Monday, March 26, 2012

Change Is Good, Right?

Change can be a good thing for many people, and it can be scary for others.  I had so many wonderful ideas for this blog at the first of the year, and honestly, I wasn't happy with it.  I was afraid that the books reviews would get lost among the ankle issues and seashells that pile up.  

I'm doing a scary change, but I think a really, really great change, and I am so excited about it.  First of all, I am going to keep this blog going, because I do feel that getting my ankle story out there and keeping it out there will help someone someday - if not it will continue to help me as an emotional outlet for my progress and sometimes lack there of.

The book reviews were kind of that third wheel and didn't really fit in with what I had going.  The Love of my Life suggested that I just make a blog and totally dedicate it to my book reading and reviewing.  Wow!  Why didn't I think of that?  Probably had my nose in a book somewhere.

Tonight a new blog was born:  Ravenous Reader - Book Reviews and I can't be happier!!!  I am going to take the book reviews off this page and put them over onto the new blog during the next couple of days.  I will have my review policies and discuss the types of books I am willing and wanting to review, along with some other cool ideas I want to incorporate as time goes on.  

If I build it they will come, right?  Hopefully!  If you check in every now and then for my book reviews, please visit me at Ravenous Reader - Book Reviews and let me know what you think!  And tell all your reader friends, too, of course.  And, the invitation is always open to follow me here, because there will always be something going on!


Monday, February 27, 2012

Walking In Sand

I have had two ankle fusion surgeries in less than 7 years that have essentially put my ankle in a permanent 90 degree angle - it kind of looks like a hockey stick or a boomerang or as it is fondly called in one of my circles, a kickstand.  My ankle does not move, at all.  I can wiggle my toes a little bit, but other than that, nothing.

This is very hard to explain to people or it's very hard for people to understand, I'm not really sure what statement is more correct.  I feel like I explain it well, but then I see that far away, blank look in the person's eye and the babbling really starts.  I've even been to an internal medicine physician a time or two who after being told that I have an ankle fusion ask me to move my foot.  Sure, okay, yeah, let me break that solid bond of fused bone with my super power strength just so you can see me move my ankle.

To say I get frustrated sometimes is an understatement.  I hate coming across as angry regarding my explanation all of the time, but it does grow old trying to articulate that my ankle.does.not.move.  Then I hit the spiral down into the rabbit hole of being depressed over my disability, and it gets more out of control from there.  Hey!   Maybe I can start a Twitter trend of #F (for FUSION) and wear a scarlet #F on my foot.  I mean, Angelina Jolie's leg has her own hash tag for her leg, why wouldn't it work for my foot?  I've never been one to get into fashion trends too much, but it's never too late to start, right?

Currently I am almost 10 months post-op from my second ankle fusion surgery.  In my first surgery I had the large ankle joint (the one that allows you to move your foot up and down) fused.  This is called a tibia talar fusion.  My second ankle fusion was a on the smaller joint below the larger one that allows your ankle to have side-to-side movement.  This is called a sub-talar ankle fusion.  Many people who have a tibia talar ankle fusion do end up going on to get a sub-talar ankle fusion because that small joint just can't hold up to the pressure.  For me there really wasn't a question of having to have the second ankle fusion surgery, but when will I need it?  Sometimes I think it came too soon, and other times I am glad to have it out of the way.

Last week I spent 7 glorious days in Englewood, Florida along with every Canadian Snow Bird in the entire world, except for the 5 who spend the winter in my county.  I saw more license plates from Canada last week than I did when I practically lived on the Canadian border as a child.  But, the beach and the water were wonderful, and I spent time walking in the sand collecting shark's teeth and seashells to add to my growing collection.

For the first time in I can't remember when, my ankle did not hurt when I walked through the sand.  I didn't have that constant pain and worry about getting from the top of the beach to the surf.  It wasn't perfectly easy, but it was so much better than it used to be before both ankle fusion surgeries.  I walked farther and longer this past week in flip flop and bare feet than I have in over a year in sensible shoes.  It was a pretty awesome feeling.

I have some some ideas of what my ankle future holds, but I will pull a Scarlett O'Hara and think about that tomorrow.  Today I want to remember my week of walking in sand.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Week By The Sea

I just spent a wonderful week by the sea, and am putting the finishing touches on some blog posts.  In the meantime, I leave you with some photographs.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

I Joined A Book Club

I've always wanted to become a member of a book club.  I've heard of these seemingly elusive groups who choose a book, read the book, and then get together to discuss the book.  Since moving to Florida I've been hard pressed to find one to fit my needs.  Oh they are here, but remember, this is Florida, and there are only about 25 of us in the entire state who work a full-time job.  The sad realization that I came to very quickly after settling in, is that most things in Florida revolved around that giant group of folks called retirees.  Yeah, them.

There are tons of clubs and activities, but they are held during the day when the Seniors can stay awake, drive to in relative safety, and work around their meals.  I asked a local librarian one time if she knew of any evening book clubs, and she looked at me like I was a creature straight out of Mos Eisley Cantina (calm down, Han shot first - well, now who the hell knows now that George Lucas has gone all squirrley on us as of late and said that it was never like that.  Doesn't he know that there is an entire generation of us who are now going to need therapy?  I digress...)  This librarian couldn't seem to wrap her head around the fact that I was a bit miffed that there were so few activities being held after 5 pm.  

Through some savvy internet searching I found a book club about 20 miles from home.  It was a squeeze to get there on time, and the few times I went there were only one or two people attending, and the last time I was all alone.  Granted I really enjoy my own company, but book clubs are boring as a Party of One.

Last month, the love of my life and I weaved our way through the streets of Crystal River and enjoyed the annual Manatee Festival.  When our feet were tired, we popped into a really cool local pub called Burkes of Ireland to grab a cold beer.  There on the wall behind the bar was a note that said "Books & Beer".  Whoa, whoa, whoa!  Books AND beer?  They sky opened up and I could hear the Angels sing!  Books & Beer.

People who know me well, know that I love to read and that I love beer - not necessarily in that order.  Could this really be true?  I asked the bartender, and absolutely it was true!  (happy, happy dance)  He directed me to the end of the bar where I met the leader of this group.  I was so in!  I was so there!  Books & Beer!  Life in the Sunshine State just got sunnier!

I grabbed the book a little late and got about 25% of the way through it, but still attended the club meeting.  I figured it would be nice to hang out, drink beer, and meet some new people and see if this book club was something that I wanted to continue with.  I arrived, grabbed a pint of Harp from the bar and headed outside.  About 13 of us sat in a circle around a couple of tables, there were introductions, there was food, and there was intelligent conversation about the book.

I think what I liked most was that not everyone agreed with the conversations and opinions about the book.  No one stomped their feet and crossed their arms because someone had a differing opinion.  It was like a group of adults got together for the sole purpose of one thing - discussion about reading.  Hmmmmm, what a novel idea.  Who the hell am I kidding, I like the beer the most!

I will most definitely attend Books & Beer at Burkes of Ireland again.  It was a great group of men and women who all have one thing in common - reading.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

I Pinky Swear (a.k.a. My Book Review Oath)

When I see a book  I am interested in, I read reviews to see what other readers thought about the book.  I am very specific in what I am looking for in a book review, and I do admit that I tend to get frustrated when I can't find what I am looking for.  I think the aspect of a book review that I see most often that gets my ire up is when the reviewer summarizes the book.  Not just the quick three or four sentence summary, but the three or four paragraph summary.  I believe that you read the book, really, I do!  There is no need to regurgitate that information, because if I choose to read it, I'm going to ingest it all anyway.  If I was in a book store or library, I probably read the inside jacket cover or the back of the book.  If I am shopping online,  I will have already read the summary.  I want to know if you loved it, hated it, was it a simple read, or was it a great read for the beach.

The other thing I really, really dislike are spoilers.  I mean, does this really make you happy that you can ruin the experience for potential readers?  It's like going to the movies and some moron blurts out something in the middle  of it that's so crucial to the rest of the show.  People who write reviews that have spoilers WITHOUT a disclaimer at the beginning simply suck.  They do.

And finally, the last thing I dislike about book reviews is when a reviewer bashes the author's character, personality, and Mama.  It's a book, and unless it's touted as non-fiction, a memoir, an autobiography, or based on true events, it's more than likely make-believe.  There's a difference between stating in a review that an author's writing style or prose is poor, but it's a totally different thing to say that the author is a horrible person.  Unless he is your neighbor and steals your newspaper every morning, you really don't have any idea what he's like as a fellow human being.

When I decided to start writing reviews of the dozens of books that I read each year, I went in search of the elements of a good book review.  I found that it's pretty much the same across the board whether it was a college or educational website or another book reviewer providing the information.  The common theme is that book reviews are personal, a reaction to the work, and there is no right or wrong way to write one.  I believe that an author probably wants the truth, but given in a constructive way.  A book  can be poorly written, and I will still enjoy the story and message.  A book can be beautifully written and I can dislike it.

I've mentioned that I read a lot.  I read for enjoyment and entertainment.  I read to escape the daily stress in my life, and I find reading relaxing.  I read for the pleasure of the written word, and when I read something that I enjoy, I want the ability to share that experience with others; therefore, the book review portion of my blog.  There's a little tab above that says Book Reviews - it's going away - it may already be gone by the time you are reading this.  When you visit My Life With Seashells, you will read the book reviews right on the page without having to search for them or load another page.

I welcome challenges and comments regarding any post on My Life With Seashells.  I will engage in intelligent, adult conversations regarding anything that is written here.  I'm really a pretty simple girl; I just want to make this an enjoyable experience for everyone, myself included.  If I can make someone happy through a review and recommend a book that they end up enjoying as much as I have, then I will consider myself successful.

I promise to be real.  I will not promise that I will read only "real, paper books".  I have a Kindle, I am in love with my Kindle, and many of the books that I read are on my Kindle (his name is Vinny).  I also check books out of my local library, and I utilize the hell out of PaperBack Swap.  I've been known to borrow books from family or friends, and pick them up at flea markets or garage sales.  I have books all over my house on shelves and on display.  I'm an equal opportunity reader (the operative word is READER) - I don't discriminate against electronic or printed format.

I promise to write reviews that are honest and succinct.  I won't ever write a review that has spoilers.  Even if I saw the author spit on a little old lady, I probably wouldn't hold that against his or her writing, so I can promise you that I won't bash their writing character.  I won't drone on and on with summarization, because you can read the summary easier than I can write it.

There you have it!  My Book Review Oath, My Pinky Swear.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

My Life With Seashells

When I first started this blog the main purpose was to use the medium of writing for a creative outlet.  I could put my thoughts out there for all the world to see, wear my heart on my sleeve, be as real a possible - of course, all the while working on those creative thoughts and processes that are always going through my mind.  

Why would anyone really want to ready about me - a forty something chick who lives in Florida, collects seashells, has a bum ankle and likes to read?  What do I have to offer?  So, I trudged along like I always do, and when the transition from an old year to a new year came around I decided that I actually DO have something to offer.  I'm a forty something chick that lives in Florida who loves to read, who has a bum ankle, and I collect seashells.  Wait?  What?  Didn't I just say that not three sentences ago?  Yes, yes I did.  

I sat around for almost a month and wrung my hands and clutched my pearls with worry that I wouldn't be able to pull it off.  I thought that I would just let this blog fade away and swirl down the toilet bowl of where blogs go when they die.  I second guessed myself, then third guessed myself, then asked myself "what do I have to lose"?  Nothing really.  Either I go for it and succeed or fail or never go for it and that in and of itself is a failure without even trying.  Then I would kick myself in the tush for not giving it go.  More hand wringing, more pearl clutching, then a eerie sense of calm.  Nike said it best - "Just do it"

I've often thought of going to all the blogs I stalk follow and stumble across and asking in the comments section, what motivated you to start blogging?  What was your creative inspiration and desired outcome for having a blog?  Did it change part way through?  

Here it is:

I read.  I read a lot, probably a lot more than many people.  Besides searching for the end of the Internet,  reading is my main source of entertainment.  I don't have cable television, so the day-to-day drama of reality television and commercials escapes me.  While the books that I read aren't profound, and most of them are picked up in an extremely economic way - they are entertaining for me and give me a way to escape daily stress.  I actually do read a lot of Indie books that I pick up as freebies on Amazon, and what better way to give back and say thank you to the author of that book than to give them a true and honest review of their labor of love?  The Internet is powerful and through the mediums of blogging and Twitter and Goodreads and other social media I could possibly help these authors out by reviewing their work and letting the communities that I follow know.

I have a bum ankle.  For my entire adult life I have dealt with the worsening progression and disability of my right ankle.  I have belonged to a couple of communities of other people who share a similar plight in their lives, but as someone who craves information, I know that the more information there is out there, the more calming effect it has.  I believe that I can provide that information as a historical summation of how my ankle problems started and how I have been able to maintain a pretty active and normal lifestyle while losing a part of myself in the process and not going [totally] insane.

I collect seashells.  I've always had an affinity for rocks and the little things that the earth leaves us I see as gifts.  I am not really sure why, but I keep my eyes to the ground when I am walking, because I never know what I might stumble upon and be able to pick up as a treasure.  I've collected a lot of rocks and seashells and sea glass and shark's teeth along the way, and I would like to share those trips of finding such treasures with everyone.  They are special and have meaning to me.

So, that's the 2012 "Attainable Goal" for My Life With Seashells.  I hope that you will enjoy some part of it, give me honest and truthful feedback, and come back again and again.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Resolutions? Nah, I Prefer Attainable Goals

The holidays have come and gone.  I have enjoyed some well deserved and much needed time off during the last few weeks.  We had the ultimate Florida weather for the season with temperatures pushing the 90-degree mark for a couple of days.  As the reality of heading back into my routine tomorrow sets in, a massive cold front has moved south and has moved me to the comfortable warmth inside.  This has given me an opportunity to reflect back and look forward.

Year In Review 

2011 was a jam-packed year for me, and while only a couple of major things happened, those things were very important to me and will impact me for many years to come.

The most important thing that happened in 2011 was that I married the love of my life.  We met almost 22 years ago on a blind date.  I knew that summer that he was the person I would spend the rest of my life with.  We have had so many wonderful years together, and we finally sealed that bond with the ultimate bond of 'till death do us part.  We had a very private, very quick ceremony on a local beach performed by a work colleague who is a notary public.  It was simple and sweet, and I am so happy to be a Mrs. now!

The other very important part of my life this year was my sub talar ankle fusion surgery.  My latest ankle fusion surgery was the fifth ankle surgery to my right foot.  Needless to say, it's been a journey of sorts for me. You can read about my latest surgery:  the history of my ankle fusion surgerythe downs of ankle fusion surgeryand the ups of my ankle fusion surgery.  I've faced many difficult realizations regarding my ankle in these last 9 months, and I am working toward coming to terms with and accepting those realizations.

Oh, yeah, I also turned 40.  I had a bit of an issue with that one, but I'm embracing it now.  


I don't want to sit here and say I resolve to do this, or this, and that and this.  It's so blah, it never works, and honestly for me, it only leads to disappointment in, oh, say, about three weeks.  But, I do have some goals for the upcoming year.  Goals are attainable.  Goals can be worked toward, set aside, built on and subtracted from.  

Just to throw a couple out there for all the world to see:  

My blog.  I finally have an idea of what direction I want to go with my blog.  The mindless ramblings are a great outlet, but I do want to make this into something more.  I have a small plan in place, and will be putting it together and rolling it out in the weeks to come. 

My career.  Everyone wants to better themselves in their careers.  Professionally I have grown a lot in the last year.  I want to continue that growth.

My life.  I love my life.  I can honestly say that I am very happy.  I want to continue this happiness for the next year.  

Seashells.  I want to collect more seashells, doesn't everyone?

Happy New Year!!!