Saturday, July 28, 2012

Let It Go: A True Story of Tragedy & Forgiveness

  • Name: Let it Go: A True Story of Tragedy & Forgiveness
  • Author: Chris Williams
  • ISBN: 9781609071271
  • Genre: Memoir
  • Publisher: Deseret Book Company
  • Publication/Expected Publication: July 30, 2012

If you are not a Christian, this book will probably not interest you.  The author is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  When tragedy strikes his family (in the form of a drunk driving accident), he depends on his faith in God to see him through those trying times.

It was hard for me to enjoy the book because it was so laden with Christian and LDS terminology and sentiments.  Nearly every page credited the author's Savior with feeling the need to connect with so and so, or to talk to his son about such and such, or write his thoughts about a certain topic.  I respect people's religions, and I admire what the author has had to overcome; however, I must admit that if this had been marked as "Christian" in Netgalley, I probably would not have requested it.

**Please note that I did receive a free copy of this book via Netgalley.**

Friday, July 27, 2012

If you want to see what else I'm working on...

...take a look at my new site, Virginia's List.

My goal for this site is to rate businesses on their accessibility for people with disabilities (PWD).  I am aware there are federal and/or national laws regulating accessibility; however, meeting the letter of the law does not always guarantee accessibility in practice.

Check it out and feel free to submit ratings.  You can also find us on Facebook and Twitter!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Enchanted Truth by Kym Petrie

  • Name: The Enchanted Truth
  • Author: Kym Petrie
  • ISBN: 9781608323685
  • Genre: Short Stories
  • Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group
  • Publication/Expected Publication: September 18, 2012

This short story is a charming update to classic fairy tales.  Although couched in the language of the past - with carriages, petticoats, etc - it is easy to see how the tale could be applied to people of today, regardless of age.

The story begins with our Princess meeting her assigned Fairy Godmother.  Rather than granting her the Prince Charming she believes she so richly deserves, the Fairy Godmother instead bestows upon the Princess a stuffed frog.  She instructs the Princess to put a list of all the attributes she desires in a mate in the frog's pouch.

The Princess promptly pushes the Fairy Godmother's advice (and frog) aside and resumes her normal activities.  However, after a particularly horrific date, she decides to give the "frog list" a try.  Six pages later, she is finally done.  As she continues to date frogs, she adds more and more attributes to the list.

The story ends with the Princess reviewing her list and realizing her "Prince Charming" has been with her all along, so to speak.

Although a little cheesy or a bit campy, this story would be a great read for people struggling in the dating world or having perhaps just re-entered it.  It masks its moral in the guise of a modified fairy tale ending so that it's message of self-respect isn't preachy or overbearing.

I would definitely recommend this quick read for people (age 13+)!

**Please note that I did receive a free copy of this book via Netgalley.**

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Serpent's Bite by Warren Adler

  • Name: The Serpent's Bite
  • Author: Warren Adler
  • ISBN: 9781590060445
  • Genre: Mystery/Suspense
  • Publisher: Stonehouse Press
  • Publication/Expected Publication: September 4, 2012
Wow.  I read this book in about 6 hours or so; it is so unlike any other book I have ever read.  Although written in the third person, there are point-of-view chapters for the three main characters throughout the book.  There is also one point-of-view chapter for a key player at the end of the book.  This provides some great insight into the psyches of these clearly disturbed individuals.

George Temple has been estranged from his children, Courtney and Scott, since his wife's untimely death.  Desperate to bridge the gap before he "shuffle[s] off this mortal coil," he reaches out to his children in the hope to recreate a memorable family camping trip through Yellowstone.  Courtney and Scott - both in their late 30s - agree to the trip in the hopes of milking their father for more money to support their perpetually failing enterprises.  George - referred to as "Temple" or "Dad" throughout the book - has even gone so far as to hire the guide (or outfitter) from their original trip, Harry McGrath.

Their trip begins awkwardly, not just because of the estrangement, but also because Harry has provided only one assistant - Tomas - instead of the two George had requested.  As the trip progresses, dark motives as well as dark secrets are revealed.  Past transgressions haunt one sibling, but not the other.  As Harry becomes less and less reliable, the reader is left wondering: just how far will Temple's children go in order to secure their financial future?  Who will make it out of Yellowstone alive?


[Trigger Warning for Sibling Incest]

Given the codependent - not to mention incestuous - relationship between Courtney and Scott as well as their apparent careless disregard for their father, I found it hard to be on their side.  Their points of view (especially Courtney's) made it very clear their only motivation in attending this dysfunctional family reunion was to attain more money. 

Even though I found their motivations distasteful, I was still fascinated by the insights the author provided.  Courtney (and to a lesser degree Scott, until the end of the book) have no qualms about offing dear old daddy in the name of gaining their substantial inheritance.  I have to admit I was wondering if (and how) the author would be able to wrap this story up.  I was definitely not disappointed!  It had all the marks of a genuine Shakespeare tragedy.

**Please note that I did receive a free copy of this book via Netgalley.**

Friday, July 20, 2012

You Drive me Crazy...

**Update 12/14/12: There has been another shooting, this one at an elementary school.  I have published a Part 2 to this post in relation to that incident.**

Hey, I just met you, and this is crazy,
But here's my number, so call me maybe?

I have struggled with mental illnesses for the majority of my life.  Severe depression and crippling anxiety have become my constant companions in the roller coaster ride of my life.  I have had a couple of nervous breakdowns.  I have contemplated suicide.  I am what you would probably call certifiably crazy.

Mental wounds not healing,
Who and what's to blame?
I'm going off the rails on a crazy train.
I'm going off the rails on a crazy train.

As a certifiably crazy person, you know what irritates me?  Someone commits an act of violence, and they are automatically assumed to be mentally ill.  After the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the shooter was assumed to be a crazed nutjob even before they had a suspect in custody.  Indeed, Jared Lee Loughner was later determined to be schizophrenic and found incompetent to stand trial (as of the date of this post).  But why the sudden rush to judge his mental capacity?

I remember when, I remember
I remember when I lost my mind.
There was something so pleasant about that place.
Even your emotions have an echo in so much space.

Early this morning, I was awakened by a series of notifications going off on my phone informing me of the tragic shooting that occurred at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.  And again, people - whether in the halls of government or on the internet in venues such as Facebook and Twitter - are automatically pinning the suspect, James Holmes, as crazy.  According to CNN, the governor of Colorado "said the attack was the work of a 'very deranged mind.'"  Why the sudden rush to judge his mental capacity?

Insane in the membrane,
Insane in the brain!
Insane in the membrane,
Insane in the brain!

The simple fact of the matter is that mentally ill people are more likely to be victims rather than perpetrators of violent crimes.  This study produced the following results:


Nine studies, including 5195 patients, were identified. Prevalence estimates of criminal victimization ranged from 4.3% to 35.04%. Rates of victimization among severely mentally ill persons were 2.3-140.4 times higher than those in the general population. Criminal victimization was most frequently associated with alcohol and/or illicit drug use/abuse, homelessness, more severe symptomatology, and engagement in criminal activity.
[emphasis mine]

Society (particularly US society) has made great efforts to "other" mentally ill people.  Just like with other conditions, mental illness occurs over a spectrum.  There are people like me, who, 90% of the time, can appear and function like the "normals."  Then there are people who, 90% of the time, have to be supervised to make sure they don't hurt themselves or others.  And there are thousands of degrees between.

Anymore, anymore, cannot take it anymore,
Gotta get away from this stone cold floor.
Stone cold crazy, you know.

When you automatically associate violent criminals with mental illness, you imply that ONLY people with mental illnesses could perpetrate such violent crime.  You "other" mentally ill people by implicitly asserting that "normal" people could never do such a thing...surely one of the "crazies" must be responsible.

Just remember - when you denigrate one mentally ill person, you are denigrating us all.  And we will speak out.

Crazy...I'm crazy for feeling so lonely...
I'm crazy...crazy for feeling so blue.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

My Long Journey with Fibromyalgia, Part III

Part I
Part II

 So, my husband and I sped towards the hospital.  The pain in my chest was so bad, I was pretty sure I was having a heart attack.  I was able to walk into the ER under my own power (nearly crying at this point), but couldn't do much after that.

They ran the typical EKG or EEG to rule out a heart attack (which it was not).  And yet the pain wouldn't subside.  I was sent back out to the waiting room - at which point I *DID* start crying (I refer you again to the note in Part I about my rare fits of crying).  People stared at me, but I didn't care.  I was THAT WOMAN...the "crazy" woman in the hospital leaning on her husband crying her eyes out because of some invisible illness.

I finally was called back to a room and was introduced to that wonderful, fabulous, and blessed drug named "Morphine."  If I had a firstborn, I would have sold him/her at that point for ANY level of pain relief.  Morphine took my pain from a level 12 (on a scale of 1-10) to about a 7.  During this time, they ran several other tests...many of which I didn't remember due to my new-found love affair with Morphine.  I do remember what I believe was a CAT scan.  A kinda creepy tech dude injected some purple dye in my veins, which (frankly) made me feel like I had peed my pants (I did not).  Then a large circle machine made some loud noises and briefly interrupted my drug-induced bliss.

After about 8 (yes, 8) hours in the ER, a doctor finally came to deliver the news.  "It appears you have a blood clot lodged in your lung.  We'll be admitting you to the hospital so we can get that thinned down and make sure it doesn't move to your heart or lung."  This condition, in case you were wondering, is called a "pulmonary embolism."

This began a six-day stay in the hospital.  A normal INR (which measures how the thickness of your blood) is between 2.0 (thicker) and 3.0 (thinner).  Mine was 1.0.  Through a series of shots I had to give myself in the stomach (yes, you read that correctly) and a six-month course of blood thinners, I was finally able to get my blood thickness back into the "normal" range.

But how could this have happened?  What could I have done differently to avoid this pulmonary embolism altogether?  Remember that 300 mile long road trip I mentioned?  What about the fact that I was living a pretty much stationary lifestyle due to my mysterious back pain?  Road trips and failure to regularly exercise help contribute to blood clots.  So do hormonal birth control methods.

So what was the pulmonologist's plan for me?
  • No more hormonal birth control. Ever.  It is now officially contra-indicated for me.  This includes any birth control method that includes estrogen...from the Pill, to the Ring, to the IUD.
  • When taking road trips, stop every two hours and walk around for 15 minutes.  Never mind that pesky "not being able to stand or walk for longer than 10-15 minutes."
  • Exercise more.  Again, never mind that pesky "not being able to stand or walk for longer than 10-15 minutes."

So after having unexplained back pain for a couple of years and now a pulmonary embolism, I still had no explanation as to WHY all this was happening and no reasonable plan of treatment.

What else could be done?

Friday, July 13, 2012

My Long Journey with Fibromyalgia, Part II

Part I

 In October of 2009, my husband was hospitalized for 10 days.  His blood oxygen level was below 90, which is why he was admitted.  The doctors ran scores and scores of tests, and eventually *tentatively* diagnosed him with pneumonia - a disease to which he has always been prone.

I was unable to be there for him as much as I wanted during his hospitalization because I came down with a case of...wait for it...WHOOPING COUGH.  And the last thing you want to do to someone who most likely has pneumonia is expose them to whooping cough.

We both recovered - a little worse for wear - and so ended 2009.

As 2010 began, I became increasingly frustrated with the medical community, who could find no cause for my back pain.  This was back pain so severe, I often couldn't stand for more than 15 minutes at a time.  Back pain so severe, even my ergonomic desk chair sent shooting pains throughout my back.  Back pain so severe, all I could do upon returning home at the end of my 10-hour work days was lie flat on my back on either the couch, the floor, or the bed.

My husband stopped asking me to help cook and clean and became seriously worried.  He begged me to go to doctors, but being the stubborn person that I am, I refused.  I was paranoid that doctors would think I was pill-shopping or that I was making up the pain for sympathy.  Worst of all, I was afraid I was actually crazy.  If doctors couldn't find a diagnosis, WHERE WAS THE PAIN COMING FROM?

My marriage began to suffer.  Not because my husband doubted me!  My husband believed that I was in pain and tried to do everything he could to make me comfortable; however, at this point he was having to do all the housework plus work 40-60 hours per week (depending on if they allowed overtime that week).  But just because he believed and supported me doesn't mean that he wasn't also exhausted, frazzled, and at times resentful.  Who could blame him?  I certainly couldn't.*

And then we took the Great Disastrous Road Trip of Labor Day Weekend (GDRTOLDW) 2010.  We rarely visit our families, largely due to financial constraints.  But my parents and his mother live in relatively the same geographical area, so we decided to spend Saturday at my parents' house and Sunday at his family's.  It was disastrous for a number of reasons (which may or may not be discussed at a later time), but for the purposes of My Long Journey with Fibromyalgia, the most important part is that the complete round trip was approximately 330 miles.

The week following the GDRTOLDW, I noticed a pain near my left collarbone.  I wrote it off as one of those weird pains you have when you get older...maybe some heartburn, maybe I pulled a muscle there or something.  By Monday, 9/13/10, the pain would not go away.  It hurt to reach out for a pen.  It hurt to type.  It hurt to button and unbutton my pants and shirt.  I powered through the work day, but when I got home I could barely move my arm without crying (see Part I's note about the rarity of me crying).

My husband was working from home that day.  I told him what was going on and said it would probably be best if we went to the Emergency Room.  I remember clearly that we had to wait until his shift was over to leave.  He actually got stuck on a call and ended up telling the person on the phone that he had to take his wife to the Emergency Room and needed to end the call.

He helped me down the stairs and we sped towards the local hospital.  Little did I know the drama that would unfold over the next few hours.

Stay tuned for Part III.**

*I maintain - and will continue to maintain - that my husband should be nominated for sainthood and be given every award and medal on the planet.

**I can't guarantee that I'm listing the treatments I received in the exact order I received them (thanks fibro fog!).  I know I was going to PT while still working at my former workplace, but I can't remember if it was 2009 or 2010.  So please excuse any inconsistencies.  The big points are accurate, I promise. :)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

My Long Journey with Fibromyalgia, Part I

If you've read previous entries and/or follow me on Twitter, you know that I have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia.  Fibromyalgia is believed to be caused by overactive nerve endings sending unprovoked pain signals to the brain.  This means fibromyalgia patients feel pain even when there is no apparent cause.

And let me tell you, it sucks.

I first began to experience pain in late 2008.  It started as what I can only describe as a hitch in the right side of my back.  I distinctly remember being at my (now former) workplace.  I was walking toward the break room when it suddenly felt difficult to walk.  It felt like if I could just pop SOMETHING (I don't know what) back into place, I would be able to walk fine.  But no matter how I twisted and turned, the pain remained.

I went to the doctor in January of 2009 and told him I had experienced some strange back pain.  Without asking any further questions or even doing a physical exam, the doctor prescribed Vicodin and Soma.  I cried* to my husband as I left the doctor's office because the doctor didn't even listen to me.

The pain continued, and the doctor kept filling the prescriptions; however, he never thought it pertinent for me to follow up with him.  My life became more and more sedentary.  We lived on the second floor of our apartment complex.  I could no longer help my husband with the chores or even navigate the stairs to take our dog on a walk.

I went to the dreaded "annual exam" (ladies, you know what I mean) in March or April of 2009 with a different (female) doctor.  She asked why I had been on Vicodin and Soma for so long.  I mentioned the back pain.  She sent me to get x-rays and sent me to a Physical Medicine & Rehab specialist.  This specialist told me I had arthritis in my back and sent me to physical therapy.  I diligently went to PT once a week for several weeks, even though it only made my pain worse.

In the summer of 2009, I began to suffer from insomnia as well.  I chalked it up to strange sleep patterns provoked by attending my brother's Marine Corp graduation in San Diego and flying straight back to Texas for the birth of my first nephew.  This all occurred within 72 hours and required crossing three separate time zones.

My mantra became (and has remained), "It will get worse before it gets better."

And indeed it did.  Stay tuned for Part II.**

*Most people don't believe me when I say I'm not a crier.  But I'm not.  My husband will even verify this.  If I am crying, then one of two things have probably happened.  (1) I have run out of my anti-depressants. (2) My pain is at a level 9 or higher (on a scale of 1-10).  There are other times I will cry - the idea of my "little" stepdaughter heading off to high school this year, for example - but those are more rare occurrences.

**I can't guarantee that I'm listing the treatments I received in the exact order I received them (thanks fibro fog!).  I know I was going to PT while still working at my former workplace, but I can't remember if it was 2009 or 2010.  So please excuse any inconsistencies.  The big points are accurate, I promise. :)

Sunday, July 8, 2012

My Feminism will be Intersectional and Inclusive...

...or it will be bullshit.

I read Post Secret every Sunday.  Sometimes the secrets are funny.  Sometimes they are irritating.  But this one just made me sad.

[Image Description] Grayscale postcard.  White person in the center of the card dressed in (what I guess is) a 50s-style grey hat with veil and black overcoat with high collar.  There is a red stripe of color across their eyes.  Red hand-written words to the right of the person state: "I don't have the courage to tell my feminist friends I have an eating disorder.  I am a total hypocrite.  I feel like a failure." [/Image Description]

My first experience with an eating disorder was as a family member of an anorexic.  It was hard for my high-school brain to understand why she just. wouldn't. eat.  I loved her and wanted her to get better, but I didn't understand the disease aspect of eating disorders and stood by helplessly as she got worse and worse.  Eventually, she got the treatment she needed.  She is now a fully-functioning recovering anorexic.  She works in a nursing/rehab center and has a family of her own - something she feared would not be possible due to the havoc anorexia can wreak on one's body.

I just want to tell the person who wrote this secret: My feminism will be intersectional and inclusive, or it will be bullshit.  My feminism will include people of color (POC), white people, fat people, thin people, rich people, poor people, people with eating disorders (ED), people without eating disorders, GLBTQIA people, cis people, the list goes feminism will include EVERYONE.  Or it will be bullshit.

If you don't feel comfortable discussing this with your feminist friends, please discuss it with your doctor (if you have one).  There are several online resources as well, including the National Eating Disorders Association.  Hell, if you happen to see this post, and you want to email ME specifically, I will be happy to talk to you (as a feminist, a friendly ear, or both).

Just remember, feminism that excludes groups of people IS. NOT. FEMINISM.

My feminism will be intersectional and inclusive, or it will be bullshit.

Friday, July 6, 2012 ZONE!

Let me start out by saying that I have been trying to post this since we got home from the fireworks display at about 10:00pm TWO DAYS AGO.  First, my video camera was giving me hassle.  Then YouTube was all, "We can't handle the awesomeness of your video.  Also it is over 15 minutes long."  Finally, at long last, I can regale you with our Fourth of July adventure.

In San Marcos, there is a river that runs out of a spring-fed lake.  I couldn't remember if they shot the fireworks over the river or the lake, but my husband said he thought it was the river, so we headed over in that general direction.  We ended up parking near the new (grossly oversized if you ask me) Texas State University football stadium.

[Image Description: Facade of Texas State University football stadium with bobcat logo lit up.  A tree is blocking most of the facade except the very top.  /Image Description]

The fireworks show started nearly on time, which was a pleasant surprise.  Normally, they keep us waiting 10-15 minutes before starting, but this year we waited less than 5.  Here is the (18 minute long) video of the fireworks display if you care to watch it.

[Video Description: 18 minutes of fireworks going off.  I'm not as experienced with video descriptions as I am with still image descriptions, so if someone can provide some pointers, I would greatly appreciate it. /Video Description]

As I was recording the show, I felt a couple of rocks or pebbles hit my ankle.  I thought the super annoying kids behind us were throwing things at me, but after the smoke cleared - LITERALLY - we discovered we had been struck by falling firework debris.

Lest you think I'm making a big deal out of nothing, allow me to present the evidence:

[Image Description (left to right): A US dime for scale purposes, a fuse that hit my stepdaughter, and three pieces of firework debris, increasing in size, that hit both me and my husband. /Image Description]

Thankfully, no one was injured, nothing caught fire, and no vehicles were damaged.  As we drove back to the apartment, we saw even more debris (and an unrelated BBQ fork) in the road as well.  Who knew fireworks could be so dangerous even when viewing them from a "safe" distance?  I couldn't help busting out with "Highway to the Danger Zone," much to the chagrin of my husband and delight of my stepdaughter.  That's just how I roll. :)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Of Dogs, Cats, and Martian Mutants

I have always wanted to be a writer.

I remember clanking out the intro to a rather...imaginative story on my dad's old Windows 95 computer. (You know, the one with the blue background and no font options?)  But I digress...This world-changing intro focused on an animal so scroungy, so scruffy looking, that you couldn't tell whether it was a dog, cat, or some mutant from Mars.  An ingenious concept for a 10-year-old, I thought.  However, shortly after I had begun the masterpiece that would catapult me to the heights of fame along with Carolyn Keene and Dr. Seuss, it somehow vanished (read: was deleted) from my parents' computer.

When I was 13, our English class was assigned to read Z for Zachariah.  In case you are not aware, Z for Zachariah is a book with a post-apocalyptic setting.  The main character and her town survived the nuclear holocaust due to the unique valley in which they lived.  It appeared to have its own weather pattern or system that kept out all the nuclear radiation that destroyed the rest of civilization.  After finishing the book, our next assignment was to write a sequel to the book.  What happened to the main character? (I'm trying not to give too much away here in case you've never read the book.)  Most people in the class agreed my sequel (also lost on the Windows 95 machine) was the best.

As I grow older, I find myself having great ideas and wanting to form story lines, but something always holds me back.  What if it's a waste of time?  What if no one likes it?  And then I doesn't matter if no one likes it.  What matters is that I do it and I like it.

So I believe I will begin trying my hand at writing again.  I put it on the internet, so now I have to do it. :)