Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Yoga for Runners Part II: 5 More Poses for Pre- and Post-Run

Happy one year anniversary, Training for Tuesday! Since the traditional gift for one year is made of paper, I decided to write this blog post and encourage you to print it out and hang it on your fridge. Except maybe don't do that at all, because it contains pictures of me that may or may not be flattering.
On a brief serious note, thank you to my cohost Tracy for collaborating with me to host this linkup for every one of the past 12 months. This monthly check-in was really born out of a great idea of her's sometime last summer, and I'm just happy she let me do my usual butting in and running with things. Secondly, thanks to each and every one of you who have linked up, whether you've joined us every month or like to pop in every once in a while. We hope this linkup has given you a positive outlet and, even moreso, a strong community to turn to with all the many topics we talk about here. Here's to many more.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Ten Things I Know Right Now

Because of reasons, I decided to end a contract assignment I've been working on for the past two-ish months. I still don't have a full-time job lined up. After next Friday, I don't know where my next paycheck will come from. A lot of people will probably agree that I made a massive mistake and that I should have stuck it out through whatever made me leave this contract position.

But they're wrong. And I have a very long list of reasons why I made the right choice. Again. But that's another post for another day.

It can be scary—especially for a Type A planner obsessed with her spreadsheets and physically dependent on her lists—to have so many things fall under the "don't know," "not sure," and "ask again later" categories. And not little things, either. Big things, the answers to which impact my livelihood, stability, security, and wellness. It's a wonder I'm doing so well right now. (You can decide whether I'm being sarcastic or not.)

I don't know when I'll get a job again, or enough freelance work to feel as comfortable as I would with a full-time job. I'm running my body into the ground training for the marathon, and I have no idea how I'll feel on race day or how well my training will pay off. I don't know how much sleep I'll get tonight or tomorrow or the rest of the week, or how long this game of waking up exhausted and lying awake in bed for hours will continue. I don't know where I'll be a month from now, a year from now, and I haven't the faintest idea what my life will look like in five more years.

I can't really do anything to hurry those answers up. But while I'm waiting for them, I can find comfort in these ten things I do know right now:
Reading a book you love for the second or hundredth time is kind of like coming home.
Especially if it's been a while since you read it, and you don't quite remember all the lines but they sound familiar when you read them to yourself. It's like nostalgia but without a trace of sadness.

You don't have to be perfect to be amazing.
Amazing isn't without flaw. Amazing doesn't happen when everything goes off as if it were scripted. Amazing is when greatness occurs against the odds, when perseverance wins, and when bravery strikes in the face of fear.

Something fancy is sometimes nice, but good old vanilla can be a sweet escape too.
Yes, I'm specifically talking about Talenti's Tahitian Vanilla gelato. But it applies elsewhere. A swanky restaurant is great when it's called for, but when it's sweatpants and takeout sushi you really need, nothing else will do.

You won't always know beforehand when it's the last time, even if it's something you choose.
I recently met with someone I've known for a long time, and it was almost as if we were going through motions of this regular kind of meet-up. It wasn't really until the day after we went our separate ways that I knew we had run our course, and that that would be the last time. It wasn't sad, and it wasn't a fight, and I'm not mad. It just is, and now it was, and I wouldn't have known it was time to say goodbye if it weren't for the last day we spent together.

Habits happen for a reason.
Either there's something good there, or there's nothing better elsewhere.

Not everyone will understand what you're really worth. Don't let them convince you you're worth any less.
Be honest in determining what you deserve: in relationships, in business, and in life. You set the rules for how people treat you. Hold everyone to the same rules—including yourself.

Being busy can only distract you for so long. Sooner or later, you have to confront your troubles.
Losing yourself in tasks may keep your mind off something you can't let yourself think about too much or for too long. But you can't schedule yourself out of real life. And if you're not careful, your busy-ness can become a trouble in and of itself too.

You can't always know what will happen before you leap. You should leap anyway.
It would be great to always see the potential outcome of a big decision, but the truth is, most of the time you won't know where you'll end up until you set out on the path. This is where gut instinct, trust in yourself, and faith in your journey come in.

If your body isn't doing what it should be able to, something isn't right.
If you can't sleep, something's wrong. If your appetite has vanished, something's wrong. If moving from the bed to the couch is the most activity you can manage, something's wrong. I'm not suggesting this and this alone means you should be popping antidepressants, but your body knows when and where to pull back. It's telling you something. Shut up and listen.

Drink more water. 
This one doesn't come with a life lesson. It's just true.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Sunday Sweats 38: Marathon Training Week 12

September 14–20

Monday: 5.02 mile run (9:23 pace)
Hellooooo, comfortable running temperatures! My only drawback with this run was my own fault: I didn't eat enough or close enough to the run, and when I get hungry I get seriously shaky and lightheaded. That happened in middle, and I gobbled up the fruit strip I brought with me but it took a few minutes to stop the feeling of impending fainting, so I slowed up. My other miles (1, 2, 4, 5) averaged 9:11. Wooo fall!

Tuesday: studio yoga class (75 minutes)
I walked into the studio to be greeted by Donna with, "Where the hell have you been!?" That's what happens when you skip class two weeks in a row and she has a sub teach the last class you made it to. I so needed this class and absolutely loved the full body work.

Wednesday: deep hip yin yoga (25 minutes)
Today was just really not good. I overslept, like I constantly do lately (stress + chronic insomnia FTW), and then I planned to run, but I seriously almost cried over the thermometer. A lovely 66º this morning, and then... 90º. I'm so over it, and I'm so frustrated because the uncomfortably hot temps are just the gross cherry on top of everything that's been stressing me to my very limits lately. I wanted to run, but I didn't want to die in the heat. And I had roughly 8,000 other tasks to do, because there's always something else I should be doing lately, and I can't seem to get ahead. At all. I need a break. I couldn't even get in a full practice and meditation—which I desperately need—but I managed 25 minutes of yin-type yoga work before bed. Somehow.

Thursday: full body flow (20 minutes)
I was supposed to run today. I was going to run today. I have no good reason for not having run today. Except maybe this: Last night, I pretty much broke down. I've been teetering on the edge for a while now, and yesterday and today sent me all the way over. I spent most of the day just trying not to cry. I've had little windows of relief over the last six or so weeks, but it hasn't been enough, apparently, and the pile of crap I've felt buried under has only gotten higher each time I tried to take a "break." So when a friend who makes me smile without even trying asked me to hang out tonight, it was more important to do that—and accomplish literally nothing else tonight—than go out and run in 80º+ heat.

Friday: flexibility flow (25 minutes)
I didn't run today either. It was a better day than yesterday—actually, a pretty good one—but I fell asleep on my couch around 5 p.m. (I can't remember the last time I didn't wake up exhausted) and woke up with my knee absolutely killing me and a stomachache I couldn't get rid of. Chalk it up to pure laziness, because that's what it was, but I skipped another run. I need a reprieve this week, I suppose.

Saturday: 5.37 mile run (10:04 pace) + 7+ miles walked
Pros: I actually got myself outside and ran; miles 1, 2, and 5 averaged 9:30-ish, and I actually managed to keep going through the last uphill, into-the-wind mile. Cons: Everything else. Actual text messages I sent Tracy during my mile 4 pity party: "I swear, between the wind, humidity, burning sun (my own fault for not getting out earlier), and inescapable hills, it feel like I'm being bullied by nature all the damn time." & "I like want to kick the air or something I'm just mad at it."
Afterward, my pal and I got in a good 7-8 miles of walking as we ventured into the city for the final days of the Feast of San Gennaro. Let's pretend I didn't eat a giant sandwich, drink plenty of sangria and hard beverages (cider and root beer, specifically), and a whole bunch of zeppole and fried Oreos. But even if I did, I definitely walked it all off.

Sunday: low body yoga (15 minutes) + 18.01 mile run (10:23 pace)
Welp, I've never done that before. I don't really know what to say about this run other than OH MY GOD I JUST RAN 18 MILES. I'd stay and chat but I need to go eat the ice cream I literally fantasized about during the run and go run a salt bath.

Weekly Totals:
Running: 28.4 miles
Yoga: 160 minutes

Marathon Training Week 12 Reflections:
Six weeks to go. I hate that I had to miss a run this week, but such has been life lately. I can't fight my body when it tells me it's exhausted, and I definitely can't make it run in that condition. Or maybe I could, but I won't, because it's not about that. It's about "do it because it feels good and it makes you feel better." Anyway, I'm happy with the work I did with this week, and at the end of the day I'm the one who needs to, right? Right. Okay now seriously, time for ice cream.
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Oh, and while I have you here, let me remind you that the one year anniversary of Training for Tuesday is coming up! Tracy and I super hope you can join us for the September (as in, first NOT SUMMER) edition of this link up we love so much and share what you're working toward, how you're training's going, and what wins and woes you've run into (no pun intended) lately. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Roots to Plant

I've spotted a fair amount of these "currently," "life lately," "now [verb]ing" posts in the last couple days, and it's my turn to toss mine into the ring. I'm still "in a phase." I'm freelancing and job-hunting, I'm waiting for fall to fully arrive, and I'm waiting for a lot of moving pieces to find some strings. As such, I haven't felt inspired to clean up and publish any of my posts in drafts, or extrapolate on any of the ideas I've jotted down. At least, not for longer than it takes to jot the note. Somehow I'm shorter on time than I've been in a while, and I'm feeling a pretty constant sense of needing to be somewhere else or doing something else all the damn time. I don't want this post to be a copout, but I don't want to abandon my blog—because I love it here, and I love it as a record-keeping system, and I love interacting with you guys as much as possible.

To be honest, I feel like the best way to talk about anything right now is in this fashion: a collection of truths in a listed format, because that's what life feels like right now. The past few weeks have been a collection of truths and events and facts and tid bits that I've shuffled into different categories according to what area of my life (professional, personal, maid of honor duties, familial, etc.) they're applicable to. Such as:

reading // my last pick for the Literary Ladies Summer Book Challenge. Audiobooks, because now I'm hooked. My first draft (well, the 75% of it that's down on paper). Last Exit to Brooklyn. What can I say? I'm eclectic in my bibliophilia.

writing // cover letters, still. My book, in tiny increments and mostly in my head. Lists: maid of honor to-dos, fall task lists, fall cooking lists. Things for Hellbent.

listening to // audiobooks. Podcasts. Gilmore Girls in the background, because everything about this show is the perfect complement to that fall(-is-coming) feeling.

buying // goodies from Target, because I never go for retail therapy unless I really feel the need. I've gotten rid of so many things in the last few months and have barely replaced any of it, so I finally checked off some things on the wish list. A little wardrobe refresh never hurt anybody. I grabbed this, these, these, and these (with Cartwheel & RedCard 5% so I can't feel too guilty for it) and ya know what? They made me happy. (PS, no affiliate links.)

planning // my cousin's bridal shower. I'm beyond pleased she asked me to be her maid of honor, and I love her so much and can't wait to throw her the perfect day. Nailing down the venue is tricky, since our bridal party has girls in three different states, and all different areas of those states, but it's nothing a little bit of strategizing and superior planning/listing skills can't handle.

anticipating // heading into the city for the tail end of the San Gennaro Feast in Little Italy this weekend. If you're ever in or near NYC this time of year, this is a must-do! The food, the wine, the pastries, the music, the people, the mood. It's amazing and I can't wait to get another year in the books.

drinking // pinot noir. Merlot. My first (and honestly, likely last) PSL of the season.

welcoming // a friend home, finally, from Asia—thank you, USMC.

burning // Leaves. (Need to restock Sweater Weather as soon as we have a sale on our hands here.) Autumn Wreath. The surprisingly fantastic smelling and scent-throwing candles from the Dollar Store up the street (gardenia, apple pie).

wanting // you to submit a piece to Hellbent! We're open for entries for the December 1/Winter 2015 issue. Please don't be shy if you have something you'd like us to consider. (I'm also happy to talk about your piece if you'd like some feedback before you submit!) No experience level is too little—one of our featured authors in Issue 1 was a brand new voice.

watching // the Giants completely fall apart. Sigh.

pinning // hair cuts, because it's time. But also, I can't run with my hair in anything but a braid. Life is hard.

waiting // for some roots to plant.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Sunday Sweats 37: Marathon Training Week 11

September 7–13
What a difference a week makes, amirite? Also, this week brought to you by Snapchat, apparently.
Also also, shamelessly stealing the collage theme from Tracy.
Monday: rest
On today's agenda: floating in the pool, eating good food, floating in the lagoon, eating pastries, a power nap, surprisingly not sitting in hours of traffic, cleaning my apartment, and cleaning out my closet, because apparently that's what has to be done on Labor Day. Hope everyone got to enjoy some relaxation this long weekend!

Tuesday: hip/hamstring yoga (13 minutes)
I barely managed a morning practice with my eyes half-closed—did we really just have a holiday weekend? Because it sure as hell doesn't feel like it. I'll be honest, I straight-up abandoned my workouts today. It was 98º during the day, and running was off the table. I'll put up with what I have to for a long run, but it just wasn't worth it today. High heat + high humidity + me feeling ragged... it's not happening. And I just was not interested in racing home from work and racing to yoga class and then getting home late and feeling like I have to cram in a whole bunch of tasks before bed. So I said screw it all and went to pub trivia.

Wednesday: 5.31 mile run (9:39 pace) + deep hip yin yoga (25 minutes)
Thank frog for KT tape. I came home to a fresh roll (super cheap on Amazon #protip) and fixed up my knees real good. It made a huge difference. Just not enough to undo the gross humidity and high temps and pre-thunderstorm winds I got to enjoy while running. I had a very hot/cold (mentally; physically it was only hot. And sweaty.) run: I oscillated between, "Yeah! Got this! Feeling good!" and, "You. Suck. Why are you running a marathon? Why did you book that plane ticket?" and then finally to "If you can run this last half mile without stopping, you can run the marathon." Well, I finished the last half mile and a bit more for good measure, so I guess I'll be set for 26.2 in 7.5 weeks.

Thursday: strengthening yoga (12 minutes)
The usual.

Friday: more hamstring yoga (13 minutes) + 16 mile run (10:13 pace)
Let me start with this: You know I live pretty close to NYC, and I think I've mentioned that I can see the skyline (so clear, so amazing, even after seeing it and being within it on the reg for 26 years) from many of my run routes. On this day, seeing One World Trade for the whole first eight miles out of my side eye was humbling, to say the very least. I don't know if you know this but they shine light beams now from where the towers used to stand every September 11th, and they positively lit the sky and shone so bright and clear every time I looked up as the evening turned into night. It made this important run the kind of run where you get lost in your footsteps and let your mind make your pace. It was peaceful and powerful.

As for actual running notes, here's the 16 I couldn't pull out last week. (I adjusted my schedule to accommodate.) I put on my KT tape too close to heading out and it was sweating off before I even clocked a 5k. By mile 11, the tape on my right knee (the one that buckled and said "screw you" to me last week) had completely fallen off and I almost just stopped and cried because I didn't know what to do. It hurt for about 15 steps and then I slowed up, found a rhythm, switched to the other side of the street and dealt with it. This time/pace includes two water stops and a bathroom stop with the watch running, so I'm pretty happy with those details. Also of note, at the 13.1 point, I beat all half marathon times (races and training) to date except for my RnRDC PR (2:08:11).

Saturday: active rest
It didn't really occur to me until the end of the day that I hadn't worked out. I was moving all day, running up and down stairs for about 10,000 loads of laundry, cleaning my place, running errands, etc. Better than nothing.

Sunday: yoga for runners (20 minutes) + 8.13 mile run (9:41 pace)
First, I just need to comment that IT'S NOT HUMID TODAY AND I ACTUALLY WORE PANTS AND A HOODIE OUTSIDE! (Sitting in the shade when it was windy, but still.)
I went back to an oldie but goodie from Erin's first YouTube yoga challenge, first adding in some sun salutations to warm up before running.
Oh, this run. A chill in the air, goosebumps on my skin, leaves on the ground, 9:XXs on my watch.... After the REALLY hilly first half I switched from listening to NPH's autobiography to a speed playlist for the moderately hilly second half, and running fast (negative splits; last four: 9:35, 9:28, 9:09, 8:40 (!!!)) and feeling chilled felt so, so good. I've missed running like this so much, and I could have gone another 8 tonight. Sup, fall.

Weekly Totals
Running: 29.45 miles
Yoga: 83 minutes (ouch)

Marathon Training Week 11 Reflections:
HOW AM I SEVEN WEEKS AWAY FROM THE MARATHON?!

I missed a run this week, and I knew on Tuesday that that was just going to be the way it had to be. I omitted my shortest scheduled run (4 miles) and just had to shrug, because much as I'd like to, I can't add more hours to the day or more days to the week(end).

I don't really want to speculate yet on how I feel about the race, because I have no idea. I'm not there yet, and I can't do it yet, and I'm just trying to move through one week at a time, trusting my training, and staying the course. So I'm thinking about 26.2 less now than I have in months. Right now, I'm thinking as far ahead as my next long run (18, this weekend).

Also, fun note: #youknowyou'readistancerunnerwhen your house keys are sticky from sharing a pouch or pocket with your empty gel packets. (I never thought that sentence would be applicable to me, let alone that I'd be the one saying it. Heh. Life's funny.)

Thursday, September 10, 2015

How to Live Small

Last Tuesday, September 1st, was a big day. But amid all the hoopla of two literary announcements, it felt like an oddity for me. Normally on September 1st, I would be all "Fall! September! Back to school! Leaves! Change!" Luckily, I rectified that mistake with a post on Thursday, so you weren't left hanging on that for too long. You're welcome.

But this September 1st was momentous for another reason that I didn't mention at all throughout the day. It was my one year anniversary of living in this apartment! After two years of living in a two-bedroom apartment with a roommate, following 23 years of living home with family members in various combinations, I finally moved into a space all, all, all my own. And it's been the most amazing year!

It's not for everyone, but I love living alone. And I also happen to love living small, in my studio apartment. (Which is really lucky, considering I wouldn't be able to afford living in this town I love so much without a roommate otherwise.) But I won't lie, it takes some getting used to, some adjusting, and some changes in behavior.

The tiny house movement (not to mention the minimalish, as I like to call it, movement, and the decluttered aesthetic) keeps gaining traction, and I think it's for good reason. For starters, it's economical and financially attractive to a generation who generally can't afford not to think about the dollars and sense of lifestyle. For another, a lot of people—myself included—reap other benefits from living small as well: encouragement to get out of the house more and explore the world, less stuff=less stress, less time spent cleaning or searching for things, and a built-in reason for saying no to the house guests you don't want. (Where my introverts at?)

But like I said, it's not always easy to start living small. I hear that, and I gotchu, girl.
1. Give everything a home. Clutter happens when things don’t “belong” anywhere. Think about it: stacks of unopened mail and unpaid bills, piles of shoes, towers of clean laundry. They all accumulate when there’s nowhere else to put things other than “right here, just for now.” Then “just for now” becomes “always” and your small space feels even smaller because there’s stuff everywhere you look. Give everything—everything—a place to live and keeping tidy becomes so much easier. It doesn’t always have to be an elegant solution, just one you can adhere to.

2. Create separate spaces. A tiny place looks even tinier when the kitchen feels like an extension of the bedroom or the living room functions as a walk-in closet. Even if you don’t have walls (I don’t), you can use furniture placements (the back of the couch, a bookcase, or even the angling of a chair), toss rugs, plants, and color schemes to create visually different spaces and increase functionality. I can see my entire kitchen from my bed, and it would take me less than 10 paces to get a glass of water, but I’ve tried to set it up in a way that there’s enough between each area that it doesn’t feel like my bed is a breakfast nook.
3. Purge often and with care. This might be trickier for some than others. I am really good at getting rid of stuff—after years of being a borderline hoarder who never let go of anything and sang the “just in case” song a whole lot. I could (should) probably do a separate post on my rules for decluttering, but in a nutshell, if I don’t need it or love it, it doesn’t belong in my apartment. But here’s the thing: You have to purge with care.

If you toss something in a fit of emotion or as a response to a fleeting moment of stress, you may end up regretting it. As a result, you might have to spend more money in the future to replace that item, or shopping emotionally as a response to the void you didn’t need to create. What I like to do is set up a big shopping bag or bin in a corner of my apartment and as I come across things I want to get rid of, I put them in there. Every few weeks I go through the bag and donate. More often than not, everything that goes in the bag ends up leaving my apartment. But every once in a while I’m glad I didn’t toss a thing right away because I end up retrieving it.

4. Consider what matters to you. Your space should be yours. (“Yours” as a singular if you live alone, or plural if you live with a roommate/significant other/family.) In a tiny space, the walls can start to feel confining after not too long. A key to combating this is to have things that make you smile or bring you joy everywhere you look. Let your home be representative of the things that make you you. Hang family photos or a tapestry from your trip abroad or a floor-to-ceiling map outlining your travels or pipe dreams. If you love to work out at home, make your space open and conducive to that. If you love to cook, keep clutter off the kitchen counters so you have the space to work. If you’re always in the middle of several books, you can use them to decorate as well as to read. And if you love stark white, plain walls, that’s fine too.
A yoga space (I somehow manage to have a few!) / because the overflow books have to go somewhere / my dressing dresser
5. Set up your space for how you live, not how you think Pinterest wants you to. I firmly believe that Pinterest is the best and worst thing that’s ever happened to all of us. On the one hand, hello to amazing ideas, simple solutions to everyday problems, healthy recipes, financial tips, and sneak peeks into sales and bargains. But I feel like in certain circles (primarily blogging and weddings) it really can inspire feelings of inadequacy. Go to Pinterest for ideas, but remember that most of the pins at the tops of their algorithms are from people who have different resources (time, money, skills, collaborators, photography equipment, etc.) than you do, and are working with and for different kinds of lifestyles, and don’t draw unfair comparisons.

6. Plan ahead. Once you’re in your small space and have everything put away, you’ll notice that some things are less accessible. They just have to be; with only so much space for hangers, only so many items can hang in your closet. Ditto shoes, extra towels for guests, fancy glassware, the big pot you only use once every two months. When you know you’re going to need something, get it out in advance so you’re not adding to the frustration of crunch-time.

For me, this is never more true than in the mornings when I’m getting ready for work. Fact is, I can’t see all the clothes I own at once. It’s just not possible. And I also don’t have time to peel through everything I can see and can’t see to find the perfect outfit. So I pick out my outfit the night before, so I don’t end up either wearing the same thing every day or running late just because I can’t find clothes to wear.

7. Create storage wherever possible. Look up. Look underneath. Look inside. Your coffee table can be a storage trunk for DVDs, spare blankets, workout gear, your charging cords. Or you can slide fabric bins or baskets underneath it to make use of the dead space and store what you need. Floating shelves high on the walls can home your books, keepsakes, even decorative boxes with odds and ends. This really ties back to number one on this list, but the real takeaway is that you have to look beyond the obvious storage solutions for giving everything a home.

I have an antique dresser in my “living room” that has magnificently deep drawers with sturdy bottoms. I use the bottom drawer to store my pots and pans, since it is situated about 8 feet from my “kitchen” and I have no cabinet space there to spare. There are no rules you have to adhere to; it just needs to make sense and be helpful for you and how you live.
Into the "living room" / a bookcase (I gave up a whole one of these and all the books in it when I moved in here! Gasp! / the top of my secretary's desk (a perfect pick for a small place!)
8. Use whatever color palette you like. Again: Ignore what Pinterest insists you do. Unless you like it and it works for you for a reason other than “that’s what it looks like online.” Ignore "rules" that everything has to be white/light in a small space. I mean, I wouldn’t necessarily go and paint all the walls black, and there is some truth to the theory of letting light in and reflecting light to make a small space feel bigger.

But not all sizes of “small space” need to be made to feel bigger. Some can be perfectly cozy and lovely, while being small. I have a white bedspread, and let most of the walls stay bare (not all), but my furniture and rugs are in mostly earth tones and mismatched brown woods with splashes of red throughout. Every time I go to my friend K’s apartment and see it in all its light, white splendor, I want to run home and redecorate. But then I get there, and look over my place again, and it feels just like home should feel to me. Suit your style and preferences, even if it defies the “rules.”

Are you, or have you ever been a small-space dweller? What's your best advice to make it easier?

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Recent Reads Vol. 4

I have a confession, and it's a shameful one: I have never linked up with Steph and Jana for Show Us Your Books. I know, I know. I'm bad at remembering recurring linkups and I'm not all that speedy a reader so on the rare occasion that I have remembered a linkup day is coming, there hasn't been much new to report since my last book post

But today is a good day! I planned ahead! I had news to report! Here's what I've read, loved, abandoned, and devoured lately:
Landline by Rainbow Rowell
I had actually finished reading Landline before my last book post, but it somehow completely escaped me when I was writing the link-up post for Kels’ summer reading challenge. That’s definitely not a reflection of the book though; just on my own space cadet tendencies lately (#stressed). I went back and added it in, but I’m guessing most of you didn’t see that. Here are my thoughts again on Landline:

This is another one I absolutely flew through. I was a little hesitant when the not-quite-normal part of the storyline picked up, but it didn't bother me. And by the end I reached a place I don't normally reach in works of fiction: I didn't care if it made real-life sense, and just enjoyed it for what it was. I thought the protagonist was very well-rounded, real, and complex, and I genuinely liked her, despite obvious flaws. I was always anxious to get back to reading this one (for the whole two days it took me) and was all woe-is-me when it ended before I was ready to move on to new characters.

Recommend? — Undoubtedly

The First Bad Man by Miranda July
I ended up starting this because it was available right away from my library on audiobook and it would satisfy a requirement for the Literary Ladies summer reading challenge. Goodreads had it listed as humor and I was in the mood for a laugh. That’s pretty much all the criteria I had. This ended up being the first book I've abandoned in a long time. (I have no problem abandoning books I’m not into. Life is too short and literature is too plentiful to waste your time on a book you don’t want to read.)

This book was weird from the outset, and because I wasn’t totally interested in it I definitely missed a few things that may have made it more clear, but it’s hard to precisely rewind audiobooks, especially while driving, so oh well. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Miranda July in anything before, but holy crap is her narration voice annoying and even needling at times. That was problem one for me. Problem two was honestly how self-indulgent I found this. I don’t believe that actors/musicians/artists can’t also be good writers, but I do think this book would be way less popular if Miranda July weren’t already famous. (Not that I have any idea who she is, to be honest.) It was weird and it honestly felt like it was weird for the sake of being weird. And if you didn’t “get” the weirdness, well then how sad and unsophisticated are you. It felt like… hm. Like being automatically denied access to the hip new club because you had to ask for directions to the club in the first place. Does that make any sense?

Anyway, this was a no-go for me, but I appear to be in the minority there.

Recommend? — Not for me, but maybe for you.

Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler
I have seldom loved a book with male protagonist(s) by a male author as much as I loved this book. I LOVED this book. I flew through it and kicked myself when it was over for not savoring it more. I got bummed out when I saw it was almost over. It was so beautifully written and the characters were all appropriately complex and developed.

I personally love alternate narratives in a book, but I know not everyone does. I liked that each narrator, though they shared many commonalities, was distinct and clear and honest and consistent to their character. It wasn’t self-indulgent, and Nickolas Butler managed to maneuver into a female narrator’s voice quite well too, which isn’t easy for an opposite-sex author. I loved absolutely everything about this book and ran right out to pick up a copy to give as a gift. Read it.

Recommend? — Please go read this book.

Hollywood by Zachary J. Ferrara
I talked about this book last week, and technically this most recent read (read number four in as many months) wasn’t my first, but I need to mention it again here. My friend wrote this book, and the first time I sat down to edit it more than four months ago, I was completely stricken. I was really cognizant of the fact that my relationship to the author might sway my feelings toward it, but I really stepped outside of that space and took it at face value. (I think he’d be the first to tell you too that in my rounds of editing I made no move whatsoever to spare his feelings or treat him with kid gloves; I gave thoroughly honest feedback from day one.) And my honest feedback now, after seeing this come to life and finally list for sale online, is that if you have a few hours and want to knock out a read, you should start here. It’s breezy in pace, but thoughtful and calculated and emotional and provocative.

I would really appreciate it if you checked it out (I think it’s well worth the three bucks, but I’ll PayPal you the cost of the book if you hate it) and I swear to you, I wouldn’t talk this up like this if I didn’t think there was a good, enjoyable hour or two of reading behind that cover.

Recommend? — Even if I didn’t know the author (and even if I weren’t the editor), yes.

Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave
I finished this, mostly out of wanting a cure for boredom, but I never particularly liked it. I found it predictable, uncompelling, and detached. None of the characters ever gave me a real reason to care about them, the ending was drab—and I saw it coming a mile away. I also don't particularly like the sub-narrative story it tells (vague, to be spoiler-free): that someone else might/could/does know better for a person's relationship, or that there's a good reason for a person to so wholly and selfishly butt into other people's business to arrange their preferred outcome, and then call it "meant to be." Family or not. I just could never reach a place of really caring all that much about what happened next.

Recommend? — You won't miss anything by skipping it, in my opinion.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
I feel like this book took me through a lifetime of emotions. At first I was hesitant—I'm not terribly into thriller/mystery books. Then, pressured—everyone says it's great, it fits the bill for a book challenge prompt, fine. I opened it, bored. I paged through the first 15%, dutiful. Then I had one of those "read a big chunk in one day, stay up way too late to read more, pick it back up first thing in the morning and finish it before you leave the house" experiences. And I loved it, until I got angry, and then I loved it again, until I hated it.

Again, vague to be spoiler-free: Perhaps I'm being over-sensitive and especially so in light of certain "media darling" stories (particularly about women and assault accusations), but I really could have done without the reinforcement of a female trope/stereotype. Yes, I know it's a work of fiction, but so are a lot of the stories told in the media without cognizance of that fact. So that really was rubbing me the wrong way from the beginning of Part II on, and it only intensified in Part III.

Beyond that, it was an excellently-crafted story, amazingly written (if not redundant with some metaphors, and it relied a little too much sometimes on cliches and turns of phrase), meticulously thought-out. Until the end, when all of a sudden it was something way different than what it had been, and the characters were way different. The pacing here drove me crazy. The first 80% was like peeling back an onion, the anticipation and plot building slowly, carefully, intentionally. And then it was like MORE PLOT POINTS MORE CHARACTER TRAITS MORE STUFF HERE ARE ALL THE THINGS. So even though the ending didn't match (in my opinion) the rest of the book, it was way more good than bad, for whatever that's worth.

Recommend? — If you like thriller/mystery and messed up stories about screwed up people, give it a go. If you're on the fence, you won't miss it. If you're curious about the ending, read it. (Pretty much what kept me going after I got mad.)

The Bedwetter by Sarah Silverman
This book has literally followed me to each and every listing method since...about 2009 since it was published. I've always wanted to read it, but never wanted to read it right now. But it was available on audio (narrated by the author) from my library and I knocked it out in two days and as many long runs. I have never not enjoyed a comedian's book (both of Ellen DeGeneres's, George Carlin's, etc.) and this was no exception. I run hot and cold with Sarah Silverman—some of her favorite humor just doesn't appeal to me or make me laugh, but this book was not just a comedian's shot at being funny on paper. It was interesting and thoughtful and smart and exciting, and she really spoke almost profoundly on things I wasn't expecting to read about here. A good, quick read.

Recommend? — Yes, if you don't mind your humor a little blue.


If you've read any of these, what do you think of them? (I especially want to talk about Gone Girl with anyone and everyone.) What are you reading right now?

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Sunday Sweats 36: Marathon Training Week 10

August 31–September 6
Monday: hip/hamstring yoga (13 minutes) + 4.02 mile run (10:00 pace)
I don't have anything new or interesting to say about this video, I list it here so often. It's Bad Yogi, and it's good. That is all.

Mother Nature is apparently taking it upon herself this week to remind us that summer is far from officially over. It's supposed to be hot and humid through the weekend and today definitely was. Ick. I pushed my pace in the first two miles because I miss running fast but then I paid for it because hi it was almost 90º after dark. Got 'em done though, that's what counts.

Tuesday: posture fix yoga (12 minutes)
I can't rig up my workstation currently to a standing set-up, like I prefer, so I have some serious computer screen posture going on lately.

Wednesday: Lole White Yoga Event (60 minutes) + 8 mile walk
Run options for today were a) sometime after 10:30 p.m. (no, I have enough trouble falling asleep as it is) or running under the sun in 90º+ heat (no, I don't hate myself that much). Instead I decided to walk the trips to and from my train into the city, and then walked another 4+ miles with Michael to and from The Great Lawn in Central Park, for a total of move than 8 miles walking (obviously not including all the other walking I do throughout the course of a day). Now, 8 miles walked is certainly not the same as 8 miles run, but I figured I could sub it in for a 4-miler considering the day's and week's circumstances.

As for why Michael and I walked to The Great Lawn: She scored tickets to this Lole White Tour event and invited me along. (Thank you again!) It was an amazing, unifying yoga experience, humbling and happy, fun and energetic and beautiful. And then Ingrid Michealson sang, and she was amazing it and it was so fun.
(Top left & bottom images from Lole Women on Instagram)
I have to be honest, I don't know enough about all styles of yoga to say this was or wasn't something else, but I mostly recognized Vinyasa and Hatha in this 60-minute flow. Which makes sense because Hatha is Rodney Yee's cup of tea, and he led the middle segment of the class. Rodney Yee was my introduction to yoga 10 years ago, when I was just a wee lass following a DVD in my living room. To come full circle like this was surreal and incredible.
 
Thursday: rest
There was a time when I considered running after I got home from the chiropractor (<3) tonight. And then there was a time when it was over 90º after sunset, and a look ahead told me it would be more than 10 degrees cooler the same time tomorrow.

Friday: free flow (25 minutes) + 14 mile run (10:52 pace)
I turned on DJ Drez and flowed. I seldom finish these free flow home practices with any significant shavasana, but they seldom feel as transformative as this one did. Yes, even in just 25 minutes. I chalk it up to DJ Drez and perhaps that he triggered memories of Wanderlust, one of the most profound experiences of my life. This won't mean much for many of you, but in shavasana I saw green and blue and literally felt my throat chakra gaping. Not bad on a Friday afternoon.

As for the run, I was scheduled for 16, and this was a win and a fail in equal measure. It's still hot, and it's still above 50% humidity, and the dew point is still over 65º. At 8 miles (the remaining distance I have to run this week) I almost quit and said I'd redo the 16 tomorrow. And then I talked myself out of that really dumb idea, and kept going. And then at around 12 miles, my knees started assaulting my body from the inside. In general, I am a person who has bad knees. But their attacks while I'm running are intermittent and unpredictable, and I wish I had a way to understand why they hurt worse at mile 12 today than they ever have at a half marathon finish line, or at the end of my last 15-miler. It was painful enough that I have zero feelings of misplaced effort in ending this one two miles early—just frustration, because why?

Saturday: flexy flow (10 minutes) + 5.41 mile run (10:14 pace)
The weather was finally more comfortable (upper 70s, low humidity, my sweat actually able to cool my skin) but my left knee was not, and that's the only reason my pace is up there. My lungs could have gone for hours. But my knee actually buckled on my last step, and that's the end of this training week.

Sunday: rest
I'm scheduling this post before I head down the shore, where there is no Wi-Fi (seriously), and though I plan to get some lagoon-side yoga in on the dock in the morning, you never know what happens down the shore. Regardless, we'll be getting rowdy enough to undo any progress made, so Sunday will likely end up being a wash. Happy long weekend! and so long, sweet summer.

Weekly Totals:
Running: 27.43 miles
Yoga: 120 minutes

Marathon Training Week 10 Reflections:
There's this really strange thing that happens during marathon training, at least if you're me. Actually, two strange things. A) You look ahead to long runs and sort of laugh, because it's actually ridiculous that you're choosing to start off your Labor Day Weekend not heading down the shore to get the last bit of summer fun in, but planning to run 16 miles. And B) You start to regard distances that once terrified you as "just" and "only." Like when you tell yourself, "Just a half marathon distance left!" or "Only 10 miles to go, now!"

Also, knees. I don't want to have the debate that every runner has had with every non-runner ever, about whether or not running is actually going to murder your knees and rob you of all legular mobility by age 43. IT'S NOT TRUE (1 2 3 4 5 6). And in my case, I already had bad knees. I was always destined to have bad knees. I was built crookedly.
At least now, that I'm a runner, I a) am not ALSO a pack-a-day smoker and b) actually take way better care of my body and treat knee (and other) pains quickly and appropriately, rather than shrugging my shoulders the way I used to. So no, I'm not going to stop running because my knees were destined to be awful. I just need to restock on KT tape and not attempt anything over 13 miles without that added layer of support. (Honestly, before marathon training, I would never run a half marathon without kin tape. Marathon training has made me a crazy person.)
(Also, this mini-rant was brought to you kind people who have never said running is bad for my knees by my misdirected hatred at the many people who've suggested that quitting smoking and becoming a runner is the worst thing I've ever done for my bodily health and no I'm actually barely exaggerating and in the case of one friend I am not exaggerating at all. Apologies for the windiness.)

Also, I just realized I'm more than halfway through my training plan and it's officially less than two months away so excuse me, it's time to freak out. I'll catch you on the flippity flip.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Everything Changes in September

Everything changes in September. First, it's the leaves. By now they've started to deepen in color, fading from brilliant, vibrant shades of green. They yellow at the corners and as the days wear on the hue pushes itself through the veins of the leaves, shades of gold and amber and rust overtaking the emerald tones. One by one, leaf by leaf, bough by bough, ruby red and burnt ochre become the new normal. A once-green-washed field becomes flecked with a different kind of earth tone, and the far-off view of a treeline becomes a hunt for the most autumnal color in the bunch.

Next its the air. Cool breezes reach into the humid atmosphere like fingertips, and at first it's just a lick of coldness here and a shiver there. The heat that once poured off the pavement and hung in the air, settled like a blanket over the neighborhood, bearing down on bodies, begins to lift higher and higher and higher until you're tempted to reach for it, on tippy toes, fingers outstretched, trying to find leverage on a leg up, it just sliding out of your palms until all you can do is bat at the chill in the air, in vain. Like a sharpening of the world that surrounds you, the melting weight of summer heat is replaced by the kind of air you can feel on your tongue and beneath your toes and on the backs of your ears. And the first time it seizes your body from head to toe and wraps itself around your wrists and ankles and throat is the first time you know that this is exactly the way you need to feel.

Then the days change, and so do the nights. One becoming shorter, one lengthening in a way that logically, you know is in the tiniest increments but that feels so much greater, so much more sudden, so much more forceful. The first time you note the darkness when your body wants to believe it's still light is the first time you look into the nights ahead of you and start to rearrange your mental picture of them. The moments backed by natural light become more valuable for their relative rarity, now, in these coming times of change, and the ones set against a sky of deep purple and shades of blue take turns in feeling infinite and so very much the essence of limitation.
In the meantime, the elements of a world set against and familiar to and born into these things change. The creatures shed their summer coats and begin to bundle up for the season ahead; they collect their rations for the desert months and slow their heart rates down. We store away our clothes dyed in hues of pastel and pink and of course the stark white. We grow long our hair and open—then shut, again—the windows, lay down the warm rugs, change out the silk flowers in vases on our indoor tables, tucking away the signs of warm days spent under the sun or hiding from its heat in the shade of umbrellas and shadows. We pull out slow cookers and dutch ovens and turn on ovens and tea kettles. We switch to red wine and hot coffee.

We return to a state of mind that triggers memories of black-and-white marbled composition books, eraser dust, dim library corners, lunch boxes, and paper-bag book covers. We alternate between dreading the return to such things and missing their presence in our lives, wishing we knew what we had when we had it and elating in what we have now, or what we'll have next, or maybe where we might be when the leaves are green again.

And all the while, against a backdrop of tawny-colored leaves and chilly early sunsets and school bells and bus stops and harvest moons, a little sliver of life returns. It's a thread that hasn't been there in months if you're lucky, years if you aren't, and it weaves through the tapestry of autumn a sense of everything-ness. A sense of possibility brought on by the symbolic change, a battling sense of comfort and daring brought on by the physical ones. A sense of connectedness to a whole world that you've seen all your life and yet have never seen before. It's a live wire, that thread, electrifying all it touches and finally igniting something that lies within, something that lies dormant until given just the right amount of spark to help it start a fire.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Big Day

It’s not often that I come here, open up a draft page, and write something self-serving like this. It’s even less often that I actually get straight to the point, and with the exception of this totally unnecessary introduction here, that’s what I’m doing. Maybe, we’ll see. I haven’t thought it all through yet.

Today’s a big day. Besides it being the first of a new month (Happy September), and a wonderful month at that (I see you, fall!), it’s Pub Day.

For the past couple of weeks, or maybe months—who can keep track?—I have been working with the viciously talented Yve Chairez (whom I’ve worked with before on her two books) to create a literary magazine that urges creators and readers to dabble in alternate perspectives. To think differently. To be critical, and to analyze, and to try something new. We reached into our networks of brilliant creators and curated short stories, illustrations, and poetry that met our vision, carried it forward, and connected with each other in ways we never could have anticipated or created by hand.

Today is the day we release Issue 1 of Hellbent Magazine to the world!
If you’re so inclined, I’d love for you to take a look. We’re a micro-publication, so it won’t take you too long to get from cover to cover. But if you’re so inclined to spend a little time exploring it, we think you could find enough Easter eggs to last you as long as you like. It’s free and easy to access. Go to hellbentmag.com to learn more and download the first issue!

And if you like it and are also so inclined, join us on Twitter and Instagram. Our contributors worked hard too, so be sure to show them some love (find them here). Thank you, thank you, thank you.

And speaking of our contributors, one of them is someone I’ve known for a decade and who I’m more proud of today than I ever have been before. His name is Zach Ferrara, and he wrote a book. A good one. I should know, because he finally let me edit it, after I badgered him to let me look at it in intervals over the course of more than two years.Today is his Pub Day, and that’s pretty amazing.
His debut novella is called Hollywood and you can buy it on Amazon for just $2.99. That’s it! I would be so happy if you took a second to pop over and check it out. If it appeals to you, go ahead and buy it! It’s a short novella so it won’t take you long to read. And the more sales he makes, the more visible the book becomes for Amazon’s algorithms and the more thank-you gifts I can convince him to buy me because obviously I’m all the brains behind this entire operation.

(I’ll be explicit, in case it isn’t obvious or you’re a new visitor who doesn’t know my penchant for sarcasm yet: It’s not at all me. I just helped polish what was already a compelling, smart, emotional story.)

Thank you guys so much for allowing me to use this space for whatever I need it for at the time. Today, it happens to be a bit of self/friend-promotion. But I swear, I wouldn’t have brought either one up here if I didn’t think you’d enjoy them too.

So go ahead and happy clicking. I’d love to hear what you think, and so would the creators I’ve mentioned here. Internet hugs from strangers make the world go round, or something like that.

Happy Tuesday! Happy September! Happy Pub Day!