As some of you may know, my sister Kathy and I have a friendly competition every year to see who can read more books. We track our progress on Goodreads (feel free to add me as a friend there if you haven’t already).
In 2019, I read 68 books (25,087 pages!).
I am pretty stingy with my star ratings on Goodreads (I only gave 10% of the books I read a full 5-star rating), so here’s the short list of books that I gave 5/5 stars this year:
As you can see, Kathy got me started on The Expanse series, which I highly recommend. Even though my two favorites fall in the middle of the series, all of the books are pretty good. The final book is coming out later this year, so it would be a great time to get started on this series.
What were your favorite books you read in 2019? I have plenty of digital holds on Kindle books at the DC library, but I can always add a few more!
This post has been sitting in draft state for, no joke, almost a year. A lot has gone down in that year.
To recap: I signed up for the 2018 Marine Corps Marathon. Shortly after, I began seeking treatment and diagnosis of a back injury that was bothering me somewhat intermittently. It started around the same time I started my new job at the University of Maryland, so I was willing to blame the transition between working at home and working in the office. I went through 3 desk chairs and finally a standing desk at work. In the meantime, I saw a chiropractor and, when that didn’t seem to help, I went to see my physical therapist (who I can’t say enough good things about).
With the help of my physical therapist, I made it through the 2018 roller derby season, capping off my derby career at the North America East Continental Cup in Kalamazoo, MI. My husband made the trip with me, and some of my family and friends from the midwest came to see me play. It was a great way to go out. I retired with the intentions of focusing on my graduate school courses and hoped to continue skating on a recreational level as time allowed.
A few weeks after the derby season ended, I hurt myself lifting at the gym. My back was feeling really great after 2.5 months of PT, so I decided to do the exercise I noticed bothered it in the first place to see if it still bothered me — back squats. I didn’t even move that much weight (95 lbs, which would have been a warmup set for me in the past). I did two sets of 10 at the beginning of my workout and then did other things. Everything seemed okay at the time.
Immediately after completing the workout, I was walking across campus to my office and already starting to regret the weighted squats. My back was getting very sore already. It felt like DOMS at first, except it set in WAY fast, and the pain continued to get worse for about two days. Ibuprofen didn’t help. Stretching didn’t help. My PT exercises didn’t help. Moving around was uncomfortable, but so was sitting down and laying down. This culminated in me coming home from work one night and laying on the living room floor in agony. Corner asked if we should go to the emergency room. I was in so much pain I couldn’t imagine being so uncomfortable anywhere but my own home. Plus, I already suspected the pain was not muscular, so I wasn’t convinced there was anything they could actually do to help me, short of giving me some crazy pain medication that I wasn’t sure would resolve the actual problem. So I stayed home.
A few days after the ill-fated workout, I saw my physical therapist, who recommended I also seek out an orthopedist. She recommended a guy and I made an appointment. Of course, it took a few weeks to get in and during this time my nerve pain (because I know that’s what it was now) started to subside. In October, I finally got an MRI and discovered that I have two herniated discs (L4-L5 and L5-S1; the two most commonly herniated ones). And not a little herniated….a lot herniated. The ortho says the damage was probably cumulative (so not from one specific incident), but there’s no way to really know.
I was told no more roller derby (good thing I had just “retired”) and no yoga and no spin class, but I was allowed to run as long as it didn’t hurt. Running was never the thing that seemed to make it flare up, so I continued sporadic short runs (3-4 miles, never on back-to-back days) and going to the gym to do upper body and very basic bodyweight workouts.
At some point during all this, I deferred my Marine Corps Marathon registration from 2018 to 2019. I was bummed but knew I would be better suited for marathon training 12 months down the road.
It was a pretty boring couple of months, if I’m being honest. Luckily the holidays and my grad school courses kept me fairly busy.
I was released from PT just before Thanksgiving. Eventually the ortho cleared me for more activities, but yoga still makes my back stiff and crabby afterwards so I am continuing to avoid it for now. And I’m still not allowed to play roller derby. While I had no plans to skate competitively this season, I did want to drop in occasionally to scrimmage and, you know, see my friends.
I started running longer distances again knowing that I am running the Rival Run Challenge at Disney World in April. I also joined OrangeTheory Fitness in February when they opened a location in College Park (it’s a 5-minute walk from work!). It’s great cross-training and I don’t have to plan the workouts myself. I just modify parts of the floor workout if it involves movements that irritate my lower back. Love it!!!
On Saturday I ran the Rock ‘n’ Roll DC half marathon. It was my first half marathon in over a year (my last half was the 2018 Disney Princess Half Marathon last February!). I even managed to snag a PR — 1:57:09. Almost 6 minutes faster than my last half! And my back didn’t hurt afterwards (only my legs, hahaha)!
tldr; I’m back to distance running and planning to run my first marathon in the fall. Pending my followup MRI later this week, I hope to be back on skates soon, too.
So after all of the excitement in mid-December, I drove to Michigan with Nigel and Nacho on December 23. It was a long drive, as usual, made longer by the fact that I was the sole driver, but Nacho was a great travel buddy and stayed awake chatting with me the whole time. We did make the mistake on the Ohio turnpike of holding out for Panda Express (we really wanted to get lunch there), only to find NONE! I swear they used to have Panda Express restaurants in the highway oases on I-80…but perhaps I am confusing them with the ones on the way to Chicago/Wisconsin. Oh well.
So after a less than fulfilling late lunch at Burger King, we rolled into Fenton, where Corner awaited our arrival. He flew to Michigan from Ohio that afternoon since he had been in Bethel for another 4 weeks of work.
As usual, we went to Grandma’s house for Christmas Eve.
I received a lot of great gifts. Mom made me an awesome Michigan State quilt and throw pillow using my old Spartan Marching Band trumpet shirts. I also received a Kindle Touch from Corner’s Aunt Koreen, a Jawbone UP wristband from Corner’s parents, and the Urban Decay 15th anniversary eyeliner set from Mom & Les. I received many others gifts as well, but I’m feeling too lazy to list them all out right now, so those are just the highlights.
We took care of a lot of wedding-related errands while in Michigan. We visited the ceremony/reception venue and met with the photobooth company. I went dress shopping with Mom, KC, and Kathy. The bridesmaids dresses are ordered and perhaps the most exciting news of all is that I FOUND MY DRESS! I don’t want to say too much about it and spoil the surprise, but I will say that it is NOT white and it makes me feel like a Hollywood starlet. I can’t wait for it to arrive (in 5–7 months…who knew these things took so long?)!
I didn’t get a chance to skate while in Michigan, but I did go to 5 of Abby’s fitness classes with Mom (kickboxing core, body vamp, spin, and 2 Zumba classes).
Corner and I welcomed 2012 by eating a 4-course meal with wine pairings at the Fenton Winery with Mom, Les, and Adam. Blackberry merlot…YUM! 2011 was such a great year and I can’t wait for this year to top it!
It also snowed a bit while we were in Michigan.
Meanwhile, it still hasn’t snowed much here in New York. I was thoroughly enjoying the mild winter weather, then it reached 18 degrees on Sunday and it was freeeeeeezing! I went out and bought Nike Therma Fit tights for those cold derby practices at the Crashpad.
And in closing, happy birthday to KC!!! How is my baby sister 21 already?!
Today I arrived home from work to discover that Nigel had opened his Christmas present. Last night I started packing for my upcoming trip to Michigan; I had gathered up all of the wrapped Christmas presents and placed them in a reusable shopping bag, which I left on top of the coffee table. Nigel’s gift is a new toy and an individually wrapped stick-shaped treat. Well, when I got home today I found his gift bag strewn on the floor. Tissue paper was everywhere. The toy was ignored, but the remnants of the treat packaging were scattered all over the living room.
I was actually on the phone with my mom when I walked in the front door and surveyed the damage. I had just finished telling her to remind everyone at home that they need to hide their dirty laundry when Nigel arrives at Mom’s house on Friday. He is a Houdini dog and can open duffle bags and even pull clothes through the tiny holes in plastic laundry hampers.
Usually, I know better than to leave smelly items within his reach, but today I just forgot.
Here is a picture of the perpetrator (this photo does not show the aftermath of today’s present-opening, but was taken a few mornings ago after he got done rubbing his face around on the comforter).
I just used my lunch break to run up to the library and pick up 5 books that I had placed on hold. My friend Sarah pointed out that the New York Public Library system allows you to find and reserve books online and have them sent to a designated library location, where they can be picked up at your leisure. BRILLIANT. So I am officially working on my Day Zero goals of re-reading the Chronicles of Narnia and the Little House books.
As I walked out of the library, I noticed a dog store next door that looked hip and fairly upscale. I popped in on a whim thinking I could kill some time browsing designer dog toys. And what do I find? A squirrel tail, which I immediately purchased for Nigel.
Allow me to explain: while we lived in California, there was an awesome holistic pet food store that also carried a few toys. Corner and I bought Nigel one of these squirrel tails and he LOVED it. So much so that he chewed the ball portion of the first toy apart after a few months. So we went back and bought him a new one because it had quickly become his favorite toy. Fast forward to now, we’re living in NYC, and we sorely need to replace Nigel’s squirrel tail toy because the elastic that holds the tail piece to the ball is breaking. But I just can’t bring myself to throw it out because, again, NIGEL LOVES THIS THING. So what do I see hanging on the shelf when I walked into the dog store today? SQUIRREL TAILS. I was so excited the two salesgirls must have thought I was crazy.
I’m going to have one excited puppy on my hands when I get home today.
I have decided to do more things that make me happy. I have a tendency to turn into a big ball of stress when things start to get overwhelming (although you’d never know it since the stress only shows when I’m AT HOME)…and the last few weeks have definitely been a bit taxing. Sooooo to celebrate my big hairy grad school decision, I’ve been making a more conscious effort to enjoy myself.
I scheduled my first laser hair removal appointment. I still suspect that having my underarm hair lasered will be less painful than having the cement from my braces polished off my teeth. I will of course report back later with the official verdict.
Last Friday I went for a tattoo consultation. I don’t want to say too much just yet since I won’t be getting inked until August at the earliest, but I am really excited. I will say that it’s going to be big, and it’s going to be awesome. I’ve started a pinboard on Pinterest to collect some of my tattoo inspiration. Here’s a taste:
Also on Friday, I got fitted for skates by the lovely Bonnie Thunders and ordered my new skates online approximately 3 days later because Lord knows I couldn’t actually wait until July. I mean, I should break them in before RollerCon, right? Right. They should be here on Wednesday and I CAN’T WAIT!!!!
I had some unexpected days off this week (Tuesday and Wednesday) and I decided to make the most of them. On Monday evening I went out for sushi with Liz and then the two of us went to a play reading in the East Village. Somehow it was my first time exploring the East Village, and there is still so much of the city to explore. I feel like you would need to be both rich AND unemployed in order to really take advantage of everything NYC has to offer. I enjoyed a lovely day with Nigel and Sharon in Central Park on Tuesday, including some delightful macarons (and a gourmet dog treat for Nigel) from Bouchon Bakery. I hope it’s safe to say that spring has officially sprung.
This weekend Corner and I are riding in the Five Boro Bike Tour. It’s going to be a blast! Cross your fingers for good weather.
I got an OPI gel manicure this weekend at a cute little spa in Astoria. I feel like I am really capable of accomplishing my Day Zero goal of actually ceasing to bite my nails. It’s been a battle for me my entire life…but then I got braces, which made it a lot harder to chew on my nails/cuticles/etc., and now I wear Invisalign-style retainers, which make it impossible. I have had pretty, nice-looking hands for nearly a year and a half! Soooo I decided to treat myself to a salon manicure (I’ve never had one before!). I did some research and the OPI gel manicure seems to last a long time (that’s another thing — I’m a bit OCD and once nail polish starts to chip or otherwise wear off, I usually just remove it). We’re 5 days in and my nails still look perfect. Supposedly the OPI gel manicures are able to last 2–3 weeks! So we’ll see.
And for those of you wondering how the week of vegetarianism went…it was great! It was actually a lot easier than I thought it would be (I thought for sure I would be craving tacos or a hamburger by mid-week). We made so much good food.