No Book Nook: Health and Wellness

I love the body positivity movement. I love the idea of removing negativity from being fat and treating at as a descriptor as opposed to a pejorative. I am also 100% on board with the idea that there are multiple variables involved with why people are overweight, both genetics and situational aspects, so being kind and not judgmental about a person’s weight is an important shift to make in society as a whole, especially considering the socio-economic inequality that is ever increasing in our country.

Basically the heart of this is to mind your fucking business, and that’s something we could all take to heart in a better way in this social media environment.

One part of the body positive movement that I have a little bit of a difficult time understanding is the complete avoidance of weight loss. Breathing a whisper of any desire to lose pounds brings down an avalanche of people screaming for the removal of whomever mentioned it.

Listening to these people made me think about why they might react that way. For most overweight or obese people who have had interactions with weight loss, they probably have unpleasant memories bordering on traumatic (or actually traumatic!), and mentioning it would be aligning yourself with the enemy in a community searching for acceptance. So I get it.

Despite all of this, I had to admit to myself that lately I have been feeling uncomfortable. My hips and my knees are sore, my clothes don’t fit well, and certain foods just aren’t tasting the same or my body is rejecting them altogether. So back in October I decided I would try to track my eating, and I also started going to the gym. The purpose was to get stronger and to improve my heart health and metabolism. I would also really love to avoid diabetes if at all possible.

So when I began tracking my eating and exercise, I made a decision for myself: that I would not do this for the main purpose of losing weight. Losing weight, in whatever amount, would be a side effect rather than a primary goal. Success for me would be writing down what I’m eating and keeping an eye on sugar and sodium – and even then not restricting my diet by calories but by eating healthy options that will nourish my body (this is a work in progress and my biggest struggle due to my background). Success would also be making it to the gym at least once a week, at most three times and walking on the treadmill. The most structured I want to be about this right now is using the Couch to 5K app to determine when to walk slow or fast.

Just doing these small things has caused me to lose 7 pounds since October, and while that’s good for my knees and my hips, that’s not what I’m hanging my hat on. My size 22 work pants are getting baggy, and I put on a size 20 of the same pant today and they aaallllmmost fit. My heart rate at the gym isn’t as wild now that I’ve been going consistently for about 3 weeks, and it comes down more reliably when the workout is over. My instinct is to still include the weight loss in my list of accomplishments, but I have made progress in that I don’t value it as highly as I used to.

I am beginning to feel better in general. Now if I could just drink my daily allotment of water reliably! I want a lifestyle that is sustainable and that makes me feel more comfortable in my own body. Without suggesting any diets, what elements of your eating or habits help you feel happy and healthy? What might you suggest to others if they are looking to make their day to day better? And if you haven’t yet today, drink some water!

The Hazel Wood (The Hazel Wood #1)

The Hazel Wood

New Release 1-30-18

This is a YA novel. The main character Alice is 12 years old. She and her mother Ella move around three times a year to escape what they call bad luck. Her grandmother Althea is a world-renowned author of a collection of fairy tales calls Tales from the Hinterlands. Copies are rare and hard to come by and Alice has never read them. She has also never met her grandmother, but hopes she will reach out.

Suddenly her mom receives a letter that Althea has died, and makes a statement about how they are finally free from the bad luck. Ella marries quickly and attempts to give Alice a normal life. After about a year of supposed normalcy the bad luck returns, and after school one day Alice finds herself in her new home that now smells terrible, is missing all the people that are supposed to be there, and an envelope containing a single paper from Tales of the Hinterlands has been left on her pillow: the title page to the tale “Alice-Three-Times.”

She runs to her newfound friend Finch, who happens to be a fan of the stories, and he helps her search for clues. They decipher that characters from the stories have leaked into their reality and are very dangerous. He agrees to help her to stay safe and to try to find her mom and the Hazel Wood, where her grandmother lived.

This book is an absolutely riveting mystery. In terms of familiar things it seems to combine elements of Stranger Than Fiction with Jumanji-type suspense. During parts where the story gets a little flat the suspense from earlier parts kept me reading because I had to know what was going to happen next. Is she in the book or is the book out to get her? Is she the personification of one of the characters from the books or is she the hero that needs to save the world from them? What lies in wait for her and Finch in the Hazel Wood?

Melissa Albert wraps you around her pen so tightly and subtly that you are trapped in the story before you realize it and you must continue on to the finish. To do otherwise would be to deprive your senses and curiosity of the rich adventure which is laid out, ripe for the taking. Go get you some.

What Dreams May Come

I have a recurring dream. The location changes, but the idea is the same. I am returning to an apartment or home that I have not been to in a bit, but must immediately vacate for some reason. Sometimes I have roommates, sometimes it’s just me, but in either case we have not packed at all. The belongings seem to multiply, or I can’t find enough boxes and have to choose what to take and what to abandon. In some of the dreams I think I am done, but then find a small door I have forgotten which opens to reveal a close attic or basement that is stacked with clothes or books or stuffed animals.

Last night I seemed to have been returning to a townhouse of some kind. There was a line of 4 or 5 of them, and there were back entrances that seemed very sketchy and shabby, and led down to a lake. When I walked up to my entrance from the lake it had been taped over with a message, that the door had been sealed and locked by order of the city. All of the doors had. When I raced around to the front I found the door ajar and my roommates frantically packing. The building had been condemned.

It was obvious why. The structure was molded and rickety. Outlets were uncovered or just wires sticking out of the wall with no plug at all. Evidence of mice and roaches littered the floor. I tried to scream for help but my voice was gone, and I tried to make the people in the house understand that I needed them to help me call my husband to come help me pack. No one understood what I was saying.

A man approached me and said there was something I needed to see. He led me down a hallway, past a strange well-organized office, to a room that must be mine. Inside there was severe water damage, a folding table littered with old stuffed animals, and on the floor several large black cats. Some seemed old, some seemed under fed, others severely overfed. Each slunk from the room slowly and as best they could given their respective bulks, and each made eye contact with me. Their eyes were dull, clouded, yet sharp and judging. They couldn’t all be Toby’s kids, could they? He was safe at my…other house?  Plus he was fixed, so he couldn’t have kittens, and I wouldn’t have left them all here alone and uncared for if he had.

At this point my mind did what it usually does and figures out that my dream is a bad one and attempted to change it. Nothing would have worked logically so it woke me up. I have been having vivid dreams for such a long time that I have learned to control them for the most part. At first I was oriented to being in this dream place, so it took me a second to realize that I was in the real world, in my actual bed, in our rental home. All humans and pets safe and accounted for.

I have this kind of dream multiple times a month. The same feelings of panic and disorganization accompany each one no matter the circumstances. I know dreams are just the brain throwing out the junk, but it’s difficult to believe that they don’t mean anything, especially when they happen so often. Do you have dreams that keep coming back to you? What do you think they mean?

For my part, I’m going to pick something to organize or clean today, and give some extra love to Toby.

Toby

52 in 52: Go to a Festival or Fair

This week the husband and I drove to our local outdoor mall to attend the Suncoast Arts Fest, a collection of arts vendors, sidewalk chalk drawings, face painting, and overall an okay time. Admission was free, so the price was right.

I was a bit disappointed to see that there were no food vendors or anything like that, because that smell really makes a festival for me and you can find it at things like the Kumquat or Strawberry Festivals that are held in this area in January and February. I think the reason for this is to encourage people to eat at the food places in the mall. Still disappointing though.

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We walked the entire length of the festival and saw lots of cool painting, photography, and mixed media. Most of it was completely out of our price range. There were some things that I would have wanted to get if we owned a home, but would be unrealistic at our rental home or in an apartment.

There was one booth where we stopped at the beginning of our walk that had some really amazing Chinese art by an artist names Zhiyong Ye. He didn’t have a website or a card or anything, just an e-mail address. Even the originals were within my price range, and I need to make sure to contact him to see if I can get one. But we identified some of the reproductions ($25) that we liked and said that if we didn’t find anything else at the festival then we would stop there and get a few.

The husband chose this ancient-feeling, mountainous village scene. I like the way I feel when I look at it: both dark and powerful.

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I chose this little number. THAT KITTEN IS GONNA GET THAT BEE. Look at the amazing intensity in the eyes! There was a second one where the kitten is hanging from a branch above some swimming koi, but this one spoke louder to me. At some point I want to get that other one to make a set.

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It was a smaller festival, but it got us out of the house on a Sunday and gave us some exercise and some culture, plus we came home with some excellent art to hang on the wall. Next week, I’ll share a gift that I bought for the husband. We’re on week 5 people!

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The Sky Is Yours

The Sky is Yours

New release review: 1-23-18

I did not finish this book. I even broke my rule about getting to 30% before passing judgment. This book was so bad in the first 20% that I had to force even that, but then I just had to stop.

I’m not sure how Chandler Klang Smith managed to make the dragons the most boring part of the book. They just swirl above the metropolis burning random stuff and it’s SO. BORING.

There is a prison complex in the middle of the city that is locked and surrounded by a huge wall and generations of people have lived and died inside. It’s basically its own society and it’s also where the dragons burn the most. That could be like Batman: Arkham City cool, and honestly it should be a little depressing, but overall it just read as…normal? Which made it lacking in interest, what’s the word? BORING.

There is an immature rich boy who is engaged to a “duchess” with endless teeth(?), and he runs away and finds a girl and her dead mom (?) on the central garbage island and fucks her even though she’s childlike and doesn’t even know what having sex is (and neither does he so he doesn’t even make her feel good – I think he actually says “oh yeah, I probably hit your G-spot, definitely.”). She thinks that robots have taken over the city and are waiting to kill her if she goes back.

This book is confusing, unnecessarily obscene, kind of rapey, and the fun parts are somehow boring and ancillary AND THAT’S JUST THE FIRST TWENTY PERCENT. 80ish PAGES.

To be fair I’ll include the description from Goodreads here too. I think it’s a little extra but hey, you gotta try to sell the book, right?

Read this book if you want, but I say skip it because it’s gross and boring and there are SO MANY GOOD BOOKS TO READ THIS YEAR. I added some of my own commentary for flavor. Enjoy.

***

A sprawling, genre-defying epic set in a dystopian metropolis plagued by dragons, this debut about what it’s like to be young in a very old world is pure storytelling pleasure. (NO IT’S NOT OMG DID WE EVEN READ THE SAME BOOK)

In the burned-out, futuristic city of Empire Island, three young people navigate a crumbling metropolis constantly under threat from a pair of dragons that circle the skies. (This makes it seem like it’s suspenseful. IT ISN’T) When violence strikes, reality star Duncan Humphrey Ripple V, the spoiled scion of the metropolis’ last dynasty; Baroness Swan Lenore Dahlberg, his tempestuous, death-obsessed betrothed; and Abby, a feral beauty he discovered tossed out with the trash; are forced to flee everything they’ve ever known. (This sure sounds like a neat journey, right? I DIDN’T GET HERE BECAUSE THE BEGINNING WAS SO BAD) As they wander toward the scalded heart of the city, they face fire, conspiracy, mayhem, unholy drugs, dragon-worshippers, and the monsters lurking inside themselves. (Oh my god no one wants this) In this bombshell (REACHING) of a novel, Chandler Klang Smith has imagined an unimaginable world (with dragons and horny dudes? Oh my goodness I can’t even imagine that kind of world…WAIT…): scathingly clever and gorgeously strange, The Sky Is Yours is at once faraway and disturbingly familiar, its singular chaos grounded in the universal realities of love, family, and the deeply human desire to survive at all costs. (Honestly I think we’d all be better off if these characters died. Especially the stupid dude whose nickname is, I shit you not, THE DUNK.)

The Sky Is Yours is incredibly cinematic, bawdy, rollicking, hilarious, and utterly unforgettable, a debut that readers who loved Cloud Atlas, Super Sad True Love Story, and Blade Runner will adore. (This is all false advertising, don’t be lied to.)

***

No Book Nook: Know Thyself

It is no secret that black women have been showing up to elections. While real numbers would have to be obtained and are probably smaller than you would think, the percentages don’t lie: black women are not here for this bullshit. From the 2016 presidential election to the more recent Alabama special election, black women are showing up in the 90% range for Democratic candidates. In contrast to this, white women are not showing as much support for Democrats. 53% of white women voted for Donald Trump and 64% of the white women who voted in the Alabama race voted for accused child molester and supporter of the KKK, Roy Moore.

Special author note: the Alabama info doesn’t surprise me because it’s white women in the south. I was prepared for their garbage. Even though the percentage was larger in that race, the 53% of white women nationwide concerns me more. I am not a really big fan of relying on percentages alone, especially when considering elections in the US. Even in large, widely publicized elections we can only manage to get a little over half of eligible citizens to vote, but percentages are all I have time for at the moment.

Armed with only these percentages, it’s no surprise to see visuals like this at these women’s marches:

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We could look at images like this and be like, “yeah, that’s true, a majority of the white women that voted did vote for Trump” and just move on with our day, but that’s impossible in this age of people screaming at each other on the internet. White women who are totally working so hard and totally don’t deserve to feel bad about anything have to remind everyone within their voice that they are totally not that white woman. Every fragile white woman has to attack on Facebook, Twitter, etc in order to remind you that she didn’t vote for Trump and don’t forget #notallwhitewomen did!!!

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One of the most valuable skills that I learned online which increased my enjoyment of social media was the ability to know myself and to not take anything personally that I knew did not apply to me. To get defensive about comments about how white women voted for Trump would be to make the argument about me instead of asking what the fuck is up with the white women who did vote for Trump? Also it insults the intelligence of people having the conversation. OF COURSE we understand that 53% does not equal 100%. There are white women out there doing excellent things, being supportive, promoting change and progress – we know that. You don’t need to remind us of that fact in the middle of a discussion about white women who are not doing that.

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Don’t get me wrong, I do have problems with ultra-wokeness. I think there are pockets of the internet that eat people alive if they aren’t 100% knowledgeable/sensitive about every fucking social issue. People forget that not everyone is on Twitter 24/7 and have jobs and families and lives and maybe don’t have their finger on the pulse of the diverse communities rising around them.

I understand how to manage my vocabulary to be sensitive to different populations because I exist on the internet and interact with these populations to be up to date on the issues as much as I can be. But not everyone is there. I do think there is some room in this discussion for being kind to people who are actually trying and not ripping them into pieces if they don’t get things just right.

To allow for this kindness, white ladies, I hate to tell you this but you’re going to need to learn to shut up. Don’t comment to defend yourselves. Listen to what people are saying and learn about the issue. If it applies to you, fix yourself. If it doesn’t, take pride in your works and actions and continue to make a difference. The world will see what you are doing. You don’t need to defend yourself in the comment section of the Facebook status of someone you’ve probably never met, trying to convince them you’re not one of the “bad ones.” They know you are out there, you don’t need to send up a defensive flare on Twitter. You will get eaten alive. You look ignorant and selfish. Stahp it. Do good works, improve what you can, and learn to listen more – know that you are one of the good ones, and more importantly than that, show that you are. No defense necessary.