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Bring on the Swaps

I am having a ridiculous amount of fun with the Bookish Valentine Swap. So much fun I’ve decided to do several more swaps for bloggers throughout the year. I’ve also had folks contact me who are generally sad they missed the cut off day for swaps. I thought I’d show you what I have planned for the year. My goal is to post two weeks before the swap begins and allow a full two weeks of signup. However, to participate you must have a blog and the swap will be capped at 50 people. More details will follow as we closer to swap time (details of signup, hashtags, parameters, etc…). For now let me know, just for fun, what tickles your fancy:

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autumn buttonI’m excited! Let me know what you think!

List Love: Ten Things I am Anticipating with Eager Delight

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  1. Finishing The Secret Rooms tonight. My plan is to squirrel myself away when the kids go to bed and read.
  2. Dinner. I’m making Thai Spicy Noodles with baked tofu. I love that I get to put stuff on my noodles tonight. Avocado, hot sauce, a squeeze of lime juice, cilantro, and tons of basil.
  3. Finishing Atticus’s Rainbow blanket. Just a half-skein to go. I would be finishing tonight, but I need to read like a mofo.
  4. Getting my hair done on Thursday.
  5. Baking cupcakes this weekend for Persy. We decided to just do a little birthday party with the five of us and I’m making cupcakes for us to enjoy.
  6. Hanging out with Sam on Saturday night. We’ve decided that when the kids go to bed on Saturday night that’s going to be date night. Even if we don’t go out we are going to abandon homework and art (Sam) and reading and yarn-playing (Me) for time together. We don’t talk about bills or mundane things. It is nice to just sit and have conversations like we used to before we had kids (uninterrupted).
  7. Shopping for my Bookish Valentine person. I mailed one book straight from a website today and will be sending part two soon. First I must fill my parcel with nerdy goodness!
  8. Babies. I know three folks about to pop and I am so ready to get some squishy baby cuddles and give some baby gifts.
  9. Embroidery. I’ve decided to do an embroidery project once the blanket is done. I’m itching to try something new.
  10. Sitting in the car. Hope is in track. Sam is in college and working odd hours at the Boys and Girls Club. We have one car. I’m spending a fair amount of time sitting in the car and waiting for folks to be done. It kinds of rocks. I am able to fit in so much more reading time. In fact, I’m about to head to track practice and read for a bit. #winning.

What are you looking forward to in the near future?

The Man of Property by John Galsworthy

I have such a hard time writing about books I love. I want to just gush, but I will try my very best to be cool and objective and persuade you to read John Galsworthy. The Man of Property has a thrilling plot: marriage, scandal, death, lies…. but, the novel is about so much more. This is a novel about the ramifications of a dying Victorian England.

Steeped in Victorian values of property and propriety, the large Forsyte family is not adapting very well to modernity. Crumbling class structures, the infiltration and acceptance of “nobodies”, and an increasing desire for female independence in marriage and voting undermine the Victorian ideas of property so precious to a Forsyte. The ever-practical Forsytes are collectors and owners and find their value in society by what they claim as theirs. Property is everything to a Forsyte.

“When a Forsyte was engaged, married, or born, the Forsytes were present; when a Forsyte died — but no Forsyte had as yet died; they did not die; death being contrary to their principles, they took precautions against it, the instinctive precautions of highly vitalized persons who resent encroachments on their property.”

The tension of this novel stems from one of the most Forsyte-like of the Forsytes: Soames. Soames is stern and practical, but his ideas of property extend from china figures, homes, and carriages to things that one cannot truly own. He wants Irene —  a beautiful, but penniless orphan — and succeeds in marrying her, but he cannot OWN her love. He marries her, he controls her, he even *spoiler alert* rapes her, but he cannot own Irene’s heart. Irene despises Soames and the some of the most gorgeous and haunting writing I have ever read occurs when Galsworthy describes Irene.

soamesSoames also desires to own Art. He collects pictures and paintings and files them away for his eye only. His joy is in calling these works “his” and not necessarily about basking in beauty. He commissions a young architect, Bosinney, to build him a large and impressive house in the country, which Soames fully intended to function as Irene’s gilded cage. Instead Bosinney captures Irene’s heart, but with dire consequences.

The Man of Property (and the interlude Summer of a Forsyte) is the first novel in The Forsyte Saga.

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~~~ Stats ~~~

Started: 16 January 2015

Finished: 23 January 2015

Pages: 342

Challenges: Back to the Classics – 20th Century Classic

Owned/Borrow/Library: From my stacks

Stars: Five out of Five

New to me? Reread

Introducing Food Friday!

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I’ve been on Weight Watchers since December and I’m about ready to throw-in the towel. I’m over 300 pounds and at this point I really need a healthy way to lose weight. I’ve done my research and I think Weight Watchers is sound in ideology and science, but a bit faulty in their execution.

Let me explain.

I love the concept of points. The healthier the food the less points I have to spend. I love this as it truly makes me think about what I eat and almost makes it like a game. My problem is the “diet industry” side of things. I most likely will not renew my membership when it expires in February. Sure, I’ll do the online version as the app is marvelous, but the meetings are starting to piss me off. The meeting leader is super sweet. In fact, all the ladies seem super sweet and dedicated. My problem is that I am a plant-based vegetarian who loves to cook. The first half of the meeting is filled with ridiculousness. All the folks go around sharing processed items, meal-hacks, and other strategies for low-point eating. I love to cook and I don’t get the same satisfaction from processed treats and I like my food to be free of chemicals I cannot pronounce. Sure, Frankenfood every once in a while, but eating nothing put aspartame-filled yogurts and chemical filled sweets is not for me.

I was ready to give up Weight Watchers for good, but then I decided to take it as a challenge. I believe I can lose weight in a healthy way while enjoying coffee with real creamer, vegetarian and vegan dishes, baking cakes and cookies, and using a minimal amount of processed foods. A challenge!

I considered creating another blog for this challenge, but I don’t have it in me to maintain different sites, hence Food Friday on Fig and Thistle. Each week I’ll discuss goals and challenges and share some of my favorite meals from the week. I’ll be using my Instagram account heavily; expect lots of pictures of what I’m eating with the point value.

My big goal? Hitting my 10% weight loss (-31 goal by April 30th). Thus far I’ve lost -2.2 pounds. That’s just over a 2 pound a week loss and completely doable.

I’m tired of seeing desperate women stuffing themselves with tiny air-puffed snacks for the sake of skinny. I’m sick of hearing folks drone on and on about “protein.” I want to lose weight, yes, but because I want to be healthy, active, and buy ironic teeshirts that fit. There you are… the truth. I’m going to show them that this can be done.

*fist pump*

On Being an Addict

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This morning Sam and Hope are taking the kids to the park so I can have a little bit of writing time. Today is a big day for me and a day I celebrate every year. Today I celebrate my 17th year of being methamphetamine free. I don’t think I’ve ever blogged about being an addict although I know I’ve mentioned it. Now feels like the right time to talk about addiction and to share some things I’ve learned along the way.

17 years ago. January 19th 1998. I was 17 years old. It was my dad’s birthday. I hadn’t bought him anything because I’d used most of my money buying a quarter bag of meth the night before and some mini-thins. I’d do a line or two of meth every four hours with mini-thins interspersed. My heart thumped with great big thumps. My skin crawled. I still bear the scars from where I would dig into my skin. My hair was greasy and lank. Many don’t know this, but when you are using meth it is very hard to keep clean. Even bathing every day doesn’t help. Your hair and skin stay oily and gross. Looking back it was probably from all the toxins coursing through my body. You also don’t sleep. By my estimates I hadn’t slept in 10 days. This could be wrong — I was strung out on meth I could have slept and not remembered — but I am pretty sure it was 10 days. I had gone to several parties and I had worked several shifts at the local pizza joint.

I came home and my parents were angry with me. I had a dog I loved, Prissy, and she had gotten out again and they were tired of dealing with her while I was off doing whatever. They told me to put my dog in the pen out back and I think I said no and back talked and they were going to get rid of the dog or ground me or something like that. I can’t really remember what started the argument. Something normal and silly and typical of teenagers and parents. This night it turned into something more. I told my parents I had drugs and I was leaving home — again — and I would find a way to stay with my dealer so they didn’t have to deal with me any longer. I didn’t expect what was coming next. My dad grabbed me and told my mom to call the police.

The police. Methamphetamines increase paranoia in the user. I cannot even number the nights I spent crouched on the ground, belly down, peering through the blinds and thinking every single car was an undercover drug cop car. I cannot tell you the number of times I endured or witnessed physical and sexual violence or had money stolen from and did not report it because it would bring the police. I did drugs in homes with neglected and possibly abused children and frowned on the parents but did nothing to stop it because it would bring the police. When my parents said they were calling the police I snapped.

What happens next is a blur. I know that I was on the ground. I know that I was hitting, kicking, and biting. I bit my dad’s hand so hard it ripped open. I told them I was going to kill them. I was going to kill everyone and myself. If my dad hadn’t held me down I probably would have tried to kill my parents. I did all of this in front of my little brother and sister. My sister, Becky was a little younger than Hope is now (about 13). My little brother, AJ, was not yet ten years old. They saw all of it. My screaming and raving. The violence. They ran next door and got a neighbor who helped hold me down until the cops arrived. I’ve never managed to repair the relationship with my sister. We get along, but it is strained and will probably always be like that. My sweet baby brother bore the brunt of the trauma. That episode scared him so much and I have never forgiven myself for the anguish that nine-year old little boy endured.

At first the cop thought I was an out of control teen who needed to cool off. Then he found the drugs in my purse. I was booked that night at the Hall County Detention Center on charges of Possession of Methamphetamine, Assault, two counts of Battery, and Terrorist Threats. Five felonies. I was booked as an adult and the youngest person in the jail with exception of Pearl Weaver who was awaiting a trail for murder. I was in the Hall County Detention Center for 52 days and served four years of felony probation. Thanks to a judge who scared the living crap out of me (thanks, Judge Fuller) and my family refusing to bail me out I was sufficiently too scared to go back to meth. I was able to plead under First Offenders, which meant that my record was sealed and I could retain all of my rights with the exception of owning a fire arm (smart law).

That was my arrest and jail time and, obviously, one of my darkest episodes in my life. I want to take this time to address something important before I move on:

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It should be noted that in November of 1997 I tried to move back home and get clean. My liver count was off and I had to be tested for hepatitis C. Luckily I didn’t have hep C, but I had damaged my liver. This is after less than a year of drug use. I didn’t even use drugs until the spring of 1997. I had to pay for the doctor and the testing myself because I had no medical insurance. I also tried to check myself into rehab, but guess what? No insurance. I was also a 17-year-old girl. They had programs for adults and programs for teen boys, but no local services specialized in teen girls with addictions. When I tried to check myself into rehab I was told that I was probably just experimenting and I needed to behave. I also find it troubling that my public defender and everyone associated with the case showed no concern that I was a 17-year-old girl with a 33-year-old alcoholic boyfriend (ewww) who up until a year ago was a governor’s honors program nominee, an honors student, and a member of the academic team. There was not even the pretence of getting me into rehab. The lesson of the story is that health insurance and access to mental health care matters SO VERY MUCH.

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Okay, so I get released from jail and I never use meth again and everything is wonderful *throws confetti*

Nope. That isn’t at all what happened. I didn’t do meth, but I was — AND STILL AM — an addict. I used LSD for a time because it doesn’t show up in a drug screen. I engaged in many risky, degrading, and meaningless sexual relationships. I “straightened up” when I got pregnant with Hope. At that point in time I quit using drugs hard drugs, smoking, and drinking. To everyone else I appeared okay and I had “beaten addiction.”

Nope. Still an addict. I gained 75 pounds within the first year of quitting meth and I continue to struggle with emotional eating. I had a suicide attempt in college. I am still a cutter. Yes, I am a cutter. The last time I cut was last summer. I usually go about 6 to 8 months and then relapse. I am an addict and I will continue on the cycle of wanting to replace addictions for the rest of my life

So how do I manage?

In the words of Mad Eye Moody, “constant vigilance.” I don’t keep alcohol in the house and indulge in a drink or two only socially and about once a year. I refused to take Xanax for anxiety and instead spent many years taking the non-addictive Risperdal for my anxiety. After my c-sections with Atticus and Persy Sam had to confiscate my Percocet. I found myself wanting to take them to relax and sleep. I have continued conversations with Sam about what to do if I ever started using again. I confess when I hurt myself and work to not keep razors or sharp knives around.  I won’t watch Breaking Bad or Intervention because I still crave drugs. I have honest conversations with Hope about my past and emphasize that between my drug addiction and her bio dad’s alcoholism she will have a higher tendency to addiction. Her friends may be able to drink or use recreationally, but it is almost sure to be more difficult for her to resist addiction.

I’m sure this sounds bleak or hopeless, but it isn’t. It is honesty. I think we can look at people like Philip Seymour Hoffman and realize that even after 23 years of sobriety things can turn ugly very quickly. The more honest conversations we have about addiction the better. Sure, I am married to a wonderful man, I have three marvelous kids, a job I love, a college degree, friends, and my idea of partying now consists of drinking coffee after nine at night. BUT…. but… but…. my genetics point to addiction and scientists increasingly believe that drugs rewire the brain and impact the body in ways we are only beginning to understand. 

My belief in Jesus has brought me comfort and relief from addiction, but probably not in ways you imagine. I’d like to say that Jesus will just wipe out my tendencies to addiction, but my addiction is a medical disease. If being a Christian meant you wouldn’t be an addict, then that would be like saying that Christians can’t have cancer or clinical depression or other illnesses. Instead my belief in Jesus helps me get through the rough patches. The root of my use is in my inability to love myself. Any addict could tell you stories of regret, guilt, and self-loathing. Jesus loves me even when I’m a terrible person, even when I’m hurting myself, even when I give up on wanting to live. Knowing that someone loves me even when I am at my most broken, even when everything seems dark, even when I am so choked with regret, pain, and loneliness is amazing. I don’t deserve this family, or this drafty apartment, or this cup of coffee… or my life. I’ve done so much wrong and so many bad things, but Jesus loves me like I love my children: constantly and consistently. I know at the end of the darkest of days that there is light and hope and peace and I rest easy in that.

The struggle is real, but I’m not alone and that means everything.

The Semi-Attached Couple and the Semi-Detached House by Emily Eden: Virago Project Book 1

Collage image used with permission from fleurfisher.wordpress.com Thanks, Jane!

Collage image used with permission from fleurfisher.wordpress.com

Together in one volume, Emily Eden’s The Semi-Attached Couple and The Semi-Detached House can best be described as the non-thinking woman’s Jane Austen. That sounds like a criticism, but it really isn’t. Please take that description at face value. Emily Eden is a contemporary of Austen and that really shines through in the plot of the novels. books are both very predictable, so I’ll give the briefest of plot overviews.
The Semi-Attached Couple concerns a young woman (Helen) who marries a self-absorbed ass (Lord Teviot) at a young age. He loves her and she loves her family and he is insanely jealous. Somehow it all ends very nicely and predictably.
The Semi-Detached House is a marriage plot novel. Young wealthy wife befriends lower-class family. Matchmaking and marriages occur and everyone is happy and paired off at the end.
There is one reason and only one reason to read both of the Eden novels: Emily Eden can write snobby, villainess like no-one’s business. Lady Portmore of the first book and – to a lesser extent – Baroness Sampson of the second novel are ridiculous. Gossipy, flirtatious, conniving, and wicked these women are a delight to read. They aren’t truly villainesses as they have no power over the plot, but it is amusing to read ridiculous quips.
On the whole I give the books three stars. I truly enjoyed the secondary characters and the books have some charm, but they lack the depth and artistry of Jane Austen.

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~~~ Stats ~~~

Started: 02 January 2015

Finished: 15 January 2015

Pages: 543 (total, I combined both books)

Challenges: Virago Project #1, TBR #1, Back to the Classics – Humorous Classic

Owned/Borrow/Library: From my stacks

Stars: Three out of Five

Works in Progress: 14 January 2015

works in progressJust popping in to say I am almost done with the rainbow blanket. Atticus is thrilled. So far it is measuring slightly over 3 feet x 3 feet and my goal is for it to be closer to 4×4. One last skein of rainbow yarn and then a half-skein of black.

I originally thought that this blanket would one Atticus would grow up with, take to college, and use in his first apartment. The plan was for the blanket to have alternating rounds with more muted shades of red, green, yellow, orange, blue, and gray. However, when a four old requests a blanket that looks like rainbows he means RAINBOWS.

This will be a smaller blanket for TV time and snuggling with lovies and books. I’ll make that more dignified blanket when young sir hits double digits.

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GOAL: Finish blanket by Sunday night.