The Fog Comes on Little Cat Feet

I’ve started to feel different lately.

I’m not sure if its due to my efforts to have a cleaner, more organized home.

Or perhaps my dedication to leaving work on time and leaving work at work, including my laptop.

Maybe it’s the result of going to the gym on a regular basis.

I mean, I did power wash part of the pool deck this weekend. Maybe that’s it?

Slowly but surely this house is becoming clean, manageable, and little by little I attack the darkness and grime and clutter and my mind becomes clearer every day.

I look around and I’m actually proud of my efforts. I can say, “I did that” and know that I feel better because I did something. Maybe it’s washing the sheets or vacuuming the living room rug, or something as simple as grabbing a Lysol wipe and dusting the tops of everything until the wipe is used up.

Home is starting to feel like home and not just a place where I come to sleep and store my stuff.

My fridge is almost empty and my pantry half full, but only because I don’t have to store extra food to feel safe right now. Washing the inside of the fridge is something that is actually on my radar.

The toilets are clean.

I’m not sure what I’m trying to say with this post. Only just that over the past month or so I’ve felt like a fog is lifting. A thick, dark cloud that’s been choking me and smothering me for years is lifting. I am not sure which part of my new routines are contributing to it or if it’s just luck or age or hormones or whatever.

All I know is that I like how I’m feeling, and I want it to get even better. So I’m not going to stop. I’m gonna keep going to the gym and cleaning and organizing and writing and reading and living my life in a better way. I just hope it keeps getting better.

Fangirling

 

Today is the release date for King of Scars, the next book in the Grishaverse by goddess and queen Leigh Bardugo.

She’s one of the only authors that I will ever preorder a book from as opposed to waiting for it to arrive at the library. The hardcover should be arriving today while I am at work.

This new release, on top of the Netflix news about Shadow and Bone and Six of Crows, has made my January one of my best book months yet.

If you need me I’ll be reading King of Scars.

Read. Be brave. Stay angry.

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Happy 3rd Anniversary! (2019)

Three years ago on January 27, 2016 I registered my blog on WordPress. I was working from home, and had the time to consider a non-work activity, I believe they are called ‘hobbies.’ The more I thought about it, I kept returning to reading. Being in college studies (Bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate) for so long restricted the reading I could do for pleasure. Perhaps I could use a blog to hold me accountable for reading more, for making reading for pleasure a part of my life again.

I took a trip back to find my first post. I posted only this once in February 2016, and once in March 2016. I began to make an effort to post once a week in May 2016, and by the end of the year I was posting 1-2 times a week on a regular basis and had read enough to make my first Angel Picks: Best of List.

My first review was actually a movie review!

My first book review was for The Expatriates by Janice Y.K. Lee.

If you’d like to see some of my first posts please visit my Goodreads page and sort my Read shelf by Year Read, or you can use the calendar on the right side of the website to click back in time. Reading some of those first reviews really showed me how far I’ve come, not only with my writing style but with my goals for this site as a whole. As we head into year 4, I want to thank all of you for reading and supporting me. You are my online family and I am so grateful. Happy Anniversary!

screenshot 2019-01-27 at 9.32.44 am

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Seller’s Market

We are now in the midst of the longest government shutdown in United States history. If you aren’t following it there are hundreds of thousands of workers who have now missed a paycheck. These workers are facing the hard decision of working without pay so they receive back pay, or possibly not being able to afford to get to work at all. And some federal agencies, such as the Food and Drug Administration and federal aviation technicians, are operating at such low levels that the lack of their usual services may cause actual physical harm to the population at large.

A story made its way onto my Twitter timeline last week. A woman affected by the shutdown had to pawn her wedding ring in order to pay bills or buy food or whatever her immediate needs were. But good news! Her family found out that she had done that, so they went and bought it back for her from the pawn shop! What a feel good story!

Luckily we are all much more critical consumers of media, and other Twitterites latched onto the fact that this was NOT in fact a feel good story. The fact that this woman had to pawn her ring at all was a travesty, and the fact that her family then had to pay what was probably a higher price than what she pawned it for to get it back for her seems terrible too, an act of charity that should not have been necessary.

I’ve been thinking about this story for the past couple of days, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on why the entire thing bothered me. What could have happened differently? If her family had the money to buy her wedding ring back, why hadn’t they just cut out the middle man and helped her directly? If her family felt close enough to help her in this way, why didn’t the woman ask them directly for help?

The more I asked myself these questions, the clearer the answer became. It’s an answer I’m all too familiar with, and anyone who has ever struggled financially, to the point where bills go unpaid in favor or groceries, or food waits so that you can buy gas to get to work to make more money in the first place. All of it is rooted in shame and isolationism.

The amount of shame that accompanies being poor in this country is overwhelming. People assume you are lazy, that you don’t have a job, that you aren’t trying hard enough to get a job, that you spend your money unwisely, that you are stupid, and that you are a leech or a thief among other things. To admit that you need money or other forms of assistance is to open yourself for these kinds of judgments, and they come swiftly and immediately. I can’t count how many times I berated myself instead of asking for help. There had to have been something I could have done differently, spent in a different way, made different decisions – but the heart of the matter is that when you are poor enough to necessitate help, the walls have closed in so tightly that your decisions are forced, choice doesn’t really exist anymore, and all is survival.

This shame breeds a kind of isolationism, both on the part of the poor in an effort to avoid mistreatment and judgment, but also on the part of family, friends, and society at large. We live in a society that emphasizes the idea that we should take care of our own, and mind our own business. Conservatism lauds keeping our money in our own pockets, lowering taxes and leaving the power of deciding what to do with our money to individuals. The problem is that it is human nature to be selfish and so a kind of hoarding mentality has taken over much of the population – people on welfare are seen as thieves coming to steal our hard-earned money. Why didn’t they work hard for their income like we did? Why should we have to give up what we earned to help them? They’ll just get comfortable leeching and then we’ll never get them off welfare! And so instead of reaching out to hold up everyone and lift them into a place where they are safe, housed, and fed, we screech that we got ours, and everyone else can go to hell.

We reach a point where a daughter can’t reach out to her parents for help, she has to pawn her belongings to hide her shame, even when that shame stems from a situation out of her control. And then, instead of knowing their daughter/sister/niece is a federal employee and reaching out to her to see if she needs help, they wait until it’s something they can fix for her and bring it back. They aren’t giving her money! They are getting her wedding ring back! She shouldn’t have to give up her wedding ring! The family got to choose how to spend their money without giving a handout, the woman made a decision how to get her money, and all is right with the world. Right?

Our culture punishes, shames, and actively damages the poor people in this country. To change how this particular story played out we would need to shift an entire national mindset concerning what it means to be an American. What it means to be a part of a society, part of a community.  We would need to understand that only when the least of us have the necessary income, housing, food, and opportunities are all people lifted up and their conditions improved. I think we did understand this marginally once (public services like schools, libraries, Social Security, the New Deal, etc), but the past 20-40 years have been a slow process of breaking it all apart again.

So a woman can’t ask her family directly for money. A woman can’t easily go to her community for help. A woman is expected to handle her own business. Then, if others discover what she’s chosen to do and disagree, they can swoop in, judge her actions, and then helping is okay because they are the heroes instead of just existing to make sure everyone has what they need to live. They know better and love to show you how, which only perpetuates the cycle of shame. No, this isn’t a feel good story. It isn’t a feel good story because it puts on display how our country works when we refuse to foster community and instead insist on divisiveness, scrutiny, judgment and shame.

I’m not really sure how to end this post. I want people to care, but I don’t know how to explain to people that they should. I don’t know how to explain caring to people that lack empathy. The fact that this lady had to pawn her belongings has roots in so many dysfunctions in our society that it’s honestly difficult to hold myself back from talking about them all at once. We all play a role in breaking or reinforcing these behaviors and beliefs, and it takes courage to face the very strong cultural norms that will fight back in resistance to change. Always choose compassion. Always choose to help. Choose to share. Choose support.

Read. Be brave. Stay angry.

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The Road Ahead

Welcome to 2019!

It’s hard to believe that we are already halfway through January when last year seemed to last ten lifetimes. But I am here with a few reviews under my belt already, looking ahead into the next couple of months.

I am going to explore new appearance templates for my site. I want to make it more visual – the book covers drawing your eye to a review – and I would like to have a section where you can click on a given tag (e.g. fantasy or series) and see the reviews linked to that category. So if you visit and notice that things look a little different, please pardon my dust as I rearrange and attempt to improve your experience.

January and February are going to be as full of reviews as I can make them. I’m reading a lot more than I was at the beginning of this school year now that I am settled into my new position. Between advanced reader copies and my trusty local library (with a few preorders coming in as well) it wouldn’t be unreasonable to be expecting about two reviews per week this month and next.

March is a very busy month. It’s the end of the third quarter of my school year, marking the end of new instruction and the beginning of testing season. I get a week off for spring break. My 36th birthday is in there. I’ll begin revising my book (I finished and printed the first draft! – see below) and continue writing my second. At the end of the month I’ll pack up my notebooks and extra tote bags to fly to Portland, Oregon for the 2019 AWP Writer’s Conference. I will be paying off the remainder of mine and the husband’s credit card debt. March is going to be a very good month.

The next three months are going to fly by. I’m reading, writing, organizing, cleaning, teaching, and keeping a better work-life balance so I can enjoy everything as much as possible. I’m moving forward with my writing and looking to take that professional path to the next level. Of course I will bring as much as I can to you here and on Twitter.

Have a great weekend!

Read. Be brave. Stay angry.

 

Resolutions 2019

For the past couple of years I haven’t really made traditional New Year’s resolutions. For me they do more harm than good when I don’t keep to them. This year I have some goals in mind, some that may take me the entire year to achieve, and writing them down will help me remember and stay focused.

I would like to continue the good exercise habits that I started in 2018. Both the husband and I have a gym membership, and on average we would go about 2-3 times per week. In December we even attempted to go every day from the 1st to the 24th, and although illness got in our way we went for 13 days straight. If I can do 13 days of treadmill in a row, I can do 2-3 days per week of treadmill with breaks in between, especially since the gym is right on my way home.

What I wear has expanded a bit with my increased cash on hand, and in 2019 I would like to explore more plus size options to find things that fit well and work for me. I am in love with my bootcut khakis from Old Navy and I’ll need to get a few more pair. My biggest clothing struggle is tops: I can’t wear the fun ones I like to work, but ladies tops fit me weird so I always default to men’s polo shirts of different colors. Maybe I can find some shirts that work for 2019.

My most ambitious goal is to keep work at work, and spend my time at home doing things I enjoy. Just before the winter break I began locking my work laptop up in my classroom instead of bringing it home, which made a huge difference. Most of the work stuff I do is available in the cloud so if I was really hooked on work-ahol I could log in from any computer, but my anxiety was getting so bad there in late November/early December that I listened to my body and decided to really cut things off when I leave for the day. I want to continue this habit into 2019.

For this website I want to just continue doing what I’ve been doing, but I’ll need to cut back on some of the rants and non-book essays. Technically I have the freedom to write whatever I want and have my own opinions, but the history of public education in this country is that it tends to require a more Puritanesque image from its teachers both on and off the clock. Even though it’s 2018 and my contract says I’m done at 2:30pm, kids and parents can still find me online, and what I do at 6:37pm on a Saturday evening can affect my work life because other people don’t understand boundaries and individual rights or that teachers are flesh and blood human beings with real lives that might involve politics and profanity.

I lost the goal in there – I think it was just to keep doing what I’m doing.

I am determined to finally meet my Goodreads challenge goal of 100 books read in a calendar year. The past couple of years I’ve made it into the 80s but this year I’m going to achieve that ultimate goal!

I’m going to finish my book. I really really really want to move on to the revising stage but I also want a complete first draft to pick apart. I’m working very hard to finish it up in this second week of my winter break, and if it doesn’t quite hit 100,000 words then that’s okay, as long as I feel like the story is complete.

I want to write another book this summer. Either book 2 of this series or another unrelated book. I have the best idea for an unrelated one but I don’t want to start it just yet. I already know that I can knock out around 60,000 words in about 8 weeks, so this summer I can’t wait to do the same thing.

Learning how to query and researching who to send my manuscript to will be a HUGE goal. I feel intimidated by this, but as long as I ask questions and know how to google it should come together.

The husband and I have also decided that as long as our landlord offers us renewal options, we’ll be staying in our current rental house for the next 2-3 years. With that in mind he and I have decided to rent a small storage unit and clear out our home to make it more livable in the long term. His office has been a glorified storage room that we want to clear out to make it a usable space. We’re going to go through our kitchen and get rid of the clutter that’s built up (all those extra mugs!). Plus, all the holiday decorations and things can be relocated from our closets to the storage unit so the closets can be used as intended.

I’ll be trying to improve on myself, my writing, my reading, and my home life this year. I wish you survival and happiness in 2019.

Read. Be brave. Stay angry.

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The Forest for the Trees

One of my favorite parts of the holiday season is decorating the Christmas tree. I went through my Google Photos to share with you our Christmas trees past and present.

When I moved to Indiana in 2008 I got  to spend Christmas completely alone and I picked out/decorated my own, real Christmas tree.

Tree 2008

I lugged this tree out to the dumpster in my shitty apartment complex all by myself. I am still proud of this tree and that is still one of the best Christmases I have ever had.

When I moved in with the husband in 2009 we bought a fake tree that traveled with us to Florida when we moved in 2010. I can’t find any pictures of that tree in our duplex in Indiana but here is one of it from 2010-2011 in our first apartment in Florida and the next is from either 2012 or 2013 in the shitty rat house we lived in two houses ago.

tree 2010

tree 2012

We moved again to be closer to the school where we worked and still had this tree. I couldn’t find my pictures of that, but I did find this picture of the husband and I from the photography class’s photo shoot at school in 2014.

us 2014

In 2015 we didn’t put up decorations because we spent the holidays in London, England.

I took this amazing picture. I was in no way terrified.

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In 2016 we invested in a 7 ft. pre-lit tree and did a Christmas tree extravaganza. Every Christmas tree we owned got decorated and displayed. Even the little one. I also did my first theme tree. That star acts like a disco ball and projects colors on the ceiling.

trees 2016

tree 2016

Last year, after a hurricane and losing my job and being so fucking poor I could have torn all my hair out, I made an amazing tree. 2017!

Maker:L,Date:2017-9-23,Ver:5,Lens:Kan03,Act:Kan02,E-ve

After a couple of years of ribbon we decided to go multicolor and garland this year. It was a little darker but the glittery ornaments really added something sparkly. We had enough this year to get new everything except for the discoball star. I’m not sure how I feel about the colored light option on the tree. We did this color theme to use them, but I want them to be brighter than they are. We put in a smart outlet so I just have to say “Hey google, turn on/off the Christmas tree” and magic happens.

tree 2018.jpg

Next year I’m going with white, silver, clear, and red – candy cane style. And I’m going back to the ribbon because I feel like it looks classier.

Looking back at all these pictures this year has showed me how much better things have gotten since we got married. 8 years of trees and they are all pretty and festive. So much bad has happened, but there has been a lot of good too. At least it’s been 2 steps forward, 1.75 steps back. Progress!

Happy Holidays!