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.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Why I Can't Make Polite Conversation With You About The Book I'm Reading

I have come to the conclusion that the best way to get me to do anything remotely unpleasant is to bribe me with a book.

I have struggled for years to maintain a cleaning schedule. My husband does most of the housework in our house because he only works part time and we feel like that's a fair balance. But my husband is returning to full-time work soon and it'll give me the opportunity to take more of a role in running our household day to day. 

So I spent 2 hours this evening cleaning while listening to a book about murder while deep cleaning my kitchen. No, my child wasn't home! 

Sunday, June 12, 2016

HSP Essential For Summer: Fish Oil

Note: This Blog contains affiliate links but there are things that I have purchased myself - not given to promote. I'll get a few pennies from Amazon if you use my links however! :) 

Being fair of skin has its advantages. Mainly being able to rock red hair like no other. But is also comes with a LOT of disadvantages, namely needing to dress like a beekeeper from April til November in the California heat. 

We have a LOT in common, Uncle Fester and I.
I also light up a room with my smile. 
Another issue I have with being fair in the summer is that I'm an HSP. If you haven't read The Highly Sensitive Person, PLEASE do so! It's such a wonderful book. It's really helped me come to understand myself and my child alike. And finding community online with a lot of other HSPs and mothers of HSPs has also really helped a lot. (Another nod on this blog to Sorta Awesome and Megan Tietz - I can't praise them enough!)

The way that my HSP manifests is pretty typical, I should think. I am sensitive to noise, crowds, touch and I'm overly empathetic. The empathy can range from crying when someone else is crying to having a breakdown from watching the news. It's often painful for me to be touched and there have been many times in my journey in motherhood that I have been hurt by my child's touch. 

It's tied in with my depression and anxiety, and something that I am learning to manage through medication and counseling. My HSP is aggravated during the summer because I am often tired or hot or dehydrated. I am a big fan of supplements to help bolster my defenses (and as a reminder to drink my water!). 

So this tip comes from Miss Megan of Sorta Awesome. I have been an on-and-off Fish Oil user for many years. But I was thrilled to hear that it could ease the pain associated with HSP.

According to Nicole Hollingshead of The Sensitive Life

"Fish Oil — anti-inflammatory, mood stabilizer. Omega 3’s are a huge support to cognitive and emotional functioning. These essential fatty acids also assist with hormone balancing and improve overall mood."

There are very many varieties of fish oil that you can take but a high quality or pure oil will do the most good. I currently take Nature Made but once I am done with the bottle I have, I plan on purchasing this oil by Puravida as it has come quite highly reviewed. 

What are your tips for surviving summer as an HSP? 

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Required Reading for Having a Friend With Depression and Anxiety

Despite crippling depression and anxiety, I am an extrovert in the biggest way. I love to make new friends and talk to strangers and make a spectacle of myself. But invariably, the moment comes in any new relationship where I have to explain to said new friend, "I'm sorry I'm being weird/not texting you back/disappearing for several days/cancelling plans. I'm sorry I can't be better. But my brain is broken and it really doesn't have anything to do with you." I also need to add, very plainly, "No, you can't fix me." 

I run into this more often than you'd think. When a neurosis is brought up or discovered, the same conversation is usually the same. "Why not?" And the solution is to, "Oh, just fix it. You're afraid to do (insert thing here), you just have to do it. It's not a big deal."

Depression (and the anxiety that comes with depression) is not a battle of wills. 

Not so much. I can't just fix my brain. I've taken a lot of medication, done hours of counseling, endured lots and lots of unhealthy relationships because I feel like it's what I deserve. It's always getting better (until it isn't) and it's come a long way from where it was - but it's not an easy fix and it's not something that is on any kind of timetable. 

It has gotten to the point where I just want to hand out a pamphlet to any new and potential friends. 

I have been blessed to have been born in an age where I can find a lot of support via blogs and podcasts and connecting with people inside my own home via the Internet. So I've compiled a list of awesome blogs that can either help you understand your depression better, or understand your depressed friend/wife/husband/daughter/son/loved one.

First foremost, Allie Brosch. Buy her book Hyperbole and a Half. Just do it. Even if you have a normal person brain. 

Adventures in Depression and Depression Part 2 are the best examples of laughing til you cry and crying til you laugh that I have ever experienced. 

The most amazing moment in my relationship with my husband came via Allie Brosch. In 2013 and 2014, I lived in an almost permanent case of depression with the inability to verbalize anything that was troubling me. He started reading Hyperbole and a Half and suddenly, he understood that he could not fix what was ailing me - he could only try to understand. 

I remember lying down and he was reading the book and he came next to me, put his hand on my shoulder and said, "I'm sorry your fish are dead." (Read the essay!) It was the first moment that I felt like he understood that I didn't need him to fix me, only to love me. 

A wonderful compliment (and also hilarious) to Allie Brosch is The Bloggess aka Jenny Lawson. Jenny started following me on Twitter a few years ago and I was tickled and bought her book. (Then I bought a new copy instead of a used copy because I figured she deserved the royalties.)  

Jenny has been writing about mental illness for over a decade and her body of work has been extremely healing for me. She has shown me what it is to persevere in the face of enormous adversity - and to thrive in her vulnerability. Some of my favorites of Jenny's are (Please note that she comes with a MAJOR language warning. She's a potty mouth!): 

Depression LiesJust because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not realStrange and Beautiful
The Fight Goes On

Honorable mention: (Not about depression, but hilarious.)

And that’s why you should learn to pick your battles.

She has two amazing books! 

Let's Pretend This Never Happened

Other great blogs: 

Thanks to all for reading and for caring enough to try to better understand your loved ones with depression. Know that it has nothing to do with you and any love and understanding that you give to a person suffering from this will be felt, even if they have no way to explain to you that it does.

Please leave other depression/anxiety resources in the comments! I am always so excited to read more. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Summer Reading: Blame Weird Al...

For three years straight in my childhood, we saw Weird Al in concert at the State Fair. This was before I became completely terrified of crowds and large outdoor spaces and The State Fair... So, I think I was 12. 

The day before his concert, I rode the bus downtown with my brother and bought my first CD at Sam Goody. It wasn't my first CD ever (*cough* Mariah Carey's Musicbox *Cough*) - but it was my first CD that I bought with my own money. And that CD was Bad Hair Day by Weird Al. 

This was the year that Amish Paradise came out and he was absolutely AMAZING in concert. I knew every single word to that song and rapped it pretty much constantly. 

Little did I know that this song was beginning my life-long obsession with all things Amish. 

And thanks to a gal in my book club, I was introduced recently to the books of Beverly Lewis. We read The Shunning for book club last year and it was a fluffy and compelling read. 

While these books are not War and Peace - they are an intriguing look at a population that I have not been otherwise able to have access to. I recommend them for light summer reading!