Sunday, December 30, 2012

Book: Sebastian Cupid by JJ Martin

Completely no frills review:

Writing, characterization, grammar were all inconsistent, though grammar was mostly good.  Some incorrect word usage - maybe three or four in the whole book, but distracting nonetheless.  Promising variation on Greek gods and cupid.  Though this was billed as a romance, romance was not really a part of the story until nearly the end.  World building was average, not great.  A lot of characters to keep track of, though the majority of the book was from Sebastian's POV.  Sex was either wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am or fade-to-black.  There was never really a good explanation of how the cupid/golden arrows work in this universe.  Ending was extremely rushed and resolution was entirely too easy - made it pretty obvious that there is more to the story.  I doubt I'll bother reading more in the series.

Movie: Conan the Barbarian

I knew if I waited long enough, Amazon would put Conan on Prime's watch-for-free list.  It wasn't terrible, either.

So, I watched it, basically for Jason Momoa.  I loved him in Stargate: Atlantis, and though his part in Game of Thrones was very small, I liked him fine there, too.  The actress playing Tamara has the most amazingly pale blue eyes I've ever seen.  In one scene, they almost look white, they're so pale.  Stunning.

Pros: Conan, at both ages, is pretty.  Tamara is pretty.  There are many naked breasts in one scene that are pretty.  The fights, however unrealistic, are pretty.  His friend, the thief King, is pretty.  In the love scene and aftermath, both Conan and Tamara are very pretty (though the actress has a body double, so presumably it's the double's body that's pretty).  As you can tell, this was all about the pretty.  lol

Cons:  The movie as a whole was mediocre, at best.  The script maybe had good bones, but whoever didn't make any inspired choices in translating that script into film.  I had no idea it was possible to make Rose McGowan unattractive, but they managed.  The end was kind of non-endy.

Also, lest people continue to think that watching TV is not educational, while I was watching the credits, I was able to tell the gender of many of the film's Slavic workers.  If the name ended with ev, ov, av (not too many of those), then I knew that person was male.  If it ended eva, ova, ava, then that person was female.  Where did I learn that?  Babylon 5, maybe?  JAG?  I don't even remember, just that it stuck in my head.  Another useless bit of trivia for that trip to Eastern Europe that will never happen.  :)

Was that barbarian/King played by the same guy who was the head dude on Terra Nova?  I'll have to look that up, if I remember long enough. 

Anyway, it wasn't a waste of my time, but I doubt I'll be watching it again.  If they got a different director, I might even watch a sequel, though I would not pay to watch at a movie house.  I hear tell they're making another Conan movie with Arnold back as Conan.  I can guarantee I won't be watching that one.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Review: Pantene ProV Silky Moisture Whip

After receiving this sample in the mail from VocalPoint a week or so ago, I tried it in place of my usual Biolage mousse.

I have not noticed a difference in the texture of my hair, nor in the frizzy/not frizzy ratio.  It also does not hold my style, what little style there is, as well as the Biolage.

It's easy to apply - I mean how hard is it to put mousse in my hair - but since it does neither what it is advertised to do, nor what I use mousse to do, I'm definitely not impressed.

I don't recommend you waste time or money on this one.

Three stars out of five, just because it comes out of the can right, smells good, and washes off my hands easily.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Moms and other mysterious creatures, part two

Now for my stepmother.  Again a woman I did and do love.  I don't like her much most of the time.

When she got me and my sister, I had been the head of our little family unit.  Even at eight.  I was the one who went to the store for food and milk.  I was the one who bought cigarettes for my mother.  Obviously this was before there were age restrictions on buying cigarettes and alcohol.  I sometimes picked up my little sister from daycare, and sometimes made dinner for the two of us.

Immediately upon integrating us into her household, CC made it known that that behavior was not welcome. I was an eight-year-old girl and she didn't want me parenting or protecting my three-year-old sister.  I think of all the changes she made to my life during that first year, I hated that the most.  I wasn't needed anymore.  I felt superfluous and useless.

I was allowed to call her by her given name for a couple of weeks, until my sister and CC's own daughter began doing it, too, and then she made me call her Mom.  Oh, did I rebel against that, but being the eldest-perfect-child-hero stereotype, that rebellion came out sideways, never head-on.

I was nasty to her.  I disliked her intensely - hated that she had married my father, and hated that she was trying to be my mother when I already had a perfectly good one (not so much from an adult perspective, but it was what it was), hated that because of her, I had been taken from my mother and was no longer allowed to see her.

On the other hand, she had five brothers and five sisters, so I had aunts and uncles galore.  My youngest uncle was twelve, and the next youngest was sixteen.  I simply adored the two of them, to the point of hero-worship, and they put up with me and my sudden constant presence at family gatherings.  In those days, nearly all of the original eleven were still located in and around Denver, so a family dinner on Sunday was a mammoth affair to my previously one-aunt, two cousins mind.  Though CC resented my place in her life, her family accepted me immediately and with open arms.  I am no longer close to many of them (I mean, it's nearly forty years later, after all), but I love them all, without exception.

I was the eldest of the grandchildren.  CC was only 22 at the time, and most of the other originals were not yet married, and none of those who were had children older than two or three.

As fractious as our relationship was, we came to some kind of detente, because she was the only mother I had for seven years.  She fed me, clothed me, taught me how to set a table regardless of who was coming to dinner, enforced manners and proper behavior, let it slide when I'd rather read than go outside, and put up with my bad attitude with questionable grace.

She also regularly beat me, slapped me, berated me verbally and emotionally, and took all her resentments out on my physical and emotional person.  From this distant perspective, I know that she did the best she could with what coping tools she had, but my inner child says it wasn't good enough.

There were moments, though.  When I came home devastated in the sixth grade because I'd gotten my first B, she put her arms around me and let me cry, and made sure I understood that a B was plenty good enough.  Perfectionist me didn't believe her, but not through lack of trying.  When she caught me sneak-reading the Playboys, she didn't berate me, but sat me down at the dinner table, made me look at them from cover to cover and asked me if I had any questions, reassured me that those women in the pictures didn't look that good in real life, that real women had hair on their legs and didn't have to wear makeup to look pretty enough.  When my sixth grade teacher (ah, Mr. McCormack!) spanked me for some transgression, she stormed to the school and made sure he knew that it was NOT acceptable for the school to spank me for any reason whatsoever.  After that, I had to run laps.  I'd rather have been spanked, frankly.  When I got my first period, she was matter-of-fact about showing me how to use the sanitary belt and how to attach the pads to it (yes, I am that old), and calmed me down when I was sure that everybody could smell that I was on my period.

We functioned on an uneven keel until the year my dad had a solitary tour in Korea, and was gone for an entire year.  Our little family had to learn how to function without daddy around, and my relationship with CC changed and was sometimes less antagonistic.  When he came back, we all had to learn to deal with that again.  Anybody who says it's only the active duty member who really sacrifices is full of shit.

Anyway, during what we now call the tween years, particularly while my dad was gone, beatings and threats to send me back to my mother (for some reason, I was terrified of this) were the norm.  Anything that went wrong, I got punished for it.  Any chore that needed to be done, I was assigned to do it.  Basically, anything that made her life easier was my responsibility.

Things happened when I was fourteen, outside the immediate family, and things came to a head with CC the summer I was fifteen, when I was walking from the bathroom to my bedroom, and CC randomly reached up and slapped me as I was walking past her.  I got completely still and silent (people who know me well tend to disappear on the exceedingly rare occasion this happens now), then shoved her into the sliding glass door and very calmly told her, "Don't. Ever. Touch. Me. Again."  She didn't ever beat me again, though she still yelled at me plenty.

I got through high school, nearly always on restriction or grounded from something (or everything), moved out as soon as I turned 18 in the middle of my senior year, and graduated.  Fiddled around, continuing to live a directionless life for a few years, then moved completely away, to another state, and got into therapy as a result of my aunt's inpatient treatment for something.  Learned a lot about myself during those five years, grew up a lot.  Came back to Texas and stayed in Dallas.  Since I left for Missouri in 1987, I've never lived full-time in San Antonio, though I have always considered it home and hope to return there in the very near future.

When I came to Dallas, I met and married my ex-husband, had Mrs. Potatohead ten months later (on our ten monthiversary, as a matter of fact) and CC all of a sudden got nice.  She bought the wedding announcements when we told her we'd gotten married, invited us to visit for the holidays and was generally a much nicer person to be around.  This lasted a while, I guess, but eventually she reverted to form.  She'd badmouth me to my daughter, talked about me to my sisters behind my back.  Again, I was the scapegoat for pretty much everything wrong in her life, though she was nice as pie to my face.  All kinds of lovey-dovey.

When Mrs. Potatohead  was old enough to spend time with my family on her own, CC was always happy to have her visit, creative with activities to keep her occupied, and generous with her time and material things.  We lived in an uneasy peace for years, with her being supportive on the surface, and ugly when I wasn't there to hear it.

CC kept up the surface support, even during some of my most trying emotional times, and I continued to accept this dichotomous behavior from her.  I've made my peace with it, and kinda figure she's given me what she's capable of giving, all things considered.  It's not good enough, but it never will be, and yet, it has to be.  It's all there ever will be.

Three and a half years ago, we had to move out of the house we'd been living in, and she offered to pay for an apartment for a year, if we'd move into the apartment she chose for us (that is, Miss Not-Yet-Potatohead and myself).  We made the move, Miss became Mrs, Mr and Mrs had Baby Potatohead, and Mrs graduated from high school in spite of everything.  My kid is something special.  Anyway, the year of financial support became six months, and with a fifteen-month lease, we struggled to stay in that place and pay all the bills, until Mr Potatohead went into the USAF.  He got out of basic training, started getting paid, and Mrs Potatohead started paying all the bills.  The child had become the parent to some degree, and I'm willing to bet part of her resented it.

During the last part of this, my truck started needing more repairs than it was worth, and I sold it.  We went without a car for quite a while, dependent on others to get us around for anything.  Nearly two years ago now, CC told me that if I could find a car I liked, she would pay for it, with one stipulation.  She was done with me.  I was to stay out of her life for good.

At last, after almost forty years, the gloves came off and she was honest about what she wanted.  I have to recognize the powerful moment for what it was, and I admire her for finally saying what she actually felt instead of catering to the party line that family is family and we should all be happyhappy together.  What a crock that is.

Last year, CC let me know via email that if I wanted to come over, I'd have to find a way to get there (remember I didn't have my car for a year because of that horrid mechanic).  My sister insisted this would be considered an invitation, but I found it less than gracious, and insincere, so I didn't bother making any effort to find a way over there.  I live half an hour away.  If she really wanted me there to any degree whatsoever, someone could have come and got me.

On the other hand, she sent bits and pieces of xmas dinner with said sister when she drove to see me on her way out of town.  I did enjoy the traditional family fare, even a day late and cold.  lol

I'm OK with not seeing her.  However, staying out of her life means that I don't get to see my dad, and I miss him something awful.  He last spoke to me at xmas, the month before she bought me the car I have now.  He sent me an email for my birthday that year, but didn't actually speak to me, and last year, I got nothing at all from him, not even a text message.  I'm trying to get to my happy place with that, but man it is difficult to do.  I'll admit that I had myself a little pity party over my birthday last year.  Staying out of her life also means that I don't get to see the rest of the family at Thanksgiving and Christmas, though Thanksgiving is usually spent with my girlfriend in SA.

As painful as it is to have my dad be out of my life, I prefer this honest-to-herself CC over the previous two-faced one.  If she doesn't like me, she shouldn't have to pretend that she does.  Much as I love her, I don't have to pretend to like her anymore, either.  I can live with that.

None of this should be construed as meaning that I am blameless and perfect.  I so am not.  I, too, am doing the best I can with the coping tools I have.  It's a wonder I'm still sane after all I've been through, as a great man once said.  :D  Actually, I don't think I am sane, but don't tell anybody.

Moms and other mysterious creatures, part one

I loved my mother always.  Sometimes I didn't like her much, though.

My mother and I had a strange relationship.  I lived with her for the first eight years of my life, and from all accounts, I was a happy child, content to be left to my own devices.  Then my dad got custody of us, he was PCSed to Thailand with the USAF, and I didn't see her for another seven years.  By that time, I was deep into the teenage years, and did not feel the need for nor enjoy having another mother figure, particularly not one with strange ideas about how I should behave toward her or in general.  I had things going on in my personal life that were traumatic and that summer was probably not the best timing to rekindle our relationship.

She tried to be a mother to me at first, and that just really didn't gel, so we eventually created a friendship that mostly worked for us.  She shared things with me that she might discuss with another peer, and I talked to her about things, even private things, comfortably, because that mother/daughter vibe just wasn't there for me.  I think she missed that, since I never stopped being her elder daughter in her mind, but I just couldn't make the transition back to being her daughter.

One of the things about her though, was that she talked about me a lot.  She'd praise me to the mountains, to anybody who'd listen, when other people were around.  However, she never made a point to say any of those things privately, and I kind of felt that she was proud of the idea of me, but not necessarily proud of the me that existed right in front of her.  I resented that she only seemed proud of me when there was someone to listen to her saying it.

By the summer I started seeing her again, she was fairly well-known in the local and regional pagan and Wiccan community and many, many people called her Mom.  I have to admit that I also resented the time she seemed to have for everyone but me.  I'll stipulate that it was my perception as a selfish teenager, and probably not the reality, though there were certainly times that I wanted to do something with her and she couldn't because she'd already committed the time elsewhere.  I guess I just thought that if I was going to go to all the trouble to come see her in the summer, she'd be available for me to see.

At some point, I got into therapy and started to grow up, intellectually and emotionally, and began to see my mother's behaviors from a more detached perspective.  This both helped and hurt our relationship, as I was able to see and accept her for what she was as a mother, and at the same time, I saw that she was stuck in a victim mentality.

I grew to hate that she couldn't take responsibility for anything in her life.  In her mind, everything happened TO her.  If something bad happened, she could (and did) always lay the blame on someone else.  Most of us know someone like this, I think.  I sometimes thought myself better than her, because she couldn't or wouldn't rise above this mental place and be her own person, and I had struggled through years of talk therapy to become a better, more emotionally mature me.

In the end, she was pretty determined that she was going to die relatively early, like her mother did, though my grandmother died from breast cancer.  My mother accomplished this through heavy wine consumption and chain-smoking and basically not eating much at all.  At the very end, when she was being taken to the hospital in an ambulance, she sent someone back inside the house for her cigarettes.  I always kind of laugh at that.

All of us kids saw her a couple of months before she died, and I was stunned to see how emaciated she looked, though in the pictures of that day, it doesn't show much.  By the time she died, my 5' 10" mother weighed less than eighty pounds, and she looked horrible.

During the last year or two, I struggled mightily with letting go of her and detaching myself from her negativity, because I could just get sucked down into that morass and never climb out, so I didn't spend a whole lot of time with her.  That was what I needed at the time, to keep my sanity, and I don't regret the decision I made to spend as little time with her as humanly possible.

I do miss her, though, these ten years later.  She always had good stories, from her own childhood and from mine.  She loved people and people loved her.  One of the things I tried to do in the wake of her death was to compliment random strangers, as my own strange way of honoring her memory (This was something she did that I always admired and wanted to do).  For an introvert like myself, it was difficult, sometimes to the point of tears, but it made me feel a little more connected to the woman I had adored when she was at her best.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Book: Balance of Terror by Kaz Agustin

Balance of Terror has a very good blend of fairly traditional scifi elements with bits of medicine, mercenaries, friendship, love, and sex.  I was a little confused at first about the motives of the two main characters, and the synopsis helped, but mostly, the book just jumped into the action, and things became clear pretty quickly.

The sex was politely written and not gratuitous, though not really necessary to the storyline.

I have to say that the best part of this book was the formatting.  Seriously.  I have read some relatively decent books on the Kindle, and the formatting is about 50/50 on whether or not it's going to be good.  Balance of Terror made it very clear where section breaks were, where chapters began and those things made the book so much more enjoyable.  While it was a good book all on its own, the formatting made it even better.

I received this book through Sandal Press Online, for the purposes of review.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Little bit of self-promotion

This is as good a time as any to remind you that if you're going to shop Amazon, I would deeply appreciate you going through one of my links, so that I make a wee bit of money from it.  (really wee, like 4%)

Thank you ever so much.

My contribution to

Dear Adopted Holiday Child,

It can be hard to know what to say to someone who doesn't have support from their family over the holidays. My own daughter has been pretty lucky for the most part.  She always knew, because I told her repeatedly, that I didn't care who she loved, as long as they loved her back.  I used to tell her, "Boy, girl, purple alien, whoever," and though it came to be a sort of family in-joke, she knew deep inside that I meant it.  Others of her peer group weren't so lucky, and I saw the negative results of family or friend rejection firsthand more than once.

Maybe you've experienced some of that yourself. I can't erase that memory from your brain, though I wish I could.  Maybe you're feeling some of that rejection from your family or coworkers or people you thought were friends right now. So let me tell you this: You really do have people out here who love you just exactly as you are. You matter, especially to me.  I know what it means to be lonely in a room full of laughing people, and right now, at this very moment, while you're reading this, I am thinking about you and wishing I could make hugs into something tangible I could send through the internet.

One of my favorite childhood traditions, which I continue as often as I can as an adult, is hosting single Airmen at our family dinners at Thanksgiving and Christmas. The guys were usually young, sometimes away from home for the first time, unable to be with their own families. While it's not exactly the same situation, they shared a feeling of loneliness at a time of year when every single thing we hear is about families and sharing and happiness and love and joy, whether we like it or not.

In my own home, as an adult, everyone is welcome as long as you come hungry.  Can you chop celery or fry up some bacon?  Can you sit on the couch and watch TV?  Can you improve on my family's cornbread dressing recipe?  Can you drink soda or set the table or help with the dishes?  Can you debate the relative merits of Battlestar Galactica or Babylon 5?  All of those things matter more to me than what you look like or whether you're loving an "acceptable" person. You'd be welcome in my home, as would anyone you'd choose to bring, and if you wanted one, you'd be entitled to a hug when you came in the door.

So remember that.  The inner me sees the you that's inside, with all your trippy little quirks and your hopes for the future, and I love you. I hope that helps make your holidays be merry in a whole new way.

Love, Mom Lucy

Definitely worth checking out, particularly if you are not sappy and prone to random weepiness like I am.  :|