Rocket City Bloggers Year Long Blogging Challenge (YLBC): Week Two

For this week’s question, we look to the past. For those of you who are transplants, when did you come to Huntsville and why? For those of you that grew up here, why did you choose to stay?

This week’s challenge has me struggling for anything interesting to say, unfortunately. I was born in Huntsville Hospital and raised on the outskirts of town. I stayed in the same school district my entire life, and even my college attendance in another city lasted a single semester before I moved back home. My life, it is so very exciting.

That first semester back home was the final nail in the Huntsville coffin. On the morning of Good Friday in 2006, I found myself quite unexpectedly pregnant at the ripe old age of 18. My boyfriend (now my husband) and I decided to keep the baby, but it made moving anywhere less desirable after many years of wanderlust. Alabama is so lame, I would constantly whine, fully knowledgeable in all things as a teenager, and quite convinced there was no worse place to live, except maybe Mississippi. (In fact, my friends and I always joked that the Alabama motto was, “At least we’re not Mississippi!” Apologies to any Mississippians out there, but you probably understand the feeling of being adjacent to a state as poorly perceived as your own.)

With a baby to raise and her brother coming a couple of years later, thoughts of other homes far away went just there. Dreamland. Especially after purchasing a house and snagging a cushy job in the shitty economy, it seemed rather foolish to want to go anywhere else. My family is truly amazing, without whom I would have never made it as a mother. Or a person, honestly. Having the majority of them within ten minutes was a great comfort. Even with the suffocating feeling of over-protectiveness,  I never wanted to have to feel the stress of being alone in a city. My mood disorder makes a supportive net necessary for the health and well-being of not only me but my children.

As I have gotten a little older, the appeal of Rocket City has grown. Not just the web of supportive family, who would be there for me no matter where we lived, but the sense of community as a whole. Our fantastic public library (borrowing new books every couple of weeks never gets less exciting for me). Lowe Mill Arts & Entertainment, the coolest mix of talented local artisans and performers. Comic book shops like Haven Comics and The Deep. An amazing brewpub with the best food in town. A hands-on museum or two. And, of course, the budding blogging community within Rocket City Bloggers. That is just a little sampling of what Huntsville has to offer.

There truly are some amazing people in this town, regardless of our state’s stereotype. You can find ignorance anywhere, just like you can be bored anywhere, especially if you are always the hermit. Building solid relationships in your own community and supporting the local flavors are what make a city feel like your own. Cornily enough, I am proud to call my city home. Come on, guys. We’ve got rockets. 

Advertisements

Rocket City Bloggers Year Long Blogging Challenge (YLBC): Week One

Recently I joined the local community Rocket City Bloggers. I guess because I am kind of a hermit when it comes to local events and groups, I was pleasantly surprised to stumble upon it. You mean boring Huntsville has actual things? People around here do cool, non-church-related stuff? Maybe this city isn’t so bad, after all. Yeah, a little late to the party, but all of the sudden I am wanting to be involved! Cue frantic waving.

It just so happens that the Rocket City Bloggers have, just this week, started a year long weekly blogging challenge. The first week’s topic just so happens to be What Do You Need More of Right Now? My answer just so happens to be motivationThe RCB community and the YLBC (so many acronyms! this must be a military town!) just so happen to be perfect motivation for blogging more often, which I have needed for quite some time.

You can see by looking at my list of posts – less than 25 in almost two years – that I am not the most active of bloggers. My online presence is fairly scattered. A private Livejournal was my first pursuit of writing online, like many people I know . Since then I’ve hopped around on different sites with little direction or care. I like a hell of a lot of different things, I’m a mom, I like have to write, and I have a mood disorder that sometimes prevents me from doing anything, sometimes makes me go on days-long creativity highs. When given direction and a deadline, however, I usually can kick some ass.

One thing I have noticed is that when I really feel the motivation to write, my words are more genuine and my voice comes through easier. Reading through past posts, not just here but on all my other blogs, it is pretty obvious (to me) when I felt a deep, inner need to write and when I just felt guilty or bored.

Here, here! To motivation from new sources, a new found diverse community of local bloggers, and more god damn posts! Plenty of nonsense coming your way.

unicorns and glitter and cloudy days and blergyness, too, because i'm bipolar.

And rainbows. Always plenty of rainbows.

 

P.S. Local folks – I will SO be hitting up Ponypalooza at the Madison Public Library this weekend with my daughter and few friends (mine, not G’s. Yes. Adults). Hope to see some of you there!

50 Book Challenge: February and March update (8/50) and reviews

These past two months have been super slow on my goal progress. Why? God damn Murakami and his 900+ page novel. I’ll just get right to the reviews.

6. In the Cities of Coin and Spice (The Orphan’s Tales #2) by Catherynne M. Valente: Part two of this series was just as beautiful as part one. I definitely recommend reading them immediately back-to-back, for the stories are all interconnected and impressively weaved together. If I had taken too much of a break in between these two, I feel I could have easily forgotten many important details from the first. As it stands, I think these deserve a re-read since they are so complex. I closed this book so very satisfied with the conclusion. Valente really knows how to craft a powerful story, but more importantly, she knows how to end that story. I rated both of these books 5 stars on Goodreads without hesitation.

7. 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami: What an undertaking this novel was. It took me 6 weeks and really pushed me back on my progress towards my goal. (Goodreads says I am now 4 books behind! Dammit!) Whatever, it was really good. Typical weird Murakami, strange fantasy intertwined with the real world. It kind of dragged, with lots of details and waiting and thinking, “Seriously we are still sitting in this apartment doing nothing?” When things happened, though, they happened, and it was engrossing overall. The only thing that bothered me, besides the pace, was that it seemed like he was kind of patting his own back at times. The novel involves a fantasy story written by a young girl,  not very well written so it has to be rewritten by an editor. The kicker is that her story actually happened, her characters and settings actually exist in a world within the novel. When he describes her story, he pretty much says, “If this was fiction, it would be one of the best and most imaginative things ever written,” but the fact remains that he fucking wrote it.  I mean, he is a genius and his little display of ego there won’t stop me from reading everything he’s written. 3.5/5.

8. The Magicians by Lev Grossman: This book has crazy mixed reviews, and I really should not read any more of them before providing my own. My initial reaction was simply this: enjoyment. I liked immersing myself in the belief that perhaps all these amazing fantasy worlds I’ve loved for years could be real. Perhaps that is childlike but that also seems to be the intention of Grossman. Did he present that idea with a pretentious, annoying, cocky, morose, egotistical protagonist? Sure. There were a lot of inherent issues with the novel but hey, I am reading the second one and liking it, too. So many times with reading I will gloss over things that bother me to get to the meat of the parts that I like, because I try to give things the benefit of the doubt. Either way, I had major feelings with a certain death at the end. 3.5?/5

**

April preview:

9. The Magician King by Lev Grossman
10. Legends II edited by Robert Silverberg

I have a long list of to-reads on my Goodreads account, so my next few books will be from that list. Surprises! They’re great!

50 Book Challenge: January update (5/50) and reviews

This year, one of my goals was to read 50 books. Typically I will read anywhere from 25 to 40 books over the course of a year, so 50 was enough of a challenge. This also gave me an excuse to go to the library and read all of those books I’ve been meaning to read. While I don’t have any rules for myself against re-reading, my ultimate goal is to read 50 new books. But who cares if I don’t, really.

If I don’t go back and write about what I have read, review or discuss it, I will not remember a damn thing. Isn’t that the point of reading – to learn things? Even if it’s just a new joke, or that you really hate romance novels? My time as an English major taught me as much. If I rewrote my notes before an exam, I did not have to do any other studying. If I wrote a paper on a subject, I understood it enough to write essays months later. I will be writing “reviews” here in an attempt to remember and learn, though they may end up just as stream-of-consciousness reflections.

January started off excellently, as far as goals are concerned. I completed 5/50 books and started the sixth. What did I read? Well, here you go.

 

1. Paradise by Toni Morrison: I was introduced to Toni Morrison for the first time (much later than I should have been) in 2011 by my favorite professor. In my literary criticism class we read A Mercy, and ever since then she has topped my list of favorite authors. Morrison has a particularly unique way of presenting her worlds: equal parts confusing and enlightening, visceral and lovely. Paradise is no exception; however, I found myself confused more often than enlightened. Characters are often referred to by vague pronouns, scenes from odd points of view, so the story becomes slightly disjointed and/or difficult to follow. But this is Toni Morrison we’re talking about here. Parts of the novel were so good it hurt. I won’t say this was her best work, but it’s a hell of a lot better than so many other things out there. This, I feel, deserves a more critical re-read.

2. After Dark by Haruki Murakami: Another favorite author I discovered far too late in life, Murakami has never failed to capture me. After Dark is short and sweet; I read it in three days, a feat (for me) in regards to any Murakami works. It did not seem to have the same depth as Kafka on the Shore or The Wind-up Bird Chronicle did, but I found myself enjoying it nonetheless. The novel is simple and straight-forward, but still requires active reading and pause for thought. I read a review that said Murakami is “for people who enjoy thinking about feelings.” Factual.

3. Columbine by Dave Cullen: After the Sandy Hook tragedy, I found myself fascinated with gun violence in schools. A morbid curiosity I suppose. It seemed only natural that I read Columbine, in an attempt to grasp, at the very least, facts on one of the most famous episodes of school gun violence in America’s history. I do not feel like I will ever understand the why of such things, but certainly the who, what, when, and where. Cullen presents a mostly unbiased view of the events, structured in a non-linear narrative that feels more compelling than chaotic. Cullen leaves few stones unturned; the ones that do remain are buried deep with the bones of Eric, Dylan, and their victims. I read this in 2 days, perhaps to speed past my many feels. I closed this book with a heavy heart and moved onto something else as quickly as possible, but I feel like it was an important, necessary read. I can only hope something so thorough is written for the other confusing acts of infamous violence.

 4.  Legends I, part 3/3 edited by Robert Silverberg: The only reason I own this multiple-part anthology is because of George R. R. Martin, the heart-eating, soul-crushing author whose world won’t even let my brain go.  I love him and hate him. His epic Song of Ice and Fire, incomplete yet, has left me needing more Westeros, so I sought out his “Dunk and Egg” stories. They are only published in anthologies so far: Legends I part 2, Legends II, and Warriors I. After purchasing Legends I part 1 without realizing there were three parts, I went ahead and bought the remainder of the anthology because can’t bear not to have a complete set of something. I also can’t bear not to finish something once I have started it, as far as books go at least. This volume took me a while to finish because I am lazy sometimes. Other books got in the way. Fortunately, it is comprised of four novellas, meaning it is easy to take breaks between them without having to attempt to remember what happened before.  I started it back in November and finished it some time early in January.

These anthologies have introduced me to a world of new fantasy epics that I am almost afraid to tackle. Jumping between worlds was exhilarating and terrifying. Can I really take down Wheel of Time AND The Dark Tower series? Perhaps. I certainly am going to try.

5. The Orphan’s Tales: In the Night Garden by Catherynne M. Valente: This book is part one of two incredibly magical, engrossing novels. Stories within stories within stories, folded together masterfully, create a rich fantasy world that feels so deep and real.  In the Night Garden is lush with beautiful prose and unique, well-developed characters. At first I wondered why the books were separate, as the could have been one very large volume, but this novel has a slightly different feel to In the Cities of Coin and Spice. I can’t quite put my finger on it. Valente is now among Morrison, Murakami, and Martin as my top modern authors. I cannot wait to read more of her novels.

**

February preview:

6. The Orphan’s Tales: In the Cities of Coin and Spice by Catherynne M. Valente (completed 2/8/13)
7. 1Q84  by Haruki Murakami
8. The Magicians by Lev Grossman
9. The Magician King by Lev Grossman
Current status: 6/50 books read

fat brain

Like most everyone, I made a vow to myself for 2013 that I would lose the 60 pounds that quickly fell upon me over the past year and a half. Mid-2011 I was at a perfectly acceptable weight for my height; I looked great and felt awesome. Right about that time I had the Mirena IUD removed, and since then my weight has slowly topped my personal charts. After six months I had gained almost 50 pounds. 2012 was spent carefully eating everything in my path and packing on another 10. At 209 pounds around Christmas time, heavier than I was when I was most heavily pregnant with my 10-pound son, I knew some shit had to be change. This time, actually change, not temporarily shuffle around.

My relationship with food is unhealthy. It makes me feel disgusting to admit that, but it is what it is. I eat without thinking, pushing myself past my limits of fullness to stuffed. After tracking my foods for a few days on through this app and weighing every day*, I noticed how often mindless eating occurs. Before I started paying attention, I could not understand why the weight packed on so quickly. What I failed to realize was that every calorie adds up, and when I am constantly consuming calorie-dense foods, 2000 calories is just not a lot. Eating to self-soothe is possibly the worst idea I’ve ever had. Combined with my sedentary desk job and utter lack of exercise elsewhere, no god damn wonder I gained weight so quickly. The hormone shift likely had something to do with my attitude, but that’s the thing – it is my attitude and I can’t blame it on some tiny piece of plastic or mean people anymore.

Hence, new year change. Fortunately my husband is willing to do the work with me. We both have significant numbers to drop by the end of this year, and without the accountability I don’t know if either of us could do it. We have tried separate weight loss journeys before and it just doesn’t work. Grocery trips, eating out, and exercising are all nearly impossible without the other person supporting. We have been working on the Couch-to-5K program (LOL YES AGAIN) since January 1 and have been doing pretty well. I feel like my attitude is better this time around, but I always feel that way in the beginning. It’s not going to be easy, I realize that, but making small changes has made building up to significant ones a lot less daunting. First I cut sodas and desserts, then started cutting elsewhere: a 4 oz. glass of juice instead of 8. A bite of the kid’s macaroni instead of an entire serving, or more, for myself. One piece of bread for my sandwich, with half the condiments, or none altogether. And every single bite is entered into my calorie tracker, so no calories “disappear” into the fat folds of my unhealthy brain. Every calorie counts. Even the 3 in my morning coffee.

Last night was a night full of misery for both of us. After eating ribs and “funeral potatoes” at a business dinner, we both couldn’t fall asleep for hours despite being exhausted and sore from working out earlier in the day. We were restless and had trouble getting comfortable. Our anxiety spiked (we both have similar issues with it, including matching physical symptoms. Live with someone long enough… ). All for ribs and some carbs. Unhealthy food and the temporary pleasure is really just not worth the anguish any longer.

*I use this weight-tracking spreadsheet in my Google Drive, which I also mostly access on my phone. After ten days it gives you a running average, as well as a graph for visual tracking of changes/trends. It also calculates your weight loss as well as percentage. I want to lose an astonishing 33.01% of my highest weight. I have lost 8% of my goal so far!

consumerism!

I’m participating in a nail polish no-buy with a group of girls from a Facebook group, from October 15 until November 30th (or whenever everyone else is eliminated). At first I thought I’d kick ass, but it’s been a lot harder than I anticipated. The past few months I’d been acquiring polishes like crazy – especially with Zoyas finally hitting my Ulta (and its clearance rack). The China Glaze Wicked collection really called my name, too. I, however, have been good! Even with the suedes finally being sent out in the Julep Maven box! I skipped November. I have no idea how, because I wanted so many of them. What stopped me was realizing I’d be spending money on some polishes I didn’t want at all just to get the ones I did want. I figure, someone will eventually want to swap if I want them badly enough. Swapping is my saving grace.

Speaking of swapping, I’m in another Facebook group called Sisterhood of the Traveling Polish, and I am of course on the bottom of the list. It’s been torturous seeing all the beautiful colors being taken out of the box – but I know that there are some mysteries being put into the box, too. The box should be at my doorstep in a week or two.  I promise to share what I choose. 😉

Even though cosmetics aren’t included in the no-buy, I’m kind of forcing myself into a no-buy for everything that isn’t totally necessary. The Urban Decay 20% off sale was too tempting, though. I snagged Naked2 and a giant bottle of UDPP for $60, both of which I will use every single day. They arrived last week and I’ve been swooning over Naked2 ever since. Perfect collection of neutrals. I won’t share swatches or anything, because they are all over the internet, but I highly recommend it if you are in need of a good neutral eye palette. It’s super versatile for both simple and dramatic looks.

dat haul

Boring first EOTD look using Verve, Pistol, and Busted from Naked2. Also wearing UD Lip Junkie in Naked, which I now want in full-size.

Update on my Nailtiques treatment: on day 11 officially. I have not been diligent about daily application, though I did well the first five days. I had been sick and delirious for a couple of weeks, so remembering anything is a true accomplishment. After a few days I have noticed improvement in the strength of my nails, though they haven’t grown much obviously. I couldn’t stand bare nails any longer, so I caved and played with my new Zoya. Lucky for the treatment I get bored quicker than a toddler.

First post-Nailtiques NOTD: Zoya Meg, stamped with Color Club Worth the Risque using some Cheeky XL plate. I also added some hex glitters from a Spoiled polish. Hello messy cuticles!

That’s enough acquiring for now, and I will end this boring post. Consumerism! I has it!

hot mess week 2012

This week has been one of those. Sunday I woke up with some sort of fever/stomach virus that plagued me until I finally went to the doctor yesterday. Fortunately Monday was a holiday for me, so I was able to rest up, but I still needed to take most of Tuesday and Wednesday off. Meaning, of course, that all this week –  including today – I have rocked leggings and loose things, no makeup, chipped and broken nails, lazy buns, and the same grey headband.

Broken nails! Let’s talk about them. My nails have always been my problem children. The only time they’ve been really awesome is when I was pregnant, and they grew long and strong. Otherwise, they suck. I constantly mess with them, whether it’s absently chewing on cuticles or picking at polish. I get really frustrated with myself when I notice a nail breaking right at the quick, because it means that A) I’ll have to trim all of my nails really short so I don’t go insane and B) that nail will hurt and look stupid until it grows a little.  I have sort of small nails to begin with, so when they’re short I think they make my fingers look stubby and gross.
One day while browsing around CVS, I noticed the line of Nailtiques products. After some brief research, I thought it might be a good start to getting my nails nice and healthy. I had a coupon for 20% off at Ulta, so I stopped in there yesterday and bought the smaller bottle of Nailtiques Formula 2.

So here’s day one, freshly trimmed and  filed, my gross nails after my first application:

terrible

So let me apologize for the state of my cuticles, the yellowing, the dog hair, and the leftover Orly Liquid Vinyl. That shit sticks. The yellowing is from a lime green  Sinful Colors polish (I can’t remember the name) that I used over a month ago. I guess I can’t really complain about staining when the polish was 99 cents. Rambling aside, I’ll update with any results.

In other nail news, I picked up Zoya’s Lotus and Meg on sale at Ulta. How do I love thee, Ulta clearance?! So many gorgeous polishes with no home. Carly was on the shelf, too, and I put it back with remorse… I may go back and pick it up, if my husband doesn’t kill me first. Scrangie’s swatches are making the want even worse. Then there’s the Urban Decay Friends and Family sale, too. My wallet. It cries.