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*You are reading a review of a psychological theme in Season 12 that has major Spoilers up through episode 3. You have been warned!*

The overarching theme of family is evident from the moment any person first watches Supernatural. It is present, front and center, in almost any episode, mainly because the lead characters are brothers. I believe this is a big reason the series is so popular twelve years in. My own family dynamics are a big reason why I feel drawn to this series: much like Dean, I was responsible for caring for my little brother most of the time, and my father was also absent from my life by choice (though, no, he wasn't looking to avenge his wife being murdered by a demon :P).

The older sibling-younger sibling relationship and the fact that Dean has had to assume many responsibilities from a young age is only one aspect of the family theme. The role of fathers is another (read about both aspects here). This season, (season 12!) we are presented with another family dynamic we had never fully explored in Supernatural: mother and child. 

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A Mother's Presence

Most people have a pretty good idea of the impact of a mother in a child’s life. A mother’s love is crucial in creating a sense of safety from the moment of birth and throughout the formative years. A mother’s rejection can create a sense of not being good enough, not lovable, not worthy, or worse. A mother’s love can instill positive attitudes about oneself, a sense of self efficacy, while a mother’s rejection can place a child at risk for behaviors that may get them in trouble later in life. A mother does not have to be perfect (there is no such thing), but "good enough." And the presence of a "good enough" mother can adequately prepare a child for life's challenges, as they have internalized her positive regard and love. 

In real life, nobody has the opportunity to get their mother back years after their death, but the reappearance of a mother after a long absence can have a strong impact. When a mother reappears in a child’s life it can answer many questions. When her presence is consistent, even if she does not live with the child, it can provide a sense of stability. When the child is an adult, they can reach a totally different level of understanding of their parent’s absence, and perhaps reach forgiveness. 

Of course, Mary Winchester was neither absent by choice nor did she return by choice. Her return has a significant impact on both Sam and Dean, although in different ways. 

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Dean's Experience of His Mother

Dean actually had a relationship with his mother for the first several years of his life. Dean had a mother who loved him, cared for him, fed him pie, and gave him hugs. She met his needs. She provided comfort. Although she was taken from him at a young age, he had her for those crucial first years. He was able to go through toddlerhood with his mom and dad, he had the experience of individuating from his mother at his own pace (realizing he is a different entity altogether-usually happens when the child is super young), he learned to speak, and probably learned his ABC’s and 1-10 with his mother’s help. She was present to help set him up for later childhood.

Dean internalized the message at an early age that he was loved and important. It was also pretty engraved in him that family is important. His mother did not leave him because she wanted to, and by extension his father did not make that choice either, but was driven to avenge his wife's death. Although John may have been absent a lot, Dean believed in his heart that there was an external reason for this. So then, perhaps in Dean's point of view, neither parent chose to leave him.

From early on, he had the experience of feeling what having a nuclear family was like. He had stability. The sudden stripping of this then sends him on his life mission. But I believe that those early experiences may have played a role in whatever gives him the strength to later on take on the roles that are imposed on him by his dad, including being a ‘parent’ and being a hunter. 

{Random thought: *I imagine a 4-year-old Dean immersing himself in taking care of baby Sam, giving him his bottle when he cried, carrying him as best as he can, redirecting the pain from the loss of his mother into caring for Sammy. Maybe this is one reason why Dean presents with a strong persona, not spending too much time talking about feelings. He has learned to push them down. For survival reasons.*}

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"Sammy" and His Big Brother

Sam’s experience was totally different, because he truly had neither parent. His mother died when he was a baby. Not to say that this wasn't traumatic; in some ways this is more traumatic. John's pain and narrow focus on hunting made him an emotionally distant and often physically absent father. For children whose parents are absent, life can feel pretty unstable and unpredictable. Their emotional needs are not met as they should be. There’s no grounding force, no real nurture. Sam never had a sense of “normal”, never had a 'home,' no stable family.

Fortunately for Sam, Dean was there trying his best to fill that role. Dean was a big protective factor, and Sam eventually found comfort in school as well. His role models, besides his big brother, were his teachers. 

Older siblings are usually looked up to as role models, and can be those to talk to about things you may not want to talk to your parents about because they’re closer to you in age. We may feel protected by our older siblings, so that if we are picked on at school we have someone to tell. Having a cool older sibling can even be a school status influencer. Older siblings may introduce us to aspects of growing up that parents don’t, won’t, or can’t. They may even show us how to get away with things!

Because John was absent much of the time, and because John and Sam seem to have had a strained relationship, the most stable relationship that Sam had was really with his brother. Even though being his ‘parent’ was not the healthiest for Dean, for Sam it may have been his saving grace. He had that one constant in his life. He didn't know anything else. His entire experience of his family was his older brother.

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A Mother's Abandonment... ?

Dean and Sam have different ways of approaching their mother's return. For both, it was a moment of incredible happiness. But for Dean it really was a return of someone he had before, whereas for Sam it was the real first time he ever met his mother (besides the time traveling). He doesn't have anything else to compare it to, and he didn't really have the family that Dean had. 

The important piece here is that Dean has known the loss of his family, in that he had them and then he lost them, in many ways in the same night. Sam didn't really know family in the same way. His mother's sudden return is not to be minimized at all, but Sam never really knew what it was like to have her, making her sudden presence an amazing, but extra, event in his life. 

So, when Mary expresses that she needs space, Sam is willing to accept this, because he was ready to accept her fully to begin with. Dean remembers what it was like to have a mother, whether his memory is accurate or not, and her choice to leave does not fit into his conceptualization of his mother or what his family would be like now that she is back. Because she does not behave according to his idea of her, and because he has known and grieved her loss before, Dean feels betrayed, and perhaps abandoned. Because, as opposed to the first time, Mary is now making the choice to leave. 

We are only a few episodes into season 12, so we have a lot more to go. I am looking forward to see how the Winchester family is put back together, if they are. What do you think? 

It's been one week since SDCC 2016, and my routine is back to normal for the most part. Despite not having attended each day this time around (*cries*), I had something to do each day. Wednesday night, I attended the Game of Bloggers meet-up and met some awesome people. Thursday night I attended the #WaywardCocktails Supernatural meet-up, which is always a blast. I spent Friday creating an entirely new outfit once I discovered none of my cosplays from previous years fit (*cries some more*). I attended on Saturday with my family, and my siblings got distracted trying to catch a Squirtle. Sunday I walked around the Gaslamp, did the Conival thing, and had a great lunch at the Blind Burro.

I spoke with some amazing people who are geeks and mental health advocates. Over the past years, there has been an increased awareness of mental health problems in the community. Not just with superhero psychology and the benefits of geek therapy, but with the idea that we, just like the rest of the population, have certain issues that we are coping with in our lives. Each year there are more panels at SDCC that cover the psychology of one topic or another in geek culture, and that discuss mental health in the community.

The importance of recognizing these inner struggles cannot be overlooked. As a 10-year (maybe 11-year, I forget) attendee to San Diego Comic Con, I am not exaggerating when I say that each year I have come across at least one person who has become overwhelmed with all the stimuli that the event has to offer. There is just so much going on everywhere you look! Speaking for myself, I have frequently used the Anime Rooms as a quiet space. I love anime, but I have also found that I can sit in a quiet space and be away from the chaos for a short while. As an introvert, this gives me a very much needed break from the crowds, which then allows me to return to the exhibit hall or panels with my internal batteries charged, and continue to enjoy the event.

some FNAF stuff
I recently discovered that some gaming conventions have a designated quiet space, or AFK Rooms. These rooms are there for people who need that break, who become overstimulated, or people who need help. I was interested in learning more, so I asked some questions of Dr. Raffael Boccamazzo ("Doctor B"), Clinical Director of Take This (@TakeThisOrg on Twitter), an organization that works toward educating the public about mental health disorders, prevent mental illness, and reduce stigma. Take This was founded by journalists Susan Arendt and Russ Pitts, and psychologist Dr. Mark Kline, based on their experiences and knowledge of the community and the need for mental health awareness, education, and support.

"The first AFK Room was at PAX East in 2014, and we've hosted rooms at every North American PAX since, and PAX Australia since 2015. We've also expanded to other conventions and events like E3, MomoCon, QuakeCon, among others," Dr. B shared. His responsibilities as clinical director include coordinating all clinical volunteers, approving clinically-oriented activities, and ensuring uniform standards of practice.

I was curious as to what these rooms are like, what happens, and who runs them. According to Dr. B, "It's a place where people can come and find quiet respite from the fun, yet often overstimulating, environment at conventions. It's amazing to see the visible relief from people the moment the quiet and serenity hits them." Of course, it isn't only for quiet breaks. "Some people come to the AFK Room in distress, and the mental health clinicians that we have at every shift are there to answer mental health questions and provide brief, caring support for these folks. We also provide mental health referral resources, if necessary, as the AFK Rooms do not provide treatment."

The people who work at the AFK rooms are all volunteers; advanced graduate students, psychology students, and pre-licensed clinicians. Many are gamers, but some are people who want to learn more about gamer culture. There is always at least one licensed clinician present.

I found several other articles on the webs, and some people's personal experiences:

"My PAX Take This AFK Room Experience" 
"AFK Room at PAX Prime - Indigo Mental Health"
"Take This AFK Room -E3 Insider"
"The AFK Room - PC Gamer"

I was touched by reading the personal experiences of people who had visited one of these rooms. As a provider of mental health services, I know how difficult it can be to share such a personal experience. I appreciate that these people would share their stories.

After doing my research, I've come to some conclusions:

1) The people who run AFK Rooms (or wellness rooms) are providing much, MUCH needed services. We're just people, and whether or not we have a diagnosis, any of us can become overstimulated at a convention. As a community that is beginning to recognize the importance of discussing mental health issues, we need to do more to help from within.

2) I need to go to a PAX.

3) Con-goers would benefit greatly from a wellness room at SDCC. Maybe two.

Have you volunteered at or visited an AFK room? I would love to hear your experience.
Did you go to SDCC 2016? I'd love to hear that experience as well :).

There are so many ways that people choose to take care of themselves, the problem is that we tend not to do it very often. Whether it be work, kids, school, grocery shopping, or anything else, there seems to always be something that takes us away from the things that would otherwise make us more grounded, mindful, healthy human beings.

One week each year, I try to do this. Yes, it should be once a week and not one week a year... but let me finish. Each year for the past ten years, I have been able to take a week off and focus on one thing: San Diego Comic Con. I usually take Monday and Tuesday to finish the last details of my cosplay, and Wednesday to finish the last details of my person (nails, hair, etc.)

This year, I had no idea where I would be around this time. You see, I've been studying all my life (well the last 9 years) to be the kind of person who can help people with their mental health. When badges went on sale, I knew I would be obtaining my license in psychology and honestly had no idea what life had planned for me. So despite having the opportunity to buy badges for each day (I made it past the landing page with plenty of time!) I made the conscious choice to only get a badge for one day. Do I regret it? Not really, there are a lot of things that I am planning, and a lot of ways that I am still planning on taking care of myself this year during that week. Here are four things to focus on:

Last year's #WawardCocktails

1) After parties.
I am not a huge party person, but I am planning on being present for at least two parties this year. Hanging out with other people who like the same things you do is the pure essence of comic con. It is what makes this event special. Two of the parties I am attending are fandom or interest-based, so I know I will be surrounding myself with people who may be like-minded. One great way to take care of yourself is by connecting with others who are a positive influence. I consider many of the people I've met at SDCC a positive influence, or at the very least interesting in one way or another.
Tony B Kim's new men's fashion line
2) Cosplay and Clothes. 
This doesn't really need explanation, in my opinion, but getting into cosplay is another way of connecting with your fellow nerds. It can lead to intense discussion about what happened last season, what will happen to your fave character, or to a new friendship with someone just as passionate as you. And if you're not big on cosplay, you don't have to actually get into body makeup or an entire ensemble to exhibit your inner nerd. Recently, there's been a huge wave of women's clothing lines for us geek girls. And just the other week, Tony B Kim, AKA @Crazy4ComicCon announced his new men's fashion line, Hero Within, which is officially licensed by DC Comics. Browsing through the online store, I had at least two people in mind (three including me... those coats are way cool). Treating the people I love is also important to me, and part of taking care of myself. One of those people already expressed a strong liking for the Superman blazer, so I took that as a huge hint. The best thing about clothing made like this, similar to some geeky women's fashion lines, is that people may or may not "get it", and it's not inappropriate if you want to go to a nice place (like your graphic tees), so you'll still look and feel like an adult wearing the clothing that you want. You can find them on Twitter and IG @herowithininc. If you have cool, geeky people who you care about in your life, check them out, because the store is only taking pre-orders until July 31st of this year, but they'll be at SDCC if you're going there too.

3) Healthy Food and Exercise
Several years ago I was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, which in simplest terms means I have to take a pill a day to keep my thyroid in check so my body doesn't get out of control. My doctor found I had high cholesterol and arrhythmia. If you looked at me then, short of being just a bit heavier, I didn't look "unhealthy." That was a few years ago. I started eating healthier food, but it was only last year that I started to exercise and drink more water. I started using programs that I could do at home, and I'm happy to say that I've gone from 6lb weights to 8lb weights. I've also found that your food does not have to be bland to be healthy. This is a huge misconception. Nowadays you can find a LOT of tasty, healthy options. I'm not saying I'm perfectly healthy now, because my condition unfortunately worsened. But that is why it's SO much more important to keep working out and keep eating healthy. And because I've been working out, I've developed awesome muscle and I feel overall healthier. So even though it's hard to keep eating healthy while you're waiting in line, you can find healthy snacks and pack healthy lunch. Here's an idea if you have parking nearby that you can get to reasonably quickly without missing out on too much stuff: get an ice chest, pack a healthy lunch, and store it in the trunk of your car. You can walk to your car (get exercise and may be pokemon), eat your healthy lunch, and then walk back. And if you are NOT lucky enough to have found parking nearby, pack nuts or dried fruit and water, make wraps at home/hotel, and/or make sure your budget allows for food outside the convention center. Budgeting for yourself is just as important as budgeting for those awesome exclusives, if not more. #AbsWereMadeInTheKitchen :)
I had this AMAZING healthy food at Toscana Cafe
4) Remain Calm
I tell myself this every year, and especially this year because I'm only going one day. Even if you don't get into the panel that you want, and you've missed the other one due to standing in the queue for the first one, relax. There is always something to do at SDCC, always something to see. If you didn't get into Hall H, and you can't find anything else that you are interested in (or that other panel is way too far and you're too tired) you can almost always find a spot to sit overlooking the water. Looking at water tends to help people relax. Sit outside the autograph area or by the harbor for a few minutes and take deep breaths. Pay attention to the details. Feel the breeze on your skin. Look at the cosplayers and LARPers, and think of how much more there is to see in the exhibit hall. My point is, even if you don't get into the panel that you really really really really wanted to see and that's the only thing you wanted out of the entire four days, you CAN find other amazing things to see and do.
for example, I found this stuck to a Furby

How do you plan on taking care of yourself this year at SDCC?

It is not always easy to talk to young kids about subjects like where babies come from, drugs and alcohol, or sex. Much less to talk about terrifying things, like terrorist acts. Unfortunately, sometimes this conversation needs to happen. Children benefit when parents maintain an open line of communication with their kids about certain things. Children are going to have questions. These are some things I've learned while working with kids, and some recommendations about how to have this difficult conversation with them:

Be open to their questions, and encourage them. Ask where they heard about it. What do they know? Where did they see it? What did the source of communication (TV, radio, a kid at school, etc.) say? Encourage questions, and be nonjudgmental when you ask them how they heard about it. Keep your questions simple, and few. "Oh, where did you read about that?" "I see, what did they say?" Remember, if they cannot feel comfortable asking you, they will ask someone else, or they may look it up themselves. "You can ask me anything at all, always. I'll always try my best to answer."

Be honest about what happened, in a language they can understand. An act of terror leaves us wondering why. It leaves us baffled, and we might have many questions. And we're adults! Imagine being a small child and watching your mom or dad's reaction to something so scary. Imagine being a little kid and hearing it on the news, or from a friend at school. A lot of us of a certain generation may not have to imagine, because we've lived it. On September 11, 2001, I was part of an entire classroom of teenagers watching a terrifying incident unfold live on television. We watched thousands of people die. My brother was in 5th grade, and he remembers watching it on the news too. Nobody had any clue as to why this had happened.

When you're little, you might rely on a parent to provide an explanation. "That man hurt a lot of people." "He hurt a lot of people, and it's very sad." "It's not okay. Most people don't do that." "He made a very, very bad choice." "I don't know why he did it." It's okay to say if you don't know something. It's up to one's personal feelings about it, but I think there's an opportunity to instill empathy, while drawing the line between what's okay and what's not okay. "What he did is never okay. Hurting others is never okay. Maybe he had a lot of bad feelings and he needed help. When we need help, it's okay to ask for it. I'm always here if you need help." It's also important to help your kid feel safe when explaining. "It's very scary. Most people don't do things like that. I'm right here if you feel scared or sad."

"How does it make you feel?" Teaching kids to name their feelings, so they're easier to identify, and so they can better communicate to others about how they feel, is a very active task for a parent. There are feelings beyond sad, angry, and happy that you might have to help them label. With younger kids, I recommend materials like emotions charts or cards, and I've even seen emojis effectively used in this task.

"Use your words." Parents must often model this. Parents sometimes have to make the observation to their child, to be reflective. "I see you don't feel okay. We all have times when we don't feel okay. I'll be here when you're ready to talk." Validating the emotion is also important. "It's okay if you feel scared." "I feel scared sometimes too." Talk about how you cope with your feelings. "When I feel scared, I ______."

Draw how it makes you feel. This is one way to help kids express their feelings. When we employ our creativity it helps us express ourselves effectively, and perhaps even more effectively for kids who may not have the vocabulary.

This is never an easy conversation, but sometimes, it is necessary. Hope this has helped!



Center for Reflective Parenting
PBS: Talking and Listening to Kids
American Psychological Association: How to Talk to Children About Tragedies
Sesame Street: Children and Grief
SAMHSA: Helping Children Cope After a Disaster or Traumatic Event
Red Cross: Helping Children Cope with Disaster

Maestro is the second book in R.A. Salvatore's Homecoming series (Drizzt Do'Urden novels), set in the Forgotten Realms. This review will contain BIG SPOILERS for the book, so if you have not read the book, I suggest you do.

As the title suggests, the book centers around Jarlaxle and his workings. I want to start off by saying that overall, I truly enjoyed this book more than Archmage. I only didn't finish it in one day because I have other obligations. There were some really cool fight scenes that really pulled me in, and for people who like reading about the drow city of Menzoberranzan and the chaos that prevails, they will probably enjoy this book.

Some of my favorite things:

1) That cover art! Jarlaxle on the cover by himself with that much detail is the best. And the fact that the book is heavily about him. It's about time that we got another look at this amazing and favorite character.

2) Reading about Jarlaxle and Artemis Entreri again. I have missed these two SO MUCH. They are easily my favorite characters, far above all the others, including Drizzt, and especially the Companions. They are probably the main reason I keep reading these books. Jarlaxle and Entreri have such a unique relationship --bromance, if you will-- that overshadows even that of Drizzt and Cattie-Brie. I do wish we would have seen more of them. I could write an entire blog post about those two.

3) Seeing how Jarlaxle works.

Jarlaxle: We're friends, right?
Person: ...... What do you want?

Sure, he's a manipulator, but in the end he does it for a good cause. Jarlaxle is and has always been an opportunist, but that doesn't mean he doesn't value his relationships. If he can benefit from a friend, he will do it. We've always known this about him, but this book lets us see it in action.

4) Seeing Jarlaxle not know what to do for the first time. This really made me, as a reader, anxious! If Jarlaxle says things will be okay, you know things will be okay, no matter how bad they seem. Jarlaxle has the answers to everything, and always seems to find a way out of a jam. But in this book, he finds himself in quite a pickle, several times. I honestly didn't know if my favorite characters were going to make it, and I loved that, because a story shouldn't be predictable.

5) Seeing different individuals of different alignments coming together for a cause, even if their individual reasons are different. I mean, a gathering of some of the most powerful individuals in the world of Drizzt Do'Urden, how can that not be cool?

6) Yvonnel. I actually enjoyed her, to my surprise. The way her mind works was a fresh change to your typical matron mothers. Everybody knew who they were dealing with after meeting her once. She is a bad person, but I enjoyed seeing how she put the matron mothers, especially Quenthel Baenre, in their place.

Yvonnel to everyone else
7) The two pretty cool fights: Drizzt vs Tiago and Drizzt vs Demogorgon. Not going to say too much about them, but probably my favorite part is how Menzoberranzan comes together to help Drizzt defeat the Prince of Demons. I didn't think we were going to see this one in this book. That was probably the best encounter I've read in a long time. Also, Tiago finally gets his.

8) Drizzt and Cattie-brie arguing. Finally a bit of real-ness to that relationship! We haven't really seen them be real with each other since way before she died the first time. It was a nice change of pace for them. After all, every couple has arguments.

9) The changing dynamic between Entreri and Drizzt. These two started out as nemeses, but have become more like frienemies. At one point, I even thought Entreri would sacrifice himself for Drizzt. I was about to close that book and never open it, or any future Drizzt books, again. I am happy to report it didn't happen.

10) The overall dynamic between Entreri, Jarlaxle, and Drizzt. Whenever you have those three together, it just increases the value of the story. It was a bit like they were bros, and also a bit awkward, and Jarlaxle grew weary of playing mediator, but it seemed fitting for those three.

11) Cattie-brie's reunion with her "parents", and the fact that they have moved on and had another child of their own. I feel like it addressed the question of the importance of the Companions' family this time around. Cattie-brie never had a mother of her own the first time, and I'm glad Salvatore didn't just completely ignore the fact that finally having a mother would be significant in her life.

There were a couple things that I wish Salvatore had gone more into:

1) Jarlaxle and Entreri's reunion. This is something that was hinted at at some point during the Neverwinter saga. There was a scene in one of the Neverwinter books were Entreri sees Jarlaxle again after many years (and after being betrayed terribly by him), and Jarlaxle says something to the effect of having things to talk about. I was hoping that after Archmage we'd get to see that long-awaited, surely angst-ridden reunion (I imagined Entreri would punch Jarlaxle in the face). Sadly, this doesn't happen, and instead we jump forward to where they have already sort of become bros again, and it is hinted that Entreri is the one who sought out Jarlaxle to guilt-trip him into helping.

2) Most people won't care about this one at all, but what did Bregan D'aerthe do to Calihye, specifically? Is she dead? How did she die? I had given up on ever finding out, and then in Maestro, Salvatore writes that Entreri 'lost' Calihye to Bregan D'aerthe, but he lets us assume what this means beyond having been forced into working for them. What did she even do for them, and what happened to her? I know many people really don't care. I do, especially since she's mentioned again in this book. I mean, it would take like two sentences.

And yes, there was one thing that, to be completely honest, seemed way out of place and out of character. If you've read the book, you probably know what I am going to list:

1) The sexual tension between Gromph and Cattie-brie. I mean, WHAT EVEN...???? I know I'm not the only one thinking this was odd and felt unnecessary, as I've conversed with other readers about it.

It seemed to me that Gromph was trying to intimidate Cattie-brie by putting NSFW images in her mind, but surely someone of his caliber would not resort to something so basic. And why would Cattie-brie react the way she reacted? When Cattie-brie was alive 100 years previous to this, AND when she was in Iruladoon, she had conversations that led readers, me, to believe that she was beyond basic physical attraction in terms of her love for Drizzt and in terms of how she approached relationships. She made it a point to say that what she had with him was more than that, that if Drizzt was intimate with others, she would understand, but she would also know that it meant nothing because she loved him and he loved her. 

So, when she has a conversation with Penelope in this book about what it means to be physically intimate and why Penelope is okay with being physically intimate with people other than her husband, it just feels a bit out of character. Cattie-brie 100 years previous to this wouldn't have cared. Maybe I have misinterpreted Cattie-brie all this time, but I feel that she would have instinctively known what exactly was happening from the beginning, and confronted the Archmage immediately, and not gone about it in a sneaky way. Both Cattie-brie and Gromph, to my (maybe flawed?) understanding, were way beyond these simple shenanigans. If it were some other less mentally powerful and less magically focused character (like Wulfgar), I would have been more understanding. Maybe this was done to show how bored Gromph was and how out of his element he is, and also how arrogant, and maybe to set it up to show his layers later on. Or maybe it was just done to show, yet again, how ridiculously powerful Cattie-brie is now. Whatever the reason, this happens, but then everything is okay between them in the end, which somehow feels even more odd.

Again, I really love reading these books, I have since I discovered them. I will continue to read them (as long as Artemis Entreri doesn't get killed). So the following may come across as odd for a fan of Drizzt's story, but the entire concept of Menzoberranzan still being so obsessed with Drizzt is something I find a bit... tiring. 

Drizzt to the Matron Mothers
I know the longer lifespans make it possible for grudges and such to be held for much, much longer, but I guess I would have expected by now that Drizzt's life would have had other problems. I understand this is the whole premise of the Homecoming series, it just overall seems a bit repetitive. 

However, I really did enjoy Drizzt's visit to his city of birth this time around, and I really did want them to get Dahlia out of there. New things happened because of the Faerzress that spiced up the story. Maybe this is due to my background in psychology, but the fact that the book ended with Drizzt essentially being psychotic (temporarily and due to magical influences) seems more interesting to me than if the book had ended as they usually end, with everything everywhere being mostly okay (which of course I am also a fan of). Drizzt contracting the "sickness" and the fact that it is making him question everything in his reality definitely sets up the next book and I honestly can't wait to read that.

(Read more on Princess Leia here). I am excited to have finally finished reading this Princess Leia five-issue series. The short series is now available in a compilation. I was very pleased with the writers' portrayal of Leia and her goals post-A New Hope. I was also happy with how much more we saw of her and her worldview in only a few issues (minor spoilers ahead).

One of the traits I have always admired about Princess Leia, which made her my favorite princess from the first time I saw her, was her determination. When Princess Leia wants something done, she gets it done. She does not wait around unless she has no choice. This made her a great role model then and it still does now.

This series takes us through Leia's actions after the destruction of her home planet of Alderaan. After the destruction of Alderaan, Leia teams up with a pilot named Evaan and R2-D2 to find survivors across the galaxy. Despite having lost so much and although she is in pain, Leia's priority is to secure the safety of the remaining Alderaanians before they are found by the Empire. She is focused and determined to achieve that goal, even if it means having to break a few rules (when have a few rules ever stopped Leia?).

One of the things I most enjoyed is that we get a few glimpses of her childhood and some good memories with her adoptive father. We see what kind of a woman Leia's adoptive mother was and the impact she had on those whose lives she touched. We see how Leia was as a child and how the lessons her father and mother taught her helped shape who she became. These lessons helped inculcate in Leia the importance of her station and what it truly means to be a "princess," which is a refreshing change from the norm. We learn a bit about Alderaanian culture and creativity. Though we've seen Leia lead the rebellion, this series shows us how passionate and genuine Leia is when it comes to saving her people, and she truly shines in that context.

If you have not read these issues yet and are a Star Wars fan, I absolutely recommend this. Especially if Princess Leia changed your perspective on princesses as much as it did mine.
Jessica Jones
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[This contains some spoilers!] This weekend, I --and probably a lot of other people-- binged on Marvel’s Jessica Jones on Netflix. I had been waiting since it was announced, and was very excited to have the opportunity to watch all episodes of the first season.

Marvel's Jessica Jones is definitely not created for children. Jessica Jones is a superhero more relatable to a more mature individual. There were a lot of psychological themes in this series, one of the most salient themes being intimate partner violence.

The first episode introduces us to Jessica Jones, a young woman with powers and a drinking problem who has made a name for herself as a private investigator, mostly taking on cases of cheating partners. Jessica takes on the case of a missing college student. The missing girl's parents hire Jessica to discover where their daughter is. In the process of solving this case, Jessica is faced with having to confront her past.

It is revealed that Jessica was the victim of a mind-controller named Kilgrave for some time, and managed to escape. Kilgrave has the power to compel others to do anything he wants with a simple command. In this way, he controlled Jessica, forcing her into a relationship with him during which he also compelled her to do terrible things. In essence, Kilgrave forced Jessica into a relationship in which she was the victim of intimate abuse.

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Intimate partner violence is a very real problem that affects many individuals in the United States. It is estimated that more than 10 million people are victims of domestic violence each year in the U.S. According to statistics, most victims are female between the ages of 18 and 24. It is not easy to leave a violent relationship. This is what many people misunderstand. Victims of domestic violence are often asked things like "Why didn't you just leave?" It is not that easy. Victims of domestic violence often feel that they have no control. They have often been isolated from their friends and family, and manipulated to believe that the abuser is the only one who loves them. 

Here are a few facts about domestic violence:

1) The abuser tries to control every aspect of the victim's life, including place of employment and income. Because they cannot easily control their place of employment, an abuser will often make or expect frequent phone calls to check-in on their victim.
2) Domestic violence can include physical assault, verbal abuse, isolation, and rape.
3) Almost three fourths of all murder-suicides involve intimate partners.
4) There is a relationship between domestic violence and depression, suicidal thoughts, flashbacks, anxiety, and sleep disturbance.
5) Domestic violence is NOT specific to any one ethnic group, culture, gender, age range, socio-economic status, or any other demographic.

Jessica Jones is revealed to have lived through different types of victimization during the course of her time with Kilgrave. Like many survivors of intimate partner violence, she experiences symptoms of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), including insomnia, substance abuse, flashbacks, and intrusive thoughts. Like many perpetrators of intimate violence, Kilgrave does not take accountability for his actions. Rather, when confronted, he tries to make himself the victim by pointing out how he has suffered, and by implying that Jessica wanted to be with him. At one point, this creates a different dynamic where for a moment we believe that Jessica may once again re-enter a sort of relationship with Kilgrave to try to help him.

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This dynamic is often seen in intimate partner violence. A perpetrator will refuse to take responsibility for his/her actions. He/She will blame the victim, or others, for both his/her actions and his/her feelings. They will manipulate the victim into believing that the victim has some sort of power over how the abuser feels, and will make promises about changing their behavior.

Jessica finds her way out of Kilgrave's control; in a huge twist, she realizes that she is no longer vulnerable to his commands. Upon realizing that he can no longer control her, she decides to fight against him and prevent him from victimizing others. In the end, Jessica achieves a sort of closure, and is able to pick up the pieces of herself, and go on with the life she has been trying so hard to create.


For more on domestic violence, see:
National Resource Center on Domestic Violence 
The Hotline 
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence 
Resources by State 
Where to Get Help for Domestic Violence 
National Hotlines

This is the first book review I post onto this blog. I posted most of this review, nearly word for word, on Goodreads first, and am posting it here now. This review contains major, major spoilers for R.A. Salvatore's Archmage (Book 1 in the Legend of Drizzt: Homecoming series). It also assumes that the readers are somewhat familiar with the LoD series, its plots, and its characters, or at least a general idea of what is going on in the books.


1) My favorite character in the entire LoD multiverse is Artemis Entreri. Jarlaxle is a close second.

2) I was not a fan of the Companions of the Hall returning from the dead. Don't get me wrong, I loved the CotH. I cried when Regis and Cattie-Brie were taken, and more so when Bruenor passed. I grieved for the loss of those three favorite characters, and then I moved on. It is difficult to lose a favored character! But we grieve and we move on. From my perspective, their loss became an opportunity for Drizzt to make more than four close friends in 30-something books, and to grow as an individual. Drizzt made about three new friends, and none of them can be described as "close."

3) As stated, this is my first book review on this blog, and is mostly what I posted on my Goodreads account, however, I am revisiting a few ideas and exploring them from a different perspective. The link is above if you would like to read the original review.]

Belongs to Wizards of the Coast and R.A. Salvatore

For readers who are huge Drizzt fans and were hoping to see him in action, this book may be a bit of a disappointment. We don't see much of Drizzt, but we get to see him at the last minute, doing what he does best (saving the day). Still, we see a lot of great action from other characters.

There are a few GREAT things about this book. We get to see more of Gromph Baenre, the titular character, and we get a better look at how he is doing emotionally (not often something you get when it comes to drow, besides Drizzt). Gromph, the Archmage of Menzoberranzan, is thousands of years old and is so powerful that the matron mothers of the drow city think twice about treating him as they would any other "mere male." Gromph is disappointed, and ANGRY, at the realization that his status has not improved and would not have improved even if the Spider Queen had taken control of the Weave, despite what he had previously concluded. His anger and pride make him susceptible to Kimmuriel's scheming, which is really not coming from Kimmuriel but from the Spider Queen herself. Hence, in the end, he unleashes a force that he simply cannot contain, and he might need extra help from unlikely characters.

We also see a tiny bit of Kimmuriel and get a peek at the functionings of House Oblodra before it was destroyed. We get to learn a bit more about dwarven culture and traditions. There is also a little bit of Athrogate and Ambergris, who have developed a relationship. Most interesting to me, we learn about Faerzress and how it affects the drow cities and gives the drow their innate magic. We get to learn what Menzoberranzan was like in its early years, and how the Baenres ended up on top.

Overall, Salvatore does a nice job of setting up the scenario for what's coming next.

There are several inconsistencies and typos, mostly forgivable. However, there are three pretty significant inconsistencies that are worth mentioning:

1) The number of people who are aware that Jarlaxle is a Baenre by birth. Previously (to the best of my memory) the only people who were aware were some of Jarlaxle's older sisters, Gromph, and Kimmuriel along with the rest of House Oblodra (who were mostly destroyed). Yet, in this book it becomes apparent that one of Jarlaxle's former lovers and a Matron Mother, is also aware of this connection. Will this turn out to be an important plot point later? Who knows.

2) This one is not so much an inconsistency but an oversight on behalf of the editors: Gromph's age. It is established that Gromph is pretty much the oldest living male in Menzoberranzan, probably thousands of years old. There is a passage that states something along the lines of Gromph being in terms of age "closer to two centuries than one." Obviously, Gromph IS closer to 200 years old than 100 years old, but I am assuming that Salvatore intended to state "millenia." This one is not such a big deal though.

3) Finally, and the one that bugs me the most personally because of how I favor Artemis Entreri: there seems to have been a relationship between Khazid'hea (Cutter) and Entreri. When did this happen? As far as I'm concerned in the literature I have read, which includes the short stories, it is never stated that Entreri ever held Khazid'hea. However, in a few places, it is stated that such a relationship existed. If anyone reading this has seen this anywhere in canon besides the current book, please point this out to me. As far as I was aware, the only sentient weapon that Entreri ever held was Charon's Claw.

Possibly the thing that is beginning to annoy me the most is, sadly, Cattie-Brie's sudden ability to do almost anything. I really liked Cattie-Brie before her reincarnation, and I was beginning to like her in The Companions. However, I am very sad to see that this former favorite character has quickly turned into a person who seems to think in terms of black and white, and who appears to be favored by many higher powers, or at the very least, is able to control them. She has become a bit of a Mary-Sue character. I was mainly upset by how she seems to be suddenly so powerful that she is able to go head to head with Gromph Baenre himself, and have him bow at her in the end. Twice.

A Cattie/Drizzt child is hinted at, which I'm sure gets a lot of hopes up and would probably secure Drizzt's legacy should anything happen to him (hopefully not though!) Salvatore also touches a bit on how all this conflict is affecting the relationship between Drizzt and Cattie, and there are hints that their future will be discussed in upcoming books. Both seem to want to settle down, but just a little bit and only for a little while. A discussion of their relationship would be interesting, because there has not been much of an exploration of the new dynamics between Drizzt and each of his returned Companions, who are now different at a personality level.

Again, overall, I think that Salvatore did a good job of setting up the world for what's to come. I can't wait to see how the characters will continue to develop from here out, but I especially cannot wait to see the return of Artemis Entreri.

For the past month or so, I've been listening to Jane McGonigal's SuperBetter during my morning commute. I've never been a huge fan of audiobooks, to be honest. I LOVE having a book in my hands, touching the pages, smelling them (especially old books). There's something special about holding a story in your hands. So I resisted the audiobook experience for a long time. Until Felicia Day's book was released, I had never listened to an audiobook. That was the first of three I have so far (my other one is Aziz Ansari's Modern Romance). 

I am enjoying and learning a lot from SuperBetter. I have begun to use it as part of my personal health journey, as well as my professional journey (I challenge myself to study for those licensing exams a bit each day!). I have had the opportunity to share some of the things I'm learning with some of the people I work with. One of the many quests in this book is to form your own secret identity, which can be based on anything and anyone at all. My first, automatic thought went to Dean Winchester. 

Of course, I am a HUGE Supernatural fan. And I've always thought the Winchesters were heroes. But I'd never thought of them as my "favorite" heroes. When I think of superheroes, I tend to think of Wonder Woman, Superman, Ms. Marvel, or the Avengers. Basically, people with powers, or people who were born "special." 

One could make the case that the Winchesters were born special. I don't think this is so. I think they were born under special circumstances, but they are definitely not gifted with supernatural powers from birth. Whatever happened to them, happened at some point in their lives. There were choices made by their parents, their grandparents, and their great-grandparents, that put Dean and Sam in the position to have to make a certain lifestyle choice. They save people and hunt things, and they are SO good at it. 

In SuperBetter, Jane McGonigal explains that we tend to look up to heroes who have some similarities with ourselves; we identify with them, and we strive to be more like them. For me, this person is definitely Dean. 

This realization came as a surprise to me. I was thinking of what superheroes I want to be more like, and I kept coming back to Dean Winchester. Then it all became clear, and it was so simple. I IDENTIFY with Dean. He has QUALITIES that I would like to have. Some of the characteristics I see in Dean that I identify with include: 

We are both the oldest children, taught that we must take care of our younger siblings. I could never join sports teams at school because I had to take care of my younger siblings. We were both taught to be responsible, and that family comes first. To be totally honest, I had feelings of guilt when I first left home to pursue higher education, as though I were leaving my family behind. For Dean, leaving and pursuing higher education was never an option. Dean is a realist, he's sensitive, and he tends to see the good in others. His mission in life is to help others. He is sarcastic, has a sense of humor, and LOVES to eat. He can also be very direct and blunt when the situation calls for it. He's a good friend, and tends to develop friendships with the most unlikely individuals. He has friends in different "cliques." He also loves anime :). 

Dean represents many qualities that I see in myself, as well as many that I may not possess but would like to develop. This is what a hero does for you; they inspire you to become a better person. Dean tends to think with his heart, although there have been MANY situations when he is in dire trouble, and he manages to stay cool-headed and find a solution. When I'm in deep trouble, I tend to panic. I get anxious, I get migraines, and I get sick. When I think of my family, or the people that I want to help, I feel stronger. I can't help but imagine that Dean's process might be similar; he gets strength from the thought of helping others and protecting his family. 

Who are YOUR heroes? Who do you strive to be more like? 
I was nominated by dePepi for the Free Spirit Award (thanks!). The prompt is to talk about trolling and fake geek girl problems. So here's my two cents on this thing.

I will just start by saying that 1) I know this is a HUGE problem in the community, and 2) I don't think there is such a thing as a real "fake geek girl" or a "fake geek guy."

People can be geeks in so many different ways, at various levels, and it does not invalidate the word. I am aware that many individuals get super upset about it, but the idea that any one group can have full ownership of what is essentially a word that can be defined in many different ways by so many different people is ridiculous. This word has different meanings to different people.

For example, there are some that may be bothered by people who like comic books and superheroes calling themselves geeks. For some people, a geek is someone who knows a lot about subjects such as math or science, not comic books and superheroes! Someone who builds robots might be quite offended that there are people into collecting rare action figures who identify as "geeks." That might not be their definition of it. See where I'm going with this? My point is, it isn't a title that any one group should have exclusive rights to, because... how does it change YOUR life? How does it devalue the title of geek? Why does this make people upset?

You can give yourself the label of "geek" and feel like it describes your identity perfectly. Someone else calling himself/herself a geek as well does not and should not invalidate YOUR identity.

So why do some people engage in trolling others over a word?

My theory is, it's more than JUST a word. It's a CULTURE that people have created and put their passions into. Finding or creating our identities, for many people, is a lifelong process. It's a developmental task, that sometimes does not actually end with adolescence. We, as living, breathing humans, are constantly changing, and our identities along with us. The idea that someone else can claim to have a similar identity to you, when maybe they do not look like you or engage in similar activities, especially when you might have struggled to find that identity, or struggled to hold on to it in a world where geeks were not accepted by society or were bullied or harassed... well, some people can be threatened by that.

But I think that, for these people, and for the community as a whole, we need to think BIGGER. Yes, it is your identity, and your identity is important. But it's also the identity of a lot of other people who have learned to define "geek" in either similar or different ways. Sharing that word should not invalidate others and their identities, and at the same time, it does NOT devalue yours. Other people can be geeks in different ways, and look totally different or celebrate it in totally different ways, and it doesn't strip away your identity.

Recently, I saw a post on my Tumblr, where somebody was SO ANGRY about a cosplay she had seen. It was of a character of one of her favorite shows, portrayed by a professional cosplayer who I will not name. The comments on the thread were mainly degrading. Things along the lines of, "She probably doesn't even watch [that show]," or "Does she even know what she's cosplaying?" and other comments that reduced this living, breathing human being to nothing more than an object. All for having created something and sharing it with the community.

Maybe it's my age, or some sort of apathy developed over years and years of internet usage, but, does it really matter? This professional cosplayer was not actually claiming to have better knowledge of that show than others. She was not claiming to be a huge fan of the show. She is a professional, so maybe she watches it, maybe she doesn't, but ultimately, HER claim to geekdom is to CREATE cosplay and PORTRAY it for others to see. And what if she does not watch the show? It doesn't take away the fact that she created something FOR the community. She's a geek in her own way, and nobody can take that away from her. She CHOSE to CREATE, and continuously chooses to do so despite the amount of disgusting comments she gets.

A final and super important note; it is NOT just guys who do this. Girls engage in this behavior as well. Whatever your gender identity is, think of the implications of sharing this label that defines this identity that you've developed over a lifetime. I think you'll find that you can come up with many, many more positive implications than negative ones.



The Free Spirit Award was created by UNOTAKU and Marvelously Mismatched.
  • Write about the topic your nominator gave you
  • Place the Free Spirit Award button somewhere in your post
  • Nominate bloggers (no requirements or limitations, so you can nominate just one or 10, or millions)
  • Give your nominees a new topic to post about
  • Have loads of fun!!!
Topic: Write about a literary character that you identify with, and the impact and significance that character has had in your life.

[I am sharing this link with those I nominate, and I have chosen to keep the nominees off this post to avoid pressuring anybody to respond.]