Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

One of our school groups is having a toiletries drive for a local homeless shelter and my students were in charge of bringing shampoo and conditioner. They decided it was too much trouble to bring the supplies themselves and just collected money for me to do it. I have no problem at all doing it, especially since I have to stop off at the store for something during the week anyway, but I just found the whole things amusing.

Sawyer and I are going to Yosemite next week for three nights, as we always do during spring break, but the weather has been really unpredictable. I’ve been watching the forecast like a hawk and changed our reservations but a few days, but then back to the original ones. All of this changing ended up in some huge changes price wise, which I really debated about paying, but since this might be our last trip out of the area for awhile I decided to just do it. On a whim last night I decided to write their customer service department, explain the issues and they kindly reverted all the charges back to the original ones, saving me a few hundred dollars. It was a good lesson- sometimes you just need to very nicely ask. The Tenaya Lodge is fantastic if anyone ever visits the area.

Sawyer has a performance at his school on Friday and has been practicing the songs for weeks and weeks. He is so excited and his classroom looks amazing, yet I am terrified that my little mischievous social butterfly will go rogue and, like start moshing with his friends to “In the Jungle.” I’ve already planted the seed of ice cream afterwards if it all goes well, so hopefully my subtle bribing (which will probably become less subtle as we get closer) will work.

I’m reading Zadie Smith’s Swing Time right now and it’s so different from everything else I’ve read by her. It’s just so… accessible. She’s usually an author I really have to concentrate on, but not this novel. I don’t dislike it, but it’s just such a departure from On Beauty and other essays I’ve read by her.

I tend to listen to more audiobooks than Podcasts, but I’m waiting on my Audible Credit right now (I need to go get a library card so that I can actually just use the library for more audiobooks…), so I finished listening to the Elizabeth Holmes one, The Drop Out (crazy!) and have been listening to the episode of The Armchair Expert with Gwyneth Paltrow. I know people love to hate her, but she’s really intelligent, articulate, and she’s said a lot about things like control, fear, and parenting that have really resonated with me. Sorrynotsorry.

Long ranty story short, I have paid on my federal student loans for twelve years without ever missing a payment, but because of how I consolidated I will not be eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. I have no issues with loans or taking them out; I borrowed responsibly, I knew this was part of the process, and I have about 25% of the original balance left. I’m upset by how ridiculous the government is being and how loans that would be eligible under one condition aren’t in a slightly different one.

Over the weekend Sawyer and I went to UCLA to see their last home gymnastics meet of the season and it was EPIC (and I’m not one to overuse that word). There were two girls who received scored of ten on floor exercise, including their viral sensation Kayla Ohashi. The head coach, “Miss Val,” was also celebrating her last home meet as she prepares to retire, so there was a huge celebration in her honor, complete with a dance routine performed by dozens of alumni gymnasts from the school. It was amazing, and, even better, only $12 per ticket! Afterwards we walked into Westwood so I could relive my glory days, getting cheap pizza from Lamonico’s and cookies from Diddy Riese. I can’t wait to go back next year!

When Book FOMO Strikes- Daisy Jones & The Six

Disclaimer: I am not a Taylor Jenkins Reid fan, nor to I dislike her. I have listened to one of two of her books and while entertained while driving around, I wasn't blown away by her writing chops, in terms of the construction of her prose, the development of her characters, or the plot lines. That being said, I think that we're all on the same page that she's not exactly striving for a Pulitzer or Nobel. She has a style and a genre, and she does well for herself. And again, as I said, I was entertained, but not impressed. So, when I first heard of Daisy Jones & The Six several months ago, I figured I'd probably listen to it as well, especially since the subject matter was intriguing. 

And then everyone started reading ARCs and I kept seeing it EVERYWHERE. 

Book FOMO is a real thing, and with the convenience of the Amazon app, badda-bing-badda-boom, that sucker was delivered to my house on release day. Raise your hand if your a big fat sucker.

So, I read it. And I have thoughts. 

First of all, I loved the Behind the Music feel- I adored the series back on VH1 back when I was in high school. They covered all the bands I grew up listening to with my mom- it was an hour of sex, drugs, rock and roll. The book is told in an interview format and has the same confessional tone, which I was a nice approach for Reid to take and I appreciated her originality. I do think this was slightly problematic, though, as it prevented a level of depth to some of the characters that I think could have been achieved with a more complex narrative line. I know, she just can't win. I'm sorry, this is just who I am. 

Something else that I liked was the clear Fleetwood Mac homage- Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham are clearly Billy and Daisy. There's enough originality, though, where it definitely didn't feel like a rip-off or an attempt at a biographic novel or anything. I do think that Reid could have done a better job making it feel more authentic to that time period, though. I just didn't feel a true commitment to dating her story (the format admittedly has something to do with this, though). 

Without giving anything away, I do think there were certain plot points that were pretty predictable and the end "twist" was a little anticlimactic (but still a little endearing). 

I am excited about the series Reese Witherspoon's production company is going to develop eventually for this book. It is definitely one of those stories that I think would translate really well to the big screen or the small screen. 

If you love music from the seventies, the sort of confessional/interview format, or need a break in between heavier books, this is certainly the novel for you. It will probably make everyone's summer reads lists, for good reason. It's not going to be taught in college classes, but it's definitely fun read. 

The Most Awkward Author Event Ever- Ottessa Moshfegh

Last week I went to LA to see Ottessa Moshfegh in conversation with author Amanda Stern through the ALOUD program at the Central Library. I have read two of Moshfegh's novels, My Year of Rest and Relaxation and Eileen, both fascinating. It's always, always, always a treat to be able to sneak away for an evening, especially to see writers speak! 

Typically, I'd recount tidbits of wisdom from the author and how I was inspired, but you guys. This was the weirdest interaction I've ever seen between a writer and interviewer, and I've probably been to like 35 (or more) of these things. It was like watching a bad first date that makes you feel simultaneously uncomfortable and just totally sucks you in. The chemistry was just completely wrong and it felt like Stern didn't know how to compensate and Moshfegh was consciously refusing to do so. Stern would ask a long-winded question and Moshfegh would either answer shortly or bluntly say, "what did you say?" At first I thought it was a microphone issue, but it was just... her. The questions weren't fabulous and the answers were terse and brief. A few times the pauses were so awkward and long that I thought one of them (money on Moshfegh) would walk off stage. The audience Q & A was so much better- the author was much more kind, elaborated, and seemed more relaxed. 

It was a really interesting experience, but, frankly, I was disappointed in Moshfegh. She's done these before! Could she not just take control and offer some anecdotes or just extend her answers by a few sentences? I know that there is likely more to the story- she was having a bad day personally, she was really nervous, she has issues with Stern, she wasn't feeling well, she hates book tours, etc... But, man. I drove over 90 minutes to get there, on a work night, had to battle downtown LA rush hour traffic, and paid to park. I had a hunch she was going to be quirky and intellectual, but cold, quiet and borderline rude I was not prepared for. 

I ran into a man as I was leaving in the parking garage who had also gone, and he said the same thing! It wasn't just me! I don't regret going and am still a fan of her writing, I just wasn't super impressed. I would actually really like to attend another event with her, just to see if the outcome was the same. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

1. So, I read Daisy Jones and the Six and have some thoughts. I am hoping to get a post up on Friday about it. Spoiler alert: all I want to listen to is Fleetwood Mac now.

2. I try not to go to Starbucks often, but we stopped by the other day and Sawyer was appalled that they didn't write my name correctly on the cup. They actually did, but it was "Christine" not "M-O-M" like he expected. 

3. Speaking of cute kid things, he now calls hugs "llama squeezes" which is basically the most adorable phrase ever. I'm sure it will be short-lived, the term, not the hugs, so I'm enjoying it while it lasts.

4. I'm a big Strumbellas fan, so I was super psyched to get tickets for a small venue they'll be at in May, for only $25 a pop. I haven't paid that little for concert tickets since seeing Blink-182 when they did the MTV $1 tour in like 2002. 

5. I also picked up panel passes for the LA Times Festival of Books and my friends and I are going to see Tommy Orange, Susan Orlean, Tayari Jones, and a panel with some authors like Janet Fitch. It will be one packed day of bouncing from lecture hall to lecture hall, but it will be totally worth it.

6. Last night I went to the Ottessa Moshfegh event at the LA Public Library and it was.... weird. A post on that soon.

7. Last weekend my mom, brother, Sawyer, and I went to a new-to-us nature preserve for a 5 mile hike. It's only about thirty minute away from my house, so I was pretty mad at myself for not knowing it existed until recently. It was so beautiful, the trails were totally manageable difficulty-wise, and there was plenty of trailhead parking. We also went to an awesome donut place, called Donut Bar, which I have been fantasizing about since then. 

8. This weekend we are off to a UCLA gymnastics meet, a first for me, despite attending the school for four years. Tickets are crazy cheap (I almost feel bad) and the weather is supposed to be amazing, so we'll be able to roam around campus beforehand (this is strategic on my part, it's always nice to see my old-stomping grounds, but it will also be nice to get some of Sawyer's energy out before sitting). 

Super Bloom!

The other day, on a whim, after an incredibly long day, I decided that Sawyer and I would detour twenty minutes south to see the Super Bloom of poppies that certain areas of Southern California are experiencing right now because of all the rain we've gotten this season. I had on my dress clothes for work, plus a pair of very flimsy flats, but we hiked up a pretty big hill and back down to see the amazing little pocket of nature that could disappear within the next few weeks. I wanted to avoid the weekend crowds, since I hear weekends are crazy with thousands of visitors. 

[Walker Canyon, Lake Elsinore, CA]

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Three things about food. The first is that I am really considering the hassle that these donut recipes are. I have been pretty steadfast in my desire to NEVER make donuts, but these might change my mind.

My coworker made the famous NY Times chocolate chip cookies that have to chill for 24-hours and they were delicious. I have resisted these because of having to plan a day in advance, but I now know they’re worth it.

I have been in a dinner rut, constantly feeling like I’m just assembling meals, rather than truly cooking. I made pasta from scratch on Sunday night, something I haven’t done in probably six years, since it’s a huge hassle. It was totally worth it, though, since it ended up close to perfect, and was clearly a great workout since my arms were killing me the next day after so much kneading.

Next week I get to go to the Ottessa Moshfegh reading at the LA Public Library, which I’m really excited about. Her books are so quirky- I can’t wait to see what she is like.

I started Daisy Jones & The Six today and am about 60 pages in. Basically, it’s like reading a novel version of vH-1’s Behind the Music, which I am enjoying. I don’t think that Taylor Jenkin Reid is an amazing writer in terms of her prose, but I am enjoying the style and format so far. It will definitely make everyone’ beach read lists for the summer, I’m sure.

Please don’t tell my husband, but I desperately want to put wallpaper up in my house. Not everywhere, just in like one room, and only like one wall. Wallpaper is so different than it used to be- the modern designs are more like art, as opposed to the floral borders of a few decades ago.

I’m sort of obsessed with the idea of getting one of those desk cycles for my desk at work, for when I’m grading during my prep. Obviously it would be great to burn a few calories while I’m sitting there, but my room is FREEZING and I’ve read that people in cold offices warm up this way.

I have jury duty summons for this week and have had to call in every day to see if I have to go in and it’s been a huge pain, since I have to prep sub plans before leaving work each day in case I have to go in the following day. I swear, 50% of the people who I have talked to about this just toss their summons! I’m too scared to!

This weekend starts a series of busy a few busy weekends for Sawyer and I. Saturday morning I have a hair appointment (I love going to see my stylist- two hours where I get to chat with an old friend, with a short break in the middle where I get to read while my color is setting under the dryer), then I’m having lunch with my cousin, and then my mom comes into town. If the weather holds up on Sunday we will hopefully go hiking. Always working for the weekend….

When Reading and Embroidery Collide

If you’ve been around for the past few months you’ll have noticed that I’ve taken up embroidery with gusto. Recently, I started a new bookish embroidery project that will span the entire year, thanks to some inspiration from a fellow stitcher, Amanda, whom you can find on Insta at @americanroseemrboidery. She stitches a symbol from whatever book she’s just finished on one big hoop, which I thought was a simple, visual way to track what has been read, all the while combining two hobbies at once. I’ll probably post my updates once a month, but I had to play catch up in February, since was a little late to the party. I can’t wait to see where this goes (and whether or not I can space and size things so that it looks full, but not too full, by the end of 2019!

[follow along on Instagram! @daily_floss_]

zzz: The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker
trees: The Overstory by Richard Powers
bug: The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
city/thermometer: Severance by Ming La
happy face: Watchman by Alan Moore
bench: Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday
?: Motherhood by Sheila Heti
South African flag: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
scales: The Truth We Hold by Kamala Harris
stick figures: The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani
record: The Leavers by Lisa Ko
rock climber: Alone on the Wall by Alex Honnold
pregnant mom: The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson

(I love that the pregnant lady kind of looks like she’s wearing a body-con dress- one hot mama!)

Tell me! Have you done any cool projects with your books before? Julie has, that’s for sure!

February Reviews

Good riddance February! Please take your cold, your rain, your home repair issues, your bad moods, and your sickness and GET THE EFF OUT OF MY LIFE. 

But this is supposed to be about books. 

One bright spot was getting five books out off my TBR stack, two nonfiction, and three novels. The first was a total beast, The Overstory by Richard Powers. I have a definite thing for trees, but had been holding onto this one for the right time to start a 500 page book- apparently I decided for some reason February would be the month. I wrote about the book more here, but I will repeat the fact that I absolutely loved it. The whole package was there- amazing writing, a profound message, and a depth to the characters that many contemporary writers struggle with. 

The two nonfiction texts I read were Born a Crime by Trevor Noah and Alone onf the Wall by Alex Honnold (with David Roberts). Several of my students had read the Noah book for outside reading and I had been meaning to for a long time, so the timing was perfect. I loved his combination of South African/Apartheid history, family anecdotes, and emotion. Honnold's book was definitely my sort of thing- he chronicled his rock climbing feats all over the world, which led him to free solo (as in no ropes) El Capitan in my beloved Yosemite. Free Solo, the Oscar-winning documentary was awesome too. 

While maybe not completely autobiographical, Sheila Heti's Motherhood definitely felt more like a memoir than fiction. I really, really want to do a follow-up post on this book while it's still fresh in my mind, but we'll see. Basically the story is about her obsessing whether or not to have a child, constantly weighting the pros and cons, while battling her monthly reproductive cycle and dealing with her boyfriend. It's definitely not a book for everyone; I can see many being quite annoyed by her, while others struggling with the narrative structure. I definitely appreciate and respect this book, but I can't simply say if I like or dislike it (yup, I've talked myself into a post).

Finally, I ended the month with Ling Ma's Severance, which ended up being a slight disappointment, but I think that was more a problem with my expectations. I can definitely label it "good," but just not "great" (it's 100% perfect for beach reads or airplane terminal waiting). The novel takes place after the Shen Fever has basically wiped out everyone, although not Candace and her small group of travelers that are making their way from NYC to Chicago. The story tells of the present, the recent past, and also the very distant path. I think the narrative structure was definitely the most sophisticated aspect of the text, the depth of characters and the development of the plot had some issues that bothered me a tad. I did appreciate the books examination of materialism, as well as group dynamics. If you're a fan of dystopian literature you'll really enjoy it.

That's it!

1,653 pages

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

[alas, no snow days were called]

1. I just finished Severance by Ling Ma, and I thought it wasn't quite as good as the hype. It wasn't poor by any means, and I'll discuss my thoughts more in detail on my monthly review post, but still not as good as say, Station Eleven

2. It snowed last week here in Southern California- seriously. We live in Corona, which is basically between LA and Palm Springs, not a place known for snow. My house sits atop a hill and I'm at about 1100 feet above sea level- and it snowed in our backyard. I don't know how you people who actually have the white stuff on the ground for more than a day live. 

3. It bothers my that so many people are saying Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper have slept together, after their Oscar's performance. It shouldn't, as I don't know either of them, but it's just so unfortunate that two actors can't showcase their talent without that sort of speculation. Clearly my skin would never be thick enough for the limelight.

4. Things are just starting to settle down in our house after a few days of unfortunate events. Saturday morning our smoke detectors started going off again, at 5:45 (I vented about this happening last week last Wednesday). I drove like a bat-out-of-hell to the grocery store, bought $40 worth of batteries and my husband and I replaced EVERY single one in the house. It didn't work (and again, they weren't chirping, they were ALL going off like there was a fire) and the alarm company tried to troubleshoot us for an hour. Finally we started yanking them off the wires and that did the trick. Later that day our water heater went out. Sunday morning our carbon monoxide detector went off at 6:30 in the morning, which was very unnerving, considering I thought maybe something with the water heater was, ya know, POISONING us. Long story short, I bought new ones and later in the day we learned that the old one is programmed to "commit suicide" at seven years. Let's just say things were tense in our house.... Monday things started getting better- the plumber gave us a good deal on the new water heater and yesterday the alarm company fixed the detector issue for free.

5. I feel like an asshole complaining about these things, but I also really had a shitty weekend. Yes, my house didn't burn down or fill with a murderous gas. I had money saved for repairs. Sawyer's bronchitis got better. But still, I was on edge for various reasons for forty-eight hours straight and I also was getting sick myself. It should be okay sometimes to feel temporarily bad for yourself, right? I don't want to be a spoiled brat, but I also want to let myself feel things.

6. Sawyer and his friend at preschool decided they wanted a playdate, which I had no clue how to organize. I ended up leaving her mom a note in the office with my number, which I felt silly doing but was reassured was normal. The mom texted me and we're taking the kids painting on Saturday. This is a little outside of my comfort zone- I am very social, but with people I know. I am fully aware that part of the deal with having an only child is giving them time to socialize, though, so off we go.

7. Besides the above outing, this is our last slow weekend for awhile. I'm thankful. I feel like things have been a little monotonous and I've had major cabin fever because of our blizzard-like conditions (kidding, kidding, but it has been cold and rainy). I just want a few weeks of everyone being healthy and happy around here. 


5- The Last Things I’ve Read
1. Student prequels to The Metamorphosis
2. Work emails 
3. An article from The New Yorker on Sheila Heti’s Motherhood
4. A few pages of Severance, by Ling Ma, at lunch
5. An article on the Serena Williams Nike commercial 

4- Things I Want to Embroider
1. A treehouse
2. A rose bouquet for my mom, at her request
3. Another RBG design
4. A leafy monogram of C&S, since everyone in my house has first names and last names that start with either letter (I have am CS and my husband Scott and son Sawyer are both SC)

3-Ways to Stay Sane on the Treadmill (that I’ve been using like crazy)
1. Save all Instagram stories for the day
2. Write out a plan and stick to it (minutes 1-6 run, 6-8 walk, 8-10 sprint, 10-20 incline walk, etc…)
3. Take a few breaks to lift weights or do core work

2-Preordered Books 
1. Daisy Jones and the 6 by Taylor Jenkins Reid
2. Margaret Atwood’s follow up to The Handmaid’s Tale, due out in the fall

1- I want more than anything
1. Twenty-four hours in a hotel room in the desert or mountains, alone. I desperately want to read and sleep (and sleep and read and read and sleep). This hotel will need a full spa and room service, too. Thanks.

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

I was home with a sick kid today, and while we were getting ready to go the doctor every single one of our smoke detectors went off today (they are wired together and I think we have eight) for over an hour, until a neighbor and I were able to solve the problem (it was so loud I could hear them in my car parked out front). I know this sounds dramatic, since there wasn't a fire, but that level of noise was traumatizing for me. Afterwards I had to take Sawyer to urgent care, since I had to cancel his actual pediatrician appointment, where we waited for over two hours to learn he had bronchitis. We then had to wait at the pharmacy. Afterwards, when my husband returned from a funeral I drove to work to teach my late class. My first inclination is to be really unhappy at what a crappy day it was, but after thinking about it, I'm trying to focus on the fact that I took care of shit. I figured out how to handle the the shrieking coming from every room in my house, I took care of my son's needs, I fulfilled professional obligations, and I still managed to cook dinner, get in a walk, and run to the store. Perspective. Also: I am SO tired.

I need to stop having really destructive, negative conversations with people in my head. I’m pretty sure that this is something that I’ve always done, but it’s gotten infinitely worse lately and isn’t helping any or anything. I guess I’ve always figured this sort of behavior is at least a little bit cathartic, and I still think it can be to a point. But it’s also emotionally draining and inherently unproductive.

I typically don’t read Taylor Jenkin Reid’s books (although I have listened to one or two), but the subject matter for Daisy Jones & the Six is just too tempting. I’m looking forward to it, especially after some heavier titles this month.

Speaking of which, I’m reading Motherhood by Sheila Heti and I have mixed feelings. Part of me totally understands her impressively conflicted feelings on whether or not to have a child, but part of me is a little annoyed with her excessive ruminations on something that has been since the dawn of time.

I can’t embroider fast enough to keep up with my ideas- it’s a wonderful combination of awesome and frustrating. I was telling a friend the other day that I’ve never really considered myself an artistic or creative person, but now I feel like I’ve found a sort of outlet where I can be and it’s nice. Feel free to follow my Instagram account for my progress @daily_floss_

The guy who did my tree tattoo did Lady Gaga’s newest one, so on the off change I wanted another one in the future I’d have to book him a year out and be prepared to pay even more than I did last time. Because I know he’ll be so unavailable I, of course, sort of want another one now. Ugh. I hate myself.

We got our taxes done and our return will be like 25% less than normal, a combination of the reduced payroll deductions and the new tax code. I knew going into the appointment what our numbers were looking like, but I really feel bad for people who feel gob smacked by the whole thing. Most people are still paying the same, or less, in taxes, but the government did a horrible job of trying to educate people during the year on the changes.  

Looking Ahead: Spring

I have had a rough time with feeling consistently unmotivated and excited about life the past two months. There are a lot of factors involved, some of which include the post-holidays blues and the horrible weather we've been having. The nice thing is that I know what my issues are- nothing is worse than when you feel like crap and you can't quite put a finger on it. One of my go-to strategies when I have that ennui kind of feeling is to make plans and have things to look forward to. So that now that spring is sort of on the horizon, I'm looking at March and April and planning some things to put some pep back in my step. I thought I'd share in case you too are trying to beat those ever-so-common late winters blahs:

A trip to a museum- There is an awesome new exhibit at The Broad featuring art from The Black Power movement, so I'm going to book tickets for Sawyer and I ASAP. He's never been and there's some really cool modern art in their main galleries that he will love (and we might even take the train!). This is also a great option if the weather is less than stellar. 

A sporting event- I have been wanting to get to a UCLA gymnastics meet ever since Katelyn Ohashi scored a 10 on her floor routine (and now another gymnast got one on the vault!) and it's so ridiculously cheap- only $12! They have two meets at home next month, so we'll be going to one.

Self-Care- I really, really hate that term, but I guess it is what it is (I hate that phrase too). I desperately need my hair cut and colored and love taking a few hours to sit at the salon and catch up with my friend who does my hair. 

Book-Related Activities- I am going to the Otessa Moshfegh reading in a few weeks and then the LA Times Festival of Books at USC is in April. 

Get Out of Town- I currently have three nights books in Yosemite over spring break, which we do every year. I am a little concerned that the snow might be a problem, but I've already decided if I have to cancel Yosemite I'll rebook for somewhere else on the coast or something (Sawyer has never been to Monterrey or Big Sur, so maybe we'll go out that way if we have to). 

Meet up with friends- Spending times with my friends makes me so much happier. I love the people I have chosen to spend my time with! I try to make plans to meet up with girlfriends at least twice a month, even if it's just for a walking date. And lucky for me, one of my best friends teaches in the class next to me, so we have lunch several days a week together. 

Go outside- I am looking forward to more walks outside, time at the park, and maybe even some time playing on the beach if it gets warm enough in April! 

Celebrate!- We are lucky to have Sawyer's birthday to give us an excuse to celebrate in April, but there's Easter as well. I think we will maybe try to go to LEGO Land for his fifth birthday, since he's obsessed with them. Our annual IB Celebration is also at the end of April, which is one of my favorite events of the school year. 

Go Shopping- I've been hoarding an Antho gift card for spring/summer clothes that I'll finally spend. Everyone needs at least one new article of clothing when the weather turns! 

Five Reasons Why You Should Read The Overstory

You guys know it takes a lot for me to devote an actual post to just one book- it has to be just that special. And Richard Powers' The Overstory definitely was, despite my trepidation over the length (over five hundred pages) and the hype. I read this over the course of like two weeks, so I feel like it was truly a reading experience- the slow speed really gave me time to linger and muse about the plot when I wasn't reading. Here's five reasons why you should read it:

The Characters: There are seven(ish) different main characters in the text, which is admittedly a lot. There's plenty of room for Powers to develop them, though, giving them unique personalities, motivations, and struggles. 

The Subject Matter: Trees! What? Are you not in love with trees like I am? There's more to it, though, including the environment, different types of relationships, radical environmentalists, loss, and life.

The Writing: I read another one of Powers' books back in college (Gain) and remembering I liked it, but I really feel like he may be one of the sort of secret treasures that for some reason we aren't singing the praises of like we should be. His prose is this wonderful combination of nature, flowing syntax, crafted descriptions, and emotion. 

The Interwoven Aspect: The premise of this book is how trees communicate, but it's also how we has humans communicate, with each other, ourselves, and with nature. The root metaphor becomes such a connective force between the different characters and the tree element itself. 

The Overall Message: We are destroying out planet, no ifs, ands, ors, or buts. We are destroying so much more than just trees when we destroy forests and eventually Earth will suffer because of it.  

A Visit to Vromans, Plus Adding to the Wish List

The other day I was meeting a friend near Pasadena for lunch and decided I'd use the occasion to finally visit Vroman's, a popular LA-area independent bookstore. I've been to Skylight, Book Soup, and The Last Bookstore, but whenever I'm near Pasadena it's for something super specific and doesn't lend itself to bookstore browsing. This seems pretty tragic now that I've been- it was definitely a "why have I waited so long?" moment. Needless to say, I was completely won over by the place and quickly deemed it the best bookstore I've been to (besides the ones listed above, in terms of "famous" bookstores, I've been to The Strand, but not yet to Powells). 

I think what I liked about it most was the size- it was large, but not daunting (like The Strand). Quality literature was clearly the focus- there weren't tables and displays devoted to mass-market writers, which I actually don't even remember seeing any of. My favorite feature was their staff recommendation wall, which was impressively large, as opposed to the few shelves you'd see somewhere like Barnes and Noble. There were sections for basically every category you could think of, plus half of the upstairs section was devoted to children's books, along with a space for story time and readings. 

You could tell the sales people were incredibly knowledgable and EVERY time I heard someone ask them a question the associate would walk them to where the answer was, as opposed to just sort of pointing in the general direction. I could feel the literary love, that's for sure. At one point I texted my friend that I was moving in (to which she instructed me to set up a homestead in the fiction section, where she'd join me). It just felt like what a bookstore should feel like- comfortable, inviting, and fascinating. 

I of course instantly started a list of books to look into later as soon as I walked in (I did leave with buying a book for myself and one of Sawyer, of course... I felt happily obligated). Here's some of the titles that Vroman's inspired:

The Ballad of Huck and Miguel by Tim DeRoche

The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai 

Little Culinary Triumphs by Pascale Pujol

When Death Becomes Life: Notes from a Transplant Surgeon by Joshua Mezrich

Such Good Work by Johannes Lichtman 

The Spirit of Science Fiction by Roberto Bolano

Putney by Sofka Zinovieff

If You See Me, Don't Say Hi by Neel Patel 

The Lonesome Bodybuilder by Yukiko Motoya

I can't wait to go back! 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

1. I'm pretty excited that I have the opportunity to go see Ottessa Moshfegh next month through the LA Public Library's ALOUD program. It's on a Tuesday during what is sure to be a crazy week (parent-teacher conferences), but I'll survive. I've read her two novels and picked up her short story collection today, so I feel ready (ha). 

2. I just finished rock climber Alex Honnold's book, Alone on the Wall, and Scott and I watched his documentary Free Solo the other night. The guy is incredible! I can't imagine climbing securely harnessed at climbing gym, let alone traversing El Capitan without any sort of safety gear. 

3. I try to ask Sawyer a silly question or two every night when we I put him to bed ("what super power do you wish you had?" or "if you could only eat one food for the rest of your life what would it be?") and finally bought one of those "question a day" books for kids, where you record their answers for three years. I actually had one I did for over two years, but then I had Sawyer and my entire nighttime routine was RUINED and I quit. It was so fun to see what previous year's answers were, so I think seeing how he changes will be great.

4. I just finished listening to The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo and it was pretty... fluffy (as I knew it would be). I need mindless entertainment when I drive, though, so I guess in a way it was perfect. I will say that the ending was lacking big time. 

5. I am off this week and I swear I am more tired than when I am working. This always happens! I stay up too late and then wake up at basically the same time, since Sawyer is such an early-bird. 

6. I have been so lucky to have three lunch dates with friends this week, and have one more with my cousin on Friday. I was also able to see my grandpa last weekend, so I feel vey warm and fuzzy from all of this positive social energy. 

7. This cake is happening asap (although maybe as cupcakes). 

A Really Long, Semi- Anti-Climatic, Story About a Terrifying Book

Sawyer's preschool runs a cute, awesome, little program every winter, where the kids have to read ten books at home, write the info on snowballs, and bring them in to put on a class snowman bulletin board. When they’re done they get a hot chocolate and cookie party and every kid gets the same free book. This year it was A Bad Case of Stripes, by David Shannon, about a girl who turns colors after denying her love of lima beans (or something like that).

So on Monday by son came home telling me that he was terrified of the “rainbow book” his teacher read to the class and that when he woke up it was IN HIS CUBBY. At the time I had no idea that they had actually done the activity yet, so I sort of blew him off and told him we would figure it out on Tuesday. When I went in I forgot to mention it, but when I picked him up the teachers told me what had happened with the distribution the previous day and that he wouldn’t even go up to his cubby until they took the book out, which they did, and nicely replaced it with a much less-threatening Clifford book, putting the Shannon book in their class library. Now that I knew what book it was, I informed my poor little child that we actually had the book at home as well, specifically in his room. He made me promise to get rid of it and mentioned it a few more times that night, that he was scared of the book.

Fast-forward to Tuesday night when I put him to bed. He would barely talk and eventually I managed to get him to tell me what was wrong- he wanted that book out and I had forgotten when we got home. I promptly rectified the situation and told him the book was safely in my room. I thought the issue was over. It was most definitely not.

An hour later, Sawyer woke up sweating and shaking from a bad dream, which he had had about that damn book. He said he’d never go in my room again, since the book was in there (I told him I’d take it to work so it was out of the house, which I did) and that he wanted me to talk to his teacher so that they could turn the book around in the classroom library so he wouldn’t have to see the girl’s face as he walked to his cubby every day. I said we would and he went back to sleep.

Wednesday, when I dropped him off that morning, I explained the bad dream and rest of the situation to his teacher and he and I went to the classroom library to TURN IT AROUND. It was missing, which, instead of being reassuring, bothered him even more because he was worried it would resurface unexpectedly. Luckily, it did not, and he was able to get through his day.

In almost five years of life, my son’s biggest fear has been a book. He has even gone so far as to muse that when he dies he won't have to see it anymore (with a sly grin, though, so I'm not exactly putting a therapist on speed-dial). 

The end.

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

I’ve started a public Instagram account for my embroidery, as I debate about whether I want to move it from a hobby to an Etsy shop. Come! Follow @daily_floss_ for works-in-progress and finished projects.

I am reading Richard Powers’ Overstory and it is absolutely amazing. I am a tiny bit biased, since I have a definite thing for trees, but his writing is stunning. I read one of his books back in college, and all I remember is that I liked it, but nothing more specific. I’m looking forward to getting into his catalog in the future.

This weekend my husband and I watched the documentary Meru on Netflix, about a group that climbed the Himalayan mountain with the same name. I am such a sucker for these kinds of stories, and I can’t wait to see Free Solo (my husband saw that last week and said was amazing). I actually just bought Alex Honnold’s memoir, which I am looking forward to reading first.

Speaking of movies, who’s going to see the new LEGO movie this weekend with 3948395783 children???? These are actually some of my favorite kid’s movies, so I’m sure it will be good. I’m just admittedly not a fan of going to the theater to see family films.

I went to the Elton John concert last year and it was incredible. He is by far one of the best performers I’ve ever seen live, if not the best. I can’t believe he’s in his seventies! He sounds like he did decades ago and still plays the piano with such intensity. He does move around a lot slower, thought, but who can blame him? The crowd spanned from people in their early twenties into senior-citizen territory and there were some great costumes. Also interesting to note is that I’ve never smelled that much pot at a concert in my life,  which I thought was particularly amusing. When we were done, we promptly wandered around The Forum parking lot for a really long time in a cold drizzle, since the venue is a perfect circle and even if you are really confident you know where you came in at you probably do not. Luckily my friend and I were happy to get some steps in, so it worked out. Also, I must note, that she and I have never been to a concert together and she was the best person ever for this event. 

We have a had a lot of rain, considering it’s Southern California, and it has really made me quite confident that I could never survive in somewhere like Seattle. It makes me feel so lethargic and depressed after a day or so. I don’t think I have SAD or anything like that, I just need that boost that sunshine provides.

I started the essay collection Can We All Be Feminists a few months ago, and my reading of it has stalled big time. And I mean “stalled” as in I only got through the introduction… I don’t even know why! I found myself highlighting and tabbing things in those first pages and thinking how great it was. I guess it’s a classic example of needing to be in the right mood for something, I guess. I am really going to try to commit to ten or so pages a day this month, though, so that I can finish it. I want to! It’ll be like my daily devotional or whatever, fired-up feminist style.

Sawyer is very slowly learning to read. I mean like BABY steps- we have been working on the _at and _it CVC patterns right now, just to practice learning how to sound out words. It’s so exciting and he is feels so proud of his success. We just sit down and do five minutes a night, so it’s not overwhelming and it’s been so fun seeing him transition. I have bought a few of those leveled readers as well, and I do the reading but we stop and sound out the easy words together, just to practice.

While essays are never exactly a joy to read (I initially typed “job,” haha), my students have been showing a lot growth in their literary analysis lately, which is so nice. I have been nagging them to expand their analysis and they’ve finally started connecting elements of style, say tone and diction, to elaborate, and, low-and-behold, it’s working. Scores are going up. While I love an amazing essay as much as the next English teacher, improvement is really where it’s at.