A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

This review is going to take a different tone than my normal ones because this book isn’t a romance. I first heard about A Little Life on the podcast Books on the Nightstand. It caught my attention because of how it affected one of the co-hosts, and I was intrigued. Now, after having read it, I know she wasn’t exaggerating. This book completely wrecked my emotions.

Trigger warnings: While I want to recommend this, I need to note several triggering items contained in this book for readers who don’t wish to read about certain things. The book contains themes and graphic descriptions of the following: physical and sexual child abuse, violent domestic abuse, drug use, cutting, and suicide.


The book tells the story of four friends after they graduate from college, each with their own issues, insecurities, and plans for the future. It spans several decades and touches on each of their lives, but at the center of the story is Jude, a quiet man who has problems with his legs due to an incident in his past that he won’t talk to anyone about. In fact, Jude doesn’t tell anyone about his past, a fact which his friends try to respect even though it brings about a good amount of resentment from them.

The Story
The story jumps times, moving forward when ready to show the characters after a span of time and going back to show the details of Jude’s childhood. Though sometimes the timeline isn’t clear, the story is well written and well paced. The reader glimpses the lives of the four friends as well as several people that come into their lives later to play important roles. There is also an evolution to the friends’ core relationship. At times they drift apart or have falling outs. Other times, their relationship changes to more than friendship, and while there is a hint of romance in this book, it’s read with caution and the worry that things are not going to turn out well.

The People
The characters are multi-dimensional, but rather than show the reader the characters in one shot of exposition, the author unfolds their stories over the multi-decade narrative. This is especially true of Jude’s story. The way this is done kept me on edge and always feeling the tension and emotion in the story. I’d no sooner come to terms with one aspect of Jude’s life before being shown another aspect.

The Emotion
I’m holding back from saying too much because I think this book needs to be experienced for its full emotional value. However, I will admit that I cried quit a bit while reading this book, and even more after finishing it. The story was so powerful to me that I was still thinking about it the next day, and still getting emotional about it. And it wasn’t a quiet cry either. It was an all out sobfest, complete with puffy eyes the next day.

Final Thoughts
I want people to read this, but I want them to know that they’re getting into a very sad story about mostly good people. This is not a feel good book, but it does make you feel things, some good, some bad. It’s also not a quick read. It’s a long book (700+ pages) and it’s one that should be absorbed, not skimmed.

Anxiety and Accomplishments

I’ve talked about dealing with depression and how this winter has been rough on the psyche. Recently, I’ve started experiencing anxiety again. Yesterday, I woke up feeling sick, so I took a sick day from work. Instead of my body resting and using the time to heal, it went into full on panic attack mode thinking of all the things I needed to get done that weren’t getting done.

I finally simmered down and talked myself off the anxiety ledge, but I’m considering seeing a counselor until things settle down and even getting back on some medication.  I’ve avoided medication due to the side effects I had when I took Zoloft a few years ago, and I’ve been lucky enough to stave off most depression and anxiety with regular exercise. But if things continue as they are, I’m going to have to go back on something, at least temporarily Side note: the side effects of Zoloft aren’t something I think everyone gets, and I had other health issues at the time.  I’m a huge advocate for doing what you have to do to stay as mentally healthy as possible…within legal limits of course.

I’m likely to try some talk therapy first. Besides seasonal depression, I also suffer from situation depression, and right now, there are a lot of situations that are weighing on me, the main one being Jon’s work status and not having a full income. Then there’s my own job and the reorganization that is testing me in many ways, not to mention the staffing changes and friends moving away. Being in limbo about where we’re going and what we’re doing is starting to chip away at my optimism. I can’t plan for things, can’t buy tickets to future events, can’t do much of anything, not only because of the tightened budget, but also because we don’t even know if we’re going to be geographically located to be able to go to these events.

It’s all kind of hitting at once, and I’m hoping that maybe venting to an uninvolved third party might help.

Between the sickness and the anxiety, I spent most of yesterday trying to accomplish small things and sleeping. I probably slept too much, but I did wake up this morning feeling much better, so I guess it helped.

Today was a busy one. We were up early to drive to Fort Riley to help some fellow geocachers move to a new house. I overestimated my physical capabilities and my recovery from yesterday’s illness. After a few trips up the stairs, I thought I was going to throw up or pass out. I was still able to help by picking up trash and moving small things, but I felt kind of useless for the most part. Jon did a ton of work, going up and down the stairs and moving heavy stuff.  Still, when it comes to moving, I know every little bit helps, so even though I feel bad…I also still feel like I contributed. If that makes sense.

Also, with as tired and sick as I got, I still did way more than I could do when we moved into our apartment, so the opportunity to once again see how far I’ve come was good. And even though we were tired and sore afterwards, I’m not completely out of commission. It was also a chance to pay forward some of the good things that have come our way, which was one of the things I wanted to aim for in 2014.

We had to leave after a few hours to head back to Wamego to get our car fixed. One of our friends is mechanically inclined and was able to help fix the crunchy sounds our steering system has been making (not giving him name credit ONLY because I’m not sure if he wants the world to know about his mad skills with automotives).  It was nice to drive and not have the car sound like it was going to implode at every turn. Awesome friends are another reason we’re trying to pay things forward and back…even when I’m super down and life seems difficult, I realize how truly lucky/blessed/fortunate we are to have such great people in our life (yeah…getting sappy for a moment…just roll with it).

I finished the third Iron Druid book while the car was being worked on, and after we got home I finished the first week’s videos, assignment, and quiz for my current Coursera class. No clue what tomorrow will bring. I don’t think it’s been one hundred percent decided if gaming is happening. I do know that with the car being fixed, Jon and I would like to go out and get some geocaches and enjoy the day. It’s supposed to be another warm Sunday, and I want to soak up some natural Vitamin D before starting the week again.

Off for some more reading and more sleep.


Unplugging, Good Books, and Outdoor Therapy

Last night, I decided to just “unplug” for the evening. For me, this doesn’t mean going completely without technology, something I really struggle with. I like having my phone handy, I use my eReader to read, and I like kicking back with a few episodes of something on Netflix during dinner or knitting. For me, unplugging just means saying no to the computer. The problem with getting online is that I tend to find ways to waste more time than I find ways to be productive, usually playing Candy Crush Saga and going over my Twitter and Facebook feeds. While I usually enjoy that, and I like reading articles that come up on both, I felt like I was starting to get sucked into a lot of unproductive internet time.

Rather than doing anything physically productive, I also decided to take a “sit on my butt all night” night. It was really nice. I was up later than I should have been, finishing the second book in The Lunar Chronicles and reading the first five chapters of the third book that doesn’t come out until February 4th. Waiting is kind of like torture. Seriously. I love this series. I don’t get “fangirl” over a lot of things, but The Lunar Chronicles hits all the right reader chords with me.

Whether it was not staring at a computer screen for hours or the lack of a full night’s sleep, I felt a little bit better today than I have this whole week. It could also correlate with the fact that the weather is slightly better and we’re that much closer to the weekend, and thus far, the weather people are giving us a decent forecast. These makes me happy.  I don’t know when the mental shift happened, but being outdoors gives me a mental boost, and this winter I’m definitely craving the good weather that lets us get out and do things.

Since the weather was agreeable tonight, we went out to the rec center for some outdoor therapy. I did a zombie mission but didn’t finish it due to the need to find a bathroom (so sad they closed the ones at the center for the winter). I had about four zombie chases, and I loved every one of them. I might not be able to run for a long time, but I like the little bursts I can do.

At home, I revised a chapter of my novel. I’m getting critical again, and it’s making me want to stop, even though I really do want to revise the whole thing. I buzzed around on the internet, did some more fangirl things, and am going to end the night with a shower and some reading. All in all, I managed to accomplish some things today, and I think that was definitely helpful in fighting off the mental crud I’ve been dealing with the past few days.

Let’s hear it for Friday!


Writing at 9 Years Old

The year continues to be challenging, but I’m hanging in there.  This past weekend was spent  avoiding snow and cold temperatures and pretty much staying inside. We also stayed home on Monday, partially because of the conditions and partially because we were both feeling under the weather. Today was my first day back at work, and it felt like a Monday. Jon also got news of a wrench thrown into our budget plans for the next few months, so that was pretty disheartening. I’ve been depressed anyway, so I’m having a hard time going with the flow right now.

On a positive note for the night, it was chilly but not horrible, so Jon and I took a walk down Poyntz. I was in a funk, so I didn’t really stop to enjoy things, but being outside was somewhat therapeutic. We also attended a geocaching event at the mall. It was just a quick flash mob, but it gave me a chance to wear my jersey, which still doesn’t fit well, but I can put it on now. Progress!

One interesting thing I did this weekend was to read some of my old journals. Blogging really isn’t new to me, I just did it using pen and paper for years. Oh, and I kept it secret. Which is good, because the first journal I picked up to read was from my second semester in college, and boy…was I strange. I was angry and stressed, my priorities were completely out of whack, I had mean thoughts about everyone and everything, and I spent a lot of time “having fun.” I always remember college fondly. When anyone asks me, I truthfully say that I had a blast in my time at Lake State. But my journal reminded me that not everything was sunshine and roses. Of course, it was only a short time frame I was reading about because I tended to write pages and pages for just one night or one event. Still, it was a bit uncomfortable.

After traveling back to freshman year, I went even further back and pulled out my diary from third grade. Hilarious!  I talk about all kinds of important things, like what I had for lunch, who I hung out with at recess, the recap from the latest episode of Jem (because she was, and always will be, truly outrageous), and the boys I thought were cute (2/3 of the list was actors).  My favorite thing, though, was a story I started writing. Besides the content, it was funny to see that I’d very carefully written out every word, like I wanted it to look like it had been typed.

To perk myself up and to show what a goofball I was at such an early age, I’m going to share my story here. Feel free to skip if you’re not into the (word for word, I kid you not) creative writings of a nine-year old.

The Stranger – by Amanda S. 

A man in a black suit walked down the street. His pants were tight-fitting. His shirt hung loose around him. His black jacket was slung over his shoulder. His black boots were dusty. His shirt was tucked into his pants and his pants were tucked into his boots. His hair was black, and he wore dark sunglasses.

Nobody in the small town of Alonta, Michigan had ever seen him. Little did they know, he would become their worst nightmare.

Sue Antonio was daydreaming as usual on the job in the “St. Luey” coffee shop. She was an unmarried woman of 23. She was tall and slender. She had frizzy, strawberry-blond hair, and bright blue eyes. On either cheek, she had a small sprinkle of freckles. Sue worked in the St. Luey coffee shop from 9:00am to 12:00pm. She lived with her boss, also her best friend, Maria Maio.

Sue got payed well enough to buy herself a house. But she had come to think of Maria’s house as home, so she never left. 

Sue was the first to ever see the man. She was working late one night when he walked in. 

“Hello. May I help you?” asked Sue. 

The man sat at a stool near the counter. 

“Yeah,” he said. “I’ll have a coke.”

She got him his coke, then leaned against the counter.

“What’s your name?” the man asked.

Sue was too wary to give him her name, so she said, “What’s yours?”

“I asked you first,” said the man, without even flinching. Sue didn’t like the way the man was looking at her. “Sue,” she replied, hesitantly. 

“Just call me Wolf.”

Epic, right?? Besides the fact that I think I’m describing Danny from “Grease,” I have no idea where I came up with this stuff! Also, do baristas really make enough to buy a house? Especially when they only work for like four hours a day? I really did spell it St. Luey, and I love the melodrama of “He would become their worst nightmare.”

I kind of want to write this as an adult, now. I’m pretty sure I already have some ideas of where to take this.

On that note, I’m cold and tired, so I’m going to shower and sleep. Hoping tomorrow is a better day all around.



A Slow Start and Night Geocaching

I wish I could say the New Year started out just as awesome as I wanted it to, but I’d be lying. I know we’re only three days in, but at this point, I’d kind of like a do-over. The truth is, it’s been another rough week in a series of rough weeks. I don’t know how much I can blame on the weather (my first instinct is to blame all of it on the weather) and how much personal responsibility I have to take for being so grumpy and bitter.  I’m working through it in my own way, and like all the other times I was angry at something or someone, I know this will pass. Eventually.

There have been some good things though. I’ve already finished a couple of really good books. I’m also beta reading a book for a friend, something I enjoy doing. I haven’t made as much progress in revising my own novel, but I do have a plan to finish it and recruit a few more beta readers before trying to get it published. It’s strange…I never wanted to revise before, but now that I’m doing it, I’m suddenly filled with inspiration to revise and submit several of my other works as well. Maybe 2014 is the year this happens.

I’m also doing well with staying active. Again, I know we’re only three days in, but making an effort every day has made me feel accomplished. I’ve been especially good about walking on breaks and lunches at work. In fact, I hit my step goal today before work was even over. Go me!

After work, Jon went to the game store for Friday Night Magic, and since I hadn’t made plans to do anything else, I just hung out with myself for awhile. Originally I was going to go on an Amanda Date Night, but I ended up playing it low key. I don’t normally leave MHK when Jon games (too much driving and gas), but tonight I did. After stopping at home to change and grab a quick snack, I made it to the rec center for a walk. The weather was nice today, and I wanted to take advantage of it. In hindsight, I should have stuck to walking a few laps. Being outdoors improved my mood greatly and I would have liked to be out in it longer. However,  I only did one lap since I tried to do a C25k session. Again, I didn’t get very far, but I’m going to keep trying.

It didn’t help that after a few runs, I got a sudden headache. I think this might have been due to lack of food today. Not that I didn’t eat, I just didn’t eat a lot. I don’t actively diet, though I try to sta conscious of what I eat and how much. Somedays, like today, I’m not overly hungry and so don’t actually end up eating a whole lot. But if I’m going to get serious about this fitness and running thing, I’m going to have to learn the best nutrition for doing so.

I finished my lap, grabbed some dinner, and came home to chill before picking Jon up. While I was vegging, I got a text from one of the other area geocachers. He was having trouble finding one that Jon and I had found and was wondering if I could help him and another cacher out since they’d been hunting for awhile.  I don’t have the best memory, but I told him what I could before heading out to help them. They’d found it by the time I got there, so I followed them to get another one down the road that I hadn’t yet marked with a smiley face.

Because I tend to be overly cautious, it’s kind of cool when I let myself go on one of these little mini-adventures. I’d prefer to adventure with Jon, just because I like hanging out with him and he’s my navigator, but going solo reminds me that I can do things on my own, and I can be brave, even if it’s in small doses (I’d like to be a more fearless this year).

After standing outside and chatting with my fellow cachers for a bit, we parted ways, and I headed to MHK to wait for Jon to get done gaming. To kill time, I went to Hastings for a black and white mocha and some reading time. FNM got done early tonight, so I was only there for a short while before Jon texted that he was done for the night.

We’re supposed to get snow tomorrow and tomorrow night, so the tentative goal is to get out in the morning for either some geocaching or for a longish walk around the track. Or both. It’s supposed to be cold, but if I can get an  outdoors mood boost, it’s totally worth braving the chill. At least that’s how I feel right now. When actually confronted with the cold, that opinion could change very quickly. I’m fickle that way.

Now it’s time to sleep.


Taking Time for Some Serious Business

I normally keep things pretty light on this blog. It’s more of an account of general things and a highlight of the best times. Because let’s face it, when we do anything online, we’re showing the world the goods things, even if things aren’t always bright and shiny. I will say that most of my bright and shiny stuff is completely legit. On a regular basis, I’ve been blessed and/or lucky enough to lead a great life. Even the bumps aren’t as bumpy as they used to be or could be.

These past couple weeks have dealt me a higher dose of stress than normal, and I’m feeling it hardcore. I also don’t think I’m handling it well, which in turn causes me to evaluate not only every little thing I say or do, but it causes me to dwell on everything everyone else says. It’s strange to have a constant paranoia of “What did they mean by that?” Normally, I let those things slide off, but it’s hard to do when I feel like I’m not doing things as well as I want.

Most of this stems from work. We’re at the end of the year, and this year is bringing the transition I’d talked about in a previous post. While I’m still excited about making this transition, the training and the new duties have thrown a wrench in my routine, so I’m struggling to maintain my current duties while still proving I can do the new ones. When I first started this changeover, I felt unstoppable. But each day seems to chip away at that positivity. I know I’ll eventually embrace this job and find my groove, even with a high workload, but until that happens, I’m having a hard time dealing with all the feelings of being incompetent and of letting people down.

But it’s not just work, it’s things outside of work, too. For one, I’m not a holiday person. I’ve definitely tried not to be a humbug this year, and in some ways, I’ve succeeded. I went and enjoyed the heck out of myself at our work holiday party. I wrote a fun holiday mad lib for my mom to share at her work party. This weekend, I plan on going to see the town’s light displays and maybe stop for a hot chocolate treat somewhere. But everyone else is sending Christmas cards and buying gifts…and I’m not. I never do, not really. I don’t know why…maybe I’m selfish, maybe I’m lazy, but I’ve just never been a big gift giver or card sender. It’s never bothered me before, either. But this year, I feel like a Christmas failure.

Now that Jon is out of school (after his last exam tomorrow), I’m apprehensive about what’s going to happen for him with regards to jobs. I’m also losing interest in things I usually enjoy, and I’m considering dropping some of my regular social engagements because my heart isn’t in it. I know this all sounds like depression, and I’m sure that has something to do with it, but it’s not a permeating sense of not wanting to do anything. I’m still enjoying exercising, though even that’s sometimes overshadowed by my desire to do things my body is not yet ready to handle. I love visiting with my friends, I love spending time with Jon, and besides finding a book that I’m completely into right now, I’m super excited about my January reading project. Heck, I’ve actually done revision work on my novel. I’ve never gotten far with revision work.

It’s difficult to have moments during the day that are so high with frustration that I have to try really hard not to cry. I usually fail at this, by the way. Even when these are followed by a moment of satisfaction when I realize I’ve figured out something new, or solved a problem, it’s still kind of a crazy roller coaster, and it’s making me tired.

Having put all that out there, I do want to say that I know this is all going to blow over, and I’ll eventually have control over things again. All these dramatic moments are really just that…moments. In the scheme of things, I know that in six months, all of this will have been forgotten in lieu of another drama, another stressor, and other good and happy things that happen. Until then, I’m going to roll with it as best I can. I apologize now to anyone I may “let down” over the next few weeks. I swear, I’m not doing it on purpose. And even though I’m a humbuggy Christmas fail, I’m going to do enjoy each day of the season and beyond as best I can.

Thanks for listening.




A Little Down, a Little Up

I’m going to kick off this post with a touch of seriousness and say that depression sucks. Today was definitely a down day for me, and I’m blaming depression because in all honesty, there was nothing that happened to me that was sad or anything that should have made me as mad as I felt at times.  It comes and goes, and it’s better than it was several years ago, a fact I attribute to my husband and to being more active.  That doesn’t mean I’m “cured.”  Now that the days are shorter and the weather is getting colder, I think my seasonal affective disorder is kicking in. We made it to the gym tonight, but I’ve been struggling with getting there, even though I know I feel so much better when I do. I think I need to start kicking my workouts up a notch though. I’ve been talking about doing that for about a month, but it really is to the point where I’m not working up a sweat, and I kind of want to.

I am going to end this bit of depression talk with a little PSA: if you’re depressed, please seek help. Talk to someone. Go on meds if you have to. Exercise. Do whatever you have to to make yourself better,  and remember you’re not alone. I’ve always been open about my depression, so it saddens me when someone is struggling with it, and for whatever reason feels too ashamed to reach out.  Believe me, you are part of a larger group, you are not alone, and you are not at fault.

As down as I felt all day, after a workout and some time with Jon, I perked up. After the gym, we grabbed some dinner, then had time to kill before our geocache event. First, we were going to go geocaching, but it was dark, and I know myself and my tendency to get frustrated, so we decided to nix that idea. Then we were going to go to the library and use a computer to try to solve some puzzles on a local mystery cache trail. However, there were no parking spots. We ended up at the mall where we finally found little zombie dolls to attach to our zombie travel bugs.

2013-11-06 19.26.28

I think we’ll be sending those out into the world this weekend, unless we get wild and make our own geocaches to put them in, which will take a little extra time. My zombie is so cute (mine is the vampire girl), I kind of don’t want to get rid of her now.

The event started at 8am at the top of Manhattan Hill. There were several people there we’d met previously, a few who remembered us, and a couple cachers who wanted to meet us since they’d seen our names online. It’s such a good group of people. They’re all friendly and cool to talk to, and even though I get anxious being around new people, once I’m visiting with this group, the anxiety goes away and Social ‘Manda shows up. This event was a “flash mob” to get together and earn the souvenir celebrating Geocaching in Space.


After visiting for awhile, we said our farewells and came home. I’m going to finish this up, map out some geocaches for the weekend, then shower and get some sleep. I’m prepared to feel better tomorrow, and I want to be productive. Two days left of the week! Yay!




It’s Not the Day, It’s How You Spend It

Yesterday was my birthday. I turned 33. The day was pretty horrible.

The fact that it was bad had nothing to do with my age. I love getting older. I’m a believer that age is a good thing in general, and for me specifically, because with each year I know more than I did before and I also let go of more things that mattered when I was younger. Getting older, for me, equates liking myself and my place in life way more than I did in my 20s.

Having said that, I made a mistake this year. I spent so much time asking everyone else to forget about it and not do anything for me that I sort of forgot to give my day the attention it deserved from ME.

I don’t like to publicly make a big deal of my birthday. While I’m grateful for the well wishes of my friends and family, I didn’t want a workplace thing because I think that’s awkward for the people who don’t know me. I’m also not a fan of being the center of attention.*

I wanted to celebrate my birthday inwardly though. I wanted to do something nice for myself.  I wanted to reflect and enjoy my existence. Instead, I got depressed and angry and irritated. I took everything personally. When plans changed for something later in the week, I instantly went on the defensive and took it as a slight against me (it wasn’t). I spent the day wanting to cry (and did cry a couple times).

There was no excuse for it. Yes, certain things on a daily basis irritate me, and I have at least one bad day a week (this one is a two-day stretch), but I think so much of what was “wrong” with me yesterday had to do with the whole birthday concept. I went from not caring to caring too much, from not wanting people to do anything for it to suddenly being mad that no one did. I knew I was being unreasonable, but I think people do that a lot. Even though we know we’re being whiny/angsty/overemotional, we just keep doing it. I wallow in my emotions more than I should, and I think I was just taking that to a new level.

I did end the day on a good note. The Felbster and I went out for dinner** then relaxed at home. I had a good conversation with my brother and played on the internet until bedtime, and I had some nice texts from my family wishing me a good day.

And, to be completely honest, I’m actually planning my “Me” day for this coming Friday when I take my day off work.  I’ve planned a gym class, a dentist appointment,*** and a trip to the theater to see “The Avengers.” So while part of me feels like I wasted yesterday, I know in reality that I still get to have a day where I connect with myself in the way I originally wanted to.


*The exception to this is when I’m in “comedian” mode and I want everyone to laugh at me. But in that case I get to decide when and where I want all eyes on me. Also, I’d like to think I can tell when people want me to shut up. I guess I could be wrong about that, though.

**Dinner was good, though the fryer broke while we were at the restaurant, so I didn’t get fries. The salad I got instead was delicious, and I got a free birthday dessert, so it all worked out in the end.

***Most people would consider a dentist appointment a bad thing, but I love going, so it’s really just another perk to the day.