Saturday, July 29, 2017

Books on My Radar: August

I'm making you a handy list of things to read, if you want to, because I'm about to. Read them. You know. With my eyes. It's a thing. You should try the reading thing. This is a monthly deal now.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling. Yes, I've read this before, dozens of times. But I've only read the US version, never the original UK version. AND my mother ordered me a fancy anniversary copy for my birthday that's in Ravenclaw colors, because she gets me. I'm waiting for it to come from across the pond. When it does, expect me to sleep curled up next to it for the rest of my life because it is just that precious.
Magpie Murders: A Novel by Anthony Horowitz. I asked for this book for my birthday, and happily, it is in the mail. Thanks, Auntie Jeanne! Quickie description, famous crime writer Alan Conway's editor, Susan Ryeland, receives Conway's newest manuscript. As she reads about his detective, Atticus P√ľnd, she begins to recognize another story concealed in the pages. It's an homage to vintage crime fiction, and I can't wait to get my hands on it. Is it okay and healthy to check tracking 16 times a day? Okay, good.

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry. I have this checked out from the library and need to quickly read it before I get angry notes telling me other people want it and I need to return it. (That happens to librarians, too.) After the death of her husband, happily widowed Cora Seaborne heads off to Essex to enjoy the country air, only to encounter a panic. The locals have seen a giant serpent, which may have caused a death. And, in a historical sort of X-File, Cora the scientist meets the vicar, William Ransome, and the two investigate. Cora thinks they're about to discover a new species. William thinks the town is in a religious panic. Gosh, I need to read this. It sounds so good.

Firebrand by A.J. Hartley. The sequel to one of my favorites from last year, Steeplejack. If you haven't read that one, go back and do it. It's a complex mystery set in an alternate 19th century South Africa. Anglet, fresh from solving the murder of her assistant steeplejack in the first book, is now assisting behind the scenes in Parliament, using her particular set of skills. Great for fans of mysteries and historical fantasy. I bought this over my vacation because I needed it in my life.

You Don't Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie. This memoir has already broken me. I'm nearly finished and can't recommend it enough. If you're a fan of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian or Alexie's other works, this is a must-read. If you love memoirs, this is a must-read. If you are human, this is a must-read. Seriously. Read this. It's complex and beautiful, and heartbreaking and wonderful.

What's on your bookish radar for this month? Do any of these strike your fancy? Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

What I'm Loving Right Now

Glossier--This is my new favorite skincare brand. When summer came along, I quickly became sick of foundation. To be honest, I was sick of it for a while. My skin, thanks in part to the glory of my endometriosis medication, has completely cleared up. It looks pretty, not spotty, so I wanted to stop hiding it. Enter Glossier. If you want a high-coverage foundation, their skin tint is not it, but it will blur your skin and even out the tone. Their Priming Moisturizer is wonderful. I use Boy Brow everyday. Cloud Paint is gorgeous in every color. Oh--and I finally found an SPF I wasn't allergic to--Invisible Shield. 10/10, would recommend. If you're thinking about trying them out, here's a link you can use for money off!

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Madwell Transport Tote--I've wanted this thing for years. I finally used some store credit and a coupon code to buy one. It is everything I've ever wanted in a bag. I love it for work. I can load up with books to take out to preschools, carry all my knitting at once, and all while looking a whole lot less like a Civil War-Era carpetbagger, laden with all my earthly possessions.

Kindle Fire--Prime Day rolled around and I finally replaced my aged Kindle 2. Oh my goodness. They really made these awesome! My old Kindle could do books, wasn't backlit at all, barely had a battery to speak of, and weighed a ton. This Kindle is light, easy to read in many different lights, and so useful. I've been reading up a storm, and it's brilliant for referencing recipes while you cook. If you don't have a tablet, this is a great (and affordable) option!

My Fitness Pal--Who was getting 1000+ calories from sugar (drinks especially) per day? Not me, no. Couldn't have been me. This app helps you see what foods are killing you. Also I'm never having soda again. Unless I'm under my calorie goal. By a LOT.

Like today. I could have a Coke today.

The only weakness I see with My Fitness Pal is with recorded calories burned by exercise. This app seems to be confused. I use both Nike apps and the app that comes with the gym equipment at the Y , and both list calories burned as the same number. My Fitness Pal either massively overshoots that number (with walking or biking, for example) or undershoots it (with running). It's odd. No idea why. No idea which is right, either, but I tend to side with the other apps, as they agree. Want an accurate calorie count? Try Nike Run Club--Fit Club, if you aren't running.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Fitness--with a Chronic Illness

To begin, here's the rundown. This is not a whinging post or an "I wish I had a different life" post. I do not want you to feel sorry for me. I do not need solutions or supplements given to me; I have doctors and experts doing that. Keep your pyramid schemes and juice cleanses on Facebook. I'm good.

Today I'm going to write the blog post I wish I could have read as a preteen, a teen, when I started trying to become fit, and now. I keep randomly Googling, looking for this kind of post, and it just doesn't exist in the form I want it to. So I'm writing it.

Here's to being active and having a chronic illness.

No, that's not a sunburn or bad white balance, I'm that red after a run.

I have asthma and allergies and endometriosis and some other bonus diseases. My body mostly hates me. I'm on hormone therapy to shut my reproductive system down, and it still doesn't manage to do that, my hormones are so messed up. I try to work out three times a week. Here's why: I always feel healthier when I'm active.

But the bottom line is, I can't always do it. And that doesn't make me a bad runner, or a bad athlete, or a bad person. It doesn't undo what I've done and how fast I ran my last mile. It doesn't mean I'm not serious about being fit.

When I was in junior high, I approached my gym teacher and my doctor to ask why, when I ran even a lap of the gym, I felt like I was going to black out in pain. I was told it was a stitch in my side and to breathe through it. I ran slower because it hurt so much. Sometimes I walked. Later, I discovered that "breathing through it" could have killed me. I had a 17 inch cyst on my left ovary that could have ruptured at any time.

In high school, I was still in agony. I really wanted to be athletic, because that was the cool thing. I wanted long hair in a high ponytail, and to run down the street looking fit and healthy. I was neither fit nor healthy. I managed a fourteen minute mile my senior year and was proud. That summer, I had major surgery to remove the cyst I'd never known was there, the same cyst that caused the chronic pain I'd felt since junior high. I lost 15 pounds and part of an ovary during several hours of surgery.

In college, I discovered yoga, and I loved it. For once, my body wasn't fighting me. I stuck to yoga until I met a friend in a lit class and discovered she, now calmly taking notes, had run 23 miles right before coming to class. And I wanted to do that too.

I couldn't.

The face you make after being attacked by biting flies.

I'd hoped the surgery would have done away with what was keeping me still. But I kept getting dizzy and lightheaded. I still had joint pain almost every day, even when I did next to nothing. The longer I stood, the more my diaphragm HURT. I can't explain how that feels, but it sucks. I managed a three mile run with my friend. I spent the rest of the weekend coughing and gasping for air. Eventually, we found out that was asthma, which I'd been walking around with for years. I'd lucked out and never had a massive attack that landed me in the hospital, so I was never diagnosed. I got inhalers and steroids and medicines to make my sinuses work and my lungs work and I felt...well.

When I get steroids now, I wake up in the morning, roll out of bed, and have a full day of activity. I get more done at work and home than I thought possible. I can go outside and sit in the fresh air. I feel healthy. This is because at long last, my body works the way it was designed to work. That will never be my everyday.

My everyday is taking a handful of pills, steroid nasal spray, and inhalers. I feel ill for about an hour, which is why I wake up an hour earlier than I really need to, so I can spend that hour eating breakfast and watching YouTube waiting to feel human. On a good day, I feel better at about 6:50 AM. Then I start getting ready. On a good day, I can make it through work and then head to the gym. On a bad day, my joint and/or sinus pain is so bad I can't consider running or lifting weights, so I go home and spend my evening prone, watching TV or reading. That's okay.

It's taken me years--since the days of the 30 Day Shred on this blog--to learn to be okay with bad days. But they're fine.

I might never be a marathon runner. In fact, I almost certainly won't be. I'm still a runner. I'm still athletic. I'm physically fit, even with my "endo-belly." Even with all the times I have to stop at the side of the road and gasp. I'm a runner. I spent the spring recovering from a nasty case of bronchitis. I didn't run for two months. I'm still a runner.

Look at me, outside! Only slightly red-faced!

If you're like me, Couch to 5K won't work the way it says it will. I'm sorry that there's no training plan for us. We have to make our own. Count your spoons. Do you have enough?  Tie on your shoes, go outside or to the gym. Maybe you'll walk or ride a bike, maybe you'll feel well enough to run. Maybe tomorrow you'll do more, or maybe you'll spend the day lying down. It's fine. That happens to me too. We are enough.

I used to joke when someone asked if I was a runner. I would reply, "Yes, the world's suckiest!" Then I realized how cruel that was to myself. Spoonies, let's stop stomping on our accomplishments. Let's be proud of all the things we can do instead

Friday, July 7, 2017

Podcasts You Should Be Listening To

I've been obsessively listening to podcasts lately. Here is a countdown of my top five:

5. Levar Burton Reads


This one is new! Ever watch Reading Rainbow as a kid? Like getting stories read to you by the chief engineer of the Enterprise? Like stories in general? This podcast is for you. Levar Burton is the best ever and as a child I wanted to marry him. I still would if he showed up and knocked on my door and asked me. But he has a lovely family and should stay with them. I'll just enjoy the podcast.

4. Lore


Lore is new-to-me, and I've quickly downloaded all the episodes so I can catch up. It comes out twice a week and has an Unsolved Mysteries kind of vibe, with freaky creatures, mysterious places, and some truly awful historical stories. The last episode I listened to involved an axe murderer. I will never sleep again.

3. Welcome to Night Vale

 Welcome to Night Vale

I started listening to podcasts after dozens of friends told me to listen to Welcome to Night Vale. Since then, they've released three books (another is on the way), been on countless tours, and reached 110 episodes of great storytelling. It's fantastic and if you haven't listened yet, you should start now. They're on haitus in July (they have to sleep sometime), but will be back for episode 111 in August.

2. Stuff You Should Know

 Stuff You Should Know

Listening to Stuff You Should Know makes me feel smarter. I put this podcast on whenever I'm working or cleaning and want company. When I spent two months house-sitting, I listened to more episodes than I want to count. Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant cover all kinds of topics from super-volcanoes to stoicism and I always learn something new when I listen. I THINK they're coming to Indianapolis soon--and if that's true, I'm getting tickets.

1. My Favorite Murder


I missed their tour stop in Indianapolis, so let's hope Georgia Hardstark and Karen Kilgariff come back soon. These ladies are HILARIOUS. Also they make me afraid to go into the forest ever, which is bad because I live in one. While the idea of listening to stories about murder seems a bit...not normal, turns out it totally is so stop staring at me. I would take a bullet for this podcast. Give Elvis all the cookies. (Subscribe and that will make sense)

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Where the Heck I've Been

I have been at home, of course. Where I usually am. Except instead of blogging I did the following:
  1. Ate Cheetos. I have begun a love affair with Cheetos. We are announcing our engagement soon. We have a close and special bond. You wouldn't understand.
  2. Donated half my wardrobe to charity. I'd like to say I did this for an important, special reason. The reality was, I decided to clean out my storage boxes in the basement while switching out my summer wardrobe for my winter/fall wardrobe and in the process donated half the clothes I own to charity because America had just elected well, you know, and I wanted to light myself on fire, so instead I donated all my clothes.
  3. Surprised myself when summer came and I had no clothes to wear. Yeah. That was a shock. I had literally nothing to wear that wasn't a sweater.
  4. Spent too much money. Because I had to buy a whole new spring/summer wardrobe because I LITERALLY had nothing to wear.
  5. Thought a lot about blogging. Not just about writing a blog, but about what I wanted this blog to BE. 

When this blog started, it was a knitting blog. I know, right?! What happened? That lasted about a month. Then it became what it has been for years, a "Random Story" blog. But that doesn't make it easy to write posts for me. For one, I might go through a spell of being very anxious, which has happened multiple times. Instead of having a topic prepared, I have to think up a funny story from my week, and shaking under the desk at work isn't funny to me when I'm still anxious.* I could have a loved one get sick or pass away, and that isn't funny at all. So how to I get inspiration?

I'm going to rethink things. For one, my interests have changed. I went from being a college student, an unemployed former college student, a deer-in-the-headlights newbie librarian, to an experienced professional. I went from sitting on the couch and watching a whole season of The X-Files in one sitting to going for a run, and THEN watching part of a season while drinking lots of water. I went from eating literally everything in sight to considering my health and allergies as I made food choices and becoming much healthier in the process.

I'm going to change this blog up a bit. I'll share book recommendations, lifestyle posts for people like me who totally don't have their sh*t together, my fitness foibles, and, of course, funny stories because it's me, after all.

The goal right now is two posts a week. I want something attainable while still keeping a schedule I can maintain while working and gym-ing and watching The X-Files while eating half a bag of Cheetos.**

* It's funny after, because I have a dark sense of humor.

** This post was in no way sponsored by Cheetos, but seriously Cheetos, call me. I am down with changing this blog design to be electric orange and taking pictures of various bags of Cheetos in different rooms of my house.