September Cryptid Crate and Paper Kitty Subscription Boxes

This month I decided to try two new subscription boxes. I enjoy trying out various subscription boxes just to see what kind of stuff you get, and this month I tried out Cryptid Crate (which as you might have guessed, is a subscription box for those who love mythical monsters and other creatures of folklore) and Paper Kitty (a subscription box for those who love cute notebooks, bookmarks, postcards, stickers, pens, and other kinds of stationery).

Here is what I got for the Cryptid Crate box:

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I actually got the Cryptid Crate Lite option because it is cheaper than the full box, but was still happy with all I got! I love the Mothman t-shirt and pin, and the Bigfoot keychain and magnet were awesome as well! All together is was definitely worth more than the $20 I spent!

For the Paper Kitty subscription box, here is what I got:

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This box is around $17 including S&H. It is harder to judge the cost of stationery, but I still think it is worth it. I adore the Strawberry Milk themed pencil case, which feels like real leather! I also love two of the bookmarks (the Van Gogh and Anime Bunny ones). I’ve already used the animal stickers to create some new artworks, and the syringe highlighter and cute sheep/giraffe pen are great too! There are also three cute or decorative postcards, some bear sticky notes, a fox notebook, a plastic bear business card holder, and a few other little goodies.

I liked these boxes so much, I think I will stick with them for at least another month and see how it goes!

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YA Book Review: ‘Stealing Heaven’ by Elizabeth Scott

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My favorite fiction genre is definitely YA. I’m not sure exactly why. Maybe I never grew up all the way? Maybe it is because teen fiction tends to be more emotionally raw than adult fiction? Maybe because the themes the genre most often explores (finding your personal identity, friendship, figuring out relationships, family dysfunction, etc.) are topics I still struggle with?

Regardless of the reason, I read a lot of YA fiction and yesterday I finished a book called “Stealing Heaven” by Elizabeth Scott, and I just wanted to say I loved this book in many ways. For one thing, the main character (Dani) has a family arguably more messed up than mine, which is hard to find lol. It is rare that I read a book which makes me grateful to have my past rather than theirs!

To sum up the book without spoilers, Dani is the daughter of two parents who got through life by being professional criminals (thieves who target rich households). Her father got caught and jailed long ago, so she has mostly grown up with her mother only. Dani doesn’t enjoy the thieving lifestyle like her parents do, but it is all she knows. She has never had any sort of security. Never been able to settle down anywhere, because her mother is always working on the next “hit job”.

Dani has never gone to school. She has never had a friend. She has only had one romantic encounter (which was honestly FUCKED UP). Dani hasn’t even been able to use her real name at any point in her life. She is adrift. However, as her mother plans yet another robbery, Dani makes a real friend for the first time and even more dangerously, she starts to fall for a cop! Can Dani find a way out of the criminal lifestyle that was forced upon her?

If you like chick lit, realistic fiction, or YA/Teen novels, I would definitely recommend giving this one a chance!

Dark Thoughts Inspired by Dostoevsky’s “Notes from Undergound”

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I’m currently reading Dostoevsky’s novel “Notes from Underground”, which is a somewhat satirical, but also brutally honest look at the shadow side that exists within us all, whether we would like to admit it or not. As I have been reading, I have found many ways that I can see a glimmer of myself within the neurotic narrator.

For example, like the character telling the story in the book, I too have often considered myself more intelligent and consciously aware than much of humanity. This sounds like pure narcissism, and perhaps it is in a sense, although I have often thought that at least the “awareness” part of it is not something we are born with (like IQ), but something that can be cultivated. However, not many take the time to truly question their own beliefs, motives, philosophies, and the nature of reality itself. To be fair, I often wonder if those people who are more shallow or less intelligent aren’t actually more happy. Attempting to take an unbiased, penetrating look into yourself, the world, and others isn’t exactly always comforting.

Another commonality I share with the storyteller is that I can relate to his feelings of underachievement and difficulty rising to the standards he believes he should. When all your life you have been praised for your IQ, your talents, or your “potential”, it can feel like you are letting yourself and the world down when you settle for a seemingly “mediocre” or “average” life. Perhaps that results from the naive child in us who is told that they can achieve “anything”, and therefore, dreams of fame, wealth, and adoration…and then is horribly disappointed to see none of it come to fruition.

I can also relate to the narrator’s sheer spite in wanting to annoy or derail other people (especially certain people who are annoying themselves) and in taking a strange sort of pleasure in suffering. At times, do I moan and groan for my own satisfaction?  Is there not a perverse side of me that likes to “play” with the nerves of another, much like a cat plays with a mouse? Is it not fun sometimes to watch another explode in childish frustration and throw an adult tantrum? Are we not all ornery instigators at times?

Lastly, like the narrator, I have to ask myself, deep down, do I genuinely care for and about others? Sure, I don’t wish anyone harm or suffering, nor do I go out of my way to taunt others normally, but do I truly want to sacrifice for others? Am I willing to disrupt my own comfort to improve another’s lot, or would I more truthfully rather keep others at a distance to avoid the inconvenience humans always bring?

Many humans seem to be rather shallow in thought and reflection, but they are no different in basic selfishness. Perhaps to my own detriment, I do dig for the selfish roots within myself and expose them to scrutiny, which may be unusual behavior, but I am convinced that others have the same roots, just hiding far down in the shade and often not brought to light. From that, perhaps, stems my reluctance to sacrifice too much of myself for others who have seemingly cultivated no better character than I.

*I hope you enjoyed this foray into the dark side of the human psyche 🙂 I truly believe that before any of us can understand the darkness in the world, we first need to understand the darkness within ourselves!

May 2018 My First Reading Club Subscription Box Review!

This month I did the May 2018 My First Reading Club unboxing and review on my YouTube channel (Maranda’s Toys & Books), so I figured I would post the video here in case anyone wanted to see which children’s books I got this month for only $9.99 plus S&H! This box is always SUCH a great deal! Definitely recommended for families!

 

Nighttime Dread and “Quiet Borderlines” Thoughts

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I slept in until after 2pm this afternoon. I hate when that happens. I feel like most of the day is already gone by the time I get out of bed. I must have slept at least around 12 hours last night, even though I had a bit of an emotional fest when I actually went to bed. For some reason, all the loneliness of the world seems to settle down on me when I try to go to sleep and all the horrible things that have and could happen come around to haunt me. It is often at these times that I feel absolutely alone and helpless in this world, even though logically I know I’m not…at least not right now. But I could be. I could be all alone very easily and that thought sends me into a kind of despair I can’t explain.

Recently I have been reading a book entitled “Beyond Borderline: True Stories of Recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder”. Reading the book has been insightful and interesting, and made me realize I am definitely NOT a traditional borderline. I simply don’t have the acting out behaviors. I guess I could be what some people call “quiet borderlines”, although sometimes I wonder if they are really borderlines or not?

Perhaps some “quiet borderlines” are actually more along the lines of Avoidant Personality Disorder or another anxiety-related personality disorder? Who knows. I’m not a doctor so I can’t say, but I do find so many commonalities running through various personality disorders, that even if you have one, pinpointing which one might be difficult and many people have traits of more than one. For me personally, I think I definitely fit more into the cluster C “anxious and fearful clusters” than the cluster B “dramatic and overly emotional clusters”. In fact, the only time I am visibly overly emotional is when I am so anxious I pretty much panic. Unfortunately this almost always seems to happen in public, because social interaction in itself can easily set off the panic in me.

 

“The Playbook: 52 Rules to Aim, Shoot, and Score in This Game Called Life” Book Review

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I wanted to write a short review of a book I picked up at the library recently. I found it in the children’s section, but I truly believe it is an inspirational read that anyone of any age could appreciate. It is called “The Playbook: 52 Rules to Aim, Shoot, and Score in This Game Called Life” and it is written by Kwame Alexander, who happens to be a Newbery Medal-Winning author.

The book is a fairly quick read, with much of the book being simple “rules” for success and inspirational quotes from various athletes. There are a few written chapters interspersed throughout that tell personal inspirational stories about athletes that obviously inspired the author. The one that I found most interesting was the chapter about Wilma Rudolph, the incredible Olympic track champion. I had no idea that Wilma had suffered chronic illnesses throughout her childhood, including polio! A woman that went on to win three gold medals for running in a single Olympics was once a child that had only one working leg and had to wear a metal leg brace for many years!

Stories like these mean a great deal to me as someone who struggles every day with chronic pain and other health issues. It makes me feel like I can still make a difference and chase my dreams, even if there are significant obstacles in my way. Another story in the book that made an impression on me was the one about Venus and Serena Williams and how their father would actually pay other children to yell out rude and demeaning comments to his daughters while they practiced tennis as kids. He knew they would face racism and other forms of hatred and wanted to toughen them up. I’m not sure this is actually a good parenting tip lol, but I guess it seemed to work in the long run for the girls.

There was one quote in the book (by the famous motivational speaker Willie Jolley) I took a real liking to:

“A setback is a setup for a comeback.”

Imagine having that attitude about every challenge we face!

PO Box Opening Fun! Cute Sloths, Favorite Anime Series, and New Books!

I recently received a wonderful assortment of goodies from a friend and blog reader named Brian via my PO Box! Most of the time when I receive mail via my PO Box it is either books or products that companies or authors would like me to consider reviewing, but once in a while I do get something just for fun and that is always awesome!

The first item in the box I received was this adorable Easter sloth dressed up in bunny ears! Isn’t he the most adorable thing? I love sloths in general, and Brian knew that since we had exchanged cute sloth videos on Facebook in the past.

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The second gift in the box was this awesome Death Note anime dvd set! It has the complete series, which is awesome since Death Note is my favorite anime series of all time (which is saying something since there are a number of other anime series I love as well)!

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Lastly, since he knows I love books, Brian sent me a cool Batman graphic novel and an art book. The graphic novel is called Hong Kong and starts out with a weird murder plot involving a snake which drew me into the story right away. The art book is called The World of Rubens 1577-1640 and is a compendium of works by the artist Peter Paul Rubens. I was familiar with some of Rubens’ work, but this visual guide definitely widened the scope of his work for me.

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I want to give a big “thank you” to Brian for sending all this neat stuff! I’ve really enjoyed it so far! If anyone else ever wants to send anything via PO Box for me to consider sharing on my blog (or to enjoy privately), here is the address:

Maranda Russell
PO Box 14
Englewood, OH 45322

I am always happy to feature children’s books, toys, candy, cute stuff, and anything related to subjects I blog about frequently, such as mental illness, autism, chronic pain conditions, etc.

Good Therapy Session Update, and Books for Emotional Healing

I had a really good therapy session today. We talked more about the symptoms I am currently experiencing which might be related to a mood disorder vs what might be related to PTSD and my past. On the mood disorder (or Bipolar) front, I think I have made some progress, especially when it comes to sleeping and making hasty decisions I later regret during hypomanic phases. Unfortunately, not much seems to help the depression side of it, whether it be cognitive therapy techniques or medicine.

As I told my therapist today, I feel like my personal “normal” emotional state starts at -1 (mildly to moderately depressed), so I only really have down to go from there if the depression worsens, which it often does. According to my mood charting so far, I have about the same number of mildly to moderately depressed days as I have moderately to severely depressed days. And then I have a day here or there where it goes even lower and those are the dangerously depressed days. It actually makes me feel a little better though to know some of it is probably the mood disorder and not just me “refusing to get well”, which I have sometimes accused myself of in the past. After all, if I really WANT to be well, why aren’t I yet? That is the way I used to think about it, but with a mood disorder it doesn’t work that way.

We also talked about the affirmations I have been doing, which I have actually been doing a good job of keeping up with! I even do some mirror work (where you say positive affirmations to yourself while looking into your eyes in the mirror). It really does help! Below I have attached a photo of two inspirational books I am currently reading regarding affirmations:

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The first, “The Body Heals Itself” by Emily A. Francis is a fascinating look at the emotional connection to our muscular system and chronic pain conditions. I know for sure that my physical problems DEFINITELY flare up when emotional issues surface, so there is no doubt a strong mind-body connection. The book includes research, affirmations, stretches, and other practical modalities to try for relief, each separated into specific sections about each body part. I am most interested in the back pain and foot pain sections myself, as I suffer greatly from chronic back pain and plantar fasciitis.

The second book is Jack Canfield’s “Success Affirmations”, which I haven’t been as impressed with, but am giving a chance. For me the affirmations in this book are a bit too long and drawn out. I tend to like simple and to-the-point things better overall.

March 2018 My First Reading Club Subscription Box Review!

I told you all that soon I would have a new subscription box to share and review and it is here! This subscription box is called “My First Reading Club” and they have a wide variety of ages you can pick from to receive at least 3 or 4 brand new children’s books each month. The best part is it only costs $9.99 (plus shipping)! Often, you recoup the entire price in just ONE book!

For this first month I picked the “Just Starting Out” age group, which is 2 and under I believe. However, I have upped the age group for my next box because I would like to receive some regular picture books and not just board books. Anyhow, here is what I received this month:

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  • A Disney Frozen “Ice Box” set that includes four board books, each featuring different characters (Anna, Elsa, Kristoff & Sven, and Olaf), Retail $10.99
  • A Sparkly Nickelodeon Team Umizoomi Board Book entitled “Follow That Egg!”, Retail $6.99
  • A Disney Sheriff Callie’s Wild West Lift-the-Flap Book entitled “Callie Saves the Day”, Retail $8.99
  • A gift for Moms – AMBR Green Tea Spa Lotion, unknown value

Here are the four Disney Frozen books inside the “Ice Box” set (my favorite of which is definitely the Olaf book):

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Here is a peek inside the other two books we got this month:

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I like all the books we got this month, although I will admit I was a little disappointed to only get one Easter themed book (the Umizoomi one). In other My First Book Club box reviews I have seen, it looked like they often sent themed packages out with almost all books relating to any holidays that month, so I was definitely expecting more of an Easter theme.

Like I said above, although I do like children’s board books, I want a more well-rounded box to build up my collection, so I did up the age group for my next box. It is nice that they always send a little gift for Mom too. Of the books they sent this month, my favorite is definitely the Umizoomi book. Partly because it is Easter-themed, and partly because it is really sparkly and I do love sparkly things!