school

My Semester in Books

The semester is nearly over, and I had to read 19 short stories, picture books, and novels for one class this semester. I thought it would be fun if I shared some of my favorites with y'all. 

I am so happy I chose Literature for Children as an elective. I haven't read some of these genres since I was a kid, and some of them, I had never read at all. I definitely went out of my reading comfort zone and I was pleasantly surprised.

I don't know why because good things normally come when I venture out of my reading comfort zone. Unlike when I try new things at favorite restaurants, but that's another topic altogether, so let's keep moving forward.

We had four modules in this class. The first module was all about picture books. I didn't have a lot of expectations, I'll be honest. I almost thought that since I hadn't read a picture book since like kindergarten or so, then what are the chances I'll enjoy it? How am I going to relate to whatever is happening? 

I had to read six picture books. One of them swept me off my feet. It was The Pout-Pout Fish Goes to School by Deborah Diesen and Pictures by Dan Hanna. It was simply adorable with illustrations that paid attention to all the little details. I was ridiculously tempted to find more of these books and read them while I was at the library that day.

In the second module, we had to read 4 books: a Modern Fantasy, a Multicultural Literature, and 2 types of Traditional Literature. My favorite of these was Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt. What a better class than one that gives you an excuse to read books that have been on your TBR for forever? This was a book where I got attached to the characters and was left wanting to see more of them. Always a good thing in my book (haha!).

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Next, we had to read books that were award winners (or honor books) for the Belpre, King, Newbery, Printz, Caldecott, and one from either the NC Children's Book Award or the NC Young Adult Book Award.

Let me get a favorite out of the way first. I loved The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak. This was a book I had in my own personal collection that was waiting to be read and this gave me a reason to bump it up. Everyone needs to read this book. Just so good.

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The other book I'll mention from this module was one that took me by surprise. It was Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage. I was kinda worried because I couldn't remember the last middle grade novel I read, so how do I know I'll enjoy this one? (This class made me realize while I'm generally openminded, I'm also SO skeptical, which I don't like.) This book was really good. It was funny, set in NC, and had a good little mystery. This is another one that made me want to keep reading the others in the series.

Lastly, we had to read an informational science book, an informational social studies book, a biography, a historical fiction, and a realistic fiction. Did those first two make you groan? It did me because science and social studies were never my friends in school. Yet, my favorite book from this module was Secrets of a Civil War Submarine by Sally M. Walker.

I'm still thinking about this book. It's just so interesting what happened with this submarine! There's also a museum for it in Charleston, SC, so you can guess where I'll eventually go. There was a compelling story, a mystery, and you get invested. What more do you need?

So, there you have it! Another semester in the books for me. Only one more to go. Have you read any of these books?

P.S. For my last semester, one of my electives is a class on Grimms' Fairy Tales. Should be interesting! 

The Pout-Pout Fish Goes to School by Deborah Diesen: Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, B&N 

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt: Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, B&N 

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak: Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, B&N 

Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage: Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, B&N 

Secrets of a Civil War Submarine by Sally M. Walker: AmazonB&N 

Anxiety? What Anxiety?


It's on a day like today when I realize I've successfully completed another semester of college that I wonder how I've struggled so much in the past. Things since August have been wonderful. So wonderful that sometimes, I forget that I have an anxiety disorder.

I have never felt this good.
Ever.

-Three years, most of it spent being miserable.
-Therapy every two weeks for almost three years.
-Finishing high school through the county's homeschooling program.
-Five different medications.
-A week in the psychiatric ward.
-Three psychiatrists.
-Having to take a semester off from college.

^^^ That's what it took for me to get to this point. A lot of that was not enjoyable in the least. Switching medications and then having to adjust to a new one is terrible sometimes. Not to mention the side effects. (Hello, week-long stay in the psychiatric ward.)

But that's not the point of this post. I'm writing this because I had to go through all of that to get to this point. Today. A time in my life where I've never been happier. I'm on a medication that (in combination with therapy) makes me forget I even have anxiety. That is one of the best feelings in the world.

Since August, I can count all of my panic attacks on one hand and the number of minutes they lasted on one hand as well. If that isn't an accomplishment, I don't know what is. Especially considering my attacks used to last all day long, every day to the week.

So today, I'm celebrating.

I'm celebrating every day this year without a panic attack. I'm doing a happy dance for not missing a single day this semester due to anxiety. I'm singing as loud as I can to my favorite tunes because every day I don't think about anxiety is considered success. I'm celebrating that I easily survived a semester of school and I'm looking forward to the next one. I'm screaming, jumping, and looking a little crazy because I'm in control of my life now. Anxiety doesn't hold me back anymore.

Is my fight over?
No.

Is there a chance that I'll lose control again?
Of course.

Am I worried?
Not in the least.

I can finish school.

I can sit in a quiet classroom with little anxiety.

I can do all those things that produce my anxiety with a little effort instead of a lot of extra effort.

I can do whatever I dream of.

Because I can control my anxiety.

If these past few months have taught me anything, it's that. If I can make it through a semester as I did with this one, then my anxiety is no match for me. I'm prepared to fight, if need be. I have a Plan B and a Plan C. So, no, I'm not worried about it returning later because I know that I can control it.

Updates All Around!

The past few weeks, I've only posted Monday's Book Spotlight. It's about time to give an update post. There are lots of things to talk about! Let's get this show on the road, shall we?

Writing-wise, things are up and down. I've been bouncing between four solo projects and my co-authored projects as well. You can see the update for the latter here. (Psst. My co-author, Mary Smith, just had her first solo book released. Go check out Melting Away the Ice on Amazon!) Either I'm writing like crazy in one or I'm switching from one to another, or I'm not writing at all. For the most part, progress is being made.

A good chunk of book five has been written and if I pick up my pace, just a little, I can release it in the month I have planned. It's still my top priority and hopefully, I can share some snippets of it with you soon.

As of yesterday, I hit the one month mark since school started. I survived the first month and I plan on making it through the next month. Things with school have been going really well. I have my schedule set up in a way that taking seven classes isn't too overwhelming. My schedule will soon be tweaked again because I now have a job. I'm feeling really good about things though. To have had only one panic attack so far is a feat in itself and I'm certain that things are only going to get better.

The last update isn't really an update, but who cares? Hockey season will be starting soon and I will be going to two games next month. One to see the Blackhawks vs. Hurricanes and then to see my Penguins vs. Hurricanes. I am so excited about this! It's going to be awesome, as always.

Okay. There you have it. Have an amazing weekend, y'all!

An Anxiety-Related Update (Warning: Long Post Ahead)

It's been a while since I've posted an update on myself and my anxiety. That's mostly because I'm in one of those good periods where my anxiety is low. I've been doing well. It's been a good few months with this period and when I realized this, my anxiety flared a little. It's like when you realize things have been going well and it seems a little too good to be true so you start waiting for the pen to drop.

That's where I'm at right now. One sign of my anxiety rising is having trouble sleeping. None of that, thank goodness. However, another sign is that I have a reading/writing slump. The last time I read a book was July 12th, which was a little over two weeks ago. Writing has been a bit of a struggle as well. Some scenes that shouldn't take long to write are taking forever. Why? Because most of the time, my mind goes blank and I stare at the screen until I can get my thoughts together long enough to write another paragraph. Then my mind blanks again. Sometimes, I even stop mid-sentence.

Talk about frustrating. Especially when I have a goal that I would like to meet this year. Part of me is pretty sure that these little signs are due to the never-failing reason behind 96% of my anxiety.

School.

It's almost August and I register on the 13th and start on the 19th. I'm still pretty excited to be going back. I'm ready for the work, the routine, the stability of knowing what I will be doing two days of every week while doing the rest online. I am a little worried about how taking 7 classes (3 face-to-face, 4 online) will interfere with my writing time. Like I said, I have goals I want to meet.

That's my biggest worry at the moment. I'm feeling good about the classes at campus because my BFF will be in those classes too. I'm not the least bit concerned about the online classes. Nevertheless, the process has started once more. I'm not reading and my writing is a constant struggle lately.

I don't know if I've ever mentioned it before, but those two things are crucial to my everyday life. Both are therapeutic escapes that I need, especially in regards to my anxiety. If I'm not doing either, then my anxiety is not in a good place and there is a good chance that I'm on the train to Crazy Town.

For now, I'm happy that I'm aware of the little changes that I need to keep an eye on and I'm going to push myself to read a little and keep writing. Once I really get going, then it won't be such a struggle and I'll be happier.

These posts are always so long, but I wanted to write an update, especially since it's been a while since my last one. Until next time, happy reading y'all!

It's Been One Year!

Thanks to the BFF, I just realized it's been one year since I graduated high school. I can't believe it has been a year already! Realizing the time that has passed has caused me to reflect.

I'm not where I expected to be by no means. I thought I would be finishing up my first year of college and doing great anxiety wise. Instead, I ended up in the psych ward for a week and started seeing my third psychiatrist. I only completed one semester of college and my anxiety reared up again.

However, I think I'm where I need to be and doing things that are best for me. My recent medication change has been working fantastically. I love my new psychiatrist. I'm feeling great about things overall. I still have until August before school starts and I plan on being there. I'm actually a little excited about it because I'm ready to be busy again. I'm ready to be in school and learn and do homework.

On the other hand, I'm a little worried. I didn't think about it much when my therapist said it, but when the BFF mentioned that it's been a year since graduation, it got me thinking. My therapist mentioned how after each semester, I might very well need a break. To allow myself time to recoup and prepare again for a new semester. If that happens, do y'all realize how long it will take for me to finish school?

Too long. That's how long.

I have come up with a plan, though. While the majority of my classes will be online, I'll alternate between having a few face-to-face classes to all online. Hopefully, that will be good enough where I won't have to take entire semesters off anymore.

I'm just excited that I'm actually excited about school. Hoping for better results this good round, but this time, I believe I'm going to get those good results.

Anxiety, Orthostatic Intolerance, and I

I want to share with my readers more about myself. It seems apparent to me that the only place to start is with my anxiety and orthostatic intolerance. These two things have been a huge part of my life ever since I could remember way back in first grade. Am I implying that these two things have run my life? Certainly. Until now, that is. However, I will dive into that later.

You are probably wondering what orthostatic intolerance is. Well, it’s pretty common in teen girls. That sudden lightheadedness and dizzy sensation you feel when you step out of a hot shower? Momentarily clouded vision when you go from laying down to standing up too fast? That is a taste of what orthostatic intolerance is like. Orthostatic Intolerance is where my blood pressure drops, usually due to low sodium intake, and thus providing a lightheaded feeling. Occasionally, it leads to me fainting.


If I haven’t ate that much salty foods in two days, I’m going to have an episode. Also, too much caffeine causes an episode. Some of the doctors I went to called it pre-syncope. Syncope means you have fainting episodes. I would always get the sensation of feeling like I would faint, but rarely did. These episodes could last anywhere from 5 minutes to 5 hours. It is horrible. Often, I would find myself wishing to faint so I could get it over with!

That is the orthostatic part of my life. The more dominant part is my anxiety. Standing in the line at the cafeteria and BAM! I have to keep moving, whether it’s shuffling my feet or swaying back and forth, I can’t stop moving because if I do, it feels as if the world will disappear and I’m left in a state of panic. Going through that in the first grade was tough. There is no telling how many days I have missed of school because of similar happenings throughout my school life.

Next major even would be in the fifth grade. I had a teacher that I loved and she ended up moving to another state during the school year. Our new teacher was okay, I guess. I immediately noticed something different about myself. My stomach was in constant knots whenever I thought about or was attending school. The thought of it was almost unbearable. “DON’T GO IN THAT CLASSROOM!” screamed in my mind everyday.

I started “skipping” class and staying in the library with some of the coolest librarians. However, there was yet another change. The silence bothered me. The sound of movement was music to my ears. After a few weeks of this behavior and going home from where I was unknowingly making myself sick, I was transferred into another classroom. The change was tough and the agony of new people, more silence, and a new teacher was hard, but just what I needed.

Then there is middle school. Fifth grade started a tradition. Every new school year brought weakness to my knees, pain to my stomach, and vomit to my throat. Silence was not appreciated nor welcomed anymore. I couldn’t stand it. What most would consider a peaceful work environment was Hell for me. My legs were uncontrollable in a bouncing rage. But! I was still able to concentrate and do my work. I tried to ignore my anxiety.

Always have I known that I was a nervous person, but I wouldn’t have classified these feelings under anxiety. Well, that all changed once high school came and it wasn’t for the better. My episodes with Orthostatic Intolerance were getting worse. Cardio appointments were made and everything seemed fine. The doctor gave me a few tips that should lessen the extremity and frequency of the episodes.

That worked…for a little while. I lost fifteen pounds in roughly four months. Apparently, that is a no-no for a ninth grader. My doctor told me that I did not need to drop below 125. I never have, but I couldn’t help it. My nerves were making my lose my appetite. Everyday in that year, I ate a pop tart (just one) for breakfast and a granola bar for lunch. Sometimes, I wouldn’t eat anything for breakfast. However, at dinner I ate just fine.

Those damn EOG/EOC tests were almost the death of me. The silence during that time was unbearable. I honestly don’t know how I was able to remember my own name, much less the material I learned throughout the year.

Back on track, tenth grade my episodes increased. I was still able to manage them pretty well. Eleventh grade nothing was working. I was missing school nearly every other day. In the dead of winter, I was sitting less than two feet from an open window wearing jeans and a short sleeved shirt and I was burning up. It felt as if it was 100 degrees. Not only was I freaking out because I was having these hot flashes, I felt as if every eye in the classroom was on me. I sat in the back of every class so that was not happening.

No one paid attention to me, yet someone had to notice how my legs wouldn’t stop moving. I kept fidgeting in my chair. I was sweating in 35-45 degree weather. I couldn’t focus on anything thing. My nails were digging into my skin for a distraction, hoping to break the skin. I HAD to escape that room that second, but fear of being noticed when I asked to leave kept me rooted in my seat and the torture continued until I absolutely couldn’t take it anymore. I got permission and bolted out of the room.

Progressively, my anxiety grew as well as my stress. Eventually, I missed three straight weeks of school and was withdrawn. That was terrible for me. If a B or less appears on my report card, I’m the girl trying not to breakdown in tears. The school social worker recommended a therapist who also recommended a psychiatrist. Seeing a therapist is by far the best decision in my entire life. (Thank goodness for my momma making me go!)

I am now homebound and able to finish my senior year. Yes, I’m medicated and still going strong with the therapist. This is my story, but it’s only the beginning. If you want to learn more about my tribulations with anxiety, then stay tuned. In spring of 2012, I’m releasing a memoir that will include my journal (my therapist makes me keep one) and hopefully notes that my therapist and psychiatrist have kept. I desperately want to let other teens know that you are not alone.

I wish there are more books about teens dealing with this. I do plan on writing some fictional ones as well. If you are a teen experiencing some level of anxiety and need someone to talk to, stay tuned because I have a special feature just for you.