Book Review: Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell

The Girls in the GardenThe Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I wanted to love this book, but I only liked it. And that’s okay.

I was expecting something different from the description and the dreamy cover. It just wasn’t what I expected. The story turned out to be populated by real but extremely unlikable characters, the mystery kind of petered out, and there was no real resolution. All in all, it was a very realistic book, and it was nicely written, but when I read, I like to escape. This book made me feel, well…more hopeless than anything else. It was like eating dinner at a fancy party and still being hungry afterwards, so you go through the McDonald’s drive through on the way home. (So I read Kate Atkinson’s Human Croquet for the millionth time afterwards.) I did think it was well-written, but it was a little too bleak, and I don’t think I’ll want to pick it up again.

View all my reviews

Running Races at Walt Disney World

I did my first Disney race completely on impulse. I’d thought about it before, but always chickened out before actually pursuing it. But one of my friends at work was thinking about it too, and she said if I signed up for the princess 5k she would do it too. So I did it!

(Did I train at all? Nope. I think I went running three times in the months leading up to the race.)

Of course, I felt super overwhelmed, especially when I went to the race expo surrounded by Experienced Runners in their short shorts and their KT tape. And there was so much stuff to buy. I didn’t realize that they sold so many things for runners! There was a lot happening. But I got caught up in the excitement and was so jazzed about running the next day that when I passed by a booth that was still accepting signups for the Star Wars race, I bit the bullet and signed up.

For the 10k. Because I am crazy.

The princess race turned out to be a lot of fun. Like all Disney races, costumes are encouraged, so I bought an XL Elsa children’s costume from Cast Connection and took it apart. I decorated a teal running tank from Forever 21 with silver glitter paint to look like Elsa’s bodice and sewed the cape from the costume to the back, then made a new waistband for the costume skirt to make it a separate piece. I added gray running leggings and braided my weave into my hair with some sparkly Elsa snowflakes from the Disney store, and it ended up pretty cute! My time wasn’t great, but I had a magical time running the race and was so excited for Star Wars.

Cut to Star Wars. I was not excited. I procrastinated (as I usually do) and waited till the night before to work on my Dapper Day outfit, since Dapper Day was happening right after I ran the 10k, and I had made plans to go with my sister and my friends. But something went terribly wrong with the dress (that’s another story) and I was a crying, panicky, asthmatic mess. Bless her, my best friend offered to fix the dress for me so I could get some sleep. I ended up getting pasta from Panera to carboload, fell asleep around 10 or 11, and got up at three to go to the race.

Surprisingly, I had a great time. My costume was distinctly less fancy this time; I cut an orange shirt from the boy’s section into a vest and added a patch that said Matt. So I was Matt the Radar Technician. It was a lot of fun, especially when people would call “Matt!” as I ran by and I’d give them the scowl and a thumbs up. And yes, I did go to Dapper Day afterwards and ending up clocking around 39,000 steps total.

My next race was another princess 5k, and this time I didn’t even bother with a costume. I bought a new running tank from Raw Threads, a company that makes great bamboo tanks and tees with Disney themeing. I bought one at my first race (an Ariel themed one that says “though she is little, she is fierce) and bought a purple Rapunzel one that says “make today the best day ever.” Did I wish I had a cute costume? Absolutely, but I loved my new tank.

My sister ended up helping me with the outfit for my Star Wars 5k. She found the most badass Leia tank at Hot Topic, which I paired with black shorts with cutouts on the thighs that I bought at Ross for like $7. The night before I had dress rehearsal for Mousetrap, so I did a bad thing and slept in my stage makeup. At three the next morning I rolled out of bed, added more glitter and a lip stain, put my hair up in mini Leia buns, and popped over to the race! I was really happy and perky that day, and you can tell. It was a good race and I felt great.

My next race is the Food and WIne 5k in November, and then I’ll be running the princess 10k and the Star Wars 5k. I should start planning those costumes now! Any suggestions? And do you have any experience with Disney races and have advice to give? Share it in the comments below!

0 down, 55 to go 

(What a way to relaunch my blog, huh? Just jumping right into it. Well, here goes!)

I was in the eighth grade the first time people started bringing up my weight. I had always been teeny tiny before that, until puberty hit me like a Mack truck- well, except for the growth spurt that everyone else seemed to be getting. Looking back, I still wasn’t fat, but I took it to heart. In high school I gained some weight, but managed to keep in under control by staying active on the cheer squad. My weight spiked right before senior year when we moved and I started at a new school, then went down when I started doing theater. My weight spiked again (majorly) when I started college, then went down when I started my Disney college program. And thus I started on a Sneaky Hate Spiral- going through a period emotional turmoil, gaining a lot of weight, starting a workout/diet regime, losing five pounds, giving up, and repeat ad nauseum.

Now that I solidly fall into the category of An Adult (when did that happen, I ask myself as I sit in my bedroom decorated with Disney princess art) I know I really need to lose weight for the sake of my health. I’m lucky that my job keeps me very active, but I don’t do any intentional exercise outside of it. I also have terrible eating patterns, which have sometimes veered into disordered eating in the past. And I can feel it. I don’t feel comfortable in my clothes, my asthma is a constant struggle, I’ve been getting this acid reflux nonsense that affects my singing voice. In general, I just constantly feel unhealthy. Would I like to lose weight to be thinner? Absolutely! But honestly I just want to feel better. So with that in mind, I’ve set some goals for myself.

-track what I’m doing. I have a Fitbit Blaze (currently borrowed from my best friend who didn’t want it anymore; I’m going to pay her for it so I can keep it) that I’ve been wearing and using fairly consistently for the past six months. It’s given me a pretty good window into my current statistics, and it’s a solid (and honestly kind of fun) way to track where I am and where I’m going.

-drink more water. I live in Florida, America’s sweaty armpit, so I’m constantly surrounded by heat and humidity. And my job not only requires a lot of running around, I also wear costumes made from literally the worst poly/wool blend that don’t breathe, so I sweat constantly. You would think I would chug water all the time, but somehow I’m terrible at it. I need to up my water intake, or at least reliably drink enough water.

-be mindful of my eating. I first tried tracking calories in college, using the Sparkpeople website, and quickly found myself spiraling into a crazy person who couldn’t accurately verify exact portions and ingredients of the school cafeteria food she was eating, and therefore went nuts. A lot of the sites I’ve tried since then don’t calculate and accommodate for calories burned, either, so I would go through phases of working out for an hour but still eating only 1000-1200 calories a day. It wasn’t healthy and it never worked. And when I wasn’t tracking, I fell into unhealthy patterns- skipping breakfast, eating a lunch of a soft pretzel or a muffin, and then eating my body weight in fast food or pasta for dinner. I want to focus on eating at consistent, regular times and eating smaller portions. When my eating patterns settle and I can consistently eat reasonable amounts at reasonable times, then I can try cutting out certain foods and try different eating plans. Right now I need to start with baby steps. What I will cut out though? Soda and fast food. I’ve already cut back considerably since my boyfriend and I started cooking for each other (usually him, if I’m being honest!) but those are two things I know I can cut out.

-exercising regularly. My job requires a lot of energy- so much energy that sometimes my Fitbit automatically switches into exercise mode! However, when I’m out of work I usually become a couch potato. I turn on the TV (lately I’ve been rewatching Glee because holy guilty pleasure, Batman) and eat dinner while I play around my phone and I stay there until it’s time to go to sleep. Granted, I’m often in rehearsals for shows (I have two shows that are starting soon and an audition for a third!) and that keeps me busy, but I don’t do any kinds of specific exercises. My goal is to run three times a week (at least once minimum) and start doing Cassey Ho’s Pop Pilates regularly (at least one video per day from the calendar). I actually really love running, and I do two or three Disney 5 or 10K races a year, but I’m never consistent with running, even though I know that I always feel so much better when I run. I’ve also done pop Pilates before but never stuck with it after seeing the first minimal changes. So really, what I’m working towards is consistency with exercising.

-taking vitamins. I started doing this a few weeks ago and it’s made a difference already! I also have two prescription medications for my asthma and allergies, and I want to consistently take those so I can get the full benefits.

I’m hoping that by making lifestyle changes I can lose the weight and improve my health, and that by blogging about it I can stick with it. I’m tired of feeling run down and not feeling my best, and I want to do better.

How much weight am I talking about losing though? Well, to be quite honest I haven’t weighed myself in a while, but I know that at my heaviest, my freshman year of college, I was…drumroll please…170 pounds.

Yikes. That’s a lot for someone of my height. A lot. That’s so much extra work that my organs are having to do to compensate for the extra weight pushing on my frame. That’s not good. I also know that I’m not happy with how I look. Weight is such a personal thing, and while I don’t hate how I look, I don’t love it. And I’m always uncomfortable in clothes. No matter what I wear, I’m constantly sucking it in or tugging at things to try to hide my own perceived flaws, and I’d like to get myself at a point where I can feel more confident. Also, I know for a fact that I have lost out on certain parts in shows because of my weight. It sucks, but it’s true. (Ask me sometime about my Guys and Dolls experience.) I was also told at a Disney entertainment audition that if I lost the weight (and fixed my eyebrows…) they would take me. It kind of sucks getting those kinds of responses.

My lowest weight was the end of my first college program, when I weighed 139. I haven’t seen a number that low since. And that still wasn’t even in the approved range that my doctor recommended, which for me is about 110-120. My goal is to eventually get down to 115. That’s a 55 pound difference from my heaviest weight. Yeah, it’s a lot, and yeah, it’s a lot of work, but I know it’ll be worth it. I don’t feel healthy, I don’t feel happy in my own skin. Maybe I won’t reach 115, but any kind of change will be beneficial.

I took a series of embarrassing photographs of myself at my current weight. It’s so bad. See, I bought this adorable shirt a couple of years ago, a white juniors-cut tee with Ariel’s purple clamshells on it. But I only bought a large, which was already too small, and then it shrank. So now the cute clamshells sit comically high on my clavicle instead of where they want to be. I figure that taking progression photos once a month in that shirt (with the same bra and the same pair of tight yoga shorts, aqua because of course I’m continuing the Ariel theme) I can make it easier to see the changes in my body. I’m, uh…well, let’s be real. I’m not ready to show those photos to the world yet. But they’re eye opening, and when I’m ready to post them I will. In the meantime, here’s the most recent full body shot I have- this was taken the night I auditioned for Heathers.

Last night I went out and ran. I actually ran the full distance of a 5k. My time wasn’t great- 48:14- but I’m going to use a 5k runner app over the next few months to give myself the opportunity to progress. And I felt fantastic afterwards, and slept like a rock, and I’m feeling really good today, so I want to keep this up.

I’m going to post my weight and measurements and changes on my fitness page (which is in the bar at the top) and I’ll post updates as my body changes and I make changes to my health plan. And wish me luck!