GRAB BAG

We are halfway through 2021 already! Ya’ll, it has been a roller coaster so far.
We have a new president; we have the end of a school year that was unexpectedly mostly home; we have a vaccine that has been administered widely in anticipation of returning to some sort of “normal”.
Well, friends, for me, normal is reading a book.
So, fellow bookworms, let me tell you: It took me a LONG while to get back into reading after the hot mess of 2020. I did not meet my goal last year of 12 books, but this year? This year is LOOKING UP! Now, don’t judge my reading choices. Reading is reading.

Here is a short list of the books I read, with short reviews to follow:
1) Fate by Helen Hardt
2) Legacy by Helen Hardt
3) Descent by Helen Hardt
4) Awakened by Helen Hardt
5) The Duke and I by Julia Quinn
6) The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn
7) An Offer from a Gentleman by Julia Quinn
8) Romancing Mister Bridgerton by Julia Quinn
9) To Sir Phillip, With Love by Julia Quinn
10) When He was Wicked by Julia Quinn
11) Raven’s Influence by Lynn Morrison

“Fate”, “Legacy”, “Descent”, and “Awakened” are all by Helen Hardt, books 13-16 in the Steel Brothers Saga. (I have previously reviewed some of the books from this series.) The Steel Brothers stories take place on a mountain ranch in Colorado, with the Steel family being very wealthy. They each have their own history of severe trauma. They own and run a cattle ranch, a vineyard and winery, and a fruit orchard. The series focuses on the history of each character, their development, and their love story. These four books deal with the Steel family fortune origins, and the families’ children’s adventures into adulthood, as well as their love stories. There are currently 21 books in total in the series, and each story is *almost* a stand alone. I recommend reading them in order.
*Trigger Warning: Assault, Child Abuse, Kink, Alcohol, Sex*
They are entertaining, slightly smutty, adult modern romance novels. The story line is easy enough to follow. Since there are so many books, it is a story you can become invested in-and the story is just descriptive enough where you can lose track of time.

“The Duke and I”, “”The Viscount Who Loved Me”, “An Offer From a Gentleman”, “Romancing Mr. Bridgerton”, “To Sir Phillip, With Love”, and “When He Was Wicked” are books 1-6 in the Bridgerton Series by Julia Quinn.
With the newfound elite status of the Bridgerton series on Netflix, this book series has seen a serious uptick in readership. So, reader, beware. If you want to borrow these from the library, you may have to wait a minute. There are nine books in the series directly, with two offshoots about Lady Whistledown.
In case you didn’t watch Bridgerton, (and I suggest you do because it was HOT) I will tell you about this series. Book 1 introduces us to the Bridgerton family-eight children and their widowed mother. The story takes place in Regency London (in the early 1800’s), with the Bridgerton’s being a wealthy city family with daughters in search of husbands. They are known for naming their children in alphabetical order. In these books, we follow the love stories of the Daphne and Simon; Anthony and Kate; Benedict and Sophie; Colin and Penelope; Eloise and Phillip; and Francesca and Michael.
These books are a fun trip back in time. And while I am certainly glad that we no longer have to marry for stability,comfort, and protection, I do enjoy a great Regency story about dressing for a ball and inappropriate clandestine meetings. The love stories are sexy, torrid, and have the ability to fluster the reader. Some of the best descriptions are of the fantasies, and while the author will always allow that they reality is better than fantasy, I believe that sometimes, the fantasy can hold more anticipation and suspense.

“Raven’s Influence: A Paranormal Women’s Fiction Novel (Cleo’s Second Act Book 1)” by Lynn Morrison
This is book one in a new series by London Cozy Mystery writer, Lynn Morrison. It revolves around a middle-aged divorcee, Cleo, going home to help her mom and finding that, of course, she has to save the world while she is there. Because, obviously, women don’t have enough on their plates. On the cusp of being an empty-nester, Cleo has to train and learn how to use her inner powers in order to follow her fate.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book! There is enough paranormal to make it sci-fi, and realistic enough to make it a modern fun coming-of-age (again) story. With ancient gods, witchcraft, and general badassery, this is a great story for women empowerment! Can’t wait for book 2!

That is my rundown for now, folks. Have you read any of these? How did you feel about them? Enjoy them? Hate them? Did you enjoy any other series that you think I should read? Send me a message and let me know about it! Catch you on the flip side, word nerds!

May, 2021

Today, I embarked upon Stage 1 of “Getting back to close to normal”. I went to the pharmacy and was able to get my first dose of the Covid Vaccine!!
Since I had to wait a full 90 days after HAVING Covid, I was able to get my shot last week…however, I ended up 2 1/2 weeks ago getting my Tetanus booster. So, I had to wait a bit longer….but I DID IT! I finally feel like we are moving forward!

Yesterday, I got bored and painted a wall. Just one. Not even the whole wall. Just an arch. The husband came home to paint stuff on the porch and the smell emanating from the house, and the only thing he had to say was “what did you paint today?” Ahhahaha.
He knows his wife pretty well, I guess. Of all the things that NEEDED to be done, I painted a wall.

This summer is looking up. Conventions are starting to reschedule and we are looking forward to seeing family again!
With everyone immunized, we can see family after an entire year of being apart. I am so excited. I have missed seeing my family-our visits are rare anyway, because we live so far apart.
As long as conventions are going to follow some safety guidelines, I will be excited to jump back into the role of volunteer so that I can see my nerds again!

In the meantime, I have managed to read a few books, after so long of not being able to. I have completed two room redo’s in my house. I have purged nonsense out of my life (both figuratively and literally). I have managed to clear out all the people in my life that were toxic. I feel good about my decisions, and am feeling hopeful of the near future.

So, y’all. Keep wearing masks. Keep getting your shots. Keep your guards up just a bit. We are not fear mongering. We are REALISTICALLY preventing illness in our communities.
Hugs to all. If you have anything you want to share about your year, about a book you recommend, about your summer plans….just email me here!

Writing Sample (Professional Letter-an example, not a real letter)

Justin Ball, Director
Museum of Texas Handmade Furniture
1370 Church Hill Drive
New Braunfels, Texas 78130
RE: Day Camp Proposal

My name is Medrith, and I am involved with a scouting group in San Antonio. We are interested in using your property to host a day camp.
We are prepared to work with you on all of the arrangements to make sure we are fully prepared and agreed on the proceedings.

Our group was thinking of using your facilities to offer a variety of informative and interactive activities.
We know, for instance, that you have a blacksmithing area, and access to Blacksmiths in the area that might be able to show the historical and cultural significance of that trade, as well as showing the youth how they might participate. Learning about metal work is a badge to be earned, and all topics from safety to tool usage would be able to be covered thoroughly, allowing our scouts a greater understanding of the subject.

We could potentially cover the following topics:
Architecture
Basketry
Bird Study
Camping
Citizenship
Collections
Cooking
Metal Work
Nature
Photography
Woodwork

We would, of course, offer volunteers to help with each of the lessons, as well as a detailed schedule, so that our children would know that they could accomplish all of their goals in one day.
We would welcome any help from any experts in the above mentioned fields that would be willing.

Because your facilities are located on private property, are fenced in accordingly, and are rather large and wooded, we would love to be able to camp on your grounds as well. Our motto is always “Leave No Trace,” so you can be sure that your grounds would be left cleaner than when we arrive. We will make sure to supply our own food, cooking supplies, cleaning supplies, trash bags and the like.

If you have any suggestions or compromises that would make this event successful, and fun for the scouts, please feel free to contact me at your earliest convenience and I will do my best to accommodate.
Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,
Medrith Loe




Writing Sample (previously unpublished review)

I ordered two boxes of the InHome Wildwood Peel & Stick Wallpaper (covering approximately 28 sq ft) recently from an online resource.

I received the wallpaper in an appropriate amount of time (2-3 days). The box was in decent shape, and the wallpaper was enclosed in plastic boxes inside.

Other reviews complained about the color variation, which I thought was as represented in the photo. Another complaint was about the quality of the surface when scratched.

First, application was smooth, and went easier than planned. Second, there was not any scratching to the surface, so I did not experience the paint effect peeling or tearing.

There is 16.5 linear feet of the wallpaper, which was more than enough to cover the closet doors in my child’s bedroom. The doors look like they are made of real wood from a distance. The paper lined up easily to continue the design on the next door. I enjoy the quality of this purchase, and my only criticism would be that a texture added to the surface would make this item even more realistic.

5/5 stars for ease of application
4/5 stars for appearance
5/5 stars for delivery time/condition
5/5 stars for accurate online representation/description
3/5 stars for price (this stuff is NOT cheap)
4/5 stars overall

Writing Sample (Blog Post)

When my youngest was born, he was a preemie, and had a lot of challenges early on. What we wouldn’t know for another two years, though, is that he would suffer with sensory processing issues his whole life.
What that meant when he was small, as compared to now, has not changed all that dramatically.

Let me start by explaining SPD. Sensory Processing Disorder is a challenge in processing stimuli from outside and inside the body, such as hearing, visual, taste, smells, touch, vestibular, and proprioceptive. A person can have a variety of reactions to any stimulus, being either hypo- or hyper-sensitive.
While many people know of the “five senses,” many don’t know of the other two mentioned. Vestibular system function relays information on balance and head location in relation to gravity. Proprioceptive system function is the reliable location sensing of your body and its location in relation to everything else around you.

When he was small, my kiddo suffered with hearing aversion (things were always too loud); taste aversion (certain textures of food were off putting); but needed touch, vestibular, and proprioceptive input regularly and at a higher level than neuro-typical individuals.
As he aged, we noticed a few patterns that stuck around. Mostly though, his needs changed with his growth, and as he reached puberty, he outgrew quite a few of the symptoms we had learned to expect. While his motor-planning skills have improved over time, he also still has deficits that can cause restrictions in autonomy (bike riding is currently still his nemesis).

Enter Covid.
Enter Online Schooling.
Enter Mom and Child together 24/7.
Enter room for improvement.
Enter new and improved sensory needs.

My child just turned 15. He is currently schooling from home, due to lack of vaccination for under 16, and underlying health issues. No judging what works for your family-so don’t judge what works for mine, please.
While he has been home for over a year, we have learned that our boundaries are way more blurred than ever. Reminders of socially appropriate behavior are near constant. Just because they can’t see you or hear you, does not mean you can behave that way.
Please sit correctly in the chair, stay on task. You only have to be in class for 20 minutes.
How have you never learned to take notes? What math skills will I be teaching you today? What do you mean you wrote several poems and entered them into a contest? I thought you hated English?
Please get dressed before venturing out of the bedroom, because while the human body is nothing to be ashamed of, you are preparing to follow a schedule and you wouldn’t do that if you had to attend school in person, so please don’t do it now.

All these reminders may seem like little things. Nagging even. But some sensory issues can evolve out of these behaviors. When he sits incorrectly in the chair, he has to receive input somewhere else-which usually ends up with him eating the pads of his fingers. He bites them until they bleed. Not the nails-the pads. The parts of the fingers one must use to TOUCH the touchscreen on the ipad.
When he hyper-focuses on one assignment, he loses track of time and ends up missing other classes. We have alarms set on the computer for the beginning and end of every class, so he has a warning before he has to change settings. He also has a built in break between classes, so that he can get up and bounce around, stretch, or go pee.
Learning skills like taking notes, math, and English take a LOT of focus. So, before we set to those, we have to really get in something good. Like a chore with heavy lifting or moving items from one room to another in order to activate those muscles.

My child still makes “Angel Wings” every. Single. Day. It’s a way to flex the muscles on the shoulder blades, and gives him thorough input on his back.
He still toe-walks. Walking on the toes provides input to the vestibular and proprioceptive system, reminding his body where it is in space and which way it is facing.
He bites his fingers, peeling the skin off of them. Which sounds painful, but really just provides more sensory input because then the skin is thinner, allowing more sensitivity.
He still likes big bear hugs, pillow smooshes, and swings. He likes foods with extreme tastes: sour and spicy. He likes jumping, swinging his arms, and sports that use a lot of body systems at once.

So, while we started with one set of issues, his age and growth-and more than anything else, situation-have led to a new set of issues.
I am not claiming to be an expert. I am just a parent. We argue, we fight it out, and there are meltdowns. They can be epic. And tiring for everyone involved. But we have a way to deal with those too. It isn’t perfect, but it sort of works for us.

So, mommas and dads, grands and aunties and uncles: if you have a kiddo in your life that is diagnosed with a sensory processing issue, be prepared for a lifetime of learning. You will learn how to help your kiddo. You will learn what senses are impacted, and how they work. You will learn how they change over time, and how that change effects their behaviors. You will learn how to love your kiddo in a way that is good for them.

Already March 2021

So, this week we celebrate one full year of our two week curve defying lock down. We celebrate the release of THREE separate vaccines. The fact that no one in New Zealand has died in MONTHS. That doctors are addressing the needs of those showing long term symptoms. That people are generally good, and fight for wearing masks. That there are more helpful folks than Kens and Karens.

This week we celebrate the small things. The beginning of Spring. The potential for signing into law that we don’t have to adjust our clocks again. (*praying for that one*) This week we celebrate that we have all come out the other side smarter, stronger, more likely to remain healthy, and possibly starting to socialize outside the house in person again.

This week we celebrate that I have started reading again. I needed to read. I forgot how good it made me feel. I started reading a series of e-books, smutty and more regency related. But books, nonetheless. Books are an excellent escape. They make you laugh, cry, think, investigate, and just imagine. While the historical aspect of these books makes me day-dream of the time of Austen, they are also rather fun. The banter between characters, the revelations of young lovers, the fight with hundreds of layers of clothes with multiple sets of ties, buckles, and buttons. (LOL)

So, in an attempt at restarting my book reviews, I am attempting to read. Kind of necessary for a book review. If you have any suggestions for me, let me know! Also let me know how you have handled your past year. Do you have anxiety? Depression? Did you fall in love via Zoom? Did you move? Did you get sick? Recover? Have you worked from home? Gotten tired of being cooped up with your loved ones? Taken a vacation? I want to know!

Welcome to August…

It is the middle of the month of August. Only fourish months left in this year. Things have changed so much this year.

My kiddo will be starting school in a week. He will be distance learning until December, at least. We have his room set up so he has a desk and a learning center, and he has an iPad updated with all the apps needed. He has done his summer reading, and will be able to focus on his work. I am hoping that a real schedule will help all of us.

We are considering going on a day trip soon, to celebrate making it to the end of summer without too many issues. A day trip to the beach, with water and sun, a picnic, and just a minute to disconnect and relax? Yes, please!

I was able to read a couple of books recently. Smut series follow ups. But books, nonetheless. It was like a short lived fuse, two quick books that took about a day and a half each to read. Now, I am working on getting me on track again. Again. Again. Always again.

I have gained some weight. I guess lounging with snacks and Netflix will do that to a person. :). But I was able to watch some movies and catch up on series that have been out forever that I never really had the time to watch. I really need to start doing yoga again, and I can’t wait for the cooler weather so I can go outside and walk…without suffering a heat stroke 10 minutes in…

I had a gym membership, but have since cancelled it due to Covid. And living in South Central Texas is its own special form of torture. The summers are starting earlier and lasting longer and getting hotter. We recently set up an easy up with our furniture under it to keep them cooler, and an inflatable pool in the front yard. Gotta do what ya gotta do.

While we await school, while I look for stay at home work, and while my husband risks his health every single day, we hope you all stay safe. Wear your masks. Wash your hands. Stay socially distant. Be healthy.

It’s Almost July…

I still haven’t read a new book. I am still working regularly. I’m still wearing my mask when I go anywhere.

It’s almost July, though. And the outlook hasn’t improved. In fact, by all reports, it is getting worse. People are protesting the use of masks. People are protesting closures. People are fighting to get a haircut or go to a bar. And then they are testing positive for Covid, and are genuinely confused. Because according to leaders, it is just like the flu. It isn’t dangerous. It will pass. You will be immune. We will reach herd immunity and then it will all be okay.

Unfortunately, that isn’t what the science shows. Unfortunately, you can get it more than once. Unfortunately, it isn’t like the flu. Unfortunately, people are dying at a rapid pace. Unfortunately, people who don’t wear the face masks are the ones causing all the problems.

What is the correlation between those who are fighting against masks and those who fight against vaccines? I wonder. What is the correlation of spreading the disease in relation to hoping to reach herd immunity? How are those people feeling when they get their kids and elderly relatives sick and hospitalized? When they require breathing treatments? When they suffer strokes or an abominable version of multi-systemic organ failure?

Why has 2020 been a giant dumpster fire? What is it about THIS YEAR?? Between the Covid cases, the previously mentioned world disasters….and earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, a Godzilla Saharan Dust Storm, uncertainty in regards to schooling, in regards to safety, in regards to travel, in regards to socializing, in regards to life in general…This year has just been a $h!t$h0w…

While I have been working hard to maintain some level of normalcy for my family, I have been experiencing “Quarantine Burn Out”…When the mental load of parenting, the anxiety of every single day piles up, and the emotional stress of dealing with all the issues being presented without break all collide, they cause this burn out. It is a real thing.

I used to use this blog to do book reviews. Hopefully, soon, I can get back to that. In the meantime, share with me your book suggestions, reviews, to be read list, favorite authors, and other ideas on how to pass the time without losing my mind. 🙂

WHAT IS HAPPENING??

Happy 2020, y’all.

If you haven’t noticed, it has been a train wreck of a year!

I started out the new year with hopes of reading 52 books and writing 52 reviews. I believe I have three under my belt. When the Covid thing started, I got stressed out and anxiety prevented focus, forbidding me to read much of anything.

So, I will tell you about how my year has been. January was decent. I mean, besides the attempt at WW3…Nice and cool. Child’s birthday. Travel plans. Nothing big. Nothing fancy. Just calm and fun.

February, I finally was able to grab up a job. A decent one. Doing fun stuff. In a fun place. It is outside work, which in Texas, could mean sweltering temperatures and hot winds. However, the location makes the breezes quite lovely, and the ponds keep us a few degrees cooler. And all the tropical plants provide shade for us. Meanwhile, Australia caught fire, and it would not let up. Animals died. People died. Land was wiped clear.

March came, and with it, Spring. Also, Spring Break! Our business opened. I had a friend in town visiting, and absolutely loved spending every second with him, traveling down memory lane and embracing new information about one another. True friends since high school. (Here is hoping he feels the same 🙂 )

I started working more frequently, putting in time cleaning, organizing, and rearranging things at my work, making them more effective. Making the workplace more cohesive and more functional. Making the outside more beautiful than it already was and updating the course with new paint and new items.

We  spent a glorious week in the warm Texas sun. Then Covid invaded Texas and the governor shut down the state. It started with a slow shut down, then quickly ran into “all places of business that are not necessary”, which means entertainment sources, and places of gathering. So. Then we were home. Home. All the time. Schools closed. Businesses closed. Bars closed. Movie theatres, Old Navy, Michaels. everything. We started “distance learning” the kiddo. My husband stil had to go to work, because he is an “essential worker”, working at a grocery chain.

Soon, we were all required to wear masks in public. Very apocalyptic. Very scary. I began making masks for essential workers, because I needed to feel useful, and I needed something to take up my time. Close to 300 later, and people are still asking for them. I have made some for family and friends, and even the neighbors. However, fabric sales are backed up and expensive. I ordered fabric from Michaels weeks ago, and am still waiting. I ordered elastic, and who knows when it will be here. Thankfully, I had enough to get through the worst of it with.

Being at home regularly would probably afford me the time to clean and organize, and spend so much time with my kid, but for me, all it did was make me sleepy. I was not active. I was not moving. I was not motivated. I was not rushed. I had no expectations upon me. I had no requests upon me. I had to figure out something that worked for me. Occasional outings to the park or to work, allowed me the outdoor sunshine and separation from people that we needed, and allowed us to be active (at least more active than before). Necessary visits to the grocery store, and pick up runs to Target were special treats. We played Pokémon Go on our phones. While we were working within our community to play, we stayed in our bubble (our car).

It has been a few months now, and we still wear masks. We still practice excessive hygiene. We still disinfect. We still wash clothes with a vengeance.

April was spent in pajamas. On lockdown. Doing nothing. Watching tv. Playing video games. Playing board games. Bored.

May rolled around and a few restrictions were lifted. More and more were lifted. And soon, we experienced a new issue: murder hornets. WHAT?? Yes. From Asia. I mean. Come. On.

May rolled into June and we had a few things go down in that time: Yellowstone started h having earthquakes, seeming to wake the sleeping giant super volcano, with scientists and volcanologists competing for more reputable information on differing sides of “will it or won’t it…”; a regular rich, white guy bought NASA (basically), built a rocket and sent some dudes named Bob and Doug to the ISS; Asian Tiger Mosquitoes; West Nile Virus; Racism on an unprecedented scale; Riots and Protests; Exposing all the bad.

June. And now we have Tropical storms, hurricane threats, more racism.

2020 Really trying to outdo itself around EVERY corner.

 

How has your year been? Let me know in the comment section. How are you handling your quarantine? What hobbies or projects have you taken on? Been reading? Tell me about the books you have been reading. Tell me what is on your TBR pile.

Where is the baby?

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

In case you have never heard of the author:

Lapena is a multi-novel thriller writer. She resides in Toronto, Canada. She has been on the NYT bestseller list, as well as the UK Sunday Times bestseller list.

In case you have never heard of the book:

Anne and Marco are the ideal couple, with a new baby. They are typical parents: tired, paranoid, and in need of some time as adults. They accept an invitation to dinner next door, and check on the baby religiously.

When something happens to the baby-the parents are the first on the list of suspects. The detective digs in, finding secrets well buried, and uncovering the truth about the ideal couple.

In case you wondered what I thought:

This book was bland. While it was easy enough to follow, the details were lacking and it just felt like someone gossiping about someone else. It was slow, simply because it was a little tiresome…BUT, I DID want to find out what happened to the baby and how everyone was linked in the end.

Overall, may recommend. May not. Depends on the mood of the reader asking.