Inspiration Overload

Tags

, , , ,

I have found, over the past few years, the directing my social media towards positivity and happiness is just better for me overall. I’ve slowly started to weed out those people on my news feed who are only posting personal life drama, ill-thought political rhetoric (I often wonder if they even know how much intolerance they are perpetuating), the timing and detail of their infant’s every move. I’ve added in inspirational quotes, positive outlook groups, runners and workout folks abound to help me get out of bed in the morning and get motivated to get my workout in, etc.

Today, though, my efforts are backfiring (no, I still do not want to hear your ridiculous argument about the “immigrant invasion,” and no, I am still not interested in the color and texture of your child’s excrement). But today there are way, way too many posts about following your dreams, and never giving up, and being true to your heart/soul/self. I’ve read 3 different articles on this topic. It’s too much.

My bias is evident, however. I am currently chewing over some ideas of what my “dreams” are and how I might consider achieving them. And let me tell you – it’s scary! Generally something is a “dream” because it’s not easily attained. Sacrifices must be made. Comfort zones must be bust through. Risks MUST be taken. It doesn’t get much more frightening. Allegedly, the payoff is worth it. I’ll let you know if that’s true if when I get there.

With all that weighing on my mind – all these facebook posts about realizing yourself, and getting out of your own way, and forcing yourself to pursue your passions – it’s getting a little overwhelming. Even writing this post! I actually got really uncomfortable putting on paper that I am “chewing over” some things, and closed the document, declaring “I don’t want to write this right now!” I hit the red X and then recalled that google docs insta-saves. Document not gone. I revisited the post. (clearly).

So anyway, I can’t be the first person thinking about making the big plunge into a possible life event with all sorts of risks, trying to decide if it’s the right decision, and how to best go about approaching it. Have you been there? Have you teetered on the edge? Did you jump? How’d it turn out?

I need some reality, not some touchy-feely facebook poster.

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

Tags

, , , ,

**This review contains “spoilers.” In whatever that means for a work of historical nonfiction.**

Essentially, this book is about the 1893’s World Fair in Chicago and the men that made it happen. Tangentially (unfortunately), it’s about one of America’s earliest serial killers.

Overall, I gave this book three stars. It was well written, and well researched. For me, it contained a bit too much White City bureaucracy and not enough Devil. But, both aspects are interesting in their own right.

The history of the World’s Fair, how it came to be, what it encompassed, and what it took to get it done, is impressive and intriguing. It could have been a book on its own. I’ve never given much thought to architectural history before, and this book proved a welcome introduction to the topic. Larson did a wonderful job making a 120+ year old event still feel relevant. Politics, bureaucracy, the pride of powerful men, all still themes ringing true today. Additionally, Larson’s ability to tease out the events and people that intersected, or resulted directly from the 1893’s Fair that are still relevant today (Helen Keller, Susan B Anthony, Disney, Oz, Shredded Wheat!), certainly keeps the reader engaged.

The “story” of Prendergast as an assassin could’ve developed much more thoroughly. The snippets one gets of him are most intriguing, but disappointingly scarce.

The story of H.H. Holmes could’ve been a separate book in and of itself. Unfortunately, it didn’t occupy as much time as it should have in Larson’s pages. The last quarter of the book, following up on Holmes’ activities after the Fair, was among Larson’s crowning moments. Tying the story together with the hunt for proof that Holmes had committed even a fraction of the atrocities that he may have was exciting. But, admittedly, I wanted more. If Holmes’ case was the media frenzy that Larson led us to believe, then there should be sufficient historical fodder for more time spent to this aspect of the book.

Larson’s attempt to intersect Holmes as a devil that would affect the end of the great men of the Fair and the case investigating Holmes fell a bit flat. Part of it was that the crux of the book centered around the bureaucracy of building the Fair and it’s impact on American architectural history. During the building and exposition of the Fair, there was no real intersection between the main characters and Holmes; and, not enough development of those that spent the time investigating, defending, and dealing with him in the end.

All in all, I enjoyed Larsen’s approach to writing history. He attempted to make history relevant and exciting for the reader today, without sacrificing academic rigor. I enjoyed the way he was able to tease out events of the events of the time that would ring familiar to today’s reader. Additionally, it was quite stimulating to reflect back on the progresses that have been made in areas of public works, public safety, psychopathology, criminology, and even the concept of “evil” in a seemingly common man, over the past century.

My essential admiration for Larson, and this book in particular, is the making history relevant, and useful. Reflection on historical events, and progress, as well as creating additions to the collective historical memory are the supreme asset of the continuation of the study of history. While the book does have its flaws, over all it is a great read. Though, I do hope that Larson dives deeper into the details and connections in his other and future works.

I Killed A Bee Yesterday

Tags

, , , , ,

It’s no secret to anyone that knows me that I am a total spaz when it comes to bugs. I hate them. They freak me out and I go into total psycho mode over a house fly. Gross. Bugs are gross.

On my lunch break, I busied myself around the house shutting windows before the afternoon sun baked the apartment, and to turn the AC on for the afternoon. As I shut the kitchen window, I heard a buzz. I slammed the window down just in time. It was a big one, yellowjacket, caught between the screen and the window. No where to go. I was safe. That terror! How did it get in here? Buzzing about the house, taunting me with it’s deadly stinger. How dare it. Nuisance, rampaging bee!

I’ve gotten stung by a few bees in my time. It is not pleasant. I’m not allergic, but I have an unreasonable fear that one day I will randomly become allergic and die of anaphylactic shock. Recently, I’ve become concerned about what would happen if my poor cat got stung. Absolutely terrified. I suppose I could google it. Maybe Dinah would kill the bee. She’s got a few pounds on it, after all.

I came home from work, and the bee was twisted and broken, caught in the screen. Dead. Desperately trying to get out, between the tiny holes of the taught window screen. But it couldn’t. It was dead. For no reason other than my own fear – irrational fear of something so tiny, so basic. The bee was just trying to live its bee-life. A simple life of simple survival. Just buzzing around, pollinating the world, making honey. It just buzzed into the wrong house – wrong place, wrong time. But I killed it. I killed it because it was a bother to me, because I was scared the bee would behave “irrationally” (as if bees comprehend human rationality). I could’ve opened the screen, if I hadn’t been so irrationally scared of the nuisance bee. I could’ve managed the situation better – spared the bee’s life, so it didn’t have to die a horrible slow death caught in a screen, smelling the outside air, but not able to fly free.

I killed a bee yesterday, and I feel horrible about it.

**This post is dedicated to the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, and those that fought, on NYS Animal Advocacy Day, to save (or at least better manage) the #AlbanyBear.**

#yesallwomen

Tags

, , , ,

This misogyny conversation is a good one. It needs to be had, frequently. I am glad people are getting ragey about it. I am glad women are speaking out. I am glad #yesallwomen has been trending on Twitter for days.

But, I won’t lie, I’m super freaking frustrated. I’m frustrated this is the reality of our lives – needing a buddy system to get to our car late at night, not being able to walk home alone without fear, a risk assessment that must occur when you try to figure out how (or if) to turn down unwanted advances. I’m frustrated that a perfectly good, novel, innovative idea will be over looked, until it comes out of the mouth of a male coworker. I’m pissed that we might not answer the door if someone knocks if we’re home alone – who knows what is on the other side. I’m mad as hell, that whenever I’m mad as hell, I must be PMSing.

So no, not #allmen, but enough that we can’t be safe, secure, comfortable in our own neighborhoods, work environments, and sometimes our own homes. It frustrates me the most that the men that really need to understand this, won’t, ever. They will never see past themselves and their own entitlement.

But, I hope it’s not all women. I hope there are women out there that haven’t been harassed by a man when you’ve said no or no more, and he refuses to accept it – texts, instant messages, phone calls, emails. I hope it’s not all women who have sat on the floor clutching their phone trying to decide if this is the time you call the cops, or if he will just leave, stop sitting outside your front door so you can go to class or work.  I hope it’s not all women who’ve looked in the mirror and tried to figure out how make up was going to cover that up.  I hope it’s not all women, who’ve suffered silently through worse, much much worse.

I hope it’s not all women, but it could be unless we keep having this conversation. We are not here to please you, we are not here to be objectified, we don’t owe you anything. We are people first, and women second.

Spontaneous Racing: Doing it Right

Tags

, , , , ,

Spontaneous racing. To a runner, this just sounds like fun. Running a race on the upcoming weekend at the drop of a dime (or $20), just “cuz”. Ahhhh if only….

Last year BV and I tried spontaneous racing, mostly in the form of spontaneous half marathons, while training for another full. I have always had a goal of being “half mary” ready, at a moment’s notice. To be at that point of fitness where I could say, “hey, I’m gonna run a half marathon this weekend,” on say, a Tuesday, and it’s no big deal.  I tried to live this goal, prematurely, last year. It translated into a miserable failure, and a steep decline in running motivation.

This year, with BV recovering from a knee injury, we’ve taken our spontaneous racing to a different level. We spontaneously race small races, of shorter distance. To date, we’ve both done a 5k, 4 miler, 5 miler, and 10k (or two). And, there’s at least two more 10ks in the next few weeks that we’ll decide “last minute” if we’ll run.

This is doing it right. Keeping the spontaneous race distances manageable. This keeps physical and mental preparedness at a low shock level, while still being able to keep training goals on a longer distance race (my long distance for the year is an 18 miler in August. But, BV won’t be satisfied without another marathon :) ) .

There are a lot of advantages to this. 1-  FUN! It is fun to lace up, pin your bib, wait for the gun to go off, and race with people on a Saturday or Sunday. 2. Build PRs! You get PRs, or reset fitness realities, in these races. They are legit, they “count”, you can add them to your race total. 3. FUN! 4. Meet people – the same people show up to these races week after week. It’s cool to be part of a community. 4 FUN! 5. Variety. Admittedly, we train on the treadmill – a LOT. And that gets wicked boring after a while. This gives us “something to do” this weekend, and it also gets us outside, reinvigorating our love of running.

So, my advice is, if you’re regularly running 3 miles (ish) a few times a week, and you want to spice things up, go ahead and sign up for that race this weekend. It doesn’t have to be a super competitive race (unless that’s your thing). It can just be a fun opportunity to break out of your norm, and spice up your training.

Does anyone else spontaneously race?

On Book Snobbery

Tags

, , , ,

Am I a book recommendation snob?

I’ve recently becoming worried, that I’m missing out on some possible reads by being snobby about my book read recommenders. If it’s not a book I come upon myself (which really doesn’t happen that often), I generally only take book recommendations from trusted bookish friends.

I have expanded my trusted friend circle. It now includes the Book Riot Podcasters – Rebecca and Jeff. I like them, I trust their voices and their witty podcast jokes. And, admittedly, Rebecca and I have seriously similar “bells” as she’s always referring to. heh.

But, recently I began a subscription to BookBub. Now, BookBub is seriously awesome. Free or seriously discounted ebooks EVERYDAY. I’ve bought a few, but I get 4-5 book recommendations (all under $3) everyday. And I’ve been signed up for a few months now. Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s some decent things on there. I’ve snagged some new non-fiction books – the stuff you’d read in a college level history course (there’s another bell of mine), and at least one fiction book that was already on my TBR.

BUT, there are so many books sent to me each day. I mean, and some of them are FREE! But, there’s not always a need to obtain a book simply because it’s free, even if it’s on my kindle. Space is still space,even if it’s digital.

However, I overlook a lot of books. Admittedly, BookBub loves to push romance – and that’s not really my jam. Though, if you dig romance novels, then I 100% recommend BookBub’s services. But, I find myself simply not considering a book if I haven’t had it recommended to me by one of my trusted book advisors. Is this bad? I rationalize it by saying, I’m not buying ANY MORE BOOKS… that aren’t all ready on my TBR. I mean, it is 280 books long…

So what do you think… snobbery?

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

Tags

, , , ,

What a wonderful gift to reading and literature this book is. Published WAY back in 1996, I’m not sure how everyone of my reading buddies hasn’t heard of this book by now.

I heard about this book first from the fantabulous Rebecca Schinsky via the BookRiot podcast. She raved about it, which immediately made me want to read it, because let’s face it, if Schinsky likes it – it has to be good. But then, when I came across it at my local indie bookstore, the handwritten recommendation from the book store staffer raved about it using almost exactly the same words (AND SO MUCH MORE). So I was sold, book was purchased, love was had.

On its face – this is a book about a bunch of friends – scientists and a Jesuit priest – discover life on another planet and then venture, under the purview and finance of the Jesuits, to this planet to make contact with this alien race.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking – seriously?

But wait! It’s really about SO MUCH MORE than that. This is book about God, about faith, about understanding faith, about losing faith – from many different points of view religious, skeptical and even secular (imagine!). This book is about purpose, and mankind, and morality, and good intentions, and misunderstandings, and cultural diversity, and destiny. It’s about the vulgarity of intelligent life. It’s about living beings as a cog in a wheel of economic and social structure.

This book is really about BIG topics. Wonderfully written, totally inspiring, want-to-get-lost-in-it-for-days fantastic. I took a longer time than I needed to for completing this book. I simply did not want to finish it. Well, wait. Yes, I wanted to finish it – but I didn’t want it to be over. This is the type of book, these are the types of characters and ideas, that sit with you for a long time. If you are looking for a really exquisite piece of literary fiction, this is it – get it now.

The Biggest Hater

Tags

, , , , , ,

When I went through my “life change” a few years ago, I discovered this concept of using haters to fuel you to move forward. I was in a place where I was trying to establish myself in a positive light, re-establish (or just plain establish) goals, and set myself on a good course for happiness. And, I started running.

 As I read more running social media, there were all sorts of affirmations. Mental strength tips, reasons to keep going when the tank was low, etc. One of them was the sentiment of “proving wrong those that said you couldn’t”. This one never really resonated with me. And honestly, that it didn’t, made me feel a bit like a privileged brat.

I didn’t have people in my life telling me that I “couldn’t” run a half marathon, or reach any of my other goals. No one was telling me I was stupid, or insufficient, or wouldn’t ever make it. I was surrounded by positive people, and that’s a good thing. Now, that’s not to say that I never had negative people ever in my life. I’ve had the occasional ex, or “friend,” who was a hater – tried to pull out the negatives of my character and ideas and focus on only them. But I ditched those jerks. Because that’s what you do.

So, as goals developed, and motivation occasionally waned, I would again seek out positivity and affirmations from my usual suspects. Again and again, I would come across this “proving the haters wrong” sentiment. Apparently, this is a common problem. So I decided to give it some real thought. Who was a hater in my life? Who dare not support me lofty goals, muhaha…

And then it dawned on me – my biggest hater was … me.

I’m the one! And holy cow, am I ruthless! I’m the one telling myself I can’t do it, that I am not good enough, that “it’ll never work out so why bother even trying.” UGH! Prove myself wrong? Well that seems like an uncomfortable proposition (wink).

 But, it’s what needs to be done. I’ve before confronted the idea of being afraid, or needing to get out of my own way. But to view my own negativity as that of an external hater? That’s a twist. Conquering this might be more difficult than I imagined. I can’t just “ditch” myself, the way I have other negative folks. This is going to take some strategic planning, some serious change. It’s a daily struggle to keep your eye on the prize(s). But, in the end, totally worth it – even if it’s yourself you’re trying to prove wrong.


Go get yours!

Make Your Life

Tags

, , , , ,

I attended a professional conference last week. During the closing keynote we were reminded to make our lives, not just merely live them. You cannot exist, letting life pass you by, expecting your life to happen for you. You must make it. Make it happen.

I had to think about this for a while. To really let it sink in. How does one “make” things happen? On occasion, there must be opportunity – something that’s not completely in your own control. However, you can work towards things that, should opportunity come a-knocking, would make you better prepared to seize it. Or, alternatively, being prepared for opportunity might just force its arrival.

Another common bit of advice for those looking to meet long term goals is to evaluate small, daily decisions to determine if they are helping you to reach your long-term goal, or if the decision would delay realization of your goal.

Now, I can relate these concepts to fitness goals: running, losing weight, lifting. But, admittedly, I struggled to apply it to other aspects of my life. I chewed this over for a while. What was the issue here? Why was I having trouble contemplating how to “make” my life?

It didn’t take long for the realization, that outside of running/working out, I don’t have much in the way of long term goals for my life. At 31, this was troublesome. What do I want my life to look like “when I grow up?” Now that I’ve got a few of the things checked off the “I am an adult, now” list, what’s next?

So, now’s the time to reset and reframe what life will look like. TIme to make a goals list – both the lofty and the not-so-long-term goals will go on it. On a cloud document – one that can be on my computer and my phone, at all times, so that I can look at it as a reminder. When I’m faced with a daily decision, anything from eating lunch out during the week, to whether or not to get up and run this morning, to if I will watch this rerun of family guy for the one millionth time, I can ask myself “how will this decision affect your long term goals, Jennifer?”

It’s time for me to start making things happen. I think it’s time for you to start it as well. Life is not a spectator sport – even for those of us who thoroughly enjoy people watching as a hobby!

“Be Present” demanded The Cat

Tags

, , , ,

You know the old routine. Come home from work, collapse on the couch. Relax, catch up on the day. Immediately: shoes off, deep sigh… facebook. You’re curled up, knees bent, checking your phone. What texts did you miss? What’s everyone posting about what they are doing tonight? What innovative circuit workouts were posted on instagram? What cool new crafts that you’ll never do, and recipes you’ll never make are pinned on pinterest?

You’re scrolling, scrolling, scrolling… tap, tap, tap. And then, here comes the cat. Strutting in from the bedroom. She yawns, stretches, starts clawing at the carpet. You yell “Stop that!” as if it’ll make a difference. Cats are such good listeners.

She cocks her head at you, but you don’t notice. Click click, tap tap, scroll scroll. Here she comes – long, lean steps. Meow? You glance her way for a moment. So cute, tiny meow.

She investigates the couch, tentatively. Jumps up. You see her poke her head over your knees. Facebook, twitter, instagram, text messages. click click. tap tap.

And then…

People think cats are strong, graceful. But every now and again… She launches herself over your bent knees, awkward kitty armpit collides with your kneecap “mrow” as her hind legs thrash, begging for the blanket covering your shins. You snort laugh, back to the phone.

Finally, mid-funny video someone posted, she thuds on your torso, having expertly navigated knee-mountain. MROW!!! You have to laugh, her head butts in between your hands and the phone, demanding attention. She’s won, you put it down. You pet, she purrs. Kneads. You coo and talk baby talk to a cat – she can’t *actually* understand you. Knead knead knead, pet pet pet. Then finally, she body slams the crook of your arm, twirls around and looks up at you. Content. Slow blink.

And now you are present in the moment. It was a cat that made you do it.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 596 other followers