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

April Misses and May Goals

epcot

So it’s time for my monthly wrap-up! Who knew it was going to be May so soon? It completely snuck up on me, and unfortunately I didn’t really meet all my goals for April as a result.

To recap what I wanted to do, you can find the full post here.

I was able to control my spending on take-out even better this month, but pretty much all the other goals were either misses, or near-misses. I wasn’t able to get anything done in terms of knitting, and while I read more this month, I stalled out about 75% of the way through my second book. And keeping up with my PT exercises was kind of hit or miss. Better, but still not great.

So overall I really kind of missed the mark for April. But, with May now here I’m reinvigorated and motivated to really get some self-improvement done.

So here are the goals for this month:

1) Finish posting all the Disney photos on instagram.

The trip was more than three months ago now. Time to get them all up. If you want to follow along, go on and follow me @magpiemakingdo!

2) Be more active on the blog twitter.

I finally remembered my password for this, so I’m back in the tweeting game – and this time I want to be a little more proactive at networking and fostering bloggy relationships. So if you want to follow me there, head on over!

3) Spend no money on take out or fast food until my birthday week.

This means I have to make/bring every meal from home until the last week of May. Hopefully it’ll help me not only spend less money, but also eat healthier.

4) Post on the blog consistently every Tuesday and Thursday starting week 2.

I’ve had to put the “starting week two” caveat on this, mainly because, well, week one is already come and gone. Whoops.

5) Work on my blog photography.

This is something I’ve been meaning to do for a while. I’ve had a DSLR for years at this point, and honestly? I still have no idea how to use it. Additionally, the blogging photography game has changed drastically since I first started a blog ohhhh eight thousand years ago in college. Flatlays? Backdrops? Props? All of these things weren’t really standard when I started my first blog. And while my photography has improved from that very beginning in my cramped, dark dorm room, stylistically I haven’t really changed adequately with the times. So I want to spend some time in May specifically devoted to that.

So here we go. Wish me luck, and we’ll check back in with these goals come June!

What are your goals for May?

Book Review: Lirael by Garth Nix

Lirael

I’ve got to be honest here – this one was a bit of a slog.

After how much I enjoyed Sabriel, how compelled I was to keep reading and finish to see what happened, Lirael was a bit of a let down.

It’s almost as if Nix sort of saw the failings of Sabriel (lack of solid character development before the plot goes racing off) and then overcorrected in the next book, because in Lirael there’s almost too much. We spend sooooo much time just kind of sitting with the characters before any serious motion begins to kick in with the plot that it gets tedious at points.

And that would be one thing if this was just a coming of age story for Lirael and the point was to just kind of follow along with her adventures in the library of the Clayr as she learns and grows. But that’s not the kind of book that it presents itself as. It’s established from the very start that there are major forces at work in the Old Kingdom. Major forces that hint not just at catastrophe, but possibly a full fledged apocalypse. With that kind of set up, all the time we then spend just kind of sitting with the characters starts to feel like it’s wasted. And as a reader, that got quite frustrating. Lirael struggles with her identity and the fact that she doesn’t fit in with the Clayr. Sam has a serious case of “I don’t want to take over the family business” and self-pity. And these characters just wrestle with these things over, and over, and over, and over again without any real evidence of significant change until about the last fifth of the book. On multiple occassions I found myself skimming whole pages and saying to myself, “Yes, yes, I know she’s still struggling now lets get to some plot movement.”

And that’s just it. Plot movement is ultimately what this book’s predecessor had (almost to excess) that was missing here, making it suffer from what I can only dub “set-up syndrome.” The entire novel seems like it’s nothing but set-up for something bigger to come in book three. Or at least as a reader, I hope that’s the case. It ends with a pretty big cliffhanger which does make you want to keep reading despite the slog that came before.

So here’s hoping Abhorsen does indeed pick up the pace, and manages to endear these characters to me a little bit more solidly so as to make the little struggles I had getting through this worth it.

In summary: This book has its moments, but ultimately ends up being not much beyond set up for the next novel – and that sometimes makes reading it feel like a chore.

Overall rating: 2.5/5

Would Recommend to: People who read Sabriel, and intend to read Abhorsen. I am really unsure about how this would stand on its own without the context of the trilogy.

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See my review of Sabriel here

March: The Good, The Bad, And the Goals.

As part of my plan for getting more consistent around here, I’ve decided to make it my goal to post a wrap-up of each month – this way I can sort of look at each month in review, identify what I accomplished and what needs improvement. I feel like it’s also going to be nice to have a handy list of what I’ve accomplished for myself (in addition to everything I know I’ve gotten done for work) over the last month. Hopefully it’ll be a handy guard against my anxiety creeping in and telling me I’m unproductive and lazy.

Now the shape this post takes may change as the year goes on, and as – hopefully – I get back in the habit of consistently posting on here. But for now, here we go!

THE GOOD

Sketchbook

1) Started drawing more frequently.

This has been on my goal list for years. I used to love drawing, and it’s nice to get back into the habit of doodling when I have some down time. On the flip side, it also means I want an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil to play with SO BADLY now. And uhhh financially that’s just not going to happen.

Totoro mittens in progress

2) Finished one of my Totoro Mittens.

1 down, 1 to go. All I’ve got left is the thumb. Let’s DO this.

3) Read 1 Book for funsies (Review coming soon).

I finally finished Lirael, after sort of letting it linger half-finshed for a couple weeks. Review pending.

Undertow-Shawlette

4) Made progress on my Undertow Shawlette.

This too has been on the needles for years and I need to be done with it.

5) Spring Cleaned the Living Room.

The amount of cat hair I pulled up when I vacuumed the cat tree was truly horrifying.

one pot pasta

6) Cooked 60% of my meals at home over the last month.

I’m hoping this has saved me some moolah over the course of the month – because I’m going to need it.

CSI_Crime_Scene_Investigation_-_The_Complete_1st_Season_On_DVD

7) Finally finished watching the rest of CSI.

I had been a devoted fan of CSI since it first started airing in 2000. I have VHSs full of episodes that I begged my dad to tape off the air when I was in high school and had to miss for rehearsal sitting in my parents basement (ah, the days before on-demand). I watched almost religiously for 10 years – until grad school and teaching got so overwhelming that I just sort of lost track of it? It happened for basically all the TV shows that my dad didn’t also watch with me – I would just forget to tune in if I wasn’t reminded. Bones went the same way, and then NCIS did too once I moved out of my parent’s place and didn’t have my Dad to come tell me it was on anymore.

But anyway, I finally finished. I have kind of mixed feelings about it, to be honest, because this show was such a big part of my life for so long. It’s sad knowing there’s nothing new left for me to watch. On the other hand, it was admittedly was ready to end. It was getting pretty ridiculous in that last season with seemingly every other episode putting another member of the team in mortal danger. I also really didn’t care for Elizabeth Shue’s character at all (although I did quite like Ted Danson’s – which I didn’t expect, honestly). But it had just been with me for so long… it’s just kind of sad to have it done.

THE NOT SO GOOD

1) Fell on ice and screwed up my knee for two weeks.

Yea, that sucked. Honestly, the bruise is still in the process of fading.

2) The fall also triggered a regression of my shoulder issues since I haven’t been 100% the greatest at keeping up with my physical therapy exercises.

I hadn’t really said anything on here but the last year or so I had been struggling with a trapezius spasm that would not go away, and which then caused a chain reaction of mess with my shoulder. I know a muscle spasm doesn’t sound super serious, but good gracious did it interfere with being able to function – particularly since two of my jobs center around being able to play instruments and conduct, both of which are pretty shoulder intensive. I finished physical therapy and had the issues mostly tackled in early February, but I was supposed to keep up the routine of PT myself at home, and I’ve been sort of hit-and-miss with it the past few weeks because of work stuff. Well, my fall made it evident WHY I was supposed to keep those things up, because BAM, the spasm came back, and with it all my shoulder issues.

So yea, that sucks pretty hard.

3) Return of physical problems triggered a slight slip in staying on top of anxiety issues.

My anxiety very much revolves around health stuff – my mind immediately goes to the worst-case scenario when I don’t feel right. And so the return of physical pain (coupled with the fact that my body is responding differently to basically everything because of age and weight gain) has me on edge pretty much constantly.

4) Taxes, Car repairs, and general financial stress… oh my!

Yeaaaa, pretty self-explanatory.

THE GOALS

1) Spend even less money on take-out.

2) Read 2 books at least.

3) Finish the other Totoro Mitten by my self-imposed deadline.

4) Finish the Undertow Shawlette.

5) Keep up with my Physical Therapy exercises better.

So let’s see how I do.

What are your goals for April?

The Multi-year Totoro Mittens

Totoro mittens in progress

So I started these Norwegian Totoro Mittens (ravelry link)… uhhh… a long time ago. I actually am not sure when I started them, because of course I didn’t log them in my Ravelry Notebook. My Ravelry notebook that’s gone largely neglected the last few years.

Of course I didn’t.

But I do know that they’ve been on the needles a long time. Long enough to have stray strands of fur from my cat Genghis still knitted into them.* And Genghis has been pushing up daisies for several years now, soooo… there’s that.

But it’s time to be done with them. I’ve dragged them back out, and I want them OFF THE NEEDLES by this time next week. Mark my words.

Just in time for spring!

God gracious, do I need to get my knitting shit together.

Do you have a project that you’ve allowed to linger unfinished like this? Or are you someone who has to finish a project before they move onto the next? If so, can you teach me your ways?

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*Non-pet owners – don’t judge… it’s pretty much impossible to avoid. Cat hair just clings to certain yarns.