Of dead circus performers and overly sappy heroines: Review of “The Immortal Circus” by A. R. Kahler

I thought I’d mix things up a bit & review the latest book I finished. Be warned – there will probably be spoilers.

The premise had a lot of promise as a murder mystery nestled into a supernatural circus. It didn’t live up to that promise.

The heroine, Vivienne, joins this circus for an unknown reason. Her memory has somehow been erased & she can’t remember exactly why she joined in the first place. It’s narrated in first person present. Personally, I find that a rather irritable tense to read. It’s a challenging tense to work with & I’ve yet to find an author who could do it well. A. R. Kahler is no exception. Vivienne reminded me way too much of Ana from 50 Shades of Grey. I’m sure part of it was the tense because 50 Shades is also written in FPP. Vivienne also couldn’t shut up about how hot the male lead was (is?). Add some whips & chains and we’ve got the supernatural sibling of 50 Shades. Ew.

After 2 chapters, we’ve heard about how sexy Kingston is at least a dozen times. Yes, we get it. Now shut up and give us something vaguely resembling a plot. Take my hand if we be friends and I shalt not giveth thee a plot. ┬áKahler plucked Mab & Oberon from A Midsummer Night’s Dream & plopped them down almost wholesale as the leaders of warring “courts”. Mab is the leader of the Winter Court and Oberon is the leader of the Summer Court even though he never appears in the book. Of the whole cast, I felt like Mab had the most development. That was probably because Shakespeare had done most of the heavy lifting to begin with. There are about half a dozen other named characters, but the most development they’re given are their positions in the circus. Even Vivienne, Kingston, and Melody (Kingston’s lovely assistant) aren’t developed enough to care about. Kahler is a relatively new author & it shows. If he’d spent more time building each character & less time on Vivienne wondering how she can get some Kingston action, it would have elevated the book at least one level. I can’t help but compare it to The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. She was also a debut author with a similar theme. Even though the ending was a deus ex machina (love that term!), it was forgivable because the rest of the book was that good. Her setting was absolutely spellbinding. His was good, but not nearly as good as hers.

The Immortal Circus was the kind of book I had to force myself to finish. It was a hair under 250 pages which was do-able for me. If it had run 300+ pages, I would have put it down never to pick it up again. After I finished the book, I discovered it was released as a serial for Kindle. That explained the jarring endings for each chapter. It felt like someone trying to learn how to drive a manual transmission car on a hill. Always wear your seatbelt, kiddies. This wasn’t a “stay up way past my bedtime to read another chapter” book. This was a “throw it in my purse & half read it during my lunch break” kind of book. It’s a shame because it could have been so much more. I was left with no desire to read the next two. Guess the show will go on without me.

Final Rating (out of 5): 2.5

XOXO!

Motivational Monday: Comfort Zones

This post is more for me than you, fair readers. Feel free to jump on the bandwagon. The more the merrier, eh?

As I discussed in my post on Saturday, I’m having an internal argument with myself over possibly switching my workout routine to the early morning rather than after work. I shot off an email to the old CrossFit-esque camp I used to participate in. They’ve since expanded their locations, including one that’s only a slight detour from my way to work. They’ll call me sometime during the week to schedule my free session. I felt pretty good about it until Sunday morning. Then Hailey kicked in again.

“Pfft, why did you even bother? It’s not like you’re going to keep it up,”

“I thought we had this talk about you being late to work? Did you even listen?”

“It’s too expensive. You don’t have that kind of money,”

The same litany came out for trying an early morning yoga class. That’s all it is. Trying. I don’t have to commit to anything. It’s just an experiment. It will allow me to see exactly what impact it would have on my commute. Then I can make an informed decision. I’ll give myself two separate chances, one with yoga and the other with camp. If it doesn’t work out or I get to work too late for my comfort (at my desk no later than 8a after all the requisite cleaning up has been completed), I can stop. It’s not like the minute I get there, I’ll be forced to sign a year long contract with a cancellation fee that involves my left kidney. There’s absolutely no harm in trying. Getting up at 515a to be at a 6a class might hurt a little the first time, but again, it’s not permanent unless I decide it’s worth it. I have a very hard time believing either of them would be insulted if I said “I have to think about it”. I know the camp won’t because I’ve dealt with them before. Hard sell isn’t their style.

The same thing goes through my head regarding the technical dance studio. I have 2 classes just hanging out there, waiting to be used. I always chicken out at the last minute. Again, I’m not making any kind of serious commitment. There’s a reason their business model is a drop in system. I have a year to use the classes I buy. I just need to inch a little more in that direction. I allow myself to be intimidated. I bully myself so hard that, again, I feel crappy & stuck. What’s the worst that will happen? They won’t kick me out of class. I’m a paying customer. The other dancers won’t point and laugh. Odds are, they aren’t even paying attention to me. I’m not a disruptive student. I pretty much keep to myself in class, even at the recreational studio where I know faces even if I don’t know names. The only real challenge is judging what their definition of “beginner” or “intermediate” is. Even then, I can go to a beginner level class & if it’s too easy, then go up a level.

I don’t tolerate other people bullying me or someone I care about. It’s a lot harder to stop bullying myself. At least if I try, I’ve knocked the bully down a peg.

Motivational Tidbit Takeaway: Give it a try

XOXO!

Of late nights and early morning yoga classes

I apologize for my hiatus dear readers. Things have been busy. I’ve been staying late at work to catch up & only finally felt like I had my feet under me again on Friday. Though listening to one of the other managers (who is younger than I am) talk about how tired he is and how much effort he puts in, part of me laughed and said “Sucker!”. To think I was jealous when he got the job a year ago. Funny how those things turn out, eh? I did offer some advice on how to take breaks, but who knows if he’ll take it or not.

There was a fair bit of confusion on my part of what the expectations were when it came to staying late. My boss said the head of the department asked if I was staying late or coming in on weekends to get things current. I said no & interpreted that to mean I *should* be staying late. After staying late 3 days in a row, I mentioned it to my boss. He said there was no reason I had to stay late, but having an extra hour or so with no one bothering me can be useful. Oh.

I also took a management class taught by the head of HR. She explained that managers are paid for the job they do, not the hours they’re there. Some weeks we may work 30 hours, others we may work 60. That was Day 3 of staying late. By that point, the vicious mental cycle had begun.

I would come in swearing no matter what time I left, I would make it to a dance class. Then by mid-afternoon, I would start to feel too tired to go. By the time I was walking out of the building, all I wanted to do was go home, put on my house shorts, eat Ramen, & pretend I had no responsibilities other than getting up to pee. Hailey, of course, had a field day.

“You’re such a flake. Why can’t you show up to class?”

“Look at you wasting money. You paid for these classes after all,”

Boy asked if they offered classes in the morning so I could go before I got to work. They don’t, but a yoga studio not too far from here offers 6a classes. Then we’re off to the races again.

“You can’t do that. You’ll be late to work. You were already asked if you could be here by 7 instead of 730. You’re already in trouble,”

Yes, my boss did ask if I could be at work by 7. He’s at work by 7 along with my employees. That said, one of them has another job & two of them have kids. They have to work around those time constraints. It’s also not my business what time my boss comes in. Going to a 6a class would put me at my desk around 745 or 8. My official start time is 730. As I said, those times are flexible. My pay isn’t docked for missing a partial day or working varied hours. It’s not like I can’t trust my employees to not goof off until I get there. If anything, one of them is going out of her way to be conscientious & make a good impression. Does Hailey care? That would be “no” with a side of “nope”.

I remember when I was doing CrossFit in the mornings before I would go to work. I felt great. I didn’t need coffee or anything artificial to get me going. My office had a gym &, by extension, showers. I could clean myself up then head up to my desk. I can’t see why the same thing wouldn’t happen with another type of exercise like yoga. It’s a hot yoga studio, so I could get more of my sweat on. Full disclosure, I don’t feel like I’m getting a good workout unless I’m practically bleeding sweat. I’m not a fan of standard yoga simply because I don’t get that kind of sweating. Ironic for someone who doesn’t enjoy being sweaty. Also, CrossFit can be quite pricey unless you sign a contract. See above for issues regarding contracts. Apparently we have showers in the building as well, but I’m not sure where they are / how often they’re used. Though a hot yoga studio should have showers. :P

All I’m left with is feeling crappy & stuck. Nine times out of ten, I end up listening to Hailey. I choose to do nothing. Which, in turn, makes me kick myself for not stepping outside my box. I’d like to believe sooner or later, I’ll get completely fed up & start to break the cycle. I just need to stop getting myself so worked up over it first. Take the babyiest of baby steps. As my bracelet says “The journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step”.

XOXO!

Of internal monologues & the stories you don’t want to hear

Y’all, I’d be lying if I said things haven’t been really dark lately.

It’s not so much the “I can’t make myself get out of bed” kind of dark. It’s more the “Well, well, well, look who’s failing again” version.

You’re flaky. You’re unprofessional. You can’t be trusted to make the right choices. You’re not worthy. You can’t be trusted to make any choices, actually. Look at you, why aren’t you trying harder to lose those love handles? You spent money on what? Seriously? You want new, nice underwear because yours is falling apart? You know anything nice is just asking for it. No, really, you have *got* to do something about those hips. He’s just waiting until someone else better comes along. You’re disposable.

That’s been my internal monologue for the past week or so. I’m still perfectly capable of getting out of bed, putting on pants, and physically showing up. Mentally? I’m about a million miles away. Fortunately, my medication has kept stress related auras at bay. Hailey manifests herself in the form of being more defensive. Yesterday, my boss pointed out two specific instances where I’d been unusually defensive. I blamed it on the fact that one of my employees was out on medical leave this past week. It wasn’t entirely a lie. My other employee works far too slowly to be of much help. I was a one woman show doing the work of 4 people. I stayed late at work three of the four days I worked this week. I signed up for a class geared toward new(ish) managers. If nothing else, I can’t say I’m not making the effort.

I look in the mirror and I see her. I have to push to actually see myself. I’ve had confirmation that when your brain is struggling, so does your body. In my dance classes, I couldn’t perform basic moves that I know I can do. I felt like a giraffe on roller skates. I was in a class of three people one night, so I couldn’t just fade into the crowd. Not that I ever really fade into a crowd, but that’s not the point. Under normal circumstances, getting a correction is a good thing. It means the teacher is paying enough attention to stop and help with your technique. Instead of taking the correction as it was intended, I just withdrew into myself. The teacher is really nice & wants to make everyone a better dancer. Hailey didn’t see it that way. She put it as another tick mark on the running negative tally. It’s exhausting.

All that said, I am seeing my therapist this afternoon. I’m not going to do anything rash or hurt myself. I just wanted to put all of that out into the world. As hard as it is, yanking back the covers & letting in the light is the best thing to do. She could use some Vitamin D anyway.

XOXO!

Motivational Monday: Depression

My depression existed long before my abuse.

When I was 12, we moved from a (relatively) small town in Virginia to Atlanta. The Internet was still a novelty in those days (“Get off the phone! I need to use the Internet!”). My main method of communication with my friends were letters and phone calls. These were also the days of land lines where calling outside your area code came with a higher charge. Thus, my phone calls were limited to 30 minutes or less. I had a hard time making friends in my new school because almost all of the other kids had been classmates since kindergarten or first grade. The only people I really made friends with were the other 2 new girls. To say I had a hard time adjusting would be an understatement. I got better when the Internet & instant messaging became a thing. I had an unrestricted way to communicate.

I wrote a lot of poetry during those 2 years. I know most people make fun of poetry, but to my 7th grade self, it made the most sense. It was a way to get all my feelings out in a form I could relate to. I kept the book & reread it after I graduated high school. I wrote some very dark things. There was no danger of me killing myself, but my heart broke for that girl who had no idea what to do. She did the best she could with a lot of feelings that she didn’t fully understand. Then came the abuse & depression reared its scraggly blonde head once again. I told you that story to tell you this one…

I wanted to share a tool my therapist gave me to keep depression at bay. It’s not a solution by any means. Always, always listen to your health care provider (mental and / or physical) first. It’s just a trick that can help when you’re feeling particularly challenged. It’s called CESS. It stands for Creative, Exercise, Self Care, & Spiritual. Ideally, you hit all 4 on any given day. Realistically, it’s 3. I recently reimplemented this in my life & I noticed a shift. I keep a journal & at the end of the day, I write down each point. Some things even overlap. If I go to dance, that covers both Exercise & Creative. Depending on the style or the tone of the class, it can even cover Spiritual. Reading a book covers Creative because your brain has something else to chew on. You may choose to practice an instrument, paint, or write.

Self care & Spirituality are easily the most personal & sometimes the hardest to incorporate. Personally, I take self care very literally. Taking a shower, brushing my teeth, putting on make up, or using nice smelling lotion all cover that point for me. Self care for you could be taking a night off, watching TV, & focusing on yourself rather than someone else. It could overlap with exercise by taking a yoga class, for example. Spirituality is where I tread very lightly. For me, meditation right before I go to bed satisfies my spirituality. I was raised Catholic, but I don’t relate to it at all any more. I spent the weekend with my dad’s family who take their faith very seriously. My dad himself takes his faith very seriously, especially given how hard this year has been for him. Whatever allows you to feel a connection with the greater world, universe, or what have you, is exactly what you need to do.

CESS is the root of “cease” or “cessation” which means “to end” or “to stop”. It won’t stop depression in its tracks, but it can slow it down long enough to allow you to get back on your feet.

Motivational Tidbit Takeaway: Cease & desist

XOXO!

Motivational Monday: Acceptance

The anniversary of the day I met Will passed this week. I didn’t even notice. October 2, 2004. It’s been a decade. When I realized it last night, I was flooded with a mix of memories and emotions. He was my first and I was his first. After, I was in the bathroom trying to figure out a way to stop the bleeding. Our first Valentine’s Day, he bought me flowers. It was windy, so he walked backwards from the train station to my dorm so the flowers wouldn’t be damaged. He took me to Mardi Gras. His parents’ house was literally half a block off the parade route. His sister hated me. His mom hated me. His dad loved me. His ex-girlfriend and I bonded over having the exact same birthday. His phone number is seared into my brain. If he ever called me again, I would know it was him. I remember his birthday. I don’t remember when we broke up. For all intents and purposes, the relationship ended after graduation when he moved back to New Orleans and I stayed here.

In the past decade, I’ve seen him once. He called me out of the blue in the summer of 2010. He said he would be in town & asked to have lunch together. I agreed. It was a really, really bad decision. He rattled off everything he was doing. His new girlfriend was in town training for Teach for America. He’d bought a car. He’d bought a condo. The car was particularly significant because he had been deemed uninsurable after being in 3 accidents in as many months. Apparently the state of Louisiana changed its mind and he was once again able to legally drive. During our relationship, I was responsible for all the transportation needs. Overall, it was a strange experience. We parted ways and that night I, of course, crawled into a bottle of vodka and stayed there. I drunk dialed him, left him a rambling message, & saw the next morning that he’d called me back. I was absolutely mortified. Two months later I met Boy. Three months later I made my first attempt at drying out. I haven’t heard from him again, in person or virtually. Sometimes I wonder what happened to him. If my phone were to ring right this second and it was him, would I pick up the phone? My stomach drops at the thought. I think that’s a pretty good sign that I should let it ring to voicemail.

The fact that the date passed without me noticing is significant in its own right. My uncanny ability to remember dates, times, places, and people along with their significance can be a blessing and a curse. This year, October 2 was spent calling in sick to work & cat napping all day. That’s the only reason it stood out. No anxiety. No pain. Nothing to otherwise distinguish it from any other Thursday. If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that swatting at the past like you’re trying to get a bug out of your face does no good. I was reminded that he wasn’t all bad. He wasn’t abusive 24/7. That by no means absolves what he did. A reminder of our own humanity and the humanity of others is important. Yesterday I did what amounted to narrowing down what’s important to me right now. The results were a bit eye opening. My main focus is to self improvement and improving my relationships with those closest to me. I hadn’t really given it much thought recently other than in passing. That requires accepting our flaws, strengths, and quirks as part of a whole package. It’s never easy and sometimes far easier to ignore, but it’s worth it in the end.

Motivational Tidbit Takeaway: Be human

XOXO!

Motivational Monday: Praying

This article really spoke to me.

When people hear the word “prayer”, the knee jerk reaction is the rote poems written in their respective organized doctrines. Boy was raised Jewish. I was raised Catholic. If you were raised in any kind of organized religion, I’m sure you can recite the most common prayers without thinking twice about it. I think that’s why people find the word “pray” so offputting. The words of a pre-fab prayer don’t ring true. They aren’t capturing the emotion or the idea behind laying it all on the table in the face of a world in which we are specks.

When my dad almost died, I found myself praying frequently. By praying, I mean lying on the bed, sobbing my eyes out, begging the greater world to let me do something. I heard nothing back. I squeezed every bit of feeling out of myself in those moments. It did more for me than any number of Our Fathers, Hail Marys, or Prayers to St. Francis could ever do. Ironically, those are also doled out as punishment when you go to confession. That’s why, at least in my head, they don’t do anything. How can something that’s supposed to make you connect more with a greater power also be used as a weapon?

I don’t believe in a god or goddess. I don’t believe in a literal heaven or hell. Yet, I still pray. I still have something I need to communicate in the face of helplessness and fear. That’s also where AA failed. For all their huffing about praying to a higher power of your choice, they were referring to the traditional God of Christianity. They said all the prewritten prayers and went through the same motions that happened in a church service. It didn’t fit. Just like in school, I was expected to pray at certain times of the day, confess my sins, and be duly punished for them with the promise to go and sin no more. Not helpful. If anything, it made me far more likely to fight the system. When Emily & I would go to meetings together, we’d sit in the car for the first few minutes because we didn’t want to sit through the whole opening prayer bit. Quite the rebels, we were.

At one point or another, we’ve all yelled at the sky asking why something didn’t work out or we couldn’t do anything more to change a situation. We’ve prayed. When someone dies and we say “My thoughts are with your family” or “I’m sending you good vibes”, we’re praying for them. I see plenty of my friends on Facebook asking for prayers without even realizing it. They may even think they’re going out of their way to not ask for others to pray by suggesting “good vibes” or “positive thoughts”. I also know a lot of them would insist that’s not what they’re asking for at all. Regardless, we all have our way and call it by its own name. Ramen ;)

XOXO!

Motivational Tidbit Takeaway: Say a little prayer