Sunday Coffee – To Post or Not to Post

A bit over a week ago, I drafted a post. It was complete misery. When it came time to post, I deleted it instead. I’ve done this a bunch of times over the last three years. It comes down to an internal debate: to post or not to post. Where do you draw the line between honesty and privacy, between putting yourself out there and holding yourself back?

I haven’t hidden the fact that I’m extremely depressed and homesick. What I haven’t done – what I’ve managed to keep from doing so far – is spill the depths to which this depression and homesickness have gone. Because guys? I’m really, really bad off. And unfortunately, this is not something that can be fixed with a pill or even with talk therapy.

About a month ago, I talked about those subconscious ties to home. That was the opening to a bigger conversation, one that I keep deleting. Anything I put here is public. It’s not that there’s anything inherently negative or wrong about homesickness or the ways we deal with depression. I’m not afraid or embarrassed or ashamed to talk about it. It’s just that…well, that’s all there is right now, and I doubt that’s going to change any time soon. I don’t want my blog to be nothing but misery misery misery. How long can a person go that direction before they no longer want to post at all (or, from a reader’s standpoint, before they want to stop reading)?

I used to have a private facebook group that helped me to get through the worst of my situation back in 2014/2015. They kept me going through the next year, too, until I had to delete the group (for reasons I can’t discuss publicly) soon after we moved to Wisconsin. That group was a refuge, and those people pretty much saved my life…and at the same time, I began to feel like every time I posted, I became a burden to all of them. This is probably not how they felt of course, just how I felt. And it feels similar on this blog. I’ve literally been in my own personal hell for three years now, and it’s a hell that shows no signs of abating for years more. So what do I do? Post about all the worst parts of depression until everyone gets tired of me? Post only when I feel okay, or only book reviews and such? Stop posting altogether? Try to ride some line between a positive hopeful outlook and the truth of the much greater misery? I don’t know.

Maybe some of my fellow blogger friends will have some suggestions? I know some of you have had similar situations…

PS – Happy Easter to those out there who celebrate!

Posted in Personal | Tagged | 7 Comments

Callback: the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series

Back in 2012, I first read Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. I fell in love with the book and gobbled both it and the sequel up over the next couple months. I didn’t get to read the third in the series until the summer of 2014. When I finally read it, I raced through and was left with the vague impression that I’d missed a bunch in the latter half of the book. I knew that I’d need to go back one day and read through the book more slowly, and towards the end of March, I began to crave a dip back into Eretz. I downloaded the audio versions of all three books and have slowly listened to them in the last few weeks. (That’s as fast as things go when you’re book-slumping hard!)

First note on revisiting: I initially listened to the first book on audio in 2012. The audio is read by Khristine Hvam. I had quibbles with accents (normal for me) and things like musical interludes. In the last five years, I’ve had a lot more audio exposure – I was still in my first year or two of listening then – and thus have a broadened ear-palate. And while I still found the voices and accents slightly to exaggerated for my tastes, I mostly enjoyed the audio production. I had no problem continuing on to listen to the next two as well. Only weird thing to note was that Liraz’s name changed pronunciation after the second audiobook.

Second note on revisiting: I suspected, after completing Dreams of Gods and Monsters, that my rushed reading caused me to miss a lot. My initial review notes that a lot of the elements felt random and a lot of inessential plot-strings didn’t get tied up. Even then, I figured this was entirely due to my reading rather than actual problems with the book, and that initial suspicion was entirely correct. A lot happens in the latter half of the last book. There are a lot of characters, and a lot of new information, and a lot of stories flying around. With slower, closer examination, though, everything slots into place, and all the questions are answered, and there are no loose ends. Furthermore, rereading the first two books after finishing the third showed me all the many hints waiting to be discovered. Many of the things that felt random before actually showed up in glances already. This is my favorite kind of discovery on rereading a book or series!

Third note on revisiting: I could pull out many strings of philosophy that were played with in this series, but the one that really struck me the most this time around was the discussion of the soul. A big part of the world-building is the ability to glean a soul from a body and place it in a new body, so that the bodies themselves are just vessels, and the souls stay intact. This disconnect of body and soul leads to a lot of interesting ideas. Do souls, once in different bodies, still recognize each other as family and loved ones? Does it matter what your body looks like if your soul is a separate entity? Does the vessel affect the soul at all, in terms of adding to or subtracting from it? Needless to say, there’s a lot of self-discovery in all this, finding one’s truest self, and that struck a very personal chord with me.

This series was just as wonderful on reread as it was my first time through. More so, perhaps, with the deeper, slower examination. It’s full of things to discover and think about. The story, world-building, and characterization are just amazing. I highly recommend it.

Original reviews:
Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Days of Blood and Starlight
Dreams of Gods and Monsters

Posted in 2017, Prose, Young Adult | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Wellness Wednesday #49: Exercise I Miss

buttonOnce upon a time, I was the sort of person who loved and participated in all different sorts of exercise. Even in the stupidly hot south Texas summers, I managed to exercise. Even when I had a stress fracture in my leg and couldn’t do any lower-body exercise for three months, I found creative ways to exercise.

Then we moved to Boston, and I quit. I didn’t feel comfortable exercising in our tiny living room, because a) it was tiny and b) my neighbors lived beneath me and could hear every pounding footstep. I didn’t feel comfortable running anymore because 1) I didn’t know the area well, 2) Boston drivers are absolutely insane, and 3) half the time we lived there, every outdoor surface was covered in ice and snow. Lastly, my extreme depression and anxiety took every ounce of my energy, so that I had absolutely nothing left in me to give to exercise (or anything else, for that matter).

Toward the end of our time there, after the weather improved and I was on the right medications, I began walking again. That was it, but at least it was something. Then we were moving again, back to San Antonio, and I had a Plan. Once the boys started school, I could implement my Plan. I was going to exercise again. I was going to find that person inside me I’d once lost. I was excited – until I sprained/fractured my ankle/foot on the second day of my Plan, not even while exercising. That was in August 2015. And my frickin’ foot is still broken. Almost four months ago, they found the fracture that they didn’t find the first 16 months after that injury. I’m currently halfway through my six-month ban of any and all high-impact exercise.

I do yoga. I love yoga. I’m careful not to do any pose that would put pressure on my injury, and the stretchiness of the yoga actually helps. But other than yoga, I’m extremely limited. Doc said elliptical (no), biking (no), and swimming (NO!!). The first I dislike, the second I don’t have access to, the third I’ve avoided since I quit swimming competitively in high school – I don’t even get in the water for fun! Other than those three, I’m allowed to slowly walk on level surfaces if-and-only-if my foot doesn’t hurt at all. A couple times a week, I go to the community center to walk around their tiny track. Even with music or an audiobook, that’s kinda dull. I probably go around that track 40 times in an hour (it’s really tiny) which makes me start dreading the whole experience.

I miss walking outside. I miss trails, especially my old trails at Comanche Lookout Park in San Antonio. I miss being able to run when I’m feeling good. I miss dancing with my boys, and my favorite aerobics video, and learning how to belly dance, and using the Wii Fit games, and Zumba, and badminton, and spontaneous races with the kids, and kettlebells, and doing cartwheels, and skipping, and jumprope games, and 5Ks, and…all sorts of things. Sometimes I simply miss being able to walk around the house or go up and down the stairs without hobbling. Stupid injured foot. Grr.

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Top Ten Unique Books

Today’s topic is a really fun one – most unique books I’ve read. I’ve read some very unique (both good and bad) over the years, and here are the most bizarre of them:

1. Troll: A Love Story by Johanna Sinisalo – This very well be the most unique/bizarre book I’ve ever read. The title pretty much says it all. (Personal Verdict: Thumbs Down)

2. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender – This is magical realism, and it’s not the food-emotion-synesthesia that I find unique here. Laura Esquival did that prior (and better imo) in Like Water for Chocolate. It was the chair leg bit of Lemon Cake – readers will know what I mean, those who haven’t read it will have to take it on faith less I spoil the book – that was particularly unique. (PV: Thumbs Down)

3. Metropole by Ferinc Karenthy – Man takes airplane to an unknown city where no one can communicate. Hungarian modern classic in the vein of Kafka (also super unique!). (PV: Thumbs Up!)

4. Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson – Actually most of Sanderson is fairly unique. The man has amazing ideas about magic systems. But Warbreaker is the one I feel is most unique, given that the magic is built around color and breath. (PV: Thumbs Up!)

5. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang – I can’t even begin to describe the weirdness of this graphic novel. The plotlines converge is startling ways. Some people love the book, others despise it, all seem to find it very unique. (PV: Thumbs Down)

6. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde – It’s Jasper Fforde. He could fill an entire top ten list of Unique. (PV: Thumbs Up!)

7. Britten and Brulightly by Hannah Berry – The sidekick in this detective graphic novel is not someone you’d expect. One of the oddest books I’ve ever read. (PV: Still undecided and it’s been eight years)

8. The Supernatural Enhancements by Edgar Cantero – This is another of those books where just about anything and everything comes out of the blue. This time, they all come together in really awesome ways. (PV: Thumbs Up!)

9. Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris – There’s nothing new about CYOA books, but to use that format for autobiography, including fictional dead-end paths, is downright awesome. (PV: Thumbs Up! Mostly.)

10. The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro – WTF????? That’s pretty much what I felt the entire time I read this book, long before I began blogging. (PV: Thumbs Down)

So have you read any of these? Interested in trying any of them now? Disagree with my thumbing?


Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

Posted in Book Talk | Tagged | 4 Comments

Sunday Coffee – Slumpity Slump

April is one of my three “bad” months each year. In the past, this has generally been associated with weather, because in San Antonio, April is the month of soaring temps, high humidity, and very little hope for further cold fronts. It’s when 100 degrees starts appearing regularly and there’s little relief at night. It’s the beginning of summer. And with summer comes a kind of reverse seasonal depression in San Antonio, seeing less of the sun because it’s too hot to be outside for the next six months. Needless to say, that’s no fun.

Because of this early flop into depression, most of my world takes a bit of a dive. Books included. I often find myself drawn toward mysteries and thrillers to escape, or I simply go into full-on reading slump. And while I’m not in Texas anymore, my body has gone through this particular cycle so often that it’s kinda built in. Even in years when I’m feeling awesome in March – this was not one of them – something just falls apart the first week of April. Since this year I was already feeling awful, the slide into depression isn’t terribly noticeable. However, the reading slump is very, very noticeable.

I loved the books I read in March. I had a hard time picking a favorite. There were a ton more I was looking forward to, particularly queued up on audio. I started re-listening to a favorite series. That was enjoyable…until the last day of March, when all of a sudden, I just didn’t want to listen anymore. I tried other audiobooks: adult and YA, fiction and nonfiction, fantasy and realistic. Every beginning sounded like a book I’d like to read – just not yet. In the end, since I was out walking, I put on music instead.

So that’s fine, right? One day of a break is fine. No big deal. Only since then, nothing has sounded remotely appealing. I don’t want to read. I don’t want to listen to audiobooks. I don’t want to do anything, really, with books. Of course, it’s only been a bit over a week, but I recognize the signs. Slump, slump, slump.

Hopefully it won’t last long. Especially with the Readathon coming up at the end of the month (yay!). Especially with it finally being my turn at the library for some books I’ve looked forward to for months. Especially with my body realizing that it’s actually turning to nice weather here rather than the reverse.

Posted in Book Talk | Tagged | 2 Comments

Wellness Wednesday #48: First Quarter Fitness Test

buttonAlright. It’s time. My goal was to test my strength quarterly, using a specific test that I’ve done a half-dozen times since 2013. So on Sunday, I got down to business, and here are the results. (Spoiler – I improved slightly in all measurable areas but not as much as I would have liked.)

Pull-ups: In January, I was able to hang from the pull-up bar for 12 seconds (forget doing an actual pull-up!). Three months later, that time went up to 16 seconds. Honestly, I expect this would be longer if not for the factors in the note below.

Push-ups: Another small improvement, from 8 to 12.  I’m still a far way from my pre-gain numbers, but I’m getting there slowly. (Note: These are full push-ups, rather than the on-the-knees kind.)

Toe touch: This one surprised me. I was already seven inches past my toes in January, a huge improvement from before I started doing yoga. I was not expecting to be nine inches past them now. !!!

V-crunches (no hands): I had another slight improvement, from 16 to 19.

Wall squat: This is another place that, like pull-ups, I imagine I’d do better on if not for the factors noted below. With my thighs already shaky from the previous day’s workout, it wasn’t the best time for wall squats, but I still managed to improve my time by a measly six seconds, from 1:09 to 1:15. (Morrigan, who did the strength test as well, was two seconds short of five minutes on his wall squat!!!)

Arm curls to failure: I can’t really say if I had any improvement on this. Last time, I messed up the test the first time and had to do a second round, and I used a lighter poundage (10 lbs in each hand, for 23 reps). I used 16 lbs in each hand this time for a greater challenge, and completed 10 reps. So I don’t know if that’s an improvement, but I like the new baseline better.

Note: Sunday was probably the worst day possible for doing this particular test. The night before, we had a celebratory dinner (Morrigan made State in Solo & Ensemble!) of pizza, wine, and ice cream. I didn’t sleep well, woke up early, and was sore/swollen from a super-tough lunges-based yoga workout on Saturday. None of that makes for particularly good strength-testing conditions, heh. But hey, it is what it is. Maybe in early July, my results will be stellar compared to these, haha!


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In Twenty Years, by Allison Winn Scotch

Six friends live together in a townhouse off campus. Friends forever, they think, not expecting the end of college to change that. On their last night of school, Bea asks them to write a letter to their 40-year-old selves. Only now, eighteen years later, Bea is long dead, and the rest of the group long ago splintered. No one expects the letters that arrive from Bea’s family lawyer, asking them to reconvene at their old townhouse for what would have been her fortieth birthday on the fourth of July.

Quick, funny story about this book: When I first saw it, I thought it sounded interesting but was also wary. I read Time of My Life (link contains spoilers) by the same author years ago, and remembered being extremely disappointed by a few things. When the same didn’t happen with this book, I was glad – until I went back and read over my review of Time of My Life…and realized it wasn’t the book I’d been remembering. The book that had soured for me at the end was a completely different book by a completely different author read over a year later. I’m not sure how my brain mixed them up! Either way, I enjoyed ToML, and really had no reason to be particularly wary with this book.

My experience with this book was mixed, but ultimately more on the positive side. My negatives had to do with the five living friends. Individually, their forty-year-old selves were not all that great. In fact, I found myself kinda sorting them into categories: the Runner, the Mask, the Fraud, the Savior, and the Martyr. I felt like the two male characters got less time and development than the women, and I really didn’t like anyone in the group. That didn’t change even as they changed. The other thing that bothered me was that three characters worked outside the home and were wildly successful/famous/wealthy, while the two staying home with kids (one mom, one dad) were polar opposite. I would have preferred the working characters to have more relate-able situations. A CEO of a middling craft company, rather than the most famous craft blogger name/brand out there. A plastic surgeon, rather than THE plastic surgeon who works on all the famous celebrities in LA. Etc. I would have liked to see some normal in the group outside the stay-at-home parents.

Despite those negatives, though, I did enjoy the book. Well – maybe enjoy isn’t the right word. I deeply appreciated the book. I felt about it the way I feel about many suburban-decay books: a sort of connected horror and sinking ennui/depression. Because while the book was ultimately heading in a positive direction, with characters discovering things about themselves and each other that will hopefully help them to be happier in the future, there was still a lot of middle-aged angst here. I don’t use that term with derision. Part of getting older, I think, is understanding that the angst we tend to associate with adolescence just morphs into different versions of itself as we age. That’s what midlife crises are all about, right? Angst. Regrets about the past. Fear about the future. Nostalgia for the past, Bitterness about the future. Desperation for change. Desperation for everything to stay exactly the same. Generally the inability to be present right here and right now, a condition that I imagine affects most of the population. And that’s frankly depressing, as well as comforting in its own way, knowing it’s a condition shared so widely. So it’s like I said before, not enjoyment so much as appreciation, making this a book I’m glad I read, but one that also made me want to pour myself a glass of wine.

Posted in 2017, Adult, Prose | Tagged , | 2 Comments