Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

A teacher on our campus has started running, so I’ve hooked her into running memoirs and it’s been so fun to pick ones out for her. I have a new one on ultra-running which I’m saving to read right before my half marathon, when I’m tapering and needing some motivation.

I’m watching the docu-series Cheer on Netflix while I run and it’s so good. I was never a cheerleader, but I have always had respect for the competitive teams, especially. The backstories on the kids often move me to tears (which is hard when running…) and I can’t wait to see how the team they’re focusing on does at Nationals. I have never been able to watch things while I run, so I’m hoping I’ve found a genre that works.

I have been considering letting my Audible account go into a suspension, just because I have been primarily listening to Podcasts lately. But, on the other hand, I was also thinking I could use my overflow credits to purchase the Harry Potter books, since I’ve started reading them with Sawyer and I could see them being fun for him to listen to in the car after we’ve read them together someday.

For outside reading my students have to read 800 extra pages of literature (fiction or nonfiction) a semester. I always require one of the books to be of a certain genre; this semester it will be either a collection of short stories or essays. The collective groan when I say “collection of essays” was comical. Challenge accepted: I can’t wait to bring in some samples to change their minds. They’re so used to their own essays and ones that are a little duller that they read for AP Lang before my class that they are definitely biased.

Last Friday we had a pipe start leaking in our living room ceiling. It was pretty stressful, but we lucked out, had some great referrals, and everything is back to normal. Now I just get to panic about every little noise I hear now (Drip? Creak? Kid? Imagination?) and wait for the next thing to go wrong (which actually technically has already happened, since we realized our sprinklers aren’t working, although outside things don’t cause me as much stress).

Tomorrow we are finishing up our sixteenth, and final, Sylvia Plath poem and I COULDN’T BE HAPPIER. I respect her writing immensely, think studying poetry is important, and even enjoy a few of her poems, but I am incredibly tired of teaching this. Give me novels any day.

Things have been a little quiet schedule-wise lately, but things are pretty busy this weekend- dinner with a friend, a playdate, and hopefully something outside on Monday (hiking or walking around the beach or something). My mood needs a bit of a boost, so I think some social time out of the house will be super helpful.

Teacher Tuesday- Getting Out of the House

Morning routines- I love them, I hate them. Teachers tend to start work quite early, since we're contractually done with the day mid-afternoon. Add in a kid to drop off? Even earlier. I wake up around 5:35 every day, am out the door by 6:40, and finally arrive, after dropping my son off, at work around 7:30. I hate getting up so early, so I have really worked hard to make my mornings as efficient as possible, and now that my son is five and I've been doing this for eons I think I finally have it down. Here's what has helped me:

Prep the night before- I do everything possible the night before. I usually work out after work, which means I shower in the evening, which helps a ton. I get my coffee ready to brew, lay out my clothes and Sawyer's, have everything that needs to go in the car ready by the table, and get as much of my lunch ready while cleaning up dinner.

I started setting my alarm two minutes earlier- Yup, two measly minutes. I began doing this a month or two ago and it makes me feel less a little rushed when I get myself ready, before Sawyer gets up at 6:08 (yup, his wake up was moved up two minutes earlier too).

Train the child- When Sawyer started kindergarten this year he was "gifted" an alarm clock and a strict new morning routine. When his alarm sounds he turns it off, makes his bed, and brings his clothes downstairs to change. I get him breakfast, he takes over his dishes, knows to put on his own shoes, etc... and then I just help him with his hair and teeth.

No social media until makeup/hair is done- Social media is basically the bane of efficiency. 

Earlier bedtime- I try to be asleep by 10:30 every night, since I am a really light sleeper and wake up many times a night (I lose about 45 minutes of sleep a night, according to my Fitbit). I attempt to be in bed by 10, but by the time my brain turns off it can be awhile. Logically, the better I sleep the easier the mornings are.

Check traffic before leaving- I live in Southern California and have to take two freeways to get to Sawyer's school and mine; there's no telling what's going on between traffic and construction. There are alternate routes, so if I have a plan before leaving I'm happier.

Nothing earth-shaking or incredibly innovative, but I can definitely say that all of these little things have made this school year's morning the easiest since having a kid! 

Promising 2020 Releases

2020 is shaping up to be a pretty intense year when it comes to book releases- I was floored to see how many authors who I’ve read and enjoyed have something new coming out this year (plus some that I am unfamiliar with but look interesting). Here’s a list of things on my radar:

Verge by Lidia Yuknavitch- This collection of short stories focus on people who are misunderstood; I anticipate being a bit uncomfortable as I read this, but sometimes we need to feel this way.

Weather by Jenny Offill- I read Dept of Speculation a few years ago and continue to often think about it. Clearly this new novel about a university librarian is a given for me.

Amnesty by Aravind Adiga- The author of the White Tiger brings us a novel that focuses on an undocumented worker in Australia who becomes involved in a complicated murder investigation.

Real Life by Brandon Taylor- I love that this complicated book about identity takes place in a weekend; I love when authors stretch themselves with time constraints and pacing.

The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich- I have sadly only read one of her books, The Round House, but I recognize her talent and the premise for this novel sounds fascinating.

So We Can Glow by Lessa Cross Smith- I love the focus on this short story collection is female desire; I think last year’s Three Women is going to catalyze a stronger, more popular, literary examination of this.

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel- Obviously.

Afterlife by Julia Alvarez- I’ll admit that I didn’t love How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, but I do recognize that she’s a talented writer. I love that her new novel focuses on a retired English professor (clearly a little autobiographic) and the challenges that face her personally and morally.

Death in Her Hands by Ottessa Moshfegh- Her books are definitely a little unconventional, but she’s hooked me with her unique prose.

All Adults Here by Emma Straub- I can already see this one being a great spring break or poolside read.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett- I really loved The Mothers, so I can’t wait to see what her sophomore efforts will entail.

Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell- My husband and I are huge Mitchell fans, so maybe we’ll do an in-house book club for his newest novel about a psychedelic band.

You Exist Too Much by Zaina Arafat- The title alone! The subject matter has to do with sexuality, race, and familial relations.

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi- I can’t to see what this novel, which sounds quite different than Homegoing, will pan out.

Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall- This focus on intersectionality and what “white feminism” has forgotten seems like a really important reminder for all of us.

Yellow Bird by Sierra Crane Murdoch- This nonfictional investigation about an oil worker’s disappearance springboards into a look at how the oil industry impacts Native lands.

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

195 pages later, I finished my 2019 year in review book and it arrived today. It's my favorite day of January!

Sawyer and I went to check out the Rose Parade floats last year for the third year in a row and I think they were the best yet. Going to the parade is probably a lot of fun, but it also seems like a bit of a nightmare, with all of the parking logistics. This way we get to see everything all at once and it’s fairly easy with the shuttles they have from a nearby City College.

I am obsessed with the podcast To Live and Die in LA, about the disappearance of a model/actress from Macedonia. Neil Strauss, the  man behind it, is actually super fascinating, based on my initial googling of him (my husband has one of his book’s so I probably should start there). Anyway, if you like mysteries, true crime, or just really well-done podcasts, this one is for you!

I love the beginning of the semester when the grading is really light and the kids aren’t panicking about grades or make up work. I get to just enjoy being a teacher! It’s short-lived, of course, but I enjoy it while it lasts. We’re finishing up Sylvia Plath poetry, which we’re all sick of, and then will move on to Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart next.

Half marathon training is kicking my butt. I am religiously sticking to one of Hal Higdon’s plans, which had me running seventeen miles last week and eighteen this week. I know I can’t really complain, since this is a decision I made and is completely optional, but dang, it’s hard to be a working mom and someone who needs to get in miles. The longer runs on the weekends are what kill me, since I’m fairly slow. I’ve decided that when this is over my plan will be simple: two two-mile runs, two three-mile runs, and one five-miler on the weekend. It’s still fifteen miles, but it’s spread out differently. Anything over six and a half is just a struggle right now. I’m sure I’ll be thankful on race day for all the prep, though!

My 2020 reading has been a little slow to start, which is totally fine. I am loving Karen Russel’s Swamplandia! and hope to finish it by the end of this weekend. Julie and I are planning another Blogger Banter with a Zadie Smith book next, so I’m excited for that! Sawyer and I have also started reading the illustrated Harry Potter, which is absolutely beautiful. It’s going to take forever, since we only read a few pages a night, but that’s okay. I told him when we’re done he can finally see the movie, so that’ll be fun too (confession: I own them all but I think I’ve only seen the first three).

I don’t think I mentioned it here, but I just want to publicly proclaim that I though the new Star Wars movie was a dumpster fire. I am enjoying The Mandelorian, though, on Disney+. How can you say no to The Kid (who I will probably always call Baby Yoda, but whatever). I preordered one of the toys from Amazon, which won’t arrive until June, so I’m sure that’ll be a fun surprise in six months when I forget about it.

Colum McCann is coming to town in March to promote his book! I saw him several years ago and really enjoyed his talk, so I am definitely going to try to go to this too. There are so many books coming out this year that I’m excited about, as well as books I recently got for Christmas/with gift cards. A post in and of itself, that’s for sure.

Every time I check Vox or CNN I hold my breath. It’s all bad, all the time, everywhere.

Teacher Tuesday: The Break is Over

It’s always hard returning from a vacation, no matter what profession you are in. Setting the alarm clock, commuting, getting little people ready to go in the morning (if you have them), dealing with colleagues, the return of deadlines, the whole shebang. Here are some things that I do as a teacher to help me return to the trenches:

Prep your return beforehand- I was so thankful when I returned yesterday that I had completely prepared for the first few days back. It’s so much easier to start back when you have all your copies made, your lessons planned, and post-its labeling everything (since you’ll inevitably forget).

Try not to take work home- This is easier said than done sometimes, but I find breaks so much more restful when I completely disconnect from work. I work really hard to get my grading and planning done so that none goes home with me. More often than not, when I do take work home on breaks it doesn’t get done, which makes me mad at myself and just sort of dampens the mood of the last day or two.

Plan something fun for the first post-work week weekend- I’m a big fan of weekend plans in general, but having something fun to look forward to when I’m getting back into the daily grind helps.

Caffeinate accordingly- Whatever you drink in the morning, double it. TRIPLE IT.

Commiserate with your students- My high school students don’t need Susie Sunshine on that first day back- they need me to acknowledge that we are all on the I Want to Be Back in Bed Bus together. That’s really something I try to do in general with my students- I admit when I don’t like a poem, agree with them that the week has been achingly long, or that we all have too much to do.

Tread lightly- Let’s be honest, the kids aren’t going to be ready to write an in-class essay after lollygagging about for a week or two. Of course plan something thoughtful, relevant, and engaging, but also know the capabilities of your audience.

Treat yourself after work- Maybe it’s a good podcast, a(nother) cup of coffee, takeout for dinner, trashy TV, whatever. You went back to work. You’ve earned it.