Friday, August 30, 2013

Book review: Every Day

Every Day by David Levithan

Description from Goodreads (below) can be found here along with other reviews.

Every day a different body. Every day a different life. Every day in love with the same girl.

There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere.

It’s all fine until the morning that A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with—day in, day out, day after day.

This is one of those books with SUCH a cool premise you're scared it'll fall totally flat and be awful. A spirit that wakes up in the body of a different person every day? Love the idea. And I'm happy to say, it didn't suck. I liked it a lot.

I'm not gonna lie: I picked up this book in December after getting it for Christmas, read abut 40 pages, and then didn't pick it up again until July. I just didn't get into it the first time through.

And I think that's because I didn't love Rhiannon at first, and I didn't want her to be the one A loves.

But when I picked it up again, I got really, really sucked in. I didn't love Rhiannon initially, but I could tell why A loved her a little bit later. And A seems like such a good person initially, then gets out of control a little bit after meeting Rhiannon.

Every Day gave a lot of perspective to the joys of everyday life -- of being the same person, day in and day out, despite a hope to maybe wake up somewhere different, just once. It sheds light on some of the difficulties one person may have that another doesn't -- depression, addiction, disability, family or lack-thereof. And it helps you think of the world in ways you might not otherwise. It also challenges some of the stereotypes and ways of thinking society socializes us to believe -- specifically about gender and about love, but also about ability and disability and some other topics.

I couldn't put it down for the last hundred pages or so. Once I got into it, it turned out to be a very quick read.

Have any of you read Every Day? I tend to be a fan of Levithan's books. What did you think?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

"Be Gretchen" -- on being yourself

I posted a review a while back of The Happiness Project. I wanted to return to that book for just a minute and share some of the parts that have continued to make me think, even weeks after reading.

One of the author's rules during this project was to be herself -- to Be Gretchen. And while "be yourself" has become maybe the most trite advice there ever was, the way she talked about Being Gretchen really hit home for me. She said:

"I tended to overrate the fun activities that I didn't do and underrate my own inclinations. I felt like the things that other people enjoyed were more valuable, or more cultured... more, well, legitimate. But now it was time to 'Be Gretchen.' I needed to acknowledge to myself what I enjoyed, not what I wished I enjoyed."

This sentiment hit home so much for me! Remember my post about being an introvert? I think this is a driving force behind it, and I hadn't really identified it before reading this book. The college lifestyle and stereotype makes going out and partying the only "valid" way to have a good time in college. But that wasn't the life I wanted to lead, and so I felt boring.

This is me being me :)
Outside of my introversion, it's also hit me other places: I think that it is really difficult for me to take personality tests (like StrengthsQuest and the Myers-Briggs test or other tests that tell you what you're supposed to be when you grow up) honestly because I take them hopefully and wistfully. Sure, I'd love to be in the music business! Yes, I could drive a truck! Yes, I rely on my emotions more than my head! (But would I really? And do I really? Or do I just think that would be cool but would I really hate it? Who knows.)

Also, I really, really want to be someone who takes off to hike the Appalachians or who can live a lifestyle where they travel from country to country following their wanderlust wherever it takes them. But I think in a more traditional, nine-to-five-job frame of mind. And that's ok. I think.

Still, it's sad to admit you'll never be That Person, or That Kind of Cool. Gretchen talked about that feeling as well:

"But I have to admit it -- being Gretchen  and accepting my true likes and dislikes brings me a kind of sadness. I will never visit a jazz club at midnight, hang out in artists' studios, jet off to Paris for the weekend, or pack up to go fly-fishing on a spring dawn.... It make me sad for two reasons. First, it makes me sad to realize my limitations. The world offers so much! -- so much beauty, so much fun, and I am unable to appreciate most of it. But it also makes me sad because in many ways, I wish I were different. One of my Secrets of Adulthood is 'You can choose what you do; you can't choose what you like to do.' I have a lot of notions about what I wish I liked to do, about the subjects and occupations that I wish interested me. But it doesn't matter what I wish I were like. I am Gretchen."

All this being said -- I will continue to try new things. Because you never know which ones will stick. (the first time I went running was miserable. and now...)

But I think it's okay to find that some of those things you think would be so cool to like are not so fun to you, really. I don't like playing flip cup (the drinking game). It's too much pressure and I'm bad at it and I don't like it.

And that is ooooooookay.

Is there anything you feel like you should like or wish you liked that you just don't? Others on my list: snowboarding, red wine and fancy (expensive) haircuts.

PS: another great e.e. cummings quote: "To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting."

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Training Tuesday 8.27.13

Hey friends! It's Tuesday again, and around here that means I usually talk about my training! I hope you'll forgive me, but classes started yesterday and I just don't have anything prepared for today.

But I know some of you were prepared, so I wanted to put the link up out there anyway.

If you're working toward any kind of healthy living goal, feel free to link up and share your progress. Go on, brag about yourself a little!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Five posts I don't usually read

Let's be honest -- as much as you love a blogger, you probably don't read every one of their posts. I know most of you probably don't read my Training Tuesday posts, and that's fine -- I write those for me! And even if I don't read something you write, that doesn't mean that you shouldn't be writing it!

So there's nothing wrong with writing a post that isn't eeeeveryone's cup of tea, right? And there's nothing wrong with admitting the posts you just aren't interested in, right??


Because really, it's not you. It's me.

So here's a short list of some of the ones I tend to skip.

ONE. Recipes with meat in them
Unless it looks like it could be easily altered to be veggie, I'm sayin Next like I'm on the MTV Next bus.

TWO. That Link Up that Everyone On My Blog List is Doing.
I've been known to do link ups. Now and then, it's fun. But when it's eeeevery blog on my list? My attention span just isn't that great.

THREE. Manicure posts
Friends, I struggle with just a basic one color manicure. I painted my nails Sunday night last week and thought I was fancy because I did a different color on my ring fingers than the rest of my fingers.
All my effort was wasted when I'd picked it all off by noon the next day. It had chipped and I just Could Not Handle It.

FOUR. Posts about blogging.
I think I've even written these in the past, but I just don't read them anymore. Seeing my blog grow would be fun, sure. But with grad school, work, running, and all the other priorities in my life, it always gets edged to the back burner. Maybe someday.

FIVE. The seventeenth post you're posting with pictures from your vacation.
Maybe if you're truly my blogging bff soulmate, I'll read it. But usually, I'll skip it. Let's face it, I'm just too jealous of your awesome trip.

I know I'm not the only one who skips blogs. (please tell me you all do it too and aren't judging me)

What kind of blog posts do you all scroll on past?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Running in the morning: Training Tuesday

Hey friends! It's Tuesday again, and around here that means I talk about my training! If you're working toward any kind of healthy living goal, feel free to link up and share your progress. Go on, brag about yourself a little!

Workouts this week
Tuesday: Three easy-pace miles
Wednesday: Rest day
Thursday: Hill workout -- this one always confuses me. I've only tried it a few times. The directions say to find a "moderately" sloped hill that it takes you 2-3 minutes to run up and run up it a few times. (Ok, the directions are more elaborate than that, but not too much.) So I dunno if my hill isn't sloped enough or long enough or what, but it never really seems like enough of a workout. Hopefully it's still doing something.
Friday: Rested
Saturday: 10 miles! I finished, which was the main goal. I was real slow, but seeing as I've been trying to run slow, I'm okay with that. Just wanted to finish. We also went disc golfing.
Sunday: Went for real golfing! Okay, only the driving range and putting, but still.
Monday: Rested

Rules for morning runs

I mostly run in the evenings -- during the summer, it's usually been right when the sun is about to go down, but year-round, I usually run as soon as I get done with work or class. But with this dang heat, sometimes even running right before sun down hasn't worked out for me -- and I'm tired of not finishing runs because it's too hot or humid.
I chose this picture, from my half marathon, because I look tired. And it was in the morning.

So I've been running in the mornings a lot more than usual lately, and it's not always easy for me. Here are some of the things I do to try to make it easier:

ONE. Lay your workout gear out the night before. <<<< I don't always do this, but I'm always glad when I do. It saves a lot of fumbling around in a half-asleep state in a dark room, and helps me make less noise when Pat is still sleeping.

TWO. Set your alarm earlier than you think you need to. I always think, yeah, I can get ready for a run in 15 minutes. Nope. Not first thing in the morning. So if I need to be on the road at 7:30, I'll set my alarm for 7, knowing I'm going to read every tweet that has been tweeted and like every picture that's been instagrammed before I'll drag my butt out of bed.

THREE. Know your goal before you hit the pavement. When it's early and I'm tired, it's really easy for me to shorten my run by a mile or so, or go for easy pace miles instead of speed work like I'd wanted. Knowing your goals ahead of time helps you stick to it and not waffle once you're actually out there.

FOUR. Try to eat something before you go. Especially if the run is longer than your comfortable distance. For me, that usually means I can get away with not eating before a half-hour run because that's about the greatest amount that I don't feel the need to prepare too much for. But any more than that, I know I'm going to get hungry while I'm out there, and who wants to end a run because they got too hungry? Something small works, like a piece of toast with peanut butter. Avoid dairy.

FIVE. Set a back up alarm for the time you have to get up if you don't make it out. I've done it -- snoozed all three running alarms and only actually gotten up when I had to get ready for work. And that's okay. Sometimes sleep is more important. That's why I set the extra alarm, just in case, so I don't end up missing work.

Bonus tip: Freeze smoothies ahead of time and set them out right before you leave for your run. They thaw while you're out there and then you have breakfast all ready when you come home!

Do any of you consistently work out in the mornings? What gets you going?

Monday, August 19, 2013

I had a good weekend!

Hey friends!

This weekend was really, really good to me. Below are some pictures of our adventures!

I think we spent 80% of the weekend outside! Saturday, I went for a 10 mile run, then we disc golfed, then we just hung out in the front yard goofing around. We threw a frisbee around, tried to hit trees across the street with walnuts, and tried to explain what Mike's Hard Lemonade is to my 98-year-old grandmother, who decided she'd like to try one. Not pictured: the campfire we had that night with marshmallows the size of my fist. Really.

A while back (a year and a half ago, approximately) I tried to convince Pat that going to a driving range would be a good activity (having never played any golf more substantial than putt putt). He did not believe me. But now, Anna, my little sister, is starting to play for her high school golf team and suddenly he thought going to a driving range was a good idea!

Not going to lie: I got scared right before we went because I knew I'd be awful and I didn't want pro golfers laughing at me. But! It was so chill. I was right that I was awful, but it was still a lot of fun.

When we were leaving, I snagged a couple chocolate bars and then immediately went into mourning when they melted instantly. But Pat found a way to fix it by shoving them in the air vent! Yay boyfriend!

And right before we left Missouri, we were able to visit my high school bff Meleah and her husband and their new puppy! We talked, played with the puppy, and played Yahtzee! (I beat Pat by almost 100!)

Other weekend fun not pictured: teaching my parents and Anna to play Dominion and then playing till 2 am Friday night and visiting with my college bff Layne who came to the campfire!

How was your weekend?

Friday, August 16, 2013

Book review: Beautiful Ruins

Beautiful Ruins - A Novel by Jess Walter

Description from Goodreads (below) can be found here along with other reviews. I shortened it a bit.

The story begins in 1962. On a rocky patch of the sun-drenched Italian coastline, a young innkeeper, chest-deep in daydreams, looks on over the incandescent waters of the Ligurian Sea and spies an apparition: a tall, thin woman, a vision in white, approaching him on a boat. She is an actress, he soon learns, an American starlet, and she is dying.

And the story begins again today, half a world away, when an elderly Italian man shows up on a movie studio's back lot-searching for the mysterious woman he last saw at his hotel decades earlier.

From the lavish set of Cleopatra to the shabby revelry of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Walter introduces us to the tangled lives of a dozen unforgettable characters: the starstruck Italian innkeeper and his long-lost love; the heroically preserved producer who once brought them together and his idealistic young assistant; the army veteran turned fledgling novelist and the rakish Richard Burton himself, whose appetites set the whole story in motion-along with the husbands and wives, lovers and dreamers, superstars and losers, who populate their world in the decades that follow.

This book delivered much more than I expected.

It begins in a very chick-lit, light beach read fashion -- from the cover to the love-at-first-sight beginning. And I like a good chick-lit book now and then. But the characters and the plot of Beautiful Ruins are deeper than that. And each time you think you know the characters or the story, something shifts and you're surprised again.

There's a lot in Beautiful: there are lost loves, wrong loves, because-you're-here loves. There's what was supposed to be, what actually was, and what might have been. And it's hopeful and it's sad and it's what you want your life to be and it's what you don't want.

I gave it four stars and I think I'll read it again soon. 

Have any of you read Beautiful Ruins? What did you think?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Getting to know you, getting to know all about youuuu....

Hey friends! Happy Thursday!

My lovely friend Kaitlin recently awarded me the Liebster award. So fun! I'm not sure I'll follow all the rules of the game, but I thought it would make a nice almost-weekend post to answer the questions she posed. :)

1. What is your favorite dessert?
The BEST dessert I've ever had was at a scholarship dinner thing at a college I didn't go to. It was warm apple something with ice cream. The best. But I'm pretty happy with most desserts. As long as they aren't coffee flavored.

2. What is your favorite scent?
I have a few! I actually asked my summer staff this question as an ice breaker and they thought I was SO WEIRD. Anyway. My answer that day was sunscreen + ocean, but others in the fight for "favorite" are honeysuckle and campfire.

3. What two things do you look forward to most every day?
Oh mylanta, I've answered all the other questions and still haven't thought of an answer for this. I guess the moment when I get home from work or from work + class and see Pat is pretty nice. Naps are nice too. And dessert. That's three things.

4. If you could live anywhere, where would it be?
The Scottish Highlands. Although at this point I'd be happy to move out of the midwest for a while -- not because I don't like it, but because I'm antsy for something new.

5. What is your best memory from high school?
Oh gosh. That's a hard one. I'm going to cheat a little and do one that was right before I went to college. The last night I was in my hometown before I moved, my friends and I went to the drive in movie. We did that a lot back then and I'd still say it's my favorite summer activity even though I haven't been in years. (Getting off topic, but it's TOTALLY not about the movie at all. We'd go early and bring board games and a volleyball and just hang out until the movie started, and then even when the movie's going, it's just so nice to be out in the fresh summer air. Love it.)

I don't remember a whole lot about this night in particular, but after the movies, we went back to our church, which was our meeting-up-spot where we started the carpool, and we hung out there for a few hours, just talking and being together for the last time before I moved a state away. We saw upwards of 15 shooting stars that night, and there was this sense of the adventure I was about to start and how things would be changing and it was pretty magical.

6. What’s your favorite book genre?
I like fantasy a lot, but I also like contemporary (could happen in real life) books a lot. Which are kind of opposites.

7. What’s your guilty pleasure TV show?
I'm not sure I believe in guilty pleasures. Like, should we really feel guilty about liking the things we like? (the answer is only yes if the things you like are child porn or something). Anyway. I watch very little TV -- New Girl and Bones are the only shows I can think of, and I'm not embarrassed about either!

8. Do you have any tattoos?
Nope. Haven't found anything that means THAT much to me yet.

9. Cats vs. dogs?
Aaah, I'm a dog person through and through but cats are growing on me. I want both.

10. Chocolate or vanilla?
I LOVE CHOCOLATE. But vanilla ice cream. Or twist.

11. Do you feel like you are taking a MySpace survey? :)
Maybe a little. :)

In case you just can't get enough of me, there's more random about me stuff here, here and here. :)

Okay, your turn. Pick a question and answer in the comments! Ready, set GO!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Training Tuesday [8.13.13]

Hey friends! It's Tuesday again, and around here that means I talk about my training! If you're working toward any kind of healthy living goal, feel free to link up and share your progress. Go on, brag about yourself a little!

Workouts this week
Tuesday: Intervals!
Wednesday: Rested
Thursday: Rested
Friday: Ran a hills workout, which always feels difficult but doesn't add up to much distance.
Saturday: Walked around in downtown Lawrence with friends
Sunday: Attempted nine miles, ran 7.5
Monday: Rested

Not much to say about this week. Just trying to keep going. Sunday was a pretty rough run -- this training cycle has been full of them and I'm trying not to think too much about what that means for race day.

Thought of the week:
From Runner's World:
"But first, one crucial point: It’s important to understand that you’ll need to adjust your pace in hot weather, both your training pace and your expected race pace. A smart hydration plan does not mean you can run fast in the heat; you can’t. Smart hydration primarily helps you to run healthy. In the marathon and longer distances, carb-laden drinks can also extend your endurance somewhat. But proper pacing for your fitness and the environmental/geographical conditions is always the most important consideration."

How are your workouts going?

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Happy birthday, Emily!

It's really easy to get caught up in the idea you have of someone, especially someone who has always been in your life. When I picture my older sister, Emily, the image I have of her is still from a while ago.
Ok, maybe not this long ago...
Emily can cook super complicated recipes. She does, for fun. (while I limit the recipes I try to ones with less than 10 ingredients and only ingredients I recognize).

She's about to start grad school to prepare for a professional career, but even without that, she has been working post-grad in the same industry for years -- she's already a legit professional.

She bought a car and is about to go on her own health insurance. Shoot, she even gives back to the community by fostering kitties from the humane society.

And it's been a while since I've adjusted my picture of her. To me, she's still the same girl who, at bar closing time on her 21st birthday, danced around the bar every time someone said her name instead of getting in the car like we were asking her to.

But today. Today is her birthday. She's a real adult now. Solidly mid-twenties. So strange.

I have followed in Emily's footsteps a lot in my life -- as little sisters do. I was 20 before I had a job where Emily hadn't worked first. A huge reason I came to KU is because Emily seemed SO EXCITED to have me here. She's influenced my taste in sports, in music (though I just can't get into all her techno), in wine, in books. In everything.

But I think she's a pretty good person to be following.

Happy birthday, Em. Hope it's great.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Book review: The Moon and More

The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen

Description from Goodreads (below) can be found here along with other reviews.

Luke is the perfect boyfriend: handsome, kind, fun. He and Emaline have been together all through high school in Colby, the beach town where they both grew up. But now, in the summer before college, Emaline wonders if perfect is good enough.

Enter Theo, a super-ambitious outsider, a New Yorker assisting on a documentary film about a reclusive local artist. Theo's sophisticated, exciting, and, best of all, he thinks Emaline is much too smart for Colby.

Emaline's mostly-absentee father, too, thinks Emaline should have a bigger life, and he's convinced that an Ivy League education is the only route to realizing her potential. Emaline is attracted to the bright future that Theo and her father promise. But she also clings to the deep roots of her loving mother, stepfather, and sisters. Can she ignore the pull of the happily familiar world of Colby?

Emaline wants the moon and more, but how can she balance where she comes from with where she's going?

I love Sarah Dessen. So I was super pumped to get her new book, which came out earlier this summer. I'm not sure I can write a review without being super gushy and fangirling hardcore. But I'll try.

Emaline, the main character of The Moon and More, has just graduated high school and is about to go off to college -- the first in her family, other than her estranged biological father. As she lives out her last summer in her beachfront hometown, she deals with the reappearance of her bio father in her life, the end of her relationship with her long-time high school sweetheart, the shifting of her relationships with her other family members, and with being a permanent member of a community where many people are only temporary -- and discovering that, with her planned departure at the end of the summer, she had become temporary too.

I loved the relationships in this book -- from Emaline's relationship with her boyfriend/ex-boyfriend Luke to the half-brother who is suddenly suuuper attached to the sudden connection to a local artist, I thought they were all so true to life. You'll think Dessen stole them from YOUR life.

There were parts of this novel I cringed -- in that painful kind of way you get when you see someone embarrassing themselves (the way that makes it impossible for me to watch "The Christmas Story"). But isn't that so like life?

Sarah Dessen has often said that she hates trying to answer the question, "What is your book about?" because she ends up rambling on and on, and that's how I feel now. I think because SO MUCH happens in the book and you feel guilty leaving any piece of it out. So I'm not sure there's any more that I can say.

The Moon and More is another home run from Sarah Dessen. I happily gave it four stars and will probably be reading it again soon.

(Interesting side note -- The Moon and More was the third official title of this book. Dessen's first try was "The Best After Ever" but she and her publishers worried people would mix it up and say the best ever after. Then it was "Someone Else's Summer" but they worried bookstores would remove it from shelves at the end of the season.)

Have any of you read The Moon and More? What did you think?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Training Tuesday [8.6.13]

Hey friends! It's Tuesday again, and around here that means I talk about my training! If you're working toward any kind of healthy living goal, feel free to link up and share your progress. Go on, brag about yourself a little!

Workouts this week
Tuesday: Two and a half miles outside
Wednesday: Rested
Thursday: Three miles outside -- my last in Decatur!
Friday: Rested (slash drove 6 hours back to Kansas)
Saturday and Sunday: It was rainy and thunderstormy all weekend, but I managed some cross training inside.
Monday: Went out for 4 miles, came back after two. Oops.

This weekend was a bit of a struggle -- it was either raining and storming or really really hot all weekend, plus I'd just gotten home and was tired from moving and going crazy organizing and doing laundry.

I ended up deciding to switch this past weekend's long run with the upcoming weekend's run and do 4 miles, but even that ended up not happening because I went out yesterday and only did two.

I'm not really stressed about any of this though -- I feel like I've been doing decently with my training, and my body was tired, so I think I just needed to rest. Back at it today though!

How are you all doing? Any weather getting in your way?

Friday, August 2, 2013

Book review: The Happiness Project

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

Description from Amazon (below) can be found here along with other reviews.

Gretchen Rubin had an epiphany one rainy afternoon in the unlikeliest of places: a city bus. "The days are long, but the years are short," she realized. "Time is passing, and I'm not focusing enough on the things that really matter." In that moment, she decided to dedicate a year to her happiness project.

In this lively and compelling account, Rubin chronicles her adventures during the twelve months she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific research, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier. Among other things, she found that novelty and challenge are powerful sources of happiness; that money can help buy happiness, when spent wisely; that outer order contributes to inner calm; and that the very smallest of changes can make the biggest difference.

I didn't love The Happiness Project at first. Throughout the book, Rubin discusses her fears that a book about her own search for happiness won't be transcendent-- that her experience is unique to her and that there's not much others can get out of it. And at first, I agreed.

Rubin structured her challenge by creating a a focus for each month of the year: one month she wanted to boost energy, the next she wanted to work on her marriage, then focus on her career. And at first, I didn't find much in it that related to me. So she was a nagging wife. I am not a nagging wife.

But as she got deeper into her challenge, I found more and more that applied to me. I ended up folding down a corner to go back to that page. and then another. and then six more.

I wouldn't say this book was life-changing for me, but it definitely was thought provoking.

One of Rubin's main goals? Be Gretchen. To be herself. Totally something I can get behind.

Another idea Rubin discusses that really stuck with me is when she talks about how it's easy to complain and be negative. It's much more difficult to be consistently cheerful, to build others up, to be a positive person.

I've thought about it several times since then, when I found a negative comment at the tip of my tongue. And I've done my best to hold it back.

So maybe it was a little life changing.

Have any of you read The Happiness Project? What did you think?


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