So Magpie’s Gonna Run a 5k… Again.

running again

So I know I said in my June goals post that fitness was on the docket, but that I wasn’t going to follow any set plan or anything.

Well, turns out I’m a liar.

I’ve started a Couch to 5k program.

Whoops.

Well, at least it’s a good whoops.

I’m using the C25K – 5K Running Trainer app from the Google Play store. I used it before about two years ago (maybe three?) to decent success, and I liked how the app functions. It’s easy to use, tracks your progress, gives you the option of sharing either with social media or with a C25K community (I don’t do either), it doesn’t tank my battery, and it’s compatible with a bunch of music apps so that I can listen to my Spotify playlists while it gives me the prompts. Basically it’s simple and fits my needs perfectly.

C25k

I don’t know why I did such a 180° on the no-plan thing. Something just came over me and I was suddenly motivated and determined to run again. Not that I’m complaining… I did well enough of that Friday when I got back to my apartment after finishing the first run and just had to lay on the floor for a while to catch my breath because of how ridiculously out of shape I am. I think I may have even texted my friend Kathleen to tell her to tell my family I love them if I don’t make it.

I’m apparently a bit of a drama queen.

I’m about a week into the plan now. I decided to repeat the first day’s program Monday so that I could get myself on a M-W-F schedule for each week of the program, and hopefully be done 8 weeks from now. This plan may not last, since last time I did this, I found myself needing to repeat a few days here and there before I felt like I could move onto the next week’s run without passing out. Running is not something that comes naturally to me, and it really does take me a while to get back in shape enough to do it.

But I’m gonna work on it! I’ll check in here with my progress from time to time – hopefully it’ll help keep me accountable!

running flatlay

Are you a runner? If so, any tips to send my way? Or are you working on any fitness goals of your own?

*This is not a sponsored post, and I am not affiliated with the C25K app in any way other than using it*

Book Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Book Review-Throne of Glass

I’ll be honest, I started out not really feeling this book.

I picked it up on a whim after one too many times seeing it in the bookstore and reading one too many internet reviews just raving about how good it was, but I wasn’t super excited about it. The description on the back cover of the main character, Celaena, sounded just a bit too… ugh. As described in the blurb, she sounded just a bit too much like some of the cringy Mary Sues that had dominated my middle school attempts at writing fantasy. Always blonde, always perfect, always a super-duper badass warrior and super tough, but still absolutely drop-dead gorgeous in a dress so that there could be that one scene where the romantic interest saw her “as a woman” for the first time… You know the formula. I think every young girl who dreams of writing fantasy writes some iteration of that character at some point (maybe not always blonde, but mine were). And I don’t know… it just seemed uncomfortably similar to me. I smelled Mary Sue all over her from the description.

TOG flatlay full

So I was a little skeptical.

And as I started it, it seemed like I might have been right. I found it very hard to get into at first. It wasn’t super attention grabbing, and I found it very easy to put down. Ultimately it took me almost a week to get through only the first third of the book because I’d read like 5 pages at a time before getting bored. Some of that could just be that I had a lot of other stuff going on that week and was distracted (I did, and I was), but some of it was the writing too. Apparently Maas started the book when she was in high school, and even with all the editing for publication the writing at the start still feels kind of… young. It’s not bad. Just young. I’m not sure how else to describe it.

But it’s not a problem that lasts. By the time I was about half-way through, the problem had remedied itself, and even if it hadn’t, the plot had grown so interesting that I’d still be hooked anyway. I sped through the rest of the book in a few hours while I was chaperoning a trip to a lake, and then was so committed to the story and the characters that I actually begged Jim to stop at the bookstore after work and bring the second book to me that night, since I couldn’t leave to go get it myself until the next day. I finished book two by the next morning.

TOG review open

So it ended up being pretty riveting.

And my concerns with Celaena being a Mary Sue? Totally unfounded. In fact, Celaena starts out as downright unlikable. She is sometimes annoying, vain, self-absorbed, rude, and above all immature. BUT, she is all those things in ways that work for such a young character. She’s immature in ways that seem age appropriate, and it makes her feel very real. Because didn’t we all have moments of vanity, rudeness, and self-absorption at the age of 18? Goodness knows I did. In the end her abrasiveness and sometimes questionable decision making/prioritizing helps remind us as readers that despite her extraordinary skills and talents – the very things that had me worried she’d fall into Mary Sue territory – she is also extraordinarily young for what she’s seen, experienced, and accomplished.

She also develops well as a character over the course of the book – but not so much that it feels unrealistic. Nobody grows up completely overnight, and everyone remains flawed. And the same is true for Celaena. Honestly, once I finished, the only real big complaint I have left is that the romance/love triangle thing is a little overwrought. But you know what? Overdone and overbearing though it may be, it was entertaining. And isn’t that what matters?

So ultimately, I really enjoyed this book. It wasn’t a “perfect” read, but what book is? It was fun, it was exciting, and it was entertaining. I can’t wait to read more.

TOG review angle

In summary: Not a perfect read, but it was entertaining, exciting, and left me hooked and excited for the next book in the series.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Would Recommend To: Anyone who has patience for the flaws of youth (or enjoys an occasionally unlikable protagonist), and likes fantasy.

Have you read Throne of Glass? If so, what did you think?

#ReadWomenMonth 2017

book stack

So a few days ago I stumbled across the greatest idea on Twitter – Stasia of Stasia Likes Cakes has designated June as Read Women Month, complete with corresponding instagram challenge. And I am totally all about this.

Read Women's Month Banner

One of my big goals for June is to just read. A lot. I’ve spent the last few months kind of falling back in love with fiction, and it’s reminded me how much I miss reading for fun. When I was a kid I used to go through like, three books a week every week. And then somewhere along the way as I switched to History all my reading became work-related. Which is still fun… but not quite the same kind of fun. I found myself not really reading for shits and giggles in my free time anymore. I still read a TON, but it’s rare that I just sit down and enjoy a book, from start to finish, without feeling compelled to take notes and to break out my trusty highlighter and underlining pen, or jumping from chapter to chapter, book to book, essentially turning it into research project instead of just reading (which is why I don’t log a lot of that stuff in my Goodreads account).

And so this June I’ve decided to take a bit of a break, and just read. Read fiction, read for fun, and leave the underlining pencil at home (as much as I can bring myself to, anyway). And what better way to do that than to spend some time making some conscious decisions to highlight and celebrate female writers?

So here’s the plan. I’m currently in the middle of a pretty dense book looking at the decision to attack Pearl Harbor from the Japanese side by a female historian (Japan 1941 by Eri Hotta). I’m gonna finish that up, and count it as my first book of the month before moving on to focus on fiction. Once that’s done I’ll be finishing up the Throne of Glass series (reviews are pending!) and then we’ll see where the wind takes us from there!

Read Women Month my pic

I don’t think I’ve ever consciously thought about the authors of the books I read in terms of gender, and so making the conscious decision to read only female authors for the month is going to be an interesting exercise in awareness for me.

Are you participating in #ReadWomenMonth? What’s on your TBR list?

*Banner from Stasia Likes Cakes Clicking image should take you back to the original post.*

May Wrap-up and June Goals

Move more

Well, hot damned. It’s June.

Already.

I find myself saying that a lot these days. “Already!?” “It’s summer already!?” “It’s [insert month] already!?” And the busier I am from day to day, the more I seem to be saying it.

And May was a VERY busy month. It always is. From wrapping up and ending the semester, grading final papers and exams, getting final grades in, and working graduations not just at my own institution, but at a couple others in the region as a musician… Then add in all the holidays and anniversaries – Mother’s Day, a major family member’s “cancer free” milestone anniversary, my birthday, trying to shop for Jim’s birthday in a couple weeks, Memorial Day…

…and just woof.

So yea, May flew by.

But the question is, was I able to meet my goals for May?

The answer is actually, “Yes!” Well, mostly anyway. I was able to get all my Disney photos up on instagram as of last week. I was in general far more active on Twitter this month (go follow me both places!). I stuck to my spending fast on take-out until my birthday week (although Jim did buy me Thai once – so it really was just a SPENDING fast, and not a total ban on take-out). And I did some work on learning to use my camera a bit better – although it’s uhhhh slow going.

So the only goal I didn’t hit was the “Post every Tuesday and Thursday” one. But I feel like overall, May was a month of pretty significant progress!

Yessssss. Positive progress.

So what’s next? What’s the plan for June?

Well I want to continue all of these goals and take the next step with some of them.

1) I want to continue the take-out spending ban as best I can, and start taking meal planning a little more seriously. I made some major strides in terms of changing eating habits over the course of May, and I want to keep up that progress. Granted, some of those strides I have to attribute more to the weather than my own self-discipline – we’ve had an above average number of absolutely blisteringly hot days for May, and nobody wants to stuff their face when it’s humid and stifling out. But hey, progress is progress.

2) Continue to be more active on my instagram and Twitter accounts, and try to spend some time actively building a following. I’m going to try to keep posting regularly on instagram, and try to reach out a bit more on twitter – maybe drop into some twitter chats over the course of the month.

3) I want to increase my post count, and try to get some surplus posts written. I’m hoping that over the next few months I can settle into a steady blogging schedule, and also create enough content to have on standby that I won’t have to have any little lull once all four jobs kick back in in September.

4) I want to read a little every single day.

5) I also want to either complete a workout, or go for a walk every day. Some of this is self-care (the walks), and some of it is vanity – pure and simple. (I’ve got a trip to the beach coming up, and precious little time to fit back into my bathing suit in any way that’s not downright obscene. I’d like to avoid having to purchase a new one, if at all possible.) I’m not dictating what kind of workout, or any sort of schedule for the walks – I think I’ll take it as the spirit moves me, whether it be Pinterest workouts, or some sort of actual plan like a Couch to 5k. We’ll see how it goes.

What are your goals for June?

The One Where Magpie Turns 30.

So it’s May.

Can we all agree to not know how this happened? Because I really seriously feel like the last two months somehow flew by in the span of a week. I’m not sure how. But I swear it did.

Because it’s May. More than halfway through May, actually.

And I’m super-duper not ready for it.

Because in just a few days, I turn the big 3-0.

Thirty.

big cat
Baby me being dwarfed by my parents’ first cat.

Yeaaaaa I don’t know how this happened so fast… Thirty years have seemingly passed in a fraction of the time… but I guess here we go?

petrushka
Inching closer to my parents’ first dog at age 3 – who I was terrified of.

I mean, realistically I know that the day of my birthday isn’t going to feel any different. It’ll be exactly like every other day. It’s not like I’ll wake up immediately feeling like a different – older – person. I know logically that “age is just a number.”

But idk… I’m having trouble not assigning some sort of significance to this one. To not being a “twenty-something” anymore. It just kind of seems like this looming cloud on the horizon.

30.

cat picnic
Having a plastic chicken picnic with the cat at age 5.

I know where the dread comes from. I know it’s because societally we’ve got these concepts of what it means to be a “twenty-something” vs. what it means to be a “thirty-something.” Societally speaking it’s okay for twenty-somethings to not have it all together, but thirty-somethings are supposed to. And I don’t. It’s okay for twenty-somethings to not have the hang of running their own lives quite yet, but by thirty you’re supposed to be an expert at “adulting.” And… uhhhh… I’m not. I was supposed to be somewhere close to achieving all the things my younger self took for granted that I would. And well, I’m nowhere near it.

Me 9th grade
Killin’ it at 9th grade Homecoming. I thought I was the shit with that MaxFactor lipstick.

And I also know that, well, it doesn’t matter.

There is no set age for having your own place, for being able to afford your own pet, for buying a house, for feeling like a real adult. I know that these are seriously just these stupid expectations that somehow over the course of 30 years I’ve internalized from various places without thinking about it or questioning it, and that ultimately it’s all bullshit. There is no such thing as a “proper path.” There is no pre-perscribed timeline that somehow I’m failing by not keeping up with.

me 21st birthday
Officially a 20-something on my 21st birthday.

The logical part of my brain knows this.

But the irrational side can’t let go of the “holy shit you can’t be serious this is not happening nooooooooooo” feeling. That little voice inside my head that can’t let go of that plan I originally had for myself. The one that keeps screaming, “NO YOU CAN’T BE TURNING THIRTY YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO HAVE YOUR OWN HOUSE AND A DOG AND HAVE TRAVELED TO ENGLAND AND JAPAN AND RUN A 10K BY NOW.”

I find myself overwhelmed with a case of the “coulda, shoulda, wouldas.”

And I need to stop.

Because the reality is that I think I’ve done pretty well for myself, all things considered. Given the new financial realities of the world and the field I chose, the path I had planned out for myself growing up in the booming 90s just wasn’t to be. But I’ve been some cool places and done some cool things. I have a family and a significant other who love me and are just downright wonderful. I have a career which I can honestly say I love and working with my students keeps me feeling energized and young at heart. And so I may not make much, and I may not have hit all these supposed “milestones” that my younger self assumed I would have by now – but I’ve generally enjoyed the ride here.

Disney Castle
Almost thirty, and still a kid at heart.

And that’s more than a lot of people can claim.

So it’s time for me to put on my thirty-something pants and make this decade even more fun than the last.

Here goes nothin’.

Magpie Reviews: 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher

13 reasons why review

This book…

Well…

I guess I don’t know precisely how to start this? Because this book is controversial. I read it specifically because I’ve been seeing controversy pop up all over the place and I’m a sucker for a good debate like that. And I don’t really know how to approach this review, because to be honest? After reading it, I don’t really have much to say. There’s no denying that it deals with some super important things, and there’s no denying that these things are things that we as a society NEED to have open, honest conversations about. But in the end I felt kind of meh about the book itself.

13 reasons why

Now before I get into why, I suppose I should open with a few caveats. Because these things really sort of hampered my ability to really “get” what this book was selling.

1) I am no longer a teenager. While this surprises no one, I do feel like it’s an important aspect of my overall review of this book. Because here’s the thing – since I spend much of my time working with teens, I like to think that I’ve stayed pretty good at remembering what it was like to be that age. More so than your average about-to-turn-thirty adult. BUT, there’s a big difference between remembering what it was like, and actually experiencing the world that way. So I generally find myself struggling to relate to the characters in YA books, and even when I manage it, it’s certainly not quite in the same way that an actual teen can (which is one of the reasons when I read YA fiction I usually prefer fantasy, because age and worldview matter a whole lot less). As a result I feel like a good deal of this book’s emotional impact was lost on me.

and

2) While I have had my struggles with anxiety – which is often closely connected with depression – I am not, nor have I ever been seriously depressed or suicidal. So I cannot speak as to how this book would read to someone who has struggled with depression or suicide. I cannot speak as to how accurate the portrayals of Hannah’s suicidal tendencies are, and I cannot speak for whether or not it would glamorize suicide for someone who has considered it. Those two things seem to be the lightning rods for much of the controversy with this book, so although the controversy is what drew me to read it, ultimately I can’t really chime in on it, as I don’t really have a horse in that race.

So what do these things leave me with?

13 reasons why open

Well, it was an entertaining read. The plot device of the tapes was a very clever mechanism, and I must admit that I don’t think I’ve read anything quite like this before – structurally speaking. Experiencing the tapes along with one of the recipients was engaging, and absolutely kept the suspense level up. I sped through this book in a single sitting, and it wasn’t because I had the time – it was because I could not bring myself to put it down. I started it intending to only read for 15 or 20 minutes before bed. Three hours later, it’s 2:30 in the morning, my alarm is set to go off in 4 hours, and I have no idea where the time has gone, but hey, the book is finished.

So it’s definitely an entertaining read. There’s no denying that. Emotionally, on the other hand, it fell a bit short for me. It packed a punch while I was knee deep in the narrative, but I can’t say that it left me raw for days, or that I couldn’t stop thinking about it when I finished. It was good, but just not that good. Not for me anyway. Honestly, I left the reading experience thinking way more about the cleverness of the premise than I did about the characters or the story, and that leaves the experience feeling a bit… sterile? Technical? I’m not sure how else to describe it.

Part of this has to do with the lack of connection I felt with the narrator, Clay. Honestly I was far more interested in the transcripts of the tapes than Clay’s thought process as he listened to them. His interjections were occasionally disorienting as we switched back and forth from Clay to the tapes, and I really kind of felt like he suffered from “Nice Guy Syndrome” a little bit. Some of the comments he makes as he listens – about Hannah, about his relationship with her – have SO MUCH POTENTIAL to expand into character development and self-reflection, to deal with the way society teaches young men to feel entitled to the affection of young women… but then they are just sort of brushed aside. Back to the tape. On to the next thing.

And that tendency to brush aside massive issues for the next thing as we race to the end seems to be pretty consistent throughout the book. Asher brings up a lot of really important points about the way boys are taught to view girls, about the way that teens interact with each other, about bullying, and rumors, and alcohol, and sexual assault, and rape, and, and, and. But many of them just get brought up and left at that. As I read, I spent a lot of time disappointed that we’re not going to get into the meat of the issue at all.

And, spoiler warning, even the big reveal we get when Clay is finally mentioned on the tapes feels like let down. To me it only served to leave Clay feeling even more one dimensional as a character. Again, if you haven’t read or watched the series yet – here’s a major spoiler alert. The revelation that Clay is the one name on the tapes which doesn’t actually belong there? Yea, that kind of feels like a cop-out, and just plays into this “nice guy syndrome” thing I mentioned before even more heavily. Like, I so totally would have preferred if there WAS an actual reason Clay was on the tapes, and he was forced to grapple with the fact that maybe he’s not the good guy he thinks he is. Grapple with the fact that his version of his relationship with Hannah was experienced entirely differently from her POV. Now that, to me, would have been powerful.

So in the end, while it was definitely a page-turner, and I certainly wouldn’t say that it was a waste of time or money, I just kind of feel “meh” about it. I’m glad I read it. I enjoyed the three hours I spent with it. But it’s certainly not the life-changing ground-breaking kind of read I was expecting based on the publicity it’s gotten recently.

Now, I have not yet watched the Netflix series that has reignited the controversy. I intend to, but to be honest I have no idea when I’m going to get around to it, since the series is a WAY bigger time commitment than the book was (13 hours), and the topic is, without a doubt, pretty heavy. Maybe when I finally get around to watching the series I’ll do a review of it and compare to see how it stacks up in comparison. It’s very possible that the series explores the topics the book brings up more deeply, and I look forward to finding out.

13 reasons why flatlay

In summary: A good read, but nothing life changing – at least for me. But again, this assessment is tempered by the caveats listed above.

Rating: 3/5 stars, if only for the page-turner nature.

Would recommend to: Honestly, I’m not sure. I suppose anyone who is looking for a quick read that deals with some pretty heavy topics, and feels like this is the kind of book that they could read safely.

The One Where Magpie Hates Healthy Eating

caprese pesto chicken

So one of my biggest goals for this month is a total ban on take-out and fast food. Over the last couple years as I’ve added job after job, my eating habits have basically found themselves going right down the toilet. Whatever was quick, easy, and convenient was what was on the menu. I drive past Dunkin’ on this day, the Thai place is right around the corner from where I work this day, etc… etc… My location determined my meal.

Which sucks for a variety of reasons. The biggest being, of course, that my wallet AND my waistline both take issue with the habit. My waistline has continued to expand as my wallet deflates. And the waistline thing wouldn’t even be that big of a deal (I’m still on the “skinnyish” side of national averages) if it wasn’t so interconnected with my wallet.

See, new clothes in a new size cost money.

Money that I don’t have because I’ve been mostly spending it on take-out and fast food because I work too much to cook because I don’t have enough money.

So you see the problem here.

So for May I’ve decided to cut take-out and fast food all together.

No more. And no more super duper processed food either – at least when I can manage it. Lots of fresh, lots of fruits and veggies, and lots of water.

And guys? Can I be honest here?

This seriously sucks.

soup starter

Like, I know that it’s better for me? I know it’s saving me mega money? I know that eating salads, and chicken, and fresh food is way healthier than the way I’ve been operating lately? I know that the internet gives me access to all sorts of fun, exciting, healthy recipes so that it doesn’t have to be boring? But like, all I want is a damned bowl of Kraft Mac and Cheese. Topped with more cheese. And salty nutrition-free ramen. Maybe a big plate of take-out Pad Thai. And a dessert of a whole sleeve of shortbread cookies.

Ugh.

And the kicker is? Eating better isn’t even as hard as I’ve been telling myself all these years. Some careful planning and a couple of good fridge storage containers and I can have enough meals for the week in under two hours. So I can’t even use “It’s too hard and takes too much time” as an excuse anymore. And that almost makes me MORE miserable about this whole thing.

And I know this is a SUPER privileged first world problem kind of thing to be bitching about. I know it is. I also know that these kind of habit changes are a process. Results aren’t immediate and a habit – particularly one that can have addictive aspects to it like this – doesn’t change overnight.

But I also feel like it’s important to be honest. Because I have to admit, when I first started this quest to eat better, I felt like a massive failure for not liking it. For not feeling better. For not loving my meals. For not being able to enjoy eating a salad in the same way that I loooovvvveeee eating mac and cheese. I still feel like that 80% of the time, actually.

Because there’s so much noise coming in from the social media world telling me that this shouldn’t be the case. That I shouldn’t hate this. That I’m wrong if I don’t feel better and happier when I clean up my eating habits. That a healthy diet and exercise are the key to a contented life. And it may not be directly or intentionally, but social media – Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook – they’re filled with health and fitness gurus and inspo that tout how much happier being healthy will make you. You’ll feel so much better! And it’s sooooo easy too! Look, these healthy meals taste so good, you won’t even miss your old diet anymore!

But I do. Oh my goodness, I do.

And I guess that’s the crux of it. I guess I just want to throw that out there into the universe. That this isn’t easy for everyone. And it’s okay for it not to be easy. Everyone keeps telling me that it’ll get easier as the habit change becomes permanent. That my palate will change along with my diet. That I’ll stop craving super processed and fatty foods, and grow to prefer these healthier options. Social media puts this glossy sheen over everything, promising ease and health and pep. That the struggle – when it’s actually acknowledged in a direct way – is super totally worth it, and that in retrospect this’ll seem super easy.

But it’s not.

So far it’s just been hard.

And that’s okay.

And I think admitting that this is hard, and enduring anyway? I think that’s the first step to making real change.

So let’s see how this goes.

salad