Sunday, August 30, 2009


So I've found that I am addicted to working out lately. I've been lifting weights consistently for the last couple months. I actually started closer to the beginning of the summer but I didn't get into the swing of it until about mid-June.

Anyway, my good news is that I've lost 8 lbs since I started working out. I am adding more cardio to my routine so I'm hoping that will make the process of losing some weight even quicker.

A brief history:

I have always been short and stocky so any weight I gain is really noticeable. That was never a problem because I have never had a problem with gaining weight. I have a relatively quick metabolism and I was always really active.

During my mission in Florida I gained the most weight I'd ever gained but then I lost the most weight I'd ever lost by the end of it. You look at pictures of me at the end of my mission and you'd think I was anorexic. In one of my areas I reached 180 which was a high for me. I quickly lost that in my next area which was full-bike which was how the rest of my mission was.

I got home and kept in shape. Somehow I managed to keep the weight off.

Then in August 2007 I tore a ligament in my left knee. It has taken until just recently for it to get strong again. The recent weightlifting has helped it immensely. I had done the same thing to my right knee in 2000 while doing a ballroom dancing lift, but, for some reason, that injury was not as extensive as the other knee.

I missed running and working out but every time I tried to get back into it, my knee would protest. So I just relied on my walks around campus to help me get the exercise I needed. That didn't help, though, because my knee was weak and I found that it slowed me down a lot. Especially during the winters.

And then, in 2008, when my sister passed away I had no, absolutely no, desire to exercise. Seriously, in the last year and a half I have weighed the most I've ever weighed which was close to 200 lbs! Ouch.

I'm still not where I want to be, but I'm well on my way. This summer I have had a big desire to get back in shape and to lose weight. There are a few reasons I'm doing this.

1. For myself. I found that I was really hard on myself. We're all our own worst critic, but I would look in the mirror and just think "You're letting yourself go. Your double chin is getting a double chin." While that's an exaggeration...the point is that my self-esteem was down the drain. I want to prove to myself that I can do this.

2. For my future wife. Along with the lack of desire to exercise this last year and a half, it has also been really hard for me to get back in the search for a wife. Much to my parents' dismay, I have been pretty reclusive and reluctant to go on dates. My friend, Mike, calls this sorta thing a LGN, Look Good Naked diet. It really isn't. Now that I'm finally getting to where I can date again, I think I should get myself looking my best.

3. For my future. I want to be healthy. I'm cutting down on the sweets, cutting out the soda, and I'm trying to eat more veggies and fruits. So far I've been pretty good. I have my bad days and my good days. I don't think I was heading for obesity or anything, but I was definitely not eating very good stuff for me which would only lead to health problems later on in life.

So yeah...this 8 lbs may seem like nothing. But it is huge to me. I will keep you posted, periodically on my progress.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Gargoyle

((I know you would probably rather hear about what's going on in my life, but there really isn't much to report on other than the books I'm reading. So, that being said, here's another book review!))

I just finished Andrew Davidson's The Gargoyle. It was not just reading a book. It was an experience.

Just a quick look at the premise. The story follows a man who becomes a burn victim. He was once perfectly handsome and the object of women's desires. He knew it though. While he was beautiful on the outside, there was nothing redeeming on the inside. He was hideous inside. One night he careens off the edge of a cliff in his car. The car goes up in flames with him trapped inside.

He is now scarred and, to him, ugly on the outside. In the burn unit he meets a psych patient named Marianne Engel. She claims that they were lovers before and that this was not the first time they had met. She continues to meet with him and tell him stories about lovers in the past as well as their own medieval story of their love.

Essentially the man, who remains nameless throughout the novel, is pulled out of his misery through the love of Marianne Engel.

Marianne is a sculptor. She makes gargoyles. One of the cool things in the novel is how she describes the way she creates these creatures. She lays on a slab of stone and listens to the gargoyle yelling to be set free. It then becomes her duty to chisel the gargoyle free from its stone prison. The narrator describes it as loving it out of the stone which is, in essence, what she is doing with the narrator but in a different way. She is loving him out of his personal hell.

I won't give too much away because I had no idea what I was getting into when I read the book which made it more enjoyable. This story is a story about the redemptive power of love. Davidson weaves the stories of past lovers with the present in such a charming way. Part of what drew me to this book was that it was supposed to be a modern spin on Dante's Inferno. There is a section in the book where it echoes Dante almost perfectly.

I would highly recommend this book for anyone looking for a book that is entertaining but thought-provoking. It has stuck with me since reading it and I think it's because it's not your typical book. Rarely these days does a book come along that is so literary in its depth and commentary on the human experience.

And I have Andrew Davidson as a friend on my Facebook. He's a really nice guy and actually responds to questions and comments. I love that.

With all that being said, I must add a disclaimer. If you do read this book, be warned, there are some vivid descriptions of the process of recovering a burn victim which can be somewhat disconcerting. Also, the narrator, before the accident, was a porn star, so there are some passages that, while necessary to the story, are not for young readers. There is nothing explicit and it never feels trashy, but it is there and I feel like I should warn you.

If you do end up reading this great book, let me know and we can discuss it!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Ice Queen

I just read this really great book by Alice Hoffman. It's titled The Ice Queen.

From the get-go I was hooked. Hoffman has the knack for creating a narrative that is compelling. The main character, who remains nameless through the whole book, is a woman obsessed with death. As a young girl, she gets mad at her mom as she is driving away. In a moment of fury, she wishes her mom dead. It is the dead of winter and the next day, the young girl wakes up to find that her mom was killed in a car accident. Her wish had come true.

Later in the story, the girl moves to Florida with her brother. Florida is the lightning capital of the world. The woman is fascinated by lightning. So fascinated she wonders what it would be like to be struck by it. So she wishes, out loud, that she would be struck by lightning.

It happens.

Hoffman describes the effects of lightning strikes on people. The narrator, for instance, can no longer see red after she is struck. She is also constantly cold and she begins to refer to herself as an ice queen because she can no longer feel.

Then she meets Lazarus. A man who was struck by lightning, died, and then came back to life. She is fascinated by him because he could be someone that would not be affected by her death wishes. An odd romance ensues between the narrator and Lazarus.

There is more but I will not spoil it for you. Go find it and read it. It is really a story about the redemptive power of love.

I loved how Hoffman made the surreal and the real entwine. It felt like a magical book but there really was no magic in it. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading Jodi Picoult or other authors like her.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

My Ode to the Bard

So if I wasn't aware of my nerdiness before I was made completely aware of it the other day at work. I was just having a nice little chat with my co-worker and buddy, Adam, when he said something random and offhand about Shakespeare. As in William Shakespeare. The Bard. The man we practically worship as English majors.

I had no idea how heated I would get about someone saying something negative about Shakespeare (Note: I don't recall what Adam said but I do remember it being something about him not being very useful or something like that).

Just picture this with me for a second. Adam was reading a children's book when he made his remark. I reached over and shut the book and said "William Shakespeare changed the face of English literature. He is responsible for what literature is today." Ok so maybe that was an exaggeration, but I'm not far off the mark. C'mon, the guy was a genius. And his work has lasted for centuries.

All right, and I'm reading a book called How to Read Literature Like a Professor. This book is fantastic. I've been devouring it because it has some amazing stuff in it. He has a whole section dedicated to Shakespeare. In it, he says that, basically, if it's an allusion, it is alluding to either the Bible or to Shakespeare. No other writer, or playwright for that matter, can claim that. None.

This seems like a silly argument to get into. You're probably thinking "Yeah, Jay, we all know that Shakespeare was a brilliant man."

Thomas C. Foster, the author of How to Read Literature Like a Professor says that sometimes we quote Shakespeare without even knowing it. That is how ingrained into our culture his work has become.

I even brought up with Adam how, despite the sometimes archaic language, Shakespeare's plays talk about issues we deal with in our modern day. Shakespeare understood the human psyche in ways that belies his time.

A big part of our argument was about Romeo and Juliet. Foster talks about irony in his book and it struck me that perhaps the play that we think is about tragic love is not really about tragic love. What if it was meant to show an ironic and jaded look at love? The ill-fated lovers do not, in fact, overcome all. The feud between their families, in the end, wins and, in turn, destroys two lives. True, they had a strong love. They died for each other. I mean...come on...But just think about it for a second. What if Shakespeare was pointing out the foibles of love? It seems that over the years we have twisted Shakespeare's play to be something more like a fairy tale than what it really, potentially, could be: a story about love being unable to conquer all.

On that note...

I hate that when we think of Shakespeare we automatically think of Romeo and Juliet. That is, by far, one of his lesser plays. Much Ado About Nothing, Taming of the Shrew, King Lear... I could go on and on and on.

But I will spare you.

For now.

I was considering reading all of his plays and then blogging about them. We'll see how ambitious I get.

I know what you're thinking. Get a life.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me!

Just a quick post cuz I have to go to work in a few minutes.

Yesterday I celebrated my 26th birthday. My, how time flies! I got my birthday present early. My parents got me a pair of Keen sandals. They're like the hardcore, waterproof, hiking/walking-ready shoes of the outdoorsy type. We are planning a family trip to Hawaii next year so I figure this is a perfect purchase to get ready for that.

We had a chill morning and then we took Gigi to Kate's. She watched her twins and Giselle while my mom and I went to the new Harry Potter movie. I have not read the sixth book so I have nothing to judge the movie against, but I really liked this installment. It is probably my favorite Harry Potter movie.

After that we did some quick shopping. We had to kill some time and ended up at Barnes and Noble. That place is always a good idea. I got a couple new books (The Ice Queen by Alice Hoffman and For the Time Being by Annie Dillard). So some light reading and then some heavy reading. Annie Dillard's book, on the back cover, starts out by asking "Why do we exist?"

We then went to dinner at Texas Roadhouse. It was delicious. Then we came home and had some of my mom's coconut cake that is fantastic. All the working out I've been doing has been negated though.

So here's to another year of life and a year closer to enlightenment.