August 29, 2010
Week in Review: Toe-up edition
Unexpected, humbling, frustrating, debilitating… injury.  This past week was plagued with an athlete’s worse fear.  It wasn’t even related to my sport, it somehow involved my place of business… can I claim worker’s comp?  I kid.  
Sunday Recovery ride from Saturday’s 18-miler.  I did about 40 minutes + abs.
Monday Rest day… little did I know many more forced rest days were in my near future. Bah.
Tuesday Treadmill interval workout for 4 miles in the morning; Dave’s holy hot power yoga class downtown in the evening.  Seriously, I don’t know that I’ve ever even sweat that much in Bikram.  Kudos, Dave!
Wednesday Managed to get in 7+ miles with K-Bo before the Big Bang happened to my toe:  A little over an hour after we finished, I arrived to work and as I do, went to get my laptop bag (laptop inside) from the back seat.  In an unfortunate moment of butterfingers, I dropped said bag corner first onto the ring toe of my left foot.  It hurt.  Badly.  Yet I managed to walk into the building and to my desk before noticing that it had doubled in size.  In my stubborn case of denial, I propped it, iced it, even made it to my lunch date as planned.  Despite my willing it unbroken, I made a doctor appointment and learned that it was in fact, broken.  Two to four weeks off from running, she did give me permission to try cycling, focusing the weight onto the heel and not the ball of my foot as long as the pain doesn’t worsen.
Thursday Day 2 of recovery, elevation, icing
Friday See Thursday
Saturday First workout with gimpy-the-toe; seated bicycle for an hour

Week in Review: Toe-up edition

Unexpected, humbling, frustrating, debilitating… injury.  This past week was plagued with an athlete’s worse fear.  It wasn’t even related to my sport, it somehow involved my place of business… can I claim worker’s comp?  I kid.  

Sunday Recovery ride from Saturday’s 18-miler.  I did about 40 minutes + abs.

Monday Rest day… little did I know many more forced rest days were in my near future. Bah.

Tuesday Treadmill interval workout for 4 miles in the morning; Dave’s holy hot power yoga class downtown in the evening.  Seriously, I don’t know that I’ve ever even sweat that much in Bikram.  Kudos, Dave!

Wednesday Managed to get in 7+ miles with K-Bo before the Big Bang happened to my toe:  

A little over an hour after we finished, I arrived to work and as I do, went to get my laptop bag (laptop inside) from the back seat.  In an unfortunate moment of butterfingers, I dropped said bag corner first onto the ring toe of my left foot.  It hurt.  Badly.  Yet I managed to walk into the building and to my desk before noticing that it had doubled in size.  In my stubborn case of denial, I propped it, iced it, even made it to my lunch date as planned.  Despite my willing it unbroken, I made a doctor appointment and learned that it was in fact, broken.  Two to four weeks off from running, she did give me permission to try cycling, focusing the weight onto the heel and not the ball of my foot as long as the pain doesn’t worsen.

Thursday Day 2 of recovery, elevation, icing

Friday See Thursday

Saturday First workout with gimpy-the-toe; seated bicycle for an hour

August 22, 2010
Healthy Living Blogs
I’m pleased to be included among the many bloggers on Healthy Living Blogs, a new resource for the health blogging community. Created by Lindsey of Sound Eats, HLB is a site designed to enhance the positive community of the healthy living blog world. 
OpenSky
I’ve started my shop and am looking forward to adding to it!  I’m reaching out and encouraging businesses whose products I enjoy using, to become suppliers as well.  In the meantime, I’m asking folks to help me out by suggesting products to add to my shop.  Are you an aspiring runner who would like to see what kind of accessories I prefer?  Were you curious about the rice cooker I mentioned a while back that I used to cook my quinoa?  (Yes, I get these types of inquiries…that’s why many people read blogs: to learn and get ideas)
My focus here tends to be on my active lifestyle and the veggie diet that fuels it, so my shop will no doubt include products centered around those topics.  I also want to include items I use for my other pastimes, such as writing (I love journals - yes I still handwrite from time to time!).  While I plan to list products that I’ve used, I also request samples from suppliers of items I would be interested in so that I can provide you all with a fair review before listing/not listing it.
That said, be on the lookout for my first product reviews later this week.  In the meantime, feel free to bookmark my shop for birthday and holiday ideas.

Healthy Living Blogs

I’m pleased to be included among the many bloggers on Healthy Living Blogs, a new resource for the health blogging community. Created by Lindsey of Sound Eats, HLB is a site designed to enhance the positive community of the healthy living blog world. 

OpenSky

I’ve started my shop and am looking forward to adding to it!  I’m reaching out and encouraging businesses whose products I enjoy using, to become suppliers as well.  In the meantime, I’m asking folks to help me out by suggesting products to add to my shop.  Are you an aspiring runner who would like to see what kind of accessories I prefer?  Were you curious about the rice cooker I mentioned a while back that I used to cook my quinoa?  (Yes, I get these types of inquiries…that’s why many people read blogs: to learn and get ideas)

My focus here tends to be on my active lifestyle and the veggie diet that fuels it, so my shop will no doubt include products centered around those topics.  I also want to include items I use for my other pastimes, such as writing (I love journals - yes I still handwrite from time to time!).  While I plan to list products that I’ve used, I also request samples from suppliers of items I would be interested in so that I can provide you all with a fair review before listing/not listing it.

That said, be on the lookout for my first product reviews later this week.  In the meantime, feel free to bookmark my shop for birthday and holiday ideas.

The Group Effect

Believe it or not, I’ve not always been a fan of running with groups.  When I began running, it was actually to get away from the group/team thing.  I was in high school, a member of all things team-oriented, from a competitive cheerleading squad to student council, and craved time away from my peers every once in a while.

I ran on my own as a way to de-stress, blow off steam (high school boyfriends brought the steam, did they not?), get out of the house, or simply to burn calories.  No matter what my reasons were, I was accustomed to running being my solo sport. 

What I’ve come to learn over time is that running is very much a solo sport because…

  • It is you who gets yourself up in the morning, out on the pavement, on to that next mile;  
  • It is you who encounters the physical or mental wall on a run;  
  • It is you who enjoys the runner’s high afterward;  
  • It is you who chooses the songs that make up your playlist;  
  • And it is you who feels the sense of accomplishment at the end of a race.

What I’ve also learned is each of these factors is enhanced by a community of runners.  Whether it’s one of your running buddies, or a group of runners…

  • They can encourage you to get out of bed to meet up for a run;
  • They can help you push through that mental or physical wall during the run;
  • They relish with you in a runner’s high at the end of a hard run or race;
  • You don’t need your playlist, you’ve got chatter buddies;
  • Even though you each bring your own goals to the pavement, finishing a long run, relay, or race is something you’ve ultimately accomplished together.

I guess what I’m saying is, I’ve become a fan of the ‘group effect’ and am thankful for my community of runners, especially during this season of training!

Less than two months to support my journey to Chicago!

Thanks to Kristin, Sarah, and Katy who keep me moving each week

…and to the Charleston Chapter of Team in Training.  No way would I have finished these last few weeks without your collective enthusiasm!  Thanks for welcoming Sarah and me into your Saturday journeys!

Week in Review

Seven. Seven weeks. Seven weeks remaining.  (Great, now I’m humming the ‘five dollar foot long’ Subway commercial jingle)

This past week of training proved a little challenging for me, but I soon found out I was not alone.  Several folks with whom I run were experiencing some physical and mental challenges with training as well.  Regardless, I got in some miles and the breakdown looked like this…

Sunday Mental health day.  I literally did… not much!  Kristin and I hit up Eat, Pray, Love which inspired an evening of cooking and wine.  No guilt, these nights are a must!

Monday Tried out a new studio, Bikram Charleston, thanks to Groupon ($35 for 10 class pass vs. $20 drop-in fee per class? Yes please.)  Anyway, I met up with Paul, who has been going steadily for a couple months and talked this place up!  As I mentioned in this post, I place value on incorporating different teachers, and really different styles of yoga, into your practice.  I’m glad I went and look forward to going back.  Beware, you will sweat your arse off, so hydrate!

Tuesday  I hit the Woodways for four miles of intervals (three on/one off again), broken up by arms + legs/butt + abs + stretching.  I will forgo leg/butt strength training during an interval workout from now on, that was just bananas.

Wednesday Enter my mid-week wall.  I set out for an early morning eight.  Granted, I made it to seven plus, and was happy with the mileage I logged.  However, something affected me in a new way.. not sure if it was the rate at which I was sweating out everything I was putting in, if stress was hitting me again, or what.  Despite getting plenty of fluids, fuel, and rest, I ended up with a massive headache (not normal for this one) and persistent nausea which caused me to go home mid-day.  I rested up, shook it off, and didn’t make major training plans for Thursday.

Thursday Sick day… still not up to snuff, and not sure what was up, but I rested.

Friday Determined to make Saturday’s long run, I rested, hydrated, and fueled.

Saturday 18 MILES!  That’s right, I survived a jaunt from The Battery, up East Bay, over the Ravenel, through Old Village, to the end of Pitt St. Bridge and back.  So thankful for the TNT group; we banded together and finished our race.  Let me tell you, hitting the MtP side of the bridge (read: the one and only hill in Charleston) at mile 13 was… interesting.  I had every intention of walking that beast, but the group I was with pushed each other and agreed to make it to the first arch.  We did, and it felt fantastic.  Ok, I’m lying, but I was proud of us.

I followed with an ice bath and was a little too tired to stretch immediately, so I listened to the legs and rested them.  I may have also treated myself to a pedicure, selfishly because I wanted a foot rub and was willing to pay anyone to dish it out.  Today’s recovery ride was necessary.  I did some intense stretching afterward as well.  Bring on the week, hopefully headache and nausea-free for all!

August 17, 2010

Week in Review: Feat. Longest Distance to Date!

Though my weekday mileage was lower, I enjoyed the variety in my workouts (including yoga) and had a really strong 17-miler on Saturday…

Sunday: Recovery spinning session at Eco for about 40 minutes, followed by abs and stretching

Monday: OFF

Tuesday: Mixed up the yoga routine and headed downtown for Dave’s power vinyasa (75 minutes), where I may have held tree pose to Avril’s ‘Sk8er Boi’.  Whoever said there’s a first time for everything likely found themselves in a similar situation I presume.

Wednesday: Beach run (5 or so miles) to the end of IOP and back.  New scenery makes for a nice workout and there’s always something/someone/some Speedo to see at the beach.

Thursday: Interval workout on the dreaded mill for 4 miles; 3 minutes on, 1 minute off for a total of lots of sweat!  This was also supper club day and an excuse to load up 48 hours pre-long run!  (I’ll post my opinions on carb loading sometime…notice we loaded up two days prior instead of the night before?)

Friday: OFF + enjoyed a couple of beers amidst my day of hydrating for Saturday’s killer run

Saturday: Early rise for 17 with TNT all around downtown again.  I find that when I eat some oatmeal (mix-ins were tbsp peanut butter and tbsp raw honey) pre-run, those are my strongest workouts.  I fueled throughout with a mix of Gatorade and water… we hydrated every 2-3 miles.  Around mile 11 or so, I took a Hammer gel even though I didn’t feel I needed it, I knew I would.  All in all a very strong run followed by an ice bath + stretching + night of rocking out with Will Hoge!  I’m pretty sure he’s the reason my recovery went so well ;-)

TWO THINGS:

  1. Have you had issues posting comments here or with Disqus in general? Email, DM me on Twitter,or text me please 
     
  2. Did you know that in preparation for hurricane season, the American Red Cross is in need of your donations?  No better time to support the cause for which I’m running than now: http://american.redcross.org/goto/ShannonGraf
August 11, 2010
Tools of the trade…
Myth: runners only need shoes, a decent running surface, and gravity.  Even before I began training, there were several tools I incorporated into my workouts to make life on my muscles and joints a little easier.  I wanted to take a sec to expose you to a few of my faves, both old and new.
Foam roller While some pros will tell you this isn’t the most ideal, it works for me and many of my friends as well.  Warning: it does put the hurt on!  But in a good way, promise.  While there are several how-tos on YouTube and blogs, I say find what works for you.  I have always had IT band issues with running so I focus the roller just above my knee and work from the outside of the quad muscle to the top, always rolling up toward my torso, then back down.  Find the intensity you need, some will say it has to hurt to work… I disagree, but for me it just happens to hurt because I’m a rubber band about to snap!  I’d also recommend waiting a few hours after your workout so the inflammation in your muscles isn’t as great.
Tennis or foam balls There are also oversized tennis balls you can find at pet stores that work to cover a larger surface area, but this is a good pressure point tool.  When I have “crunchies” or knots in my shoulders, back, or just want to roll out the arches of my feet, this is my go to.  Find the spot and try to relax onto it (easier than it sounds!).  Sometimes this is plenty.  I like to do some active release and rotate my arm, shoulder, what have you around it to work out massive kinks.  Breathing is key to both this and foam rolling… take deep breaths the whole time, and try to release further with each exhale.
Yoga  Speaking of breathing… to me yoga is the meow to running’s cat.  Not only does the intense stretching decrease the risk of injury, increase flexibility, but the mindful breathing is so key to running.  
Fuel  You simply need fuel for endurance and performance.  I’ll admit, I typically hate taking in food during a workout and prefer liquids (Gatorade and water mixed is my fave), but I typically can’t (and really shouldn’t) proceed past eight to ten miles without some refueling.  So as of late, I’ve employed the gels/gus I love to hate.  Pictured above are some various brands - find some you can tolerate.  I find the fruity ones are the worst, personally!  I actually like the newer Honey Stinger brand; I just started using it a few weeks ago.  I usually go for a lower caffeine level, take it with a swig of water, and use one or two every three or so miles beyond the eight mile mark, alternating water and/or Gatorade along the way.
Flats  This was a tough pill to swallow for someone with short limbs who relies on her precious holy heels to keep her at least within viewing range of everyone around her… but they simply will not work to your benefit while training!  Honestly, this may have been the most humbling thing to accept as training picked up.  My favorite trick for short legs and big feet is wearing heels, but alas I had to embrace my height (or lack thereof) and sacrifice my heels for training season.  I can’t say Jeri didn’t warn me!  
Chamois Butter Or Body Glide… any skin lubricant is practically a must these days, lest you end up with the dreaded bra burn or bruises under your arms (which sadly look like hickies… try explaining that one).  Another one I had to just suck up (pun intended) and embrace.  I hate high maintenance hobbies, so when I started spending more and more money for the sake of comfort, I would roll my eyes.  But let me tell you, it’s ALL necessary beyond mile six, especially when you’re a natural born sweater!
Other tidbits…
Biofreeze rules for pain relief in the muscles
Ice baths are fantastic for anti-inflammation; if you’re a weenie like I was, ice in general is just a good idea, whether in ice pack form or a frozen bottle of water rolled up and down the legs
If you’re lucky enough to have a pool which is cool enough, I used to immerse my legs from the knees down post-run, particularly in March or April when my pool was COLD
A happy helper in the form of a chiropractor and/or massage therapist!  These are the best tools.  I started chiropractic back in Dallas, and later became addicted to Active Release (see my post from a while back).  Here are my recs from some excellent pros in the area:
Dr. Jeremiah Jimerson (ART)
Dr. John Zipp (also specializing in stress management and life coaching)
Cole Chiropractic 
Green Monsters for recovery (for me this is breakfast most days!)My staple recipe is almond milk, spinach, ice, half a frozen banana, cacao powder, flax seed, dehydrated coconut or tbsp peanut butter, and sometimes a little agave nectar
I’m sure I’m missing something I use regularly in my running regime, but this should be enough to consider for now.  Hit me with questions or other suggestions!

Tools of the trade…

Myth: runners only need shoes, a decent running surface, and gravity.  Even before I began training, there were several tools I incorporated into my workouts to make life on my muscles and joints a little easier.  I wanted to take a sec to expose you to a few of my faves, both old and new.

Foam roller While some pros will tell you this isn’t the most ideal, it works for me and many of my friends as well.  Warning: it does put the hurt on!  But in a good way, promise.  While there are several how-tos on YouTube and blogs, I say find what works for you.  I have always had IT band issues with running so I focus the roller just above my knee and work from the outside of the quad muscle to the top, always rolling up toward my torso, then back down.  Find the intensity you need, some will say it has to hurt to work… I disagree, but for me it just happens to hurt because I’m a rubber band about to snap!  I’d also recommend waiting a few hours after your workout so the inflammation in your muscles isn’t as great.

Tennis or foam balls There are also oversized tennis balls you can find at pet stores that work to cover a larger surface area, but this is a good pressure point tool.  When I have “crunchies” or knots in my shoulders, back, or just want to roll out the arches of my feet, this is my go to.  Find the spot and try to relax onto it (easier than it sounds!).  Sometimes this is plenty.  I like to do some active release and rotate my arm, shoulder, what have you around it to work out massive kinks.  Breathing is key to both this and foam rolling… take deep breaths the whole time, and try to release further with each exhale.

Yoga  Speaking of breathing… to me yoga is the meow to running’s cat.  Not only does the intense stretching decrease the risk of injury, increase flexibility, but the mindful breathing is so key to running.  

Fuel  You simply need fuel for endurance and performance.  I’ll admit, I typically hate taking in food during a workout and prefer liquids (Gatorade and water mixed is my fave), but I typically can’t (and really shouldn’t) proceed past eight to ten miles without some refueling.  So as of late, I’ve employed the gels/gus I love to hate.  Pictured above are some various brands - find some you can tolerate.  I find the fruity ones are the worst, personally!  I actually like the newer Honey Stinger brand; I just started using it a few weeks ago.  I usually go for a lower caffeine level, take it with a swig of water, and use one or two every three or so miles beyond the eight mile mark, alternating water and/or Gatorade along the way.

Flats  This was a tough pill to swallow for someone with short limbs who relies on her precious holy heels to keep her at least within viewing range of everyone around her… but they simply will not work to your benefit while training!  Honestly, this may have been the most humbling thing to accept as training picked up.  My favorite trick for short legs and big feet is wearing heels, but alas I had to embrace my height (or lack thereof) and sacrifice my heels for training season.  I can’t say Jeri didn’t warn me!  

Chamois Butter Or Body Glide… any skin lubricant is practically a must these days, lest you end up with the dreaded bra burn or bruises under your arms (which sadly look like hickies… try explaining that one).  Another one I had to just suck up (pun intended) and embrace.  I hate high maintenance hobbies, so when I started spending more and more money for the sake of comfort, I would roll my eyes.  But let me tell you, it’s ALL necessary beyond mile six, especially when you’re a natural born sweater!

Other tidbits…

Biofreeze rules for pain relief in the muscles

Ice baths are fantastic for anti-inflammation; if you’re a weenie like I was, ice in general is just a good idea, whether in ice pack form or a frozen bottle of water rolled up and down the legs

If you’re lucky enough to have a pool which is cool enough, I used to immerse my legs from the knees down post-run, particularly in March or April when my pool was COLD

A happy helper in the form of a chiropractor and/or massage therapist!  These are the best tools.  I started chiropractic back in Dallas, and later became addicted to Active Release (see my post from a while back).  Here are my recs from some excellent pros in the area:

Green Monsters for recovery (for me this is breakfast most days!)
My staple recipe is almond milk, spinach, ice, half a frozen banana, cacao powder, flax seed, dehydrated coconut or tbsp peanut butter, and sometimes a little agave nectar

I’m sure I’m missing something I use regularly in my running regime, but this should be enough to consider for now.  Hit me with questions or other suggestions!

August 8, 2010

Week in Review

Sunday Should have done a recovery ride on the bike after Saturday’s 15, but opted for a day off 

Monday Still feeling a little fatigued, opted for 30 minutes of yoga

Tuesday Instead of a track workout, did 4 miles of intervals at 3 min on/1 min off

Wednesday Set out for a minimum of 6 miles, and ended up doing a little over 8, including the bridge, which made me a sweaty beast to say the least

Thursday Easy 4-miler around DI

Friday 90 minutes of Ashtanga Improv (series II) with Kristin proved a little too intense for the night before a longer run… we’ll be keeping yoga at the beginning of the week

Saturday Easygoing 10-miler around downtown with the TNT group; weather was perfectly overcast and breezy (still humid of course)

Two months to go, have you donated?

August 3, 2010

A year ago this week…

If you’ve been on the scene for at least a year now, you might recall that this week marks the one year anniversary of two very memorable experiences: one high, one low.

I almost missed out on the Wild West Relay because my boy, Luther, was diagnosed with aggressive lymphoma a week before I was scheduled to leave for Colorado.  Two months before his 12th birthday, I had made the decision to put him down as he went from Luther to sad face within a matter of hours.  Literally the day before Kristin and I were to leave for our relay, Luther let me know it was time for him to go… and for me to go heal away from our home.

What better place to mourn the loss of your constant companion than running through beautiful Colorado?  It was after this adventure that I accepted running as a true passion, not just a means of “getting in my cardio” and burning calories just because I could.

As my next adventure draws near, I continue to look forward to each and every run.  Today I ran around Luther’s old stomping grounds on Daniel Island… tomorrow I may do the same, as tomorrow marks one year since my boy said goodbye.  If that doesn’t motivate me to get up and head down to his favorite swimming spot at the Waterfront Park, what will?

August 1, 2010
Photo courtesy of my dear friend and Chicago native, Amy, who passes this building on the way to work. They finished painting it last week - Thanks Amy!
Where did July go?  I do know one thing… my training legs carried me 94 miles last month, and I finished it off with a personal distance record of 15 miles on Saturday with the local Team in Training group.  Sarah, Katy, Kristin and I enjoyed (yes, we enjoyed!) a nice run out and back over the James Island Connector, Joe Riley Stadium, The Citadel, Hampton Park, and finished up through downtown and The Battery.  A great way to cross that distance threshold… thanks Kristin for cheering me on throughout the workout!
Week in Review
Sunday + Monday Off to finish enjoying family/friends time in Dallas and a travel day
Tuesday Due to late flight (thanks to Mother Nature and her stormy goodness), I missed Track Tuesday with the girls, and ended up hitting the treadmill when Mother Nature showed up again to rain out my evening plans for the track
Wednesday Quick and dirty run from Eco Fitness to the first peak of the bridge and hustled back to shower up for Kristin’s fundraiser
Thursday Katy, Sarah, and I all ended up doing some dreadmill work at the gym after 5pm, since we failed to get up ahead of the heat that morning
Friday  Planned on yoga, but was extremely fatigued, so I listened to my body and enjoyed some downtime at happy hour instead, where I alternated two beers with water
Saturday 15 MILES and felt great… I’m actually starting to believe that I’ll finish this 26.2 thing after all!
I need your help!  My birthday is coming up.  Instead of giving Hallmark $3, consider donating to the Red Cross, won’t you?

Photo courtesy of my dear friend and Chicago native, Amy, who passes this building on the way to work. They finished painting it last week - Thanks Amy!

Where did July go?  I do know one thing… my training legs carried me 94 miles last month, and I finished it off with a personal distance record of 15 miles on Saturday with the local Team in Training group.  Sarah, Katy, Kristin and I enjoyed (yes, we enjoyed!) a nice run out and back over the James Island Connector, Joe Riley Stadium, The Citadel, Hampton Park, and finished up through downtown and The Battery.  A great way to cross that distance threshold… thanks Kristin for cheering me on throughout the workout!

Week in Review

Sunday + Monday Off to finish enjoying family/friends time in Dallas and a travel day

Tuesday Due to late flight (thanks to Mother Nature and her stormy goodness), I missed Track Tuesday with the girls, and ended up hitting the treadmill when Mother Nature showed up again to rain out my evening plans for the track

Wednesday Quick and dirty run from Eco Fitness to the first peak of the bridge and hustled back to shower up for Kristin’s fundraiser

Thursday Katy, Sarah, and I all ended up doing some dreadmill work at the gym after 5pm, since we failed to get up ahead of the heat that morning

Friday  Planned on yoga, but was extremely fatigued, so I listened to my body and enjoyed some downtime at happy hour instead, where I alternated two beers with water

Saturday 15 MILES and felt great… I’m actually starting to believe that I’ll finish this 26.2 thing after all!

I need your help!  My birthday is coming up.  Instead of giving Hallmark $3, consider donating to the Red Cross, won’t you?

July 27, 2010

When I’m not running…

One of my favorite pastimes is reading.  Reading is another way I escape and I’ll have my butt on the beach with a book for hours without realizing how much time has passed.  I thought I’d pause from training to share three of my favorite summer reads so far…

The Choice
Leave it to Mr. Sparks to get you emotionally involved with Travis and Gabby.  Yeah, I’m pretty sure I fell in love too.  I mean a dog-loving vet who wakeboards, runs, spends all waking hours outdoors, and loves a good sunset on the deck overlooking the harbor while sipping wine?  Yes, please. 

That’s not even the gist of the story, but it got your attention, am I right ladies?  In typical Sparks fashion you’ll fall in love with the couple, get your heart broken, mended, and want to do it all over again.  Nice beach or airplane read.

The Glass Castle
There are no words to describe the life of Jeannette Walls… well, except hers in this jaw-dropping memoir.  I caught myself in disbelief with every chapter, and have added her to my list of female role models.  You think you had a rough childhood and can’t persevere beyond family dysfunction to find success and happiness?  Give this a read.

Heart of the Matter
Emily Giffin novels are my guilty pleasure.  She has a way with developing characters you can truly relate with as a young professional female walking through the confusions of life in your 20s and 30s.  So when her latest hit the shelves, I had to grab it.  Granted it centered on a topic that stung a little, I always appreciate how real she is… happy endings aren’t guaranteed, but watching the characters learn and grow from their experiences leaves the reader feeling somewhat hopeful and empowered.  

I’m always adding to my list, what have some of your favorite beach reads been this season?

PS Have you donated?  Help me reach my goal as I journey to Chicago for charity!