But Really Though Reads – Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Maybe I’m spoiled from reading Harry Potter as a kid but it takes a special writer to get me to buy in to a fictional world. I love the world of fantasy but a magical universe has to be not only well thought out, but descriptive and vivid as well. Neil Gaiman is a master of fantasy. He is able to describe locations with enough detail to set the stage but with enough blanks to let the reader’s imagination run wild.

Neil Gaiman created a fantastical world right on the edge of reality. Well, actually he put it in the world beneath us. Neverwhere is a story about people who fall through the cracks. The novel takes place in the London Underground (literally). The characters in this story live in the subways and sewers as either invisible creatures or the people none of us want to make eye contact with on the street. The description of London underground is so realistic it has me looking in doorways and down drain pipes for a gateway to the world of forgotten people.

Our heroine is not a femme fatale – she unlocks the mysteries to the magic. The point that she is the key to everything is made painfully obvious by two things: 1. Her magical ability to unlock doors and puzzles, 2. Her name is Door.

Not only did the heroine entice me – Gaiman’s ability to make London seem magical yet identical to any major city is magical. I’ll give you a little taste of his magic.

“It was a city in which the very old and the awkwardly new jostled each other, not uncomfortably, but without respect; a city of shops and offices and restaurants and homes, of parks and churches, of ignored monuments and remarkably unpalatial palaces; a city of hundreds of districts with strange names…and oddly distinct identities; a noisy, dirty, cheerful, troubled city, which fed on tourists, needed them as it despised them, in which the average speed of transportation through the city had not increased in three hundred years” 

Neverwhere has opened my eyes to the underground in my own city, the people who have slipped through the cracks. It can be a heartbreaking concept to think about (homelessness, poverty, etc) but it reminded me to keep looking for the deeper meaning in each person and interaction.

Reading about the fantastical lives of the people living in the subway told me to look for magic every doorway and reminded me that I have the key.

Please please please read this book and talk to me about it. I’m obsessed with Gaiman’s magic and the characters of London Underground.

But Really Thought Tries – Barry’s Bootcamp

I love to dabble in fitness classes. When I lived in SB I took Barre classes all the time but since the move I haven’t been frequenting the studios. I’m currently opting for a weight lifting gym sessions during the week. I’ve started to get a bit bored so I decided to expand my fitness horizons and take up classes again. Recently, this has taken the form of a tumbling class, which has the added bonus of rekindling my love for gymnastics

The cardio queen in me was feeling a bit underwhelmed by all this lifting and flipping so on Saturday morning, so I dragged B to the hardest cardio I could think of – a Barry’s Bootcamp class.

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Cardio Queens Unite 

Barry’s Bootcamp is self-described as a high-intensity interval workout (think HIIT) with “killer music” and “signature red lights”.  Upon arrival, we were eagerly greeted at the front desk, were given a locker and met the instructor. The instructor talked us through the workout split as the class requires specific moves to be performed at specific intervals/timing. We started on the floor with resistance bands and weights, then we moved to the treadmill, then back to the floor for arm, then off to the treadmills we went to finish the class.

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In my head this is what the red lights looked like…in reality they were just red light bulbs instead of white. 

Highlights included:

  • The treadmill and and the single touch option to switch incline/speed
  • The red lights
  • Full length mirrors to check form

I truly enjoyed the class but it was insanely challenging. I know that fitnesses classes work for me because someone else provides the rules. It’s easier to slack when I pick the pace for my HIIT so having someone tell me what to put the treadmill on and for how long prevents me from cheating myself.

I will definitely be taking another class at Barry’s but I will not be doing their recommended 3-5 classes a week. I love that the class gave me workout inspiration and I can now create a similar workout for myself at the gym (saving me a cool $40 per class).

Have you tried Barry’s? Did you love it or is it not for you?

Five Podcasts I Can’t Stop Listening To

I recently was referred to as chatty. While the speaker may not have meant that as a compliment – I chose to take it as one. I’m content with this social quality of mine.

As a chatty person I also like to listen to people chat – eavesdropping is a very fun hobby although not ideal in the workplace – so during my first, very boring, 9 to 5 I found podcasts to fill the silence. 

Contrary to my eavesdropping tendency, my love for listening to people talk is not all encompassing. The speakers have to meet one of the following requirements:

  1. Have something fun or educational to say
  2. Not grow to annoy me over time
  3. Give me the feeling that I could be friends with the speaker

Number one is a given and two is a bit arbitrary – sometimes people just don’t appeal to other humans – but three is the most important for me. Obviously everyone looks for different qualities in friends; I feel the same way about podcasters. Not everyone can be my cup of tea but the following five podcasts are.    

My Favorite Murder *Warning DO NOT LISTEN TO THIS ALONE AT NIGHT OR WHILE FALLING ASLEEP*

My Favorite Murder is my favorite podcast. The premise is that the hosts Karen and Georgia (with the help of Steven their resident millennial editor) each present a story about a murder case. It sounds morbid on its face but Karen and Georgia do more than just retell a horrible story – they normalize the fascination of true crime. While in theory it should be uncomfortable listening to a comedy podcast about murder, in application K & G are able to honor the victims and help everyone find humor to balance the gravity of the cases they discuss. K & G present themselves as flawed humans and openly discuss mental health and their personal battles with anxiety, depression and eating disorders. They normalize the true crime lover in all of us and I love them dearly for it. 

 

How Did This Get Made

 This is my go to “laugh my ass off” podcast. The premise is simple: Hosts Paul, Jason, June and whatever guests they have on discuss an awful movie. True to the title, by the time they are done sharing the plot of the movie with the audience you also begin to wonder how the movie was made. B & I went to see them live for my birthday a couple years ago and they discussed The Lake House (if you have not seen The Lake House I do not recommend it). This podcast is perfect for long car rides or any time you need a dose of silliness. 

 

Lizard People

 Lizard People is a comedy podcast that mocks conspiracy theory culture. The host Katelyn has a different guest on each week and their primary goal is to convince her of the legitimacy of a conspiracy theory. After the guests theory is presented she a rates them on how convincing their argument was. The guests’ arguments range from an “I made this up” vibe to college research paper. It has a UCB vibe with “Who’s Line is it Anyway” undertones in the sense that the arguments can seem improv’d and her scores don’t matter. Lizard People is fun due to its silly subject matter and is a perfect palate cleanser after a MFM binge.

 

Heaven’s Gate

Cults fascinate me! Part of me feels like if I had joined a cult it would be Heaven’s Gate – the other part of me knows I’m way too chicken to join a cult. Lucky for me my obsession with cults is not unique. Heaven’s Gate is a full podcast series on the Heaven’s Gate Cult. If you do not know about this cult I highly recommend listening to the podcast! The hosts interview former cult members, the family of cult members and the daughter of the founder.  It does an excellent job of digging into the UFO cult scene and humanizing the victims of this groupthink.

 

Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me

NPR is Nostalgia Public Radio for me. When I lived at home, I woke up every Saturday morning to my stepfather BLASTING “Car Talk” with Click & Clack or “WWDTM the NPR News Quiz”. If you’ve never listened to WWDTM it’s pretty straightforward. Basically a bunch of liberals in Chicago get together and participate in different styles of quizzes about the news. Guests get to call in and compete for the prize of Bill Kurtis on their answering machine.The host is a former english major named Peter Sagal. They have guests ranging from James Comey to Aubrey Plaza. As a kid I loved listening to all the adults talk about the news intelligently and loved that adults made the news into a game. Now that I’m an adult I unfortunately know what they are talking about (the news is bleak atm) but I still enjoy the show. WWDTM is a nerdy, comedic twist on the news.

 

Podcasts may have brought the death of talk radio but I’m glad I’m able to curate the voices/subjects I listen to. The rise of podcasts and their heavy mix in social media has created communities where we can all fulfill our love of eavesdropping with permission.

 

Let me know your favorites in the comments.

July/August Recap & September Confidence

In June, I kept near my goals but fell off my routine a couple times (my morning workouts got moved to afternoon, I did not listen to others or my body well and battled my brain for control of my life). I was in desperate need of an emotional and physical reset. After working my ass off to get back to my regular schedule this August I’ve decided that I should accompany this reset with some confidence.

I’m going to get back into daily meditation. In June, I got lazy about my regular practice and my mental health suffered. I was easily triggered, not a good look for someone who works in HR. Through the latter half August I’ve gotten back into yoga and meditation and it’s really helped me keep my cool.

I’ve decided it’s time to make my workouts harder. I’ve decided to bump up one of my 3 mile runs to 4-6 depending on the week.I plan to wake up on time so I can stretch before I run to prevent injuries from flaring up. I also have started going to a public yoga class instead of only doing yoga at home. I even bought B and I 5 class passes for a nearby studio (it is easier for me to stick with something if I have a partner). So far we are loving it there! B was even told that he had a “beautiful practice”. He’s been on cloud 9 since. I am also going to continue incorporating new equipment and heavier weights into my workout. I’ve really started to fall in love with lifting. I think weight training has brought back some of the confidence I had when I was a dancer. I love being in awe of my own body’s capabilities.

I’m going to have confidence in my writing abilities. It doesn’t matter how creative I am if I am too afraid to write anything to share. I’m going to take control of my craft. I’ve been lazy with my writing lately but I am going to use my confidence in myself to really channel my emotions and create.

I’m going to take my confidence into the workplace. Asking for the resources I need. Contributing ideas with confidence. I am going to start taking complete control of my career. I’m going to be cautious about riding the line between confident and cocky.  

Being confident in myself is definitely going to lead me to my goal of love for the year and hopefully it will help me channel more creativity.

My end of summertime burnout is still here but I’m not going to let it stop me from trying to find love and creativity this year. I want to find confidence in my self love. I’ve been struggling with presenting myself with pride, confidence is definitely an act of self love.

Waking Up is Hard to Do

Unfortunately (or fortunately, I don’t know his life) I do not wake up in the morning feeling like P-Diddy. Instead, I wake up in the morning wishing I could go back to bed while still enjoying the pleasant calm of being up before everyone else. I’m a morning person but I suck at getting up in the am. It’s like being the extraverted introvert of morning people.

I’m serious, I love the morning the most. In an ideal world I would wake up at 5:30am, do my workout, shower, read the paper and enjoy hanging out with B before heading off to work. Lately, I haven’t even gotten myself out of bed for my 6 am run/yoga sesh let alone up early enough to check the news and panic about the orange monster. I want to be better at mornings. I don’t know if I’m just exhausted or if I’m reverting back to my lazy post grad self but it’s time to kick this sleeping in habit. To assist me in this coming home to mornings, I turned to my bff on all questions, Google.

Obviously to get up early, I have to go to bed early, which I usually do but I haven’t been actively applying all of my healthy sleep habits which has resulted in monstrous mornings.

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Monday (Going the Extra Mile)

To jump back into this I’m starting easy and using an old tactic, placing my alarm on the other side of the room. It’s times like these when I wish I had invested in “clocky” when he first came out.

Hardcore fail. Placing my alarm on the other side of the room was unsuccessful. Apparently the 20 thousand times I wake up in the middle of the night to pee has trained me to solve the problem and climb back under the duvet.

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Tuesday (Meditation)

Meditation always makes things better in my book.  Monday night before bed I meditated using my Calm app that I am obsessed with. Meditation definitely did not hinder my sleeping abilities but I still struggled to fall asleep. When my alarm (ie phone) went off on the other side of the room (consistency) I went and grabbed it then brought it back to bed with me like a crying baby. Four snooze attempts later I was up. Another epic fail.

Wednesday (You Have to Have a Plan)

At this point I was a little discouraged. What I used to do with ease I now could not muster. According to one of the many blogs I ready on waking up in the AM successfully having a plan was key. Tuesday night I visualized waking up Wednesday morning ready for my morning run. Wednesday morning I looked at B and said “Let’s be bed bugs instead”. This bed bug barely made it to her bus on Wednesday.

Thursday (Let it Go!)

After feeling shitty about myself on Wednesday day I decided that evening to let it go (see I told you I meditate). If I love mornings as much as I think I do I should be able to get up and enjoy them, not beat myself up over the ones I miss. Wednesday night I decided I didn’t need to get up early on Thursday to work out (but I could if I wanted) I just needed to get up with my alarm and greet the day. I could wake up and read Harry Potter (my favorite past time of all time), do some light stretching, get in a full HIIT workout or meditate (BUT NOT FALL BACK ASLEEP). Thursday morning I tried. I tried really hard. I hit snooze three times but by 6:45 am I was up. I didn’t get a workout in, I didn’t get any reading or writing done, but I had time to make my lunch because I forgot to #mealprep  AND I had time to have my coffee. Better than most mornings. Maybe all the stuff about slowly starting to get up earlier really does work…

Friday (Accountabilibuddy)

Thursday evening a catastrophic accident threw a wrench in my morning plans. There was a tragic weight lifting accident at the gym and my beloved iPhone did not make it out alive. Unfortunately, my iPhone is my alarm. Fortunately, I live with another human and he has a fully functioning iPhone and is naturally a morning person. Unfortunately, he sucks at tough love. Friday morning I once again slept until 6:50…which is better than 7 am…right?

Saturday (Consistency)

On weekends normally my rule is to get up by 8:30am BUT the internet told me that I need to get up at the same time every day if I want to be a successful morning person. Friday night, after an hour and a half trip to get my phone after work, I set my alarm for 7am. At 3am I woke up and changed my alarm to 7:45 am because I like to self-sabotage my success. Saturday morning I woke up, naturally at 7:30 am. Not proud but definitely not disappointed.

Sunday (Consistency)

Sunday is the day of rest. Since I had failed all week I threw myself a pity party and turned off my alarm. Naturally, I woke up at 7:30am.

Monday (Try Try Again)

I went to bed on Sunday happy after organizing my linen closet (I know, I live a riveting life) optimistic about Monday morning. I woke up Monday morning feeling like crap. You can’t win them all.

By Tuesday I had a cold that lasted until I went to SF on Friday…

Google failed me. I failed. I failed miserably. Does this mean I’m not a morning person? Maybe! But I’m going to keep trying and keep you updated as I do.

If you have any tips on waking up in the morning please leave them in the comments. I’m in desperate need….

But Really Though Reads: Normal by Warren Ellis

Lately I have been reading more to write more (or at least that’s the lie I’ve been telling myself to set aside time to read more).

My most recent read was Normal by Warren Ellis. Normal is a dystopian tech-thriller. This niche category of science fiction includes works like Blade Runner and 1984.

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The succinct novel takes place in a surveillance society not too different from our own. It begins with Adam arriving to Normal Head a mental health hospital for those who have been driven insane by their jobs of “staring into the abyss”. The patients of Normal Head divide themselves by their careers from the outside world; big business paid v nonprofit workers. Adam has played both sides which makes him a slightly more reliable narrator than any other patient at Normal Head; but as the doctor at Normal Head tells Adam “Everyone here is batshit.”

Normal is puzzling, uncannily too close to our current surveillance culture and highly engaging. It has stuck with me days after finishing the novel. The paranoia is palpable from the first page and builds until the last. Every character represents a different approach to dealing with a reality that encourages paranoia, much like our current world. The smokescreen of the pro’s of the surveillance society is lifted and what is left is chilling.  

I highly recommend this novel to anyone who wants to knock a book out in one sitting (I read it in an evening because I could NOT put it down). It’s also great for those of us who love a good conspiracy theory or for those who still recall the uncanny feeling they got while reading Orwell’s 1984.

Leave a comment if you’ve read Normal and let me know your thoughts!

 

*SPOILER* 

 

Did anyone else get Kafka’s Metamorphosis vibes while reading this book?