Category Archives: Cake or Death

Happy New Year! The Year of the Unicorn (Cissell II)

Last August, I typed my New Year’s goals for you after declaring my own year (still working on the calendar system, but I can tell you right now, February is gonna get more days. Possibly at the expense of September. I hate that month).

I haven’t been very present on this blog. Or anywhere, actually. Although things aren’t as bleak as they were last summer, it’s still been an intense year.

I published two books last fall, the first two in a new series.

I started January with shingles, which resulted in constant pain (mostly gone now) and some hearing loss. I went through an entire season of all-to-frequent contact with my lawyer, but after almost 9 months, was able to finish that labor in a great place to protect my child for the next 11 years.

I also published A Wing and a Prayer and hit the USA Today Bestseller list!

I went to Belgium and Czechia.

I got married.

I published another book – like three days later.

A book cover. Green background with standing stones. A woman with long, dark, curly hair and white skin is on the cover. The title is "The Lost Child, An Eleanor Morgan Novel by Amy Cissell."

We celebrated my kiddo’s 1st Liana-versary with hiking and presents and cake and decorations. (I didn’t quite get the layer colors quite right, but she assured me I can keep practicing every year until I do.)

And here I am, almost through August. Ready to send my kid off to 2nd Grade. And even though all the big stressors of the last 12 months are mostly gone (I’m married, my kid is doing pretty well, the legal stuff is over for now, I got four books out in the last 12 months), something still isn’t right.

But you know what? It’s fucking New Years. Last year was the Year of the Phoenix. I had 12 goals.

  1. Feel comfortable in new job by my birthday (2/24 in case you need time to plan your celebratory activities) – done
  2. Publish five books & 1 novella by the end of the Year (8/14/19) – not quite; 3 books & 1 novella
  3. Find three new clients for the editing business I share with the Beer Guy – We have worked with 3 new clients (and then some!)
  4. Get married – Done
  5. Have the most awesome honeymoon ever – Super done
  6. Find a physical activity I super enjoy and do it regularly for fun (preferably trail running) – still in progress – more on that in a minute
  7. Develop a regular at-home yoga practice – hahaha. no.
  8. Stay meds compliant. I’ve never managed to be compliant for more than 6-8 months. I’m currently, as of New Year’s Day, five months in on my current medication. There will be the added challenge of switching providers and insurance. – passed with flying colors. I’m 17 months in, managing the dickish new providers, and making things happen.
  9. Find two really good pairs of jeans. – eh. Yes. Kinda. I’m happy with my new affinity to leggings.
  10. Learn to appreciate massages. – done. I get monthly massages and they are wonderful.
  11. Become more comfortable with self promotion. Still working on it, but if you want to check me out on Amazon, I welcome your participation!
  12. Develop an elaborate framework for the Cissell calendar and Cissell astrology. – well, I created a graphic for Cissell II. So that happened.

I found out this week that I have pretty sever sleep apnea, which has almost definitely been contributing to my depression and exhaustion. During my sleep study, I stopped breathing about 25 times each hour, meaning I’m waking up every 2 minutes or so.

I’m also upping the dosage on my crazy pills. This was the dosage that was recommended by my old psychiatrist a year ago, but when I switched to Kaiser, the new shrink didn’t believe I was bipolar (despite an almost 20 year history of getting independently diagnosed by several psychiatrists) and didn’t want to increase my dosage. So I’ve been coasting along at this ‘not quite therapeutic enough’ level for just over a year while doing my best to avoid the crummy shrink. (Did you know at Kaiser, you can’t just switch therapists or psychiatrists. It is a process of 3-4 months. Fortunately, crummy shrink was on vacation this week and I got to talk to her substitute. He was fantastic and is going to be my temporary guy until I get a permanent placement again.)

So – time for my New Year’s resolutions for this, the second year of Cissell.

  1. Find a fairly inexpensive place to vacation abroad. (Don’t want to break my streak of getting a passport stamp every year since 2016).
  2. Finish the Eleanor Morgan series and add at least one Oracle Bay book to my list.
  3. Work on marketing skills.
  4. Use CPAP machine religiously and find out what it’s like to be rested again.
  5. Learn to be more vulnerable. Strength /= lack of emotion. Ask for and accept help.
  6. Make time, 3-4x/week, for exercise. Even if it’s just 20 minutes.
  7. Rediscover my love of the trails, whether it’s hiking with my daughter or running by myself.
  8. Biweekly swim dates with the child.
  9. Monthly blog posts
  10. Quarterly fancy dates with my husband
  11. Stop frequently and watch in awe as my daughter grows up and completes second grade. Be there when she needs me, but staying a few steps back when she doesn’t. (Also, force her to ride her damn bike already, I mean I was riding before kindergarten C’MON!) Let go of the things that don’t really matter (biking) and work on the things that do (swimming) and find a way to enjoy soccer momming.
  12. Court balance and self care.
Rocks balancing on rocks - five total - in front of the ocean.
Bonus: spend more time in the water, whether it’s ocean, lake, river, or swimming pool. Water is my happy place.

What are your goals as you move into the Year of the Unicorn?

Surviving Five

Alvie Bean turned five on Saturday. Because I have clearly lost my mind, I agreed that he could have a birthday party. And invite a bunch of friends. And they could come to our house.

Due to a frosting fuck-up, Alvie and I had to make a run to the store for *gasp!* store-bought frosting. I know–I am deeply ashamed. (I should’ve made the frosting the day before and thrown it in the fridge, but nooooo….)

Even with the inferior frosting, the cake turned out pretty okay, I think.

There were approximately 100 (or roughly a dozen) kids between the ages of 2-7 at our place for two hours. They shrieked and yelled and ran and ate and played and fought and had a delightful time.

There was a piñata!

And a “pin the pokeball on the charizard” game (I got zero pictures of that). And, of course, cake.

And presents. And rooms full of feral monkeys. (One parent, after peeking into L’s room, said “It’s like Lord of the Flies in the there.”)

Overall, I think a good time was had by all. Even me, once I finally got to drink that glass of wine I poured.

After the excitement wound down and the birthday boy was released from his room for a post-party cat-kicking attempt, the Beer Guy and I took Alvie out to dinner. (The Bean is enamored of the Beer Guy. “I’ll have water to drink, because that’s what C is having.” or “I used to like Ninjago, but now C & I prefer Pokemon.” or “We’re going to build the Burj Khalifa together and we will not need your help, Mommy.”)

It was a lovely weekend (the Burj Khalifa did, indeed, get built by my two favorite guys with zero assistance from me). Alvie got so many lego sets and drawing kits and spent Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning working on his first still life.

Still Life with Beer Bottle

“Mommy – please put this picture on the internet so I can be a famous still life artist.”

My boy has grown up so very much, but, as he told me this morning on the way to preschool, “Mommy, you can still call me ‘baby’ sometimes. Just not in front of my friends.”

Okay, baby…I’ll try to remember.

Freshly hatched (April 2012)

First Birthday – just getting into that whole “walking” thing

2nd birthday – he’s always liked drawing…

My Alvie-saurus in the Dinosaur Train birthday shirt for his 3rd birthday

4th Birthday boy prepping for his train party…

And now, so very big. He’s grown up so much in the last year.

This kid…my heart.

Shenanigan Report-40th Birthday Edition

Saturday night was my birthday party. As per usual, I took almost zero photos. However, I did get pics of the important things: the pre-party shower wine, the Parmesan cheese I made, and the most epic cake in the history of cakes.

Bendy straw wine! Perfect for showering.

Seriously the best cheese I’ve ever made. It was perfect for snacking and now will be utilized as a grating cheese…I am super proud of myself.

Look at this magnificent cake that my friend Melissa made for me? How could it get any better than this?

I’ll show you how it can get better…

Seven-layer rainbow cake. Melissa is a goddess.

 

I had such a wonderful party and it was so good to have most of my favorite local people come out to celebrate turning forty.

We ended up not doing the piñata, because doing something like that inside sounded dangerous and outside it was pretty soggy and dark. Current plan is to destroy Trappist (the unicorn piñata did get a name at the party, and you can decide for yourself whether or not it refers to a star or a monastic order) sometime this summer. Although I might just keep him forever. (The beer guy might have something to say about that, I suppose.)

Trappist is hard at work earning his keep.

 

Now that I am 40 years and 3 days old, I’m feeling infused with wisdom. The main focus of that wisdom is that I need to make self-care a priority. I started my day with a fruit and spinach smoothie. I will go out for a walk/run in about an hour. I will eat lunch today and every day. I will get to bed at a reasonable time so I can get up and be productive at a reasonable time.

 

Last, but certainly not least – guess what tomorrow is??????????

RELEASE DAY!

That’s right – tomorrow you can get your grubby little hands on a copy of The Cardinal Gate. (You can also pre-order today, and the ebook will just appear in your Kindle app tomorrow like magic! The paperback is also now available for pre-order, but that doesn’t probably appear like magic in your home tomorrow. Probably.)

The Cardinal Gate is also available on Nook, iBook and Kobo.

Buy it, rate it highly, tell your friends, and – if you must – read it.

 

40 Before 40 – Final Progress Report

I will be forty in 23 days. TWENTY-THREE. DAYS.

There are days that I feel old, but most of the time I have trouble reconciling the number forty with how I feel.

The last thirteen months have been some of the hardest of my life. Between separation, divorce, job loss, and no job found…it’s been stressful to say the least.

I didn’t get through my list of 40. Some of that is due to financial constraints (I shot my wad on the big one – going to Iceland) and some is due to the inability to do things because of depression and anxiety.

You know what, though? I don’t care. There were some stretch goals on there. I’m not going to rehash everything I didn’t do, but I’m going to show you what I did do.

  1. Attend a live concert
  2. Climb a tree
  3. Go to the local nude beach
  4. Go to the opera
  5. Sing a new song at karaoke
  6. Take a barre class
  7. Take a cooking class
  8. Funky hair color
  9. Try hot yoga
  10. Volunteer
  11. Do a fun thing with Bean every day of his summer vacation
  12. Rosé in the garden in July
  13. Make a cheese that needs to age 10 months and eat it on my 40th birthday
  14. [Redacted]
  15. Become passable in Swedish (I’m still doing lessons!)
  16. Develop a habit of meditation
  17. Get back into my DIY habits –bread, stock, cheese, jam, etc.
  18. Perfect the homemade pie crust.
  19. Take a good photo
  20. Try 12 new cheeses
  21. Drink a bottle of expensive champagne
  22. Get a stamp in my passport
  23. Meet three ‘in the computer friends’ in real life. (Still waiting on my PSM)
  24. Publish my first book – this should happen this month or very soon after depending on how long it takes me to format stuff. (If anyone is interested in an ARC, let me know!)

So – twenty-four of forty things. That’s not a great success rate, but I’m really happy about how much I managed to do even when I was so anxious I could barely leave the house. I don’t plan on hitting any of the missing 16 items in the next 23 days. My primary goals for February are to get my book out and find a goddamn job. Oh – and to turn 40. Of course.

Don’t worry – I have a whole list of things I’m planning on accomplishing in the next year (although maybe not 41 things…). Stay tuned for all the ways I’m going to be awesome next year.

Happy Birthday to ME!!!!!!

It’s my birthday! Hooray!

happy-birthday-to-me

I love my birthday. It is the only day of the year I really want someone to bring me cake. Last year, my cake was provided by my friend Jamie. HOWEVER, I’m guessing she’s not planning on a surprise trip back from Boston for the sole purpose of bringing me cake and gin, so it’s possible I might have to do without this year.

True story: one year, my then-roommate, knowing that I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, got me a cheese cake. Literally a giant block of cheese (colby jack) that she put candles in. Marcy is awesome. HOW DO I NOT HAVE PICTURES OF THAT? And how is that not a bigger thing on the internet? Google image search has let me down. A cake that looks like a cheese is not the same thing.

It IS super cute, though...

It IS super cute, though…

ANYWAY. Birthday. Mine. Today.

I am 39! (I know, I know, I don’t look a day over 29. I have discovered the fountain of youth – and it’s insomnia and beer.)

Kinda want to do this at my next summer party...

Kinda want to do this at my next party…

I’m starting my last full year in my 30s! I’m not particularly bothered about turning forty. It’s certainly better than not (unless, of course, my aging was arrested by an extremely…friendly…vampire).

Spike-James-Marsters-spike-2968475-599-700

AHEM! Where was I?

Oh right, my #40before40 list.

ONE TIME CLASSES/EVENTS

  1. Attend the ballet
  2. Climb a tree
  3. Go ice skating
  4. Go to a book signing
  5. Go to the local nude beach
  6. Go to the opera (Sweeney Todd in June? Anyone?)
  7. Sing a new song at karaoke
  8. Take a barre class
  9. Take a dancing class
  10. Take a cooking class
  11. TEMPORARY funky hair color (holla Danny!)
  12. Throw pottery (on a wheel)
  13. Try a pole dancing class at the studio down the street.
  14. Try hot yoga
  15. Volunteer with Habitat for Humanity – signed up for a 5/21 volunteer date!

Gonna build a house with Jimmy in May!

Gonna build a house with Jimmy in May!

WEEKEND COMMITMENTS

  1. Do a boudoir photo session
  2. Do a fun thing with Bean every day of his summer vacation (a few ideas: Zoo, OMSI, roller skating, rock climbing, art museum).
  3. Host a wine tasting (mmmm…rosé in the garden in July? Who’s in?)
  4. Make a cheese that needs to age 10 months and eat it on my 40th birthday
  5. Take the Bean fishing
  6. Whale watching

Funny story! I went whale watching in LA once. I was told there were whales. I spent the whole trip vomiting over the side of the boat. Let's hope round two goes better.

Funny story! I went whale watching in LA once. I was told there were whales. I spent the entire trip vomiting over the side of the boat. Let’s hope round two goes better.

TIME CONSUMING THINGS

  1. [Redacted]
  2. Become a proficient knife thrower (i.e. hit the target more often than not)
  3. Become passable in Swedish
  4. Develop a habit of meditation
  5. Learn 100 ASL signs
  6. Get back into my DIY habits – I used to do a lot more homemade stuff. I’m thinking of doing more of the following: make my own bread, stock, cheese, jam, salsas, etc. I might not dive back into my smoked meat projects that I was doing before I had a Bean.
  7. Perfect the homemade pie crust. (Find volunteers to eat and critique all the pies.)
  8. Read one prize-winning (any major prize) book each month
  9. Run a 5K, a 10K and a half marathon. Bonus: run something longer!
  10. Take a good photo and pay to have it framed
  11. Try a new (to me) cheese each month
  12. Write 150 blog posts (more is better, but I only wrote 75 last year [SLACKER], so I don’t want to get TOO ambitious)

So many cheeses, so little time...

So many cheeses, so little time…

EXTRAVAGANT ITEMS

  1. Drink a bottle of expensive champagne (this will happen on March 2)
  2. Get a stamp in my passport (I have plans for this fall!)
  3. Give a $100 tip on an inexpensive meal (hat tip to Danielle!)

Iceland - I will be in you!

Iceland – I will be in you!

BIG GOALS

  1. Feel good about my fitness level and appearance
  2. Get better at self care. That means eating regularly; exercising regularly; sleeping regularly. It also means I need to learn to let it go (sing it with me now)…specifically work drama. Repeat: “It’s not me, it’s them…” (Also, self forgiveness…so even if I don’t get every single one of these ambitious goals [I misspelled ambitious so badly that my spell check suggested I met calamitous – touché comput.er], I am still a winner.)
  3. Meet three ‘in the computer friends’ in real life. (I’m looking at you  Cat, Elizabeth, and…[insert your name here!])
  4. Publish my first book

Because I AM a winner, dammit!

Because I AM a winner, dammit!

 

Every month on the 24th, I’ll give a brief update on my progress. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a very expensive bottle of champagne to procure.

happy birthday amy