What 'Us' Made Me Ponder

I finished David Nicholls' Us this morning and must say that I really enjoyed it. The story is about an English, middle-aged couple, Douglas and Connie, who are on the brink of both separation and an empty nest. The novel starts off with Connie waking Douglas up in the early morning and telling him she thinks she wants to leave him, despite the family's preparations to embark on a massive European tour in order to commemorate their only son's impending adulthood. The couple decides to go anyway, and the book chronicles their present and their past, and what bridges the two. 

It's one of those books that makes you reflect quite a bit, on many different levels. Here are a few of the lasting impressions Us had on me:

Raising a Teenage Son
There are over a hundred teenagers in my life, nearly half male. I've generally found the guys easier to deal with than the girls at this age, but Albie, Connie and Douglas' son, is quite a handful. But with reason; he feels a great deal of pressure from his successful, scientific father and a constant need to fill the shoes of his older sister, who died a day after she was born (it's hard to be a failure when you never have the opportunity to, well, fail). Nonetheless, Albie and his relationship with his parents made me cognizant of my own parenting style. I do know that I will never take Sawyer to Amsterdam.  

Your Marriage Shouldn't Revolve Around Your Child
This is a tough one for a lot of couples, I think. Connie fears being alone with Douglas when Albie leaves for school, seeing that they've grown apart and don't share many interests anymore. I've thought about this many times before, both in the context of marriage and individuality; eventually your child (or children) will leave your for their own life and you still need to live a fulfilling existence despite their absence. It's important to still do with things with your spouse and to not include your kid in every conversation, on every outing, and every vacation. It's admittedly really hard when they're little, and I'm no expert, but a little bit of effort can go a long way. 

I've had cabin fever for awhile, since before Sawyer I was fortunate enough to go on a trip every year or so. In Us the characters start their "Grand Tour," which includes places such as Paris and Amsterdam. Once the family separates they visit various cities in Italy and Spain, as well. I love hotels and airports and itineraries. Staying in one place gets so boring... We have a few little excursions tentatively planned for this year, so that's enough to appease me... for now. Not to get too far off topic, but I've decided that once Sawyer is a bit older I'm going on a large vacation every other year, whether with family, friends, or alone (possible destinations: Vancouver, Fiji, Switzerland, Puerto Rico, Washington DC, Maine, or, the most far-fetched, Patagonia in Chile). 

A huge part of their "Grand Tour" was exposing themselves to classical European experiences, many of which were housed in museums. When I was in Italy many years ago we went to several in each city and while some became a little boring, I still relish the feel of the culture and academia. I've been to most of the big ones here in Southern California, but reading Us made me want to make the rotation again.

The Past's Influence 
I loved the narrative structure of the text and can't say that I had a preference to the past or present sections, since both were equally as interesting. It was fascinating to see the integration of the two and the product of the family's cumulative experiences. It's a bit unsettling how small familial transgressions accumulate and eventually the damage seems unsurmountable. It's important as a parent and spouse to simply be nice; it's easy to snap and act in the moment, but people remember what you say. 

Needless to say, I thought this book was excellent. It was like taking a trip through Europe with a dysfunctional family that you just can't help but to grow to love. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Link up, link back, say hi! 

1. I got my 2015 photo book in the mail yesterday and was so pleased with how well it turned out. Worth every penny! And it was a good reminder to start this year's now, instead of waiting until next January.

[made through mixbook]

2. Almost all the soreness from last weekend's half marathon is gone, but unfortunately my normal motivation to be active hasn't quite returned yet. Between the running and Sawyer not sleeping great this week (please let this be the last tooth for awhile...) I'm really tired. I finally got the energy to walk this afternoon and maybe I'll squeeze in a little yoga or time on the trainer later tonight. Tomorrow will be spent walking around the zoo, so at least I'll get in some steps there. Speaking of the race, Matt Damon ran it! I don't really get star struck, but I think the idea of watching a celebrity hoof it around like the rest of us peons is amusing. 

3. Sawyer and I have gotten to spend some time with two of my friends and their kids this week and it's so funny to see him interact with other kids. Both friends have babies and he talks in the high-pitched voice he uses with animals to them, and makes a big deal out of being super hesitant to touch them. It's a crack up (I'm very thankful he isn't aggressive or unkind to them... you never know with toddlers).


5. I know a lot of people aren't in love with this new season of Serial, but I am actually really enjoying it. It's something different from my normal interests, and I think Sarah, per the norm, is fascinating. I hadn't followed the case at all before this, so it's all new to me (is it just me or are there some similarities with the first season of Homeland?). I am enjoying her updates regarding last season, too.

6. I have a confession: I've ordered four new books lately. I grabbed Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian because I saw a student reading it and have always meant to. I got Lauren Groff's The Monsters of Templeton because I loved her other two novels, and then I've seen such great things about Anthony Marra's The Tsar of Love and Techno, so I grabbed that too. I had preordered Jhumpa Lahiri's In Other Words awhile ago so I didn't forget, and that arrived a few days ago. I should feel bad, but I don't. I can't even promise that I'll stop (I'm burning through Christmas gift cards). 

7. A few years ago Scott and I went to a place called The Pie Hole in LA and I got this delicious maple custard pie and have always wanted to replicate it. I found a recipe for a similar tart, which is just as good. Making it asap.

8. The week before we get our taxes get done I historically get greedy. While 90% of what we get will go into savings or will go towards home improvement-type expenditures, I think I will splurge on this bag and this chaise lounge for reading by the pool. Or, if we're being truly accurate, I'll say I will and then end up feeling bad and putting my fun money towards a student loan. 

9. Fuller House is going to be terrible. I CANNOT WAIT TO WATCH IT.

10. My kid is blowing bubbles in the dog water, so I better go. 

Your Own Friend?

[this has nothing to do with anything, I just needed a picture]

A few weeks ago a student and I were talking and she said something that resulted in me commenting, “Now I’m tying to decide if I’d want to be friends with myself…” And so I started writing a little blurb on Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts not long ago and it ended up being the basis for a stand-alone post. So, here we are. And I know that there are many parties, close and far, young and old, who might take this personally (as we all do when things are posted by people we know on the internet!), but it’s really the simple musings that resulted from a casual conversation.

And here we are.

Would I want to be friends with myself? The short answer is yes, yes I would. And the simple reason is because I don’t expect things from others that are more than I am able, or willing, to give to them of myself. I also don’t expect my friends to give more than what is realistic for their lives.  For example, one person may be able to meet for breakfast once a month, while someone else has life obligations that make getting together more than a few times a year tough. And I get that, and it’s cool. I love both people. 

I don’t expect friends to respond to my texts within minutes, make a big deal about my birthday, ask me how Sawyer’s well-baby check up went, know exactly what my husband does for a living, or be able to tell me how old each of my siblings are and what they’re up to. I do expect friends to let me know if they’re running late, not sell my secrets on the internet, refrain from harming my loved ones, return my books back in the condition they were lent, and answer important texts within a week or so. I’d prefer they’d tell me if I have something stuck in my teeth and not be intellectually, culturally, or emotionally stunted (perhaps one of the three is permissible).  I’d hope that if I had a true problem I needed help with they’d listen and that if someone super  important to me died they’d go to the funeral or at least meet me later for a drink or huge bowl of ice cream. I know it sounds like the bar is not set high, but, frankly, my friends are my friends because of who they are. Maybe it’s because of similar interests, shared experiences, personality connections, or because we are a damn fun time together (well, maybe before we had kids).  And it’s not to say that my friends don’t go above and beyond, because many of them have and do, it’s just that I don’t expect them to and don’t hold it against them if they don’t. We’re busy. We’re tired. We’re distracted. I get it. It’s okay.

But am I the Universal Best Friend? Definitely not. I’m not going to offer to help you move, paint, or drive you to LAX for you six am flight (but if you ask I’ll be there after I’ve sufficiently caffeinated... just don't expect great conversation). I can be deeply private, I am prone to playing the devil’s advocate,  and I frequently have to coordinate around childcare. I’m going to probably decline going to your Pampered Chef Party and will refuse to wander around antique stores with your boring out-of-town aunt.  I don’t use emojiis, Snapchat, or go to those wine drinking while painting parties, either. I might notice a Facebook status that I should respond with some sort of emotion to, but forget to do so until so much time has gone by it’s obvious that I’ve dropped the ball. I sometimes forget to ask people how their weekends, their vacations, or their family gatherings went. So, yes, the deficiencies are aplenty. I'm aware. 

But here’s something else to ponder- I think it’s important to have friends that are different than I am. Just like when you select a significant other, opposites attract, at least a little, anyway. But I think this idea, of  wanting to be your own friend, can extend into other important questions. Would you want to be your own daughter? Would you want your child to have a teacher like you (or whatever the professional equivalent is in your field)? Whatever hats you wear, would you like to be on the other end of the equation and have to deal with yourself? It’s an interesting way to reflect, that’s for sure.  

So, yes, while admittedly flawed, the answer is yes, I would like to be my own friend. Even if I wouldn’t help myself move. 

Surf City Half Marathon- Race Recap

It's over! Thank goodness. 

And, realistically and responsibly speaking, it will probably be my last until I at least have my toe fixed. My feet just aren't cut out of for that kind of distance, structurally, considering their sad issues (they're flat, I have an extra bone in my right ankle, and a slightly deformed toe on my left foot). The toe was really the issue yesterday, since it started swelling and hence caused blisters on itself and the toe next to it (this was never an issue in the past; I didn't start having trouble with it until last summer where one day I was out walking and felt like I was being stung my bees on my toe). Anyway, my sad, but long, recap:

The Good:
The night before I met one of my best friends for dinner at The Great Maple in Fashion Island and it was nice to catch up over good food. I returned to my hotel room, where I had a king-sized bed to myself and was able to get nearly eight straight hours of sleep, which was maybe the second or third time since Sawyer was born. The next morning I didn't have to wake up until 5:45, since the race didn't start until 7:45, which is a really late start compared to other halves. The hotel shuttle took us down, meaning I didn't have to deal with parking, which was a godsend. I met up with my cousin and her family and visited for awhile before we lined up in our corrals. Like always, Surf City is impeccably organized and at least appears to run incredibly smoothly (I've now run it three times and volunteered once). 

The first five miles were decent, for me. I was coming in 15-30 seconds faster each mile than I had planned, but was feeling really good. I had two slight negative splits, but was pretty consistent in my pacing. 

Oh, and my playlist was awesome. Between what I had, some suggestions from a student, and scouring the internet, I at last came out with some good music.

The Bad:
Miles five to nine were on PCH (the highway that runs along the beach) and things started to heat up- it was only in the sixties, but when you're running on asphalt without cloud cover, humidity, or a breeze, it gets hot fast. There are also a lot of slight but slow inclines on this stretch. My feet were starting to get sore, but it wan't anything I couldn't work through. I slowed down some and took a few walking breaks, but all in all I was maintaining my goal pace (which was a realistic time based on my severe lack of training).

The Ugly:
Somewhere around mile nine or ten I fell apart. Well, my feet did. After seeing my toe situation afterwards this was obviously where my toe blisters started to get bad and my ankle swolen. I was also really hot, which isn't something I tolerate well. I walked a lot during this section and was in a lot of pain. A lot of people in general, were walking, though, which I attribute to the heat. My time nosedived.  

The worst moment, which seems silly now, was when I saw a mile marker in the distance and assumed in my delirium it was for mile thirteen, which would mean once I reached it I would only have 0.1 miles left. Doable. I had forgotten the marathoners had reentered our route and it was actually their 26 mile marker, meaning I actually had 0.2 miles left, which seemed like eternity. I almost cried, but then I focused all my energy on thinking mean things about pedestrians running on the course, race photographers, and women who wear tutus to run (sorry, but no). 

My time was about eight minutes slower than what I had wanted, but still fast enough to make the shuttle time back to the hotel that I was aiming for, at least. I am prone to feeling faint, so once I stopped running that of course kicked in. I had to walk to the shuttle stop and called my mom to distract me, but she just wanted to talk about how miserable I was feeling so I yelled at her, I think. But come on, mom. I had to take several breaks to sit down on the way to the bus, but once I got there I was fine. Nothing an apple juice and huge bag of peanut butter M&Ms couldn't fix (which collectively cost me over $7). 

So, that's it. I went home, ate my body weight in bean dip and pizza and went to bed at 9:30. I'm a normal amount of sore today, minus the trashed feet. But I can honestly say that I won't be signing up for anymore halves until I see some sort of change in my feet. I might do some 5 or 10ks just to stay in shape and have something to train for, but longer distances are out. 

The end. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Happy Wednesday! Link up, link back, say hi!

1. In twenty-four hours I'll be on an eleven-day President's Day Break and pretty much the happiest woman around. It technically doesn't begin until Friday afternoon, but I'm calling a sub so that I can take care of some business. We just had winter break five weeks ago, so I know I'm sort of a jerk for celebrating another vacation, but I've been working hard at home and work and I'm TIRED. Plus I get to spend all week with my favorite little guy, which I definitely am looking forward to.

2. Next week I'm going to take Sawyer to the San Diego Zoo (tangent: I have mixed feelings about zoos, but I have an annual pass in my name as a result of needing to qualify for a credit union membership that was necessary to finance our solar panels; long story semi-short: I'm going to make a donation to some sort of save the elephant fund to make myself feel a little less hypocritical. But circuses or Sea World- over my dead body). I've had a few people surprised that I'm going "alone." Because I can't drive two hours and handle the same toddler I handle every day? Come onnnnnnnn. He's super excited to meow at the koalas that we watched videos of the other day. 

3. Toddlers in backpacks are pretty darn cute:

4. I'm making these as we speak. I've been eating like total crap lately since I've been so active, and I know after the half Sunday I'm going to either have to maintain my current level of activity so I can keep eating ridiculous amounts of carbs (like absurd), or scale everything back. Or, I guess I could keep eating ridiculously and stop exercising and just let nature take it's course, but considering it'll be bathing suit weather in about five minutes that's not happening.

5. I'm slightly obsessed with changing up my sparsely decorated mantle and came across this wood wall art thingamajig on Etsy. I'm going to email the guy for a quote on a special order asap (this one is too big for what I have in mind), but the colors are perfect for my living room and my husband actually likes it too.

[A+ cropping job]

6. Speaking of things that are aesthetically pleasing and highly necessary:

[I better decide soon, since they're so low on inventory...]

7. I don't get too political on here, but I think it's safe to say most know where my allegiance lies. The caucus results the other night were fascinating and encouraging. That's all I'll say.

8. We watched Everest last weekend and all I knew was that it was about people climbing the mountain (that's all I needed to be on board). I had no idea that it was about the trip that John Krakauer was a part of! It made me want to reread Into Thin Air, despite the fact that Krakauer apparently wasn't exactly a fan of the movie.

9. I need to sit down and make a really, really long, carefully thought out playlist for Sunday. I recently acquired quite a bit of new music, so now it's time to sit and think things like "at one point am I going to hit a wall and need something fun like Ke$ha?" and "how many times should I include "Party Rock" on this list?" and also "am I still into starting every race with 'For Whom the Bell Tolls'?" [insert judgmental comments about my taste in music here.] I'm actually really, really excited about Sunday, but that may be in part because I can't wait to get a solid night sleep in a hotel room all by myself the night before. I have this nagging feeling that I'm setting myself up for failure, though, since a little part of my thinks it could be a really solid race after my successful long run last week. Nonetheless, it'll be some good exercise by the ocean and a nice chance to spend some time alone (minus the twenty thousand people I'm hanging out with).

10. I just started Us by David Nicholls and so far, so good. I have to admit that part of the short chapters are part of the appeal right now, since it makes it easy to pick up in spurts (it is pretty long, though).