Exercising Like It’s 2009 All Over Again

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Today, I can barely walk down stairs.

This is problematic given that we live in an apartment down two flights of stairs in a building with no elevator.

Yesterday I saw my cousin post on Instagram about doing Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred. Do you remember the phenomenon that was Biggest Loser and the The Shred? I remember reading about it on BooMama’s blog in 2009. I bought a copy of the DVD and attempted it a few times, most notably during the Losing It competition I had with my friends Mary and Ashleigh.

Then I got pregnant with David (who is yes, now 6 1/2) and I don’t know that I ever touched that workout again. All I can remember is at one time doing another workout DVD just to warm up my muscles for trying to Shred, because they were in THAT MUCH PAIN.

Back to yesterday, I was inspired by my cousin’s post to dust off my copy of the Shred DVD. It’s been lingering in a pile of workout DVDs that I never use and have considered donating; I belong to the Y and have documented how well group exercise works as a motivation for me. I wasn’t able to hit up a class yesterday because we had a two-hour school delay, so I thought I’d give Shredding a try once more.

I quit 8 minutes into the DVD.

And then I gave myself the worst shaming I could.

I’ve been going to the Y regularly for about two and a half years. Mostly I do water aerobics, although before I got pregnant with Hannah, I was also doing some weight training and other classes. Despite this, I haven’t been able to get my weight to budge (except the lovely increase during pregnancy). I have polycystic ovarian syndrome, which can make it really hard to lose weight. But I can’t blame my weight all on that. I have a lot of unhealthy habits, including an immense love for sweets and the urge to clean my plate without registering if I am full or not.

I’m about 25 pounds more than I was when I got pregnant with Libbie in 2008. I was not at all small to begin with, but four kids has changed my body. All of this flew through my head as I sat on the couch, nearly in tears, destroyed by Jillian Michaels after 8 minutes.

And then I thought of all the things I’ve been scared to do but did anyway: exercise classes, weight training, running a 5k. My body has carried and birthed four children, it has fed them all for at least six months, it has carried me around for nearly 35 years.

I got back up. I turned the DVD back on. And I did the rest of it. Because I am capable, darn it. And, with the encouragement and accountability of my cousin and a friend, I am going to make it through those whole 30 days, only taking off Sundays. I may have to mute Jillian, because she’s kind of aggravating. But I will do the work.

That is, assuming I can get out of bed tomorrow morning.

(I’ll keep you updated on Instagram if you want to follow along.)

I Have So Many Questions about Paw Patrol

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Back in February, my now-4-year-old son, Joshua, was pretty sick. He didn’t have the flu, but he might as well have, because he ran a high fever for about 5 days straight. He was REALLY puny. And so I let him lay on the couch and watch what he wanted. And what he wanted was – what else? – PAW PATROL.

He’s more than slightly obsessed. And if you’re anything like me, you find yourself wondering so much about the logistics of these kids’ shows. 

To see my 8 burning questions, visit the Chattanooga Moms Blog, where I am a regular contributor.

(If you ever want to see all the posts I have done for the CMB as well as other places I have guest posted, check out my Featured Elsewhere page!)

What I Read: March 2017

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Why hello there, little blog. It’s been awhile. Having a baby, a preschooler, and two elementary-school kids seems to be a lot of work and a lot of time in the car. For now, I’ll do what I can when I can! And I do enjoy putting together my book reviews here.

Here are the books I finished in March.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead – I felt like this novel of slavery earned all of its accolades. In vivid imagery of heartbreaking scenes, Whitehead leads you through the escape from slavery of Cora, a young woman whose mother was famed for having successfully run away without a trace when Cora herself was a child. While there aren’t really any likable characters in this bunch, I still feel like you feel the hearts of the characters and start to understand them. While Whitehead inserts imaginative elements into his story (the Underground Railroad is an actual railroad here), it brings light to the cruelest elements of slavery in a very realistic fashion. I gave it 5 stars.

44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith – You might have heard Anne Bogel recommend this to me on my episode of What Should I Read Next?, which aired in mid-March. (It was so exciting!!) This book was published as newspaper columns, so the chapters are very short and fun. I enjoyed several of the vibrant characters, but wasn’t enchanted with the main character, Pat. There are quite a few books in the series now, though, and I’d like to see where the author goes with his motley crew.

(I read Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe soon after I recorded the podcast with Anne. And I ADORED it. There’s so much more to it than the movie, as much as I love that film. Again, 5 stars.)

The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani – I listened to this on audio via Hoopla. The fantasy novel drops Sophie and Agatha into a place that only existed in their myths: the School for Good and Evil, where students are taught to take part in a fairy tale in the future. It’s a quirky book, maybe dragged a little, but it would make an excellent movie. (And I did see the film rights were purchased, but I don’t think that necessarily means anything.) The author tried to tackle a lot: creating a new world, the dichotomy of good and evil, friendship, beauty … Some parts worked well and some parts lost me. But I did get caught up in the story and will likely read the sequels.

Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe by Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson – This seemed like a good book to tackle while I was sitting and nursing the last couple months. It was interesting. I do really appreciate Sally Clarkson’s words and wisdom, although sometimes it seems like “pray and try harder” is the message given here. (Not that I am discounting prayer. At all.) As a depressed mama who feels desperate way too often, this just didn’t hit home for me.

Four Winds by Lisa T. Bergren – The follow-up to Three Wishes finds Zara, a modern woman from California, still stuck in 1840 Alta California, still a part of Mexico. She’s happy to be with Javier and his family … but quickly the tides turn and Zara is kidnapped by pirates and fighting just to stay alive in a land where she can’t wear pants. Even though the setting is different, the story felt very reminiscent of Cascade, the second book in Bergren’s original River of Time series. I couldn’t seem to get as attached to this set of characters.

A Taste of Heaven by Penny Watson – I came across this novella on Amazon; it was suggested as something I might like because of another book I read. I saw Watson is self-published and well-reviewed, and I thought for $3 I’d give her a try. She is a really, really excellent writer and I loved the main part of the story: a widow’s daughters force her to enter a cooking competition show. I can’t resist some good food fiction (or memoir). I didn’t realize, though, that this is a full-on romance novel with “romance” scenes that were way too much for me. I ended up skimming and skipping quite a few pages. So I read the whole thing, minus those pages, and I mostly enjoyed it. But I will probably shy away from the author’s other books, because, for multiple reasons, I don’t read explicit romance novels. (LOTS of salty language here, too, although that is much less likely to turn me off a book.)

Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L’Engle – This is one of the few books I started reading and immediately wished I had bought it instead of borrowed from the library. We don’t own a ton of books due to space constraints (and lack of rereading), but I NEED to own this memoir from L’Engle. I’ve actually never read anything by her, not even A Wrinkle in Time, but this little book is a memoir about writing, mothering, work, faith, small-town living, and more. I am 100% going to buy it and the rest of the series so I can highlight them up and return to them again and again.

Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven – I wasn’t sure I was brave enough to read another Niven novel after All the Bright Places totally tortured me. (My review here.) Thankfully, this novel is less soul-crushing but just as well-written. It tells the story of Libby, once known as the Fattest Teen in America, and Jack, who has a face-recognition disease. Despite these characterizing quirks, Niven gives them interesting personalities outside their issues. This was a fun, fast read with several issues to think on.

I have found, though, that reading YA gets me dwelling on my own high-school experience. Which was mostly not that great, although it definitely had good points. I just had so little confidence it’s difficult for me to look back on those times, and some events still haunt me (and it has been over 20 years since I started high school – holy moly). I’m wondering if it’s wise for me to keep reading YA. I don’t know. Does it seem to affect you?

So that was my March reading. Happy to have finished so many great books! How about you?

This post will be added to Quick Lit at Modern Mrs. Darcy

What I Read: January/February 2017

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Well, y’all. The beginning of February was nuts, so I never got my January book post up here! C’est la vie. Now we have a double whammy for January and February. (February is over. How did that happen???)

A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay – I really want to like this novel (a lot like I did The Bronte Plot [my review here]). There’s nothing wrong with it, and Reay writes so beautifully. I just felt like there were two books packed into one. DO NOT READ THE COVER COPY OR SYNOPSES. It gives away the entire first half of the book, and I hate that! I liked this one better than The Bronte Plot, but definitely less than Lizzy & Jane and Dear Mr. Knightley. I LOVE that Reay weaves faith into her novels without being heavy-handed, and I have faith she will write more novels I adore in the future.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi – This is a book everyone was talking about during the second half of 2016. I snapped it up on sale for my Kindle and read it almost right away in January. It didn’t read quickly for me, but the pictures Gyasi drew are vibrant in my mind. The book follows two women from modern-day Ghana: one marries a British merchant who is part of the slave trade in her country; one becomes a slave. The novel features one story from each family line per generation, up to the modern age. It’s striking and beautiful and ghastly and definitely worth reading.

Giddy Up, Eunice by Sophie Hudson – Sophie continues to be hilarious and wonderful. I loved this book, a study of pairs of women in Scripture and mentoring relationships. Her message that mentoring relationships don’t need to be formal in the church but they sure are needed really hit home with me. And I love the stories about Hudson’s mother-in-law, Martha. She is truly a hoot.

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal – Another collection of interconnected stories, this one follows Eva Thorvald from her infancy to young womanhood, as told by those around her. Her father, her cousin, acquaintances, friends, enemies – all tell us a tiny bit about Eva, a girl and woman with a passion and talent for food. There was one part of this book where I thought I might quit; Eva’s cousin, Braque, has quite a filthy mouth and her chapter was hard for me to get through. But the rest was more “palatable.” It didn’t blow me away, but I LOVED how it wrapped up.

So … I read one more book in January. But it was as a result of the fact that Anne Bogel recommended it to me on her podcast, What Should I Read Next? I KNOW. I am such an Anne fangirl and this was SO EXCITING. So I’m going to keep that book a secret until after the podcast airs (should be the next few weeks), but I will say that I read it in 24 hours and it was totally a 5-star book for me.

The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell – I’d heard this one recommend from several sources. America seems to be obsessed with hygge, the Danish word that can’t really be interpreted but seems to mean finding comfort and warmth with family during the winter. In this memoir, Russell shares about the year she and her husband moved to Denmark. Her husband fulfills a childhood dream of living abroad and working at Lego; Russell gives up her fast-paced work for a freelance lifestyle. Russell is British, and I will confess some of the British lingo mystified me. Russell reports on medicine, children, work, food, and other areas that make up life in Denmark. All of her experts report themselves to be extremely happy. I read some criticism that yes, but none of her experts were minorities or others to whom Denmark might show its harsher side. Despite talking about how expensive Denmark is, Russell and her husband seem to have enough money for daily pastries and to buy expensive home decor constantly. This was a pretty solid 3/5 star book for me. I didn’t love it, in some places things seemed glossed over, but it is readable and interesting.

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio by Terry Ryan – The 50s and 60s were an era of jingles and contests for all kinds of brands: in this book, we find contests sponsored by everything from Bic pens to laundry detergents to Almond Joy bars. And Evelyn Ryan, a housewife and mother of 10, works hard at these contests to keep her family afloat while her husband drinks away a good deal of his paycheck.

Told by Terry, one of those 10 children, this true story is unique and heart-warming. It was fun to find out that one of the fellow contest winners whom Evelyn befriends (Emma) was my uncle’s aunt. Such a neat tie-in! The never-ending lists of contest entries can get to be a bit much, but I understand why they’re there. Has anyone seen the movie? I’m interested to see it now.

The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher – Many of my favorite books are long, family-centered dramas. Last summer I read Winter Solstice by Pilcher (review here), and knew I wanted to read more of her work. I think The Shell Seekers is her most famous and successful novel. Sixty-something Penelope Keeling lives in the country in England. She has three adult children, a giant garden, and a fascinating history. Her father was a famous artist, her mother young and French. Through the novel, we see through the eyes of Penelope and all of her children. The family struggles as they battle over her mother’s prized possessions: artwork done by her father, whose paintings are now selling at high prices.

This novel is 30 years old, but the story is timeless. Penelope’s wartime remembrances are enchanting and heartbreaking. I can almost guarantee you will like it, no matter who you are.

Bridget Jones: Mad about the Boy by Helen Fielding – Thirteen years after her last appearance, Bridget Jones comes back as a widow in her early fifties. Unfortunately, in her head she still seems to be a twentysomething with no idea what’s going on. She wants to be a screenwriter, but mostly she’s on Twitter.

I remain baffled how any grown woman can eat like Bridget does and not weigh 400 pounds. (Maybe she doesn’t eat on the days she doesn’t write?) I am a little concerned that Bridget doesn’t seem to have evolved as a character: she is still flighty, self-absorbed, and generally confused about life. And yet, the book was still a fun read. I just hope I have life slightly more figured out at 51 than Bridget does.

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So from my Read the Shelves Challenge, I’ve finished two and abandoned one book that just wasn’t resonating with me right now. I had checked out a big stack from the library but made myself return almost all of them so that I will actually read the books from my list!

How is your 2017 reading so far? 

This post will be added to Quick Lit at Modern Mrs. Darcy

What’s Saving My Life Right Now

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I love Modern Mrs. Darcy‘s yearly posts on what’s saving her life right now. It’s fun to see the bright spots in cold, dreary winter for others. Last year I joined in, and some of my things are the same, but I’m in a very different phase than I was last year. So here’s what I have.

Tea breaks. I tried to make New Year’s Resolutions that would be easy on me; I know myself, and resolving to exercise every day or lose 50 pounds would just end in feeling bad about not following through. So I resolved to drink tea and read poetry every day. I’ve always enjoyed hot tea, and I had all kinds, but I have always defaulted to coffee. I have so loved these little tea times, and developed a special affinity for Harney and Sons’ Hot Cinnamon Spice tea. It’s the only tea I’ve ever found I can drink unsweetened. It’s spicy and orangey, and my husband and I decided it’s kind of a mix between a spiced cider and tea. We have an electric tea kettle that we confiscated from a dorm boy’s room at one point, and I’ve been loving it!

Having an infant. How long can you call a baby an infant? I don’t know. Our fourth child, Hannah, is three-and-a-half months old now. Having your last baby and wanting to lean in to that fleeting baby time will make you slow down, even in winter. Right now, I’m still doing a lot of rocking, cuddling, nursing, and staying at home so she can have a decent nap. I don’t want to speed through the cold months because I know her infancy will be so fast. (P.S. If you follow me on Instagram, I mostly post pictures of Her Royal Cuteness.)

And baby smiles and giggles. Because they are simply THE BEST.

These are pink champagne cupcakes I made for New Year’s Eve, and they were incredibly good. 

Baking. I’m a little bit of a stress-baker. As Addie Zierman described in her wonderful post today, I also think I battle through some of my depression issues with the physicality of cooking. After the cookie extravaganza that is December, I have turned to cakes in January. Just that I can think of, in this new year I’ve made Cinnamon Roll Cake, Root Beer Bundt Cake from Baked, Banana Bundt Cake, Snickerdoodle Cake, and White Almond Sour Cream Cake. Not to mention Strawberry Cream Cheese Bread, Apricot Oatmeal Bars, corn dog muffins, and probably half a dozen other things I can’t remember.

It’s good I have a dorm full of high-school boys to feed. My stress-baking is very compatible with their love of food. Baking makes me happy; feeding people makes me happy.

As always, hot baths and good books. The perfect combination. I’m about to go there right now, to finish The Year of Living Danishly.

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I am loving reading about those things that help save others’ lives in the link-up at Modern Mrs. Darcy! How about you? What gets you through the winter? 

My Read-the-Shelves Challenge for 2017

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I don’t make a lot of reading goals – I like to read what I want to read, when I want to read it. (Perhaps that’s a personality thing. I am an INFP.) I do make a GoodReads goal that I think is reachable, just for fun. (This year mine is 80 books.)

But after I read a whole lot of new releases last year, I decided to make a small goal this year of reading my shelves. Whether these are actual books on my actual bookshelf, or books I’ve bought for my Kindle, I’m trying to get through some of what I already have.

So far, I’m not doing so hot. I picked out 10 books to tackle in the first three months of 2017, and I’ve only read one of them so far. Maybe by posting them here, you will hold me accountable for reading them! (Or at least that will happen in my head.) Or you can convince me to give up on a title that’s not worth the time.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi – This is one I snuck in, because I bought it for my Kindle when it was on sale right after Christmas. And it’s the only one I’ve read so far. Review coming in my January book round-up.

Light a Penny Candle by Maeve Binchy – Why haven’t I read this yet? I have no idea. I think I read half of it at one point and then put it down for some reason. Binchy is one of my very favorite authors and I’ve had this book sitting on my shelf for years while I’ve read all of her other work as it’s come out. (While she was living and even now, posthumously.) This is the year I actually finish Penny Candle!

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova – This book has made it from my shelf to my parents’ and back to mine, and I don’t think any of us ever read it. But after hearing someone give it rave reviews on the WSIRN podcast, I am excited to dive in to this creepy thriller. I think it will be an excellent wintery read.

Boundaries with Kids by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend – I know I really need to read this, but I have to make myself read nonfiction. Also it scares me.

Rhinestone Jesus by Kristen Welch – Yep, this one kind of scares me too. But so does being complacent.

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio by Terry Ryan – This true story has great reviews, has been made into a movie, and just sounds like plain fun. I picked it up in a thrift store a couple years back and I am ready to dig in.

Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist – I’ve read and loved Shauna’s other books Cold Tangerines and Bread & Wine; I don’t know why I’ve let this one sit on my Kindle for years unread. I just downloaded it on my phone to be my stuck-nursing or waiting-office read.

Notes from a Blue Bike by Tsh Oxenreider – Notice a theme here? I really like Christian living books. I WANT to read them, especially those by bloggers I’ve read/met/love. But I often push aside nonfiction for the new fiction I want to read. I really enjoy Tsh’s writing and philosophies, and I can’t believe I’ve let this one languish since (SHAME) June 3, 2014, according to my friend Mr. Amazon.

Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery – I waited until I was 34 to read all the Anne of Green Gables books. What a travesty! I ADORED them, and so reading Emily is next on my list. I have the whole series on Kindle, but I will just put this one on the “by the end of March” list.

Harvest of Gold by Tessa Afshar – This is the follow-up to Afshar’s Harvest of Rubies, a fictional story about Nehemiah’s cousin Sarah, also a scribe. I ADORE Afshar’s books. This one has a 4.8/5 rating on Amazon so I am pretty sure it’s not going to disappoint me, either. (If you are at all into biblical retellings, check out her book Pearl in the Sand about Rahab. It’s so good. And it’s only $3.49 for Audible, which is kind of awesome!)

So those are my first 10 books on my Reading-the-Shelves challenge for this year. Anyone want to join me? Or do you have other reading challenges for yourself this year?