30 April 2014

Wordful Wednesday//Lyme Disease Awareness Month

For the past few years, the month of May has meant a lot to me. Not only is it a time to celebrate my mother for Mother's Day, or my brother as I wish him a happy birthday, but it is also a time to spread the word about ticks. You see, May is Lyme disease awareness month.

Blacklegged ticks, or deer ticks, are the common vectors when it comes to spreading Lyme disease. They can also infect their host with co-infections such as babesiosis and anaplasmosis.

It is typically the tick in its nymph life stage which transmits Lyme disease to human beings, and the size of one is about that of a poppy seed, or, as many Lyme sufferers like to say, a period at the end of a sentence. (Deer tick life cycle.)

If you are outdoors a lot--especially around May through August--please actively search yourself for ticks to help prevent the disease.

If you would click here, you will find a quick list of early symptoms to be extremely aware of such as a flu-like illness and sometimes a bulls-eye rash, as well as later symptoms of the disease.

Also, if you go to the ILADS (The International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society) website, you will find many facts about Lyme--especially ones that quell popular myths. It's on this website you can discover more information on how to prevent tick bites, and you can even sit down for some informative videos if you'd like.

The most powerful fact for me about Lyme disease, and the one I will leave you with today to mull over, is that according to the CDC, Lyme disease is the fastest growing vector-borne, infectious disease in the United States. 

22 April 2014

I'm Not Chopped Liver Yet

It's been extremely challenging to try to write anything for the blog recently, feeling as badly as I do.
We at first thought it was just normal herxing from the recent medications my Lyme doctor had prescribed for the new regimen I'll be undertaking to fight this disease.

However, after many weak, pained, and just crummy days, my doctor called in a fit of hysteria over the weekend while my family and I were gone camping for Easter. Apparently, my liver enzymes were on alert. In fact, they were the highest she had ever seen--not just for me, but for anybody.

Three more blood tests later...and the levels are still the same.

hurt liver

I'm not even going to try to lie and say I'm not worried, because I definitely am, but like my doctor said, I'm so used to feeling crummy it almost hasn't registered with me exactly how bad my body probably really is feeling right now.

Yes, I'm definitely in pain. I can tell that something's not right. But like I said, we just put it off as another herx initially.

So the whole point of this post really is: to explain why I've been away for so long and to maybe sort of kinda ask if you guys would wish me well. I'd really appreciate it, and I'll keep everyone updated as I hopefully get back to blogging regularly soon!

12 April 2014

Book Review: The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon

"Words, I've come to learn, are pulleys through time. Portals into other minds." 

*I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Goodreads description (x): 
 (condensed): In the not-so-distant future, the forecasted “death of print” has become a reality. Bookstores, libraries, newspapers, and magazines are things of the past, and we spend our time glued to handheld devices called Memes that not only keep us in constant communication but also have become so intuitive that they hail us cabs before we leave our offices, order takeout at the first growl of a hungry stomach, and even create and sell language itself in a marketplace called the Word Exchange.
     Anana Johnson works with her father, Doug, at the North American Dictionary of the English Language (NADEL), where Doug is hard at work on the last edition that will ever be printed. One evening, Doug disappears from the NADEL offices, leaving a single written clue: ALICE. It’s a code word he devised to signal if he ever fell into harm’s way. And thus begins Anana’s journey down the proverbial rabbit hole . . .
     Joined by Bart, her bookish NADEL colleague, Anana begins to penetrate the mystery of her father’s disappearance as a pandemic of decaying language called “word flu” spreads. The Word Exchange becomes a cautionary tale that is at once a technological thriller and a meditation on the high cultural costs of digital technology.

 My rating: 4 out of 5 hoots 

Two different POVs make up this novel, piecing together a terrifying story which, until it eventually unfolds, had me in full suspense. Because of the two narrators, you also receive different perspectives about the "word flu" stricken world around them. In a few of the reviews that I read, some people were complaining they didn't like the back-and-forth of POVs--they found it annoying and too much to follow. Having read George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, I can easily say two narrators is nothing. Because Alena Graedon gives these two characters (and even the minor characters) such strong voices, it's obvious who is narrating for us.

There are no chapter numbers, no titles such as "Anana's POV" or "Bart's POV." Instead, the entire book follows the alphabet, with what would ordinarily be the chapter's title replaced with a word followed by its definition. This seemed to be a cause for complaint among many reviewers as well, but I found it quite charming. After all, the book is about the dictionary, and uh...words, words, words!

The footnotes from the author were enjoyable to read--to an extent. I actually felt rather neutral towards them. I don't mind a book with footnotes, but this one needed more or none at all. (Also, if you're reading this book on a Kindle, like many have found out, footnotes are a pain in the rear.)

Overall, I just can't bring myself to chat others up enough about Graedon's writing. Every aspect--from her use of diction, to her brilliant metaphors, to her impeccable imagery--all tallied up to create this story that truly takes you through the rabbit hole and back out. You feel a bit dizzy afterwards, but it was so worth it in the end.

Because the plot is so much like a little puzzle, but not necessarily a "whodunit" type of deal, the book ends up being one of those that, even when you're not reading it, you're thinking about it. I love when you're trying to solve a part of a book as you're going along with it, especially if it turns out unexpectedly. If that happens, I immediately award 10 points to Gryffindor.

Something that might be off-putting to some readers, though, and which is a bit jarring at first, is that after the word flu starts making its rounds in the book, Graedon allows the reader to experience firsthand what the pandemic is all about by sneaking in some nonsense words. Like I said, first it's a bit jarring. Then it's a little puzzling. I became irritated by it in some parts because, even with the context around it, I still couldn't figure out what the person was trying to say. Either way, I became used to it...which was, admittedly, a little scary. I almost felt like I was coming down the word flu myself.

I also had to look up many words on my Kindle's dictionary. I kept thinking, "Am I really having this much brain fog lately or are these words just really tricky?" I came to believe it was all a matter of the author giving us a taste of what it was like for the Meme users who were constantly looking up data (especially word definitions) on the Word Exchange every few minutes. (That, or she was just really pulling out the big guns.)

When it comes to the Memes and technology, you start to realize fairly quickly the theme is pretty in-your-face. I'm not saying it was irritating...it just made me want to set my phone aside for a while. Because the book goes so in-depth with our language, communication, and human nature, anything similar to a word flu pandemic in the real world would make me shrink in panic.

Even though I really did enjoy this book, and I know I'm not describing the Memes very well or the word flu (I don't want to spoil the book!), there was one thing that really bothered me. I actually ended up liking another character better than the main character, Anana. It wasn't that I disliked her, it was just that I found the other character, Bart, easier to relate to. That being said, I did like how the characters each had flaws and did actually make mistakes that were for the most part, mistakes most of us would probably make in such a crisis.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely. You want to know what else I would recommend? Reading. Preferably the dictionary. Because, holy mackerel...I feel like I've gained knowledge but also gained a few headaches along the way.

*Thanks NetGalley for the free copy of this book. 

05 April 2014

Playlist: "Under the Covers"

This playlist, comprised completely of covers, is one that I had a lot of fun putting together.
I used SoundCloud this time because a lot of these tracks were hard to find elsewhere.

My personal favorites are the first and the last songs, and I just couldn't pass up adding the video to the last song because it adds to the charm.


This original song by Bastille is an easy go-to in my mind when I want something to listen to that I know will uplift my mood. The cover takes the song to even new heights, making it just a little more playful. Plus, how beautiful is Paola Bennet's voice?!

WALK THE MOON sings this song, titled "Maps," originally by Yeah Yeah Yeahs. If you've heard the original, you know how heart-wrenching it can be. This version has a happier feel about it, and the clapping just makes me want to tap my fingers or clap along as well.

On the heavier side, we have Halestorm's version of the oh-so-catchy "Get Lucky" tune. Girl does a great job belting this song out!

Finally, I'm leaving you all with a Miley Cyrus cover that I saw a few months ago and listen to every now and then when I'm in the dumps. While not much of a Miley fan, I still caught myself singing this tune once in a while. Now that I've heard the cover by Postmodern Jukebox, though, I'm never going back to the original!

Forget the haters cause somebody loves ya! 

02 April 2014

Wordful Wednesday//Lyme & Hobbies: A Time for Tinkering

"Find something you're passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.” 
― Julia Child

 They say that pain changes you. It's true, of course, but in many unexpected ways.

What I fought so hard against and still mope about from time to time is how living with a chronic illness has affected my hobbies.

I was never adventurously athletic, but I ran with my brother when he was training for the Marines—pretending I was training as well—and I loved to go to the gym with my father, pushing out as many leg presses as I could. I was surprisingly strong for my build, which was a slender frame with my father's broad shoulders. I was, for the most part, healthy.

Video games were an awesome spectacle my mother could barely drag me away from at times. What teenager doesn't get into video games?
I loved games like World of Warcraft as well as the less hardcore ones (think Animal Crossing).

Cooking was a definite favorite. Experimenting with food was a great pleasure, especially whenever I could learn from my grandmother or mother. I loved making treats for the family. Although I was no Julia Child, I still loved knowing that it was ME who made that meal. And that I made it with love, of course.

Reading and writing were my strong points. I could go through a book in a day; I don't mean a novella, I mean a book! I wrote poetry or short stories every day and still managed to keep up with a journal. I did extremely well in all my classes, especially my French classes as well as, you guessed it—English classes. Even though I rarely studied, I made consistent A's; I even managed to graduate with Honors—and that was without taking any classes my last semester due to being bedridden from early symptoms of the Lyme disease creeping out of its benign state.

These were just some of my hobbies as a healthy, happy, young adult.

As I mentioned, I was bedridden for a while, and am still at times partially so. This makes exercise and just going outside to enjoy nature a little tough. The number of times I hear, “If you just got out a little, you would feel so much better. Or exercised! Have you tried running?”

Have I tried running​​​? Seriously...as if that's even an option. The best I can do right now is light yoga and maybe a hop on the stationary bike (which I'm extremely proud of myself for!).

I rarely play video games anymore because a lot of them involve graphics that cause me to have seizures, I just don't find the same pleasure in them anymore as I once did (like many things—cue depression), and I would rather spend the money I do have on more beneficial items...like medicine. Or even makeup. At least makeup can make me feel healthy.

The last topic I mentioned is the most difficult for me to talk about. It was my passion, and it still remains that, but it's hard for my brain to complete as a task anymore. It's less enjoyable.

I have difficulty with reading the words—I forget definitions, I can't comprehend sentences' meanings, I reread the same paragraphs over and over and over... It probably doesn't help that I struggle with concentration issues as well.

I've made myself dedicate at least an hour each day to reading, but that hour doesn't always get me very far in a book. Of course, a lot of the time I will go over an hour, but sometimes I get so frustrated I just want to throw the book (or more often, my Kindle) across the room.

It's sad when you meet a new person and one of their first questions is: “What do you like to do for fun?”
What can I say?
“Well, I used to like to do a lot of things, but I can't really do them anymore.”

I hope you have something you are passionate about. Maybe you have more than just one thing you are passionate about. Maybe you have 120 hobbies you are passionate about (you go, Glen Coco).

Keep at them and build them up. Build yourself up.

If you're reading this and you think, well, maybe you're boring because you don't have that one thing you just love--explore! That is what I am trying to do now. I believe that hobbies stuff us full of good thoughts and feelings, connect us to others, and produce beautiful works in the process.

What is your favorite hobby? If you're thinking of reaching out to begin a new hobby—tell me which one.

01 April 2014

{Widened Horizons}

I'm so excited for this week's Widened Horizons post.
I discovered the funniest dog picture over the weekend and I have been itching to share it. That, and, you know...some other cool stuff. And things.

For instance, this "heart christening bangle" from Topshop. It immediately caught my eye because I have one almost exactly like it that I stole from my mom's jewelry stash when I was young and kept. I later found out she had it as a young girl, too! So to see in stores now what I thought was the EXACT bracelet I already own, was pretty nifty.
heart bangle

I'm a huge dress fan. In fact, I basically only wear dresses. So it comes as no surprise that I'm salivating over this dress from Ruche right now:
spring meadow dress

Ever owned a bandolier? Even know what it is? The Etsy shop cleverhands describes it as "a strap fitted with small loops for carrying pens, pencils, and other handy tools wrapped around a journal, planner, or other book." They're convenient, neat as hell, and can actually be CUTE--a definite plus.
patterned bandolier pencils

While this is a Pre-Fall 2014 collection, I am digging Adam Lippes' work. Especially this printed blouse paired with these trousers.
adam lippes 14 print collection

Finally, we get to this bit of a masterpiece that I found on Tumblr. It truly makes me shed tears every time I peek at it. I just can't.
dog potholder funny

OH, but we can't forget the owl find, can we?!
This little necklace is so adorable, and I want it for my own collection. I actually own one similar by the same Etsy store, and it's one of my favorite necklaces. I've posted my owl necklace below as well!
owl necklace wood personal owl necklace

Quick Links: