365 Days of Movement

In May, I bought a treadmill.

Before my baby, I like to say that I was somewhat active. I got a Peloton at the start of the pandemic, and loved my rides throughout the week. When I was about 10 weeks pregnant, I started to bleed after exercising, so my doctor limited me to easy walks until postpartum to keep me and the baby healthy.

Fast-forward to a year later (and 40 pounds heavier). Once I was given the all-clear to exercise after having Nora, I slowly got back into a routine. I hopped back on the Peloton, went on walks around our neighborhood with Nora in the stroller, and … became a runner.

I started with walks on the treadmill. I would grab my Kindle and walk on an incline, reading my books and exercising at the same time. Soon, those walks became jogs and then the jogs became running classes with my Peloton app. I grew stronger and more confident in my runs, and at the end of June, I ran my first-ever 5K.

I have never been more proud. I am stronger now than I was before Nora. In many, many ways.

This morning, I packed Nora in her car seat and took her to a walking trail on our main street. It was an amazingly serene way to start my day, and it got me thinking: What if I prioritized movement every single day? So, that’s what I am going to do. 365 days of movement, and I am going to track each day with a photo.

It can be any type of movement: running, Peloton, walking, yoga. As long as I’m moving my body, it counts. I am excited to start this journey.

And, go!

Book Review | Lessons in Chemistry

“Children, set the table. Your mother needs a moment to herself.”

This line immediately grabbed my attention as I picked up Bonnie Garmus’s debut novel, Lessons in Chemistry. I had recently joined a new book club, a goal I’ve had for some time now, so I was looking forward to reading this book and meeting some new bookworms in my area.

A little about Lessons in Chemistry (from the book jacket): Chemist Elizabeth Zott would be the first to point out that there is no such thing as an average woman. But it’s the early 1960s and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute takes a very unscientific view of equality. Except for one: Calvin Evans, the lonely, brilliant, Nobel Prize-nominated grudge holder who falls in love with — of all things — her mind. True chemistry results.

Like science, though, life is unpredictable. Which is why a few years later Elizabeth Zott finds herself not only a single mother but also the reluctant star of America’s most beloved cooking show, “Supper at Six.” Elizabeth’s unusual approach to cooking (“combine one tablespoon acetic acid with a pinch of sodium chloride”) proves revolutionary. But as her following grows, not everyone is happy. Because, as it turns out, Elizabeth isn’t teaching women to cook. She’s daring them to change the status quo.

My review

I read somewhere that it took Garmus 10 years to write this book, and it shows. Her writing is deliberate, quirky, and smart. I loved the matter-of-fact narration and her storytelling. I was instantly hooked and knew I was going to enjoy this book about feminism and motherhood. As a new mom, I was all about it!

Elizabeth Zott is such an interesting and fabulous character. She is brilliant, sharp-tongued, and clearly advanced when it comes to cultural norms. It was frustrating reading this book sometimes. The writer, who sprinkles in free indirect discourse throughout her prose, demonstrates how men perceived Zott. Even more frustrating was the women who did not support her. Some parts were hard to read, especially since we still live in a world where women do not have autonomy over their bodies and their livelihood. There are some other trigger warnings, which I list at the bottom of the post.

One of the novel’s biggest strengths was its side characters. While I was not a Calvin fan, I did enjoy Mad (their daughter), Harriet (the neighbor/nanny/babysitter/stand-in grandmother), and Six-Thirty, the sweet and smart dog. They really made the book special.

OK. Some dislikes.

The book opens with promise talking about Zott on her television show and its success, but then it takes a turn and brings readers through her entire backstory. This includes her education, early career, meeting Calvin, losing Calvin, and getting the television gig. While I appreciate a good backstory and its importance to setting up the plot and character development, it was very convoluted. There wasn’t enough balance and could have benefitted from some cuts. Rowing is cool, I guess? But I wanted more of the present and the television show, which was the real draw of the book.

Another dislike. Does she have to be hot? Like. Can’t she just be a regular woman? Not this stunningly hot, brilliant chemist? Just an average looking working mom would have made it a little more realistic.

Overall, it was an enjoyable book that I zoomed through. But what I liked more was meeting this group of ladies!

Some trigger warnings if you want to read … and I would have appreciated an author’s note at the beginning about these (proceed with caution because there are spoilers):

  • rape
  • sexism
  • suicide
  • homophobia
  • cult
  • death of parents
  • death of loved one
  • assault
  • domestic violence
  • incarcerated parent
  • almost death of pet

Strong Like a Mother

Nights are always the hardest.

It’s been a long day. You wake up before the sun does with tired eyes. You change your crying baby and put her to your breast, looking at her with eyes full of wonder and a heart full of love.

You put her back down and you make a choice: Do I start my day or get more sleep? Sometimes you choose sleep. Some days, you get up and make a cup of coffee and read in silence. Or you hop on the treadmill or Peloton and start your day off on “the right foot.” Most days, you choose sleep, because you can always exercise later. You can get that quiet time to yourself later. You are exhausted.

You are exhausted because even when you are sleeping, you are not sleeping. Your ears are always listening to the baby sleeping beside you. Is she breathing? Is she crying? Is she hungry? Does she need me? Or your mind races. Is my baby going to die? Am I going to die? What if I died? She wouldn’t remember me. I’d be nothing to her. Toss. Turn. Toss. Turn.

If you choose sleep, you wake up 30-45 minutes later and get dressed. You feed the cats, make coffee, and head back upstairs to log on for work. Throughout the day, you answer to many people: boss, friends, family, husband, nanny, baby. You put their needs first. You forget to drink water. You forget to eat. Luckily you have a husband to remind you to do those things and who brings you food. You breastfeed your baby in-between meetings and tasks. You are exhausted.

When work is over, you head downstairs and take care of your baby. You laugh at her giggles and smile big at her smiles. You make dinner and clean up after. You change that load of laundry you forgot you put in the washer 12 hours before. You wipe down the counters and the knobs and every surface, because your 4-month-old baby has already been sick three times, and you’re afraid. You pick up around the house, after the cats, after your husband, after yourself. You and your husband are such a good team but you often feel alone.

It is early evening, and your baby is fussy. It is too early for bedtime, so you do what you can to calm her down. You play, you read, you rock, you walk, you sing. You are exhausted.

You bring your baby upstairs for a bath. You scrub your baby and watch her kick and squeal because she loves the bath. You splash, you sing, you smile, you dance. You are exhausted.

But you still take care of her. You put her pajamas on, bring her into her nursery, and give her a bottle. When she’s done, you sing a little as you put her down to sleep.

You put her down and you make a choice: Do I have some time to myself or do I go to sleep? Sometimes you choose to shower and go to sleep. Some days you change into your workout clothes at 8:30 p.m. and go for a run on the treadmill because it’s the only time you have to do this. Your body is tired, but you are tired of hating your body. You are exhausted.

Some nights you choose to sit on the couch. And that’s OK. But sometimes, it’s hard to tell yourself that. Sometimes, the dark thoughts creep in and you cannot stop them. You are a failure. You are nothing. You are fat. You are ugly. You are incompetent. You cannot do this.

Nights are always the hardest.

Motherhood is hard. You know you made this choice. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be tired. That you can’t complain. Society makes you feel that way. Makes you feel guilty. You just have to remind yourself that you are strong. Strong like a mother.

Series Review | The Folk of the Air by Holly Black

If you are looking for a fantasy series that you will breeze through but not love, then the Folk of the Air series is for you.

Spoiler: This series review will be on the scathing side and there will be some spoilers ahead. If you want to read these books, please do. I am just one reader. That’s why art exists – to enjoy and critique and discuss.

I read the Folk of the Air series fairly quickly – I read the second book in just one day. But don’t let that fool you – I did not enjoy them.

Me not enjoying them.

They were alright … I wouldn’t recommend them to a friend who loves epic fantasy. But would I recommend them to someone just starting to read fantasy? Maybe. Eh. No. I just wouldn’t recommend them. I hate when books don’t live up to the hype.

I admit that the storyline and premise of these books are compelling. Three sisters are dragged away from our world to the magical world by a sadistic lunatic. Seven-year-old Jude (our MC/morally gray heroine) watches her parents get murdered by this guy Madoc, and then she is swept off to Faerieland (very original name, by the way), and then she and her sisters are raised as his own. Turns out one of his sisters, Vivienne, is his actual daughter, but Jude and Taryn’s mother fled from Madoc and married Justin (lol) and was in hiding. Well, he found them!

As you attempt to grapple with the very bloody, violent first chapter (isn’t this YA? Jeez), you learn that now 17-ish-year-old Jude has some sort of Stockholm syndrome, icky I-want-to-please-my-new-daddy relationship with Madoc. It’s gross. GROSS. Jude and Taryn strive for his approval and are constantly trying to make Faerieworld/Faerieland work while they are literally being ABUSED by their fae magical classmates. They are almost killed or manipulated/drugged on multiple occasions by their peers. Jude is also almost killed by her eventual love interest. But don’t worry. He is *hot* and *misunderstood* like every abusive dude in fantasy books. He also has a tail.

Jude is definitely a character with potential. She has that morally gray/power thirsty personality that fantasy authors love so much. She wants to be a knight and wants to be accepted by Faerietown. She will do what it takes to get there, including spying on the king and working undercover. See? Cool stuff. POTENTIAL.

Like I said, the books have potential, but they all fall SO. FLAT. It’s disappointing. You have an interesting world (which the author does not thoroughly explain or describe, so you are doing your best to create a hodgepodge fantasy world in your head as you read), with characters that seem cool and interesting (but again, hardly described), but they are too two-dimensional to really grasp. I wanted more in every book.

Again, I will say this to authors: We want more than flowery prose! We want substance! I’m looking at you, Addie LaRue! From the plot and cringeworthy dialogue to the prose and internal monologues, I kept on shouting “GIVE ME SOMETHING!” The romance between Jude and Cardan is even flat and unconvincing. If you’re going to try and normalize toxic boy behavior at least make the lovers compatible/interesting.

These books just weren’t it. They all followed the same structure … slow start, picked up in the middle with the big climatic finish. OK. Next book. Oh, same structure? OK. Last book. SAME STRUCTURE. The EPILOGUE had more context and closure than the entire series …

There’s much more I can say, but I’ll end it with this sassy note: You’ll fully describe an entire family being gruesomely butchered, but you won’t describe a sex scene? K.