Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

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1. The UCLA Women and Men made it to the Sweet 16! Go Bruins! 

2. Mac is coming to Ulta- like I need to spend more money on makeup.

3. I was supposed to have an MRI of my hip last Saturday, which I scheduled nervously since I am quite claustrophobic. I woke up early that morning and said "nope, not gonna happen" and didn't go. I need to reschedule for the open MRI machine, but I know they are pretty backed up. This sort of refusal from me is really irregular, as I am typically one of those annoying rule-following, get-the-job done asap, kind of people. But apparently Saturday morning I knew my own limitations and decided to be a rebel (and to make the matter worse I couldn't reach anyone in the office so I was a no-show- THE HORROR). 

4. I am obsessed with checking the weather for Yosemite and Fish Camp, where we are staying, now that our departure day has entered the ten-day-forecast. I can deal with rain (just ordered Sawyer same rain boots, haha), but snow not so much. 

5. You can customize Sperrys. How long will I be able to resist?

6. As soon as the Democrats control the Senate, or better, someone has got to make Elizabeth Warren take a vacation. Or a nap. That woman is relentless and I love it. 

7. This Lemon Almond Pudding Cake looks absolutely amazing, but I'm not sure if anyone in my house will help me eat it. 

8. I finished the cross stitching project I have been working on for the last few months and am really pleased with how it turned out (pictured above). 

Top Ten Tuesday: One and Done

This Tuesday the Broke and the Bookish ask up for books we can read in one  sitting (or close to). I love this topic because my students commonly wait until the last minute to finish up their Outside Reading, so I'm frequently throwing titles like this their way, come December and May. 

1. Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

2. We Should All be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie

3. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

4. Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (I read this over a few days, but if I was on vacation or child-free I could have knocked it out very quickly) 

5. Bridget Jones' Diary by Helen Fielding (the format makes it read so quickly)

6. The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald (it just reads fast!)

7. Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn

8. A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood

9. The Awakening by Kate Chopin 

10. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel  (graphic novel)

Lemme Tell You a Story (3)

Every once in awhile I like to pop in with a few of my Instagram Stories, just for fun. I want to sit down and write my thoughts on the collection of Ann Patchett essays I finished a few days ago, but I'm currently shoulders-deep in baking a Cinnabun Pie and prepping an Easter craft for Sawyer when he wakes up (holy domesticity!), so that ain't happenin'. So for now, happy Sunday:

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Gah! It's Wednesday! I almost forgot (hence the brevity). Anyway, link up, link back, say hey!

1. Weekend plans: have an MRI on my hip. I saw the doctor last week and she doesn't think it's muscular or soft tissue, so off to get I scan I go. This would be totally fine if I wasn't claustrophobic (their open MRI has a tight schedule that didn't work with mine).

2. Pet peeve: magazine articles that continue their articles on pages in the back.

3. I am seriously considering a trip to Nashville just to visit Parnassus, Ann Patchett's bookstore. I just finished her book of essays and started following them on Instagram and I just need to go. 

4. It's Ruth Bader Ginsburg's birthday! Stay kickin' for four more years, lady! 

5. My child is obsessed with Moana. Help. 

6. Speaking of Sawyer, I cannot decide if it's time to get him a regular bed or not. He still doesn't always sleep through the night, although he goes right back to sleep when he does wake up (I do not, though). Maybe he needs more room? Maybe it will make things worse? I just don't know.

Top Ten Tuesday- Spring TBR

This week The Broke and the Bookish ask us about our current reading plans for the spring are. I have a love/hate relationship with these posts: I love to make plans and get excited about books to come, but I hate the fact that I know I may not follow the plan (I am a planner, so this is sort of a set up to fail, which I also hate). Nonetheless, let's focus on the love part:

Antigone by Sophocles: I am teaching this play next, so I have to reread it (for the fourth time...). If I was really ambitious I'd read the two plays that come before again, but I don't think I'm feeling that much Sophocles right now. 

After the Parade by Lori Ostlund: I honestly don't even know what this book is about, but it's our next department book club selection so I'll be starting it soon!

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid: I have read one of his other book, How to Get Filthy Rich in Asia, and loved it, so when I heard this new one had some magical realism I was all about ordering it. 

Perfect Little World by Kevin Wilson: I loved Family Fang, so I am excited to see if his new one is as good. 

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman: I hear this one is an easier read that's incredibly endearing. I could use some of that.

The Tempest by William Shakespeare: I want to reread this before I read Margaret Atwood's newest. 

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi: Finally! I am the last one on the planet? 

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett: I am currently enamored with Patchett and am resisting reading everything she has written that I have not yet gotten to. 

The Women by TC Boyle: I made a new best friend in line at Target the other day and for some reason Wright's name came up in the best four minute conversation ever and I remembered this book (this guy was probably seventy-five and we totally bonded over chocolate cereal, UCLA v USC, Bass Lake, and whatever else we crammed into the conversation).

The Restrain of Beasts by Magnus Mills: I have no idea what this is about except a friend brought it back from Greece for us last year and it's supposedly hilarious. 

The Huntington Library- Pictures

Yesterday Sawyer and I went to The Huntington Library, which is also home to several art galleries and acres and acres of botanical gardens. Since it was such a beautiful day out and there was nothing on display that I was dying to see and hadn't before, we stuck to the grounds (they do have a Gutenberg Bible and some Canterbury Tales work that I have seen before and is worth the time). Here in Southern California we have moved from a rainy, cold (for us) winter to 80+ degree spring in a matter of about a week, so everything was in bloom, including the cherry blossoms. We walked over 9,000 steps and Sawyer was so tired that he crashed before we made it out of the parking lot (he also had the best night of sleep in weeks). The pictures don't do the place justice: 

It's definitely worth the drive to San Marino (near Pasadena) if you live in the area. Adults are $25, but kids 4 and under are free! 


[sun! warmth!]
 It's a weird time of year, at least for me. The holidays and their madness are over, summer vacation seems a little too far away to get excited yet, and there's nothing seriously big looming on the horizon. Sure, I have a trip up north planned for spring break and some little things here and there, but I've just been feeling this general sense of... ennui. I sort of hate this word and think it sounds pretentious, but it perfectly articulates the not bad, not good, state of being I've been in lately. Dissatisfied. Uninspired. Frustrated. Stunted. Stagnant. I know that a lot of this is can be attributed to not having a restful night of sleep in two months and the doom and gloom in the news, but still. Blah.

[I am always impressed, and inspired, by his complete happiness]

[getting more technical and scientific about cooking- a challenge]

But over the last week or so, the weather has gotten warmer and the days longer. I have been hyper-efficient at work and don't feel as inundated there as I normally do. So slowly, I've been feeling more inspired. Inspired to make improvements, pursue hobbies, and relax. Inspired to bring about little changes here and there. It's been good, and even better considering the little things that have gotten me to this point. 

[Ann Patchett has made me truly want to be a writer again]

[Sawyer has a book that says "nature is magic"- it's so right]

I don't regret these transitional times, though. Sure, they're frustrating and make me feel lazy (laziness is my arch-nemesis), but this sort of feeling is so important. It's akin to my belief that kids should feel boredom, regularly. It's motivating and serves as a catalyst for change, whether in attitude, schedule, or environment. Obviously for some people it's a sign of something a bit more serious, but for me it's a wake up call that I need to take the bull by the horns and mix things up a bit, or just reconnect to what's important. 

So I am, and I will. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

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1. I have thoughts about International Women's Day and all that accompanies it, but I feel like articulating them would take pages and pages. Basically, I think the idea is good in spirit, but the problem is that so many of these "_______ Days" are just token gestures that really don't accomplish much. People wear red and post a few things on social media, but then what? And the strike is complicated because it really is just for people who can afford to miss work and don't have to worry about losing their jobs. And so on and so forth. We just need to work harder, collectively, and we need to remember that there are women in places that have it far worse than us who we need to help.

2. Scott and I played Pandemic for the first time over the weekend and it was pretty fun. I thought I wasn't going to like playing cooperatively, but I survived. It does have a lot of pieces and procedures, but I think after a few times playing it'll be a breeze.

3. We also bought Candyland for Sawyer and played two games of it with him. He's a little young, but it was fun and good for him to wait his turn and practice his colors.

4. I just started Ann Patchett's This is the Story of a Happy Marriage and I am so inspired by this collection of essays already. 

5. Last night I was on the verge of losing it due to lots of little things and then a big thing that ended up fine (after a visit to the children's dentist... sigh). I was at the grocery story buying Sawyer Motrin and just, well, on the verge of losing it, and a friend texted me ON CUE "Hey, how's your week?" The timing was like from a movie or something. We chatted, made plans for the weekend, and I felt so much better (also because of the Reese's Peanut Butter Egg I bought, if we're being honest).

6. Friday- Sunday should be a welcome distraction and source of relief (knock on all the wood). Friday I have to take the day off for a doctor's appointment and I am going to get a few things done for myself since Sawyer will be at daycare for most of the day still. Saturday we are going to the Huntington Library near Pasadena, Sunday I am seeing a friend, and then I am FINALLY having a massage. And it's going to be in the mid-80s (shorts weather... gulp...). This week has definitely called for a good weekend.

7. I bought an oil diffuser, finally. I don't really believe in the healing aspects, but I want something more natural to make my house smell lovely and whatnot. If anyone does know a magical combination for "makes everyone in the house sleep for ten hours straight without making a peep" I'll take it.

Eight Days a Week...

If there were eight days in a week (preferably the eighth day being an extra weekend day...) life would be so much easier. Granted I do start getting sort of technical about things- does that mean we'd have fewer weeks in a year? Or would years be longer? Can we do that, given the whole movement around the sun thing? Alas, you get the gist: if I had more time. 

The reason why I don't:

[oh, just the bird's eye view of a weekly to-do list]

If I had more time there are many, many things I'd love to do, some book-related. For example, I'd love to really be a Goodreads participant. I log much of my reading here, but it would be neat to be part of the community and to see the stats and whatnot at the end of the year.

I'd also love to start a blog Instagram account, for just book-related pictures and thoughts. Unlike my personal one, it could actually be public and I'd have the opportunity to interact with people on the more visual side of reading. Plus, what bibliophile wouldn't love an excuse to take my book-ish pictures?

If I had that extra time I'd finally order a huge piece of corkboard so I could mount the map I've had for a few years where I'd track how globally I was reading. I'd be able to choose a space and figure out a system. At that point I could properly chastise myself for not adequately expanding my horizons. 

I'd do more rereading! The other day I was talking to my students about Isabel Allende's House of the Spirits and it occurred to me how darn long it's been since I read it (1999, as a pre-IB sophomore in high school). While I do tend to lean towards the "life's too short to reread" sort of mentality, there are some titles I'd like to revisit. 

I would also start accepting review copies again, something I've basically stopped doing completely. It was of course fun getting free books, but I found myself feeling really guilty that I wasn't getting to galley copies in a timely manner. I'm a ruler follower (well, at least sometimes), and I also tend to lose motivation when I feel obligated to do something (at least this sort of thing). I liked reading first time-novelists and being able to post positive thoughts on their hard work. 

I also might consider some blog server or visual changes- maybe move to Wordpress and maybe pay a designer to do a facelift (this is what I did for this current look several years ago- it was affordable with a premade template and while I still love the current look, sometimes it's nice to have a fresh do, ya know?). 

Alas, there will never be eight days. Sure, eventually I will have more time, but for now I'll just keeping doing what I can. 

February Reviews

A little behind, but better late than never (please note that this is NOT what I tell my students when they try to turn in late work, haha)! February's reads:

The Wangs vs The World by Jade Chang
368 pages
Charles Wang loses it all in the recession and decides that he will move his wife, teenage daughter, and college-aged son cross-country (road trip style in the car they have to take back from the housekeeper, since they've lost everything else) to his adult daughter's home. Along their way there are serious moments and plenty of light-hearted ones. Each character has a great deal of baggage and we see how relationships change, grow, and how the family must come to terms with their new future. 

Verdict: I thought the first three-fourths of this book was darn near perfect in terms of pacing, the humor:serious ratio, and character development. The last quarter felt a little rushed and a tiny bit contrived, though. I think this will definitely make a lot of literary "beach" read lists this summer, since there is still a great deal of merit there, just a few rough edges.

Difficult Women by Roxane Gay
272 pages
This collection of short stories deals with pretty much every major "female" roadblock you could think of- miscarriage, abuse, heartbreak, and professional challenges. Gay's feminist lens lends a different sort of tone to the stories, though, and while the reader will still hemorrhage sympathy for many of the characters there's still a spirit of fight that permeates throughout.

Verdict: This book was heartbreaking and just plain hard to get through. Nonetheless, I am still glad I read it and find Gay's messaging important to the movement and times.

Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
120 pages
Angela Vicario has gotten married, but she forgot something sort of crucial: to tell her finance that she has lost her virginity. Oops! Given the culture and times, he's pretty mad and returns her home on their wedding night. Angela's mom beats the crap out of her and her brothers demand the name of the man that stole her purity. They then proceed to murder the poor guy, a fact we learn within  the first few pages of the novella. Touches of magical realism, a non-linear format, and rich Latin American cultural elements make this book true Marquez. 

Verdict: This is the fourth time I've read this book (once in high school and now teaching it for the third time) and I still love it. If you haven't read his other books and have "always meant to," this is a great Marquez book to test the waters with.

The Clothing of Books by Jhumpa Lahiri 
80 pages
This lengthy essay turned paperback talks about Lahiri's relationship with book covers. She muses about her experiences as a child wearing a uniform, the role of the cover, and her own books.

Verdict: This quick read was insightful and interesting. Lahiri turns something that some people may not think much about into a something digestible and thought-provoking. She also adds a great deal of depth to the subject that I personally hadn't anticipated or considered. 

840 pages 

March, Plus February, Revisited

Good god, this month went by quickly! For those who are new, I touch bases at the end of the month to see if I met my monthly goals and set a few for the next month. Here's how I did:

1. Be 10k Ready: Honestly, I don't know. I ran a lot more than normal this month, but towards the middle of February I had some back and hip pain (still have the hip issue...) so I had to scale back a little. Tuesay I did 2.5 miles, yesterday 4, tomorrow 2.5, and then Sunday I am supposed to run a 10k in Redlands. EVERY SINGLE morning when I wake up I decide to scale back to the 5k (or not go at all) but then by the end of the day I come back around. We'll see. Is my sleepy self onto something or is just a lazy SOB?

2. Friendly Thoughtfulness: Yes! Sawyer decorated six Valentine's Day cards for friends and family members, I sent a package to a friend who just had a baby, and today I FINALLY went to the post office to send off another package to a fellow blogger, who had her baby like five years ago (okay, not quite). I loved getting Sawyer involved and I foresee some Easter cards in the near future.

3. 50 blog comments: No. I definitely made an effort to comment more, but I probably did maybe half of what I intended. This will be back on my list for March. I am determined!

4. Catch up on grading: Yup! My grading calendar continues to hold me responsible and keep me a tiny bit more sane. 

5. Picture-related tasks: Yes! I finally uploaded my pictures from my phone to my laptop and ordered some prints for frames around the house.

Now, for March... 

1. Finish book club in a timely manner: I always finish the morning of and while I do like the book fresh in my head, I am aiming for maybe a WHOLE day in advance this time so I can let things sort of percolate. 

2. Blogging comments take 2: 50 comments in one month. I need to keep track to make it happen, I think.

3. Adulting Nonsense: I need some maintenance on my car done, to send in student loan forgiveness (not all of it.... I wish) paperwork, and go to the doctor for my hip.

4. Look into... learning: I feel a little intellectually stunted lately. I need to look into Skillshare, watch some more documentaries, buy a textbook, something. 

5. Strength training: Basically I just want to work out my arms a tiny bit once in awhile so they don't look flabby when the weather is warm and I wear tank tops.   

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

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1. Mom and I had a great time in Vegas over the weekend. Cher was fabulous at 70, the Milk Bar cookies amazing, and my ability to still drink still sorta there. It was such a quick trip and the Cosmopolitan was amazing- probably too cool for us (at least after 12 am) and Rao at Caesar's Palace was delicious (I highly recommend it if you want to splurge on some Italian food). The only problem was that it was tough to get home Sunday afternoon, rush around to do what had to be done, and then go to work Monday morning. That's what getting old does to you. 

2. I have very little planned right now for March- I'm not sure to take this as a month "full of possibilities" or "a month that ends up being boring AF and leaves me too often contemplating the meaning of life." TBD. 

3. Am I the only person that gets ridiculously freezing when tired? By like 9:45 or 10 I am practically shivering, no matter what. 

3. The other day three new books arrived in the mail- a cross stitching one, A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, and our book club book, After the Parade by Lori Ostlund. It never gets old, getting new books. Even when I would drop hundreds of dollars at the student store on textbooks in college I still loved it. But, then again, I was the six-year-old who took every spare dollar she had to school to spend on the Scholastic book orders (I am so excited that Sawyer's preschool has them next fall).  

4. My husband and I had an interesting conversation about closure recently, when he remarked that I was dwelling on some things that happened over the past few years that I may never have any sense of finality about. He said that it was like the independent films he makes me watch, and how they have no real endings. My snotty response was, "my dad killed himself when I was fourteen and I am over that, I know that some things don't provide closure, okay? And I don't really like those movies, so yeah." I mean I definitely said it with lighthearted undertones, but it's fascinating the things in life that just goad at you. Like hypothetically (knock on wood and all that jazz) my car could need a major repair and I'd be like "damn it, that sucks, but that's part of owning a car and thank goodness I have good job to pay for it" but then I lose twenty bucks and am super pissed. 

5. I want a Little Free Library for my classroom- like a real one, not just a shelf. I looked up them on the site and also on Etsy and HOT DAMN are they expensive. My options: commission the wood shop teacher, commission my grandpa, buy like a secondhand cabinet and stare at it with the hope that some sort of DIY genie will make it over for me, or not do anything at all. I have a lot of readers this year and I have noticed the kids share books, so I think they might be into it. 

6. I entered the Half Dome Lottery this morning to hike up the cables this summer. I have done it twice before and have learned a lot of lessons- I think the third time really would be a charm. If I do win I have to decide who to take with me. My brother is my first option, but he might be busy with training, my two friends who I went with before are now married and expecting a new baby soon, my husband hates heights, and many of my other friends either have little kids or aren't into nature. Or strenuous activity. Realistically, though, first things first- waiting until April to see if I "win."

7. I finished listening to My Year of Running Dangerously by Tom Foreman and really, really enjoyed it. I am running a lot more lately (see #8) and it was just what I needed to be inspired. I downloaded The Woman in Cabin 10 on the way back from Vegas because I figured it was something my mom might be interested in, and also a book I heard good things about but wasn't so sure about reading. So far it's a great listen! Mysteries tend to lend themselves well towards audiobooks, I think, and the narrator's accents are great. Or maybe so bad they're good? I can't figure it out, but nonetheless I probably two hours in and am happy I went with it.

8. I am supposed to run a 10k on Sunday and am having mixed feelings about it. First of all, my hip sucks. It doesn't hurt while running, though, so that is helpful. Secondly, I am effing tired and I don't know if I want to wake up at like 5:15 on a Sunday morning to drive out to Redlands, pick up my packet, and wait for the race to start. And lastly I am probably a tiny bit undertrained right now for 6.2 miles (#embarrassing). I did four tonight and I really struggled, although that is in part due to having been on the go for basically ten days straight. My cousin always has said the 10k is a strange distance and I should have remembered that. I just wanted more of a challenge than a 5k and am not considering halves right now...  But it is paid for, they're giving out medals, the weather should be good, it's a few hours to myself between driving and running, and the give you a long time to finish.

This wasn't helpful. I am still torn.