. There are stabbings, death by losing the heat in your body, mentions of cannibalism and turning to stone. This book is heartbreaking. I originally thought it was YA, but after reading it, it definitely felt more of an adult genre book.