Sounds of Silence

Be careful what you wish for because sometimes the sounds of silence are deafening.

Silence1.png

 

I have mentioned it a couple of times in the past how my oldest child corners me in the car and peppers me with questions. Some of them very difficult. Sometimes I dreaded the ride.

Since she started kindergarten this year, that car ride has been reduced from approximately 10 minutes to less than one. I now drop her off with a woman very near us who watches kids in the morning before they head off to school.

At first, I thought this would give me some time with my youngest. A few minutes in the morning for us to bond. She’s more reserved than her sister, and sometimes this can mean her sister overshadows her. However, my youngest daughter is NOT a morning person.

mornings1
Yeah, about like this.

 

So, while the occasional squirrel gathering nuts, dog being walked, or goose parade gets a comment, most mornings it’s just quiet. I’ll ask her questions, try to sing to her, and all I get is either a grumpy grunt or, “Walk away, momma!” That is her general response for leave me the heck alone, and is said in an angry, crabby toddler voice.

So, I let her have her quiet time.

Maybe once I get used to this, I can use the time to think through plots, characters, and story arcs. Or maybe I’ll use it as time to plan my day. Or maybe I’ll follow her lead and just use it as time to wake up.

Life so seldom works out the way you think it will. Who knew I’d miss questions about how big the earth is, why is the south pole colder than the north pole, and why boys don’t say excuse me when they fart?

boyfarts

But I do.

Kids are amazing, wonderful, horrible creatures that consume your writing time and make you worry. They are expensive and infuriating. And they’ll make your heart melt when they give you a card out of the blue telling you how much they love you.

It’s a wild ride, tumultuous and full of the unexpected. Like missing fifty questions in the morning.

 

How about you? Ever gotten an unexpected break from something and found you missed it more than you thought you would? Or maybe you think I’m crazy, and you were totally relieved to get a few minutes of peace?

Looking for Fantasy Romance Recommendations

I’m looking for recommendations for good fantasy romance novels.

enoughbooks

Okay, yes, I have a pile of Regency novels, but these aren’t my preferred genre. They are just easy to find.

I prefer high fantasy with elves, knights, dragons, wizards and the like. Though, at this point, I’ll take recommendations for anything.

Happily-ever-after is a must or it isn’t a romance novel.

I don’t care if it had graphic steamy scenes, but I’d prefer no graphic violence.

66dacbee5639277a8a7a3f98618ac03e
This is fine. I mean, it is fantasy.

I’ll even take something that fits this as a beta-reader or advanced copy reader and give an honest review in return.

Life Hack: Getting “Nuts” for Under $2

No, I’m not missing anything there. I really am talking about getting a protein packed “nuts” for under $2.

almonds-768699_640
Not these, though.

I haven’t been eating raw almonds in some years. They were always a specialty item in my area, and that meant I had to go to the specialty store or order them on Amazon. So, I went to order off of Amazon, because taking two children to a grocery is always such fun, when I learned they were more expensive than they were a few years ago. A LOT more expensive.

But, I ordered them anyway *sigh*

In the meantime, I decided to try a recipe from a long time back. It’s pretty easy, and you know if has to be if I’m going to bother with it.

 

chickpea-390706_640
Before.

What you need:

  • 1 bag of dried garbanzo beans (or chick peas – same thing).
  • Cooking spray
  • Garlic Salt to taste
  • Italian Seasoning to taste

Yeah, that’s it.

Here’s how you make these tasty treats:

  • Cook the garbanzo beans according to the instructions on the bag. (Yes, you can use the ones out of the can. They’re a lot more expensive, pretty mushy so they need to bake longer, and have a lot more salt in them. And yes, I tried them. Lazy Time constrained, remember?)
    • Mine had to be brought to a boil and simmered for 2 hours. Overnight soaking is optional, but so not happening in my house.

 

  • Preheat your oven to 425F
  • Once the beans are cooked, give them a few minutes to cool. No really, or you’ll end up with burned fingers. You just simmered them for two hours.
  • Dry off the garbanzo beans on a clean towel.
  • Spray a backing sheet with the cooking spray
  • Put the garbanzo beans on the tray, spreading them out
  • Spray the beans with cooking spray.
  • Seasons with your garlic salt and Italian seasoning. My husband like a little cayenne pepper added.
  • Cook the garbanzo beans in the 425F oven for 25 minutes. Check it. DON’T SKIP THIS. If they’re golden brown and crispy, take them out. If not, set for 5 minute increments until they are.
    • Not much is worse than setting the timer for 40 minutes, because that’s what it usually takes, only to find your batch blackened. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything…

Anyway, these are tasty, very portable, and very filling. Just be careful your first few times eating them. They are beans, after all, and beans have certain properties.

20170911_190713 - Copy
After.

This makes a good size batch of high protein, low fat snacks. I paid $1.79 for my 1lb bag of garbanzo beans that yielded a crap-ton of beans. Probably close to $25 worth of almonds, and they have no fat. I can also eat a lot more almonds than this snack because of the fiber in these. Seriously, fiber.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you about the fiber!

 

Any tricks or tips you have on healthy eating? Particularly low-carb high-protein? Always looking for tasty, reasonably-priced options!

 

Biological Link Between Fatigue and Pain

Yes, I manged to re-injure an old injury again.

3rrjrh

While I’m not really ready to discuss it, or what we’re going to do on a longer term to “fix” it, I did notice I’ve been exhausted during the ordeal. I mean really, really tired.

So, I started to wonder if there was a connection between pain and fatigue. I know I was in so much pain I was sweating. So, I thought there might be something there.

Turns out, there is.

I did a lot of searching through the internet, and while WebMd and eMedicine agreed with me, I tend to be skeptical of these sites.

Protein2

I kept digging, and I learned suffers of arthritis have known this for years. I’m not suffering from anything as severe as arthritis, thank goodness, so more digging. And the internet delivered. I found an article from the University of Washington Medicine: Orthopedics and Sports Medicine that lists pain right below disease as a cause of fatigue.

I know how tired I was when I had a cold, which is nowhere near the level of disease they are discussing, but pain did make the list. So I feel like maybe there is some vindication and science behind what I’m experiencing.

tired

More digging led to me to an article written by the University of Iowa. It goes into why pain causes fatigue, and why men suffer less than women from it due to a protein involved in muscle pain and how it worked in conjunction with testosterone. As men have significantly more testosterone in their system, this reduced the pain they feel.

Of course it does. We get labor, and they get reduced pain. Where is the justice?!?

But I digress.

Sadly, while this all tells me what I’m going through is normal, it doesn’t give any insights in how to manage it.

At this point, I figure the best plan is to listen to my doctor (as my husband drilled into my head) and rest. Really listen to my body. Pain response evolved for a reason, and that reason is usually to tell us to knock off whatever we’re doing because it injured us, and now the body needs us to do a certain thing so it can heal.

pain

This thing is usually rest, and for me, keep that injured area immobile.

Which is so hard when there is always so much to do.

Before I can anything, thought, I have to heal. “I am not going to rush this. Really.” I repeat to myself over and over again.

After I do heal, I need to find someone that can help me build an exercise regime a middle-aged desk jockey who has some underlying medical issues can still do without injury.

And I will. I want to be healthy and live to be there for my kids and husband. I will find a way.

 

Have you ever found yourself really tired if you’re in pain? How did you handle it? If you’re in less than pristine condition and have a workout routine, how did you develop it?

 

Far from Acheron, a Short Story by Jason H. Abbott — Aethereal Engineer

“Memfit, I died.” She rubbed her wrist, eyes wide as she found her once fair skin now a crimson color. “Yes. Yes you did, Mistress,” Memfit replied. “Humans are fragile, and a sword through the heart tends to do that.” Aireae looked up from her hand, her gaze meeting that of the foot tall blue […]

via Far from Acheron, a Short Story by Jason H. Abbott — Aethereal Engineer

Stress Toys for Kids?

We know stress is bad for creativity.

Turns out, stress is really bad for a lot of things, most especially your heart. Let’s remember that heart disease is the number one killer in the US for both men and women.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that some of the top “toys” of 2017 are actual stress relievers for kids.

stressball
On the top toys list…

I want you to think about that for a moment. Kids are so stressed, that top toys for Christmas are basically colorful versions of adult stress aides. In the top 20 toys, there are four different items that are designed to help reduce stress.

WTF?!? I mean seriously, when did it get to this?

Sure, yeah, I get it. Kids have never had an idealistic existence. Once upon a time, less than a hundred years ago (1938, to be exact. My skeptic wonders how much of that was to keep kids from taking adult jobs in the Great Depression rather than to protect kids, but I digress), poor kids worked to help support their families. Okay, poor kids worked so there was food on the table.

But in 2017 middle-class America, which is what these advertisers are marketing to, I was blindsided by seeing anti-stress balls marketed alongside “twins” for your child to play make-believe with.

I’m not entirely sure when this happened, but I shouldn’t be shocked. The most stressful years of my life were high school and college. I had to make excellent grades in high school to get into a good college.

standardized-test-meme-ecard

Being smart wasn’t enough. I was a poor kid and needed scholarships. And I wasn’t getting special treatment because my parents were alums anywhere. So, I had to be in sports, volunteer, find ways to make myself stand out.

I don’t remember there ever being a weekend where I had nothing to do. I’d try to get homework done on Friday night and Saturday morning so I could at least have Saturday night. It seldom worked. All this while making it through the coursework and trying to find my way through teenage hormones and a far less than ideal home situation.

stressed

But I did it, and then came college. Now everything was on the line. I wasn’t going to be working for the rich family I didn’t have (unlike some of my classmates), so every future employer was going to be looking at that GPA for the rest of my life. It didn’t matter that my grandmother died or I had a massive allergic reaction to something that almost closed my windpipe. I had classes to attend, projects to finish, and tests to take. All so I could get a job at the end to pay back the loans I still had to take.

Yeah, I remember those days. And not fondly.

Apparently, the stress on kids is starting earlier and earlier. I’m not entirely sure why.

Perhaps because 44% of American children are living at or near the poverty line.

No, I didn’t mistype that number. I actually looked it up several places to verify it. It shocks me. And it saddens me. To climb out of poverty, to try to focus on school and work when you’re hungry, maybe that’s why people are buying a stress ball for Christmas.

For the other 56%, some are saying it’s because kids are too busy. Parents are so focused on trying to give them what they’ll need to succeed, that kids aren’t getting any time for relaxation and play.

This feels a lot closer to what I’m seeing. Now that I have kids, I see how much of my life is taken up just getting them to where they need to be. Once at dance class, soccer, or swimming, the kids are now in organized activities with a whole new level of stress on them. How good am I at this sport or activity? Am I good enough to compete? What do I have to do outside of class to get good enough?

When I was a kid, we couldn’t afford such things. Frankly, only the rich kids in my schools ever did such activities. Now, it’s expected of parents to provide these enriching experiences.

All of this is before you add in the stress of trying to figure out things like how to put your dress on the right way each morning. How to make new friends on your first day of school. How to handle peer pressure. And everything else kids have always faced.

I know how I feel about this, but I’m not really sure what to do about it. Children aren’t mini-adults. They do so much learning through play. I worked my tail off and waited until later in lie to have them because I wanted to give my children a good life. Not a life that includes stress balls for 5-year-olds and high blood pressure medication when you graduate high school.

 

How about you? Have you seen this phenomena? If so, how have you addressed it?

 

Unique Birthday Gift Twist

This year, I’m attempting something different for both of my daughters’ birthdays. Rather than get them a pile of store bought stuff they’ll love opening, play with, and forget, I’m trying to be a bit more thoughtful.

They each usually get one larger present. One year, this was magna-tiles. Who knew magnetic plastic could be so expensive?!?

madnatiles
For the hours of play over the last two years, worth it, though.

Another year, it was a My Little Pony castle. I wish this would’ve been as worthwhile as the magna-tiles.

This year, both of their main presents are being created by artists from Etsy. It’s required me to plan well in advance of birthdays as most artists have a four to six week lead time, but I’m hoping it’ll be worth it. I want to give them something unique, but it also feels right to know you’re supporting an artist rather than a plastics factory.

We’ll see how it goes when I get the items, but so far, almost everything I’ve bought from an artist on Etsy has been spectacular. You can tell that they care about what they’re making.

Of course I’m hoping the girls will love what they’re getting.

gift
We’ve all gotten gifts like this.

Okay, it’s not going to be as bad as shown above. These are artists, not me, making the gifts.

More than just liking the gift, I’m hoping it’ll spur their imaginations and bring them to new worlds. I love watching them play with dolls, action figures, or blocks. Listening to the stories they’re making up, the reason they’re doing whatever they’re doing.

It’s a writer’s dream.

They’re literally acting out all the amazing imagination running through their heads. Making their pretend worlds come to life.

Frankly, another thing I really appreciate about Etsy is that nothing I’ve ever bought there makes noise. Or has an on/off switch. Or requires batteries. The gifts I’ve selected will appeal to things they already like, but it will require the girls to use their imaginations.

While there’s nothing wrong with electronic toys, and goodness knows they’re going to need to know how to use electronics.

phone

DD1 will already be using an iPad in her kindergarten class. But I also feel like this has gone a little too far. Does the fisher price school bus have to make a series of noises? Does every stuffed animal have to talk?

Volume controls and on/off buttons are nice, but does every toy need this in the first place?

I like to see the kids use their imagination. I love seeing where it takes them. They even snitched my stuffed green dragon, which I still haven’t gotten back, for some escapade or another. They love that dragon, and all it does is sit there. No roaring. No talking. No breathing fire. Just a plain stuffed green dragon to take them wherever their imaginations want to go.

 

How about you? Do you find your kids or grandchildren toys to require too many batteries? What do you think of current toys or the classics? Ever got a child a handmade gift before? How did it go?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Knights: Code of Chivalry

The Knights of Valor are a prominent part of my fantasy romance novels. Why? Because I like the good boy, the knight in shining armor, so to speak. While I don’t feel the need to be rescued, thank you very much, I’ve always been drawn to the white knight.

accolade-63001_640

While the Knights in my stories live by a moral code directly tied to the god they serve, that code wasn’t created in a vacuum. I’ve never listed the code these Knights follow, because that wouldn’t exactly keep the story moving in my novels, but their code is very much based on historical precedent.

Real knights in the days of yore had a code of chivalry that they were supposed to follow. How many did, well, that’s another post. The punishments for not following it, again another post.

While many parts of our past are lost to us, The Song of Rolland documented the code of chivalry during the time of William the Conqueror, around 1066 AD.

1066 AD Code of Chivalry

  • Fear God and maintain His Church
  • Serve the liege lord in valor and faith
  • Protect the weak and defenseless
  • Give succor to widows and orphans
  • Refrain from the wanton giving of offence
  • Live by honor and for glory
  • Despise pecuniary reward
  • Fight for the welfare of all
  • Obey those placed in authority
  • Guard the honor of fellow knights
  • Eschew unfairness, meanness and deceit
  • Keep faith
  • At all times to speak the truth
  • Persevere to the end in any enterprise begun
  • Respect the honor of women
  • Never to refuse a challenge from an equal
  • Never to turn the back upon a foe

Sounds a lot like what we’ve come to expect from knights that followed the code of chivalry. A few of these seem redundant to me, and a few seem too bravado for my Knights of Valor, but I did think through all of them as I was creating my own code.

The speak the truth at all times gives my Knights of Valor a great deal of trouble, and from time to time, they may have even had to interpret that a little creatively.

In my fantasy world, being chosen by the God of Justice to be one of his Knights and following the code of chivalry imbues certain holy powers, including the ability to channel the god’s power to smite evil. But that’s fantasy. I could see how some of this code could really hamper a medieval knight.

chivalry-is-not-dead-mermes-com-16238432

There are other codes of chivalry, including the one espoused by the Duke of Burgundy in the 14th century, but it’s not really all that different from the list above. The code from King Arthur’s court is perhaps the most famous, though much of this is shrouded in legend. The lack of solid facts makes it fun to write about, but more subject to interpretation.

More interesting to my mind is that such a code had to be written. That many things which seem like basic values had to be spelled out. But then, it was another time and Dracor, God of Justice, has not always reigned supreme in human history.

 

How about you? What do you think of knights and codes of chivalry? Ever see any in a book you especially liked? Or maybe you think the whole thing was bunk and prefer the knight that follows no code?

Book Review: Her Viken Mates

Book: Her Viken Mates

Author: Grace Goodwin

Viken

This is not my normal reading fare, as you may have noticed from my other book reviews. I am not entirely sure why I picked it up.

Okay, that’s not true. I do know. It was curiosity, plain and simple. It appeared in my Amazon feed, and while I was intrigued, but didn’t buy it. The book then intruded on my consciousnesses during my drive home, and as I had some digital credit with Amazon, I decided to give in to temptation and see what it was all about.

 

Characters

These are flat, one dimensional characters. Expect no growth because you’re not going to get any.

 

Plot

There was one. Somewhere. But it’s even less important than most other romance novels I’ve read. The plot is as one dimensional as the characters, and I’m actually somewhat surprised how contrived it was. I was shocked how quickly characters believed a heroine from another planet who was there as an interstellar bride. There is no real reason for them to do that. Nor is there a reason that the villain would do what they did or give their hand away as they did. But, you know, plot wasn’t what this book was about.

 

Steamy Scenes

This is why you’re reading the book. The novel opens with steamy scenes, and the steamy bits probably take up at least 50% of the story, maybe more. It does include multiple lovers simultaneously, and I have never read anything like it, though I know this is not uncommon in romance. Just uncommon to me. As far as I can tell, the author handled it well.

 

Writing Style

While the writing was just okay, it was relatively free of grammatical and punctuation errors. It was also properly formatted to the Kindle. When she did a jump in PoV, which she did often, she used a new chapter and labeled the chapter with the person whose eyes you were now seeing through.

 

Themes

Despite the fact that this was really just an excuse for steamy scenes, there were some pretty interesting themes running through a book that was mostly steamy scenes. Issues of trust came up time and again, but more than just trust, it was also about consent. This played throughout the book. I was pleasantly surprised by this. There was never even a hint of rape culture in the book, and while rushed, it did let the heroine explore her sexuality without guilt. Rather, her mates encouraged her to explore it.

 

 

 

My Recent Obsession with Weather

I’m not sure where my recent obsession with weather originated. Yet, I was glued to the screen watching what happened first with Hurricane Harvey and then Hurricane Irma. Was this going to be the “big one”? What were people doing? How were they coping? Were they going to be okay?

I was pulling for them and their pets.

I watched all that happened during the storm, and then I watched the efforts afterward. Read about people coming together to help their fellow human. It brought tears to my eyes.

cajunparade
Yes, this line of boats made me choke up a little.

Maybe it’s been all the negativity I’ve felt for well over a year. I tuned into social media not long before the election here in the US. It was a constant bombardment of negativity.

Then came the election.

Then came the new administration, and I’ve felt like there’s a new kerfuffle every week.

This isn’t a blog on politics, so I’m not going to get into that, but what I will say is that my stress level has skyrocketed during this time. I’ve actively tried to tune out the media and news, but that’s easier said than done even if you’re a casual Twitter or Facebook user.

As I think through this, perhaps it comes down to a part of me looking for a “villain” we can all hate: the weather. This is an impersonal thing, not someone doing horrible things to others for reasons they feel are justified.

And, more importantly, it’s something we can all rally against. There’s no politics involved in this.

noah

We’ve done drives at work to gather up non-perishables and send them to Texas. There were donation drives for the Red Cross and a general feeling of getting together to help people. Not because of who they voted for, but because they were people in need.

We live up here in the frozen tundra, and while it has many drawbacks, we’ve never had to deal with hurricanes or earthquakes. When a tornado comes by, it might touch down, it might not, but it doesn’t destroy entire cities.

Winters are another story.

unnamed-2
Actual winter footage.

 

We’ve suffered through polar vortexes (days on end of -45F weather) where we’ve had to worry about cars starting because of the cold, but nothing on the wholesale devastation of Harvey.

But people here still stood up to help those in need in parts of the country they may never see. They stood by each other.

Makes me sad that it takes an act of extreme weather to get this to happen, but I’m so happy and relieved that it still happens.

 

How about you? Did you watch the Harvey and Irma coverage? Do you find weather related events watchable?