The Latest…

I’m having a hard time braining together sentences and paragraphs today. So… updates.

A child support payment came in today. I don’t think it’s the IRS garnishment, I think it’s the paycheck garnishment. I hope that’s what it is, because I’m anxious to create a budget.

Monday I saw the counselor. She was super nice. She suggested I ask the kids lots of open-ended questions about their lives away from home. She thinks this will actually make them feel better about spending time away from me. Maybe by not talking to them about what they do with their dad, I’m inadvertently sending out the message that I don’t like when they’re away. Also, she thinks I’m too in the dark about basics– how they’re eating and being cared for, what their interactions are with the people they spend most of the time with, etc. She says it’s important to know those things and just because he’s their father doesn’t mean I should just accept that everything is ok.

As we were wrapping up, I missed a call from my mom and from my office. I got a text from my Office Manager telling me to call her. I told the counselor to give me a moment and called. The OM informed me I had to call my mom. When I asked if everything was alright she said no, my mom sounded really nervous. I called my mom, who was obviously panicked and starting to calm down, and she explained the kids did not show up at school that day and K-Fat had just now started responding to her. K-Fat told my mother he and his girlfriend had stomach viruses and were unable to take the kids to school.

He did not answer my calls and attempted to brush me off with a text explaining he was sleeping and that he had spoken to my mom already. Long story short, on the advice of the counselor AND the OM, I left work to go pick them up at his house. I told him he needed to communicate. This wasn’t right. There were lots of people he could have contacted. When I got into the car, I asked the kids what happened like the counselor suggested. They told me K-Fat was really sick and couldn’t take them to school. I asked about the girl and they said no she was fine. I told them K-Fat had told us both of them were sick and that’s why we were so anxious to pick them up. When I asked why she couldn’t take them to school they explained she was too busy taking care of K-Fat.

I then told the kids, like the counselor told me to, that in the future if this sort of thing happens they need to call me. They all know my number. There was a protest about how K-Fat’s mom called him too much to let them use the phone, I told them this was an emergency situation and they could get a call in. It also debunked K-Fat’s texts to me saying he couldn’t answer my phone calls because he had no reception. I asked what they had eaten for breakfast and they said Pop Tarts. What about lunch? Nothing. Or snack, Baby added. It was almost 2 in the afternoon. So yeah, drama. I’m going to see the counselor again in two weeks. She thinks the kids don’t need anything extra right now but if bad behavior is sustained, that might be different.

My midterm was yesterday. I think I did pretty badly. I tried my best, I really did. But I just don’t think it was good enough. I felt in the dark on many questions. And I took longer than an hour and he said no way should it take that long. I’m SO frustrated with the class and the professor. At least the class is free for me because if I was paying for it, I’d be PISSED. Better to just buy the textbook and teach yourself is what it seems like. I got home and decided to just start doing my own things. So I designed and wrote a Random Shakespearean Insult Generator. Spring Break is next week for us and I’m going to use the time to go hog wild with the textbook and teach myself as much as possible. I really like the textbook. It’s called Building Java Programs. Right now Amazon has it for $98 but I bought it two Mondays ago for only $37 so keep an eye on it. I think if you add it to cart they email you when the price changes. It has LOTS of exercises and the answers for all of them. The style is conversational and easy to understand. If you’re interested in learning Java programming, pick it up.

Speaking of books, I got a TON of awesome suggestions on Google+ for books for Eldest. In my browsing, I came across The Ranger’s Apprentice series and got the whole thing at the library. It’s ten books long and he is loving them. He started Book 1 Monday and finished it yesterday. He started Book 2 yesterday and was halfway through by this morning so he grabbed Book 3 to take with him to his Dad’s house. When he saw the stacks I brought home from the library, he hugged me so hard. And he keeps thanking me for bringing them because he really likes them. I love that my little boy loves books so much. I also got some of the ones people recommended like Peter and the Shadow Thieves, Inkheart, and The Boy in the Dress which my Mom took for herself to read. I am still reading Nell Gwynn: Mistress to a King but I don’t know how much reading I’ll be doing now that I feel so behind in class.

I won tickets at the Gala to see the ballet this Sunday. Daughter and I will be watching the Miami City Ballet perform Program III at the Adrienne Arsht Center. I am really looking forward to it. I’ve never been to a show like this. And they’ll be performing The Steadfast Tin Soldier which I’m dying to see. Who am I kidding, I’m dying to see all the numbers they’re doing.

My OM told me this morning she feels it in her bones that things are going to start turning around for me. I hope she’s right. I turned this quote into a little poster and pinned it at my desk.

JK_Rowling_Quote_Rock_BottomDo you have any updates??

 

 

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The Good, the Better, and the Amazing

Three Smiley Faces

It’s Monday! And instead of being all Boo-Hiss about it, I’m trying to get into the Woo-Hoo frame of mind instead. And with that, I bring you this week’s, The Good, the Better, and the Amazing!!

The Good

  • I feel pretty today. Oh and yesterday too.
  • I really like the book we are reading from class right now, Natsume Soseki’s Kokoro. It’s my favorite so far although Hedda Gabler was pretty awesome.
  • My car started doing this crazy shaking thing this morning while I was taking the kids to school. I was able to get them to school AND drive the car to the mechanic. At first look he says it’s just a spark plug but wanted to let the car completely cool before taking a deeper look. So fingers crossed it’s just the spark plug.

The Better

The Amazing

  • I have the coolest idea for Stallion’s birthday. Still munching over details but the gears are turning. I love surprising people with something awesome that they really want.
  • I tried a new to me crochet technique this weekend called filet crochet. It looks so much harder than it actually is. I made a neat little skull doily type thing I am going to send to an artist as a thank you for some stuff they’ve sent me. And now I’ve got a new technique to add to my skill set!

So what about you? What’s your Good, Better, and Amazing this week?

What we did this weekend: AT-AT Walker Model building, girls play date, swing twisting, fort building, chores with the gecko, taco night, and filet crochet

 

A Simple Thing: A Book Tour

I was contacted by TLC Book Tours to host a virtual tour stop for author Kathleen McCleary and her new novel, A Simple Thingin exchange for a copy of the book. Since I love to read, and so many of you do as well, I agreed. So without further ado, here we go!

I could give you the standard blurb on the back of the book but I generally skim over those when people post them on their blogs so instead, I’m going to jump right in and tell you what the book’s about, what I liked, what I didn’t, and wrap up with how you can find out more about the book or Kathleen.

The novel pivots around two women– Susannah and Betty. Susannah is in her forties, and is married to a geologist named Matt with whom she has two children. Quinn is your typical nerdy outcast in sixth grade and Katie is your typical rude wild child in eighth grade. Betty is in her late seventies, early eighties, is a widow, and has a son named Jim who has a wife named Fiona with whom he has two eighth grade twin boys– Hood and Baker.

Their lives are brought together when Katie gets herself involved with the wrong guy and does something pretty stupid. On top of that, Quinn is being incessantly bullied and Susannah is dealing with some personal demons stemming from her own early teen years. Her solution to fixing everything? Packing the kids and herself up and moving to Sounder Island– a tiny little island off the coast of Washington. It has no telephones, no electricity, and limited plumbing. Cell phone, internet and television connections vary according to the weather. In other words, they go off the grid while her husband stays behind working his new job.

And so the story is about their time on Sounder Island and the personal development they go through with Betty (Susannah’s landlord on Sounder) and her clan acting as a foil to Susannah.

I really enjoyed this book. It’s perfect summer reading as it’s easy and interesting enough to keep the pages briskly turning. It’s also pretty short which I appreciate. I thought many of the characters were fleshed out really well. Funny enough, the character I identified the most with was the problematic Katie. Another fantastic character, and my second favorite, was a Sounder Island long time resident named Barefoot.

It’s not that I didn’t like the main characters, I did, but McCleary does a good job of fleshing out some of the minor characters as well. Betty’s story is pretty fascinating and complex and works beautifully as a foil for Susannah who took some time for me to warm up to her. Unfortunately, not all supporting characters get the four-star treatment Katie and Barefoot did. Quinn remains pretty one-dimensional, Susannah’s husband remains an enigma to me, and one of the twins seems entirely unnecessary and forgotten.

This is definitely a character-driven book so if you’re more into things like the challenges of facing your fears, love in unconventional forms, mother-daughter relationships, and making  peace with your demons rather than the practical complexities of living off the grid, I’d highly recommend this book. The challenges of living off the grid become one of McCleary’s not very fleshed out supporting characters if that makes sense. It presents itself strongly right in the beginning and then pretty much fades into the background making occasional cameos here and there.

For me, that’s just fine. I’d much rather dwell on the WHY than the HOW anyways.

The study of mother-daughter relationships is interesting. It’s pretty much non-existent in Betty’s case but it is nicely examined in Susannah’s story. There was even a passage I read aloud to Teenager who is the same age as Katie and having issues with her feelings towards her mother. Is that a standard thing for Teen Daughters to go through? If so, I’m glad I will only have to experience it once, that’s for sure.

The book is sentimental and if you time it just right hormonally, you’re sure to whimper a few tears here and there (guess how I know). I think this is a great one for book clubs or just groups of friends to share. It’s definitely a nice read– a good escape if you will.

If you’d like to find out more about the author, Kathleen McCleary, I’ve got some great news for you. She will be discussing the novel, A Simple Thing, on Book Club Girl August 21st at 7:00 PM EST. That means you have enough time to get a hold of the book, read it, and ask her some great questions. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Hope you enjoyed my two cents on this one. What are you reading now?

Friday: Checking in to check out

Yes, I’ve been in a bit of a funk that mostly lifts but it can also be brought on with a vengeance in a rush too so I’ve been sort of quiet navigating the conflicting emotions.

I was finally told this week that my job was safe, I was “protected.” I have no idea what that means but it’s good enough for me. If they didn’t lay me off now, I doubt they’ll do so in the next round in July as that’s even closer to the conference. After the conference, I get to worry all over again if that sort of talk is still around come the end of the year.

And it’s little statements like that one that sort of floor me on how quickly time slips through our fingers. Good thing and bad thing right?

These next couple of months are the end of my slower season– personally and work-wise. Birthdays start pouring in, the conference is in November, class starts up again (I wanted a summer one but it was cancelled), and everything will turn into high stress time all over again. At least it’s only half the year right?

How are you all doing with the Hydration challenge this month? I’m getting better little by little. I thought I could start strong but it wasn’t happening. I have this sports bottle at work and it says I should drink 3 of them with water every day. So far, I can clear one for sure. Today, I even finished it off by noon. But I just can’t seem to get down the second one before 5. I’m trying though. I figure if I can get two down at work, I’ll have a much better shot of meeting the water requirement. Once I get home, it can get harder but I do tend to do more chuggings at home.

I’ve been crocheting a lot the past couple of days. I found a pattern for a really pretty shrug. So I tried it out and it worked up really fast and really pretty. So much so I was able to start a second one yesterday and I’m halfway through with it today. I basically only need three Mother’s Day gifts– my mom, my aunt, and my grandmother. The shrugs are for the first two. I’ll buy my grandmother something this time.

I should get some money this weekend so that’ll be good. I can shop for the Secret Sister swap. For the gift I’m making her, I do need to buy some yarn because I don’t have her colors in my stash. I’m excited about it because I finally got an idea. I was a little stumped for a while but I had a breakthrough so now I’m all ready.

Ok I’m going to make a really silly little whine right now so just humor me please. This weekend will be the third weekend in a row the kids are with me. And I’m worn out. The past few weeks have been some of the most stressful weeks I’ve had to go through in a while. They have also been extremely busy weekends. The Boyfriend works on weekends so it’s not like I can say “Hey babe do you mind watching the kids so I can get out for a breather?” and my mom does so much for me during the week, asking her to watch them on the weekend is unfair too.

Anyways, it’s sort of thrown me for a loop and it’s taken its toll the whole thing of the stress and no break sandwich. But I remedied it with a date night for tonight. Avengers, assemble! I really want to see Dark Shadows too but one great movie at a time, right?

I’m reading again. That slowed down for a bit too. I’ve only read 12 books this year which puts me 5 books behind my goal of 50. I don’t think I’ll make it this year, but I’d like to get close at least. Right now, I’m reading Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. I’ve got The Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes & Nocturnes (New Edition) (Sandman New Editions), The Sandman, Vol. 2: The Doll’s House, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance – Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem!, and Dance Dance Dance waiting for me at home. Plus there’s a bunch of Young Adult stuff I need to catch up on– especially all the Rick Riordan books that have piled up. And I’ve got six more books in the library request system that are more popular and harder to get a hold of but should slowly make their way to me.

I can’t believe it’s Mother’s Day weekend already. For all of you mothers out there, have a beautiful weekend! I’ll be thinking of you.

Review- 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess

Oh this book. This book took me completely and utterly by surprise. For Christmas, a friend gave me 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess because she thought I’d like what she took to be the general theme of the book from the blurb in the back– this lady scales back in 7 aspects of her material life. Yeah I love that stuff.

What is not glaringly obvious from the main blurb in the back is that this book is written by a pastor’s wife who’s also a speaker on Christianity. You have to look at the fine print for that and then it’s like “How in the hell did I miss that?”

When I started the book, this was an unpleasant surprise. Holy bible quotes everywhere. Not to mention the fact that God, Jesus, Christ, Jesus Christ, Lord, Holy Spirit, etc. get mentioned about 5 times per page. Usually bible quotes combined with a zealous use of Jesus name drops is very much not a good thing for me. My hypocrisy senses start tingling and I usually back away as quickly as possible while trying to not draw attention to myself.

But this is a book, not a person, and there WAS the whole thing about cutting back the excess in the seven areas of her life: Food, Clothes, Spending, Media, Possessions, Waste, and Stress. And she even broke it down into monthly projects. Which I always am a sucker for. Always.

Oddly enough, this book was part of a rhyming event in my brain as I had lately been thinking about the Republicans and the huge conservative shove to strip down “entitlement” programs in favor of a smaller government and more money in their pockets in the form of lower taxes that they have somehow mixed up with a fervent “We love Jesus and the Bible and truly want to protect Christianity” message.

And I kept thinking about how damn hypocritical it felt to me because even though I don’t practice anymore, I sure as heck know all about “Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ” thanks to being raised by a really strict Catholic family and going through Catholic education from Kinder through High School. I’ve read the Bible thing those guys love front to back, inside out . Heck I even used to read the Bible out loud for the benefit of others as I was one of the lecterns at Church. And if there’s one thing I know about the Jesus that is in the Bible, it’s that he can’t possibly be the same Jesus the Republican candidates vow to love and protect to woo a bunch of Christian votes.

It turns out Jen Hatmaker apparently sees a lot of the glaring hypocrisies in American Christian churches today that I do. I can’t stand churches and I can’t stand the Christians that practice what I see as a Capitalism is Awesome form of Christianity. She is just way totally nicer about pointing them out than I am.

Let’s face it guys, Jesus was a dirty homeless hippie. You want to know the truth? Every time someone makes a derisive comment about “bleeding heart liberals” one image comes to mind:

If you really think the same dude who gave away free wine for his first miracle and later sat on a mountain giving away fish and bread all day would be against programs like Food Stamps or WIC, you’re wrong. If you think the same guy who made it a point to always seek out and include society’s shunned ones would be against extending this and other forms of assistance to as many people as possible, you’d also be wrong. If you really think the same guy who walked around healing lepers, restoring sight to the blind, and even raising people from the dead would be against free health care for everyone you’d be totally and completely wrong yet again. If you think the guy who talked about how awesome the Samaritan guy was for helping feed, shelter, and heal a total stranger no questions asked would want people to lift themselves up by their own bootstraps, well I’m pretty sure you’re in the totally wrong church.

You can imagine then why Jen Hatmaker turned my insides cold when she made the observation that, speaking on a personal finance level, you could interpret “Love your neighbor as you love yourself” into an equation where you live off 50% of your income and use the other 50% to love all of your neighbors.

I think it was around there that I started thinking, “Oh wow. She is a total Jesus Christ lover geek but she actually gets it. That’s… rare.”

Jen’s story is inspiring, moving, and interesting. Lots of people do projects where they eliminate this, that, and the other from their lives in big ways. But until Jen’s book, I was yet to read someone who took the experience and turned it into a movement to help those around her. De-cluttering is only half the battle. I missed the memo but I’m glad I got it this time.

Personally, I don’t think you need to be associated with a faith or a church or anything to look around you and do good for the world but I would likely be very interested in at least linking up with a church like Jen’s because it would give me an excellent way to lend a hand to the community. That moves me greatly.

Personally I found that my favorite thing about the book was the fact that I would read her experiences and think, “That is a brilliant idea. I want to do that for someone. How would I even start to do something like that?” Her book is a reflection and a call to action. A really loud, persistent one that somehow manages to remain humble and honest at the same time.

I strongly recommend the book even if you’re like me and things like churches and Jesus Christ give you the Hypocrisy Heebie Jeebies. Because I actually think Jen Hatmaker might be authentic. What she is teaching and what she is practicing makes more sense to me as an example of a true Christian than the classic modern representations of Christians today.

If you feel there is just TOO MUCH in your life– too much crap, too much stress, too much noise, too much madness, too much sadness, too much to deal with– grab this book. I think you’ll be moved.

By the way, the rhyming events continue. Last night, I caught this completely nauseating piece about Christian Louboutin at the Bal Harbor Shops. While I think many of his shoes are beautiful works of art, I can’t move past nausea thinking of the cost. I honestly wanted to weep when the woman so breezily admitted to owning about 100 pairs of the red-soled extravagances. Something is really messed up in our world. I’m glad there are people like the Hatmakers working to change things. I want to be one of them too but man is it scary.

P.S. What is a rhyming event? The term comes from this RadioLab podcast (omg I forgot to tell you about the Live Show of theirs I went to last week- future post) called “The Universe Knows My Name“. I like to think of them as dots waiting to be connected. Coincidences that can’t be so easily brushed away.

P.P.S. I keep thinking about this book every time I read another update from the many participants in Carla’s De-Cluttering Challenge for February. Rhyming event, rhyming event, rhyming event!

Quick Thoughts on The Spy Who Came in From the Cold

The first book I finished in 2012 was John le Carre’s The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. Like so many books I’ve been reading, this one came into my hands thanks to Robert at 101books.

* * * * I gave it 4 out of 5 stars which on Goodreads indicates “Really Liked It”. On the whole emotional reaction side, I’d mark this one as 🙂 / 😦 because it’s pretty fun but does have it’s “Aw that sucks” moments.

This is my first John le Carre novel. And I don’t think it’s going to be my last. I’m not going to go le Carre crazy but I’m curious about Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: A George Smiley Novel because George Smiley was a very minor character in The Spy Who Came in From the Cold but just the tiny bit they threw in about him made me interested. And I hear there’s a movie? I won’t watch it but I do like to read the books that get the Hollyood touch.

One thing I have to say is this is a spy novel, not a mystery novel and I feel that’s important to differentiate. I was often confused reading this book, and flipped back looking for this or that here and there trying to figure out just what the heck Leamas was up to or what Control was thinking. But for me, that’s fun. At least when I’m reading a spy novel. I feel like I should be clueless. And I feel like I should have a bad feeling about this or that or the other only to be proven wrong then right then wrong then right again. Sometimes, I did feel like I was very much not “in” on a lot of what was going on but isn’t that the point of the spying experience? At least as far as Leamas, the main character, is concerned.

If you’re looking for a small and entertaining book that is also executed well and written nicely, this is definitely worth a library request. There’s nothing overly heavy in here which after some of the intense reading I was doing at the end of the year was much needed for me.

Right now, I’m reading I, Claudius From the Autobiography of Tiberius Claudius Born 10 B.C. Murdered and Deified A.D. 54 another one I got from Robert and one I’m enjoying muchly.  What are you reading? Finish anything recently you particularly enjoyed?

2011 Reading Challenge: 55/60

After devouring 11 books very early in the year, I ramped up my challenge for 2011 to 60 books. I ended at 55. I’ve gone ahead and challenged myself to read 50 this year. I figure this way I can continue reading a high amount of books without it being the only thing I do in my free time (haha).

For kicks, here are the 55 books I read in 2011. My favorites are bold and italicized.  Have you read any of these? Thoughts?