It's been too long since I recapped a race. As my previous post mentioned... this year was a struggle. Blogging and recapping was definitely one casualty of that. So there are a few amazing races that I ran (Seneca 7, I'm looking at you) that are going to unfortunately be overlooked. There are two races that I ran recently though that were both absolute killers and amazing.
Moving forward into a new year...
This is a post that I've been batting round for months. This blog started as a book review site, then combined with my race review site and my photo site and then became kind of a catch all for things I like. Lately though, I've been thinking more and more about not always keeping it so light and fluffy.
It's the start of a new school year for me and I've found myself reflecting on my last year. I wanted to prepare for the start of another year, make sure I do everything I can to be the best possible teacher for my students who deal with so much every day. Last year wasn't a great one. I don't like to think about regret, because the choices you make help you become who you're supposed to be, even the bad choices can lead to something great. Last year though, I look at with regret. I became a person that I don't particularly like. Made choices that I'm not particularly proud of. Let other people dictate my moods. Chose to hang out with people that weren't very good for me. With all that I began to slip back into some issues that I've been battling for years- for my whole life really. Namely anxiety. I long ago learned how to cope. How to breath through the panic, to talk myself back from the edge, to clear my mind of troubling thoughts and refocus on other things. In the past anxiety attacks have kept me from doing the things I love, but I had, for the most part, moved past that and was able to function pretty well. Most people didn't even know I had issues with anxiety attacks. This past year though found me struggling, a combination of stress and life and bad choices led to a return of the panic attacks. Where I used to have specific triggers, they now came without warning and lingered for days, affecting my work and my relationships. I was a bad teacher, a bad friend, a bad wife and a bad mother and I struggled to keep myself together. Mostly I felt like I was running in circles, stuck in a hamster wheel, with no way to hop off and reset. If I'm being honest (and I'm trying to be) I began to worry that the anxiety was morphing into something worse. A few years ago one of my cousins died by suicide, another more recently died from an OD. They were both runners, like me. They both clearly struggled, like me. I began to wonder if at some point they stood where I stood, wondering how to get off the merry-go-round, if they tried but couldn't stop it, if that would be me.
It was different when I had specific triggers. I had reasons to be afraid of the things that caused my attacks. A bad fall from a horse led to panic attacks when I rode. Even though I knew I was a good rider, but I'm also abundantly aware of what situations trigger an attack when I'm on a horse. I see a cliff coming and I know to begin to breath slowly, to repeat my mantra and to remind myself that the horse doesn't want to fall either. The problem with panic attacks that don't have a trigger is that you can't prepare and it's harder to ride through it. That's where I found myself this past year. Getting stuck in my own head, replaying situations over and over, not being able to ride the wave and come out the other side.
The thing is, when you have anxiety attacks the people that want to help you often say the wrong things. Not because they don't want to be helpful, but because they have no idea what to say and how to say it because they don't have any idea what it feels like. When someone says "You know there's nothing to worry about, it'll be fine" I would want to scream "I know there's nothing to worry about! That's what makes this hard. I know it, but I can't stop!". When someone says, "Why do you worry about things you can't control?" I want to yell "Because everything is out of control and what if something horrible happens and I did nothing to stop it? I know I shouldn't worry, but I can't stop". For me, that was the eternal struggle. Knowing in my mind that I was overthinking and over reacting, but still not being able to stop it. It made me feel crazy. And then it made me feel ashamed. The more I tried to hide it, the worse it got. I started to worry that in addition to the panic attacks, that I was depressed, because the exhaustion that hits after a panic attack began to linger for days and I stopped wanting to do some things that I loved because I was just too tired to care.
Then something strange happened. Slowly at first and then I suddenly figured out how to start fighting back. The title of the post, "How people who you've never met can help you find yourself" gives a little insight into how my brain began to wrap itself around getting better... but let me explain. I started to see actors, singers, bloggers, people I looked up to for their talents, people who seemingly had their shit together, begin to talk about their struggles. They stood in the public's eye and said "me too" and shared how they fought back. These people, who I've never met, had the strange affect of making me feel not alone. People who I saw every day, who tried to be understanding and supportive couldn't break through, but these people could because I saw my own struggles in them. They were facing their fears, so why shouldn't I face mine?. They weren't hiding, so why was I? So I told a few people when I had my next panic attack, I told them what I needed (a place to hide or to have them run interference so I could be alone while I rode out the attack) and I went to my school Psychologist and asked her to refer me to someone. Just admitting that I was falling apart made me feel better. I got new coping skills to replace the ones that were no longer sufficient, and I began to admit to myself and others that this was my normal and that it was okay. What I found, which I wasn't prepared for, was how many other people said "I struggle too". Where I thought I was alone, I found I wasn't. We all have struggles but we don't have to struggle alone.
I learned a few things, both from the people who I looked up to from afar, and from those who supported me when I finally admitted that I was in a bad place. I learned that it's okay to be broken sometimes. You don't ever have to feel less then. You don't have to let other people make you feel like there is something wrong with you. And most importantly I learned that there will always be people who don't understand, but there will also be people who will support you when you can't support yourself, who will stand by you when you are at your lowest and who will help you survive when it seems like the world is closing in around you. I walked away from last year with a handful of regrets, but I also have a handful of friends who I wouldn't trade for the world because they were there when I needed them. I look forward to the new year, hopefully that I'm able to keep on the path I've got myself back on, knowing that the nature of my job might make it difficult, and confident that I've got an arsenal of resources (both in real life and in the people who I look up) that I can pull on when I feel myself sliding back into the darkness. I know I will be okay.
This Giving credit where credit is due....
If I manage to actually pull the trigger on this post, and lets be honest, for someone with social anxiety, admitting my struggles to the world is basically inviting a panic attack to come visit, I want to make sure I recognize the people who helped me figure my shit out. They might never see this (although I fully intend on tagging the hell out of this post on twitter and facebook) but it's important to me to acknowledge that their choice to be public with their struggles helped me face mine.
The Bloggess: Jenny Lawson is a goddess. Her books are the stuff dreams are made of and her blog is a constant source of both humor and support. She doesn't shy away from telling her followers when she is struggling and asking for us all to support each other. I've been a fan for years and now I can give her some credit for showing me how to brave when you feel like hiding. I can't say enough about how much Lawson and her blog have helped me see how very much not alone I am. I have awesome friends and a great family, but sometimes you need to see that there are others who struggle with the same issues you do to make you really feel normal. We're all weird, but Lawson has amassed a unique tribe that allows us to struggle and overcome together. Go visit her site, and for the love of all that is holy, go buy her books. You will not regret it.
Jonathan Knight: Of New kids on the Block fame. He has always been my favorite. He has spoken about his panic attacks for several years and disappeared from the public eye for awhile. Recently though he's been much more visible. I went to my first NKOTB concert when I was in elementary school, I went to my most recent one last summer at the Mixtape festival. I've had a chance to see him perform multiple times, I watched him on the Amazing Race and I follow him on instagram- seeing someone who I know has some of the same issue I do be able to just live a happy life was something that reminded me that everyone struggles, but everyone can keep going. Plus, one time he commented on one of my pictures on Instagram. I wonder if celebrities realize that doing something like that can change a persons whole day? It changed mine. It was a bad day. He commented on a picture of a good day and it reminded me that even when there are bad days, there will be more good ones. When someone you look up to acknowledges your existence in a very minor way it really hammers that point home.
Kristen Bell: I'm a marshmallow. I love me some Veronica Mars, so when Bell announced that she was no longer going to be silent about depression I paid attention. Bell said “If there ever comes a time where you feel like a dark cloud is following you, you can get help. You can talk to me, talk to a therapist, talk to doctor. I want you to know that there are options.” It was something her mother said to her and now she was sharing it with everyone. It's such a simple sentiment. When you are stuck, get help. There are people that will help you. I don't know why it hit home when she said it, but it did. I talked. I got help.
Jared Padalecki: I'm a recent convert to the Supernatural family. I started watching last summer and am almost caught up- my marathon binge of season 11 will start as soon as I download the season. In some ways I see my situation mirrored in Padalecki's more than others. When he said recently that he wasn't going to let people make him feel less then or silence him I heard myself say (out loud) "me too". I was so tired of hiding and pretending to be okay. I was so tired of people asking me why I wasn't smiling (or more irritatingly "why are you acting like a bitch today?") and feeling the compulsive needs to respond with a forced smile and an "I'm okay! Just tired!" when really I was drowning. He reminded me that even if you know you have a good life (which I do) and that you are lucky (which I am), it doesn't negate the fact that you can be trapped by your anxiety or depression, you don't have to feel guilty or ashamed. Padalecki, over the course of the last year that I've been following, has been outspoken in reminding us that we are not alone, he's been honest about his own struggles and he has invited his followers to join together and help lift others up with his #AlwaysKeepFighting campaign. He has let us see him struggle and more importantly let us see how he pulls through, reminding everyone that you can come out the other side.
Family and Friends: Then there are all the people in my daily life who stand by me when I'm losing my mind. Some don't get it and some say the wrong things while trying to support me, but I know that they have my back. Some have become the best friends I could hope for, letting me lose my shit and still wanting to go get crazy and have fun. I won't name them all, because I never know who wants to be online- but they know who they are and they are the bomb.
Before I chicken out....I better hit post.
This post was hard to write. It took a few hours. It will be harder still to actually post it. I'd be lying if I didn't acknowledge the fact that my heart is racing and I can feel the tiny thread of panic bubbling up. Thoughts of "what if people think I'm crazy?" are creeping forward in my mind. I'm tired of hiding though. This is my normal and it's okay. I hope other people find the same sort of uneasy peace that I have. There will be good days and bad days, but I will remind myself that I am not alone. We are all a little weird, we all have issues, but we will all be okay.
I'm a teacher, which means that once school ends my family hits the road and goes on vacation. This summer we road tripped it out to Yellowstone, Grand Teton NP and the Badlands. This is my favorite place in the whole world. It is home, despite the fact that I've never lived there. (I'll post more about my love affair with Wyoming when I do my photo post).
Black Widow: Forever Red by Margaret Stohl
Summary: Natasha Romanoff is one of the world’s most lethal assassins. Trained from a young age in the arts of death and deception, Natasha was given the title of Black Widow by Ivan Somodorov, her brutal teacher at the Red Room, Moscow’s infamous academy for operatives.
Ava Orlova is just trying to fit in as an average Brooklyn teenager, but her life has been anything but average.The daughter of a missing Russian quantum physicist, Ava was once subjected to a series of ruthless military experiments—until she was rescued by Black Widow and placed under S.H.I.E.L.D. protection. Ava has always longed to reconnect with her mysterious savior, but Black Widow isn’t really the big sister type.
When children all over Eastern Europe begin to go missing, and rumors of smuggled Red Room tech light up the dark net, Natasha suspects her old teacher has returned—and that Ava Orlova might be the only one who can stop him. To defeat the madman who threatens their future, Natasha and Ava must unravel their pasts. Only then will they discover the truth about the dark-eyed boy with an hourglass tattoo who haunts Ava’s dreams…
Ramblings: This book was WAY better then I anticipated. I thought it might be a simple action story that played off of the comics and movies. I didn't expect a book full of back story and relationships. Natasha is historically kind of non-feeling, which has helped become the agent she is, but this book takes that trait and makes it her weakness to overcome by introducing new characters that become part of her family. Some of the plot was a little too easy to figure out, but I liked the twists and turns that kept the story moving. This is a good one and I'm really excited to see what comes next.
Kalahari by Jessica Khoury
Summary: Deep in the Kalahari Desert, a Corpus lab protects a dangerous secret…
But what happens when that secret takes on a life of its own?
When an educational safari goes wrong, five teens find themselves stranded in the Kalahari Desert without a guide. It’s up to Sarah, the daughter of zoologists, to keep them alive and lead them to safety, calling on survival know-how from years of growing up in remote and exotic locales. Battling dehydration, starvation and the pangs of first love, she does her best to hold it together, even as their circumstances grow increasingly desperate.
But soon a terrifying encounter makes Sarah question everything she’s ever known about the natural world. A silver lion, as though made of mercury, makes a vicious, unprovoked attack on the group. After a narrow escape, they uncover the chilling truth behind the lion’s silver sheen: a highly contagious and deadly virus that threatens to ravage the entire area—and eliminate life as they know it.
Ramblings: This one took me a little while to get into. At the outset i wasn't sure what the book was supposed to be about. Was it about a girl whose been isolated learning to make friends? Was it about city kids trying to survive in Africa? Was it about some strange science experiments? The story jumped a round a little bit and I struggled to get into it. However, when it found its groove it really worked. The story worked best as a mystery- with the kids trying to figure out what the hell was happening and survive long enough to tell the story. In the end I really liked this one and I'm going to pik up the other 2 books in the series (Origin and Vitro) soon.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by Jack Thorne
Summary: Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, a new play by Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. The play will receive its world premiere in London’s West End on July 30, 2016.
It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.
While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.
Ramblings: It's been a few weeks since I finished this one and I am sure unsure how I really feel about it. Published in script form this story is a pretty quick and easy read, and revisiting the magic of a world I've missed was great. All the magic was there, as well as my favorite characters (including some that I thought I would never see again). The new characters, especially Albus and Scorpius had the potential to be really great. Which is where the book lost me a bit. We sped through their backstory, skipping through several years in a matter of pages. I wish we had been given more time to really get to know these characters since the plot revolves around their actions. I wonder if the play allows for more connection when you see it on stage? Overall this was a good story and I'm glad we got to reconnect with old favorites and meet new players and I'm hoping that as the world expands more we get some more back story and spend more time with the kids.
Me, Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
Summary: Greg Gaines is the last master of high school espionage, able to disappear at will into any social environment. He has only one friend, Earl, and together they spend their time making movies, their own incomprehensible versions of Coppola and Herzog cult classics.
Until Greg’s mother forces him to rekindle his childhood friendship with Rachel.
Rachel has been diagnosed with leukemia—-cue extreme adolescent awkwardness—-but a parental mandate has been issued and must be obeyed. When Rachel stops treatment, Greg and Earl decide the thing to do is to make a film for her, which turns into the Worst Film Ever Made and becomes a turning point in each of their lives.
And all at once Greg must abandon invisibility and stand in the spotlight.
Ramblings: I had the chance to see Andrews speak at the Rochester Teen Book Festival back in May and I basically bought this book based purely on his awesome presentation and personality. I really hope that the book would be as awesome as Andrews was. Luckily it is! My favorite part of this story was that it felt real. Being a teen is awkward at best and when things get shitty it can get even weirder. There are books and movies out there about death and dying, about relationships and love and finding happy ever after even when things end badly. This is that book, but better, because the kids involved act like kids. It's not all easy and Andrews allows the characters to mess up (a lot) and learn hard lessons without it feeling like he is trying to teach the reader a lesson. This was a great book.
Stung by Bethany Wiggins
Summary: There is no cure for being stung.
Fiona doesn’t remember going to sleep. But when she awakens, her world no longer exists. Her house is abandoned and broken. Her neighborhood is barren and dead. And there is a tattoo on her right hand. A tattoo Fiona doesn’t remember getting…but somehow she must conceal at any cost. Because humanity has been divided.
Those bearing the tattoo have turned into mindless, violent beasts that roam the streets and sewers, preying upon the unbranded, while a select few live protected inside a fortress like wall, their lives devoted to rebuilding society and killing all who bear the mark.
And Fiona has awoken branded, on the wrong side of the wall, and…normal.
From the author of Shifting comes this remarkable reimagining of Sleeping Beauty, where the sting of a bee, rather than the prick of a needle, can destroy the world.
Ramblings: This book was up and down for me. The story is compelling, especially once you get into who is pulling the strings. Fiona is a great character, and Wiggins allows for her confusion, fear and desperation to ring true. What I struggled with was that there were some devices that just seemed to not quite fit into the story. Especially the romance. I didn't feel like Fiona needed that aspect to get from point A to point B, and that making it about a unfulfilled crush seemed to simplify the story too much. I would have loved to see some of the relationships take more time to build and for friendships to be cultivated. Still- the story was good and I am definitely going to grab Cured, the next book in the series.
Until We meet Again by Renee Collins
Summary: They exist in two different centuries, but their love defies time
Cassandra craves drama and adventure, so the last thing she wants is to spend her summer marooned with her mother and stepfather in a snooty Massachusetts shore town. But when a dreamy stranger shows up on their private beach claiming it's his own—and that the year is 1925—she is swept into a mystery a hundred years in the making.
As she searches for answers in the present, Cassandra discovers a truth that puts their growing love—and Lawrence's life—into jeopardy. Desperate to save him, Cassandra must find a way to change history…or risk losing Lawrence forever.
Ramblings: So I held onto this book until the end of my trip, because, to be honest, I kind of thought it was going suck. I bought it based solely on the cover and when I got around to picking books to read this one just didn't make me excited. It seemed like it was going to be cliche, I thought it would be cheesy, and I wasn't sure I was in the mood. Still... once I picked it up I was totally hooked. This is a great book. It could have been a story that we've read a million times, but it wasn't Collins avoid falling into the traps of a time travel love story and when I got to the last page I was booth pissed (because it doesn't have the exact happy ending I thought was coming) and also so very happy (because it doesn't have the exact happy ending I thought was coming). I'm going to leave it at that. Go read this book. Fall in love with the characters and close the book knowing that Collins gave us the ending we needed, even if it wasn't the exact one we wanted.
The Memory of Light by Francisco X Stork
Summary: Vicky Cruz shouldn’t be alive.
That’s what she thinks, anyway—and why she tried to kill herself. But then she arrives at Lakeview Hospital, where she meets Mona, the live wire; Gabriel, the saint; E.M., always angry; and Dr. Desai, a quiet force. With stories and honesty, kindness and hard work, they push her to reconsider her life before Lakeview, and offer her an acceptance she’s never had.
Yet Vicky’s newfound peace is as fragile as the roses that grow around the hospital. And when a crisis forces the group to split up—sending her back to the life that drove her to suicide—Vicky must find her own courage and strength. She may not have any. She doesn’t know.
Inspired in part by the author’s own experience with depression,The Memory of Light is the rare young adult novel that focuses not on the events leading up to a suicide attempt, but the recovery from one—about living when life doesn’t seem worth it, and how we go on anyway.
Ramblings: This is a good book. But beyond being a good book, it's an important one. It looks at kids who suffer from mental illnesses and it doesn't gloss over anything. I find it hard to recap this book simply because you have to read it to understand. These kids are hurting, some more then others, some are barely hanging on. They make bad decisions and they hurt themselves and others in the process... but they keep moving forward and that's the part that's important. This book gives you a sense that while they won't all be okay 100% of the time, it reminds you that no matter what there are people who will support you when you can't support yourself. It's a reminder I need sometimes and I'm glad this book was written for teens, because at that age you can feel isolated and alone. Go read this book. Buy it for a teen you know. Stick it in your library. This is one that needs to be out there.
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