“Lost Among the Living” By Simone St. James

Concept: ★★★★★ – The concept of this book was well thought out and very unique. “Lost Among the Living” is set in 1921, a few years following the first World War. The author artfully twines a novel that expertly addresses issues that were active in Europe, while spinning a tale of a not-quite-widow and the challenges she faces after her husband disappears in the war. Weave in a ghost, a family full of secrets, and a house with footsteps that follow people down an empty hallway; then you have yourself a novel!

Writing: ★★★★★ – As always, I was very much a fan 6a015390e082b4970b01b8d1b6f7a6970c-600wiof St. James writing. The language and rhetoric style she chooses to use in her historical novels is delectable. Perhaps my favorite part of reading her novels is imagining the amount of research she may have had to complete to accurately write a story from a different decade. Another amazing attribute that she possesses is her capability to write a fiction novel around challenges that were very real and present in the post-Great War era.

Character Development: ★★★★☆ – As always, St. James has a way of gradually introducing characters throughout the entire novel. I feel as though this is what sucks me so deeply into her stories, the fact that I get to know characters at their deepest levels as I read. The only character that I found to be less developed in this novel was the villain. I felt as though it made his role obvious, but perhaps that’s just me.

Plot: ★★★★★ – A not-quite-widowed woman, a recovering addict, a lonely woman, and a mysteriously dead little girl, all woven together into a novel that develops slowly into a page-turning novel. With so much activity, it was hard to keep up at times! The author expertly stitched together a breathtaking and nightmare giving read!

Pacing: ★★★★☆ – The greatest downfall to this book was when the main character said, “Things moved quickly after that.” Even though the book was attention grasping and full of endless twists, I really was frustrated that St. James couldn’t come up with a less obvious transition to the climax and end of the story.

Ending: ★★★★★ – The ending was, well, short and sweet – and, boy, do I mean sweet! The bad guy was proven guilty and the good guys lived on, happier than before. The only one who didn’t get the happy ending is the little girl who was long ago passed. Of course, if you want to know who the bad guy is, I suggest reading the book or checking out the spoilers below!

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

Spoilers below!

Continue reading ““Lost Among the Living” By Simone St. James”


Day Nine: 9 Things Everybody Needs To Know Before Starting Keto

The Best Side Effects

To begin, I’ve tried a lot of different methods for not only losing weight but also a447a303b7533ba246d78936e03d87e9maintaining. Today is my ninth day eating a ketogenic diet and this is by far the best dietary choice I’ve ever made! Since I started keto:

  • I’ve been around sick people and – for the first time in a really long time – I haven’t gotten sick.
  • I went an entire weekend without having to take nap.
  • I can stay up past ten p.m. and still feel amazing in the morning.
  • I wake up in the mornings feeling refreshed.
  • I have no heartburn (and before I started, I was taking Zantac every day).
  • I have regular bowel movements and my stomach doesn’t twist anymore.
  • I save money because I make the majority of my meals at home, from scratch.
  • I actually know what’s in the food I eat.

I feel better and, if I keep feeling better, I will never want to stop living a ketogenic life.

Nine Things You Need To Know Before You Start

Before I started living a keto friendly life, I read so many different blogs an articles because I wanted to know, for a fact, that I was making a healthy decision. I mean, it didn’t sound legitimate that – if I cut back on my carbohydrate intake and increased my fat and protein consumption – I’d actually lose weight.

However, while you’re surfing the web and checking out info, you most likely will run into recipes with foreign ingredients, worries about the keto flu, and many other concerning things. Then you might start questioning whether you can even do this. The answer is: Yes, you can. So, before you start freaking out about spending too much money and feeling lousy, check out these nine things you need to know:

Number One: The “Keto Flu” is very real, but also very preventable. On my first day, I literally had a meltdown in my car because all I could think about was a turtle sundae from Culver’s. My head was pounding, I was so tired, and – I swear – if anyone had so much as looked at me the wrong way, I would have attempted to attack them. So, yes, the “Keto Flu” is a very real thing.

Keto-fluPerhaps it’s a combination of your body going through sugar and/or carb withdrawals and dehydration, but you also have to remember that you are essentially “reprogramming” the way your body works – so your body is confused. It’s been burning certain fuels your entire life and suddenly you’re telling it to do something different.

So, to help curb the effects of the “Keto Flu”, drink a lot of water (I was pushing 96 ounces per day, using my Contigo water bottle), get the excess sleep your body is craving, and up your sodium intake (it’s okay, you need extra salt to retain water).

Number Two: There are some weird ingredients that you will eventually need. Unfortunately, this is true and the special ingredients aren’t always the most affordable – actually, normally they are just plain outrageously priced. That’s totally okay, though, because you don’t need them all right away. In fact, I haven’t needed any yet, but I keep purchasing them – one at a time – because I know that I might need them one day.

meme10A few of these weird ingredients that I’ve run across, so far, include cream of tartar, almond flour, guar gum, and xanthan gum. Together, buying these four ingredients will add about $45.00 to your shopping trip. However, if you buy one at a time, you can survive at least four weeks without need any of these ingredients and you add maybe $10.00 to your grocery total.

In case you can’t live without bread, some of the keto-friendly “bread” recipes – like Cheddar Garlic Biscuits – don’t even require any “fancy” ingredients. 

Number Three: Your ketone levels do matter, but don’t make them a primary focus. If I’m being completely honest, I didn’t even buy a box of Ketostix until my fifth day of maintaining a keto-friendly diet. I should note that I did invest in a Keto-Mojo for blood ketone testing last Friday (ordered it online, so I bought the Ketostix for initial testing). This was mainly due to the reasoning that – in accordance with basically everything I’ve read – the test strips for a blood monitoring device range from $3 to $5, on average; but if you by a Keto-Mojo Founder’s Club package, you get test strips for $.99 a piece – for life.

Back to the point of number three: yes, your levels matter. During the first week, keto-funny-memethough, you will most likely feel your body shift out of “Keto Flu” mode and into ketosis. You’ll suddenly just feel better and will probably have a gross, metallic, sweet taste in your mouth. Do realize, though, that people progress into ketosis at different paces; so, the speed that your friends obtain the goal may be different than the time it takes for you to do the same. Trust the system and don’t get discouraged.

Number Four: You need fiber so, for the love of God, eat veggies. Depending what version of the keto diet you are personally embarking on, there may be different “carb limits”. However, right now I’m eating less than  30 grams of carbohydrates per day and I can confidently say that the majority of those carbs are from natural sources of fiber – aka vegetables.LC-BG-veggies3_good_2400px_3 (1)

If your wondering why eating a lot of vegetables – and fiber – is important, just think about what happens if you accidentally eat too much cheese and then evaluate how much cheese you might add to your diet if you increase fat and protein intake. You don’t want to be constipated, do you?

Number Five: At first your friends might not understand, but they’ll come around. We live in a society that has lived of the premise of fat being bad since the 1960s so when you’re friends suddenly see you layering on the cream cheese and 732d3dc0114a1c788a1eadb5c53e2452butter, they might not completely understand. In fact, if they care about you, they’re likely to try to talk you out of it – especially if they don’t know someone who has tried to maintain a keto diet.

While this might be annoying or discouraging, let your results show them that it is working. If they’re concerned that you’re going mess up your health, check out my blog Keto & Cholesterol to scientifically argue with their reasoning. I have people in my life who don’t believe in – or understand – how the ketogenic lifestyle works, so you aren’t alone.

Number Six: Join a support group. It doesn’t have to be an in-person group. In fact, Facebook is loaded with groups of specific “types” of people – whether you be a veteran, woman, male, or powerlifter (or just about anything else). You might be thinking, “Oh, I can do this on my own!” You also might be right, but I can honestly tell you that, if you’re experiencing something that you might categorize as weird, someone else has experienced it too and the only way you’re going to find them – as well as their magical solution – is by searching for them. What better place to search than a keto specific group with thousands of members?

Number Seven: Know you’re likely to succeed. Did you know that the success rate for people sticking with a low-calorie diet is roughly 50%, versus the nearly 75% success rate of ketogenic eating? That means that, if you’ve tried different diets before and failed, you’re more likely not to do it again. I mean, three-out-of-four people succeed in maintaining a healthier life by committing themselves to the ketogenic lifestyle.

All you have to do is not be “the one”, cause we all know there’s always one.

Number Eight: Keto is a lifestyle, not a diet. While researching and planning on starting the keto “diet”, I saw this fact everywhere. Leading a ketogenic friendly life isn’t really a diet. Sure, when you start it, you might want to lose weight. Yet, while your on it and so many aspects of your health improve – from mental health to lower blood glucose levels – you’ll realize that you always want to feel energetic and better than before. Does that mean you’re committing to not eating bread for the rest of your life? Nah, not really. Take a break from keto, re-evaluate your macros (especially if you’re starting it for weight loss, those will change), eat some carbs – which will likely make you feel horrible – and then, bounce right back into your keto lifestyle.

Number Nine: Get creative! Here you stand, at the edge of a cliff that can change fab0740a556f064096e929b6614b4475your life from what it is to what it could be. The only thing is that you have to maintain a low-carb, high fat, and high protein diet. So, take those requirements and change them into stuffed chicken breasts, tasty salads, and delicious desserts. Recommendations for new recipes are everywhere and most of them are free. If you want some ideas, check out the Keto Recipes I’m Dying To Try!

The Daughter of a Lowboy Driver

I’m the daughter of a lowboy driver. Since before I was born, my dad has worked on the road, Monday through Friday, from March until November. As a child, that was just how it was. Somehow he still made it home for every concert, every play, and every figure skating show. I can clearly recall a conversation we had once when I was a teenager. I was angry that he was always gone, angry that I had to miss my dad when every other girl in the world got to spend time with theirs whenever they wanted. He responded by saying, “Newnie Bug (my childhood nickname), don’t think that when I see the fathers taking their daughters fishing, I don’t wish I could be with you and take you fishing. I hate it, but I have to pay the bills.” The odd thing is, even when we were having that conversation, I didn’t realize how lucky I was that my dad was a truck driver. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t realize that until I was grown and living far from home.

High School GraduationMy Dad Can Do Things That Some Dads Can’t

See, to be a truck driver, one must have a few very special skillsets that a lot of other people don’t really need. For example, my dad can drive for twelve hours straight without breaking a sweat or growing tired. When I was child, this meant we could take family trips to places like Texas and not have to waste money on four plane tickets (I have a big brother, too) or a rental car. When I was in Marine Corps and would finish different segments of my training, this meant that he and my mom could drive the fourteen hours to whichever graduation I was having that month. While I was stationed in Virginia, this meant that he could drive out and bring me a new car from Wisconsin. After I was honorably discharged, it meant that he could fly out and drive me – and all of my belongings – home.

Another benefit of being a truck driver is that you have a hands on nature. Essentially, my dad is capable of fixing or building just about anything. I don’t know if it’s necessarily because he drives around in his semi all day – figuring out how to stop things from Mom and I PIrattling and trying to learn what that odd sound is – or if he just always knew how to do things. If I have a car issue, my dad is the first one I call. He either tells me not to worry or tells me to drive it into the garage, since I live too far away for him to just stop in and fix it. He lives by the laws of WD-40, zip ties, and duct tape, with the capability of changing a tire in ten minutes flat. Beyond that, as a child, his “hook-ups” from work allowed us to pave our drive way and borrow the equipment needed to build our house, our garage, and my brother’s race track.

Finally, my dad is the master of time management. When I was little, he had one night and two days every week to not only get everything that needed to be done around our house done, but to help his friends get stuff around their house done, too. Throw in some kind of event that our family had to attend every weekend, world class breakfasts (eggs benedict and waffles are his specialty), and four hours of book work and that was his average weekend. Yet, somehow, every Sunday night he would have time to sing me my special song while I sat on his lap drinking the chocolate malt – that he made me – watching whatever football game or crime show my mom had on the television. Then Monday morning would come and dad would be on the road again.

I Got To Appreciate My Family More

I like to think that, with him being gone for a large portion of my life, I got to learn to appreciate everyone in my family more and, consequently, love them more. See, Monday through Friday, mom ran the house. She’d designate our chores – washing the dishes, Mom and Iloading/unloading the dishwasher, sweeping the kitchen, cleaning the bathroom, prepping dinner – and then she handled the rest. From middle school on, she also had a fulltime job, so I can’t imagine it was easy to deal with a daughter with an attitude problem on top of everything else. Luckily, she had my big brother to help ease the load a little. However, he and I fought like cats and dogs, which I know didn’t help alleviate her stress. She’d get angry and punish me, then on Friday, dad would punish me again.

Then there was Dustin, my big brother. As he got older, he relieved some of the duties of my parents by helping them get stuff finished at the house and by helping ensure I was inline. (I’m really not kidding, I was a complete asshole.) Honestly, looking back, I don’t know how they would have done it, had he been any other kid. Dustin would help mom by cooking dinner, picking me up from sports practice, and occasionally running me to whatever destination I just needed to go to. More so, though, Dustin would be there when I was upset after a bad day at school. He would hug me if I got dumped and tell me everything was okay. He would encourage me to go outside and play. He provided advice and guidance from a perspective that most girls never get, because most of them have both their parents around, constantly. I mean, all the while, Dustin was also secretly torturing me with horror movies – that mom didn’t know about, before this – and relentlessly pestering me. I know for a fact he blew up at least two Barbie-dolls, destroyed dozens of Polly Pocket villages (I’m talking the old, awesome Polly Pockets), and kicked one – or two – soccer balls into my stomach.

Finally, there was dad. In our home, especially during the warmer seasons, weekends started when dad got home and not one minute sooner. We lived in the country, so I College Graduationcould hear his truck pulling up, hear his brakes compress, and, finally, hear the beeping as he backed up the driveway. I don’t want to assume undue credit, but I’m pretty sure I was normally the first one out the front door when he arrived. Over the weekend, after any needed counseling from my actions during the week, there was less – almost no – fighting in our home. See, dad was home and we had learned to treasure the fleeting weekends. I actually pity most people because they never got to appreciate their dad at the level that I did. It’s odd, but when you have something all of the time, you don’t realize what it’s like to not have that. I did, I knew my entire life. My dad had cancer when I was two, so looking back, my life could have had a whole lot less of him. I can confidentially say that, had that happened, I would not be the person I am today.

As An Adult, It Is Easier To Appreciate

As you’ve probably realized by this point, my childhood was unique and, unfortunately, as a child, I wasn’t very good at handling it. I would spend nights crying because daddy was gone. I was terrified he might not return, which even now is understandable – at least from a five or six year old’s perspective. Yet, as an adult, I would’ve never had it any other way.

See, I have this respect for truck drivers and I would never cut them off. I like to think that they might have a little girl at home who is looking forward to seeing their daddy. When I was younger, there was nothing more exciting than the nights that he would happen to be nearby enough that he could come home.


Now a days, he’ll occasionally end up being near the town I live in now. The odd part is, he normally only ends up here during the weeks when I could really use a big hug from my dad. Those nights are still the best, whether we eat a sub sandwich or a New York sirloin for dinner, its perfect – because dad is there. On the weekends, he goes home to my mom – named Diane – and Dustin and his family (which includes two little boys who love their grandpa – named Papa – to death and his soon-to-be wife, as well as her children) still live nearby enough to appreciate what dad coming home means.

Marine Corps

Maybe that’s what I’m trying to share with the world, though. Those truck drivers that you are so determined to get in front of, they have families. Instead of being with them every night, they’re out there driving down the road – hauling fuel, food, asphalt, equipment, and other commodities that we need to survive. They have little girls and boys who are home, impatiently awaiting the arrival of their daddy – or mommy. When you cut them off, they can’t stop as fast as you can. If their brakes go out, their truck will destroy your car and – unfortunately, due to the way Americans tend to perceive truck drivers – instead of going home to their families, they’ll be sitting in prison because you drove like a jackass and couldn’t wait five extra minutes to get home to the home you sleep at every night.