Book Review: My Beloved World

I recently finished the latest in my series of Audible books by bad-ass bitches.

This week’s offering:

sotomayor

I read this with my ears during my commute and it was brilliant.

The Blurb

With startling candor and intimacy, Sonia Sotomayor recounts her life from a Bronx housing project to the federal bench, progress that is testament to her extraordinary determination and the power of believing in oneself.  She writes of her precarious childhood and the refuge she took with her passionately spirited paternal grandmother. She describes her resolve as a young girl to become a lawyer, and how she made this dream become reality: valedictorian of her high school class, summa cum laude at Princeton, Yale Law, prosecutor in the Manhattan D.A.’s office, private practice, federal district judge before the age of forty. She writes about her deeply valued mentors, about her failed marriage, about her cherished family of friends. Through her still-astonished eyes, America’s infinite possibilities are envisioned anew in this warm and honest book, destined to become a classic of self-discovery and self-invention, alongside Barack Obama’s Dreams from My Father

The Review

Sonia Sotomayor kicks ass. She was raised in the Bronx Projects, the daughter of Puerto Ricans who’d met and married after the war. Her parents spoke very little English, her father was an alcoholic who died young, her mother worked her fanny off to support he two kids, and at age eight, Sonia was diagnosed with Type I diabetes – which at the time was akin to a death sentence.

When given a list of professions that were okay for Type I diabetics to pursue, she was disappointed that police office was a definite “no.” She’d wanted to be a detective like Nancy Drew, but knew that in the absence of a wealthy lawyer father, she might not be able to make it on her own the way Nancy did.

So she set her sights on the law, with the eventual childhood dream of becoming a judge – knowing even then that was a long shot.

But experience has taught me that you cannot value dreams according to the odds of their coming true. Their real value is in stirring within us the will to aspire. That will, wherever it finally leads, does at least move you forward. And, after a time, you may recognize that the proper measure of success is not how much you’ve closed the distance to some far off goal, but the quality of what you’ve done today.

This book talks about how she went from a mediocre student to a fantastic student. It was all about the gold stars (something we have in common). After her father died and her mother came out of her grief, they began speaking English at home, which helped immensely as well.

She ended up going to Princeton! And then Yale Law. And then the Manhattan’s DA office – not the typical lawerly path a Yale Law grad takes (private practice being more common and, I’m guessing, more lucrative).

Justice Sotomayor during a brief stint representing the muppets in court.

Justice Sotomayor passing down some harsh judgment on the Muppets of Sesame Street

Each of those new environs brought their own challenges, but with her sheer brilliance and determination, she not only succeeded, she kicked the highest level of ass. After the first time she lost a case as an ADA, she studied it, figured out where she went wrong, and then never again lost a case. Some of that might have come from her refusal to prosecute cases she thought had no business being tried.

The first year that I face the challenges of any new environment has always been a time of fevered insecurity. A reflexive terror that I’ll fall flat on my face. In this self-imposed probationary period, I work with compulsive intensity and single-mindedness until I gradually feel more confident.

She’d married her high school sweetheart between Princeton and Yale, and they split up while she was working in Manhattan and commuting back to Princeton where Kevin was in school. She doesn’t dwell overmuch on this in the book, but never tries to hide her own role in the dissolution of their marriage.

Being with someone never seems simpler than when you’re very young.

After leaving the DA’s office for Pavia & Harcourt where she learned a lot about business and international law, as well as trademarks (and got to meet the fanciest Italians ever), she quickly moved up to partner (in three years) and was there when she was nominated for a seat on the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. At 36, she was already seeing her dreams of a federal judgeship come true.

Justice Sotomayor doesn’t talk about anything regarding the Supreme Court, which makes sense to me as she’s still there! I’m looking forward to the sequel after she retires (which is unlikely to be soon).

Notable Quotes

  1. If you want to change someone’s mind, you must understand what need shapes his or her opinion. To prevail, you must first listen…
  2. Even a little romance can do wonders if you’re prepared to enjoy the moment and let the moments accumulate whatever may come of it.
  3. Although wisdom is built on life experience, the mere accumulation of years means nothing.
  4. You can always look up answers to specific questions in specific situations[…]so long as you have enough experience to know that a question exists. Learning the rules isn’t hard when you’re aware that there’s a rule to learn.

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Emotional Kickers

There was so much loss in her life. Her father; her beloved grandmother; a cousin – lost first to drugs and then to HIV caused by intravenous drug use; her marriage; a close friend and mentor at Pavia & Harcourt.  Every time, she asks herself “Why not me?” She’d been given to expect a shorter than average lifespan. When she was diagnosed with Type I diabetes, the life expectancy was not great. It is, of course, better now – but the number of times she found herself in life threatening situations is truly terrifying.

But through it all, she has her rocks – her beloved Abuelita until her death. Her Mami (when they aren’t fighting), her brother (when they grow into that sibling relationship), and so many good friends.

Even when accused of being brash or bitchy (or a brazen Jewish woman), she still finds the right people to support her, lift her up, and tell her when she needs to back down.

It makes me wonder what spark she has within her that so many lack. Maybe it’s the ability to find the right group of people who complemented her strengths, mitigated her weaknesses, and shored her up when she was sagging. That is truly a gift beyond measure.

Cocktail Party

My new dream is to have a bad-ass bitches cocktail party with Secretary Albright, Justice Sotomayor, Amy Schumer (remember our moment in Vegas, Amy? Call me!), one of my favourite authors EVAH, and my PSM. Of course, I’d probably pass out from the anxiety of being around that many people, so I’m gonna have to call in the Notorious RBG to keep me calmed down.

notorious RBG

Time Commitment

The audio book wasn’t terribly long (12 1/2 hours) and it was worth every second.

Verdict

Sonia Sotomayor is awesome. Star_ClaimStar_ClaimStar_ClaimStar_ClaimStar_Claim

Aggressive Happiness: The Sequel

Three years ago when I was sinking quickly – what seemed at the time to be irrevocably – into the abyss of post partum depression and anxiety, I got serious about happiness. I read books on happiness. I watched videos on happiness. I got really depressed because I could not force myself to be happy.

If I hadn’t had a small person dependent on me for food and shelter and diaper changes, I don’t know if I’d have been able to pull myself up by my bootstraps (my boots do not actually have straps) and take care of myself.

But I did, and a sweet wee creature was he (today’s memory from three years ago):

I had to stay strong for that little face.

I had to stay strong for that little face.

When looking at pics from this time three years ago, I notice that there is a distinct dearth of Amy pics. Yeah. ANY WAY.

At that time, I also devised a brilliant plan to stay sane. I called it Aggressive Happiness (TM).

I made rules.

Amy’s Aggressive HappinessTM Rules

  1. Be Amy
  2. Relax
  3. OTC = AOK (seriously take an Advil)
  4. A little is better than none
  5. Sleep more
  6. Read daily
  7. Spend less
  8. Kiss the architect & Alvie Bean every day
  9. Lay off the internet already
  10. Move every day
  11. Let yourself off the hook
  12. Only say yes if you really want to
  13. Be comfortable!
  14. Assume positive intent

And – just to finish – things that make me happy for days I need a pick-up.

  1. Trashy paranormal romances
  2. Early morning coffee
  3. A clean house
  4. Lush garden
  5. Feeding people
  6. Watching the Bean giggle
  7. Trail running
  8. Swimming
  9. Camping
  10. Watching the sun rise

Those rules are not bad.

I’ve tried other things – I did a #100happydays instagram project last year and I’m currently well into my 2015 #365happydays project. (I’ve missed less than a handful of days, and looking back it seems that what primarily makes me happy is Bean, coffee, booze, gardens, and writing. I’ll take it.)

I’ve done star charts for self-care. I’ve tried a lot of things that are complicated and require spreadsheets with automatically updating formulas.

This September, I am keeping it simple.

I took off the fitbit.

Seriously.  I put away my elaborate (and automatically updating) fitness spreadsheet. No peeking until October. I’ll still write down my activities, but I won’t obsess over daily step counts and activity and how many flights I’ve climbed.

I put away the scale for the month.

I added a medication reminder to my phone so that I’ll actually take my anti-cray(fish) drugs.

I’m back off the sauce (until New Orleans, when I will empty that fair city of its supply of hurricanes, unless hurricanes are tequila or whiskey based, and then I will drink some other natural disaster).

My only goals are to not have goals and to take care of me.

And maybe get a unicorn.

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What do you do for self-care when everything seems to be moving faster than you can handle?

Mac and cheese, Cabernet, and Vampires

I have officially reached the time of year that (literally) drives me crazy. Every Septemberish for almost as long as I can remember, I’ve started to unbalance. The degree of unbalance varies greatly, but if you looked back at my mental health log, you’d see that September is almost always when I start going to therapy again (I generally drop out in December or January because I still haven’t found a therapist I actually like).

It’s the month in which I stop sleeping, start getting more and more anxious, and basically hate everything about everything I’ve done. I get weepy (and I am not a weepy person) and depressed and my social issues are through the roof. Case in point: The architect and I were to go to the art museum Friday night – sans Bean and everything – but there were people there for some kind of event that I didn’t know about, so I made him drive on by and then we just had a martini instead. (The reason we were going to an art museum was because we’d originally been hosting a game night, and I couldn’t…people at my house…so I canceled that. WHY ARE THERE SO MANY PEOPLE?)

Dramatic reenactment of Friday night's martini

Dramatic reenactment of Friday night’s martini

This year, I decided to be pro-active! I will deal with things before September! I went to a (‘nother new) shrink just as I was switching jobs at the end of June. I was already super duper anxious then – mostly due to old job – and had another appointment at the end of July where I was pleased to report that I was feeling much better (a month at new job really helped). At that point, I was fine so made a third appointment for next week. Last week, the anxiety started spiking and the eye sockets started randomly leaking. I started having panic attacks again. I’d only had one in the previous 7 weeks (correlating perfectly to job switch).

I canceled social events that would require me to be…social. I stopped sleeping more than a scant few hours each night. I started craving comfort.

In the last week, I’ve made mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, chocolate chip cookies, meatloaf, and drinking red wine – something I don’t usually drink during the summer.

I also start re-reading. I have two entire bookshelf of “comfort books” – one next to my bed and one on my iPad. These are the books that comfort my mind the way a glass of Cab or a bowl of mac and cheese comforts my body.

So, you (are probably not) asking – what’s on these shelves?

I’m so glad you asked!

A selection from the real deal shelves

  1. Harry Potter
  2. Hobbit & LOTR
  3. Tam Lin
  4. The Talisman
  5. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
  6. The Yellow Wallpaper (which maybe shouldn’t be on my ‘read while depressed’ shelf)
  7. The Wrinkle in Time series
  8. A smattering of Poe, Shakespeare, Austen, Robbins, Pratchett, and Atwood, and various and sundry other things

A selection from my virtual shelves (this is much more skewed towards paranormal content). (I really do have a virtual bookshelf labeled ‘comfort books.’)

  1. Mercy Thompson Series (Patricia Briggs)
  2. Kate Daniels series (Ilona Andrews)
  3. Walker Papers (Urban Shaman series) (CE Murphy)
  4. Iron Druid Chronicles (Kevin Murphy)
  5. Riley Jenson Guardian Series (Keri Arthur)
  6. Knitting in the City series (Penny Reid)
  7. Elemental Mysteries (Elizabeth Hunter)

Currently, I am reading (in addition to the smattering of new stuffs and work stuffs):

On my iPad (Kindle app):

I've been devouring this series again. Damn but that Hunter woman can write.

I’ve been devouring this series again. Damn but that Hunter woman can write.

 

With my ears (hooray for Audible!):

I spend a lot of time saying, "Ugh, Mary..." right now.

I spend a lot of time saying, “Ugh, Mary…” right now.

And the paperback:

This never gets old. This cover was the inspiration for my latest tattoo.

This never gets old. This cover was the inspiration for my latest tattoo.

 

And now it’s September, so I just have to get through this month. And I will. I always do. But please don’t hold it against me if I start to hibernate a bit.

What are your comfort reads?

Book Review: You’re Never Weird on the Internet

First, the disclosure. I kind of love Felicia Day. And by kind of, I mean she’s on my list (which I should absolutely laminate). I’ll admit to not adoring her character on Buffy, but Dr. Horrible? Yes. And then she’s awesome on the internet (as well as weird) and then Supernatural and also Gamer Woman!

So, when I saw she had a book out, I pre-ordered, as you do. I was prepared to be underwhelmed (*cough* Eleanor Roosevelt *cough*), but found myself caught up in it.

And you guys! It turns out we’re the exact same person!

  1. She was a violin prodigy who went to college (despite not having gone to high school) on a full scholarship for said instrument (at age 16). I have a violin and can play a scale as well as “Twinkle, Twinkle.” Sure, that doesn’t sound like much, but I just picked up the violin this week. Is it my fault that my parents were underachievers in pushing the violin? No. I’m sure I’ll be a prodigy in no time.
  2. She is besties with Joss Whedon. One time, I sat Joss Whedon-adjacent in a bar in Santa Monica! (14 Below on Santa Monica Blvd. Holla Dr. Marcy!)
  3. She has been thisclose to James Marsters

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SO HAVE I!

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I obviously enjoyed this ever so much more than Felicia Day. AND I’m vaguely red-headish in this! TWINSIES!

  1. She has acting and writing credits on IMDB! I do…not. BUT, I have published and I was on television once.
  2. She has pretty severe social anxiety and me too! (Wait, that’s not as exciting.)
  3. She has been super close to Nathan Fillion and I have fantasized about that very thing!

Seriously, though – this book was well-written, witty, and made me remember why I need to take care of myself, even if I’m not a fancy pants bigshot Gamer Geek who is forced to go to Comic Con. She was able to mix the weird and the wit and the scary shit all together for a fantastic book full of coffee-cup quotables.

I’m not going to put them all in here, because you need to go read the book, but the one that I pulled out that meant the most during my first read was:

My weirdness turned into my greatest strength in life. It’s why I’m who I am today.

This is what took me until I was approximately 37 to embrace (Ugh – Felicia Day is two entire years younger than me) and is something I struggle with a lot. Embracing the weird is harder than I would’ve thought when I spent so many years trying so very hard to fit in with the disparate groups of people that I desperately wanted to accept me and be friends with me.

I feel like I’m finally at a point where I don’t try to hide my weird, whether that weird is my collection of unicorn shirts, my deep and abiding love of all things Whovian, my insatiable appetite for fantasy and paranormal, or my desire to propose to any and all Excel wizards (mmm…pivot tables).

Even though our stories are vastly, vastly different it was so very relatable (even if Wil Wheaton has never called me…yet).

So buy it. Read it. LOOOOOOVE it.

 

Book Review: Magic Shifts

I have been reading this series for a very long time. A very long time. If it ever ends, I will be devastated. Not so devastated that I will hunt down the authors and lock them in my writers’ dungeon retreat (besides, that’s already occupied by a certain Ms. Hunter), but I will be miffed; irked; annoyed; nettled; vexed; et cetera.

I reviewed the fifth in the series in 2011. (That was so many years ago!) We are now on full-length novel #8.

LINK!

LINK!

I half-listened; half read this book. I can do nothing else but get to the finish line as fast as possible when it comes to Kate and Curran.

It. Was. Brilliant. I keep expecting them to dive off the deep end and get cheesy weird. (Ahem. Riley & Quinn; Cat & Bones; et cetera.) So far, we’ve been lucky. I love the tension (sexual and otherwise) between Kate and Curran. I love the weird relationship between Kate and her dad. I love how the supporting characters (George!) don’t let their ‘rents pull asshole shit. I love how Kate is raising Julie. But mostly, I love how Kate and Curran are both strong and don’t take shit from each other.

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Things I didn’t like: Lack o’ Derek and Andrea (I know Andrea’s gestating, but she’s a motherfucking werehyena – don’t tell me she couldn’t kick ass). I need more Jim and Dali. I adore Saiman and need a hell of a lot more of him. I think he’s lonely.

A girl can dream – and Saiman and Loki are related

The story was a good one. It built on the existing mythology of Kate and her tower-obsessed daddy, mentioned her arch-nemesis Hugh (I need an arch-nemesis), and it also had newish characters come to the forefront (George and Eduardo) and explored a complementary but new mythology.

I don’t want to spoil things. My PSM hasn’t finished it yet, and I’m doing my best not to harass her too much. (LIES! I’ve basically told her that sleep is not an option until she’s at least finished chapter 14.)

 

As soon as I got to the part where the big bad was identified, I knew what I needed to drink with this.

It’s not whiskey.

 

Introducing the Djinn and Djuice

I went with gin for the obvious verbal pun (also because a couple of weeks ago, Cat tweeted “more gin less djinn” and that’s my new life motto) and the juice is pomegranate because of its origination in the Middle East. If you can find it, go with Persian Lime juice.

Ingredients

  • 1 part Persian lime juice (or any old lime juice if your grocery store isn’t fancy)
  • 3 parts gin (I used Tanquerey, which is an excellent mixing gin)
  • 6 parts 100% pomegranate juice
  • pomegranate seeds

 

Instructions

Combine gin, pom juice & lime juice in a shaker full of ice. Rub three times (or shake, if you’re that kind of girl).

Strain into martini glass. Add pom seeds. (I can’t rim my drinks. I leave all the rimming for Cat. She’s the true expert.)

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Drink. Enjoy. Thank me later. (So good.)