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I had been considering sharing Jim Wright’s original post earlier today but wanted to sit with it a little more. I’m sharing it now because the type of people who report posts like this make me furious. If you don’t agree, move on to someone you do agree with; I do this every time I’m on FB. (As an aside, I’m not rehashing the day’s events here in a play-by-play but am instead examining my thoughts and some realizations I had about the day.)

The reason I needed to sit with it was two-fold: one, it was very strongly worded and I could see how some might find it offensive & I wanted to be sure I was up for any dialogue that might ensue; two, I have A LOT of feelings about this day, and it tends to be rough for me on a personal level, so I sometimes get lost in the misery porn this day seems to breed. 
However, while talking about Jim’s post with Rin, I had a startling realization: I should view this day as my personal independence day because what happened on 9-11 served as the catalyst for getting the abusive man who was slowly leeching my life away from me *out* of my life. Yes, at the time I was pregnant – only a couple of weeks out from knowing that fact, but about 10 weeks along. I was a hot fucking mess even before I found out what was happening that morning, though in hindsight it makes a helluva lot more sense. I went off two anti-depressants cold turkey. My child was a product of rape and I knew that no one would have believed me, because he WAS good at conning and, well, we know how that goes. That man lived in my parents’ house despite my wishes, but his only reaction to my pregnancy was to whine “but what about me?” without ever moving from his initial self-centered reaction. I was certain that I *needed* that man out of my life despite what anyone else thought prior to or after that point, but after so little success at getting him to leave (or even just to leave me alone), I had no idea how to make that happen. There was a lot of other fucking bullshit that is even harder to sum up in a paragraph here, but in short–It was not a good time. (In hindsight, being such a mess over all of that makes, well, a lot more sense than it did at the time. Which Rin has pointed out and tries to remind me if I forget that in a fit of MommyGuilt.)
I glued myself to news stories and news feeds until I couldn’t see anything BUT the towers falling because I couldn’t *do* anything else. I suppose in the back of my head I felt that since I couldn’t do anything I could at least watch what those poor people went through. I did this until I made myself ill and my Mom finally convinced me that I needed to stop not just for my sake but for the baby’s. I spent the night sobbing, wondering why anyone would want to bring a child into this world where people so cruelly killed their fellow man and for what? My Mom wisely pointed out that the world needs the brightness and joy that children can being and it at least soothed a little of that fear. 
Every year after that, I’ve spent at least some time re-watching the coverage, looking at pictures and names and death tolls and the little bits of new information since because I felt some measure of duty to do so. This year, though, I *knew* I didn’t need to do that. I told Rin that I should probably stay off of social media today (though I’ve not kept to that super well, oops) because I didn’t want to get caught up in all of it. Why? Because reliving those awful moments aren’t what actually helps the world be better. Making myself sick with repeated images of both the national tragedy and my personal soap opera life at the time don’t help. I’m not suggesting we forget or pretend it never happened, but this year, I didn’t feel the need to self-flagellate in the name of history. 
I don’t have a good answer as to why right now. I suspect that it’s the work of Glennon, of Jenny, of Liz, of Brené – the work that says, “love wins” & “we belong to each other” & shame isn’t a thing to hold on to but is a construct that holds us back & that the world is dark & scary but your tribe is out there, bringing light & love & hope. It’s the work that’s taken hold in my heart and reminds me that fifteen years later, I’m in a better place, in better relationships, that my daughter is healthy & loved & wonderful. (Okay, except when she’s not wonderful, but we’re working on that.) It’s the work that reminds me that even though there are people in this country who’d have us believe that we should be always afraid (especially of *those* people who aren’t like us) that we have more to celebrate than to fear because we belong to each other and there are people working to prove that every single day by simply living their lives in truth and love and compassion. Fifteen years ago, I was *terrified* of what the future held; today, I’m still afraid sometimes, but I’m also aware that life is what it is. There are no guarantees and no easy buttons; no insurance policy is good enough to protect you from what happens even if you can afford it, so it’s better to acknowledge that and live with an open heart even though it can hurt. Fifteen years ago, despite being hundreds of miles away from New York, I felt I needed to be punished for living while so many others didn’t because I wasn’t worthy of living compared to some of the people who died that day. Today, I understand the absurdity of that idea because I know that no one is more or less worthy in that regard than anyone else.
Today, I’m worried about my country & the direction some people would have us go in. I’m worried about the messages of hate, intolerance, and injustice that seem to dominate the media. But instead of letting that worry consume me, I’m looking for the stories of love, hope, compassion, and respect; I’m looking for the voices seeking justice and understanding, the voices teaching tolerance and truth. I believe that we can do better because I see people who are doing better. I know we have a long way to go, but I think there are people who can help us on that path. So, today, while I grieve for the losses we felt that day 15 years ago, I am holding space for those people and their families instead of drowning in the images of that day. And I grieve for the lives lost since that day from our soldiers to the innocents who’ve died on the path of war and fear that we’ve traveled since that day. What I’m not doing is letting this day become a monument of unending sorrow, of self-flagellation, or of guilt. Love is the name of the day.
Now, I’m going to go spend more time not on the Internets because I need to do that, & I’m going to let the thought of this day being a sort of independence day sink in because it’s a realization that is a long time in coming and it’s incredibly important. I’ll never forget what happened that day, but I’m not going to let it eat me alive anymore, either. 
Post script: Okay, so I did put this down earlier, but before I got up to have dinner and family time I realized it was too long for pure stream of consciousness and all of its rambling run-ons, so I set it aside to come back to tonight for a bit of tidying up. But I realized that while I do think that the media circus and misery porn is unhealthy and too easily pushed into lines that work against love and compassion, I wanted to make it clear that I’m also NOT judging others for still having trouble with the anniversary, or certainly with broader elements of life since then. I don’t expect the world to turn up for a genuine round of Kumbaya and magically have it stick. (That takes work, people. The kind I referenced above.) However, I do hope that we can all move in and toward compassionate learning, which also includes (to and of?) oneself. So I decided to share some of my new realizations here today. Which I’m going to go ahead and post now before the idea becomes too unnerving to Keep Swimming on through. 
Also? Huge thanks to Rin who waded through my stream of consciousness earlier and helped turned this into something, well, readable.

Jim’s post can now be found on his blog, Stonekettle Station.


Hello, Fourteen. It’s nice to meet you, though I must say I’m still occasionally baffled that you’re here. It’s hard to believe that my little cabbage patch baby is Fourteen! But here we are.

Thirteen brought challenges of its own. I knew to expect some of them. Others we’re still working on trying to figure out. But that’s okay, because we’ll do it together, the three of us.

In some ways you’ve changed a lot this year, but in others, the changes are smaller, more subtle. You’re processing things on different levels (when you decide it’s worth the work), and it’s fascinating to hear how your brain works.

Thirteen saw you struggling a lot more with feelings that we all have from time to time, from feeling alone in the world or feeling like you don’t fit. It’s normal, as frustrating as that sentiment is, because I know it doesn’t really help address the issues you feel. Sometimes, though, the knowing that you’re *not* the only one who feels a certain way can be a stronger balm than actually figuring out how to change the feeling. I’d love to tell you that these awkward feelings are the realm of your teenage years, but the truth is that you’ll likely visit them many times in your life. It’s hard, but it’s okay, because there will always be people who can tell you that no matter how you feel, you’re amazing the way you are.

That’s what I want you to learn this year: that you’re amazing. Even if there are things you need to work on, you’re still amazing. Life is a journey of self-improvement; there will always be room for change, but that room for change doesn’t make you any less amazing. It really just doesn’t.

You’re becoming more of your own person which is an interesting journey. You’ve made some choices with that autonomy that I’d have preferred you hadn’t, but even so, it’s kind of interesting to see the person you’re trying to become. We’ll work on the rough edges, Fourteen, and we’ll explore your autonomy while reminding you that you still have plenty of time to be a kid. That’s okay, too.

You bring me a lot of joy. If there is one thing I could hammer into your head, it would be that. I know the last year that might have been harder to tell, but that’s not through any fault of you. Mommy’s had a rough year. (And you have no idea how happy it makes me that I’m still “Mommy”. No idea.) I’m afraid you’ll look back and see how often Mommy couldn’t leave the bedroom or couldn’t go to this thing or inadvertently made everyone miss that thing and you might be angry. I could understand that; truly, I could. My comfort, though, is knowing that your Mum, your Rin, has been there right beside you the whole way, picking up the pieces that I just wasn’t able to hold.

In a meeting with your therapist, he told me that part of the job of a good mom is making certain that her kid is well taken care, whether it means leaning on her partner for help, asking for help, or stuff like that. I argued with him for a good give minutes because everything I believed about parenting said that I should be able to do everything, no matter how hard it is, so it meant I was failing. Between Tom and Rin, they finally got me to stop and listen – really listen that is. It’s taken me a few months, but I think I finally *get* it.

The truth is that you *are* well taken care of. You are well loved. Rin does an amazing job with you, often better than I ever imagined I could and that makes me happy. I’d be lost without her. She’s helping to raise you into an awesome person, & that makes me so damn happy.

I have no idea what you’re going to bring to the party, Fourteen, but I know I’ll meet it with the same sense of wonder (and mild trepidation) that I’ve met each year, along with a slightly bittersweet sense of sadness that you’re growing up in front of my eyes. You’re a beautiful, intelligent, awesome person, Fourteen, and I’m going to spend the next year helping you learn that for yourself.

Happy, Messy Christmas

It’s Christmas Day, though I will confess to finding it hard to feel as in the Christmas spirit as I might like. Frustration has been the name of the last week, and we are still in Indiana. We have one more family thing in Georgia that we *might* be able to make, but it’s going to be a tight squeeze since there are still a few things to be done before we can leave. (Because there’s always one. more. thing.)

The day started early. We decided last night that we would at least go to brunch with the Adams-Curry clan since we were still in town because it felt mean to T to not go and we thought it might be a nice thing to do. Unfortunately, when this morning rolled around and there were a half dozen things that needed doing and less than two hours to do them in, tensions ran high.

Very high.

I’d love to say that I kept my cool, but the reality is that I completely didn’t. I tried. But I had been in the middle of crying my eyeballs out because, as I phrased it this morning, “I had all the feels and they tried to explode out of my face.” Unfortunately, Rin realized that we were running out of time and that there were a lot of things to do still and she started getting stressed out and… the yelling and the snarking started and it didn’t really stop until we’d actually been at brunch for a little bit.

A lot of it likely could have been avoided if the two of us had managed to inhale and find some balance at the same time. It also might have helped if we weren’t working at cross purposes. With the tornadoes that cropped up this week (a large part of why we’d not left in time for Christmas Eve with her Dad and extended family), Rin decided to adopt a “We’ll get there when we get there” mindset. It’s not my favorite, because it ends up stressing me out quite a bit, but I was *trying* really hard to do the same and was (shockingly) managing it better than I had previously.

What I didn’t realize is that she was going in a completely opposite direction this morning. She knows that being late to family things up here has been a major stressor for me, so she was trying to put all of her focus into getting us there a little early even. It…probably would have helped if she’d told me that instead of continuing to be super stressed and cranky that things weren’t working right.

There were added complications of “oh shit, we’re in town and all the gifts aren’t gathered together/made” which certainly took extra time where there really wasn’t any. It basically was a chaotic jumbled mess and tensions were running high.

Normally, I don’t write about stuff in detail like this, but I’m doing so to come  to a point, so I hope she’ll forgive me later. But, in all of the chaos and the arguing, I kept trying to wrap my brain around something I read from Brene Brown yesterday that says, “The magic is in the mess”. I kept trying to remind myself of that sentence over and over again.


Because this is not my favorite time of the year. Everyone is always more stressed and there are higher expectations for perfection, and when perfection isn’t achieved, it makes the “fall” that much harder. I saw it happen last year and that particular incident has changed entire relationships and I’m still not sure how to fix it or if it can even be fixed. So many people put so much energy into making things work out *just right* that they forget the reason that they are doing the things to begin with.

Rin tried to tell me that this morning and I missed it in the middle of my own brooding/angryness. She wanted to do *something* together as a family today. It was a small thing and it was a goal we both had, but we were attacking it from different angles. By the time we finally got back on the same page, we both got better. And once we got back in the car, we had to let Kero know that we had made up and that we had moved on. (Unfortunately, she kind of was stuck in the car with the two of us bickering the entire way.) We had similar ideas, but we didn’t take enough time to talk about it.

Yet, the magic is in the mess.

I often have trouble when we go to the Adams-Curry gatherings because I feel like an outsider. It’s something that I’m honestly not sure how to mend and there are a lot of factors at play that I don’t want to sidetrack into articulating. But, it happens. And it stresses me out because I feel awkward and ungainly and at best, like a three legged bull in a china shop. Today, there was some of that…

However, when it came time to open presents, one person reminded me that we’re a part of the family, too. She took the time to pick out things that she knew I would like. (Hello new craft storage bag with a bonus surprise!) T’s Mom also works hard to make sure I can eat things (and had to throw a couple of things together last minute since we initially weren’t supposed to be there), and she makes sure to spend some time chatting with Rin and I. (Perhaps it would be better to say that there are a few people I feel outside with.)

I needed the reminder this afternoon. I needed to know that I still had a place to belong there even when it didn’t feel like it. And when I couldn’t tell if the two people who received hand knit items liked them, Rin worked to ferret an answer from one of them. (The other, I am unshocked by not receiving an answer and I do not know why I bothered except I do because she is part of the family and while I have no idea why she doesn’t like me it doesn’t mean I’m going to leave her out but I digress.) But, no matter how you looked at it, I made things and they were lovely and I shared something I love with people I care about.

Was it a little messy and crazy and confusing? Sure it was. Do I have to IOUs outstanding now? You bet. But, it worked out because while some of the goal was to make things people liked, more of it was to share something I love with people I like. I achieved that goal and it’s an accomplishment to be proud of. It is also an accomplishment that I can *see* that given where my head is at this afternoon.

The magic is in the mess.

Our lives are messy. Sometimes, the chaos field is small. Other times? It’s so huge I don’t know how it hasn’t eaten us all alive. This year has been a rough year and we’ve missed a lot. I’m sure we’ve upset a lot of people and let a lot of people down. None of those people will ever know how many tears have been shed for the things and time that we’ve missed and I wouldn’t expect them to. Yet, there have been. A lot of tears. We *hate* disappointing people. We hate making people angry even more because then we feel like we’re in Trouble and that is one of the worst feelings.

Right now, our reality is messy. It comes completely with emotional roller coasters, missed deadlines, and a lot of anxiety. But if we wait until things are calmer, better, etc, we might be waiting an awful long time. But…if I shift the perspective and I stop looking at it from the “We’re fucking everything up” perspective and put on the “the magic is in the mess” perspectacles, it looks a little different.

Several people have done things in the last couple of weeks to let me know that people *do* want to see us. One person in particular (thank you, Chris) took the time to write out several things for me that I am still processing/haven’t had time to respond to because I’ve largely been sick in bed when I’ve not been helping pack that really helped me feel a little less…frantic about all of this travel stuff.

Will we make lunch tomorrow?

I have no clue.

What I do know is that we’ll make the effort doing the best that we can and we’ll find the magic in the mess, no matter where we end up. Because I’m tired of seeking what feels unattainable. I want to spend more time in 2016 living in the moments that *are* instead of the moments that *should be*.

Has today been a chaotic mess? Yep. But there have been good parts to…and hey, they day isn’t over yet.

Happy Christmas!

I’m struggling a lot right now in a couple of these areas, the biggest being “admitting I have a problem to more than a select few people”, & some of her points here hit home on a variety of levels.

I started another new medicine last night. It is a class that I’ve not tried before, & I am trying to be cautiously optimistic, but at the same time, I’m bloody terrified. I have tried so many medications in the last couple of years that have caused such a variety of side effects and problems that ANY new medication has become suspect. Yet, I am trying to not let the negative voices win, because if this medicine works like it is supposed to, it would be a blessed relief.

Either way, the reality is that between my chronic physical health problems and my chronic mental health problems, I can’t remain in the corner with my thumbs in my ears pretending that everything is fine. In August, I had an honest to gods nervous breakdown, & I am doing much better now, but it is a huge process that is a struggle not just for me, but also for the people around me. I want to be fixed immediately because I know what happened and I know ways to do better and to keep it from happening again, but desire and reality don’t always go hand in hand.

Rin has been a fucking trooper through all of this, and I honestly don’t know how she continues to put up with me. Yet she does. And she gently points me in the direction of essays like this one to show me that even if I am as utterly fucking nuts as I believe I am some days, I am not alone, that there are other people like me out there. And she has been slowly inspiring me to write again, not just for myself, but maybe also for sharing again. I suppose this long winded comment is a step in that direction.

Hi, I’m me, and I have anxiety that can be so crippling that even the -idea- of talking to anyone else can send me into a panic. I have been struggling with this more in the last year than I ever have before. Some of it is a direct result of brain chemistry being altered by physical disabilities. Some of it stems from the place where I feel unworthy, where I feel that I am never enough, and that I might never be either of those things. This is a very real, very painful struggle; yet, I am doing my best to actually do the struggling part instead of letting the Anxiety Monsters win. Some days, I manage some of that on my own. Other days, I put my trust in Rin because she keeps telling me that the Anxiety Monsters are wrong, and in August, when I was completely broken in her arms, I started to -really- listen to what she was saying.

Last night, she had to hand me the first dose of the new medicine, & she held me as I took it. She’ll be my champion no matter the outcome, and that is part of how I am managing to say any of this right now. And maybe soon, she’ll be able to get me to the local UU church again even if we’re going to be late, because I did really like the people, and I do really want to go to services. So, maybe soon, I’ll manage to get out of my own way there, too, because I know she’ll be beside me. But for now, I’m going to bed because my new medicine currently makes me very sleepy and perhaps slightly non-sensical.

Foxglove & Firmitas

Alternative Title: I’m Gonna Keep Talking About This Until It’s a Generally Accepted Thing…

It happened again. Someone posted another article on mental illness being a sign of a healer being born on the Local Pagan Facebook Group with the general overarching but not direct message being that all native and ancient cultures saw it as this. Now I don’t deny that mental illness can be the birth of a healer. I’ve known too many people who have struggled with a history of it, myself included, that haven’t found themselves called to help others dealing with similar problems.

However, these articles tend to stress how society is actually the sick one, and how we need to stop shoving pills at people to fix all their problems.

Anyone who has ever been on psychiatric medication will probably tell you that pills don’t solve all the problems and most professionals are pretty…

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Hello, Thirteen. We finally meet.

I have worried about our meeting off & on over the years as today you officially become a teenager. It is often said that the teenagers are some of most intractable, as you search for independence, a sense of self, & a passel of other things depending upon who you ask. As a young mother, I feared those far off years wondering how I would ever survive them. (Of course, there were years I wondered how I’d survive the toddler years, the tween years, and honestly, the infant ones, too.)

As a thirteen year veteran mom, I know that trying to define which stage begins & ends is a fool’s errand best left to people writing books to terrify young parents. Reality says that there’s no clear line, & trying to define it is as aggravating as trying to navigate it. I know that I’ve seen flashes of diva attitude often attributed to “teen years” since you were Four, and I’ve seen glimpses of the woman you could become at every milestone stop along the way.

I also know that the fear I’ve felt for the teenage years – and Thirteen especially – was pretty much vanquished by Twelve & all of it’s ups, downs, zigzags, & curveballs. (Never fear: I’m not challenging the universe. I’m not saying anything crazy like, “how much worse could it get”, it’s just, Twelve pretty much set the bar for Hard Shit. I was talking to Mana in the wee hours of this morning, “She only has one cyst in her brain, so that surprise has already been sprung.”) After Twelve, it seems silly to worry about an arbitrary number that defines nothing about you beyond how many years you’ve been on this planet.

Trying to define you is almost impossible these days. At your surprise birthday tea today, you said something was probably obvious & I didn’t have the heart to tell you that “obvious” with you isn’t always “obvious”. There are a few constants: you’re a huge nerd & proud of it; if it’s My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, odds are fair that you’ll like it; you hate washing dishes (something we’re going to work on this year); you love pink (with a few rare exceptions); you’re an amazing kid that I love (even when you’re being a pain in the tush) more than I ever knew was possible.

I honestly don’t know what to expect from you, Thirteen. Twelve gave me a lot more silvery-golden hairs than I had before, made me face a situation that was similar to one of my worst nightmares, & in general, was downright terrifying (& not only because of the beginning of our journey to Seizureville). That fateful June day at the allergy doctor’s office changed all of our lives forever, though looking back I think it’s more accurate to say the life changing moment was when the ER doctor walked into the room & said, “It’s not nothing because it’s obviously something, but it’s nothing” just after he said they’d found a cyst on the CT.

My heart skipped a beat & I struggled with myself to remain brave for you even though inside my head, I was screaming a variety of things that could best be summed up as, “NOOOOOOO! NOT MY BABY!!!!” I listened to that ER doctor explain what they did know & also how much they didn’t. From that point, we began a journey that has changed all three of us in good & not so good ways. It’s still a journey as there are still so many unanswered questions, but the one thing that I know is we’ll make the journey together, your two moms & you.

Twelve also saw a spike in inattentive behavior, a tendency for slacking in your work that’s been downright maddening at times, & a few hints of attitude that I’d really like to not see repeat too much with Thirteen. While the seizures likely account for part of this, we’ve also confirmed that you likely do have ADHD though trying to sort those two things from, as your therapist put it, “a healthy case of being twelve”. All of this has made for rocky times, but I also know that it’s something you’re trying to work on, & I’m hopeful that between the strategies you’ve learned in the last few months & a genuine effort on your part to improve that Thirteen will find even more improvement. I hesitate right now to include this section & may yet delete it; however, it was definitely a recurring theme of Twelve, and I want you to be able to look at this in the future & say, “wow! Look how far I’ve come.”

Thirteen, I have no idea what to expect from you. Your therapist suggests that one thing to expect is a quest to define yourself as a separate entity from the you that we as your parents have helped shape. This both intrigues me & terrifies me; I’ve always been amazed by watching you grow & change before my eyes. It terrifies me, because I don’t know what to expect & that’s always a challenge for me.

In the last several months, you’ve been doing some work both with our help, with your therapist’s help, & on your own to learn to be able to communicate your thoughts & feelings more clearly & to find a better balance with your emotional self-care. At times, this has frustrated you beyond belief, made you in turns angry & sad, and has clearly been a challenge, yet you keep trying. I’m so proud of you for that; I know how difficult this type of sorting can be.

Thirteen, I know that no matter what happens, I’ll love you more than I have words to speak & I know the same can be said of your Mum, because no matter what, we’ll always love you. Always, baby girl. Always.

Ten Thousand Places

stronggirlI spent most of my life believing that if I said and did exactly the right thing no one would get mad at me, no one would misunderstand me and everything would work out. Every time anyone was mad at me, I took it as a personal failure, and tried to figure out what I’d done wrong and what I could do differently the next time. I mean, EVERY TIME. It was, and is, exhausting. Constantly replaying and rehashing each interaction, no matter how small, as if my brain were perpetually tuned to sports radio after a big game, analyzing the plays and the players, the coach’s decisions, the referee’s calls, the weather, the history, the fans.

I can’t remember exactly when it first occurred to me that there might not be the perfect thing to say, and that other people’s flaws and imperfections might be contributing to misunderstandings, too…

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Honor Among Orcs!

Beauty must save the 


 photo Dillin_HAOKindleFinal_zps7437f3f0.jpg

Honor Among Orcs

by Amalia Dillin  
Publication Date: April 1, 2014
Series: Orc Saga, Book One
Genre: New Adult Fantasy/ Romantic Fantasy 

After nearly a decade as the king’s whipping-girl, Princess Arianna has no intention of going quietly into marriage to some treasonous noble, or serving obediently as the king’s spy until her death is more convenient. When she discovers a handsome orc, chained and trapped inside a magic mirror, Arianna cannot help but see a lasting freedom from her father’s abuse.

Left to rot inside a mirror by the king, Bolthorn never imagined his prayers would be answered by a princess. Nor did he ever expect to meet so worthy a woman after knowing her father’s cruelty. He needs her help to escape the mirror before the king marches against the orcs, but all he can offer Arianna is ice and darkness in exchange for her aid. 

If Arianna can free the monster behind the glass, perhaps she might free herself, as well. But once they cross the mountain, there will be no return, and the deadly winter is the least of what threatens them on the other side. Romance blossoms in this gripping fantasy adventure.

Available on
Amazon  |   B&N  |  Goodreads

About the Author

Amalia Dillin began as a Biology major before taking Latin and falling in love with old heroes and older gods. After that, she couldn’t stop writing about them, with the occasional break for more contemporary subjects. She lives in upstate New York with her husband, and dreams of the day when she will own goats–to pull her chariot through the sky, of course. 

Amalia is the author of the Fate of the Gods trilogy from World Weaver Press, and the soon to be released Orc Saga, coming April 1, 2014. You can learn more about her work at

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My Thoughts on Honor of the Orcs

Things have been quiet around my blog of late (though certainly not quiet outside of it which I’ll talk about later), but today I am pretty excited to be participating in the Book Blast for Amalia Dillin’s newest book, Honor Among Orcs. (Though after a couple of hours of fighting with coding between the book blast codes and wordpress being a pain, I’m questioning my sanity. :P) I have read books in Amalia’s Fate of the Gods series that begins with Forged By Fate that I absolutely adored, so I was pretty excited to hear about the new series. Being able to be a part of the book blast is something new for me, but I’m super happy to help Amalia out because she is an all around awesome person and a kick ass writer.

As much as I enjoyed Forged By Fate, I honestly did not know what to expect with Honor Among Orcs and I am occasionally trepidatious about new worlds (because sometimes I am a dork). It was an entirely different setting with an intriguing concept, so I was certainly game to go exploring. As I eagerly began those first pages, curious to see what wizardy Amalia had worked this time, I had no clue that I would be diving headfirst into a tale that begins with a rush and leaves you wondering just where the next turn of the bend will take you. One of the things I love about Amalia’s writing is her ability to make characters that are incredibly real. As you get the first glimpse of Arianna, you can almost feel the sprightly youth who is stuck trying to conform to her tyrannical father. The first glimpses of King Gunnar, Arianna’s father, almost left me cringing because I felt I could hear the smarmy smugness beneath the clear cruelty he exhibited. Descriptions of Lord Alviss and his actions left my skin crawling more than once, and I held certain rather strong feelings about what I would like to see happen to him. Perhaps most poignant of all was the introduction to Bolthorn, who even in wretched captivity managed to evade strength and safety behind his wary exterior. It was not difficult to get behind Arianna and Bolthorn early in the book and I found them both to be worthy leads to the story. Each had flaws and strengths that played to the other’s in such a way that it wove a clever story without seeming trite and boring.

Arianna and Bolthorn find themselves frequently struggling between worlds, whether it is human and orc, orc and elf, or somewhere in between. There are forces at play that neither of them had ever imagined, and at times, all that keeps them afloat is the assurance that somehow, somewhere, the other is there. I found myself frequently wondering just what could possibly happen next and there were several points and twists I certainly did not see coming which is a credit to the care and detail that Amalia writes with. The world she has begun to build with this book is certainly captivating and there is clearly room for a lot of storytelling within the landscape, and I found myself wanting to know more about so many things and so many places. Sometimes, a lot of room for more stories can make the story you’re reading confusing and in some cases, irritating. In the case of Honor Among Orcs, while I found I had questions and curiosities about other areas, I never felt it was distracting me from the story being told. Instead, it felt like I was catching glimpses of potential in the wilderness that could be seen but not yet touched, promises of a future both for Arianna and Bolthorn as well as members of their worlds past, present, and future.

Despite multiple characters being introduced, the story is easy to follow. At its start, it is a tale of a heroine trying to save a hero and herself, which is compelling enough on its own given how often the reverse is true, but at its heart, Honor is about finding strength in love, finding faith and trust in the most trying of moments, and of finding one’s place in the world. You cannot have the story of Arianna and Bolthorn without also learning of politics amongst orcs and elves and you cannot learn about orcs and elves without realizing that there are other lessons to find in the text. Themes such as questioning beauty (and not taking it at face value) as well as pride in oneself and one’s kith and kin recur within the story and find varying resolutions. The adventure of the story alone makes it a fantastic read, but the depths that Amalia explores inter-race politics, gender roles & expectations, and family dynamics make it something more than a simple adventure-love story.

As much as I love the story, there were a few spots I found it lagging. Some of the miscommunications between Arianna and Bolthorn in the early parts of the book before they reach the mountain pass grew tedious at times. I would have liked to have seen some of that resolved a bit sooner than it was. In my opinion, there were plenty of potential points of tension between them so a bit of the “she couldn’t possibly love me/he couldn’t possibly want me” grated on my nerves and I was definitely glad when that piece was resolved. In fact, this is perhaps the biggest point I had trouble with and had to keep making myself come back to the story without being distracted by other things. I wanted that resolution to happen, I felt that the resolution was going to happen, and for me, it just needed to happen a little sooner. To be clear, I’m not saying I think they should have fallen immediately head over heels for each other, because that is also annoying. I just wish that given the connection that had been forming between them they had managed to get their heads out of their bums and talk to each other just a few pages sooner than they did. Once that resolution happened, I stopped wondering when the story would pick up again and was swept straight back into the tale.

The other point that I wish had been a little more clear were who each of the Vala in the story were and their relationships to other parts of the story. I can’t spell this one out quite as clearly as I’d like without coming close to spoiler territory and I don’t want to do that. I suspect that part of it was I started to confuse some of the “V” names in the explanation part and a more careful reading might have helped me avoid that; however, it is a point that I found slightly frustrating, so I encourage you to read those parts carefully and catch a grasp of who each person is. (There is also a helpful Dramatis Personae at the end of the e-book that I found after the fact, so if you do become confused, I highly recommend jumping to that part and then returning to reading.)

Given that those two points are pretty minor in the grand scheme of book reading and are largely more personal things as opposed to actual writing flaws, I happily give the story five stars. I encourage you to read it and fall in love with the characters and become wrapped up in Amalia’s new world. While I still think I love Forged by Fate better, I’ll be quite eager to read more in Honor’s world as well. I know that Arianna and Bolthorn’s story is far from done and I cannot wait to see what happens next. (Also, I vote for Fossegrim to be a huge part in any other books written in this world because he was, by far, my favorite character. He is clearly a man with stories to tell and he exudes mischief and whimsy even when he is being serious. I loved him pretty much from the second sentence about him and my opinion of him only grew as the story went on. Let me just mention again how much I love Amalia’s ability to write characters and make them real.)

Now, what are you waiting for?! Enter the giveaway and speed off to buy the book! You won’t regret it!


As a disclaimer, I received my copy of Honor Among Orcs in exchange for giving honest reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. While I certainly love free books, my opinions are based on the work itself and are not biased by the e-arc. I just also pride myself on honesty in reviews and thus felt the note was in order. Free books do not buy good reviews in my world. 🙂

Strange and beautiful.

This is amazing and beautiful and worth reading!

The Bloggess

I don’t know if it’s the planets or the meds or the darkness of winter, but this week I’ve been a bit down in the hole and I suspect I’m not the only one.  Then I heard this song that I’ve loved and forgotten and it saved me a little bit.  Little things save me from myself all the time.  Sometimes it’s music, and sometimes it’s words from writers who’ve been dead for years, and sometimes it’s you.

If you’re sad or lonely or feeling like you’re one of the misfit toys, know that you are part of us.  And remember that those misfit toys were always far more interesting than the normal ones.

Tell someone that you love them, or that they’re important.  And tell yourself.  Because it’s true.

PS. I wrote this last night but I was too mentally exhausted to publish it, and this morning I looked…

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[This entry is transcribed from my handwritten journal. As a general warning, I am even more scattered and occasionally more circular when I write by hand than I am when I type. This entry is quite long and honestly, it could possible be two entries. I might come back and edit it that way later, but right now I am just trying to get it all typed up so that I don’t keep procrastinating doing so. It was written at about 4:30 am on 22 October 2013.]


Given all the recent changes and goings-on, it seems only fitting to (finally) starting using this new journal. [My Thor journal that Rin bought me. ^_^] Granted, I should be asleep. It’s 4:30 in the morning and I have to be up at 8 to get ready for my first appointment with the therapist at Healthlinc. I had (somewhat amazingly) managed to forget about it until yesterday afternoon. I managed to stay fairly distracted (largely by ghost hunting in the Sims Free Play) most of the evening, but these types of things always have a way of creeping up on me when I lay down no matter how tired I am. I read for awhile, a silly romance novel (The Inconvenient Duchess), that at least managed to be distracting until I finished it. Then, of course, it was almost 4:30 and I was clearly still awake. I slipped out of bed to see if Rin was possibly still awake, but it seems I’m the only one awake at this point. On one hand, that’s good, because she was exhausted and needed sleep. On the other, it meant I was left alone with my own brain which isn’t always my favorite state of affairs. Instead of starting a second book, I decided that perhaps I should take my own advice and face off with myself. So now I’m scribbling furiously in an effort to keep up with my own mental babbling by the booklight in my Kindle cover in an attempt to not disturb anyone else. It seems both slightly poetic and maybe silly since I could just go sit on the couch. But whatever. Here I am.

Yesterday was frustrating. There were some communication issues that threatened to turn into a huge fight. I suppose, since I’m peering into my own brain, some of those issues stemmed from my own insecurities. The largest culprit yesterday was “not wanting to be a burden” coupled with a bit of expectation of a certain thing without having made those needs known. On the face of it, it was all fairly minor, and I just was frustrated and irritated. Beneath it, I felt both angry with myself for feeling so needy and frustrated that she didn’t read my mind. There were things both of us could have done better and hopefully in the future we will; however, I try not to talk too much about specific disagreements online (yes, I was handwriting this with the knowledge that it would eventually make it online) because it isn’t everyone’s business. With that in mind, I do think I need to examine some of my own reactions.

When I realized I was both upset and becoming frustrated, I should have reached out and let her know. I stopped myself both because I wanted her to somehow realize I needed her and also because I didn’t want to bother her for anxiety reasons again. Right now, this seems plain as can be, but it wasn’t so clear then. I’m getting better at recognizing anxiety and stress for what they are, but it is still a work in progress. I missed some of the mental hints and instead let myself get a little broody. By the time I did reach out, I was more than a little cranky. When she got home, while I tried to talk to her about why I was frustrated calmly, I suspect more of the other crept in than I wanted to admit at the time. I didn’t have the worst possible reaction, but in hindsight, I realize I could have chosen if not a better way to handle it, then a better time to handle it. Trying to discuss something only a few minutes after someone gets home rarely goes well. It just sort of came out when she asked if I was okay. So, hopefully next time, I’ll at least manage better timing. Things did settle back down and she worked on making dinner. She was trying something new with veggie soup and it ended up taking longer than she was expecting. That meant she spent most of the evening in the kitchen…which to be honest was unexpected on my part and also a bit frustrating. I finally realized I was just playing games for something to do and maybe reading for a bit and trying to sleep was a better course of action. I went to tell her and she got upset with me. I’m still a little confused as to why. I know part of it was because we didn’t have any of our usual evening downtime, but she had been working in the kitchen and I had no clue she could have stopped for a bit. While we were discussing it, she expressed some frustration that food didn’t seem to be a “making me feel better” thing since I went GF. I thought about it for a minute and realized that on some level, I had been working to make that separation in my head since I was already making large changes. Most of the weight I’ve put on in the last 2 years has been from stress eating, it that is really not healthy physically or mentally. We talked a little more, but I wasn’t managing to put my thoughts into words. I suspect this was a part of what was keeping me awake because cooking is something she does to make people feel good. She likes when her food makes people happy and when she finds things they love. With that in mind, and me realizing the mental changes I was unconsciously making, there was a bit of a disconnect and I could tell she was upset but couldn’t assuage that upset.

First, the obvious. You have no idea how much I love when you cook for me, even if it seems basic and easy. Cooking comes easily for you whereas for me, it’s a struggle. I don’t enjoy it, so when I do cook, it’s a necessity thing not a because I want to thing. You’ve introduced me to more foods than I can count, and on your watch, I’ve come to love asparagus, zucchini, parsnips, and even new cheeses, all because you take the time to make them. When you bring home asparagus it is sometimes more exciting to me than chocolate, and if anyone had ever hinted I’d write a sentence like that, I’d tell them they were crazy. Over the last few weeks, things have been stressful and I was having to watch what I ate even before I went GF because of my gallbladder, so you’ve had a challenge on your hands. The veggie soups you’ve been making have been getting me through a lot of the days where I felt like there was a way between my body, my brain, and food. I keep waiting for you to groan and beg me not to ask for it again because you and K are tired of it, but that hasn’t happened yet. So, even though it was taking awhile and wasn’t done when you wanted, I was still excited for soup. I’ve also been tired, out of sorts, and stressed, so it likely didn’t show as much. It hadn’t crossed my mind that there would be tasty soup when we got home from the doctor tomorrow because my brain keeps getting stuck somewhere around the doctor’s office. When you explained that after I admonished you for doing too much when you were tired and in pain, I both felt bad and felt all floaty hearted at the same time. So, see, your food is a comfort thing and a happy making thing even as I try to divorce some of the food = comfort pathways. It really is two separate things. I’m trying to stop the pathway that says, “Food will make you less stressed and will make things better” because it is not true. It might -temporarily- make things better but it won’t fix things and in the long run it makes things worse. In some ways, this is already and will continue to make me love the things you make even more because it is tasty and healthier than most of the junk I was craving before. I know some of the GF things have you a bit scared or maybe nervous is a better word because it is new territory for you and there’s more trial and error involved; however, I gleefully look forward to being your guinea pig because I know you’ll make awesome things and then all of our friends will be jealous they can’t steal you.

So, while I’m working on my mental relationship with food, it won’t diminish the love and comfort I receive from what you make for me because the two aren’t wholly connected. And if more of what I ask for you to make is mega-veggie soup instead of cookies or a cake, that won’t entirely be a bad thing. Your food makes me happy, love, and not in the dysfunctional “food will solve everything” way but in the “Holy shit this woman cares so much about me she spends six hours in the kitchen cooking for me and that is both mind-boggling and amazing” way. I hope that eases your worry better than I was managing last night.

There’s one nagging issue down, so what are the others? Well that is a bit more complicated to sort, but I know it revolves around the appointment that is in *looks at clock* four hours. *sigh* Some of it is general fear of an unknown. I’m glad I met Tom at my other appointment, but it was brief and I don’t really know what to expect. I’ve not done the counselor thing since college and while I know it can be a good thing, I’ve not had it on my to-do list. See, I have a lot of trust issues both with counselors and in general. I don’t just open up to anyone these days (doubly true after the last couple of years), so the idea of having to is daunting, almost too daunting.

The reason I’m going is because my need for my ADD meds is stronger than my fear of the counselor. Of course, I have to figure out how to communicate that without coming across as drug-seeking (in the negative way of “person who is addicted,” etc.). The honest truth is that I’ve been out of them for almost a year and I’d really like to use my brain more productively again. I miss the way [med name] makes me better able to handle my thoughts and makes me more productive. I like how it makes me better able to handle the fatigue and mental fog that my chronic illness causes. I miss the organization I used to be able to apply to my thoughts and my personal chaos field. The reality is that not only was I more productive and easier to talk to on my meds, but I dealt with less anxiety, too. To some, that might seem odd since ADD meds can cause anxiety for some folks, but for me, it helps break up some of the anxiety loops I get stuck in, and for the times it doesn’t break up those loops, it helps me be better able to focus on my what I’m doing to distract myself from the anxiety.

I’ve learned how to knit while not on my meds (which has not always been easy), and I’ve gotten pretty good for a beginner. I’m proud of that fact. I also wonder how much better I would be if I could keep a pattern in my head for more than five minutes at a time. I combat that right now by writing out every stitch in every row instead of using repeats like patterns do, and it works, but it is a bit clunky. I’d like to see how I manage with my meds, in part because I think I could eventually make some extra money by making items to sell. I’m not thinking a huge enterprise, but I do think there are things I could make that people might want to buy.

I also need to start writing more. I’m managing a bit more than I was, but I also know that it was basically my ADD meds that got me through college. I’m slowly being talked into NaNoWriMo, and I can only imagine how much easier it would be with better focus. I also know if I can get back in the habit of writing, and I can build my confidence up, I should be able to start submitting things for publishing by the end of the year. Some of that will come from continuing the path of making me a better me, but I know for a fact from past history that this goal would be better reached with ADD meds.

I need to be able to articulate all of this in a couple of hours. I also need to be able to articulate how much I do not want to be on SSRIs or their kin. Those don’t make a better me – they make a zombie me. They also affect my writing. That was part of the reason I stopped taking them in college after the “circumstances that caused me to need meds weren’t changing and the band-aid they provided was making things worse not better every time I plateaued and had to increase my dose again” reason. It was becoming almost impossible to write anything let alone 2-3 academic papers a week. Trying another one of those because it might help with pain isn’t worth the risks to me, especially not since I am finally starting to work myself past some of the self-imposed writer’s blocks I put on myself. I need to be able to write and I can’t afford to lose that.

Besides that, as frustrating as anxiety can be and as frustrating as fluctuating emotions can be, I FAR prefer that to feeling nothing when I took those meds. In the past, I needed that numbing effect to help me deal with my life at the time. For the place I am at now, especially given how hard I have been working on creating better habits for dealing with anxiety and depression without letting them rule my thoughts, going back on those meds would be so counter-productive. I haven’t worked this hard on myself to lose that effort to things that numb me and leave me feeling less like myself.

When I first was diagnosed with fibro and CFS, it seemed like every doctor wanted to put me on an SSRI. I flat refused because it had only been a few months since I finally stopped feeling the lost/numbing effects of the last one I’d been on. I talked to one of my old family doctors about it at the time and explained my logic behind my refusal. He noted that (at least at the time) they had a 33% success rate for fibro, and given the reasons I had, he didn’t think it was the path for me. After that, every time I’ve seen a new doctor and they see I have depression in my health history, it is one of the first things they suggest. I had one rheumatologist examine me who had made her mind up before I ever walked in the door that I just needed an SSRI and I’d be fine. She ignored things I presented with like my purple fingers – a marker of Reynaud’s – and she kept ignoring how much pain her “simple” exam was causing my muscles and joints and noted that “everything was fine”. There’s not a single note of ANY of my distress upon her exam but a lot of notes of how I refused both an SSRI and Lyrica. The first I’ve already explained. The second was because that wasn’t terribly long after I’d had an allergic reaction to Gabitril which is in a similar family. Basically, because I had a history of depression in high school and early college, that was clearly my problem and I wasn’t worth her time.

Given how I feel about SSRIs and their ilk (and how poorly I did on tricyclics when I tried those at the beginning of this crazy ride of chronic illness), I don’t see them as the best option for me. In light of new research into fibro that suggests the illness comes from nerve problems in the hands and feet, I feel even more strongly against them. What I am willing to look at is something like Neurontin. I was prescribed it before but I didn’t take it because of being leery after Gabitril; however, now I’m willing to try again with medicine testing because it has been several years and my body seems to enjoy changing how it reacts to things from time to time. I might even be willing to try Lyrica, though I would rather it not be the first line of testing.

I feel a bit better now that I managed to sort some of this out. I tried a couple of times yesterday to no avail. Apparently a lack of sleep and a hastily ticking countdown to the appointment were good motivators. Every now and then, I wish my brain would cooperate a bit more normally, but then I remember that normal is only a setting on the washing machine; instead of wishing for something different, right now I’m just going to be grateful I got so much written down.

Of course, my alarm is going to go off in less than two hours and I might be a bit cranky, but I will strive to keep the sense of tired calm I have right now. The question is, do I try to take an hour and a half nap or do I just go curl up with RIn and read until it’s time to get ready? Also, do I let the therapist read the second half of this entry or do I just stick to trying to talk it out? Blerg. Not sure.

We can do hard things. Love wins. 

Ultrasound Day

Being up this early is never one of my favorite things. I would love to say that I am handling this with a ton of grace and aplomb…and I the outside it even kind of looks like I am. On the inside though, I am tired, hungry, thirsty, and kind of freaked out. I mean, it is just an abdominal ultrasound! It will mostly likely be fine. It just is completely filled with the unknown and Possibilities and it is freaking me right out. Part of me is tempted to just go in my pajamas but then I remember that I am going to the hospital and when I get home I’d have to take off my fuzzy warm Jammies because they would then be Dirty. (While hospitals are generally clean, they are kind of filled with germs and I do get sick pretty easily so clothes worn at the hospital tend to be considered dirty just for safety’s sake.) so, I am going to stop freaking myself out and go put on the clothes waiting for me and let Rin drive me to the hospital and try not to be a spaz.

Hopefully, in a couple of hours I’ll be home again and I can crawl back into bed for a nap….after I have some water because, seriously, I’ve been thirsty since about half an hour after I had to stop having water and that is annoying.

We can do hard things. Today is definitely counting as a hard thing.


Edited to add post ultrasound: (Originally posted on FB, but then I decided to add it here, too.) You know…that was somewhat anti-climactic. We pretty much walked into the hospital, registered, waited five minutes, and then went into the ultrasound room. The ultrasound itself was mostly painless except for the very last part and even that was mostly just “uncomfortable” as opposed to painful. In theory, the doctor’s office should have the results Monday, so…now it is a waiting thing. Now I’m going to have some breakfast so I can take some medicine and then I am going to take a nap lest my tired, cranky self turn into the raging bitch everyone wants to smack. >_>