Thursday, February 28, 2019

February Books

I can't believe my goal of reading 17 books in 2017 (ha, I ended up with 88 in 2017 and 77 in 2018!) has morphed into this passion for books. Let's be real, not having cable TV to keep me "entertained" also gives me more free time to dive into a great book or seven ;) {PS One of my goals for 2019 is to read 19 books, let's see how many times over I can do that.}

There were SIX books in the first month, so when I add February's FIVE that brings my total for 2019 to ELEVEN thus far! If you're interested in what I read (or how I'd rate them), make sure to check out my previous recaps! {January's Books}

  • Calypso by David Sedaris - A friend or two of mine had mentioned this book recently so I put it on hold at the library. As per usual I didn't know anything about it prior to checking it out - but that seems to be a recurring theme in my reading realm. I haven't read anything by David before, but apparently he is a pretty well known (and distinguished) author. When I shared on my Instagram stories that I had picked up this book I got a lot of feedback from folks who mentioned they had read it and that although his humor is a bit dark, it was a great book. I would have to agree with that assessment. This book is a bit of a memoir (a collection of essays from his life) that touches on some pretty deep topics - all while trying to poke a little fun at himself and keep it as lighthearted as possible. The stories center around him, his family and their relationships with one another. They are a dysfunctional bunch, but who isn't?! I wouldn't say each of the chapters made me 'LOL', but there were definitely some chuckles (and a few head shakes and maybe even a few gasps) throughout. I was able to read this in a couple hours (with short chapters I told myself "just one more" and quickly I was done with the whole thing) and it had me looking to see if our library carries his other books. I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles - The hubby and I were in search of an audiobook to listen to on the trip to and from Phoenix for the Mesa-PHX Marathon and grabbed this one. I hope this doesn't come out wrong, but this story line is similar to others currently on the market (i.e. The Hate U Give, Dear Martin, etc). Don't get me wrong, it is a truth that we need to have our eyes opened up to more and more, but the plot was comparable to ones I have read recently. With that said, the hubby and I both really enjoyed this one. At the end, the hubby mentioned that the conclusion he was expecting (or wanting) never really came, but I guess that's not really the point, is it? The heart of the matter is that (without sounding trite) black lives matter. These people killed were and are more than just a hashtag - they are someone's son, someone's brother, someone's friend. This is not a story hating on police or whites, it's a novel the author wrote based on true events in his life. This is reality in America - there is police brutality, there is racism, there is hate. We need to do everything in our power to overcome these truths and fight for a better world, a better life. I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • We Were The Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter - When I shared The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah in last month's book recap I got quite a few folks who suggested I check out this title since I liked that book so much. I had to wait a couple weeks for it to become available at my library, but once it did I ran over (no, literally, I've been "running my errands" now that the hubby and I are sharing a car, so I physically ran to the library for the book) and snagged it. I'll be honest, this one was a little harder for me to stick with and follow. I love the idea that the book jumps from the different characters' perspectives, but at times it was hard for me to keep all of the story-lines and people straight in With that said, it was still an amazing (and gut-wrenching) story. Seeing as the cover of the book says that it's a novel, I was thinking it was made up (with some portions based on the history of World War II, concentration camps, etc), but when I got to the Author's Notes I was blown away that this was legit a family story. This family absolutely defied the odds and despite all of the death and destruction, they came out on the other side more "whole" than one could have every imagined - they truly were the lucky ones! I feel like so often we hear about the plight the Jews went through during WWII, but, at least for me, I feel so removed from it. This made their experiences so real (and raw) that all I could do was tear up, shake my head and pray that we never repeat the atrocities that occurred. I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • Braving the Wilderness by BrenĂ© Brown - I have read another one of BrenĂ©'s books, so when I saw this one become available at the library I decided it was time to give it a read. The book is a couple years old already, but it is just as relevant for today's political climate as it was then. Her research delves into how we can find true belonging and have the courage to stand alone (even when it's tough and vulnerable, because it is necessary and worth it!). This is not a book grandstanding and telling us that everyone should hold hands and sing kumbaya, but it is saying that when we do show up and stand up for our beliefs, we need to be civil and respectful. In the divisive climate we find ourselves in, the four pillars she mentions in her book - "People are hard to hate close up. Move in.", "Speak truth to bullshit. Be civil.", "Hold hands. With strangers.", and "Strong back. Soft front. Wild heart." are all topics we could be a little more versed in. Although I sort of wish I walked away with more 'how to' steps, it did raise quite a few great points - points I hope to simmer on and hopefully adjust my behavior accordingly. Let's dare to be better! I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • Looking for Alaska by John Green - Yet another book I'm not exactly sure how it ended up on my "must read" list, but I do know I have enjoyed others by this same author (Turtles all the Way Down, The Fault in the Stars, Paper Towns, etc). After the somewhat serious books I had been reading recently, I welcomed this young adult novel. Don't get me wrong, it still had its dark sides, but I think the overall feel was a little more lighthearted (or at least there was more of that thrown in throughout the story). I was able to read this book in an afternoon and couldn't really put it down. I really liked how it was set up as a "before and after", it kept you engaged and interested to find out what the turning point in the story would be and then how the characters would move past it. This is definitely a different take on a "coming of age" story, and I can see why schools are using it in their curriculum. The characters all felt real, raw and relatable. I wouldn't say it was a tearjerker (it may had been a little predictable), but it definitely gave me the feels. I would give it an 8 out of 10.

With that, February has come to a close. My reading may not be going gang-busters like it has in the past, but I hope it never completely stops. If you have any suggestions, let me know! I'm always willing to add them to my library wait list!

PS I created an Amazon list that includes all of the books I've read and would recommend to others. Check it out!

What was the best book you read this year?

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

March Madness // Four 30-Day Challenges

Don't get me wrong, I love me some good college basketball (#GoBlue), but the March Madness I'm referencing is a little different than the standard basketball bracket tournament you're used to hearing about during the third month of the year.


This March Madness will be all about getting back on the muscle building wagon and getting our STRONG on! And who doesn't love a great 30-day challenge to ignite the spark?! In fact, since 30-day challenges are (in my opinion) a great way to kick-start a new habit, why not combine a couple of them?! If one is good, then four is better, right?!


For the month of March, I'm going to take on FOUR 30-day challenges and I challenge you to join me! There is a squat challenge, a plank challenge, a push-up challenge and a crunch challenge. I figured March was the perfect time to start because many of us have let our "resolutions" slip from the forefront of our mind and we need a kick in the booty before our spring races come around/ the weather gets nicer/ more time slips from our grasp / whatever your reason may be.


My plan is to split up the different exercises throughout the day (maybe one before breakfast, one before lunch, one before dinner and one before bed) so I'm not trying to fit them all in at the end of the day, but we will have to see how I do.


Feel free to join in on any or all of the challenges (if four is too much, pick one or two - YOU DO YOU!)! Accountability is great, so the more people we have doing it and routing each other on, the more likely we will be to stick with it. By the end we will be doing 250 squats // 5 minute plank // 5 push-ups // 150 crunches - WE WILL BE ROCKSTARS! Well, shoot, we already ARE rockstars, but by the end of the month hopefully we will be even stronger, fitter rockstars!
March 1st: 50 squats // 20 second plank // 5 push-ups // 25 crunches
March 2nd: 55 squats // 20 second plank // 5 push-ups // 30 crunches
March 3rd: 60 squats // 30 second plank // 6 push-ups // 35 crunches
March 4th: REST squats // 30 second plank // 6 push-ups // REST crunches
March 5th: 70 squats // 40 second plank // 7 push-ups // 40 crunches
March 6th: 75 squats // REST plank // 7 push-ups // 45 crunches
March 7th: 80 squats // 45 second plank // 10 push-ups // 50 crunches
March 8th: REST squats // 45 second plank // 10 push-ups // REST crunches
March 9th: 100 squats // 60 second plank // 10 push-ups // 60 crunches
March 10th: 105 squats // 60 second plank // 15 push-ups // 65 crunches
March 11th: 110 squats // 60 second plank // 15 push-ups // 70 crunches
March 12th: REST squats // 90 second plank // 15 push-ups // REST crunches
March 13th: 130 squats // REST plank // REST push-ups // 80 crunches
March 14th: 135 squats // 90 second plank // 18 push-ups // 90 crunches
March 15th: 140 squats // 90 second plank // 18 push-ups // 95 crunches
March 16th: REST squats // 120 second plank // 20 push-ups // REST crunches
March 17th: 150 squats // 120 second plank // 20 push-ups // 100 crunches
March 18th: 155 squats // 2.5 minute plank // 20 push-ups // 105 crunches
March 19th: 160 squats // REST plank // 25 push-ups // 110 crunches
March 20th: REST squats // 2.5 minute plank // 25 push-ups // REST crunches
March 21st: 180 squats // 2.5 minute plank // 30 push-ups // 115 crunches
March 22nd: 185 squats // 3 minute plank // REST push-ups // 120 crunches
March 23rd: 1900 squats // 3 minute plank // 30 push-ups // 125 crunches
March 24th: REST squats // 3.5 minute plank // 35 push-ups // REST crunches
March 25th: 220 squats // 3.5 minute plank // 35 push-ups // 130 crunches
March 26th: 225 squats // REST plank // 40 push-ups // 135 crunches
March 27th: 230 squats // 4 minute plank // 40 push-ups // 140 crunches
March 28th: REST squats // 4 minute plank // 45 push-ups // REST crunches
March 29th: 240 squats // 4.5 minute plank // 45 push-ups // 145 crunches
March 30th: 250 squats // 5 minute plank // 50 push-ups // 150 crunches
PS I am planning to post daily in my IG stories {@CarleeMcDot} as a reminder for us to all get after it, so if you don't follow me already, make sure you do so and tag me so I can share everyone who is joining in on the challenges!

Which of the four challenges do you think will be the hardest to do?

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Limiting Screen Time

I know I've mentioned it a few times, and even still, folks may not believe me, but I promise... I am not super tech savvy. Don't get me wrong, the majority of time I love my social media, but the technology behind all of it just boggles my brain.


I'm the type of person who feels the need to read through the entire user guide before turning on an electronic to make sure I'm using it properly and getting the most out of it. I am normally late to the game for most technology advances. With that said, it probably wouldn't surprise you to find out that I often don't update the operating system on things like my phone or computer because I "like the way they are". I don't need the newest or best, not to mention I feel like the early adopters are often the guinea pigs... I'd much prefer jumping onto the bandwagon when the kinks have been worked out ;)


So I'm sure it won't shock you when I say I held off on downloading the new iOS on my phone till very recently (like within the last week) and now have access to some of the new fan-dangled high tech options like how it tracks your screen time!


Let's just say when I saw the numbers I was a little floored... and maybe more than a little disgusted... Don't get me wrong, you could say I'm on social media (or my phone) for parts of my job, but still, the numbers were shocking.


When I was on my run Sunday morning I had the thought that quite a few of the parents I know put limits on their kids' screen time, yet I don't know too many of them who limit their own. I know, I know, kids' brains are still being molded and shaped and don't need the constant bombardment of shiny things... but if they shouldn't be inundated with it, should we?!


That got me thinking... maybe I should restrict my own screen time. In fact, there's a feature now that my phone has been updated that allows me to put self imposed limits! Obviously it's not a perfect fix (since you can override the functionality), but it's another way to make you THINK before you mindlessly grab for your phone and feed that phone addiction.


Shoot, it was just last week that I posted about wanting to unplug and recharge more regularly, so this is the perfect way to practice what I preach and put that intention into action. Apparently someone in the blogosphere read my post and made this update just for me (alright, I DOUBT that was the case, but still, it felt like it was exactly what I needed!)!


And I don't necessarily believe there is a magic number (or that the number matters at all - my number may be twice as much as you think works for you and half of what works for your friend), but if it causes us to think through why we are actually grabbing those little magic boxes, if it causes us to get up off our booties and get outside, if it causes us to be more present, if it causes us to stop spectating and actually participate in our lives, it's something I wanna do.


I'll be honest (because you know I've aways gotta #KeepItReal), yesterday was the first day I turned on the limit feature on my phone and I really don't know how it's going to go long term. Maybe last week was a relatively high amount of screen time and the limit I put for this week won't make much difference (or maybe, conversely, I blow through my allotted time before lunch). I plan to tweak and play with this until I find what works for me and my lifestyle. #YouDoYouAndIllDoMe


PS This is in NO WAY a drive-by guilting, saying you need to put down your phone immediately (shoot, if that was the case I'd lose all of my readers and followers ;)), but I'm saying we need to make sure the things that we are consuming - whether it's physical food, social media content, etc is nourishing us {and in a positive way} - not simply filling time!


Do you have a limit on your personal screen time?

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Workout Recap - Week 8

Sunday, February 17th – Rest Day

Monday, February 18th – 6 mile run with the hubby

Tuesday, February 19th – 10 mile run, Stretched & Foam Rolled

Wednesday, February 20th – 60 minutes on the stationary bike

Thursday, February 21st – 10.10 mile run

Friday, February 22nd   4 mile run

Saturday, February 23rd – 10 mile run, Stretched & Foam Rolled

If you remember last week's workout recap, I was out of town from Thursday through Monday and had to swap around runs. As you can see from the beginning of this week, that effected my workouts a bit (at least when and where my different runs were done), but thankfully I was entering TAPER TIME so I was cutting down on my runs anyway. PS I really need to get back on the foam rolling and stretching train... especially with my 50K NEXT WEEK!

How were your workouts this past week?

Friday, February 22, 2019

Friday Favorites

Another week, another list of what I'm loving lately. I hope you find them somewhat helpful or informative... but even if you don't, I still like reflecting on new-to-me products or services I've come across ;) So, here we go, let's get after it!

Momentum Ambassadorship

I've been a Momentum Ambassador from the get-go. In fact, I was actually the first official ambassador. I love this brand (and everyone behind it) to my core! They'll be opening applications for the 2019 program soon and I wanted to give you the heads up so you can mark your calendar. The window to apply is short - like two days - so if you're interested, make an alert on your phone, set an alarm, whatever you need to do to remind yourself! You can put your name in the hat on Friday, March 1st through 11:59pm CST Saturday, March 2nd. Do you love to inspire and motivate others? Momentum Ambassadors are eager to share a message of strength and positivity - they work hard every day to change the world by encouraging others to live more active, healthy, and inspired lives. If this is you, don't forget to apply next week!


FedEx Delivery Manager

I mentioned almost a year ago in a Friday Favorites about the USPS Informed Delivery program - where you receive email updates with images of your scanned mail/ packages in the United States Postal Service system. Well, I had no idea you could sign up for something similar with FedEx... A fellow Brooks Ambassador told me about it earlier in the week when we were chatting about an upcoming shipment and you better believe I signed up right away. Signing up (along with most of the features) is free, so what do you have to lose?! I love that even if I'm not sent tracking information from a company I'll still receive updates on when a package addressed to me has shipped and when it'll be delivered!


AWESOME Giveaways

Who wouldn't want to win this AMAZING giveaway?! NATHAN + Charity Miles is proud to present the Riviera Maya FITlanthropy GIVEAWAY! A luxurious 3-night stay at the 5-Star Gourmet (All) Inclusive Spa Resort, El Dorado Royal, by Karisma in Riviera Maya, Mexico + Garmin, Aftershokz Headphones, Pair of Brooks Running Shoes and Nathan VaporAir Hydration Vest. Winners Announced 3/1/19. Enter here:


Treat yourself this winter. Enter to win a simple winter giveaway for your very own cozy Getaway, with great bonuses valued at over $3,150. Enter to win the following: Two night Getaway at their New York, Boston, or DC Outpost ($400 value) // $500 transportation credit // $200 gift card to Parks Project // $500 gift card to Snowe // $500 credit towards a 12-month furniture subscription with Feather // A pair of Forsake high tops + low tops for the winner and a travel companion ($550 value) // $500 gift card to Sleepy Jones. The sweepstakes ends 3/11/19. Enter here:


Fundraising for #Ragnar4Rett

I know I mentioned the #Ragnar4Rett #TeamSparkle Virtual 5K last week, but this week I am STOKED to share I am personally fundraising for the cause. If you haven't already, make sure to check out my fundraising page - and if you could spare $5 (the cost of a cup of coffee), consider donating! All the proceeds go to Girl Power 2 Cure to fight Rett Syndrome.


What are you loving lately?

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Walt Wednesday

Some people do a "Wordless Wednesday" post, where they simply share a photo or image, but I thought I'd make a little series out of my Wednesdays. And since I love alliteration so much, why not go with Walt Wednesdays (obviously everyone can use a little break from the seriousness, scariness and sassiness of life - and what better way to help put a smile on your face than with a cute wiener dog picture, am I right?!)... So, without further ado...


When life gets overwhelming, how do you de-stress?

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Unplug and Recharge

Maybe it's just me, but I truly believe we all need time to unplug and recharge. We live in a day and age where we are constantly connected (although research is showing that even with being more "virtually connected" more and more of us are feeling less connected and more alone and isolated than ever) and sometimes we just need to PULL THE PLUG!


This past weekend I spent volunteering for our church's 11th and 12th grade ministry, cooking meals for 200+ students at a camp in Bakersfield. There were 8 of us on the "kitchen crew" and we worked from before sun-up until well after sunset every day. I have worked weddings, bar mitzvahs, large parties, etc before and this was like putting on a special event three times a day. To say we were all tuckered out and spent by the end of it would be quite the understatement. 


With that said, we had all of about 43 seconds a day to be on our phones or social media. Normally, as I'm sure you've noticed, social media is my jam. I love checking in on what everyone is doing, offering encouragement, supporting my friends, not to mention sharing about what's going on in my corner of the world. Starting Thursday afternoon till yesterday afternoon I was almost completely unplugged from that realm (#RealTalk - it wasn't a spiritual reason, the lack of time along with not having wireless access {and a limited data plan} were the main factors contributing to the disconnect). 


And, you know what?! I didn't feel stressed out about it or feel like I was missing out on anything at all. I'm sorry if that sounds like I don't really care about what you are doing - that is totally not it - but being the hands and feet of Jesus was my only priority this weekend. Sure, folks could say we were "only" making meals, but they very well may have played a role in some students' salvation and eternity! I mean, maybe because they were well fed (food cooked with smiles and love) they were able to hear the message more clearly and accept Jesus into their hearts. We will never know on this side of heaven, but I pray the impact of our service will be felt for longer than just a few minutes after each meal. 

Three best friends and five student volunteers! #TheBestKitchenCrew

Hopefully I haven't lost all of you, thinking this is either some drive-by guilting or just a bunch of "Jesus junk". I wanted to say that even though we were working like dogs, I felt refreshed and energized at the end of it and I truly believe it was because I had time away from my phone, away from the rat race of trying to show a "perfect world" in a square little picture and because I felt as though I was working for a bigger purpose. Don't get me wrong, the work was rough (and I have already told my friend I am not planning on helping in the future ;)), but it helped point out that even though I absolutely love being plugged into the social media world, sometimes you need to unplug and recharge. 


And even though I've been back for about 24 hours, I have yet to open the majority of my apps. I don't know how long that'll last (ha, truthfully, after I hit PUBLISH on this post I'll probably open up my Instagram to share the link, so the break may only last a few more minutes), but maybe this will be the nudge I need to put down my phone and truly engage. 


Now, I'm not normally one who is "doing it for the 'gram" {the hubby and I truly already try to live our lives so we do things that make us forget to pick up our phones}, but I want to live more intentionally. I want to remove the pressure of trying to stay up-to-date on every single social media platform, I want to do things that are genuinely fulfilling, I want to keep my phone put away when I'm with friends (even if that means we don't have the ability to Google an answer to something immediately), I want to take photos for the purpose of preserving the memory and not just sharing it with the world, I want to unplug and recharge on a regular basis (not only when I'm forced into it because of lack of time/ connectivity).


This past weekend may have started out with me disconnecting because I didn't really have another option, but I hope that moving forward it serves as an example of what my heart and soul truly craves, desires and literally NEEDS - more relationship, less mindless scrolling, more intentionality, less superficiality, more impact, less wasting time, more hugs and smiles, less double taps and retweets. We are in this life together so we need to actually be IN THIS LIFE together!


When was the last time you intentionally unplugged from social media?

Monday, February 18, 2019

Workout Recap - Week 7

Sunday, February 10th – 10 mile run, Stretched & Foam Rolled

Monday, February 11th – 10 mile run, Stretched & Foam Rolled

Tuesday, February 12th – 8 mile run, Stretched & Foam Rolled

Wednesday, February 13th – 24 mile run, Stretched & Foam Rolled

Thursday, February 14th – 10 mile run, Stretched & Foam Rolled

Friday, February 15th  Rest Day

Saturday, February 16th – 45 minute run

I had to swap my runs around a bit this week because I was going to be out of town Thursday afternoon through Monday afternoon (volunteering at a church camp, serving meals to 200+ 11th and 12th grade students in Bakersfield) - the stormy weather also put a wrinkle in my workouts and I tried to work around it whenever it was possible. Seeing as I was "working" from about 6am until about 9pm every night I was out of town, the only time to get in a run was early (and running around and around inside of a gym), but hey, I got all of my runs done and THAT is what matters, right?!

How were your workouts this past week?

Friday, February 15, 2019

#TeamSparkle Virtual 5K

It's the most RUNderful time of the year: #Ragnar4Rett! If you've been around my corner of the InterWebs for a while you're probably well versed in #Ragnar4Rett, but just in case you are new to these parts (in that case, WELCOME!), let me bring you up to speed. I am honored to be joining #TeamSparkle for a FIFTH year in a row for their #Ragnar4Rett adventure (last year we adjusted it slightly because the majority of the team qualified for the Boston Marathon and the two races were only days apart so #Ragnar4Rett morphed into #Boston4Rett, but the sentiment was the same).

Let's just say they don't ask me back year after year because of my jumping skills... 

Six ladies (including myself) will be running 185 miles (from Huntington Beach to San Diego) for 185 kids, hoping to raise as much awareness and funds for Rett Syndrome along the way. We will be doing this while participating in the Ragnar SoCal Relay Race as an ultra team (meaning there will only be 6 of us on a team as opposed to the standard 12 runners).


Sparkle Athletic just opened registration for the #TeamSparkle Virtual 5K earlier this week and I hope you will consider signing up. Virtual races are fun because you can do them virtually ANYWHERE! Of course it'd be great to get a ton of friends and family to participate together, but as long as you have some running shoes you can claim the finisher medal!

PS I'm WELL AWARE that this is NOT a runDisney virtual race, but I thought the explanation was helpful in case you aren't familiar with the idea:

Just because you aren’t running Ragnar SoCal with us doesn’t mean you can’t participate (wouldn't it be awesome if everyone could pile in the van for the journey?!). This year we invite YOU to join #TeamSparkle and participate in our #Ragnar4Rett journey by signing up for the #TeamSparkle Virtual 5K (all profits will be donated to Girl Power 2 Cure).


Participating is easy!

1. Sign up for the #TeamSparkle Virtual 5K. Registration is open NOW till it sells out (so don't lolly gag or you'll miss out).


2. Run/walk/roll at least 3.1 miles (5K) anytime between now and Saturday, April 13th, 2019. However, we’d suggest you complete the 5K the weekend we are running Ragnar So Cal (April 12th-13th). YOU will be receiving a real, actual race bib AND a beautiful, sparkly, die cast, 2019-edition #TeamSparkle medal. Medals will ship the week of March 25th.


3. Share your photos with the rest of the world on social media using the hashtags #Ragnar4Rett and #TeamSparkle. Spread the word, share your experience and help us raise more awareness (and funds) to help #ReverseRett!


If you are interested, there are also different commemorative shirts (either along with the registration or on their own) and all of their profits also going to Girl Power 2 Cure. You can find all of the registration and clothing options HERE.

These shirts are available for pre-order only! Orders must be received by March 8th. Shirts will ship the week of March 25th.

Have you ever participated in a "virtual race" before?