Tuesday, June 13, 2017

I show you my books, you show me yours...vol.29

It's Show Us Your Books Day!  I'm still on a blog mini-hiatus, but I can't miss my favorite day in blogging month.  The day hosted by Jana & Steph, the day that makes my goodreads "to read" list grow, and the day I interact with a blogging community of readers.  I love this day (or week because it sometimes takes me a week to read all the links) of the month.

What I've read since last link-up:

So, so good. An interesting web of characters tangled in family dynamics, drugs, violence, crime, and mayhem. I was engrossed with the story from beginning to end.  Side note: I enjoyed that the backwoods Southern father was called "deddy" because that's exactly how it's pronounced, and it read perfectly in my head.  4.5/5

2.  Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira -
For YA, I loved everything about this book. Was it a perfect book? No, but I loved its imperfections. Were there some difficult scenes to read? Yes, several, but I thought it was done so well from the voice of a teenage girl. 4.5/5

I read the 2 previous books in this series and remember gobbling them up.  This one was just alright.  As Steph says, "it passed the time just fine".  3/5

This is the 27th book in the Lucas Davenport series.  I have read it since 1991.  I continue to be amazed that this author keeps every book interesting and unique enough to keep me coming back for more.  4/5

I liked this book, but I didn't love it.  I appreciated the topics that she was trying to tackle, but I was just never as invested in the characters as I wish I was.  3/5

The current goodreads rating for this mystery/thriller is 3.81.  That's a pretty adequate overall rating for it, in my opinion although, I wish a character or two had been further developed. 

Now, it's my time to pimp my book challenge.  It's a pretty fantastic place for booklovers, if I do say so myself.  Check it out with the following links:

I've shown you mine, you show me yours...

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Book Challenge by Erin 7.0

Yes, I am still on my mini blog hiatus, but you didn't think I'd forget my book challenge post, did you?

Hi, my name is Erin, and I like books.  I like to talk about books.  I'm a sucker for book challenges.  I started my own challenge a couple of years ago hosting it through this facebook group page.  My thought was this: if I host it through facebook, that's another venue to talk about books with my fellow readers.  I am already in a few challenges that link back to blogs, but not facebook.  I'm pretty happy and proud of the group I've got happening on facebook.  It's so fun to see a collection of readers that are my high school friends, friends of friends, friends around the globe, all coming together for a mutual love of books.  If you're a reader, please join us.  Even just join the group to follow along with the fun.  Or jump in and rock the challenge!

If you aren't a facebooker, that's okay too.  I have some that participate through their blogs and others through goodreads.  Participation is encouraged as much or as little as you choose.  We now have a goodreads group too.  I must admit, I'm not nearly as active in that group and I am the facebook one.  It started to become double the work for me, so I just stuck to my original medium. Just trying to create enough options for those who want to participate can in the easiest option for them to do so.

I attempt to be a stress-free, no-pressure kind of host.  This is about loving books, supporting readers, and encouragement for all who express an interest.

Book Challenge by Erin 7.0 - General Rules

·         First and foremost, have fun. Don't stress. No one is being judged, graded, or penalized. Even if you finish only one book the entire challenge, if you enjoy it and it's an accomplishment for you, then that's awesome.
·         The challenge will run from JULY 1, 2017 to OCTOBER 31, 2017. No books that are started before 12 a.m. on July 1 or finished after 11:59 p.m. on October 31 will count.  (We live in different time zones – follow this according to your own time zone.)
·         Each book must be at least 200 pages long.   Audio books are fine too.
·         A book can only be used for one category, and each category can only be completed once. If you want to switch the category of a book, or change the book you originally chose, no worries. 
·         You can read your books in any order you choose.
·         Rereads can be used only once.  If a book you love fits into a category, go ahead and visit it again.  Read it in its entirety.  But, only do this once for the challenge.
·         There will be a photo album for each category with links to books chosen.  Please comment on the photo for each of your books when you finish reading them.  A comment can include a review, a rating, a recommendation…other readers want to hear what you thought of your choice.  (if you need help with this, let me know…or there is a file attached to our group explaining what to do.)
·         There will be 10 book categories with a possibility of earning 200 points.   That’s 10 books in four months.  For some of you, this will be a BIG challenge; for others it will be easy peasy.  It’s all for fun, remember!
·         Book categories will be posted June 1st to give you time to gather books in preparation. 
·         After the categories are posted, please post a preliminary list with books of your choice according to their categories on the facebook group page by June 15th (if possible).  If you need help with a particular category or want a book suggestion, we as a community of reading enthusiasts can help each other.  (Late entries will still be accepted.)
·         The first three people who finish the challenge will be invited to contribute a category for the next challenge. The following will get a small prize from me (1st to complete 1st round; 1st to complete both rounds; most points accumulated; and WILD CARD random draw – all who finish the 10 book challenge will qualify as an entry!)  Plus, everyone who completes the challenge will gets all sorts of recognition and support!
·         Lastly, have fun.  Don't stress. No one is being judged, graded, or penalized. Even if you finish only one book the entire challenge, if you enjoy it and it's an accomplishment for you, then that's awesome.  Wait, I’ve read that somewhere before…Good luck!

Book Challenge by Erin 7.0 - Categories

·         5 points:  Freebie – Read a book that is at least 200 pages

·         10 points:  Read a book that starts with the letter “B”

·         10 points:  Read a book that has a (mostly) yellow cover

·         15 points:  Read a book that has a picture of an animal on the cover (submitted by Mattie)

·         20 points:  Read a book that was published in 2017 (submitted by Olya)

·         20 points:  Read a book with a compass or cardinal direction in the title (submitted by Mary)

·         25 points:  The ALA’s “Banned Books Week” occurs while our challenge is happening.  Read a book from this list of the most commonly banned books in America: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_most_commonly_challenged_books_in_the_United_States (submitted by Christina)

·         30 points:  Read a fictional book about mental illness (submitted by Jamie); several helpful links: http://bookriot.com/2016/05/23/100-best-books-about-mental-illness/; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mental_illness_in_fiction; https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/mental-illness-fiction

·         30 points:  Read a book with a non-human main character; i.e. animals, elves, gods, robots, merpeople, etc. (submitted by Bev); helpful links: https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/non-human-characters; https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/99906.Books_with_Nonhuman_Characters; http://forreadingaddicts.co.uk/polls-and-discussion/the-33-best-books-with-a-non-human-protagonist/3704

·         35 points:  Read a book a Disney movie was based on OR a book based on a Disney movie (submitted by Kirsten); Don’t forget to check that the book is at least 200 pages: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Category:Novels_first_published_in_serial_form&pageuntil=Dune+Messiah#mw-pages; https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/11716.Books_Turned_Into_Disney_Movies

  If you are stuck on any of these categories, ask for help or recommendations!  GOOD LUCK!

Anddddd...my preliminary list (on goodreads):

             5 points:  Freebie – Read a book that is at least 200 pages: We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

·         10 points:  Read a book that starts with the letter “B”:  Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

·         10 points:  Read a book that has a (mostly) yellow cover:  Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

·         15 points:  Read a book that has a picture of an animal on the cover:  Tears of the Giraffe by Alexander McCall Smith

·         20 points:  Read a book that was published in 2017:  Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

·         20 points:  Read a book with a compass or cardinal direction in the title (submitted by Mary):  Marching Powder: A True Story of Friendship, Cocaine, and South America's Strangest Jail by Rusty Young and Thomas McFadden

·         25 points:  The ALA’s “Banned Books Week” occurs while our challenge is happening.  Read a book from the list of the most commonly banned books in America: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

·         30 points:  Read a fictional book about mental illness:  The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

·         30 points:  Read a book with a non-human main character; i.e. animals, elves, gods, robots, merpeople, etc.:  The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

·         35 points:  Read a book a Disney movie was based on OR a book based on a Disney movie:  Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter
Will you join us?  What do you think of my choices? 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Never fear...I shall return...

This here blog and my blogger buddies have not gotten the attention they deserve in the last couple of weeks.  I'm heading to Texas at the end of this week, and I'm working long hours to prep before I go.  The blog is going to take a backseat until I return.

Book Challenge by Erin folks, don't you worry...I've already got my post scheduled to go live with the categories for BCBE 7.0 on June 1st. 

During this mini blog hiatus, I'll be most active on instagram, probably posting pics of Texas food and family photos.  Follow me there (if you don't already.)

I will miss y'all.  Actually, I miss my interaction with you already.  You are a great source of support, positivity, inspiration, humor, and knowledge.  Keep doing you, and I will catch up with you when I return.


Thursday, May 11, 2017

Swappin' Countries: Going Home

For anyone new around these parts, Erin is an American who lives in Australia, and Kristen is an Australian who lives in America.  The two of us regularly talk about our experiences and lives swapping countries. 

Well, not sure if "regularly" is the correct word because we both admit to being pretty inconsistent, but we have the best intentions to keep this series going.  (Is it a series if we've only had one post and one guest post?)

Both of us are traveling to our original homes in the next couple of months, so we thought we'd share our thoughts, feelings, and anticipations about that visit.

Erin's story:  It's been exactly two years since I've last been to Texas.  I am suffering from some serious homesickness, I ain't gonna lie about that.  Two years is a long time to go without a hug from my daddy, a laugh with my mama (in person), and the taste of chile con queso in my belly. 

Two years ago, my trip was planned around niece #1's high school graduation and a cousin's college graduation.  This year, my trip is planned around niece #2's high school graduation.  I will also get to spend Memorial Day in the good ol' U.S. of A.  As a bonus, my mom, my niece, my sister-in-law and I are having a quick San Francisco getaway together.  And, as a further bonus, three of my bestest girlfriends are meeting me in Northern Cali after the relatives go back to Texas, and I'll complete my trip with a couple of days in the Sonoma Valley with my girls. 

When I go home, there is no time for rest and relaxation.  I am constantly on the go, doing all the things and seeing all the people and eating all the food.  I love Texas food.  I may have an unhealthy relationship with it, but seriously, when I'm home, I gorge on alllll those things that I miss when I'm in Australia.

Neither of my parents live in Houston anymore.  I split my time between Huntsville (with my dad and stepmom) and Tyler (with my mom and her guy), and I squeeze in a little College Station time where my brother and his family lives.

Often, I get overwhelmed because I never get to see all the people I want to see or do all the things I want to do.  I have to prioritize, and in this situation, as cliché as it sounds, it's family first for me.

So, this might sound bad, but I also see the folks who are willing to be flexible and put effort in our relationship.  There are folks that I was really close to when I lived in Texas, yet I never hear from them anymore.  That's fine.  Our lives have gone in different directions.  So, I see the folks that are currently a part of my life, and not the ones that were once upon a time.

There is always some feelings of guilt.  I feel guilty by the pain in my father's voice, and the tears in my mother's eyes.  They support my happiness here, but we miss seeing once another more frequently, and I'd be lying if I didn't say I feel guilty about it.

And, when I visit Texas without my guy, I miss him.  Three weeks without your partner in life is a significant amount of time to be apart.  But, it's something we knew would be a part of our relationship with the reality of me living on the other side of the planet of so many of my loved ones.

The most difficult part of the trip?  Saying goodbye.  Especially when I don't have an exact plan of when I'll be there next.  So, so tough.  I get on that plane.  I sigh.  I reflect.  I may cry.  But, I head back to my second home where my husband, stepkids, fur babies, and life awaits. 

I feel fortunate to call two places home.  To have people that love and value me.  To love and value others.  Through the hardships, the feeling of gratitude for that love and appreciation outweighs all.

Kristen's story:  It has been almost 3 years since I last went home, and almost 5 and a half years since I left for good (though, I didn't know that at the time).

Like Erin, I am suffering from some pretty awful homesickness as well. I am very excited that I will be back in my home country, eating all the food I miss, hearing people talk like me, seeing words I recognise, driving on the side of the road I learned to drive on... all those things. But I am obviously most excited about seeing my family, especially my mum.

My mum and I have always been extremely close and living on the other side of the world has been so hard. Sometimes I wish it were different, but you can't help who you love. Mum loves America and has visited a few times since I moved here (only once to Louisville though) and her last trip was September 2016. I met up with her and a friend in LA & Vegas and we had a ball (and of course, fought a ton). The next plans were for KC and I to come home in June 2017, and then mum wanted to go to Graceland sometime in 2018.

my mum loves Toby Keith
We booked our flights for this June back in December. December 30th to be exact. As most of you know, my mum had a stroke early January. If we hadn't just booked our flights, this trip may not be happening. I probably would have hopped on a flight home immediately. I almost did, several times, but she was surrounded by family and I was able to talk to her immediately after the stroke and she told me not to come. Things got a bit worse before they got better, but she is doing really well. She is not home yet, and she is not back at work.

Before my mum's stroke, we had lots of plans - I wanted to take KC to see the Blue Mountains and the Hunter Valley. I wanted to do more touristy stuff because I didn't know when I would be back. I thought about doing another mini trip, like to Uluru or something. Busy busy busy, doing all the things and seeing all the people. Like Erin, I had friends that I was 'so close' with before I left, but they don't put any time and effort into the friendship when I am gone, so unfortunately when I am home, I don't make an effort to see them - time is far too precious for that. Moving across the world sure shows you who your people are.

Now, after my mum's stroke, we probably aren't going to go to the Blue Mountains or the Hunter Valley. We won't go to Uluru. We will probably spend most of our time at home. We had already booked New Zealand before my mum's stroke, and I don't want to waste any of the time I have with her. We will be in Australia for 2 weeks, and we are spending a few days in Melbourne like last time.

I am excited. I can't wait to see my mum, my nana, my cousins, uncles and aunties. I can't wait to see Pacey, my beautiful golden retriever. My cat Agatha couldn't give two shits about me and wouldn't come near me last time, which is definitely more than a little heartbreaking. My little brother is somewhere I'm not going to be able to visit him more than once and that also breaks my heart.

Saying goodbye is stupid hard. Flying home is crazy expensive, KC and I want to start a family soon and won't be able to travel as often. The thought of more long flights makes the butterflies in my stomach go crazy. My mum probably won't be able to travel for quite some time. The unknown, the I don't know when I will be back, when I will see my mum again, it's so freaking hard. I feel so guilty that I am not there. That my dog, Pacey, gets SO excited when she sees me (will she remember me this time?), but my cat Agatha could not care less. They are both getting older, and I am not there for them. Yes, I realise they are animals, but I'm not there for my mum, little brother or nana either.

Like Erin, I do feel fortunate that I can call two places home and that I have people who love me enough to miss me, and I them. Sometimes I have to work a little harder at my appreciation and not turn into a sulky child, but at the end of it all, there's no real solution. I am who I am because of where I've come from and where I am today. My heart - as corny as it sounds - is forever split between the two places. Instead of sulking about it, I will appreciate the visits home more than I ever appreciated actually living there.

As I'm sure you can tell, being an expat going home is all sorts of emotional. But I'm sure I speak for both of us when I say excitement about going home and doing all the things definitely outweighs all the not so great feelings. And of course, I am making Erin see me when I am in Sydney, and who wouldn't be excited about that?

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

I show you my books, you show me yours... vol.28

It's Show Us Your Books Day!  The day hosted by Jana & Steph, the day that makes my goodreads "to read" list grow, and the day I interact with a blogging community of readers.  I love this day (or week because it sometimes takes me a week to read all the links) of the month.

What I've read since last link-up:

1.  Bird Box by Josh Malerman - What did I just read? I have no idea, nor do I know how I feel about it. Did I like it? Did it annoy me? Do I feel like I have more questions than answers? This was a step out of my usual reading comfort zone, and I'm glad I read it, but I don't know if I liked it. 3/5

2.  The History of Love by Nicole Krauss - I really, really wanted to love this book, but I spent too much time confused by the connections of some of the characters to say I loved the overall reading experience. When the connections were all revealed, I still felt confused about a couple of things. The premise was lovely, as were Alma and Leo. I could've done without a couple of the support cast. 3/5

3.  We Ate the Road Like Vultures by Lynnette Lounsbury - Such a ridiculous and glorious book.  I gobbled it up.  This book is an example why I enjoy participating in the Aussie Author Challenge year after year.  I find little gems like this one that I might not have discovered otherwise. 4.5/5

4.  Missing Pieces by Heather Gudenkauf - I hate to use Girl on the Train as an example (the go-to book that other thrillers are compared to) but you know how some readers didn't like that book because they didn't like the lead character?  Well, that's how I felt about this book.  I was annoyed with Sarah and rolled my eyes at her more times than I could count.  But, the mystery plus small town-setting, family-secret dynamics was enjoyable enough to keep me reading. 3/5

5.  We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo - What a debut from a talented young author! This spirited book is full of darkness and light, pain and humor. It examines personal identities and cultural clashes through the experiences of a young narrator. Thought-provoking about the challenges of immigrants plus gains and losses of leaving home and the expectations of opportunity. 4/5

6.  Ghost Girls by Cath Ferla - I attended school for a few years that is aimed at international students and located in the Haymarket/Sussex Street/Chinatown area of Sydney. So, many of the locations described in this book and the requirements of student visa holders were known to me. Even the cover photo, I know that exact street.  I thought the author did an excellent job painting the picture of this area and these students. And, sadly, it seems very real to me that students could go missing the way the plot plays out. 4/5

7.  The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel - Not exactly sure what this says about me, but I enjoy reading books about dysfunction, and this book is filled to the brim with it.  I felt the author did an admirable job writing a riveting book that included some severe, dark, and extremely unhealthy relationships.  4.5/5

Currently reading:  Bull Mountain by Brian Panowich (and, it's fantastic, so far)
I've shown you mine...now, you show me yours...

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Sunday's Seven Snapshots vol.121

Spent a little time in the sunshine, reading a book, and chillin' with my homegirls

This is Dolly's version of whispering sweet nothings in my ear

I interrupted my husband in his home workshop to draw a name from a hat for my wild card winner of Book Challenge by Erin.

I headed into work early a couple of days this week and the autumn winds were blowing which reminded me that hoodies are my favorite article of clothing.

Our family loves the drive-in ~ we went Saturday night to see Guardians of the Galaxy 2

I tried to get some blog reading done this Sunday.  I meant to get some email replying done too, but that didn't happen.  Forgive me because these blue skies were calling out for me to get outside......

Happy Sunday to you and yours!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Book Challenge by Erin 6.0 Wrap Up

You all know that I am a sucker for book challenges.  Also, you know the one that is nearest and dearest to me is the one that I host ~ Book Challenge by Erin (yes, I know, those creative juices were really flowing when I came up with that name.)

Most of the challenge's activity occurs on the facebook group.  Selfishly, it allows me to interact with book lovers from every era of my life ~ family, high school friends, college friends, co-workers, adult friends, blogger buddies, friends of friends and more!  It is an open group.  I try to be a stress-free, no-pressure host.  I encourage as much (or as little) participation as a reader wants to give. 

I did add a goodreads group this challenge as well.  But, the activity was lacking there (something for me to work on in the future). 

This group enriches my life.  The support, the participation, the interaction, and just sharing the love of books is something that I could have never predicted would bring me so much happiness! Yes, I keep a score, a tally of points, and I give prizes, but those don't matter to me nearly as much as the engagement with each other and the passion for reading that is evident among the group members.   Thank you to all who participate! I probably get greater pleasure out of it than any of the challenge participants. 

How did we do for the sixth challenge installment?  Take a look...

Book Challenge by Erin 6.0 is complete! For all who participated this challenge:
  • The most books ever read for one of our challenges - 605! (compared to 566 in the previous challenge) - this total has increased with every challenge
  • The most to finish all 10 books - 33!
  • The readers that finished BOTH rounds (20 books total) - 6
  • Readers from USA (25+ states), Canada, Scotland, Switzerland, Germany, Australia participated
I appreciate each and every one that gives to this group. I read every book list, review, comment, and I am grateful for all of the support and encouragement shown for the love of books!  It is a happy place for me, and I hope I've created a happy place for others.  I've received some amazing feedback from participants this time. 

Winners!  I gave *small* prizes to four participants: the first person to finish BOTH rounds & the first person to finish the first round were the same person, the second person to finish the first round, the person that accumulated the most points, and a "wild card" draw between all the ones who finished the challenge. 
Let me brag a little about more of our blogger friends...the following completed the challenge by reading 10 (or more) books:

Megan at Can I Decide Another Day?

Heather at Heather's Hurrah

Karen at Run Wright

Tanya at A Mindful Migration

Bev at Confuzzledom

Ericka at A Quiet Girl's Musings of a World that Talks Too Much

Jamie at Whatever I Think Of!

Mattie at Northwest Native

Jen at It's My Life

Jenn at Quirky Pickings

Olya at The Siberian American

Christina at Easily Entertained

Thinking about joining us for the next challenge??  Join the facebook group.  If you have any facebook friends that you think would enjoy the challenge, recommend them to join the group.  Some of the most enthusiastic readers in the group are friends of friends...and I love that!  Again, this challenge is open to more than just bloggers.  We have a lot of non-blogger participants.  If you know anyone who may want to dabble into the world of book challenges, share this page with them:  Book Challenge by Erin.

Or don't.  Some bloggers don't do facebook, and I'm cool with that too.  Of course, I announce stuff here on my blog too.

JUNE 1st - category announcement for Book Challenge by Erin 7.0

JULY 1st - OCTOBER 31st - BOOK CHALLENGE by ERIN 7.0 - tell your friends! Invite them to the group.  The more book lovers, the better!

I repeatedly say it (because I mean it): I don't care if someone reads one book or 20, as long as my challenge has encouraged reading, that's a win for me. 

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Sunday's Seven Snapshots: vol.120

New tattoo - in honor of my stepkids - Liam specifically requested I get an owl tattoo in his honor, a blue owl (as in "Chelsea" blue) and a rose because my stepdaughter is named Chelsea Rose.

Picked up some books at the library and excited to read them all that I couldn't choose what to read first!

My little birdwatchers

A book, a cat, a comfy blanket...my favorite way to spend an evening

I have a friend that lives in Scotland who lovvves Captain America's Chris Evans.  All I need to do is send her a snap of him when he's on tv and she knows I'm thinking of her.

My sweet little sleeping baby

Sunset on an evening walk over our backyard

Hope you have a great week!

Friday, April 28, 2017

Happy Things vol.2

I meant to post a happy list last week, but that frickin' kidney stone had other ideas.  So, I'm happy to say that I'm back at it, focusing on happiness.  Things that made me happy this week:
  1. Candles and hot baths
  2. Sing (the movie) ~ the stepkid convinced us to watch it, and it was adorable.
  3. Most of you know, I host Book Challenge by Erin.  We are winding up the final days of the 6th time for me to host this challenge (post coming next week about it.)  This comment from one of the participants made me beyond happy: "Thx so much for all you do to make this happen. I read books that I would never have picked up and discovered many more by observing what others were reading. My to read list is much richer thanks to you and this great group of book lovers."
  4. New tattoo (picture coming soon when it has healed more)
  5. In exactly one month, I will be in Texas.
  6. Seeing the screensaver in my 9 year old stepkid's iPad ~ it was a selfie with his "girlfriend" ~ too cute
  7. Library day
  8. I hit a significant number on the scale for weight loss. I try not to get *too* caught up with the number on the scale, but losing 20 pounds has certainly made me happy.
  9. Sleeping with the windows open
  10. Niece 2 is graduating high school ~ her senior pics have filled my heart with many emotions, happiness being one of them.

Linking with.....Lindsay, Charlotte, and Chrissy.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Wise words from my brother

When Kristen and I decided to start a series about our lives "Swappin' Countries" as expats, I asked other bloggers to give us some questions and prompts to help kickstart us.  Welllllll...life happens...so, Kristen and I haven't been superb at keeping that series alive just yet, but we have a post in mind, coming soon...

I started answering one of those questions months ago (from Dani from Faster Than Forever) who asked:  "How did your family/loved ones take the news?" (that I was moving to the other side of the world) 

But, that post sat in draft unfinished.  Until I read Audrey's post "Get Out of There" because it got me thinking about our life choices about where we live and who we live life with.

When I announced that I was moving from Texas to Australia, I received varying degrees of support from loved ones.  Most of the family was less than thrilled. 

My mother cried and cried and didn't really know what to say except "please don't go."  This was the one and only time in my life that my always supportive father told me that I was disappointing him, and he meant it.  The conversation included me trying to be strong through tears streaming down my face, and I was collapsing inside.

My brother suggested that he and I go for a walk around his neighborhood. 

Back story: My brother met his wife when he was 18, got engaged at 20, and married at 21.  He worked at a big international accounting firm in a big city for a few years...then moved back to raise a family in College Station, Texas (a town of about 100,000).  He has 3 glorious children.  The family is close.  Top priority.  Their social activities revolve around school, church, and extra-curricular activities.  He and my sister-in-law have been married for 25+ years, and their relationship is an inspiration.  Their relationships with their children is a beautiful thing to witness.  Nobody, no one, no family is perfect.  They are the first to admit this.  But, they are as close to perfect as a collective whole as I've personally witnessed, and I am in awe of them.

So, when we took a walk around the neighborhood...I mentioned something about him being the "golden child" and the one that always made our parents proud and was never a disappointment.  He discussed that his life made him happy and fulfilled...but, he said he knew that if I led the life he had, I'd have been bored.  He said that he knew we were different.  The things that excited me or fueled my zest for life weren't necessarily his.  But, that there was nothing wrong with that.  There was nothing wrong with me wanting to take risks.  There was nothing wrong with me wanting to live in a different country.  Sure, I'd be missed, terribly, but I needed to live my life in a way that would be fulfilling and make me happy.  And, I was always welcome to come home.

Tears are falling as I remember this conversation from over 8 years ago.

In an ideal world, my loved ones wish that I lived closer.  But, it's the words of my brother, knowing that he "got me" that still fill my heart. 

Eventually, other family members have come around.  No one likes that I live so far away.  Heck, I don't like that I live so far away from them.  Sometimes, I think that me living so far from home actually encourages communication with some family members.  You know, the ones we take for granted that live close, yet we still don't see often?  I hear from some aunts and cousins more than I did when I lived in Texas.  Others, I don't hear from as much.  But, we all have to make an effort to maintain connections and relationships, regardless of distance.

The support from my brother, his calm and wisdom, will always be something that I cherish.  We don't talk much.  We don't have to.  He knows I am filled with imperfections and flaws, but I know he loves me unconditionally.  I do not take this for granted.
My mom says this is her favorite picture of us, so I recycle it every now and then.

Have you received wise words from a loved one at an important time in your life?  I encourage you to reflect on them and share them (if you feel moved to do so).

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Sunday's Seven Snapshots: Tales from the E/R

Other things happened this week, but I can barely remember them.  A kidney stone took over my life mid-week, and I'm still recuperating.

I've had a kidney stone once before about 5 or 6 years ago.  When I started experiencing pain this week, I wasn't sure what was happening.  I even googled "appendix burst" to know what side the appendix is on.  Later that night, as I was describing the pain that was intensifying, my guy and I looked at each other and wondered "is this another kidney stone?"

I went to take a hot bath.  Pain was still increasing, and I don't know, maybe it was from the heat of the bath as well, but I began to vomit.  I had no appetite so I hadn't eaten all day, but my body still found plenty to vomit.  A decision was made to go to the E/R.  This was about 10:00pm on Thursday night.

I got in the car, ready to go, drove down the block, only to realize I didn't have my purse.  Oops.  Turn around to get it, because, you know, and i.d. and medicare card are important to have.  My guy goes into the house to retrieve the forgotten purse while I puke out the side of the car into our grass.

We get to the E/R.  I go directly to the toilet to puke some more while my guy explains to the situation to the triage nurse.  They got to work immediately.  One dose morphine.  Nothing.  Second dose of morphine.  Still, nothing.  I can't remember what the third attempt to pain relief was, but I know it didn't work.  There was blood work and an urinalysis plus a decision to transfer me to a larger hospital.  Yep, got an ambulance ride out of this "fun" night too.  Finally, a super strong dose of oxy was given and pain started to subside but nausea increased.

A CT scan determined, yes, there was a kidney stone.  E/R decided that they wanted me to transfer to urology.  So, I spent several hours waiting for a bed there.  In the meantime, I got to listen to the sounds of an E/R.  I just remembering trying to crawl up into a little ball. 

I was transferred to urology.  While being wheeled into my room, I grasped the barf bag and gave a treat to my new nurse.  She was so wonderful.  She was everything you'd want from a nurse, compassionate, knowledgeable, and efficient.  I saw doctors, nurses, had more blood work, and urine tests.  Most importantly, they were trying to get the pain and nausea under control while pumping as many fluids in me as they could.

Twenty hours later...no stone had passed...but I was home drinking lots and lots of fluids and drugged up.  Sweet baby Ricky knew his mama was not feeling her best.

Another day passed and so did that kidney stone!  Thank goodness.  I gotta admit it.  I looked at that thing and was dumbfounded by such a little stone causing so much havoc.  I'm still achy, nauseous, and woozy, but that will pass too. 

I've been resting this weekend with my guy, my kitties, and my little penguin, Penelope.

I wasn't even going to post a "Sunday's Seven Snapshots" today, but I felt alright enough to post this tonight, so I'd say that I am well on my way to feeling much, much better.

A friend of mine is a sportswriter, and he shared this story of his with me

Have you ever experienced kidney stones?  Aren't they the worst??