Merging Reality with Fantasy

Second liOkay… I’ve wrote on here about my absence being related to an addiction to a Virtual Reality world called Second Life.  Many of you have commented about running in terror (or something close to it) from such a potentially life-sucking vortex, and maybe I can’t disagree with you on that… lol.  If you’re on susceptible to addictions then you’d probably do well to get the crucifix and holy water to spray in the general direction of anything that puts the words “Second” and “Life” in the same sentence.

But….  Why is it so addictive?  Why do I get a panicked feeling sitting in front of the computer and NOT have Second Life going?  Why am I seriously considering plunking down hard cash for a new computer so I can fully enjoy the effects and not laaaaaaaag to the outer realms of darkness?  LOL… Why do I actually put real money … US dollars… into my PayPal account so I can buy Lindens, the currency of Second Life?  I want to take this non-book related blog post to tell you (and to sort it out myself, for that matter).

Firstly, in the real world I’m a single mom of three wonderful girls.  Sam, 15, is a sophomore in high school and is starting to talk about moving out.  As her mother, of course I see all the things with her that make me worry about her abilities to survive on her own.  Firstly, gack! are there very many 15-year-olds that behave and function in a way that inspire parental confidence in their abilities to be responsible adults?  It’s a very strange time with her.  The other night she said she couldn’t wait until she’s 18 so she won’t have a bedtime… omg… I’ll never sleep (of course, thanks to Second Life, I don’t sleep now).  Secondly, she has a mental illness, and must take her medication or she hears voices and becomes severely paranoid.  Problem is, she hates taking her pills.  Who’s going to make sure she takes them if she lives alone?  Who will make sure she showers?  Who’s going to make sure she’s eating healthy, and not just spooning heaps of sugar on everything? Oh my, the thoughts and worries I have for my bunny (her nickname from the time she was 6 weeks old and I put a little knit hat with a funny little frill around her face.  I took one look at her and said she was my little snow bunny, and bunny stuck.  Tigger her other nickname because, as she has ADHD, she is very bouncy-bouncy-flouncy ;-) )

Then there is Gwen… my sweet, loving, at times mischievous, and mildly mentally handicapped.  At fourteen and in the eighth grade she is reading at about a second to third grade level.  Her math is higher; she’s working at a fifth grade level.  Socially, she’s disadvantaged, not understanding the nuances of social play.  She takes people at their word and falls for the cruel tricks middle-schoolers play on one another.  Again, how can I expect her to function as an adult?  To pay her bills and remember to put the milk away? She has such lofty dreams of being a jockey, a vet assistant, having a farm and horse (oh, how she loves horses!).  How can I tell her these things will more than likely not be possible for her?  I don’t, and I hope I’m not being cruel in the long run, because the world is cruel enough as it is and it will tell her she can’t have these things.  What she needs is a cheerleader, and I do my best to be that for her. 

What compounds Gwen’s problems is that, while her sisters have fathers who are very involved in their lives, she does not.  If she sees  her dad four times in the year she’s lucky, and that breaks my heart, as well as her sisters’,  for her loss.  She will look for that love in someone, anyone, who shows her the slightest attention.  What heartaches lie ahead for her?

Then there’s Maggie, whom you’ve met in her guest reviews.  Pretty, extroverted, and a normalmentally, intellectually and physically sound child.  She’s a treasure (not that the other two aren’t) because she’s easy.  With her I can hope for a successful future.  She wants to be a doctor and go to Vietnam to help with those less fortunate.  She’s a girl’s girl, bringing home all the stories of the day, from who had to pull a stick to updates on the frenemy sagas.  In every sense of the word, a normal nine-year-old.  And I feel miserably guilty for thinking and feeling this way, as if I’m writing off the other two.

And in all this, I am a single parent who has not dated in 10 years, and have not been romantically involved in five years (sorry if that is TMI, but it all goes toward the reasons Second Life is such a drug).  Kids, house, lawn, garden, dog, cats… bills… doctors appointments… school meetings… responsibilities heaped on responsibilities… being a grown up is hard.

Now, imagine a place where all that goes away.  Where I’m free.  Where I can fly.  Where I can where all the clothes that I can’t in real life because I’m not a size 2 and I’m a mother of daughters who are watching me for the path to take in their lives.  I can be a flirt.  I can have tons of friends.  I’m a vampire.  I can play sound clips from movies and act them out.  I don’t have to work.  I don’t have bills to pay.  It’ all fun and no responsibilities.  All the things in the real world can be found there, and whatever you can imagine and more.  I can live  in my favorite TV show, in fact my apartment is set in the UK cult classic show “The Prisoner”… which I did NOT know until after I had rented my place.  All my neighbors are running around capturing each other and playing spy games.  Since I’ve never seen the show, I’ve not joined in.  I can make a date at a romantic waterfall on a tropical island.  How can you NOT become seriously sucked into this virtual world?

Then throw into all that the people I’ve made friends with there… I’ve got to share a couple of them with you:

An artist and videographer (I hope that’s what it’s called) who’s entered the following cool video in a festival in Germany.

For No One

And SoliGoth, an artist for hire trying to feed his cats and get a better computer (a common SL theme for reasons discussed above). His cafepress store has some unique items for your perusing (and purchasing) enjoyment. My particular favorites are Mark’s Invisible Shirt and the Short Bus Bag (okay, I have a politically incorrect sense of humor…). Visit his store. Make a purchase. Feed his cats ;-)

House & Home by Kathleen McCleary

Title: House & Home
Author: Kathleen McCleary
Harcover: 259 pages
Publisher: Hyperion
Publish Date: July 1, 2008
ISBN: 9781401340735

The house was yellow, a clapboard Cape Cod with a white picket fence and a big bay window on one side, and Ellen loved it with all her heart. She loved the way the wind from the Gorge stirred the trees to constant motion outside the windows, the cozy arc of the dormers in the girls’ bedroom, the cherry red mantel with the cleanly carved dentil molding over the fireplace in the living room. She had conceived children in that house, suffered a miscarriage in that house, brought her babies home there, argued with her husband there, made love, rejoiced, despaired, sipped tea, and gossiped and sobbed and counseled and blessed her friends there, walked the halls with sic children there, and scrubbed the worn brick of the kitchen floor there at least a thousand times on her hands and knees. And it was because of all this history with the house, all the parts of her life unfolding there day after day for so many years, that Ellen decided to burn it down.

-House & Home by Kathleen McCleary, first paragraph

I’m very excited to say that House & Home by Kathleen McCleary is the first book I’ve read as part of a virtual book tour. As I am the next to last stop, I don’t know that I will have anything new to say about the book, but I will give it a go anyway.

House & Home is McCleary’s first novel. She is a journalist with articles appearing in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping, More, and Health, and on HGTV.com. Overall, it’s a fabulous first book with real, palpable emotions and characters that you can recognize in your own life. My only complaint about the book is that some of the dialogue seemed a bit stinted and forced, and I often found myself wondering if a person would really say something like that.

House & Home is the story of Ellen Flanagan, mother of two daughters and recently separated from her free-spirited, inventor husband. Ellen, always stable, responsible and safe, still loves her more reckless, fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants husband Sam, but can no longer stand to be the grown-up in the relationship. The house she loves and has called home for eleven years is mortgaged to the hilt on Sam’s latest invention. After spending their savings to make ends meet – even dipping into their daughter’s college fund – it is painfully obvious the only thing that can be done is sell the house.

However, after meeting the obnoxiously perky new owner Jordan, who gushes about all the stuff she plans to do to the house, Ellen can’t stand the idea of anyone else living in the house that was her and her family’s home. To prevent this, she decides to burn the house down rather than let anyone else to live, love, eat and raise children in it. Let them build a new one, but no one else will inhabit her beloved home.

Adding to her problems, her oldest daughter, ten year old Sara, is having great difficulty dealing with the divorce and move, even to the point of scrounging her birthday money, a donation jar she set up for a fictitious homeless family, and forging a letter, supposedly from Ellen and Sam, to the new owners with the money she thought was what they had paid, $450 (she’d overheard her parents say four fifty was a good offer).

I really enjoyed this book. It was a fast fun read with the occasional emotionally heart-tugging moment, and I could really relate to Ellen’s feelings. I stayed an extra year in a bad relationship just because I loved the house we lived in so much. I had a nice garden, my childhood pet is buried there, and the hash marks on the inside of the pantry door with the dates and names of which child’s height was captured for as long the door hung there unpainted. The people who bought the house has made so many changes to it that it’s no longer recognizable as the home I knew.

Breezy, but with a purpose, I would recommend House & Home as a pleasurable read. I give House & Home 3 1/2 out of 5 stars. :-)

Thanks to Lisa at Books on the Brain and Trisha at Hey Lady, Whatcha Readin’? for including me in this bloggedy tour :-D

Eclipse by Stephanie Meyer


Title: Eclipse
Author: Stephanie Meyer
Hardcover: 629 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publish Date: September 2007
ISBN: 9780316160209

“Can I tell you what the worst part is?” he asked hesitantly when I said nothing… “The worse part is knowing what would have been…” Jacob shook his head. “I’m exactly right for you, Bella. It would have been effortless for us – comfortable, easy as breathing. I was the natural path your life would have taken…” He stared onto space for a moment, and I waited. “If the world was the way it was supposed to be, if there were no monsters and no magic…”

I could see what he saw, and I knew that he was right. If the world was the sane place it was supposed to be, Jacob and I would have been together. And we would have been happy. He was my soul mate in that world – would have been my soul mate still if his claim had not been overshadowed by something stronger, something so strong that it could not exist in a rational world…

Two futures, two soul mates… too much for any one person. And so unfair that I wouldn’t be the only one to pay for it. Jacob’s pain seemed too high a price. Cringing at the thought of that price, I wondered if I would have wavered, if I hadn’t lost Edward once. If I didn’t know what it was like to live without him. I wasn’t sure…

“He’s like a drug for you, Bella.” His voice was still gentle, not at all critical. “I see that you can’t live without him now. It’s too late. But I would have been healthier for you. Not a drug; I would have been the air, the sun.”

The corner of my mouth turned up in a wistful half-smile. “I used to think of you that way, you know. Like the sun. My personal son. You balanced out the clouds nicely for me.”

He sighed. “The clouds I can handle. But I can’t fight with an eclipse.”

-Eclipse, pages 598-600

I am soooo addicted to this series. It’s everything I’ve loved in reading. It’s Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice (Twilight). It’s Romeo and Juliet (New Moon). It’s Heathcliff and Cathy from Wuthering Heights (Eclipse). In fact, I found that Edward points to these three couples on page 28 when I checked back to make sure I spelled Heathcliff correctly :-D . Makes me wonder if Breaking Dawn will be Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester. (Those of you who’ve already read it, DON’T TELL ME!!!!)

I really enjoy Meyer’s writing style. Yes, this series is romantic in that it’s about lovers whose love is epic and the opposition to their realization of this love almost insurmountable. It’s everything I fell in love with when I read Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice as a teen. This series brings the same feelings of hope, agony, love, desire and despair, all occurring at the same moment, that I had at 15 with my first real boyfriend (by real I mean the first one you kiss for hours and wonder what’s beyond the kissing but the kissing is satisfying enough not to cross that boundary… the first boyfriend you park with… that first boyfriend that when we broke up it felt like my heart had been ripped out with a dull spoon).

Okay, I admit it… The Twilight series isn’t an intellectually stimulating set of books, they are more like brain candy. But it’s so nice that at 35 I can feel those fresh and new emotions. I give Eclipse 4 out of 5 stars.

Confessions of a SL Addict

First, I want to thank everyone who’ve been concerned with my disappearance from the blogosphere…  I had no idea that I had such friends ;-)  My grandma’s death and funeral and my mother’s visit threw me out of my reading habit… and I am horrible at getting back into the swing of things.  I have a blanket I started to make for Maggie’s first birthday… she’s now 9, and the blanket’s half finished and hanging in the laundry room.  Maybe it’ll be for her baby shower.. lol.

And, as any physicist will tell you, Nature abhors a vacuum.  So with the broken habit, there was a empty spot… which seems to be taken over by an online virtual world called Second Life.  Really, it started out as me finally giving into my friend’s two year long discussion of the wonders of the game.  AND it’s effect on her and her fiance’s life was bizarre.  Curiosity got the better of me, and I signed up just to see what she’d been talking about.  What I have found though, is that Second Life is Internet CRACK!  Highly addictive, life sucking, time consuming… I’ve gone days without sleep because I can’t log off… lol… 

I know that like most things, the novelty will wear off, and life will go back to normal.  I’ve been reading Eclipse, the third book in the Twilight Saga.  Edward and Bella just make me want to die!  They’re so absolutely perfect together… Breaking Dawn will have to be their death or break-up… nothing this perfect can last!

I’m also reading How to Be a Villian, which is hilarious, and I’m reading House and Home for the blog tour.

Thanks for all your questions about me :-)  I’m trying to do better…  Damn you, Second Life!  Why did you have to be so much fun!!!  lol

“Hello, my name is Alisha, and I’m a Second Life addict”

:-)

The Conquest of Gaul by Julius Caesar

Title:  The Conquest of Gaul
Author: Julius Caesar
Translated: S. A. Handford
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publish Date: 1982
ISBN: 9780140444339

As the situation was critical and no reserves were available, Caesar snatched a shield from a soldier in the rear (he had not his own shield with him), made his way into the front line, addressed each centurion by name, and shouted encouragement to the rest of the troops, ordering them to push forward and open out their ranks, so that they could use their swords more easily. His coming gave them fresh heart and hope: each man wanted to do his best under the eyes of his commander-in-chief, however desperate the peril, and the enemy’s assault was slowed…

-Book II, “The Conquest of the Belgic Tribes, “section 2,
“Piecemeal conquest of the Belgic tribes (57 B.C.),
paragraph 25, lines 6 and 7.

First off, let me preface this review by saying this is not a book I would have ever picked for myself to read. It was a randomly assigned book from Penguin Classics to review. Second, it was not the book originally assigned. The first book had been Fortress Besieged, which I was really excited to get but was unfortunately out of print. And third, I must inform you of the following caveat: I was woefully unable to finish the book. It just was NOT my cuppa.

All that being said, on with the review:

Julius Caesar’s The Conquest of Gaul is basically the battle reports from a general, Caesar, to his boss, the Roman Senate and the people of Rome, detailing the events, names and places of his campaigns in Germany, Gaul and Britiannia. It is not war reportage full of excitement and suspense and suspense, but a simple list of details. For what it is, a historical accounting of the Roman push into northern Europe, it is an excellent, informative book to study. And as you study The Conquest of Gaul, make sure to keep your notepad, pen, highlighters and post-it flags handy so that you can get the most out of it. It would also help to be previously acquainted with the histories of the area and peoples in it before picking this book up as it is dense with names and events that would have been common knowledge for the people of the day, but have lost a lot of meaning in the millenniums that have passed.

For me, the book was intolerably boring, but that’s just a taste thing, however I did learn a great deal. For one thing, Caesar was a brilliant strategist and tactician. He was able to see ways to defeat the enemy that completely amazes me. His confidence in his abilities and that of his men, made him feared and respected by those who attempted to oppose his Rome. Some of the battles were won when the warring tribe was informed Caesar was on his way. They would send envoys of unconditional surrender and a plea of mercy to him before he’d even reached their land. He is, without a doubt, one of the top military minds in history.

Not only was Caesar a brilliant soldier and commander, but he was also a man of dedication and honor. He valued his word and made certain it was upheld. He followed a code of ethics that showed the people of Gaul what a civilized people can be.  Romanization was inevitable under Caesar. Tribes converted from barbarianism and fictionalized feuding to peaceful alliances. It is debated what Caesar’s political motivations were, whether he craved dictatorship or he was truly desirous of Rome’s best interests. I personally believe Caesar was less of the manipulative power-hungry megalomaniac I was taught in school, and more the noble patrician who wanted equality for citizens as opposed to the oligarchic political system of the time. He was the Man of the People who became their beloved Emporer, their first Caesar (as a title and office) of many.

I give Caesar’s The Conquest of Gaul 4 out of 5 stars. It’s informative and a classic, though very dry and it’s strictly text book-style writing bored me to distraction.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 494 other followers