Monday, May 8, 2017

Book Review: Sweet Tea and Spirits

Book: Sweet Tea and Spirits
Author: Angie Fox

Verity Long and her ghostly sidekick, Frankie, are on track for another adventure! The book starts out with Verity receiving a mysterious call from the Sugarland Historical Society, stating there was a murder. But how can there be a murder when no body is found? She enlists Frankie's help to investigate, which leads to a humorous and engaging story!

The book is well-written, like the others in this series.  I enjoy reading cozy-mysteries, especially those that focus on the paranormal.  The author does a great job of creating funny characters with depth.  I definitely recommend this series, and do feel that the reader should start at book one.

*I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Memory Keeper

A long, long time ago (maybe 2002?), these two kids went to the Shedd Aquarium. Pre-kids, of course. In fact, they had only been dating about a year. (If you don't count the break someone thought he needed. *insert eye roll*)

The girl bought a cute little-penguins-dancing-in-water keepsake, which she kept on her desk at work for many years. Until she moved to a new building and her office had a window.

But alas, nothing lasts forever, especially plastic with what is probably some sort of toxic chemical keeping the penguins afloat which decided to leak out all over the windowsill...and today the girl had to throw out her keepsake.

But (to sadly quote Metallica *insert even larger eye roll here as the girl hates the band*), the memory remains.


Monday, August 1, 2016

Lady Admired - A Book Review

I was fortunate enough to receive an advanced copy of this book, Lady Admired, by Jane Charles.

I absolutely LOVED this book. The only reason I put it down from time to time was because my kids need a mother. ;) This was a a great way to wrap up the Tenacious Trent series. 

Rose Trent, a young widow, is the  Dowager Countess of Bentley.  She finds herself on the adventure of a lifetime, although it didn't quite start out that way. Kidnapped by a Scot after he found out who she was, she was taken back to Laird Aiden MacGregor's manor.  

Aiden MacGregor is a handsome yet firm family man who for once, acted before thinking.  After sending a random letter to Rose's stepsons, he begins to regret his rash decision to kidnap Rose.  He knows that in doing so, he has signed his own death warrant, as kidnapping will result with him swinging from the gallows.

As Rose becomes enamoured of his family... and of Aiden, she also finds her true self.  Married at 15 to a horrible man, she has never had such freedom before as she has now.  She finds herself falling in love with Aiden, although since she has never been with a man such as he, she truly has no idea what is happening.  Aiden, on the other hand, recognizes his feelings for Rose, and is determined to spend the rest of his short life enjoying his time with her.  

When Rose's family receive word of her kidnapping, they rush to save her. But when they find her, it's not what they expected.  Will Rose and Aiden be able to savor their sweet love, or will Aiden be prosecuted for his crime?

This was a fantastic book!  As we see Rose come into her own, sampling freedom bit by bit, the reader cheers her on.  While she has said that she would never find herself tied down to a man again, Aiden pulls at her heart strings and opens experiences to her that she never believed possible.  Aiden's family is wonderful, and I hope we see more of them in the future. We also get a chance to see the "other" Trents, cousins of the famous Trents, and I can't wait to read more about them too!

I definitely recommend this book, as well as the other in the series.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Take it easy...

Take it easy, take it easy
Don't let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy...

My grandma died on Tuesday night.  I was able to hold her hand and say goodbye.  But life went on the very next day as though nothing had happened for the rest of the world.  The day before, I had Keith take Keira to the doctor because she had been having stomach pain for 3 days. (Don't worry, she's fine.). Thursday morning, we were getting ready for school/work, and I saw that our fish had died.  The twins brought Benny home from school a few years ago. They had Keith bury him in the yard, and hope to have him carve a memorial cross for their beloved betta fish. Keith is thrilled. ;) Work was extremely stressful this week. I barely had time to complete important projects, as I ran from meeting to meeting (or drove 2 hours one way for a meeting at another school).  And Friday, I celebrated 6 months with my new little kidney.

This week was the busiest, craziest one we've had in quite awhile.  That's ok, though, I know how to roll with the punches and go right along with life. Even when all those around me have no idea what really goes on in my head on most days.  Or the fact that my comfort song this week was The Eagles, Take It Easy.  Sure the song *seems* like it's all about someone getting it on with his women, but certain lyrics resonate with me.

I didn't get any of the bathrooms cleaned this weekend.  My kitchen floor is unswept and someone stepped on a Pringle so there are a few crumbs under the table.  And I can't tell, but there is a squirrel in my backyard that is either dying or getting ready to give birth (hoping it's neither).  But yesterday after getting the kids' haircuts, they played outside on the first real spring day we've had this year.  They had pasta for supper while having movie night.  Today, I took them to see Ice Age 4 for free at the local theater while Keith went on some sort of gravelly road bike ride.  After we enjoyed the movie, we picked up lunch for ourselves and my uncle and headed to visit him for awhile.  After some downtime at home, we packed up again for the library (we may have had some overdue books...such is life) and surprise ice cream cones.  Why? Because I wanted to.  Supper was pizza and Scooby Doo while we wait for Keith to get home before bed.

We may lose and we may win
But we will never be here again...

Lyrics play through my head and I think how oftentimes you blink and don't notice what's going on.  Or you are so focused on the Pringle crumbs that you forget to play with your kids.  I can't change the fact that we won't always have such carefree weekends or even simple hours to ourselves, but I can make sure to take some deep breaths and enjoy life.

Oh we got it easy
We oughta take it easy...

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

I sit all day at a desk...

Sometimes when I talk about how stressed I feel, I am met with this response: But all you do is sit at a desk all day. How can you be tired?

Apparently mentally tired is not a thing.

By the time I get to work, I'm tired. Due to my anemia, it takes a lot out of me to try to hurry in the morning, deal with the kids who always need me right when I am walking out the door, and then when I finally do get to work, it's a long (COLD) walk from the parking lot.

8:00 - Computer is on, I'm logged in.
8:02 - First question of the day from someone in the doorway. I haven't even had time to check my voicemails or emails.
8:06 - Attempt to check email, read 2, start to respond to one...
8:07 - Co-worker comes in with a question and some paper to look at
8:50, I have been trying for 40 minutes to finish that email I started, as well as make myself a cup of coffee to warm up since my office is freezing.
I have to hurry for the coffee since I need to take my pills at 9 a.m.
Try to go to the bathroom, but my boss' secretary asks a question, then my boss walks over with more.
9:30 - 4 emails responded to, answered a student phone call, talked to a few counselors with questions... Stare at the coffee which has become cold since I barely sipped it.
10:00 - Finally begin to review some students who have applied for graduation. We are weeks behind due to me being out, the holiday break, and the chaos of awarding degrees and certificates in January.  
10:15 - I've printed 4 audits, but the printer is out of paper. So am I, so down the hall to find some.
10:20 - Paper is ready , the rest of the audits print
10:23 - Boss sends three emails, need to respond to two. Takes time to find the answers, craft responses, make sure I've included all the right people...
10:46 - Intent forms stare at me with no progress made
11:07 - Phone rings. Student has a question with no easy answer. Have to research while student is discussing (complaining) about things.
11:14 - I finally finish reviewing a student! It's only taken an hour and 15 minutes.  I'm on a roll. I complete two more before I realize I didn't check my voicemail
11:30 - Listen to 5 voicemails, call back a counselor, answer a quick and easy question. Have to check with my co-worker if she has the substitution form for another one of the calls, while an IM pops up - does this course transfer in as A&P? There is no cadaver. (There always has to be a cadaver. They know this, yet they ask me every.single.time just in case something has changed since Friday.)
12:00 - Lunch time! Ha, just kidding. Still on the phone with one of the students I had to call back while simultaneously emailing my boss to see about setting up a meeting with one of the 4 year schools we have an articulation agreement with
12:15 - Finally lunch. 30 minutes to now catch up my "home/kids" to do list. So it's not really a break.
12:45 - Lunch is over, open office door (I'm actually shocked no one came knocking while I was on lunch, however I did have to answer an instant message that popped up 7 minutes into my lunch.)
12:50 - I begin to review another student, but now I need to work on some graduation ceremony items.
1:00 - A question about an event comes up, need to respond, but first find out if everything is set on our end.
1:16 - IM my favorite marketing person about a different event I need to host in 2 weeks - are the fliers ready? Crap! I forgot about fliers for the other event - stop what I am doing to complete paperwork for that, and give to boss for approval.
1:31 - That 4th Intent to graduate form looms at me on the side of my desk where it has been sitting for what seems like ever. But a co-worker comes in to discuss what else? The graduation ceremony. It's 4 months away but will consume my work life until then.
1:52 - I try to sneak down the hall to refill my water cup and run to the bathroom (as fast as someone with a nerve damaged leg can "run") when I'm stopped by someone telling me my mailbox is full.  Someone shoved a bunch of pamphlets in there, which need to be distributed throughout the student center.  
2:05 - Done with the pamphlets.
2:07 - Breath.
2:07:30 - Hi Sarah, Can I bother you for a sec? (While they say this, they are already walking in and sitting down at my desk.)
2:10 - I have been listening to this person explain to me why a student wants a call back. The student is angry for a variety of reasons, most of which she feels are my fault. I've never spoken to her in my life.
2:12 - I prepare myself for the phone call I am about to make.
2:35 - I finally finish speaking to the no-longer angry and frustrated student. She thanks me for my time and means it. I smile because I really do love my job.
2:40 - Find her evaluation request form and begin to evaluate her transcripts. 
2:57 - Interrupted again. (Big shock.)
3:16 - Have to pull out the FAQs for graduation to update based on some new changes. Make many changes. Have 5 questions. Try to schedule a room for our cap/gown pick-up event. Send email to boss with questions and FAQ for review.
3:56 - Remember to update one of the counselors about the student I had a 25 minute conversation with earlier in the afternoon.
4:00 - Meet with co-worker about graduation to go over some pressing items I have to take care of.
4:17 - Counselor comes in. He has a student with foreign credit who doesn't know why we didn't accept all of it. She has forgotten about our 35 minute conversation we had last Wednesday where I explained why.  I go to see her, re-explain in a cliff notes version so I can leave work on time.
4:35 - Leave 5 minutes late.

But no, I'm not tired after that day.  And that's certainly not wine in my glass.. 

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Book Review: Bound to Die: A Cozy Mystery

Title: Bound to Die: A Cozy Mystery
Author: Mak K. Han

This was a fun cozy mystery, in which is I hope there will be many more! The first chapter set the tone for the book - it had humor and just a little bit of paranormal mystery. However, most the the real mystery centers around the killing of a grumpy man in Strawberry Shores. The main character, Laura, has a cool psychic ability. She and her two friends, Alex and Emily, are drawn into solving the case, yet the killer knows they are on to him/her. There was just the right amount of mystery, romance, and danger in this cozy mystery. I recommend this book for anyone, including YA readers.

*I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Refresh 2016

January. The time of new beginnings. New starts. The dreaded resolutions that everyone proclaims will change their lives in the new year, yet many fail to hold onto through the very first month.

I don't make resolutions. Strike that, I did make one for the kids. "What's a new year revolution?" one child asked. "It's a positive change you make at the start of the new year. And your reSolution is to fold your own laundry and put it away."

This worked for two days. ;)

Let's be honest, 2015 was a stressful year for me. It started out great - we headed to Disney with my family for a week of fun, mostly sun, and great memories. But mere weeks later, I found myself in kidney failure from a hereditary disease that normally does not worsen. By May, I was officially on the national transplant list. By the grace of God, I didn't have the normal 5 year wait that most people have when waiting for a kidney. On October 15, just months after being listed, I was given a second change. A new kidney that was a 100% antibody match for me. This greatly improves the chances of my body not rejecting the new kidney. Next week, a routine 3 month biopsy will check for any sort of rejection. Fingers crossed that all is well.

Rather than make a resolution or two that I may or may not keep, I chose to renew myself in this new year. Shortly after my diagnosis, I had Reiki done. The Reiki healer told me that I need to do what I love because it appears I enjoy life anymore. Her words rang through. As the children grew older, and my life got busier, what I loved to do fell by the wayside. I barely read, wrote, or crafted. I lost my creativity, replacing it with being consumed with others - my family, their activities, work, school commitments, etc. I have piles of yarn that yearn to be knitted, scrapbooks with empty pages, project upon project that died in my head because I never turn them into reality.  Shelves (and a full kindle) of books to be read. And stories that flutter in my mind, only to gently float away because I never put pen to paper. 

What do I do these days that I love? I spend time with my kids and husband. But now I am back to work, and school is in session again. Keith has upped his training.  The busyness is back in our lives. Yet how do we not lose ourselves in it again? 

It's taking time.  Being present. Awakening 10 minutes earlier that I used to so there is some quiet time for me in the morning. Praying more. Facebooking less. It's allowing myself to be a work in progress - so if I fail one day, I know that I will wake the next day ready to start again. It's stepping back, taking a breath or ten, learning to meditate. To block out time to do yoga and exercise, something I haven't been able to do for quite some time. Not putting certain things off, yet only doing what is necessary.

Do you know I like to make my bed in the morning? Coming home after a long day of work and life, it's peaceful to walk into a bedroom that is organized.  So I try to do it everyday because it makes me happy. (It would also make me happy for our living room and kitchen to be less cluttered, yet it's hard to get the other four people in the house to agree on that one). 

That's what this new year is going to be about. Making me happy. Not over-committing. Doing good things for my body, mind and soul.