Me Before You – Jojo Moyes

Moyes is a talented author whose skill is easily seen in the novel Me Before You.

A book review of Me Before You. Moyes writes a heartbreaking love story that will make you crave a second novel, and stat! (Fortunately, yes, there is a second novel. And a movie.)

A review:

Me Before You was crafted very well – unfortunately, it was the kind of book that rips your heart out and stomps on it. The kind of book that makes The Fault in Our Stars look happy. Me Before You follows a C5-6 quadriplegic (William Traynor a.k.a Will) and his caregiver (Louisa Clark a.k.a Lou).

Lou is a carefree, unique personality who brightens the lives of those around her. Will is glum and depressed, trapped in his wheelchair after an accident that reduced his “big” life into something much smaller. I can’t tell you too much more about the story without revealing too much, but I will say that it is a romance novel.

Moyes has crafted a novel that is hard to put down, one that sticks with you even when you aren’t reading it. A novel that blurs the lines of novel versus reality, because the novel is just so real to the reader.

Oh, and a brief warning, this novel can be triggering. There is a short flashback scene that is fairly intense, and the content of the novel is on a very serious matter. Read with caution, but enjoy the story.

Punderdome

While I have listed Punderdome under the book review section, it is not a book – it is a game. It is listed under the book review section because it came from the site I get my review books from.

Review - a card game in which you make puns. Worst pun wins!

I pulled out this card game to play with my in-laws. They usually love games, and play them regularly, so I thought this would be a hit. Rarely am I so utterly and completely wrong.

The game was too difficult.

You’re given a short time period to come up with a pun based on two word cards. For instance, we were given the cards “soup” and “sorority” – someone came up with the pun, “alpha-beta-soup”. That was the only worthwhile pun conceived during the short time we played this game.

Everyone was complaining about how awful the game was, saying it was good that I got it for free because if I hadn’t, I should ask for my money back. They thought I should return it (even though it was free) because it was so “awful”. Several days after playing, they still refer to “that game” and how nothing could compare (to how awful it was).

I was disappointed, but not in the game.

There were some moments when puns people came up with were tears-down-your-cheeks funny, and it was hard to stop laughing at how stupid the puns were. I was disappointed because the players had decided the game was awful, and were not going to give Punderdome a chance. The game takes some getting used to, but I think that with enough time, it could be much more enjoyable.

Yes, the time limit is far too short. Yes, it was very difficult. However, there were funny parts. The players I was with kept getting stuck on the fact that there were far too many times they came up blank. Far too many times they didn’t have an answer and ran out of time.

If you decide to try this game, make sure that your players are pun-loving – but most of all, make sure they are patient. Very patient. This is the kind of game that takes a lot of frustration before you adapt. With the people I’m usually surrounded with, there won’t be many opportunities to play this game – because there is probably only a small, select group of people who would actually enjoy playing Punderdome.

Best of luck.

 

Disclaimer: I received this game from Blogging for Books for free in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

5 Challenges Associated with Mental Illness

As you may or may not know, having a mental illness – especially a severe one – comes at a high cost. It can cost you relationships, jobs, sometimes even your life. Having a mental illness is not easy. It’s a difficult path that we are forced by our own minds to take. That’s why I’m writing about the challenges you may not even realize exist for people with mental illnesses.

Like every illness, mental illness makes life more difficult. It's not easy to live as an outcast or freak, but those aren't the reasons listed. These are five challenges that people with mental illnesses suffer that healthy people don't have to worry about.

Being ‘Open & Honest’:
  • There is usually a point in someone diagnosed with a mental illness’ life when they need to explain their situation. It may be in order to explain strange behavior. It may be simply for the sake of being open and honest. Or maybe it’s to keep a job, due to absences or other problems. Explaining that you have a mental illness is scary. You don’t know how that person will react. Will they laugh at you? Maybe walk away? What if they tell someone else what you told them? There are so many questions and doubts that attack when you decide to tell someone what is going on. That relationship or job may be lost.
Challenges with Day to Day Life:
  • Acting normal may not sound challenging, but when you hear voices or see things that aren’t there, it’s definitely a struggle. I fought my own mind all the way through school so I wouldn’t be a labeled a freak. Friends were kept in the dark about the fact that I took medicines, and I had to hide or explain away any strange behaviors. I had very few friends because the more people there were, the more people I had to hide my illness from. It’s not just a problem with school, either. Think about your job, and all of the people you work with. Think about your neighbors. Consider the people you see every day. Could you hide strange behavior from all of those people? I became reclusive because the struggle was too much for me.
Added Responsibility:
  • Going to the doctor without anyone knowing is difficult, especially if you have a social life or work. Yes, you can tell your boss you have to go to the doctor, but how many times can you take off work to go to the doctor without explaining why? I had some challenges getting time off work, and I was most definitely not wanting to explain why I had to go to the doctor once a month. Depending on the severity of your illness and/or the effectiveness of your medicines, you may have to go to the doctor more or less often than once a month. After taking time off to go to the doctor, your boss may not want you to take time off for other things, either. Even though I was only working part time, we would work around 30 hours a week, and sometimes only got one day off. We worked irregular hours, and might get called in on short notice. People were in and out, working one day, quitting the next. It was hard to get any time off, especially regularly.
Even More Responsibility:
  • Taking medicines is a section on its own, because there’s so much involved. You have to have insurance to cover the medicines, because they are usually very expensive. You have to be able to get to the doctor regularly (and be able to pay for it), because they won’t keep refilling prescriptions without you seeing them. Then you have to remember to take pills as prescribed (or get a shot – eek!) and suffer from the side effects of them. Most of them make you gain weight, or make you sleepy. Some of them cause headaches, or dizziness. You don’t know what a medicine will do to you until you start taking it – and when you get awful side effects, you may not be able to get in to see the doctor right away in order to change it. Oh, and we can’t forget – there are people who find out that you take medicines, and tell you that they are unnecessary. They tell you to use natural remedies, or to pray until God heals you. While I believe prayer works, I also believe that sometimes, God says, “no”. Remember Paul and the thorn in his side – 2 Corinthians 12:8-9. Don’t risk your health because of the words of someone who has no idea what they are talking about.
Fitting In:
  • Did I mention socializing is exhausting? Being very careful about everything you say or do while you are with someone who doesn’t know about your illness really takes a lot of energy. I avoid social contact with people who don’t know about my illness as much as I can, but I still have to go places. I can’t hide all of the time. I’m very blessed that my small social circle knows about my illness and still accepts me for who I am.

 

Maybe understanding what challenges someone with a mental illness goes through will help those without an illness be more understanding. Well, this girl can dream.

Reducing Stress: Making Your Relationship Stronger

Anyone in a serious relationship can definitely tell you that the interaction between his or herself with their loved one can be stressful. Cortisol, the stress hormone, inhibits and can even shut down the frontal lobe of the brain. When cortisol does so, it hinders or temporarily halts “… appropriate behavioral responses to external and internal stimuli.” (Buchsbaum, 2004). That means that the mirror neurons involved in mimicking a smile, receiving a kiss, etc. might not function correctly. As just one potential example, can you imagine going in for a hug – but instead of the usual response you get the cold shoulder? Of course, I am referring to times when this would not be a typical reaction (i.e. when your partner is mad at you.)

When a mental illness is already on the relationship playing field, an unexpected reaction to stimuli has a greater potential of occurring. Adding cortisol to the mix can make things even more difficult. If you plan on being involved for the long haul (and even if you don’t) it is definitely beneficial to learn to make your relationship stronger.

My husband and I dated for 4 years, were engaged for 4 months, and now have been married a year (at the first of next month). During that time, we have learned about each other and what it takes to make a relationship work. Yes, there is more to learn, but I thought I’d share some of what I’ve already learned with all of you.

My husband and I dated for 4 years. We were engaged for 4 months ... and now we have been married for a little over a year  - we've learned quite a bit together. Here are some of the things we've learned that were so important to the health of our relationship that we decided to share them with you.

 

Relationship Tips:
  • Budget together. When my husband and I first got married, he did all of the budgeting alone. I had no idea how much money was available and therefore was not watching what I spent very closely. We have recently started having a budget meeting at the end of each month for the next month (using Dave Ramsey’s Financial Plan Found in Total Money Makeover) and now I’m much more careful about spending. I’ve even come up with different ways to save money (like making homemade toothpaste). This is time we spend together, but it also helps our relationship because knowing where our money is going helps us get along and reduces stress about finances. Bonus: budgeting together helps build trust because you know where your partner is spending money and can agree on it.

 

  • Cuddle after sex. I cannot stress how important this is enough. My husband makes sure to spend time lying in bed with me after sex; as a result I feel loved and valued. If he did not cuddle afterwards, I would feel used and taken advantage of – because he wants my body and not me. Especially since my primary love language is physical touch, this speaks volumes to me. Even if your love language is something else, though – don’t just have sex and jump in the shower. Show your special someone that you love them for more than their body. Stay and cuddle for a short time. Someone I know just got married recently, and when the men left the room, one of the first things she asked me about was sex. She wanted to know if my husband left for the shower immediately after, too. If I could give any advice to any married couple, this would be it.
Don’t Forget:
  • Make sure your partner’s needs are being met. I try to regularly ask my husband if he feels loved. If your partner says no, ask them what you can do to make them feel loved. This helps you learn selflessness because you are showing concern for your partner and their needs.

 

  • Learn your partner’s love languages. This goes along with meeting your partner’s needs. Love languages tell you how your partner feels love, so you can better meet his or her needs. For example, my husband’s primary love language is quality time. I know spending time with him watching a movie or talking will make him feel loved.

 

  • Compromise on preferences. If your partner wants to do something and you want to do something else, try to come to an agreement about it. For example, if my husband wants to play a card game and I want to cuddle, I will play the game in exchange for cuddles. Sometimes I play extra games that were not required simply out of love for my husband – but I still get cuddles or whatever we agreed upon later. This does not mean require them to do what you want every time they want you to do something; it simply means that if you cannot come to an agreement otherwise, this is usually a good option. It should not be every time, though. It’s good to do things simply out of love, with no requirements.

My husband and I are far from perfect, and are most definitely still learning. Hopefully these tips will help you along your relationship journey, though.

Resources

Buchsbaum, M. S. (2004). Frontal Cortex Function. American Journal of Psychiatry, 161(12), 2178.

Self Therapy: Light-Up Flower Decorations

Mental illness (of course) comes with far too many symptoms, and if you are on psychiatric medicines, then you probably have side effects too. When symptoms get bad or you are stuck in your thoughts, it can be helpful to do something distracting. Crafts are great for this, because they involve thinking about what you are doing – not just mindlessly performing tasks. These flower decorations are easy, and yet still require enough attention to be able to distract one from what might be bothering them.

The fake flowers you can buy at craft stores are pretty, but it’s nice to spruce them up a little bit too. After acquiring some battery operated tea lights, I decided to make flower decorations out of them.

Do you need an interesting complement to your centerpiece? Are you in need of a simple craft to do? Maybe you just want to make a picnic special. Whatever your reason, these flowers are super easy to make and look pretty, too!

 

Time to make decorations:

The ‘doing’ part is really simple. Take the petals and leaves off the stems (fake flowers are what you want, so they don’t die) and hot glue them onto the candles. Make sure you cut a small hole in the bottom so you can turn the tea lights on when you’re finished making them (and off again later).

Note that different flowers come off the stems differently. For me, some of the flowers had a plastic piece I just had to peel off each petal. The others had a three layer plastic piece – I had to pull the entire flower off, then pull the top piece off, separate the two layers of petal, then remove the plastic between the petals and the one beneath. It sounds like a lot, it really isn’t, though. It just takes a lot of words to explain.

I hot glued the petals on the bottom of the candle (avoiding the on-off switch) and on the sides so you wouldn’t really see the candle (didn’t really work on the red flower – it had two layer petals and they were shorter than the purple).

For a little extra pizazz I glued the leaves from the flower stems beneath the new flower-candles.

These are really cute to use as decorations around a centerpiece.

Light Up Flower decorations look really nice around a centerpiece.

Have fun!

Miriam – Mesu Andrews

Miriam – Mesu Andrews

Miriam is focused on her relationship with El Shaddai, even to the point of exclusion of other things. In this review, you'll hear what I thought of Miriam and the story Andrews crafted for her.

First thoughts:

Initially, I was disappointed with the characters, especially Miriam. She seems very focused on herself and her relationship with El Shaddai – but then I realized that Andrews is actually doing a brilliant job of portraying Miriam like the Miriam in the Bible. From the little we read about Miriam in the Bible, she had her own self-interest at heart as well (which is why she was struck with leprosy). Instead of creating likable characters, Andrews presents them realistically – whether we like them or not.

Andrews included a Bible verse to introduce each chapter, which I really appreciated. Unfortunately, Andrews quickly lost my attention. It was a struggle to read about a character that didn’t seem to grow very much. Miriam was self-absorbed throughout the book, concerned with the loss of El Shaddai’s presence. Everything else was an afterthought.

“Can you imagine losing your ability to see colors or taste the sweetness of honey? That’s a shadowy glimpse at the loss I feel at El Shaddai’s silence.” -pg 72

In the very last pages, Miriam finally learns that there are other ways to sense El Shaddai – Yahweh – but by that time I was so thoroughly annoyed with her that it didn’t matter too much.

Miriam was more on the historical side than the fiction side, which is probably why I didn’t like it more. If you are really into history, you would probably enjoy it much more than I did.

 

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Being Productive: Simple Chowder

With a mental illness, it can sometimes be difficult to even get out of bed. Work or school can easily fall by the wayside, and chores can quickly become neglected. The smallest task can involve more energy than it seems possible to produce. When days like these occur, being productive in even the tiniest way can bring hope and encouragement. This simple chowder is a good starting place for feeling (and being) more productive. Not only does it use up ingredients that otherwise would go bad, but it’s easy and gets dinner on the table fairly quickly. Did I mention it’s really yummy? You won’t be hearing complaints about dinner tonight! (Unless someone really doesn’t like broccoli and onions) … onward!

Do you ever have those days (weeks, months .. ) when you have ingredients that you need to use up for whatever reason, and just don’t know how to use them? That’s how this simple chowder was born.

My husband and I are moving soon, and I’m trying to empty the refrigerator and freezer, plus anything in the pantry that will rot or go bad. Translation: I had to use up some frozen homemade broth, onions, and fresh broccoli. Thus, chowder!

Simple chowder. Cheap and easy to make, delicious with homemade garlic bread.

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 large head fresh broccoli, chopped & steamed (or otherwise cooked)
  • 3 small onions or 2 large
  • olive oil
  • 2 1/2 c pork or beef broth (I used pork, but it was homemade)
  • 1 – 26 oz (family sized) can cream of mushroom soup
(seasoning to taste)
  • Creole seasoning
  • garlic powder
  • Italian seasoning
  • celery salt

Simple Chowder (1)

How to:

While cooking the broccoli using your preferred method, slice the onions in half from top to bottom and then slice into half-moons (again, top to bottom). Preheat a generous helping of olive (or other) oil in a cast iron pan or large skillet, and then add the onions. Stir frequently until they are soft and slightly browned, remove from heat a few minutes before they caramelize.

On medium heat, mix the mushroom soup and broth together. My broth was frozen, so I  had to heat them together before adding other ingredients. If your broth is already warm/hot, you can add everything and heat all ingredients together.

Do not boil. Turn off heat when small bubbles start to appear at the top of the chowder.

My simple chowder took about 30-40 min, prep and all, to complete.

Most importantly, enjoy!

 

Tip: this simple chowder is delicious with garlic bread. We didn’t have any, but a crusty bread would be perfect!