Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Time Capsule: Before We Were "Us"

Taken 5 years ago in the middle of the night in a crappy restaurant on an Apple 4. He didn't know it then, but he was already in love with me. We wouldn't start dating for another 4 months. We were best friends - but I felt that we were meant to be more. And that was terrifying. I was not raised to believe in unconditional love - a man would always hurt or leave you (or both). I had never met a man like this - a man incapable of hurting a fly. Until then, I had never fought for anything the way that I fought for him and I am a better woman for it. He makes me better every single day and I help him become the man that he should be. Every single facet of my personality is better because he loves me. Loving him was my first step to becoming the best person that I can be.
- Ally

Sunday, July 10, 2016

My Invisible Friend

I stayed home from church today. Not intentional, but it was needed.

Our son, who is set to get baptized soon, came home from primary and gave me a gentle hug. And he whispered, "Mommy, guess what? It's Sebastian's birthday."

I searched my mind. I used to teach his primary class and I don't remember a Sebastian. No new families with little boys have moved into the ward recently. Huh?

Then I remembered, Sebastian is one of Dylan's invisible friends. At his dad's house, Dylan has a lot of people to play with and talk to. His home is always alive with people. Aunts, uncles. Family. My house? Not so much. So, Sebastian and Henry are the kids he plays with when I am not up for playing with him. Which has been often as of late. With my husband going back to work, our house is a little bit boring.

I get it.  Dylan and I are both social animals and both have vivid imaginations. He doesn't have siblings to play with and I didn't have a good relationship with my sibling. I only had one friend in my neighborhood, I was alone a lot as a kid. I had similar habits of pretend as a kid. I think my friend's name was Susan. (Oddly enough, my habit of inventing people to entertain me has basically cemented my would-be career as a novelist.) It hurts me to think of Dylan being alone as I often felt as a child and that I am the cause of it. But he is better off than I was: he has a best friend that he sees regularly and he sees kids at church. He doesn't have a lot of close friends at school but I didn't either until I was around 9 or so. This isolation went away when I learned to talk on the phone with my friends. I hope Dylan can start that kind of thing soon - he has often asked if he can Skype with his cousins or friends. So I am hopeful that he will grow out of this stage soon. 

But what pains me is that I am letting my depression affect the happiness of my child.

Summer is an absolute nightmare for me. I live in a valley in Northern California and in July, it can get up to 110 degrees on a given day. On those days, I am inside. I am basically inside from late may to early November. I go to work, I go to class, I go home. That is the basic pattern of my life right now. 

And it takes it's toll. 

I get into this pattern and I can't find myself out of it. I start to make plans but cancel when I think about having the energy to do it. I focus on work. I write more. I text a lot. Solitary activities. Letting people down. Shirking my responsibilities. And this makes the depression worse because I am a social person, I need people to energize me. But I really only have time to tend to my invisible friend: Depression.  

The frustration comes from knowing that an antidote is nearby. Within reach, really. Medication, yes. Therapy, yes. Better diet, yes. Water, yes. Exercise, yes. Better habits, yes. Time with friends, yes. But the reason that depression is something that can be in remission and then suddenly flare with a vengeance is because there is no rhyme nor reason to it. And the fact that I can't apply my anecdotes due to enormous apathy towards getting better is infuriating. Self-care goes out the window. I literally cannot be bothered to treat myself well because I feel like my sanity is not worth the bother. As long as I am able to go to work and function, it's "good enough".  

It's time to break up with my invisible friend. Delete her from my Facebook, block her from my Instagram, put her on my blocked call list. I need to pay a visit to the outside world. But when? And what will be waiting for me when I catch up with her?

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Kindle First: My New Favorite Amazon Prime Feature

So, if you're a reader of this blog or a friend of mine, you know that I am pretty much obsessed with books. I spend more on books that I spend on clothes and make up combined. So I am always looking for a bargain.

I have had prime for a little over three years. It's something that pays for itself in the amount that I save on shipping alone, but thanks to one of my many book clubs I belong to, I have discovered Kindle First

When you are a prime member, you are entitled to a FREE pre-released book per month. They offer a selection of 6 from a wide variety of genres and it is yours to keep. 

This month, I chose Everything We Keep by Kerry Lonsdale. The best part of this program is that even if you don't keep your Prime membership, the book is yours to keep. 

Be on the look out for my review of this book soon!

And Try Amazon Prime FREE for 30 Days

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Parenting: It's Not About You. Ever. Sorry.

Lord - how is it only Tuesday?

There are a lot of rules about parenting that must be learned early.

1) It's not about you. Ever. Sorry. If you wanted to have a life that revolved around yourself - you should not have made tiny helpless versions of yourself that literally need you to grow and thrive and eat. Seriously - they're helpless.
2) You can't control anything. Especially the actions of other people. Attempting to do either will only make you crazy and then YOU are robbing yourself of joy.
3) See Steps 1 - 2

September must have been a heck of a month because my newsfeed is bursting with babies. And I have seen this little message more than once.

Gag me. 

When I had my baby back in 2008 (you know, the dark ages), I barely had a Facebook. I had a LIVEJOURNAL of all things. I had my Livejournal friend make the announcement for me because I was going to be away from the computer for so many days. I had chronicled my pregnancy pretty obsessively so I was eager to let my friends know that I had given birth. I didn't read the comments until much later - I was too excited about cuddling my little man and resting after a difficult labor.

Now I've seen a lot of meticulously detailed pregnancies detailed on social media. I get it. I will likely be insufferable if I ever get pregnant again. I've seen births that were live tweeted. I've seen beautiful birth photos (like the ones done by my wonderful former sister in law). Babies with their own hashtag before they're in the third trimester. A friend-of-a-friend who wouldn't share photos for the first 24 hours because she wanted to be "selfish" but then shared photos after people "begged" via comments on her status that was fishing for that very reaction. 

I'm a woman in her early thirties - I'm up to my ears in pregnant ladies. And I can admit it: I'm incredibly jealous. I'm so jealous I can't see straight. I can't get pregnant (or at least, haven't gotten pregnant after months of trying). So maybe I was on a hair trigger on social media today. So when I see this meme for the fifth time this week, I am immediately annoyed. I also see supporting comments from people saying, "Oh, I've seen this moment stolen from so many people. It's so rude." 

Parents, please do yourself (and your family) a favor and GET OVER YOURSELF. 

The joy in giving birth was meeting my amazing son for the first time, sharing him with my family. That moment cannot be "stolen". My joy in his birth was NOT surrounded by announcing his birth on social media - the joy was meeting my CHILD for the first time after months of carrying him inside of me. If you care about something like that after being given the greatest gift you can imagine - are you really keeping things in perspective? And if you have enough toxic people in your life that it requires a passive aggressive message on your Facebook, don't you have bigger fish to fry in your life? 


Friday, June 24, 2016

Summer Reading Review - Promise Not To Tell - Jennifer McMahon

I am a sucker for a mystery or a thriller. Especially when it involves cold cases. Cold cases are my JAM. I am a wannabe sleuth who loves to guess the ending and I am usually right in my guess.  And if I am not right my in my guess, I am usually pretty impressed by the author who managed to stump me. 

So, Promise Not To Tell by Jennifer McMahon looked really compelling to me. 

Look at the cover. Look at those eyes. Look at that tagline. I want to know what the heck this is about. 

The plot is promising. Kate returns to her childhood home after having been gone for many years to care for an ailing mother - haunted by the death of a childhood friend. Antics ensue. 

Storytelling Pros: Really easy read. Grips you and leaves you guessing from the beginning. Not challenging material at all. I read it in less than 6 hours. 
Storytelling Cons: Very little payout in the end. Even when you get to the end and it's all unraveled, there isn't a lot there.
Characters and Subplots Pros: Very interesting characters with rich dialogue. A lot of subplots going on for a book that is only 250 pages long. 
Characters and Subplots Cons: Not a lot of development in said characters. Reader is left wanting more because there's a lot of potential but not a lot of realization.  The narration is very bland and although there are many characters speaking in the first person at any given point in the book, the voice of the given narrator never fluctuates. Protagonist(s) are very passive and not memorable. 
Overall Scope of Book Pro: Very interesting topic.
Overall Scope of Book Con: Poor execution. Very arbitrary choices and while there were supernatural elements infused in the book, I did not feel like there was anything in the book that took me out of the "realism". It couldn't decide whether it was a supernatural ghost story or a coming of age/reckoning story of a girl who had been wronged.

Closing synopsis: Promise Not To Read Promise Not to Tell by Jennifer McMahon 
2 out of 5 stars. 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Then and Now

There's a cute thing going around on Facebook this week. You post your first profile picture and your latest profile picture.

I don't really care for "memory lane" when it comes to myself. I love #tbt when it comes to my kiddo or my former theater "career" (mainly an excuse to post funny pictures of myself). But traveling down memory lane isn't something that I really relish.

I think most people with a crappy past feels this way about themselves.

But this week marks an anniversary in my life. Not the anniversary of my wedding, or the anniversary of my becoming a mother or a work anniversary. 

Today, June 23rd is the day that I was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. 

Today, June 23rd is the day that my life as I know it began. 

This isn't an excuse for me to gush about my church. I do plenty of that in my real life. But today gives me a thrill when I look back on how different my life was 4 years ago.

Differences between then and now are very stark. 

My son was living primarily with his dad then - and now we have 50/50 custody straight down the middle. His dad and I have an open throughline of communication - and more importantly, we have a VERY happy boy. 

I was in a miserable state of living a half life. One foot in the theatre community where I was not happy and one foot in the beginnings of my becoming a writer. The theatre community was not a good place for me - and I was trapped in a very toxic working relationship with a person who grew increasingly verbally abusive. Breaking away from this relationship and my affiliation with the community that harbored it was a huge step in my development as a person and as an artist. While participating in theatre fed my soul (and also starved it) for a few years and gave me a technical education on how to present a story to an audience, it's real lesson to me was to respect my limits. Also to know that I am allowed to have limits. 

Four years ago, I had a lot of anger. I was also in a self-imposed isolation due to an untreated bout of depression. I was working a dead end job and while I knew that I wanted to marry my boyfriend and be a good mother, I had very little direction otherwise. I had a lot of hopelessness in my life. I didn't think that I would ever own a home, get out of debt, get my finances in order. I thought that I would die at my desk at my sad job where I got sadder and sadder every day - I would never have a proper career. I thought that I would live in my sad midtown apartment next to the freeway for the rest of my life. And while I might still be "in progress" in this part of my life, the progress has been wonderful. I have a wonderful job, having changed jobs twice since that sad desk in that sad office. I have a career direction and am attending college. I live in a beautiful rented home while we save to buy a home. Our debt is under control and will be gone within the year. Having that pulse of purpose has improved my day-to-day living. Having that and the help of good medical care, I no longer go through life living only to survive: I go through life with joy and thrive.

Four years ago, I was still in touch with the faction of my family that has since taken their leave from my life. My brother and grandmother have been a dysfunctional branch of my family for most of my life (so many issues! that's another entry!) - and when I joined the church and announced my plans to get married in the Temple, I was promptly told where to go, as it were. That side of my family no longer has anything to do with my life or the life of my incredible child. In their absence, I have been pulled close to my married family and have a very close relationship with my mother-in-law. I have also been adopted by my best friends as "sister" and I have had several honorary grandmothers and fathers step forward to fill that void in my life. In this absence of those that "should" love me on some biological level, I have been shown what unconditional love really is. I have been taught what family is and why it is valuable. Through my pruning of a rotten branch of my family tree, I have inherited a blossoming garden of love and friendship. 

When I look back on these four years, it all began with my baptism. It was my first step towards the life that I am living today. In my decision towards living a more positive and purposeful life, I was leaving a lot of toxicity behind. I was also leaving behind a life where I thought that I deserved lesser than the man or woman next to me. We all deserve happiness and the secret to living a happier life is to decide that you deserve it. It's not easy, it takes time, and there are always setbacks. But it really is as simple as changing your mind and looking at the world differently. It is a simple gift that we can give ourselves every day: a changed mind. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Because You Are Only as Sick as Your Secrets

It has been a really difficult time. You may have heard some things and I am just going to rip the band-aid off and spill the beans so that we can just put all the rumors to rest.

Some things have come to light that have shaken the very core of my marriage. Things that have been kept hidden from me since before we were married. Unspeakable things.

My husband, my eternal companion, puts ketchup on his tacos.

For those of you who know him, I know that it is a stretch to think that he could be capable of something so foul. But however unbelievable and disgusting, it is true.

My family thanks you for your concern and requests privacy at this time. We ask you that you keep ‪#‎salsastrong‬ during ‪#‎ketchupgate‬

My husband is a real hot tomato.