13 Reasons Why

You know, watching a tv show about teen suicide doesn’t sound that fun. And it’s not. What it is is emotional, thought-provoking, and heart-wrenching. Honestly, I was expecting it to be sad, maybe a little disturbing, and I was not expecting to have such a strong reaction. 

13 Reasons Why

I had heard of the novel a long time ago and forgotten about it. After hearing about the Netflix series, I discovered it was already on the “to read” list. I decided not to read the book. I thought maybe I’d enjoy like the TV show better. And initially, I wasn’t sure if I liked the show or not. For those of you that don’t know, the plot device of the show (and novel) is 13 audio tapes left by Hannah, the suicide victim. Each tape explains one of 13 reasons why she killed herself and each is tied to a person. Each person is supposed to listen to the tapes and then pass them on the next person. If not, Hannah has left a second copy with someone who will make them public. This naturally lends itself to 13 episodes of the series, and at first, I thought it was one of those annoying plot things that you end up hating, however, by the end, I felt it worked really well to tell the story. As the audience, we are hearing the tapes (and seeing flashbacks) along with Clay. This is interwoven with current events.

Now, here’s the part where there might be some spoilers so consider yourself warned!

Clay. Clay makes the show for me. Dylan Minnette does an amazing job, and I think it’s his emotional distress, his pain, that caused me so much pain while watching this.

Clay was friends with Hannah, they worked together at the local movie theater, and he likes/liked her. But he’s awkward around girls, and he doesn’t/didn’t know how to tell her he likes her. This is clear throughout the show.

It takes him a long time to make his way through all the tapes, the other kids all listened in one or two days. So why wouldn’t he do the same? There are several points where he has to stop. It’s too much for him. It’s painful, and he misses Hannah, and it hurts him to listen to these things that happened to her, things that cannot be changed, events that are out of his control.

This seems like an honest reaction, and given the content of some of the tapes, taking an emotional breather seems like a reasonable thing to do. As Clay is listening to the tapes, he envisions Hannah, and those visions then start to go beyond just imagining her as she describes past events, and turn into nightmares and hallucinations. I don’t think I could draw it out like that, but they give him creditable reasons and an emotional state for doing so.

As I mentioned earlier, a show about teen suicide — not fun? Well the trigger warnings for this don’t stop with suicide. The list also includes bullying, abuse, drugs, rape, violence, stalking and probably more.

There is criticism of the show (and the book) for not portraying Hannah as a realistic suicidal person. I agree that she doesn’t come across as what I would typically think of as suicidal, but I’m not an expert (and I’m sure many with this opinion are not either).  However — I think the portrayal of Hannah is “as seen through Clay’s eyes”, since we are hearing the tapes along with him. A lot of it feels like his memories of Hannah, and, remember, he didn’t know she was suicidal until she killed herself. And also, part of the point is that it’s often not obvious when someone is suicidal. 

“You don’t know what goes on in anyone’s life but your own.”

The other kids are messed up too. I think this is a strong reminder that everyone has their own life, and you don’t know what another person is living through or living with. That doesn’t make it ok to be a bully, a stalker, or a rapist though! Have compassion for other people, and remember, they don’t know what you’re going through unless you tell them, and you don’t know about their life either.

Hannah’s 13 reasons span a broad-range of “wrongs” committed against her. Some are seriously criminal things, and some are just high-school bullying. I read one article that said it was unrealistic that Hannah would be upset by being listed as “best ass” on best/worst list that was passed around the school. Saying there’s nothing wrong with this is saying it’s ok to objectify women. She gets hit on, called easy and a slut because of it. Seems justifiable to be upset to me.

I still don’t understand Tony’s character, and why he didn’t immediately take the tapes to Hannah’s parents or the police. I know he says he was trying to honor her wishes, but clearly — at some point there’s a line between honoring a dead girl’s wishes and being complicit in covering up serious crimes (like rape). Instead, he dutifully follows the tapes from person to person.  There are moments when you think maybe some of them (any of them, it just takes one) will see reason and come clean, and of course, it wouldn’t be a tv show if these things all happened at the beginning. There’d be no show!

“Life is unpredictable and control is just an illusion. And it makes us feel small and powerless.”

Hannah was a bit of a bully and very selfish. She caused a lot of pain by making those tapes and asking them to passed around. She could have left a note (or a tape) that was more to the point for her parents. I think she wanted to give her suicide meaning and to feel like she had control in the end, even though it’s not reasonable to assume she’d have any control once she was dead.

There’s a lot of hard things to watch in this show. I wasn’t expecting the rape scenes, or the graphic suicide scene. It was not easy to watch, it was painful, and that’s probably the point. I can’t imagine what watching this would be like for someone who’s been through those things. Sure, I was bullied when I was a kid, but I have never been suicidal and I have never been raped. I can only imagine, and honestly, I’d rather not.

The last few episodes (starting around tape 11) is where the emotions really started to hit me. I was mad at Hannah for all the mess she created with the tapes, and for what she was putting Clay through. The poor kid really cared for her, and he was doing the best he could. She even says on his tape “Clay, Helmet, your name does not belong on this list.”

I’m not usually one to cry at the movies (or commercials, I’ve heard some people do that!) … Occasionally, I’ll get a little teary-eyed, but unless there’s a dog dying, you’re probably not going to see me cry while watching a movie (or tv show). And yet….. somehow this show had me bawling like a baby, time and time again.

“It has to get better. The way we treat each other and look out for each other. It has to get better somehow.”

Hopefully, more people are talking about suicide (and rape and all the other horrible things in this show) and what can be done to prevent them. I’d love to tell you that I have some great ideas, and while I don’t, you can bet that I’ll be thinking about it, and that I’ll be looking for ways to help. 

How can it get better if it doesn’t start with us?

If you are thinking about suicide, or need help, please talk to someone. 

Suicide Prevention Resource Center




fall / winter reading update

A Darker Shade of Magic

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

I highly enjoyed this novel and am looking forward to reading the next in the series.

Kell is one of the last of his kind, a magician able to travel between the parallel universes. Red London, Grey London, and White London co-exist side by side, with very few aware of the existence of anything but their own city.

The story follows Kell on his adventures, as he tries to protect the magic, and the cities, from the evil that has escaped from what remains of Black London.

A Man Called Ove by Fredik Backman

This one is hard to write about. Ove is a man who is hard to love, and certainly easy to dislike (if not hate) at the start of the novel. He is cantankerous, ornery, and quite rigid in his ways.

The novel paints a picture of a lonely, sad man. He’s just lost his job, and he appears to have no family or friends. Throughout the story, we learn more of Ove, his life, how he lived, and his neighbors.

Ultimately, this is a moving story about community and showing the reader that not everyone is what they seem at first glance. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but my friends have said it’s very good as well.

A Shade of Vampire by Bella Forrest

A Shade of Vampire is the first of many in an ongoing saga. I didn’t realize how many there were until after reading the first (39 and still coming??!)

The series is fun, and a great way to take a break from reality. The first 7 novels tell the story of Sophia and Derek, and after that the series introduces a new set of main characters. I’ve only read the first 7, and may continue in the future. I’m holding off for now, because I don’t want to be sucked in for another 7 books!

The main story is about Sophia, a moderately normal 17-year-old girl, who’s kidnapped and held hostage by vampires. The vampire coven is living in secret, hiding from humans. Sophia and Derek (a leader of the coven) fall in love, and the series follows what happens.

YearYear of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes

I loved this book. Shonda writes openly about her insecurities, weight issues, and shyness. She transformed her life by setting a goal to say yes for one year. The goal was to say yes to things that were outside of her comfort zone and that she would normally avoid.

This is a motivating look at how simple decisions can drastically change your life.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (Inheritance, #1) by N.K. Jemisin

This was one of the best books I read in 2016. Jemisin takes a unique approach to writing fantasy, and it’s refreshing to read a book that’s different and creative.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms centers around Yeine Darr, and what happens when she is mysteriously summoned to the ruling city of Sky by her estranged grandfather after her mother dies unexpectedly.

When Yeine arrives, she is pitted against her cousins in a battle for the throne. Having grown up far way from Sky, in large part due to being biracial and considered beneath or less than the “pure” Amari, she is out of her element.

Sky is a bright, shiny, ethereal place, full of light (and worship of Itempas, the Bright Skyfather). And yet, the ruling class is malicious, racist, and quite evil. It’s a great juxtaposition, and there’s many other things that follow along with this within the series.

There’s lots of mythology, intrigue, and plot twists in this novel and the 2 other books in the trilogy. There’s a plethora of gods and godlings, and between them and the humans, it’s a wonder anyone is alive.

Love Warrior: A Memoir by Glennon Doyle Melton

Glennon Doyle Melton has written an emotional, riveting, and raw look into her life and struggles. She touches on many sensitive subjects like eating disorders, alcoholism, drug abuse, and marital issues.

This is a story about finding oneself, rediscovery, and ultimately acceptance and forgiveness. I didn’t know what to expect when I started reading, but I was soon captivated by her story and her willingness to reveal such intimate details of her life. Melton has received a lot of criticism about just how much of her life she shared, and about events that happened in her life after the book was written. However, in my opinion, none of that detracts from the book.

This is a memoir that you read and you think “huh, this could have been fiction and it would be have been interesting, but it’s REAL and it’s fascinating.”


the path to strong

My friends and family all know I’m not a huge fan of exercise, specifically when it comes to strength training. Oh, I occasionally go to yoga, and I run, but other than that? Nope. In 2015, I hired a personal trainer at my gym, in the hopes that it would motivate me and get me to a place where I could/would consistently do strength training on my own.

Unfortunately, that plan did not work out. The first trainer was awesome, but after a few sessions she received a promotion  and wanted me to come on Saturdays or to another gym location. When we couldn’t make it work, she set me up with another trainer to take over for her. 

The next trainer did not seem to know or care about my fitness goals. There were no progress measurements, no record of each workout, and sometimes she actually gave me incorrect information. She’d say “oh this is the best you’ve done at this exercise, you’re really making progress” … umm, we’ve never done this one together, so how would she know? Every session it was more of the same, squats, squats, squats, and other exercises that were also squats (burpees, ball slams, etc). There was no consistency or plan for the upper body portion of the workout, it was something different each session. I fired her, and then I didn’t go to the gym for 6 months. Maybe longer than that.

Recently, I started having more and more issues with back, hip, neck and shoulder pain. All of it seems to be related to poor posture, weak glute and hip muscles, and overall, lack of strength training. I decided that I need to take control, and finally put some effort into strength training. I’ve also decided to focus on lowering my body fat percentage rather than looking solely at weight loss in terms of total body weight. I’d rather be strong and healthy and weigh a little more than be “skinny fat” where the pounds come off but it’s all muscle mass that’s being lost. I’ve been there before.

My goals are to make it to the gym at least once a week, yoga once a week, plus continuing with my running. After my last half marathon, I’ve been having some issues with my adductor muscles and the psoas on the left side, so I took it easy for several weeks and have stretched more often.

Oh, and by June I want to be able to do unassisted chin-ups. Then I can move on to pull-ups!

believe in your own power to transform

Here’s a look at a typical gym session:

Cardio Warm-up
5 min

Upper Body
Chin Up (Assisted)
3 sets of 10

Lat Pulldown
3 sets of 10

Tricep Extension
3 sets of 10

TRX/Lower Body
2 sets of 10

TRX squat
3 sets of 15 

Forward walking lunge
3 sets of 10

Backward walking lunge
3 sets of 10

Cardio finish
5 min