20 books and 20 lbs (week 23): Salman-ella

Well, I can finally say I finished book #4: “Midnight’s Children” by Salman Rushdie. And holy cow, was that a slog. I haven’t had this much trouble reading a book since I started {unnamed Harry Potter knockoff that I got for free at a movie theater and put down as fast as I picked it up}.

So, here’s the deal with “Midnight’s Children”: simultaneous with the birth of India as an independent nation, hundreds of children are born whose destiny are tied to their homeland in a unique and magical way. One of these children, born almost exactly at the stroke of midnight, is Saleem Sanai – a character who is equal parts what he can do on his own and what can be done to him by others. He seems to be a fairly irredeemable person, in a book filled (primarily) with similarly irredeemable people. Innocents are trampled into the dust in one way or another in Saleem’s rambling, long-winded, and often overbaked descriptions of…just about everything. When I complained to DH about how difficult it was to get through this book, he explained that Rushdie is a writer who writes as though he likes the sound of his own (written) voice. I can definitely vouch for that. The book has some flashes of amazing imagery, barely peppering an otherwise completely overwritten tome. Tipping the scales at more than 500 pages (for the paperback version I read), “Midnight’s Children” spends a long time going seemingly nowhere, and then it concludes unsatisfactorily within the span of about 15 pages.

If you’re a fan of Rushdie’s, then more power to you. The only other book of his that I’ve made it through successfully was “Haroun and the Sea of Stories”, and that was A LOT shorter. Plus, I was reading for a book club..so the time pressure to finish it was way higher.

Of course, I’m also a bit behind. We’re nearly halfway through the year, and I’m only starting book #5. That’s a bit troubling. For those following along at home, my new read is “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened” by Jenny Lawson (aka “The Bloggess”). I’m not quite 100 pages in, and already I’m in love with her in a massive way. She’s funny, self-deprecating, and completely off-the-wall…but her writing (even when it rambles) makes FUN of the fact that it’s rambling and riffs off it like it’s just another joke. In other words, it’s completely self-aware writing, in a way that poor Rushdie just can’t possibly match. Yes, I said that Jenny Lawson is a better writer than Salman Rushdie. As someone who a few months ago raved about how awesome Dickens was, let’s just assume I’m not talking completely out of turn, eh?

I have a whole stack of other books to get to, with an all-star lineup including (more!) Warren Ellis and (new!) Neil Gaiman, so I’m very excited to continue my book challenge post-Rushdie. Man, it’s like I have PTSD from reading that book.

On to better times, eh? Let’s talk about weight loss…or not.

So, I haven’t been losing a ton of weight, but I haven’t been gaining, either, so that’s a good thing. I’m about 8lbs down from where I was at the start of the year, and I’ve been the same weight for the last three weigh-ins. Partially spurred by summer (yeay!!!) and partially by a desire to try something new, I’m drinking iced tea at dinner every night. It’s a tall glass (probably about 10-12 oz) of unsweetened decaffeinated iced tea. Frankly, this weekend was too nice NOT to bust out the pretty glass pitcher and make some sun tea, and I figured that if I drink more at dinner, perhaps I’ll eat less. So far, it’s working. I find that the combination of the tea and the food is keeping me to a single plate with no seconds on anything – and still feeling full without feeling overfull.

Of course, I don’t think this is a fad diet (I’m not planning on switching to some diet where all I do is drink tea), and I’m perfectly content to drink my iced tea unsweetened (that’s how I prefer it, actually), so it’s not like I’m adding calories. If anything, all I’m doing is adding extra water. I doubt I’ll keep this going indefinitely; more likely, I’ll switch back to water only at dinner but work hard to get through an entire glass at each meal instead of nursing it over the course of the entire evening.

I’ve kept up with the plankaday almost every single day (only two skips – once due to illness and once due to exhaustion unrelated to illness), reaching 2:00 for six straight weeks of planks. It’s pretty crazy to think where I started and where I’ve gone. I still have a belly, but I blame that on my love of ice cream o’clock…and I’m just not ready to let go of some things yet.

But, halfway through the year and I’m nearly halfway to my weight loss goal, but only about a quarter of the way in my reading goal. Time to get a move on, on all fronts, I’d say.

20 books and 20 lbs (week 19): EHRMAGERD

I was really hoping that giving myself a challenge like this – losing 20lbs and reading 20 books in one year – would somehow force me into the discipline of posting weekly about my progress. AND THEN I HIT A WALL SHAPED LIKE SALMAN RUSHDIE.

Holy cow.

This. Book. Is. Slow.

I’m speaking of course, of “Midnight’s Children”, Rushdie’s 1981 novel about the life and times of some of the children born simultaneous with the creation of India as an independent state. I had originally reached for “The Satanic Verses” (which I’d bought when it first came out and almost immediately put down because I had trouble getting into it). DH deflected me to “Midnight’s Children” because he’d heard it was an easier read than “Verses” and he had enjoyed “Midnight’s Children” when he read it. He failed to mention that it was on his SECOND attempt to read it that it stuck. Sigh.

I’m finally past the 2/3 mark in the roughly 500pg novel, so I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Expect that this will not be a positive mark in my review, when I finally FINISH THIS BOOK and can move onto book #5 for the year. (Which I really need to do, lest I just bonk on this part of the challenge.)

As far as the attempts to lose weight go, I’ve spent the last few weeks trading up/down 1-2lbs…or sometimes even just a few oz. I haven’t done anything dramatic to my diet, and trying to get more walking time in to train for my Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk in September has been only semi-successful. Work commitments for me and/or DH have done a good job of derailing a lot of our best shots at training time.

We’re now 1/3 of the way through the year and I’ve dropped a little more than 1/3 of my goal – I’m down about 7lbs right now. Of course, I still feel like I’ve plateaued, so I have to do more there.

The one area where things really have been coming together nicely is with my #plankaday. As of yesterday, I had 3 consecutive weeks of #plankaday for at least 2min! I consider that a nice victory, although the next step beyond this is to aim for 2:30. Ouch. I can feel the ab burn even before I get down to my forearms!

So, in summation, life has been busy, but when I’m not at work or doing stuff with the family, I’m hip-deep slogging through “Midnight’s Children”. I will finish this book soon (before it finishes ME), and then I’ll grab book #5. With any luck, I’ll even manage to drop another pound or two and find my way off this plateau (in a positive direction, of course!).

20 books and 20 lbs (week 4): Slow and steady wins the race?

Well, I’d love to be able to say that I’ve lost DOZENS of pounds and I’m well into my 15th book, but that’s just not the case. I’m holding my own, still 3lbs below my original starting point. In fairness, having my 40th birthday this month AND having my sister’s birthday only a few days later, this house has been filled with birthday cake. I just don’t have the heart to throw the stuff out. IT’S CAKE! You can’t throw it out! It’s against some law, right…?

I am managing to plow my way through “A Tale of Two Cities”, now a little more than halfway through, and it’s clearly picking up steam. Ah, that Dickens: it only takes him about 150 pages to warm up. This is one of those funny things about writers. Most books tend to take the first 50-100 pages to “warm up”, to have a story that grips you and gets your attention enough that you’re well invested in what’s going on with the characters. Dickens taking longer than that is no big surprise. The question is whether he’ll also do the usual author thing, which is that the last 50-100 pages are some giant roller coaster, as the author suddenly realizes they have to FINISH THE THING and suddenly every single thread needs to be sewed up THIS VERY MINUTE.

Of course, as much as I laugh about it, I’m still glad to be literate. I can’t imagine not having books in my life – even the ones where they’re clearly not the best written things in the world (Stephenie Meyer, I’m thinking squarely of “The Host” as I say this).

And, naturally, just as I try to find a way to be more active (when I’m not reading Dickens, of course!), my work has gotten so nutsy cuckoo that I’m working late just to keep up. Gym? What’s that? Thankfully, I have offers of equipment and products to test, so as I get some of that stuff in, I can at least have the excuse of “I need to use it enough to report to others whether it’s worth using!” and that may be motivation enough to get my butt in motion. It’s all well and good to be 3lbs in towards my 20lb goal, but I’d like to be making more progress than that.

I suppose that’s the challenge of every person who tries to make/keep their life healthier. My friend, @BeWellBoston (Elizabeth Comeau of Boston.com), wrote an interesting blog post yesterday morning about how she manages to keep her routine together…and it’s all about creating just that: a routine. Much like her, I have a very supportive dh, and that makes a huge difference. Pre-kids, just having an independent husband would’ve been enough. Having kids, the idea of a partner being supportive really helps even more, since that means that they’re willing to take care of others in addition to themselves.

It’s funny how little you think about these things until you have kids – or maybe you do. It’s like how you appreciate what your parents did 1000x more once you become a parent and realize just how incredibly difficult it is to be a decent parent. I suppose the running theme is “never stop trying”. You’re doomed to failure if you never even try.