BookTubeAThon 2015

I know I said I was taking a break from blogging and I totally am, but I felt honor-bound to tell you about BookTubeAThon 2015.

BookTubeAThon is a week-long reading challenge where participants are encouraged to read as much as they can. In addition to reading at a ferocious pace and engaging the community on YouTube and Twitter, there are seven specific book challenges each year. This year’s challenges are:

1) Read a book with blue on the cover

2) Read a book by an author who shares the same first letter of your last name

3) Read someone else’s favorite book

4) Read the last book you acquired

5) Finish a book without letting go of it

6) Read a book you really want to read

7) Read seven books

As many of you know, I’m already participating in the 2015 Pop Sugar Reading Challenge. Part of what gave me the confidence to attempt the Pop Sugar Challenge and set a 24 book goal for 2015 was knowing I would be participating in BookTubeAThon.

And then life happened.

Unfortunately BookTubeAThon is going to overlap with A Holy Waste of Time, a young adult retreat weekend that I am super stoked about. I still intend to read once I’m there, but I may not be able to complete all seven books if the campfire is calling. In addition to the retreat, my plan of having no meetings at work so I could leave early most days fell through when we hired a new employee. She starts the Monday of BookTubeAThon, and part of my job is to train all new employees.

Life challenges aside, I am still stoked about the book challenges. I’ve already picked my TBR (To Be Read):

BookTubeAThon 20151) Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle (blue on the cover – I’ll be listening to the audiobook)

2) The Wizard of Seattle by Kay Hooper (I share both first and last initials with this author, so it will count towards my Pop Sugar list as well)

3) The Man in the Ceiling by Jules Feiffer (Rob’s favorite book – well, one of them. He had a tough time picking a favorite.)

4) The Go-Giver by Bob Burg and John David Mann (the last book I acquired – a loan from work I got just last Friday)

5) Strangers in Paradise by Terry Moore (a book I’m hoping to finish without putting it down)

6) The Martian by Andy Weir (a book I’ve been wanting to read since I got it last Christmas – I’ve been saving it for BookTubeAThon)

7) Little Murders by Jules Feiffer (my seventh book – also counts toward Pop Sugar because it’s a play)

Looking at my book pile this feels both exciting and impossible. I can’t wait.

Sit Up Straight, Part Three: Ariel Yoga

Not long after I published my first post on learning to correct my posture, a friend told me I should try Ariel Yoga. She said the inverted postures allowed your spine to hang freely and your head to be “loose and bowling-ball-y.” She said she left the classes feeling taller and straighter, and suggested it might improve my walking posture. There was a studio she’d been going to that was only a few minutes’ walk from my apartment. I was sold.

The first class was expectedly awkward. Like any form of yoga, I spent my first day turning my neck around trying to look at the other people and confirm I was doing everything right. Ariel yoga is done using a large silk hammock to support and alter typical yoga stretches and postures. The hammocks are mostly opaque, but just see-through enough that if you press your face against them you can still see what the teacher is doing. We started class by sitting in our hammocks and doing basic stretches normally meant for the floor. Sometimes the hammock versions seemed less helpful than the standard poses, while others were leagues better in the hammock. I’ve never known a pigeon pose to stretch my hips quite as well as a pigeon pose suspended two feet off the ground.

Ariel YogaAfter a few starter stretches to get us comfortable with the hammocks, the inversions began. The most basic is called the Spiderman, in which you hang upside-down with the soles of the feet together and the knees bowed out. You know, like Spiderman. The first moment I did it I felt the effects. Because the hammock holds you up by the pelvis and not the waist or the legs, nothing is straining or yanking. Your entire spine is allowed to relax against the pull of gravity, all the way up to your tailbone. It was amazing. I felt like my lumbar spine was massaging itself.

We did a few more inversions that first day, and a few more stretches. Like any yoga class, we ended with the savasana relaxation pose. It was so amazing to be floating in the air with every part of the body evenly supported by a silk hammock. While I still I wasn’t sold on the concept, it was worth trying again. Besides, I’d bought the beginner’s two-class pass.

My second class made more sense and involved less peeking through the hammock to see what I was doing wrong. I was still in the beginner level, full of students just as clueless as myself. I already felt more confident in the hammock, and was able to try a few things I hadn’t done the first time. I bought another set of three classes, and started to move on to the All Levels classes. I did a Flying Dog series that was pleasant murder on my hip flexors. I did a one-legged balancing Sun Salute that made all other Sun Salutes seem like child’s play. And in each class I got to flip upside-down and feel the weight of my entire existence empty out of my coccyx like an hour glass. It was great.

Unfortunately, Ariel Yoga didn’t seem to have any direct effect on my posture. I still slouched, even on the short walk home from class. I did notice some positive, indirect effects. I was stronger, and there was more movement in my life. Holding myself up at the computer was getting just a bit easier, because my body didn’t feel so stuck in itself. The individual postures and inversions in Ariel Yoga didn’t matter as much as the fact that I was exercising again. I was building muscle again. I had been trying to strengthen my glutes and abs after reading about Anterior Pelvic Tilt, but my yoga practice was working out my whole body. Being inverted felt good on my back while it was happening, but the real benefit was the ab strength I used to get back up.

After a couple weeks of classes I decided that Ariel Yoga wasn’t a complete cure for my posture, but it was a fun, easy, and most importantly convenient way to increase my strength and flexibility. I loved that it took less than 10 minutes for me to get dressed and walk to the studio, and that it was challenging but never made me sweat enough to require a shower. Then I heard the news. My precious studio was moving to “a great new space” in Belltown. I’d either have to pay for the bus or pay for parking, and both would require at least a 20 minute travel commitment to ensure I got to class on time. My perfect little yoga situation was gone.

And so the search continues.

The 2015 Reading Challenge

Ever since I completed the mini BookTubeAThon challenge last December, I’ve been anxiously awaiting the full challenge in July. And I guess I’ve decided I can’t wait anymore, because I’ve just accepted a year-long challenge that I can start right now.

After much back-and-forth about what I should choose as my goal number for 2015, I settled on 24 books. If I kept up my book-a-month pace and finished seven additional books in July for the BookTubeAThon, getting to 24 would only require a little extra effort. Plus the GoodReads page shows your books for the year in rows of six, so I wanted to hit an even multiple.

This was all well and good. I had my goal, I had some books on my shelf and a few I planned to grab at the library. And then the other day my friend Kristina told me about the Popsugar 2015 Reading Challenge. Because so many avid readers and booktubers choose 50 books as their yearly goal, Popsugar released a set of 50 challenges for what kind of books they should read. This is exactly how BookTubeAThon works, but on a much larger scale. I asked Kristina if you were allowed to double up on challenges (fulfill two challenges with the same book). She said the recommendation was to do that no more than three times, and she was going to try to get through the list with no doubles at all. I looked at the challenges.

“I bet I if I doubled up on every one, I could hit all 50 challenges and still only read 24 books.”

“You have to try that,” she told me.

Agreed.

So what are my challenges? Here’s the entire list:

  1. A book with more than 500 pages
  2. A classic romance
  3. A book that became a movie
  4. A book published this year
  5. A book with a number in the title
  6. A book written by someone under 30
  7. A book with nonhuman characters
  8. A funny book
  9. A book by a female author
  10. A mystery or thriller
  11. A book with a one word title
  12. A book with short stories
  13. A book set in a different country
  14. A non-fiction book
  15. A popular author’s first book
  16. A book from an author you love that you haven’t read yet
  17. A book a friend recommended
  18. A Pulitzer Prize winning novel
  19. A book based on a true story
  20. A book at the bottom of your TBR list
  21. A book your mom loves
  22. A book that scares you
  23. A book more than a 100 years old
  24. A book based entirely on its cover
  25. A book you were supposed to read in school and didn’t
  26. A memoir
  27. A book with antonyms in the title
  28. A book you can finish in a day
  29. A book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to go
  30. A book published the year you were born
  31. A book with bad reviews
  32. A Trilogy
  33. A book from your childhood
  34. A book with a love triangle
  35. A book set in the future
  36. A book set in high school
  37. A book with a color in the title
  38. A book that made you cry
  39. A book with magic
  40. A graphic novel
  41. A book by an author you’ve never read before
  42. A book you own but never read
  43. A book that takes place in your hometown
  44. A book that was originally written in another language
  45. A book set during Christmas
  46. A book by an author who had your same initials
  47. A play
  48. A banned book
  49. A book based on or turned into a tv show
  50. A book you started but never finished

For better or worse, I’ve already read one book and started on three more, so my first four books are set no matter how few challenges they meet. So between four books, I only got five challenges (and not very hard ones).imgres

How to Read a Book
A non-fiction book

The Forgotten Desert Mothers
A book by a female author
A book set in a different country

Blue Highways
A memoir

Walden
A book more than a 100 years old

The other night I spent at least an hour looking at the challenges, the books on my shelf, and the books on my To Be Read list. I found a few winners that can hit a number of challenges. The only one that doesn’t hit at least two is In a Sunburned Country. My main reason for wanting to read it anyway is that I’m currently editing my own travel memoir book, and it’s helpful to look at similar books in the genre when making cuts.

imgres-1In a Sunburned Country
A book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to go

Wolf in White Van
A book with a color in the title
A book by an author you’ve never read before

Post Secret: Confessions on Life, Death, and God
A book with antonyms in the title
A book you can finish in a day

Midnight Assassin
A mystery or thriller
A book based on a true story

The Best of Roald Dahl
A book from an author you love that you haven’t read yet
A book with more than 500 pages
A book with short storiesimgres-2

Monstrous Regiment
A book you own but never read
A funny book
A book a friend recommended

Walk Two Moons
A book from your childhood
A book with a number in the title
A book that made you cry

Beloved
A Pulitzer Prize winning novel
A book with a one word titleimgres-4

Divergent, Insurgent, Allegiant
A Trilogy
A book written by someone under 30
A book set in the future
A popular author’s first book
A book that became a movie

The Wizard of Seattle
A book by an author who had your same initials
A book that takes place in your hometown

On the Road
A book you were supposed to read in school and didn’t
A book you started but never finished
A book that scares you

After working my way down the list, I suddenly found myself staring at a set of nine challenges I could fulfill with a single book. Might not be the best choice, But I couldn’t resist.

Twilight
A book with nonhuman characters
A book at the bottom of your TBR list
A book with bad reviews
A book with a love triangle
A book set in high school
A book with magic
A banned book

A few things have been left undecided. I found three good contenders for a book published the year I was born (Ender’s Game, Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman, and Contact) however that would be the only challenge any of them fulfill. Ender’s Game would be worth it for the cultural knowledge, Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman was already on my To Be Read list, and Contact is one of my favorite movies of all time. I’ll leave it undecided for now.

This leaves me with nine challenges and only five books to capture them all:

  • A classic romance (what exactly does this mean anyway?)
  • A book published this year
  • A book your mom loves
  • A book based entirely on its cover
  • A graphic novel
  • A book that was originally written in another language
  • A book set during Christmas
  • A play
  • A book based on or turned into a tv show

Will I manage to hit all 50 without going over 24 books? It’s possible, but unlikely. Then again that’s not really the point. Part of the reason silly reading challenges like this are fun is that they force you out of your reading comfort zone. Let’s face it, if left to my own devices I was probably never going to read a book like The Wizard of Seattle, but now I’m actually excited about it.

So while I’ll do my best, I don’t intend to stress about this challenge. I probably can’t get them all. Or maybe my mother has a favorite book that’s a classic Christmas romance originally written in another language and made into a TV show. Either way, I’m reading more, and that’s got to be worth something.

Sit Up Straight Part Two: Anterior Pelvic Tilt

Here’s a fun fact: it turns out fixing years of terrible posture is complicated.

I told you a month ago about my big posture realization and my resolution to fix it. After a lot of research and trial and error, I’m realizing that it’s not enough to say I have bad posture, because there are a lot of ways one can have bad posture. So rather than throw everything at you all at once, I’m splitting this subject up into several posts, each on a different problem that I’m researching. Today’s topic is:

Anterior Pelvic Tilt

The Problem:

At the top and front of your hips are two bony protrusions that signal the edge or your hip bones (the iliac crest). Below them and in the center is your pubic bone. If the way you’re sitting right now these three bones form a triangle that’s perpendicular to the floor, congratulations. Your pelvis is just fine. If your triangle is tilted with the iliac crests further forward than the pubic bone, then you’re in Anterior Pelvic Tilt.

The Cause:

Muscles can become tight and short by being kept in a shortened position too often. So if the muscles on the front of the hips are shortened, they are inclined to constantly pull your thighs and belly closer together to keep themselves shortened. This is most commonly caused by sitting too much.

In addition to shortening muscles, sitting all day can force some muscles to start slacking while other muscles are overworked. If your abs and glutes aren’t doing their fair share, the back muscles might try to compensate by working too hard in ways they weren’t designed for. You end up tight and stretched and weak and tense in all the wrong places, and the more you reenforce the position with sitting the more your body fights to stay in it. After a while your pelvis tilts every time you sit, then when you stand, then when you walk, and eventually the tilt is there all the time.

The Treatment:

To fix Anterior Pelvic Tilt you have to retrain the muscles through both strengthening and stretching exercises. The primary muscles to stretch are the psoas (which runs along the front of the hip) and the quads (the front of the thighs). Just reading about Anterior Pelvic Tilt makes my hips feel like they’re encased in cement, so I’ve decided to stretch all the muscles in the hip area. My favorite video for this is from The Yoga Solution with Tara Styles. It’s only five postures so you can do it really fast, but you can linger in them for a long time if you want to get a deeper stretch.

The next step will be to strengthen my glutes and abs, two muscles that should be doing more work than they are currently. I haven’t set up a routine yet, but unsurprisingly there are a million suggestions online for how to tone your butt and give you great abs. I’ll probably start with the basics like lunges, leg lifts, and crunches, and maybe move on to others as the routine gets boring.

After the first post a lot of people told me they also struggle with good posture. So, do any of you think you might have Anterior Pelvic Tilt? Is your tilt bad enough to join me for several weeks of bicycle crunches?

Sit Up Straight, Part One

I have atrocious posture. I’ve slouched since junior high, I imagine as the combined result of growing both upwards and outwards in puberty – two directions that make many young girls uncomfortable. I knew I hunched, I knew it was bad for me, and I did nothing to change it.

About a year ago my neck began to hurt. A lot. It was a lie-on-the-floor-of-your-office-in-the-middle-of-the-day kind of pain. I thought it was stress. Things had been tough at work, and I wondered if maybe it was getting to me. Turning to the left hurt for awhile, then I developed a sort of constant, dull ache. Soon I could barely move at all. I went to the doctor.

After examining me and asking zero questions about my stress level, she told me my neck pain was caused by my posture, and probably aggravated by the way I sat at my computer at work. She prescribed a book called “Treat Your Own Neck,” a title that my boyfriend found hilariously passive-aggressive coming from a doctor. The book walked you through a series of exercises meant to treat and prevent neck pain. I had my reservations, but she also gave me some muscle relaxers to take in the evening, so I thought I’d give her the benefit of the doubt.

I only took the pills twice. By the third day of exercises my pain was almost completely gone. I kept up my exercises and tried to look up from the keyboard more often, but eventually I stopped doing both. My neck didn’t hurt anymore. I decided that maybe it was the stress, it was just that the stress made my posture worse than usual.

Skip ahead about eight or nine months. I went to GeekGirlCon with a few of my friends. We were all cosplaying, and I was dressed as Jeannie from I Dream of Jeannie. My friend Kristina is a vlogger, and she was making a video about life in costume. Our friend Joe followed us around the convention shooting video as we walked. I didn’t think much of it. He was looking for candid shots, after all. A few days after the convention the video went up. It was a fun video but I couldn’t enjoy it. I was too distracted. I couldn’t stand the sight of me.

Unhappy JeannieMy costume looked great. My wig looked great. But I was walking around looking like my 90-year-old grandmother the year before she passed away. How is it I never noticed? I saw my posture every morning in the mirror, yet I never knew how bad it had gotten. I tried to blame it on the heavy wig. I tried to blame it on convention fatigue. But I knew I was just making excuses. I didn’t want it to be true. I looked so bad. And so unhappy. And I knew the truth right away: I always looked like that.

I’m not sure what all needs to be done (I’d welcome your suggestions), but I need to do something. I’m going to start by reviewing my old class papers from Alexander Technique, which I think will help. I’m considering doing an online typing course to teach myself to look up from the keys. I certainly need to stop putting my hair in clips (because of my car’s headrest, hair clips make hunching while driving mandatory).

This post is both backstory and blackmail. Like when I did the Clean Eating Challenge last fall, I want a bunch of people to bug me if I flake out on this. Certainly it will take more than a week, it may take months or years, but I should at least check back in about a month from now. Let’s say February 16th.

Here’s to changing how I walk in the world. Here’s hoping it’s not too late.

Christmas BookTubeAThon 2014

This last summer one of my friends participated in BookTubeAThon, a seven day reading challenge on YouTube. The overall challenge was to read seven books in seven days, along with sub-challenges to determine which books to read (read a classic, finish a series, etc). There were daily video challenges for people to post and Twitter sprints to help you keep going. I thought it sounded terrifying and wonderful, especially as a slow reader. I was hooked from the day I heard about it…which happened to be two days after it started. No BookTubeAThon for me.

Then this last Thursday I saw a few photos pop up on my Facebook wall for Christmas BookTubeAThon (known as #xmasbooktubathon), a shortened version of the regular challenge. I was feeling busy and swamped and overwhelmed and for some reason it seemed like the perfect time to commit to something gigantic.

For #xmasbooktubeathon this year, there were four challenges:

1) Read a book with red and green on the cover

2) Read a book you really wanted to read this year

3) Read a book that was gifted to you

4) Read three books in three days

The book I wanted to read this year was The 4-Hour Workweek, which I started Friday morning and took to work to read on breaks. For the last few weeks I’ve been listening to Tim Ferris’s podcast, which is really interesting despite Tim being a terrible interviewer. He just knows a lot of fantastic people who are all willing to talk with him for hours on end. I’ve known about The 4-Hour Workweek for years, but discounted it because I thought it was all about high-powered executives outsourcing their lives to India in order to dump their 70-hour workweeks in favor of golf in Havana. Not really my scene.

It’s a little strange to read a book at work that says “WARNING: DO NOT READ THIS BOOK UNLESS YOU WANT TO QUIT YOUR JOB” on the back, but I did it anyway. And in the end, some of the best take-aways from the book were ways I could improve efficiency at work and interact better with the staff. While there’s plenty in the book that I disagree with, I found myself recommending it to two different people by the end of the weekend.

2014-12-20 18.01.53Finding a book with red and green on the cover proved surprisingly difficult. I went through every book on my shelf looking for one, even looking to my boyfriend’s bookshelf for a while. Eventually I found Century Girl: A Hundred Years in the Life of Doris Eaton Travis, Last Living Star of the Ziegfield Follies. It’s half biography, half scrapbook. It’s full of images and drawings, which meant it would be an especially fast read. Since this was my first attempt at BookTubeAThon, I thought at least one truly fast read was acceptable. The whole thing took me about two hours, three with breaks.

I wasn’t sure how much I’d like Century Girl, but Doris led a truly fascinating life. From lying about her age to get into vaudeville, to staring in silent movies, to doing ten-cent taxi dances to make it through the depression, to being on the ground floor of the Arthur Murray empire, owning a horse ranch, going to college at 77, and eventually performing at 100 years old on the same stage she started on, Doris was a pretty outstanding lady. Not to mention she was physically and mentally sharp after 100 years having never taken a single pill (she was a Christian Scientist).

Sunday morning I opened The Partly Cloudy Patriot, my choice for a book that was given to me. It was small enough that it didn’t terrify me to read it in a day, and large enough that it counted as a real book. It’s a series of essays about Sarah Vowell’s travels through America. You know, exactly the kind of thing I write. While it was generally good, a few of the essays were a bit dated and not all of them moved as quickly as I’d hoped. I like Sarah’s work on This American Life, so maybe I just don’t like hearing her through my voice.2014-12-18 19.10.19-2

I closed the final page at around 10:30PM on Sunday night, proud of my accomplishment and surprised it was so easy. Sure I didn’t pick anything especially long or dense (the longest was 300 pages), but it was still three books, start to finish, in three pages. Monday morning I was talking to a co-worker about the challenge. “I wish I had time to read three books in three days,” he lamented.

“I didn’t have time,” I replied, “but I did it.”

I recently overheard some people talking about how there’s no good time to have a baby, which is why there’s no use in couples waiting for the timing to be right. It’s true. There’s no good time for a baby, no good time to write a novel, no good time to drive around the country. There’s no good time for almost anything worth doing, and yet somehow it manages to get done.

If reading seven books in seven days sounds like something worth doing, I suggest you mark your calendar for July 2015, the next BookTubeAThon. I know I’ll be there.

Like/Don’t Like

One of the benefits of obsessively keeping everything is the creation of unintentional time capsules. Recently I found a word document on my computer titled “like don’t like.” On it were two lists: 1) What Don’t You Like About Yourself? and 2) What Do You Like About Yourself? According to the file info, I made the list in the fall of 2008, almost six years ago. A lot has changed since then.

Many of the things I used to dislike about myself have been fixed and turned into points of pride. I wrote that my “room is always messy” in 2008, where now I almost never let a piece of clothing touch the floor and rarely let dirty dishes sit for more than 30 minutes. I said that I was always “eating the same processed foods,” and now nearly everything I eat is homemade – including the sandwich bread.

Some things haven’t changed, but I see them differently these days. There was a time when I was ashamed of “always dressing the same.” It took a few years to realize the problem wasn’t the sameness, but what I was wearing. I didn’t feel stylish or put together, I was just safe and kinda comfortable. These days I am more confident in my clothes, but I make a concerted effort to limit my wardrobe to a small number of things.

I said that I didn’t like “my hips,” and while it’s true that they probably look better now than they did then, the real reason I love them now is because of how many people have complimented me on my figure. I guess sometimes the easiest way to love yourself is to let someone else do it for you.

Other list items are still works in progress. In 2008 I was frustrated because “I have a bunch of useless crap in my room.” I would never say that now, but I still wish I owned less. I’ve already gotten rid of everything I consider to be “useless crap,” now it’s a matter of learning what perfectly good possessions I can live without.

I wouldn’t say that I’m “tired all the time” anymore, but I still struggle with my sleeping habits. I remember one fantastic summer back in junior high. I stayed home every day, dictating my own schedule by what I wanted to do. It turned out that part of what I wanted to do was stay up until just after midnight watching Star Trek:Voyager in syndication, and wake up just in time for old Matlock reruns at nine. Once I got used to the schedule, I was consistently falling asleep moments after hitting the pillow, and waking up without an alarm right before 9AM. It was beautiful, and maybe one day I’ll figure out how to get back to that blissful sleeping schedule.

Finally there are the things I still don’t like about myself: I still have terrible posture – in some ways it’s even worse. I still never change my hair, despite always wishing it looked different. I still wish I had flexible hamstrings. I still check Facebook too much.

There were twenty items listed for what I didn’t like about myself, and only eight for what I did. But there was a qualitative difference between the Like and Don’t Like lists. The Like items were larger, more meaningful, less petty. More importantly, seven out of eight of the things I liked are still true. I still like my eyes. I still like that I’m articulate and independent and that I don’t flake out on people. I still like that I’m doing a lot. I still like my singing voice. I still like my writing.

I think one of the best things we can do is look back honestly on who we used to be. It’s a reminder that we haven’t always been right about everything, which means we might be wrong about something right now. It keeps us humble, it forces us to put more faith in others despite their flaws. That’s why I updated my Like/Don’t Like list, added a date, and stored it away again. Perhaps a future self will look back and find me laughably ignorant. She’s probably right.