Monday, September 30, 2019

September 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 FORTY-ONE books in the first eight month, so when I add September's SEVEN that brings my total for 2019 to FORTY-EIGHT thus far! If you're interested in what I read (or how I would rate them and whether I would recommend you giving them a read or not), make sure to check out my previous monthly book recaps! {January's BooksFebruary's BooksMarch's BooksApril's BooksMay's BooksJune's BooksJuly's Books, August's Books}

  • Life After Suicide by Dr. Jennifer Ashton - This book happened to be sitting on the "new" table at the library when I was in printing something off and it grabbed my attention. I have always had an ache in my heart for people touched by suicide (I fundraised for many years on behalf of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention). Although this book is written by a doctor (she is actually an OB-GYN), it is not a clinical or medical book - it is a book about her personal story and her life after suicide. She also talks to other survivors and shares some of their stories as well. This book touches on some important topics but also has a few issues (I found her name dropping of some of her friends a little excessive and also her lifestyle hard to relate to - but obviously it does further prove the point that suicide does not discriminate). It was a quick read with a handful of helpful takeaways, especially if you know someone affected by suicide. We need to remove the stigma around mental illness and suicide, as well as embrace those affected! I would give it a 7 out of 10. 

  • On the Come Up by Angie Thomas - If you've followed my reading journey, you probably know I'm a fan of the YA (Young Adult) genre. Maybe it's because I never read a ton when I was younger, maybe I like the drama (but not the sex scenes in the adult books), maybe it's because the characters tend to feel more innocent, the settings can be more fantastical and the emotions are often downright nostalgic. Whatever the reason, YA books are my jam and I am loving Angie Thomas! She is the writer of The Hate U Give (which was recently turned into a movie) and I loved her from the moment I opened that book. This novel is set in the same neighborhood as the previous book but goes a different direction. I sort of love that she allows the heroine to have her fair share of slip ups and mistakes (like all kids do) before really finding her footing in life. Although I will never fully understand the black experience, I appreciate authors who are willing to shine a light on the realities (and help others not only recognize what's going on, but come alongside as part of the solution). Now if only she could release another novel already ;) I would give it a 9 out of 10. 

  • Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans - The hubby and I had a road-trip planned so I thought we should grab a audio book from the library (during our last trip we listened to a crime doc podcast and I was ready for a change - especially since the one he found for this trip seemed a little too scary for me). I was interested to listen to this book because it was written from the perspective of a millennial (well, she is on the cusp between Generation X and Millennial, but claims more of the millennial title) about why she believes those in her demographic are leaving the church - and specifically her journey in her Christian walk. At times I felt the book brought up some great points (how maybe having an "open table" policy for things like taking communion might welcome more people to meet Jesus), while other times I felt they were a little wordy and didn't add a lot to the story. I appreciated when she would add her personal experiences into the "debate" because I actually found them more interesting than the statistics or generalized hypothesis she threw out. I do have to say, I am thankful she took a stand on a few topics that are near and dear to my heart and has zero qualms about still calling herself a Christian. I don't know that I'd really recommend this book to others (maybe it was the fact that I was driving and at times it was hard to focus on the nitty gritty details she was getting into), but I enjoyed it enough to not search for a radio station. I would give it a 6 out of 10.

  • Hurting Like Hell, Living with Gusto by Victoria Stopp - I received a DM on Instagram a couple weeks back from a friend who mentioned she was an athlete with fibromyalgia and actually wrote a book about her experiences. She asked if I'd be interested in giving it a read and of course I said yes. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in ninth grade after fracturing a vertebrae in my back (cheerleading stunt accident). I have always said I would never wish this "disorder" (fibromyalgia is considered a disorder of different symptoms, but it is hard to diagnose because it's symptoms are similar or associated with other conditions) on anyone,  but it is "nice" to hear someone else's experience with the crapiness that is fibro - especially someone who is an athlete. I found myself doing a lot of head nodding and agreeing throughout the book - even though her experience was not the exact same as mine. I appreciate that she was willing to put her story down on paper and let others come along side during her journey. Chronic illnesses, especially invisible ones, are hard to handle - not just physically but mentally and emotionally - so knowing there are others out there going through the same thing (or at least something similar) can make you feel not so alone (and it can serve as a reminder that maybe you can get through it too). I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig - I don’t remember how I came upon this book, it must have been on a list I found somewhere, but I recently picked it up on one of my Link+ hauls. This was a quick read (although there are approximately 250 pages, the pages themselves are small and the chapters aren’t necessarily traditional chapters {some are short, some are lists, some have inconsistent spacing}). The book delves into the author's battle with depression and anxiety, things that have worked for him, things that have not worked for him, etc. Although the topic of mental illness can be (and is) a very serious and sometimes heavy subject, I was left with a feeling of hope and appreciation for life. With all of the stigma surrounding mental illness, I really appreciate the author’s bravery to bring into the light the raw struggles he has gone through and how dark things really can get. The book reads somewhere between a memoir and self-help book. Whether you battle depression or anxiety (or a host of other mental illnesses) or know someone who does, I think in reading this book you will see how real and all-encompassing the darkness can be and how loving and kind we should be to everyone because we have no idea the demons others may be battling. I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • Dreamland by Sam Quinones - I think I saw someone I follow on Instagram reading this book so I thought I would pick it up. Opiate addiction is a huge problem near where I'm from, so I am always interested to learn more about the epidemic. I sort of love that this book is written for teens (although I didn't realize that when I put it on hold at the library) because the addiction seems to be starting more and more with that demographic. This book dives into the history and reality of the OxyCotin and heroin epidemic that swept the midwest and eventually the nation. It is very interesting to see the differences between this "war on drugs" and others like crack - it's sort of like it's a race thing (okay, okay, maybe you sensed the sarcasm and disgust in my words... if not, please know, I absolutely believe the way that we as a society treat white vs. black drug users/ addicts is absolutely screwed up... and that's putting it nicely). I flew through this book in a single afternoon. I sort of wish there were more personal stories about how the drugs and addiction affected those involved, but realize this was coming at the topic as a more historical and informative narrative. PS I also appreciate that the author ends on a high note (no pun intended) on how Portsmouth, one of the "Ground Zero" locations for the epidemic, is on the rebound. Here's to hoping we continue to battle and recover. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg - I came across a list on my library's website for "books about kindness", and saw this title so so you know it was right up my alley. Aw, it was so cute! Like the list I found it on stated, this book is definitely about kindness. It's a story about Arthur, a man who recently lost his wife and how he is continuing to get on without her. It's about love, grief, friendship and healing. I'll admit, I got teary-eyed a couple times. It was a super quick read - it only took me a couple hours. Sometimes you just need a feel-good story to restore faith in humanity (even if it is just a novel). It was a heartwarming story that made me wishing we all had an Arthur in our lives ;) I would give it a 9 out of 10.

With that, September 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?

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Workout Recap - Week 39

Sunday, September 22nd – 40 minute run

Monday, September 23rd – 3 mile warm-up, 5 x 1 mile repeats (with 90 seconds rest between), 3 mile cool-down, Stretched & Foam Rolled

Tuesday, September 24th – 70 minute run

Wednesday, September 25th – 90 minutes on the stationary bike

Thursday, September 26th – 40 minute run + strides and drills, Stretched & Foam Rolled

Friday, September 27th  45 minute warm-up, 5 x 10 minutes at GMP (with 5 minutes jog between), cool-down to 2:45

Saturday, September 28th – Rest day, Stretched & Foam Rolled

Although I didn't hit my splits for my speed workout on Monday or during my long run on Friday, I am still rather proud that I jumped back into my workouts despite not being back at 100%. I still have a bit of a cough and can't seem to shake all of the phlegm in my lungs, but I'm getting better by the day. Here's hoping that putting in the effort will be enough, seeing as my goal fall marathon is now less than 3 weeks away - EEKS! PS I need to get back to foam rolling and stretching!

How were your workouts this past week?

Friday, September 27, 2019

Friday Favorites {+ GIVEAWAY}

Another day, another chance to share some of my favorite finds with my favorite people. And this list might be a little better than most because if you stick around to the end there is a GIVEAWAY for one lucky reader... BOOYA!

Operation Christmas Child

I know, it's not even Halloween, so I shouldn't be thinking about Christmas yet, but I got a mailer from Samaritan's Purse earlier this week with the steps on "how to pack a shoebox" for their Operation Christmas Child program and it reminded me I wanted to share the program. I'm not sure if you've heard of it (or participated in the past), but this is a great way to spread some extra love and joy during the holiday season. The hubby and I love putting together these gift boxes for kids. National Collection Week is the third week in November, so you still have plenty of time to get your shopping on and put a box (or three) together. PS If you don't have a shoebox, preprinted shoeboxes are even available on their website!


Stories of Kindness

I swear, the news can be such a downer, but then, every once in a while you come across a story that just brightens the day... This is one such story - a story about a "little old lady" who spread kindness to someone she didn't know and hopefully encourages us to follow suit and do the same! Her reasoning behind her generosity tugged on my heartstrings - ‘It’s important to be kind. You can’t know all the times that you’ve hurt people in tiny, significant ways. It’s easy to be cruel without meaning to be. There’s nothing you can do about that. But you can choose to be kind. Be kind.’ YES, BE KIND!


Leon Advogato

I'll be the first to admit that I am NOT a cat person (is it just me or are they super scary because you never know what they are thinking and they can turn on you without a moment's notice?!), but this article of how a law firm in Brazil GAVE A CAT A JOB after receiving complaints because there was a homeless cat hanging out around the office warmed my heart. Shoot, he even wears a tie and welcomes visitors to the building! Dare I saw this story is PURRRRRRfect ;)


ROAD iD's Limited Edition Saved by the Bands Collection

Have you seen the new Saved By The Bands bands from ROAD iD?! They are ALL THAT AND A BAG OF CHIPS! Zack, Kelly, Screech, and Slater. The Mt. Rushmore of early 90’s TV (sorry, Urkel). Zack and the gang helped raise an entire generation. They taught us valuable life lessons, like how to save your school from oil spills, and how to cheat on tests using your psychic best friend. And together, they inspired the new Limited Edition lineup, the Saved by the Bands Collection. Relive the glory of Bayside High in one today. And I have TWO of the bands up for grabs (NO FACEPLATE INCLUDED!) - a 13mm Preppy and Kapowski. Entering the giveaway is easy-peasy! Simply use the Rafflecopter widget below and cross your fingers and toes. Some entries are available daily so enter early and often! [But, don't worry, even if you don't win {or want an item other than these bands}, you can use THIS LINK to save 20% on your orders!]

a Rafflecopter giveaway
This giveaway will run through Sunday, September 29th at 11:59pm PST. The winner will be contacted on Monday, September 30th via the email address on their Rafflecopter account and has 24 hours to claim their prize pack (make sure your information is up-to-date and you check your email regularly). US Residents only. All entries are verified, so do whatever the required action for the entry is or it will be disqualified. I'd hate for you to miss out due to a technicality, so if you're going to click the option, make sure you do whatever it asks or a new, random winner will be selected in your place.

What are you loving lately?

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Brooks Innovation Summit Trip Recap {+ GIVEAWAY}

Earlier this month I was lucky enough to attend the Brooks Innovation Summit thanks to my relationship as a Run Happy Ambassador. Although we didn't have a ton of details beforehand, I still signed up. Who can pass up a free trip to Seattle that includes the opportunity to see running friends and learn top secret info about Brooks?! Not me, that's for sure...

Isn't it awesome that Brooks made a statue in my likeness in front of their trailhead store?! Hehe... 

I'll be honest from the jump, there is a lot of information I can't share {yet}, but I still wanted to do a quick recap about the trip. And I guess a quick recap makes sense because it was a quick trip. You may remember the hubby and I were out of town for our Mt. Whitney hike and subsequent adventuring from Thursday through Tuesday. Well, the Brooks trip was set to begin bright and early Thursday morning, so I had less than 48 hours at home before heading out again... and would be back to San Diego by Friday evening (yep, I'd be in Seattle for all of about 34 hours). But let's get into it, shall we?!

Brooks was gracious enough to cover our travel. They gave us perimeters and had us work with a travel agent to get our flights set. The flight from San Diego to Seattle is about 3 hours (I thought that seemed incredibly long, but I guess you are flying the entire span of the West Coast) and to get me into town for the summit kick-off I had to catch a 6:15am flight.

Let the zero sleep commence...

Some of the ambassadors got into town with enough time to go for a quick run before we had to meet up with everyone (one of the pros of an early flight). I never turn down extra miles (especially with friends), so once we got to Brooks Headquarters (HQ), we dropped our bags and hit the pavement. We were able to get in a few miles at a fast pace (or at least faster than I was originally expecting, but with our schedule we had to go quick so we would be back in time for lunch - but, shoot, you know we still had to make time for a couple character stops along the way ;)).

If you don't have time for a monster narwhal picture then you are doing it wrong...

Not too shabby for just getting off a plane!

Once we got back we were able to cool down for a few minutes, change our gear and grab some grub (yay for having vegetarian options - and thankfully I recently got over my aversion to tofu {as long as the texture isn't too terrible}).

Get in my belly!

After we were able to chow down, the presentations started (they obviously knew to give us a few uninterrupted moments with our food because they clearly would've never been able to hold our attention with grumbling bellies). Like I alluded to earlier, unfortunately I cannot share the nitty gritty details of these presentations (I swore on all the chips and salsa in the world that I wouldn't spill the beans), but believe me when I tell you there are some BIG things coming down the pipeline in the next year or so. Some products are being reworked to better serve the community while others are brand new!

Feeling oh-so-official!


PS We didn't know the trip was going to include people outside of our RHA crew like media and retailers, so didn't realize there'd be other folks in the presentations - including the editor of Runner's World. And, guess what... I'm in the foreground of one of his Instagram photos! I mean, you may not be able to tell it's me, but I promise it is ;) #ClaimToFame

Source: @dengaterade's Instagram feed

Once the afternoon of presentations concluded, it was time to head out for a speed workout with Shadrack Biwott. Oh, you may not know who he is, but if you are in the running community you've probably heard of him. He is a Brooks athlete, was the first American male finisher (third overall) of the 2018 Boston Marathon (the same year Des Linden won the female race) and a BEAST all around. To say we were a little intimidated would be an understatement. Thankfully, Shadrack turned out to be not only an amazing runner (which we already knew) but an awesome guy all around. He was super down-to-earth and spent time chatting with whoever wanted a moment of his time. (I sat with Janae behind him on the bus and we talked to him about everything from his "easy pace runs" to his next goal race.) We did a 10 minute warm-up, got to change into some super secret shoes, ran a few strides and then tested the shoes on a quick jog. He even taught us the special way he ties his shoes! The workout wasn't anything too strenuous (thank goodness because I sort of got in speedwork earlier on our run around the Green Lake Loop - I think in total it was maybe a mile and a half and maybe 30 minutes), but still a fan-freakin'-tastic experience to run alongside a professional runner and interact with him like he was just "one of us". Major props go to Shadrack for blessing us with his time, energy and expertise.

These folks ROCK MY SOCKS!

A few of the OG RHA ladies!

Check it out... I may be beating Shadrack... I doubt it, but at some angle it might look legit ;)

The crew who turned out for the speed workout!

Always cheesin' for the camera...

The man, the myth, the speedster!

I didn't have my watch going during the dynamic stretching portion of the workout

To cap off the evening we went to a rooftop restaurant and got to hang out while enjoying stunning views. Although I'd love to say everyone mingled, it seemed like the ambassadors hung out with the ambassadors, the media peeps stuck with the media peeps and the retailers chilled with the retailers. If there's a similar event in the future I would love to see more introductions being made and engagement across the board - but hey, that's just me. Even still, it was a fun night.

The view wasn't too shabby! And we were even treated with a lightning storm in the distance that was pretty amazing to watch.

These two friends are AMAZEBALLS - no ifs, ands or buts about it!

Cheers to an awesome day at the Brooks Headquarters with amazing people!

Friday morning was set to begin around 8am, but Brian and I looked at the schedule and noticed there was "plenty of time" to run from the hotel to the November Project Seattle workout and then run back again before meeting up with everyone for our next day of events. Well, shoot doggy, you don't have to tell me twice, so Brian, Lauren and I met in the hotel lobby around 5:45am to head over to Gas Works Park for a morning workout. {The leader of NP Seattle is actually one of the ambassador liaisons, so of course we had to show our support and get our booties to the workout.}

Brian is all about using his GoPro lately (and I am all about using the photos he takes with it ;))

Can you see the Seattle skyline and Space Needle far off in the distance?!

We ran by Brooks HQ on the way back from the NP workout.

The workout for the day was sort of a circuit, starting with burpees, then running to a station where you'd do partner push-ups, then running to a station where you'd do partner planks, then running to a station where you'd do partner sit-ups, then running back to the burpees to start the cycle all over again. #RealTalk - it was A LOT more upper body work than I was expecting (and that my little arms were ready for), but I got it done and held my own worked up a sweat.

You know I've gotta cheese it up when a camera comes out ;)

This rockstar I am doing partner push-ups with is Dani. We got to talking about Michigan because she had a tag
from Grand Rapids on her shirt, come to find out she went to the University of Michigan too!
Source: @novemberprojectseattle's Instagram feed

The Brooks crew (complete with tribe leader and ambassador liaison Brian)

The folks (and pups) who showed up for the Friday workout.

We even got back to the hotel with time to change before meeting up with everyone else and heading to HQ (at this point I also had to check out of my room since I'd be heading directly to the airport after we finished our afternoon activities).

Brooks calls their athletes "beasts" so their eating area is the "beastro", get it?!

You can't sit with us... Just kidding - everyone is invited!

The morning and afternoon were full of more presentations about exciting products and changes coming soon, capped off with an afternoon group run. We had the option to either do a 3.1 or 4.1 mile run, and obviously I went for the longer. (I mean, let's be real, after sitting for about 6 hours in presentations, I was ready to get my legs moving before being on a plane for another 3 hours.) It's always a blast getting to workout with friends and this run around Seattle was no different.

We so matchy-matchy!

Some shots from the extra mile of the run!

Some of our running group with Alina and Brian at a cheer station!

And, before I knew it, it was time to hop on a plane and head home already. (We were able to choose to either fly out Friday night or Saturday morning, but the hubby's birthday was Friday and we had plans on Saturday so I opted for the Friday flight even though that meant missing extra time with my Run Happy Ambassador friends.)

Thankfully the flight wasn't full on the way home because I was still a bit sweaty
(as you can see in my hair) and I'm sure my neighbor appreciated the extra room.

The trip was a bit of a whirlwind, chocked full of time with friends, tons of info and a decent amount of mileage. By the time we pulled into the house on Friday evening it was close to 11:30pm, and although I was physically tired, my heart was full. PS Sorry this was sort of a teaser post, but I gave you decent warning at the beginning so you can't hold it against me, right?! And now you know there are exciting things on the horizon... even if you don't know exactly what they are ;)


As always, a MAJOR THANKS to Brooks for hosting the event and taking care of us from the start to the finish. It's an honor to be part of the Run Happy Ambassador program, one that I am forever grateful for! YOU ALL ROCK MY SOCKS!


And if you've stuck with this post through till the end, then do I have a surprise for you! We were gifted some gear while in Seattle that I want to bless another runner with! The prize package will include a pair of Chaser 3" Shorts {women's size small}, Distance Tank {women's size small}, Chaser Hat and Socks. Entering the giveaway is easy-peasy! Simply use the Rafflecopter widget below and cross your fingers and toes. Some entries are available daily so enter early and often!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
This giveaway will run through Sunday, September 29th at 11:59pm PST. The winner will be contacted on Monday, September 30th via the email address on their Rafflecopter account and has 24 hours to claim their prize pack (make sure your information is up-to-date and you check your email regularly). US Residents only. All entries are verified, so do whatever the required action for the entry is or it will be disqualified. I'd hate for you to miss out due to a technicality, so if you're going to click the option, make sure you do whatever it asks or a new, random winner will be selected in your place.

What are your guesses on what's in the works at Brooks?