Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

1. I just reread this post about being socially-isolated for three months that I wrote last June and I laughed so hard at the "really toxic auras" comment. Oh, Christine of June 2020, it got worse. Ha! The whole post made me really, really thankful for what life is like right now. 

2. I am GOING ON A TRIP next month! Sawyer and I are going to Lake Tahoe for several (yes, SEVERAL) days and I couldn't be more excited. I don't want to fly with him until he is vaccinated, nor do I want to drive a million hours in the car, so Tahoe was a great choice. Probably 8-9 hours with stops, I can see my mom on the way, and it will be WAY cooler there than it is where I live. Plus green nature, as opposed to the dry brown vegetation I'm currently surrounded by. I am so, so, so thankful. Also, I need a break from my dog. 

3. I've been a reading machine in June- I think I've finished six books so far and will probably get another three or so done by the end of the month. Sawyer is in summer school in the mornings, so that has given me some uninterrupted time. Next month will be a lot busier but I'm still making a huge dent in my yearly goal.

4. I am continuously disappointed with Prime Day, year after year. 

5. So, I bought myself a reading couch for the master bedroom instead (in my defense, the chair I have is basically the opposite of ergonomically designed). It's being delivered in late July and I can't wait!

6. We had friends over for lunch and swimming yesterday and it was the best. Our kids are finally old enough to (mostly) just play so we can catch up. I have loved my son at all the various stages so far, but I love this delightful mix of "I can entertain myself" and "I still love my mom and want to snuggle with her on the couch" that seven brings (and hopefully eight and nine as well). 

7. I'm reading Louise Erdrich's newly-crowned Pulitzer Prize winner The Night Watchman and it's so good. We have our English Department monthly book club for it next week and I think it will be a good one to discuss. 

8. I was super excited to finally realize that my Down Dog Yoga app also includes their sister apps for Barre and Meditation in my monthly membership. I would like to attempt to meditate occasionally, just because I think we can all benefit from slowing down and taking a breath, but mostly I'm thrilled with the Barre component. I did a ten minute ab focused session today and I can tell this will definitely be a part of my fitness routine. 

9. I feel so bad for Britney Spears. 

10. I know I've mentioned this before, but my two sisters are both getting married and my brother's wife is expecting- I love seeing everyone's excitement and prep! 2021 has been (knock on wood) SO good to my household and many family members- there's just so much joy. I'm just so thankful.

11. My dog is making it her mission to befriend everyone on our walks over the age of fifty. She has so many old-people friends.

12. I recently had to go on the IRS website to change some information regarding the new Child Tax Credit, and MY GOD the process for getting an account for the website is a lot! You have to send in pictures of your driver's license, provide your SSN, authenticate your email, wait for a two-factor code, and swear on your mother's grave. It had to be done so we don't get dinged at tax time next year, so it was a necessary evil, but sheesh (now I just have to get my husband to do it, haha). The whole time I was worried that I was going to get rejected and have to prove myself to one of the scariest governmental entities. 

Shock Value

I don't consider myself someone who is shocked easily- I mean, I've been a public school teacher for like fifteen years, over a decade of which has been with high school students. That being said, there have been some notable moments as a reader where I've been pretty shocked, for various reasons, whether it be the context of the story, my age, or the extent of the vulgarity. 

My age, which directly corresponds to my naïveté, is of course something to be taken into consideration. I read John Grisham's A Time to Kill when I was probably eleven or twelve- I had absolutely no idea that people sexually assaulted children. I remember reading this on Christmas Eve, late at night while everyone was sleeping, the juxtaposition of this sad surprise and the gifts from "Santa" under the tree (I didn't still believe in him then, I wasn't that innocent) notable. A random mass market paperback that I believe was called Shank informed my very young self what a "glory hole" was in a prison- again, I was probably like eleven and had used my allowance money to buy this book at Wal-Mart. Lest us not forget Flowers in the Attic where I learned what incest was- are we seeing a theme with all of my young literary surprises? 

In college, my shock of a different variety; here the shock was the challenge. I read difficult texts in my IB program in high school, but I remember taking a Russian Literature class as a freshman and being blown away by the rhetoric that juniors and seniors were using to discuss Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy. I was also shocked by the sheer volume of reading I'd be forced to do in a week, something that sounds pretty darn wonderful now. 

As an fully-cooked adult, true bookish shocks are few and far between. Chuck Palahniuk definitely comes to mind, one of his short stories about a young man who loses one of his most dear appendages to a pool vacuum being one such example. I haven't read much of Palahniuk's recent works, but I remember grappling with this idea when I read him- when does shock move from a strategic tool to a gimmick? He constantly towed the line, sometimes crossing over, sometimes being strategic and brilliant.  

Over the weekend I read Lisa Taddeo's newest release, her novel Animal, and I felt similar. As a whole I thought it was excellent; her examination of a severely damaged woman's psyche captivated me from the first page. By the end, the shock value had been laid on a little thick though, including the scene outside at the end (I don't want to spoil it). Her use of this device has range, though, and isn't all coming from a place of purely gore. We're floored by her financial decisions, her use of men, her reactions, her emotions, her sexuality, honesty, physicality, and background. The shocks are meant to unsettle you and force you to actively decide whether you will be judgmental or empathetic.

As a whole, I see shock the same way as I see most of other technique a writer uses; it has to be done well to be effective. If the placement doesn't pack a punch the impact will be negligible, while too much comes off as immature and cheap. I think Taddeo, while laying on a little thick at times, still manages to end up ahead. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Me, every day.

Next week is pretty busy, so this week I've forced myself to not make any official plans Monday-Friday. Honestly, it's been really great. Basically, each day is spent having a few hours to myself while Sawyer's at summer school and my husband is working, and then after I pick the kid up at noon the rest of the day is me alternating between spending time with him, reading, and doing whatever else I want. It's so much easier to wrap my brain around being at home when I'm not doing so for the pandemic. 

Next week I have three friend dates, a book club meeting, and a virtual four-day training for work. The week after Sawyer is done with summer school and I'm starting to plan some outings and invite friends over to swim. I love having people over again! 

California has "opened up," which is interesting. It's so great to see the numbers down in every horrible category (positive tests, ICU admits, death, etc...), but it still feels really weird. I still plan on wearing my mask in indoor places, since my son needs to and I want to set a good example. Even when he is not with me, I will wear one when I am indoors (like a crowded store), just because I could still technically contract it from someone and bring it home to him. I know the stats on kids not reacting the same, but it gives me piece of mind to know I'm still doing my part to keep him safe. I don't have a backup, okay? 

My mom was down last week and Scott and I were able to *gasp* go to dinner alone for the second time in a month. This time we actually went to a *double gasp* place that wasn't in our city and needed *that's right, triple gasp* reservations. And it was at like 8:30... at night. Wild and crazy, indeed. But honestly, it's so nice. We have very few people locally who I would ask to watch him while we went out, since I'm not ready to have my old rotation of college kids come to my house yet, so I'm thankful that my family was around at the right time. 

I watched a movie! The shocks continue! In the Heights was a lot of fun, although I am definitely aware of some of the backlash that's occurring in terms of the issues with racial representation in it. 

I am listening to so much right now in terms of podcasts and audiobooks- I started Seth Rogan's Yearbook, which is hilarious, and I am going to download Malibu Rising when I am done with that (please don't come at me, but I don't think TJR is a great writer; I appreciate what she did in terms of format for Daisy Jones, but she's definitely a listen, not a read). I am listening to The Office Ladies as I slooooowly rewatching episodes, and am also keeping up with Bad on Paper, some episodes of The Daily, Smartless and The Armchair Expert, and want to start the next season of To Live and Die in LA. Luckily I walk the dog for well over an hour a day, but still. So many options. 

I started Lisa Taddeo's Animal yesterday and... wow. So gritty, so dark, so sexual. It definitely falls in line with Three Women in the sense that Taddeo definitely has a really particular, unique voice that is present in her fiction as well. 

20 Years Ago...

If we're going to be totally honest, I sort of forgot that this year marked twenty years since I graduated from high school. I vaguely remember some social media chatter last year about what would happen with the reunion with the pandemic, but I've had bigger fish to fry. Then today I saw some of my old friends posting pictures and memories and I had to jump on the nostalgia train with a few of my own. Twenty years? How am I this old? Yet, also, it feels like lifetimes ago.

I dug out my photo album and spent a few minutes reminiscing, remembering back to our big senior trip to not far from where I live now (we did Downtown Disney's now-gone ESPN Zone, Grad Night at Disneyland, stayed in a hotel for a few hours, and then hit Six Flags up for the day on the way back... thirty-seven year old me cannot imagine how tired our poor chaperones were). There was our IB Senior Banquet, graduation rehearsal, graduation itself, a small gathering with friends that night after family stuff, and then a week of get-togethers. The normal stuff, really. 

For the most part, I really enjoyed high school. Not to the point where I consider it my glory days or anything, but I was fortunate enough to get swept into a group of fellow IB students, and we stayed together all four years. I had come from a close-knit group that stayed at the same school from kindergarten to eighth grade, so having this sort of school-within-a-school idea helped make the jump between the two places easier. I had friends, I did very well academically, I respected my teachers, I was involved in extracurricular activities, I went to all the school events, had various little part time jobs (umpiring, babysitting, etc...), blablaba. I had a boyfriend most of freshman year, played the field for awhile, and then finished up senior year with a guy I dated throughout college (until I met my husband, but that's a story for another time). I stayed out of trouble, but I also had a lot of fun.

It wasn't all sunshine and rainbows, though. My dad killed himself at the end of freshman year, and a lot happened in my immediate family consequently. I was the oldest of four, which meant that I spent A LOT of time helping my mom, especially with the two siblings who are a lot younger than I am. Money was a constant issue and I had to work hard to secure various forms of funding, on my own, to go to UCLA. My boyfriend and I senior year had a dramatic relationship (although most high school ones are), and I felt often very anxious about him leaving me, so I never pulled the plug (this continued for three more years... sigh...). The culmination of the stressors of home and my relationship led to a great deal of anxiety, which I at the time had no idea how to cope with. I lost a lot of sleep, got sick often (I had strep throat multiple times one year), and wrote in my journal lists and lists of backup plans and fears. While all of this was obviously unfortunate, everything I went through during this time really helped me learn to push myself in a lot of ways and I'm proud that I was able to handle so much, so young. Life handing you lemons and all that. 

What makes me the most amused is that my life twenty years later is nothing at all how I thought it would be. I thought I'd be a doctor... I'm an English teacher (although I can teach biology). I thought I was going to be marry the other half of my four-year-old dysfunctional relationship... I ended up with the guy I started dating soon after I broke it off with high school boyfriend boy. I thought I'd have three kids... I have one. I imagined I'd live in a big city... I live in a suburban city that I'd never even thought of back then. Life definitely doesn't end up the way we think when we're seventeen or eighteen, and that's probably for the best!

I'll finish up by saying that I feel incredibly lucky to be friends with several people from high school, though, despite how far and wide we've spread. The education I received during those four years prepared me so incredibly well for college and I'm glad that I had to figure out things for myself.  

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

My mom is coming tonight! After not seeing her for sooooooo long it's so exciting. Technically this is the third time in the last few months (although one visit was less than two hours), which feels so lucky. We have a few things planned and then she will also be spending a chunk of time with my grandparents. Scott and I have reservations out for a late dinner one night, which seems like such a treat (although we just went out alone a few weeks ago when my sister was down, but still). 

Yesterday Sawyer and I went to Knott's Berry Farm for the morning, since our annual passes have been reactivated. He has always been incredibly easy to go do things with, ever since he was tiny, but now that so much time has passed and he's even more self-sufficient going to amusement parks and the like is a total breeze. 

A few of my students have joined Goodreads and I love seeing what books they're reading, earmarking for later, etc... I've even spotted them interacting with each other over literature they read for fun (Sally Rooney), which makes this English teacher so happy!

I watched several seasons of The Office back when it was actually on, but only made it to season... 5? My husband is full-blown obsessed and has watched the show in it's entirety a few times, and is willingly re-watching with me. The show is of course hilarious, but now I am more motivated than ever to watch since I love the Office Ladies podcast SO MUCH. 

Sawyer and I had a book party the other night- basically, he just took advantage of the fact that I love that he reads so much and brought a bunch in to read in my room past his bedtime. It was actually pretty perfect- every time he started getting chatty I just threatened to kick him out, which shut him up real fast. We got a ton of reading done!

Sawyer starts summer school next week for four hours a day (just two weeks of it), and I can't wait to have some brunch dates and time to *gasp* myself. We have some fun things planned for some of the afternoons, so it's basically perfect. 

Not to sound annoying and bougie, but I've had my eye on a recliner from Pottery Barn for reading in for a few weeks but cannot take the plunge. In my defense, it's really hard to find modern, cozy chairs, but the price is so steep. I keep thinking that I could put the money towards my car, my 2022 summer trip, or some other responsible endeavor. But then I sit for an hour in my sparsely-padded not-so-ergonomically designed current reading chair and I start fantasizing about the PB one again... 

The school district where I live, where my son goes to school, is starting to develop their ethnic studies courses and implement elements of CRT (critical race theory). If I read ONE MORE COMMENT implying that it's "racist" to make white people examine their privilege I'm going to scream. It's incredible how people take one nugget and run away with it, making gross generalizations and acting ridiculous. I've been saying for years that the best way to develop a better society as a whole, one with empathy and intellect is to start with kids. And I'm not just talking about race- we need to teach kids to think more critically about a lot of issues, look at things from different perspectives, and be responsible citizens. I have a feeling it's going to get ugly. I need to take a deep dive into what a CRT (both critical race theory AND cultural responsive teaching) curriculum looks like, but I do know I want my son to receive direct instruction on the mistakes our country has made and on how to be an ally.