What I’m Loving Lately

Tags

, , , , , , ,

Recently, I’ve come on to a few new products/websites/services that I’m absolutely loving, and they deserve a shout out.

1. Republic of Tea – this is not new. It’s just new to me. Well, relatively new to me. I’ve been on it numerous times, pining for their teas, but hadn’t bought anything – until recently. I picked up some of their rooibus teas – “Get Relaxed” and “Get Some Zzzs” – both are living up to their promises. I also picked up their loose leaf “Celebration Tea” and it’s just a delight! When I bought the teas I had purchased enough for the free gift of their Ginger Peach – also lovely. All of these teas are fragrant and flavorful. Each is just a bit of luxury in your cup. If you like teas, and you haven’t tried this group yet, I strongly urge you to!

2. Longform.org. Do you frequently come across longer than average articles while perusing the internet during your lunch break and not have enough time to finish them? Do you want to find more articles of depth and substance and be able to save them to another location so you can repeatedly come back to them? Longform.org is just what you’re looking for. I’ve found so many interesting articles there, and have even been able to send them to my kindle for more time-appropriate reading. Love!

3. Ok this is a big one. I have previously professed my love for the website BookRiot on this blog. They are a.w.e.s.o.m.e. However, now they have a podcast – and a podcast app for both apple and android. It’s a weekly podcast, running about an hour (usually a bit more, to all listeners’ delight). I listen while I run and commute, mostly. And I adore it. I did not know I was interested in “all that’s new in the world of books” other than what might be some new reads. But, I am! I find out about cool things that are going on in the publishing industry – like how bad ass HarperCollins is, or Amazon’s new matchbook service. If you like books, reading, fun/cool people with soothing voices and interesting things to say, and best of all absolutely ridiculously awesome episode titles that make you want to listen to the whole hour plus to find out how exactly “Wet Lettuce Blankets” is referenced in conversation – then this is the spot for you. AND… AND… new books! Always! I almost hate listening to it while commuting because I can’t stop and take note of all the awesome and fun books mentioned (PS – podcast a heavy influence in the upcoming TBR post.)

Just listen to it, do it now – there’s 33 episodes for you to catch up on. Do you have New Year’s day off? Great, you can almost catch up.

What are you loving lately?

Resolutions: 2014

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , ,

This is the resolution post! Some people really hate resolutions. I don’t really see anything wrong with using the first of the year as an opportunity to “wipe your slate clean” and set some new goals for self-betterment. Of course, you can use any old reason you can think of, at any point in time, to set new goals, or refocus on previously made goals that may have been waylaid or sidelined.

With that said, I have some overarching goals, and some more specific, focused goals for 2014. Let’s start with the big ones:

If you scroll back, not incredibly far, you will find some serious happiness exuding from me. That’s because I was very happy. I had attained a level of happiness in many areas of my life. I worked hard to get it, and then I had it, and I stopped trying. Well, since then, I’ve learned happiness doesn’t curl up and sleep cozily in your lap (unlike a cat – which is actual happiness). You have to put some effort into being happy, into being you, into just … being. Stop trying, and everything else stops along with it. So this year is about a refocus. Focusing on what makes me happy and doing it, and on what’s important and enjoying it. My goal for this year is to get out of my own way, and enjoy a bit more. Enjoy what? Enjoy everything. Except sawdust. I will not enjoy sawdust.

With that I will focus broadly on two things that do bring me enjoyment that I have, through my own twisted anxiety and negative self-talk, turned into burdens.

    1. Running

    2. Writing

Every race I ran this year was miserable. I’d start out ok-ish, and then just talk down to myself, for miles. A half-marathon is a long time to beat yourself up. I perfected that this year and ruined one of the things I like doing the most. I’m an asshole. And I moved away from writing, even personal journaling, probably at a time when I’ve needed it the most. I think about blogging a lot, and I was insanely jealous during NaNoWriMo that I wasn’t ready to participate… again. But I haven’t done a whole lot about it. Christmas gifts from my Dad, who did not know of my internal anguish at letting my writing take a back seat, reminded me it’s time to focus on doing what I like. (Gifts included books on writing, including On Writing, which I’ve been coveting).

 

The more focused goals:

I want a new half marathon PR. That’s that. I’ll probably aim for a fall half for the goal race, but I’ll take one whenever it comes. 2:29 is the time to beat. Get it, girl.

I want to be able to do at least one unassisted pull up. Palms out, chin to the bar, full pull up. Now that I have some sweet new lifting gloves, I say: GAME ON.

The two and a half minute plank still eludes me. It will be mine.

I want to get down a few good story ideas. Fiction or non, I’ll take either. An outline or two, even very rough. I doubt I’ll be ready for NaNoWriMo and I’m not sure I’m ready to commit to that. But, I do have to start somewhere, and story ideas and outlines it is.

Books – I’m putting 20 books as the goal again. I barely got half way this year, and that’s just a sadness basket. For details, please see the forthcoming “To Be Read” post.

And that’s what I’ve got so far. Seems like a good start.

What are your resolutions?

Prophet’s Prey by Sam Brower

Tags

, , , ,

I think I came across this book as someone mentioned it on a Dateline or 60 Minutes special on the FLDS; that’s the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I’m pretty fascinated with religious extremism and cults, so whenever there’s a program on television on this topic, I game to watch.

Sam Brower was one of the private investigators that spent the better part of a decade investigating Warren Jeffs, the infamous leader of the FLDS. This gave Brower a unique perspective, and access to tons of information. Also an interesting layer of perspective is that Brower himself is a Mormon. I think he did a decent job of keeping his bias in check. Besides the fact that Jeffs is a hands-down nut job, and a pedophile, there’s very little that the FLDS has in common with mainstream Mormonism. Brower did point out the differences (and they are huge) between regular, plain-old Mormonism, and the extreme FLDS. Thinking that all mormons are forcing young girls into marriage, wearing prairie dresses, and buttoning the top most button on their collared shirts, is like saying that all Baptists are hate-spewing, ignorant jerks protesting military funerals. Its not even close.

Again, I’ll mention that Brower had access to a TON of information, and the book was chock full of details. I remember when the Jeffs compound was raided by authorities and families were torn apart, but I didn’t hear much about the aftermath, or the “beforemath,” for that matter. So in that respect this book was great for getting a ton of the details and filling in gaps in my knowledge and understanding of the events.

However, the writing was repetitive and disorganized. I don’t blame Brower, particularly, though. Having that much information to organize into some salient, nice-flowing chapters is NOT easy. I know, I’ve been there before. Mostly, I think Brower needed a better editor.

If you’re looking for some information on the FLDS, I’d say check this book out, but only if you’ve got some patience to wade through the less-than-stellar narration. Research and detail get five stars, though!

Short Stories

Tags

, , ,

I cannot be the only person who wanted absolutely nothing to do with short stories after high school english was over. They seemed a positively pointless bit of writing that were forced down the throats of teenagers everywhere for purposes of torture, solely.

Despite my adolescent distaste for short stories, there had been one I was always partial to: Bartleby the Scrivener, by Herman Melville. Something always just stuck with me about his whole “I’d prefer not to” comment. Perhaps it was the fact that I preferred not to be reading short stories?

It wasn’t until many years after high school, when I found myself stuck in a job where I had literally nothing to do for days on end that I rediscovered short stories. I mean, honestly, reading a novel at your desk is just tacky and unprofessional. But a short story on your computer? You look busy! I began with re-reading Melville’s story, and then moved on to others.

Then I discovered that many of my favorite authors and written loads of short stories. Bradbury, King, Gaiman. Uh, hello?! Awesome fiction in quick doses? Game on!

I’ve since acquired a few collections of short stories, for dabbling on during and in between novel, and non-fiction works. These include a collection of Bradbury short stories, a collection of Chekhov stories, and a collection of short stories called The Weird by various sci-fi, horror, and related genre writers. It’s awesome.
How do you feel about short stories? Have you tried any out? Do you sometimes lament about not reading more, but aren’t sure how exactly to get back into it? Don’t want to commit yourself to an entire novel you might not like? Short story-it-up, folks!

Disappointment

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

As teenagers, we are inherently selfish. It’s a part of growing up. The teenage years, and even into our early twenties, are years we are most likely to spend self-involved. We will write-off many behaviors of people in this age group as a “phase.” Something we expect people to grow out of, just like any kind, well-mannered adult.

However, as I enter my second full year of “30 something,” I’m increasingly shocked, and honestly appalled, by the selfishness of too many people. I’m not saying that I’m never selfish. All have some inherent some degree of selfishness, but I’m talking selfishness gone wild.

I cannot believe how many people over the course of my life are over-the-top with their selfish entitlement. People who throw family under the bus, people who are so wrapped up in themselves they can’t be bothered to ask a friend how they are doing, people who are so delusional they think everyone is simply “ok” with spending vast amounts of money/attention on them, people who think they can constantly take advantage of someone’s graciousness and generosity and just keep shitting on a person over and over.

Honestly, it’s extremely disheartening. The worst of it is, at this age, you aren’t going to change. Did you make it to 28-32+ years old and you’re still an entitled, narcissistic douche bag? Well, you’re not going to change, and you don’t even know it. I’ve given up hope on these people in my life. Life already has too much stress: I have too much else going on, too much else to live for to feed other people’s delusions any more. I’d rather spend my time on things that are positive.
There is a difference, folks, on being there for a person, and being run over by a person. There’s a difference between being friendly, and being taken advantage of. When it comes to the blatant selfishness and delusions of people who are never going to know better, or realize differently, it is up to you to draw the line and walk away, for your own self preservation.

The Shining by Stephen King

Tags

, , , , ,

Wow. Just wow.

This book was quintessential Stephen King. As if you weren’t expecting that going in – but seriously, creep factor: 10.

Now, this was another case of having seen the movie before reading the book, which I think might be the case for many people. Now, the movie is a horror classic. And, I will agree, that Jack Nicholson was a spot on casting call! He was perfect. (Wendy though, honestly, what were they thinking casting that woman?)

Now the basic plot line, if you’ve seen the movie, you know. Nothing shocking on the basic plot. However, what I was most surprised about is that some of the most iconic moments of the movie were not in the book. That’s just the other way around! Usually, the best parts of the book are left out – but they are not replaced with something else awesome. Yet, as momentous as the movie is – the book is still better. Much better. In fact, there were a lot of small things that seemed changed for no good reason. In the book, the creepy, super haunted room is 217, in the movie 237. Why change it? In the book, there’s so much more development of the characters, the setting, the plot over all. There’s so much more to know about Danny and Wendy, and so so so much more to know about Jack. And the Overlook? Don’t even get me started.

I’ll tell you, when Jack sat in the basement, going through the scrapbook of the Overlook’s history (before things got super creepy) and became fascinated with the research and writing about it – man, did I get goosebumps. I do miss that, and it did spark something in me for sure. I just love the research – I love the hunt. I mean, not to the “all work and no play” extent – drinking imaginary martinis and such.

Anyway, if you haven’t read this book yet, and you liked the movie, I would strongly recommend a reading. An insanely awesome twist on a story you were previously familiar with. If you haven’t seen the movie, then you should definitely read the book. With Halloween approaching soon, this is a timely recommendation, if I do say so myself.

Additionally, prior to finishing the book I had been loathe to consider the idea of supporting a re-make of the movie. I mean Nicholson is awesome. But now that I’ve completed the book, I would totally support a remake,  a really good remake, that incorporated some of the crazy creep that King originally put into the story. Who would the get to play Jack though? Nicholson is too old – it would need to be stellar casting, for sure.
I’m looking forward the The Shining’s long awaited sequel coming out this month: Doctor Sleep!

 

Change of Plans

Tags

, , , , ,

There’s been some change of plans in my running game.

I am foregoing the Chicago Marathon this year. I just don’t have the drive. Quite honestly, I just don’t have the desire to do another full marathon at this time. While exercise/running is great stress relief, I don’t believe that training for a marathon is something you can do when too many other stresses are eating at you.

Stress, over the past few months, as really reached monumental proportions. Taking not just a mental toll, but a physical one as well – and in a not good way. Part of the mental toll was a chipping away at my focus, my resolve; especially when it came to training.In addition, something that I used to find as enjoyable, a release, something I looked forward to. Now though, now – it’s become something else that worries me.

“Can I run this race” “Can I sustain this effort” “Can I do this distance again” ???

Worry and anxiety were taking over my hobby. That’s just not right.

The decision not to run the marathon was almost natural. And once I made it, and said it outloud, I felt so much more relieved. A great expectation had been lifted off my shoulders. And, though very slowly, my runs have become more enjoyable. I’ve begun to look forward to my workouts again.

I am still going to Chicago, though. BV is going to run – and he is going to tear.shit.up!
I’m looking forward to spectating. I’ve never been to a major marathon before. I’m super stoked to see some elite marathoners running, in person. I’m excited to see BV run an awesome race. I think it’s going to be a great time. And perhaps just the inspiration I need to to put my running back into perspective.

Joyland by Stephen King

Tags

, , , ,

It had been a long time since I’d read Stephen King. But this book was $7 and change pre-order on amazon, so I figured this was as good a time as any to jump back on the King train.

After Cloud Atlas (amazing book), this was a nice follow up. A quick read – took me a few hours over the course of a weekend, and fun. It wasn’t your typical King horror/gore. But a good murder mystery, actually.

It was a story about love lost, carines, and a serial killer. King pushes the pace of the story, keeping in line with his supernatural tendencies and foul language. I didn’t mind at all. If you’ve got a late summer beach vacation planned, I would totally recommend this book for a bring along.

King was one of the first authors I truly liked. I had others, to be sure, and have had others since. But as a long standing author who I appreciate and am willing to read with regularity, King is certainly at the top of the list. There’s all sorts of book snob debate about whether or not King as a good author or some trash. The man is not a literary genius, I think we can all agree on that. However, he is an amazing, amazing storyteller. And yes, he’s a good writer. His style keeps readers engaged, keeps pushing the story forward. In an era where fewer and fewer children and young adults are reading actual books, writers like King are literacy necessities. Let’s be honest.

A few days after finishing this book I read an article in the New York Times Magazine on the King family. What a fascinating read that was – check it out if you have the time. In it, I came across the term “Stephen King completist” – those that wish to read everything King has ever written. (Is there a list somewhere?) This is an interesting challenge. One that I think I’ll informally take on. I have no particular dreams of doing it in any set time, but I think I’ll give it a go- he’s pretty reliable for an entertaining read. Plus, I’ve easily read over a dozen of his books already (so that should put me like 1-2% complete, right?)

I don’t think I’d be able to read solely King books. I need to switch it up. But I’m going to start integrating him into my reading lists a bit more. Right now I’m reading The Shining. I’m maybe a third of the way through. I’ve seen the movie a few times, but never actually read the book. Thought I’d give it a go with the sequel (wow I cannot spell that word) coming this fall.

What are your thoughts on King? Love him or leave him?

Camp Chingachgook Half Marathon

Tags

, , ,

Last Wednesday, BV emailed me a link to a half marathon registration – for the following Saturday. What the hell, I thought, we’re in the midst of training. I’d had an awesome 12 miler the weekend prior, we hadn’t raced in forever, and I’ve heard this course was quite pretty.

So we signed up. Game on.

Friday night, I was struck by a rather insufferable bout of insomnia. One of those times where you’re exhausted all day, but as soon as your head hits the pillow you’re wide awake. So convenient. As the time ticks by you think “if I fall asleep right now, I will get 6 hours of sleep”… 5.5 hours of sleep…5 hours of sleep… 4 hours of sleep. And then you just start getting pissed at yourself and stressed out about how little time left you have to sleep and it’s a never ending cycle of wide-awake frustration.

I got a good 3.5-4 hours of sleep. We were up and at ‘em between 430-500am to meet up with a buddy and drive up to Lake George to pick up our bibs.

I was miserable. I had that “sleepover” stomach. You know, when you’re a little kid and you go to a sleepover that involves no sleeping and spend the whole next day with a stomach ache. My eyes were burning. I wanted nothing more than to roll over and go to sleep. Alas, I trudged my miserable self out to the start line.

I had no big plans for this race. It was a small race, and a hilly course for which I was very undertrained. I was just doing it for the race experience. Just to get out there and do something other than treadmill it. At the half mile mark I was seriously thinking about what a poor idea this was. A mile in I thought: Maybe I should just dip out now. Then we went up a big hill, and I got over it.

I actually felt really quite amazing for the first 8-9 miles. The course was really quite pretty. Lots of trees – fair amount of shade, and some really pretty views of Lake George. But man was it HILLY. There weren’t too many terribly difficult climbs, but it was pretty much constant hills. It was a beautiful morning, though.

I coasted along till about the 9-10th mile. Then it was hillier than I would’ve liked at that point. Plus, the race was really small – maybe 200 people in the half, maybe. I think I’m being generous. So, by the 10th mile I knew I was on the right path by the orange cones every quarter mile, because there were no other racers in sight. And there were no spectators anywhere. The volunteers were great though – excellent cheer-leading skills, and good with the water 😉

Somewhere around mile 11, I was really bored. I didn’t have my garmin because the charger has yet to be located since the move, and I went without the ipod as I usually do in racing, especially in this race – few racers with roads that weren’t closed to traffic. Ipod could have been a liability.

I walked a lot toward the end. I had no idea what time it was or how much longer I had to go, but eventually I saw the line for the finish, and BV waiting for me to run the last bit of the race (as usually, what a sweetie!). I finished in like 2:45. Personal worst, by far. But I ended in good spirits. Might have been my slowest race, but definitely not my worst race ever.

Overall, I enjoyed the race. I wasn’t totally prepared for it, but as far as spontaneously running races go, I’ll chalk this one up as a win.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Tags

, , , , ,

Five Stars!

Honestly, this book… THIS BOOK. By the third chapter, the following thought was creeping into my head: “This may be one of my most favorite books of all time.” THREE CHAPTERS.

Oh my god. I don’t even know where to being.

This book is 6 different stories, intertwined. The narrative moves forward, chronologically, through half of each story, and then spins it all around in reverse chronological order, finishing each story and fulfilling the questions you had about how one relates to another. The tiniest things, interconnected. One life lends itself to the next. Ah-may-zing. Additionally, 6 fantastic endings, all with different emotions, messages, and varying levels of conclusion.

This concept is so unlike any other book I’ve ever read. Who thinks of something like this? David Mitchell, apparently. Literary genius, if you ask me. Each story is so incredibly unique, it’s almost hard to believe a single author was able to pull this off. Each chapter/story a new voice, a new time period, a new setting, a new set of research, a new slew of characters. And each story absolutely riveting. It could’ve been six separate novellas, but the way they string together – sometimes blatantly, sometimes subtly – is absolute pure creative brilliance.

I had dreams about this book and many of its characters – mostly Sonmi-451. Absolutely loved her story, probably my favorite of the book. She invaded my dreams on a regular basis for several nights.

Admittedly, the book was a bit difficult to get into. It starts off in the 1830s with the language quite accurate for the time, making for a bit of navigational reading. However, totally worth it. Also, if the book jacket description didn’t give a brief outline of the plot (6 stories, over time, running together), I probably would’ve been totally lost as to what in the heck I was reading. But, going in with that knowledge, and the absolutely like masterminded story-telling of David Mitchell, I can say I am absolutely a fan. (As if you hadn’t figured that out by now.)

Go read this book, immediately.

Now I suppose I can watch the movie, though I’m positive that given my love of the book its cinematic take will be somewhat disappointing – it almost always is.