Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A shout-out to new runners + Training Tuesdays

Hey friends!

Ok, it's super official that this is a link up now! Look at the awesome button Tamara made!

Feel free to grab the button if you're linking up! And add your link here:

Tam gave a great description of what Training Tuesdays are all about:

"This will just be a way to talk about training [in any way for anything] to help hold ourselves accountable and possibly brag a bit. I mean, you ran 1 mile without stopping – you totally deserve a chance to brag about it! That shit is hard.

And even if you’re not training for anything, you’re just putting yourself out there to be healthier, to get slimmer, to whatever you can share it on Training Tuesday. Let’s say you were sitting at home and instead of eating a carton of Oreos you instead ate 20 devil baby carrots [hypothetical situation, of course] – share it here!

Abbey & I don’t discriminate – we congratulate."

So. If you're in the process of any kind of self improvement, feel free to link up!

And now, on to Training Tuesday!

First, a quick rundown of the week, then on to something that was on my mind after my Sweetheart Run 5k.

Workouts this week:
Tuesday: Four miles outside.
Wednesday: Rest/cross training. I picked rest.
Thursday and Friday: SNOWSTORM! Nine inches of snow. No running for meeee.

Saturday: Went to my sister's and used her for her treadmill. Miserable 2 miles, but 2 miles nonetheless
Sunday: My 5k got cancelled because of the snow. Womp womp. Ran the 3.11 on the rec center track
Monday: 3 miles inside.

Pits of the week: 
I MISS RUNNING OUTSIDE. I'm getting really burnt out running on the track/treadmill and have been counting down my distance.

Also my 5k got cancelled. That was sad.

Peaks of the week:
Debbie downer, but no running-related peaks this week. We did, however, get three snow days (including today!) so that's exciting.

Can you see all the piles of plowed snow? It looked SO COOL in person. Not sure it came through in the picture.

Why I think starting to run is the hardest part

So I haven't trained for a half yet. But I have trained for a 10k and a 5k.

Without a doubt, I can tell you that for me, the 5k was WAY more difficult to train for.

I admire runners who are just getting started so much. Yeah, I'm impressed with the women who blow past me running their 6-minute miles. But the ones that really make me want to drop a "You go girl!" are the ones in the non-fancy running clothes, at the back of the pack, breathing crazy hard, but still pushing through.

Because I think becoming a runner is the most difficult part of being a runner. Here's some reasons why.

You know you can stop at any second.
When I first started running, I was pushing to run two minutes straight. As my time started to increase, though, a thought I consistently had was, "I could stop at any moment."

Really. At any second you could stop running and just walk instead. You could turn around and go home. You could shut down the treadmill.

You'll read it everywhere, but I'm going to say it anyway -- running is such a mental sport. And I think, for me, building up that mental and emotional fortitude, whatever it was in me that meant I didn't start walking instead of running, took more time and effort than building up my physical ability. I have been amazed at what my body can do, guys. But the fact that I choose to do this -- that I choose to run for 45 minutes or an hour or more? -- I think that's maybe even more incredible.

You may not feel like a runner. 
It was a long time before I felt like a runner. I sure wasn't fast -- or what I thought was fast. I don't look like what I thought runners look like -- I don't have a gap between my thighs, I'm not super thin, my calves aren't super defined. I didn't have all the fancy running clothes. I was running in old tshirts and athletic shorts from who knows when and four-year-old Nike shocks.

I felt like a faker for a while. Like a "jogger," which generally isn't viewed in the same way as a "runner."

I learned you have to come up with your own definition of what it is to be a runner, or what it is to be an athlete.

I am both.

I am a runner because I run just for the sake of running. Yes, there are some days when the dessert I want or how much I ate the night before are additional motivations. But signing up for races? And the runs I take just because it's gorgeous out or just because I want to -- those runs are for me, because I love it.

I am a runner because I think about form. I think about what part of my foot is hitting the ground and how my breathing is. My second 5k time wasn't awful, but I felt miserable because I was breathing heavy and struggling through the whole race. But you know what? Worrying about my breathing instead of worrying about my time makes me a runner.

I am a runner because I work to improve. I keep track of my pace, my form. I'm learning about fueling my body and taking care of myself in the best way possible. And I get excited about even small improvements. Joggers don't worry about improving -- they just jog for the exercise or for the calories or whatever. Runners have goals and drive -- they want to improve.

I am a runner. I am confident in that now. My blog/running bff Tamara helped me in realizing this along the way -- if you need running inspiration, PLEASE be sure to check her out.

But when I first started out, I didn't have that confidence or that self identity. And sometimes, I think that makes it really hard to get out there and pound the pavement.

So this week is a shout out to all you newbie runners. I admire you. Love love love.

What do you all think is the hardest part about running? Do you feel like a runner?

Monday, February 25, 2013

No makeup Monday

Hey friends!

I've noticed something lately that hurts my heart.

I'll be scrolling through instagram or reading a blog and there will be a lovely picture of one of my friends. And in the caption it'll say something like "forgive my lack of makeup" or "sorry I look gross, no makeup."

I will tell all of you, right now -- even if I've never met you, even if I don't know what you look like --

You don't need makeup to be beautiful.

You are lovely. You are gorgeous. If you're smiling, if you're joyful -- that shows through, and who could not admire your joy?

But more importantly, you are a wonderful person, one who cares about others, who loves and is loved, who is pushing through life in a world that is a mess of the difficult and the amazing and challenges and struggle and loneliness and love, and you are doing the best you can. And you're probably doing a freaking good job. And that is beautiful.

I think maybe this pattern is yet another symptom of social media. We see other people who seem to have it all together and think, dang. I want to be HER.

We're always striving to be better, more exciting, more perfect -- more beautiful. And our society has crafted a very particular image of beauty (thin, but still with boobs and a butt, but not too big of a butt; tall with long legs; sleek, straight hair; perfect, clear, tan skin; pouty lips; long eyelashes...).

But I think real is always most beautiful. So if society's idea of beauty describes you -- that's awesome. But if it doesn't, you are still beautiful. You are still lovable and desirable and lovely and gorgeous and BEAUTIFUL.

One of my all time favorite bloggers (Caitlin from Healthy Tipping Point) also runs an organization/website/movement called Operation Beautiful. The goal of this movement is to end negative self talk and help people love themselves, through one positive note at a time. Lately, I've seen Operation Beautiful tweeting about No Makeup Mondays. They challenge readers to go makeup-less on Mondays, send in pictures, and think about how you feel without makeup.

I am wearing makeup today. I hadn't read the full post and thought it ended with the picture, not realizing it was about the whole day -- but. Here is me, without makeup.

I don't want to come off as preachy. I definitely don't have my life all together, and I try to create a realistic portrayal of both my successes and my struggles here on my blog.

I wear makeup. For many reasons. I think it's fun to play with. It helps me feel more professional, since I work with students only a few years younger than I am and am often mistaken as being an undergraduate. And I love to do something different for special occasions.

And yes, makeup can make me feel pretty. And occasionally, I do feel like I need makeup.

But I think I -- and you!!! -- am pretty without makeup, too. Just me, just the way I am.

I hope that if you're not in that place, someday you can get there. Because you are beautiful.

If this is something you struggle with, I'd encourage you to go without makeup for a day, for a few hours. For a trip to Target. See how it makes you feel. And if No Makeup Monday or encouraging people to LOVE themselves is something you can get behind, check out Operation Beautiful for more information.

Thanks for reading friends. I may have never met most of you, but through your comments, your blogs, your tweets, and every interaction we've had, I already know you are all a beautiful bunch of ladies. I hope you feel beautiful.

Lots of love to you, friends. Happy Monday!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Book review: Of Mice and Men

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Description from Goodreads (below) can be found here along with other reviews. Linking up with Blonde... Undercover Blonde for Book Club Friday.

The tragic story of the complex bond between two migrant laborers in Central California. They are George Milton and Lennie Small, itinerant ranch hands who dream of one day owning a small farm. George acts as a father figure to Lennie, who is a very large, simple-minded man, calming him and helping to rein in his immense physical strength.

I never read this book in high school, which seems to be uncommon. But it was one of Pat's favorites from high school, so I decided to check it out. 

Pat says it was his favorite because he liked the characters -- and I agree, they are really likeable. I think listening to the audio made Lennie even more endearing. The relationship between the two is never quite clear -- we know that George knew Lennie's aunt. For a long time I was sure we'd find out they were related, but we never seem to.

I didn't read the description of the book until I was over halfway through with it. By that time, the growing sense of dread I had while reading had already informed me that this would be a tragic story. And thank goodness it's a short book because I was going crazy thinking about what might happen.

Steinbeck writes in a simple way -- in fact, this book was written particularly so that it could be turned into a play with no major changes, and you can tell. But I liked the style.

One thing I didn't particularly enjoy was the portrayal of women. I've heard that Steinbeck is not generally kind to women in his books, and you can tell. Curly's wife is never given a name -- she is always "Curly's wife." She's seen as a tramp and as causing trouble. And also there's the old-school perspective that women having any interest in men makes them dirty. The only other female characters, briefly mentioned, are Lennie's nagging aunt and prostitutes.

I ended up giving it four stars, mostly because I couldn't stop reading and couldn't stop thinking about it.

Have any of you read Of Mice and Men? What did you think? Please be careful of spoilers in the comments!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Sweetheart Run 5k recap!

Hey friends!

So last Friday night, we were at our house playing cards and my roommate came home. In the 15 seconds the door was open I saw it.


In a matter of less than an hour it snowed probably at least an inch and a half. I don't hate snow. In fact one of my favorite runs ever was while it was snowing.

But I had a 5k scheduled for the next morning and I'd never run with snow on the ground before. Only before it "stuck."

So even though all week I'd kind of forgotten about my 5k all week, in the last 20 hours before I ran, I started getting suuuper anxious.

What if I slipped and fell? What if I injured myself? I won't be able to train for my half! and on and on.

In the morning I looked up the race website and refreshed the page over and over to make sure it wasn't cancelled, but it wasn't, so I headed out on slippery roads to the start line.

What I wore:
It was supposed to be 27 degrees during my run, so I laid out my clothes based on my experience from winter break: my running leggings, sweatpants to wear over them, a long sleeve t-shirt and a hoodie to wear over that.

In the morning, I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to wear still and changed my mind -- I put on a long sleeve technical shirt (made of a different material that's designed for running) and put on my coat, but I packed a hoodie and long sleeve t-shirt just in case.

I ended up wearing the long-sleeve T over the tech shirt and it was perfect. I work my hobo gloves (absolutely necessary!) and my hat, but I took that off halfway through.

Before the race:
My nerves were stretched just a liiiittle bit more when I headed toward the start line -- it was WAY slippery. But there were lots of people.

And I saw the BEST race sign EVER.

Lots of people were dressed up Valentines-y. And I always love the atmosphere at 5ks -- a mix of serious runners and people there just for fun or because they support the cause.

The race:
All in all, running in the snow wasn't that bad. It probably took me a mile to convince myself I wasn't going to bust my ass slipping on ice. I tried to stick to the parts of the snow that didn't look too packed-down -- the parts that still looked crunchy. :) It also helped that it was a suuuper flat course. No slippery hills to mess with.
The course, right by the start/finish line -- after I finished, when the snow was mostly trampled :)
I really, really zoned out at this race. Honestly, most of the course I had no idea what song I was listening to. I don't even know what I was thinking about. I was just running.

Whatever I was doing, it worked! Check out my splits.

My previous best time on the 5k was at my very first back in September: 33:41.8.

My new Personal Record? 31:12.8!!! That's a full two minutes and 29 seconds better.

After the race:

Truth: it's one of the reasons I signed up for this race.

I had come to the race by myself, so I kind of wandered for a bit. Took a few pictures of the course, got a lady to take my picture, basked in the glow of what I knew was going to be my new PR. And then I peaced out, showered and took a nap. :)

I like running by myself -- running with Pat at my last 5k just made me judge myself more harshly than I might have otherwise. But it is nice to have someone at the finish line. I had to settle for texting my Dad and Pat instead. :)

Overall impression of the race:
This was a really fun event! There was a great spirit in all the hardy runners that came out in the snow. It was also really well run, very friendly -- they were blasting love songs at the start/finish line. I'll definitely be running this one again!

Do any of you all venture out in the snow? We just got more last night! I'm wondering if it'll be another snowy 5k for me this weekend or if it will clear out!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Firmoo.com glasses review

Hey friends!

If you're a regular blog reader, I'm sure you've seen them elsewhere -- Firmoo glasses. It seems like everyone and their dog is getting Firmoo glasses these days.

Firmoo emailed me a while back asking to cooperate on a blog review (aka send me free glasses and I'd review them). I don't wear prescription glasses, so I didn't pay much attention until my sunglasses broke. So then I emailed back. OF COURSE I want free sunglasses! I've made a video blog (my first vlog!) but if you can't check it out, I've also written out pretty much what I talked about below. :)

Please excuse (or enjoy) the section where I sound like I'm in witness protection. :)

My shopping experience:
Firmoo had TONS of frames to choose from, and I definitely had a hard time deciding. I even went to Twitter for advice.

I couldn't initially figure out how to choose sunglasses instead of prescription glasses, but I emailed customer service and they responded SUPER fast -- always a good thing in a company! I ended up getting 60% shaded, blue-lens sunglasses.

My glasses:
I ended up with these fun blue and yellow sunglasses:

I have to say -- I was a bit disappointed when my glasses came and one of the ear pieces wasn't attached! But the tiny screw was there, just loose, and I was able to easily reattach the "arm" with the kit Firmoo provided with my glasses. Edited to add: the ear piece has broken off again. Haven't had the time to fix it yet. They also came with a free case (to protect them from getting broken like my last pair!) and a polishing cloth and a neat bag.

The sunglasses aren't as great against the sun as others I've had in the past, but I'm not sure if that's because I only got 60% or if it's because I got blue. Next time I'll probably go with a higher shading percentage and maybe brown or grey.

My verdict:
I liked Firmoo! I loved all their options and am hoping to get another pair of sunglasses from them soon.

If any of you all are looking to try out Firmoo, they have a special -- get your first pair free! Definitely worth a try. :)

Have any of you gotten glasses from Firmoo? Any other reasonably-priced glasses companies I should try?

As previously mentioned, I was compensated to post this (with my free glasses!) but the opinions are definitely my own. I appreciate you guys for not hating me for posting about commercial products :) I'm just happy to share this experience!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

My goals for half training: Training Tuesdays

Hey friends!

This week I thought I'd talk about my goals for training/my half. Yeah? But first, here's what the week has looked like.

Workouts this week:
Tuesday, Feb. 12th: Missed my run. Womp womp. There was some bad news round these parts and some cheering up that had to be done. Priorities!

Wednesday, Feb. 13th: Weds are crosstraining or rest days. I had an event and did a lot of setting up of tables and chairs and running around and up and down stairs, so I counted it as cross :)

Thursday, Feb. 14th: Rest day

Friday, Feb. 15th: Pre-race day -- I wanted to do three miles, but I was nervous about over-exerting so I held it to two and a half outside.

Saturday, 16th: Sweetheart 5k Run! Race recap coming soon. :)

Sunday, Feb. 17th: Cross day. I did 35 minutes on a bike at the rec and did some reading for class

Monday, Feb. 18th: Three miles inside.

Pits of the week: 
Missing my scheduled four-mile run made me really anxious, especially since I had to rest so much the previous week. Going into my 5k this weekend I was suddenly panicky because it felt like it had been SO LONG since I'd run that far! But it turned out well, and I have a four-miler planned for today.

Peaks of the week:
The Sweetheart Run! It was so awesome, guys. Can't wait to tell you about it. Even though that technically breaks my "running-talk-on-Tuesdays" rule, but I think races deserve their own posts.

Also, my three miles yesterday. My app malfunctioned and had to start over after the first mile -- BUT. The first was around 10 minutes and the next two were in the NINE MINUTE range! Woah. I haven't been doing anything to intentionally increase my pace. It's just happening. But I like it!

And now, my goals for training.

But first -- I realized I never mentioned for any non-runners out there -- A half marathon is 13.1 miles. :)

Since the most I've ever run is 6.2 miles, I haven't felt comfortable setting a time goal for my race yet. I mean, I know what pace I can maintain for 3 miles, but I think it's probably unlikely that I can hold that for 13.1 miles. So here's what I've come up with for goals:

Hit all my long runs.
Every week, I have a long run. These will usually be on Saturdays and increase by a mile a week. (Although the plan does give me two lower-mileage weeks for a break :) I want to make sure to run all my long runs. I've heard that's the most important part of training, and I think it makes a whole lot of sense. If I miss my 6-mile run, mentally, I know I would convince myself that the 7 mile run will be impossible. So I want to hit all my long runs -- even if I do them on a different day.

Run at least 85% of my total runs
Counting what I've already done off my schedule, my 5ks, and my actual race, I have 57 runs scheduled. Hitting 85% of the runs means I can miss eight runs if I need to. Because I want to do all my long runs, that means these will be "shorter" runs -- ranging from two to four and a half miles -- that I'd miss. And I'm okay with that. If I get sick, if I've had a busy week, if I have to finish writing a paper -- I need to be okay with missing a run. So I'm building it into my idea of success for training.

Know myself by race day
Okay, weird name for this goal, but what I mean is, by race day I want to have a rough idea of the pace I should run. I want to know what to eat on race day and the night before and what to wear and how much water I should drink. These are the kinds of things that will make me nervous leading up to race day, so I want to pay attention to them during my training. So this kind of thing might show up in my Training Tuesdays.

My training plan
I thought today I'd also show you my training plan -- you all might remember that I love training plans. I already mentioned that I purchased a book about training as a vegetarian and it came with a half marathon plan, which I loosely based my personal training plan off of. And for this training cycle, I have turned my plan into a sticker chart!

Blurred because I purchased the plan :)
I think it'll be fun to put in the stickers as I go. :) So far I have missed one run, but the other blank spots are from when I was away and from a Wednesday, which is an optional cross-training day for me.

Also, one last thing -- Tamara brought up making this a link-up and said she'd co-host. I think I'll start throwing a linky thing at the end. If anyone wants to post anything fitness related, you're more than welcome! But no pressure. :)

But be sure to stop by if you see someone who has linked! Gotta support anyone getting their workout on, right? :)

Do you all have any current fitness goals? I'd love to hear about them!

Monday, February 18, 2013

This weekend I... [2.18.13]

Hey friends! A quick post to fill you in on my weekend. :)

This weekend, Pat and I played host to his dad and sister, who were in from Oregon! I had never met Jamie before (even though Pat and I have been dating for almost 2.5 years!) so it was fun to finally meet her!

Unfortunately, Pat's dad has most of the pictures from the weekend, but I did get this one of the FnF kids at the KU game Saturday night! We also played cards Friday night, ate out a couple times, and wandered in downtown Lawrence. :)

This weekend I went to the KU game, in which we DESTROYED Texas. It was a fun game!
Hands up for a free throw. Ws cuz it was Jeff Withey 
Why is the quality of this picture so much worse? bleh. Still cute :)
Mario Chalmers was recognized at half time and his jersey was retired, so that was pretty cool to see, too. And! For the giveaway at the game, they gave out sleeves like some of the players (including Mario) wear! I was greedy and took two. They're difficult to see in this picture, but I loved them!

This weekend I ran a 5k! In the snow! I'll have another teaser about this before I post a race recap later this week. For now, this is all you get. :)

This weekend I also took a couple naps and did a bit of homework.

This weekend flew by. I don't feel quite ready for the week ahead, but here goes none the less!

Did you all have a busy weekend or a restful one? I hope it was just what you needed!

PS. Linking with Sar here!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Book review: Shine

Shine by Lauren Myracle

Description from Goodreads (below) can be found here along with other reviews. Linking up with Blonde... Undercover Blonde for Book Club Friday.

When her best guy friend falls victim to a vicious hate crime, sixteen-year-old Cat sets out to discover who in her small town did it. Richly atmospheric, this daring mystery mines the secrets of a tightly knit Southern community and examines the strength of will it takes to go against everyone you know in the name of justice.

Against a backdrop of poverty, clannishness, drugs, and intolerance, Myracle has crafted a harrowing coming-of-age tale couched in a deeply intelligent mystery. Smart, fearless, and compassionate, this is an unforgettable work from a beloved author.

Shine deals with some very serious subjects: hate crimes, sexual abuse, substance abuse and more. Although it is a Young Adult novel, I can't recommend it to younger audiences without stressing the need for some conversations to happen. If my little sister decides to read it -- which I'm not saying you shouldn't, Anna, if you're reading -- I would recommend my mom check in with her now and then. Because Shine gets a little dark.

Cat is an awesome character. She has spent the last few years hiding her personality, her life, from people who once were her friends. But when her former BFF Patrick is attacked, Cat comes out of hiding and decides to find the culprit, risking her own safety in the process.

A lot of books seem to lack character development -- they skate by on awesome plots alone. This is not one of those books. I love when Cat realizes she can be fierce, she can stand up for herself. And I love that the way she views everyone around her shifts through the course of the book.

This book has really dynamic, powerful characters. I think it will stick with me for a while. There are some light moments here and there, but overall it is a very dark book. Know that going in.

There's also, obviously, a really strong hook in the plot. Cat is on a mission. I figured out the shocker before I was supposed to, I think. But I still read constantly to find out how it would all go down.

I gave it four stars. And I'll be thinking about it a lot for a long time.

Also, I really enjoyed the audio version of this one. It was read really well. Good one for any fellow audio-ers out there. :)

Have any of you read Shine? What did you think? Be careful of spoilers in the comments, please. :)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Introducing Training Tuesdays!

Hey friends!

So if you follow me on Twitter, you might have seen this tweet last week:


May 11th, I'll be running the Go Girl Half in Springfield, Missouri.

I've started a training plan loosely based on this one, though mine is a little different because of the conference I attended this past weekend and the two 5ks I was already registered for.

I know I've been posting about running/fitness a whole lot lately. This is going to put running on my mind even more. So what I've decided is to try to keep my main running talk on Tuesdays (although there may be other mentions here and there).

Thus, I am pleased to announce the beginning of Training Tuesdays! I'm hoping I'll post at least a small update each Tuesday (maybe a pit and peak for the week?), but also any other big topics that come up. That'll leave my other days of the week free for other topics.

Sound good? Good. Because you don't get a choice.

Aaand jumping into the very first post:

Workouts this week:
Tuesday, Feb. 5th: Ran four miles outside
Wednesday, Feb. 6th: Optional cross training day, but all I got in was a 1/2 hour walk on campus
Thursday, Feb. 7th: Rest day
Friday and Saturday, Feb. 8th and 9th: Was away at the conference. Rest days.
Sunday, Feb. 10: Rested. Lots of rest this week
Monday, Feb. 11th: Ran two miles outside

Pits of the week: Obviously, I had to take a whole lot of time off this week! It felt weeeird to get back to running yesterday. Hopefully those two miles were enough to wake up my legs, because today I've got a four-mile run planned!

Peaks of the week:
ONE. Last Tuesday I was running a normal route and decided to go off-roading. There's a lake down the road from our street that I think is part of the nearby golf course. I ducked the gate and ran on the path around the lake.

It was all hills.

Still, it was a nice break from my normal route and made the last mile go by suuuuper fast.

TWO. I'm consistently running at a faster pace. Just all of a sudden, my miles are in the 10 minute range instead of over 11 minutes. I'm okay with it. :)

So that's what this week has been like! I'm excited to log my training this way, especially once I start hitting eight, nine, ten miles! Even if no one else reads these, it'll be really great for me to look back at. So I'm excited.

Do you guys track your workouts? Do you journal about them? I know Holly just got a training journal. I'd love to hear what you all do!

Monday, February 11, 2013

This Weekend I... [2.11.13]

This weekend I went to a conference about diversity and social justice. It was awesome.

Everyone doing the Wobble, which I do NOT know how to do, but which looked really fun. :)
I feel like I was gone for YEARS, though. And had to come back to the real world of homework and work and planning events and.... yeeeaaah....

This weekend, one of my high school besties had a BABY. She's a MOM.


That's all I've got for you friends. Long weekend that went by so fast, which is really hard to explain, but truth. But I felt like it needed to be documented! Looking forward to a busy week and an exciting weekend next weekend and life. :)

Hope you all had a wonderful weekend!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Book review: Ironman

Ironman by Chris Crutcher

Description from Goodreads (below) can be found here along with other reviews. Linking up with Blonde... Undercover Blonde for Book Club Friday

Bo has been at war with his father for as long as he can remember. The rage he feels gives him the energy as a triathlete to press his body to the limit, but it also translates into angry outbursts toward his teachers.

Now dangerously close to expulsion from school, Bo has been assigned to Anger Management sessions with the school "truants." With an eclectic mix of hard-edged students, Bo may finally have to deal with his long-brewing hatred for his father -- before it eats away at him completely.

I, historically, LOVE Christ Crutcher. I highly recommend his novels Whale Talk and Deadline.

I didn't love this one, though.

Crutcher is and/or was a teacher and a child and family therapist, so he has LOADS of experience. His books typically deal with "issues" without becoming an "issue book." Whale Talk, for example, includes storylines about racism and domestic violence. But it isn't about either of those things.

Ironman focuses on Bo's relationship with his father, among other subjects. One of the reasons I think I didn't like Ironman as much is that it strays to the other side of that line -- it's almost too much of an issue book. It felt like Crutcher was trying to impart lessons on his audience rather than letting the character's development speak for itself.

The format of the book was also a little tricky. It was told in two perspectives. The first, which I loved, was when Bo was writing letters to Larry King. These really showed Bo's development and allowed the reader to get to know Bo.

The other perspective was a third person, omnipresent (is that the right word?) narration. These parts weren't so great for me. It was nice to see things happen and it helped move the story along, but that's where it felt like we were being taught. It was also frustrating to be taken from Bo's perspective, because the third person sections didn't show his development at all, and sometimes I felt like Bo's personality changed between the two perspectives.

Ironman is one of Crutcher's earlier books -- it was first published in 1995, I believe. This is obvious not only in the letters to Larry King, but also in the way certain subjects are handled. I think, if he were to return to this storyline, Crutcher would write some plotlines differently now, simply because of the ways the world has changed.

The saving grace of this book for me was what I always love about Crutcher's books -- he writes some awesome characters. They make this book worth reading. Unfortunately, the characters in this book really shine in the last few chapters. But man. They're as good as Crutcher's characters usually are.

I ended up giving Ironman two stars, though it had three before I changed my mind. I loved the characters, but the rest was just a let down compared to others of Crutcher's books.

Have any of you read a book by Chris Crutcher? I'd love to hear what you thought!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A dinner party

Hey friends!

When I first chose "Hold a dinner party for my friends" as part of my 24 before 24 goals, I had visions of a Pinterest-perfect dinner party. Possibly with a theme, table settings, decorations, elaborate menu of fancy foods. You know. The stuff fancy people do.

But as we're closing in on my 24th birthday, I started getting anxious. I didn't want to not do this challenge. But it made me very nervous.

Over winter break I met up with my lovely friend Jenna and we talked about how she wanted to cook for me and the boys. I spotted an opportunity!

Last weekend, Jenna and I teamed up to hold a dinner party. The meal was simple. There were no place settings and we all drank water and the menu consisted of spaghetti, garlic bread, green beans, and a Pinterest dessert.

And it was wonderful.

It made my heart happy to see my friends all helping to cook dinner together. Everyone helped. Jenna made homemade pasta sauce with her Dad and brought it to share. Pat cut the bread. Sam contributed green beans and the boys set the table.

I was responsible for one part of dinner. ONE THING. and I managed to ruin it.

They said it was still good. :)

And then we ate and we talked.

It was so nice. I am very glad to have accomplished this goal.

It was also a reminder of the loveliness of reality compared with expectations of perfection. What real life has to offer is often so much more.

After dinner, we played Dominion, a really fun card game my mom got Pat for Christmas.

It was a very happy night. :)

Have any of you ever cooked dinner for or with your friends? I think it's actually a really common thing to do, but this was my first time!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Book review: The Scorpio Races

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Description from Goodreads (below) can be found here along with other reviews. Linking up with Blonde... Undercover Blonde for Book Club Friday.

It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.

I loved this book.

I loved this book in a way that made me drop it into conversations whenever I could, in a way that made me randomly call my little sister one night and tell her to put it on hold Now.

I loved this book in a way that made me wish I had it in physical form instead of audiobook so I could read it faster and read it constantly.

Puck is spunky and wonderful and ends up in the races because it's all she can think to do. She throws the idea into conversation like throwing a gauntlet, thinking it will halt a future she doesn't want to come true. And then the circumstances snowball, and there's no way out. Puck will have to ride in the incredibly deadly Scorpio races.

There's an undercurrent of womens' rights in this book which (as a child of the 90s, when the Spice Girls made yelling "girl power" popular, and as a child of hippy-ish parents who never faced any different limitations or expectations for being a girl) I loved. It's there, but it's not overwhelming. It's not an issue book. Just a book with a female main character who challenges the limitations others would place on her. Which is awesome.

Sean is good, too. He's quiet and careful, not the typical main male lead in so many novels. He has his own motivations for wanting to win the races, and they're a big deal, too. And you grow to love both characters and you get scared because there's no way both can win.

And I loved Finn, Puck's little brother. And George. And really everyone. There are so many dynamic, quirky characters in this book to fall in love with.

There is adventure and risk and romance and sadness and a bit of violence though it's not too graphic. I was scared for the characters a lot of times. Which means it was really great writing.

love love love.

It was only at the end of the audiobook that I realized the author had also written another book I'd tried to read -- and I say tried because I got so annoyed with the writing of a character in one chapter that I promptly quit reading even though I was over halfway through the book. I was so angry with that book I called my mom and ranted about how this character had suddenly changed and it made no sense and it made me angry and I could write it better.

I loved The Scorpio Races so much I'd be willing to give that book another go.

Have any of you read The Scorpio Races? I'd love to hear what you thought!


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