Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Link up, link back, say hey.

1. There are painters outside right now prepping for the painting this weekend and while I'm excited for a fresh coat, I find the whole thing inconvenient and am worried that they will screw up the color and I'll have the HOA on my back. Or just that something else will go wrong, in general, because when it comes to home ownership something always does (am I right or am I right?).

2. The other day for a brief moment I entertained the idea of trying to get pregnant again, for whatever reason. Literally two minutes later I saw a baby shower for a an old friend's sister and notice that she's expecting twins. And we're over that now. 

3. So my bum hip has gotten exponentially more painful lately (I have extreme pain after standing until I walk a few yards... sometimes more). I bailed on the MRI I scheduled two months ago because of my claustrophobia, but decided that I need to get to the bottom of this, so I scheduled one for next week on the open MRI machine. I also finally went against one of my biggest internet rules and spent some time googling my symptoms. The verdict? I fit basically all the symptoms for hip impingement, which basically means that my joint is royally effed up and while PT might help, surgery is the only real way to take care of it and ensure no further damage. Obviously I am getting ahead of myself, but I just want to figure this shit out and get the ball rolling (yes, I regret waiting, thanks). 

4. Book club tomorrow! Yay! We are discussing a book I didn't care for, but it's still a treat to sit around with smart people and talk about a common read. Plus it's at the Cheesecake Factory, which is nice little occasional guilty pleasure.

5. For reasons we shall not get into publicly on the internet, May has sucked very much (for reasons other than the hip) and I have been having to work really hard at not succumbing to a full-blown funk. Today, though, I went to lunch with a group of people from work and had so much fun I laughed to the point where I had to use my inhaler in the car (yes, sadly, laughing can trigger asthma flare ups). It just goes to show how important relationships and friends are. I try to meet up with friends every week or two, but I think I need it more right now. Friends and exercise are my therapy.

6. Maybe I will take the Goodreads plunge this summer. I was on it a million years ago and I get email updates from people still and I feel left out. It also still has me reading a Carlos Ruiz Zafon book, so, basically, it looks like I read 1/4 a page a day. 

7. Two more work days. One more student day. 

Some Recent Non-Fiction

It wasn't until a few years ago that I really started giving non-fiction some solid time in my reading schedule. Currently, I try to read one a month (not counting listening), but this month a few have piled up, varying very much in subject matter and enjoyability. A quick look:

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White House by Alyssa Mastromonaco
I listened to this relatively short audiobook (not even six hours) and I desperately wish it was twice as long. Mastromonaco worked with Obama when he was a senator as his Advanced Scheduler and then in the White House as the eventual Deputy Chief of Staff, so her perspective and insight is particularly interesting. Her narrative voice is spectacularly hilarious, honest, and insightful and she does an outstanding job narrating her own text. The book isn't about Obama, exactly, but about her role behind the scenes in politics, looking at everything from the work required campaigning, how it is to transition into the White House, the logistics of traveling abroad with POTUS, and how she had to work to control her own flaws and issues to be successful (reigning in her emotions, having IBS, being a workaholic, etc...). It was the perfect blend of politics, personal stories, harmless gossip, inspiration, and humor. #imissobamasomuchithurts 

Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga 

by Pamela Newkirk
This was someone's pick for book club and I was intrigued when I started it, since most of our selections are pretty solid, but this one fell incredibly flat. For those who aren't familiar with Ota Benga's story, he was taken from Africa at the turn of the twentieth century and placed, most memorably, in Central Park in the Monkey House. There was a great deal of controversy regarding the inhumanity of it (YOU THINK?!?!?!) and problems with the responsibility of his care. The book documents all of this, plus his life before and after very well- but that's the problem, the documentation. Newkirk provides a ridiculous amount of of evidence and information for every tiny little thing she mentions (for example, a group of men walk into a city building for a meeting and she briefly discusses some of its architectural historical background; now multiple this by 150). I hate to say this, but the dry, academic, extraneous detail-heavy style of this book detracts from the emotional affect and nauseating implications about recent humanity. Obviously we can read between the lines, and imagine the horrors on a more sensitive level, but it bothered me throughout that Newkirk was so detached.

By the Book 

by The New York Times, Edited by Pamela Paul
This book took me a few months to get through this, since it was the book I picked up at home when I just had a few minutes to read. This collection compiles the articles from the series of the same name in the The New York Times, which asks writers questions from a bank of twenty or so each week. The questions range from their perfect reading location, to what they think the President should read, to childhood literary heroes. Some of my absolute favorites were interviewed, including Ann Patchett, David Mitchell, Michael Chabon, and Jhumpa Lahiri. Each interview takes only five or six minutes to read, so it's perfect for when, say your kid is in the bath or your waiting for dinner to finish up. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Link up, link back, say hey.

1. I played in the annual staff vs senior softball game yesterday and it was as fun as always. Someday I'll join a league once again. My indefinitely sore hip was not pleased with the sprinting around, though, so I'm paying the price today. WORTH IT. 

2. Who else is watching The Handmaid's Tale on Hulu? We are through four or five episodes and I really like it. I am actually a little disappointed that it's been renewed for a second season, since I think that might make them veer too far away from the source material, but I guess we'll have to see. 

3. Seven years ago I interviewed to work at the high school I am currently at, very reluctantly. I was an elementary teacher and was facing a lay off, but my district was doing some restructuring and some positions were opening up (this is a very simplistic version of a very complex situation that I'll spare you guys from). I'm glad I was desperate for work- moving up to my site has been the best years of my career. I am lucky enough to have made a few really important, life-long friends from my K-5 days, though, that I am thankful for! 

4. Lemon Noosa- try it (it's "yoghurt").

5. My students are powering through a tough assignment right now, with just over a week of school left, and while I think they are a bit frustrated with me, I'm proud of their perseverance. I'm asking them to push their writing abilities and they're really trying to rise to the occasion. Ten months ago they would have floundered- it's nice to see their growth in maturity and ability. 

6. My mother-in-law has been helping us out on Mondays with Sawyer for a few years since I teach a late class, so I made her this (it looks better in person, especially since it's mounted and framed now):

7. I ordered myself a box of books several weeks ago and told myself I couldn't open them until the bulk of my grading was done. Honestly, I have forgotten what I even ordered! The good news is that I am the cusp of being able to open it. Christmas in June. DOn't worry, I'll post allllllll about the haul.

Weekend Snapshots

I knew that this weekend needed to be busy, both because of things that I needed to get done, but also because I needed to keep my mind and body occupied. And occupied I was! Here's some snapshots from the weekend, reading and otherwise:

[Friday afternoon- outside! It's starting to get pretty warm here in Southern California, so we busted out the water table after work/daycare]
[I met one of my favorite, and oldest, friends for lunch in Orange County. She's the happiest person I know and it does my soul good to spend time with her.]
[While driving, alone (wheeee), to and from lunch I started listening to this, which I am in love with. Why didn't anyone ever tell me about being an Advanced Scheduler? That should have been MY job! I am good at logistics and planning, I would have been perfect for it, darn it.]

[we spent a lot of time outside Saturday night partying (as in playing with sidewalk chalk). After the little guy was in bed my husband and I watched Me and Earl and the Dying Girl]
[for many reasons, I had a horrible night Saturday and got way less sleep than I needed. I rallied, though, determined to not waste me Sunday (and by "rallied" I mean I consumed a lot of caffeine and tried not to cry or be mean to people)]
[Sawyer and I met another one of my good friends at Sky Zone today and jumped and played for an hour. She was an exceptional sounding board, as well, which I greatly needed and appreciated]
[Finished this while Sawyer napped. We read it for book club and I really didn't love the writing style, at all. More on that later, though.]

[Boston Cream Pie, using Annie's Eats' recipe and the Milk Bar's technique. Delicious and sure to be an exceptional breakfast]

Not pictured: grading, lesson prepping, cleaning, laundry, walking, and grocery shopping. I didn't want anyone to get too jealous. Ha. 

Have a good week, friends! 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Link up! Link back! Say hi (or don't, since we all know how much I suck at leaving comments... for now, anyway).

1. My mantra for the next two weeks: just keep working.

I am actually in the best place I've ever been in at this point in the semester, but there is still so much to do before our last day on June 2. 

2. I am deeply, deeply concerned that my husband and I have somehow accidentally traded one of our two pillows each. The very thought is so disturbing (to me, he could care less). I am incredibly protective of all things personal- I won't share my toothbrush, ear buds, razors, or chapstick). 

3. I refuse to let anything stop me from having a great summer. Not gonna let it happen. Nope.

4. I will be teaching my current IB juniors next year as well, and this summer I am going to give them the choice to read Hamlet, Othello, The Tempest, or Julius Caesar in preparation for reading Macbeth (I know that The Tempest is considered a tragicomedy, but I am going to be reading it anyway to prepare for reading Margaret Atwood's Hagseed, so I might as well give them the option). Most of the kids have limited Shakespeare-reading experience, so I like them to read something else before we tackle a play they will be tested on. My point? I have to reread four plays this summer. Right now I am excited, but I think this might not be the truth in August.

5. I watched Nocturnal Creatures a few weeks ago and liked it- I appreciated the novel aspect.

6. Robert Mueller seems legit. Maybe? Is this bipartisan appreciation real? Is this POSSIBLE? SHOULD ROBERT MUELLER BE OUR PRESIDENT?!?!?!

7. I think my next audiobook will probably be Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?: And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White House by Alyssa Mastromonaco because I miss Obama and this seems like that will make my Democratic heart a little happier.

Lemme Tell You a Story (3)

Every other month or so I like to post some of my Instagram stories for fun- here's what goes on behind the scenes and in the mind of over-caffeinated woman:

My Version of Motherhood: One Big Contradiction

How my Mother's Day began: a hard knee to the nose that resulted in momentary consideration that I'd have to undergo plastic surgery in the near future. Actually, if we're being technical, it actually started six hours earlier, around midnight, when someone had a bad dream and then had to go potty and then that same someone's poor aim caused an outfit change around one. And then said someone wouldn't stop crying and then ended up in mama's bed (since another someone was downstairs with a bum tooth). We then got up, went grocery shopping at 8 am and then Sawyer and I headed to Irvine Regional Park for a few hours (that part was nice). I then came home and cleaned. It's been glamorous, I tell ya. 

We all have our version of motherhood, and it changes constantly- monthly, weekly, daily, hourly. But one thing I have noticed is the abundance of contradictions.

I can't wait for you to grow up so I can sleep/we can do x, y or x, or so your care while I'm at work won't be expensive... but, I actually want you to stay little so you won't give me shit when I kiss you in the line at the grocery store and so that you'll still fit in my lap when I read to you at night.

I wish you'd just sit down and play with your toys for like an hour so I can collect myself... but, I actually kinda sorta love how much you need me.

I wish you would just do what I say the first time I ask... but, I actually am glad you're so headstrong and opinionated. 

I wish you'd just be quiet for a few minutes while I drive home from work/daycare so I can decompress just a tad... but, I actually am so very, very happy you're talking more and that you're so smart and observant. 

I wish I could just tuck you in at night and hightail it out of your room... but, I actually love that you ask me to lay in your bed next to you and then hug me with every little muscle in your body when I do (because you know I will). 

I wish I could just stay at home every day with you... but, I actually am really satisfied by my career and like that you see me in different roles. 

So far, I haven't found myself to be one of those mom that gets highly emotional as their child grows up. I love each stage more and the fact that he goes one-hundred miles an hour doesn't much give me an abundance of time to feel nostalgic. Sure, when I pack up the clothes he's just grown out of I get a little sad. Or when I look at him and suddenly think "Dear God, one day you will be a teenager and will on occasion hate me" I feel a tightness in my chest. 

I sometimes ask mom's with older sons when they felt their boys start drifting away from the happy, cuteness we all love and I get everything from "eight" to "never." So, either way, considering Sawyer is three, I still have myself awhile.

Also, in case anyone is worried, my nose is fine. 

Happy Mother's Day.

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Link up! Link back! Say hey!

1. I just found out that one of my all-time favorite teachers from high school is retiring. She was my IB English and IB Psychology teacher and I just loved her to pieces. She took care of us academically and emotionally, and while she may have been a bit too soft sometimes, she was brilliant and nurturing. It's the end of an era, for sure.

2. I think that there has been a death of the collective "we." The divide is too deep. 

3. Ever since moving Sawyer into a bed, from his crib, he has been basically always sleeping through the night, which is awesome (not awesome: I am having trouble getting to sleep and staying to sleep, so I'm still not anything close to well-rested), but he has been waking up most days anywhere from 4:45 to 6:00. He doesn't need to be up until 6:20, so this is complete madness.


4. This To Kill a Mockingbird cross stitch pattern is hilarious. It would be the perfect design to learn on if you're ever apt to start!

5. If I had time and my friends didn't all have kids I'd start a feminist book club- we'd read Gloria Steinem and Roxanne Gay and discuss extensively. 

6. Today we finally got the email about the staff vs senior softball game and I signed up immediately. Someday I want to join a league, but until then I just have to live for these yearly games (I played for like eight years growing up, helped coach kids, and also umpired little league games; softball runs deep in my family). 

7. I just have to say this: there will be no impeachment while we have a Republican Congress and Senate. I feel the need to be the voice of reason (albeit depressing). What needs to happen? Voter turnout in 2018. 

Much Reading, Little Finishing

This was a weird weekend. Our plans to go to a "big park" (like Irvine or Yorba  Linda Regional) were thwarted because the rain arrived a little earlier than predicted, so we've been laying low (it's chilly and rainy and May and we Southern Californians are so confused and maybe a little sad but also amused). Honestly, the idea of a weekend at home alway sounds amazing, but I need to just come to terms with the  fact that I hate it. I need something to build my time and productivity around or else I just dangle uselessly and get jack crap done and then get sort of moody because I'm not feeling productive. And then I just kind of wallow and let in anything else in life that could make me feel less than stellar. 

But, the good news is, that today I consumed ridiculous amounts of caffeine and feel better (because I now have all of this artificial energy that has created this sort of manic-lite frenzy to get things done). 

But reading! Let's talk about that for a sec. I have been reading a lot lately, but not finishing much, so I thought I'd check in on where I'm at and some thoughts. 

I have been reading Colson Whitehead's The Underground Railroad for over a week and I am only halfway done. It's not that I don't like it, because I do, but it's one of those books that you have to commit at least twenty or so minutes to sitting and concentrating on, and that's been hard to pencil the last ten or so days. Whitehead is always hit or miss for me, so I'm hoping this one comes out a win.

I am also slowly digesting By the Book, which is a collection of sixty-five writers' responses to The New York Times Book Review's running column by the same name. I absolutely, positively LOVE this book. It's another one that makes me incredibly itchy to write. So far I've read interviews of some of my favorites, like Michael Chabon, John Irving, Junot Diaz, Jeffrey Eugenides, and David Mitchell. There's a really great variety (despite the fact that I just listed some of the heavy-hitters of modern fiction) and it's fascinating to see so many different answers to the same set of questions. This would be a great gift for any reader. 

Slowly but surely I have also been getting through a very large stack of student essays on Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I had them make up their own prompts, so it's nice to get such a wide variety of topics. Also, at this point in the year it's nice to see how much they've grown as readers and writers, so I suppose this batch is somewhat validating. It can also be frustrating, though, since I do still see a lot of mistakes that I've reminded them about many times (how to punctuate a title, including a word count, writing a thesis that has a point and isn't obvious, etc...). Nonetheless, I am thankful for their progress and I still have this group for another year, so there is plenty of time to fix little errors.

Here's to finishing some of this next week! 

May, Plus April, Revisited

A few days behind, but better late than never, right? 

Last month's goals:

1. Use fewer plastic bags for food: Yup! I really made an effort to use tupperware and glass.

2. Financial moderation: Yes! I was a good girl.

3. Exercise diversification: On it. I added in some yoga sessions and several stretches on the bike. I've lost a few pounds this month and I think that this might be part of it. I didn't do more, but I did do things differently. 

4. Update my phone: No. I was feeling emotionally vulnerable this month (kidding, kidding...maybe not completely but mostly...)

5. Plan/start super secret project: Yes! I did!


1. Finish my current cross stitch project: This may be a little too ambitious, but you never know. I have been on a roll lately.

2. End strong and with minimal stress: It's pretty impossible to end the school year with no stress (there is a ton of stuff that has to be done), but I want to stay on top of my grading so that when finals start the only thing I have to grade are the finals.

3. Plan day-trip to San Francisco: I am headed up to Modesto to visit my family next month and I want to take a day to San Francisco so that Sawyer can go for the first time. I need to check into things to do with him that are easily accessible with the BART and trolleys. I'm excited!

4. Go to a new restaurant (or food-related place): We used to be really, really good about trying new places before Sawyer was born but have fallen off that wagon. It doesn't have to be anything big, even a new coffee shop or bakery. Just something new!

5. Be okay with hard things: A few things have come up lately that have knocked me a little off kilter and I need to readjust my attitude. I like to be in control of my life, but that's not always completely possible, so I need to come up with a better plan to cope. How this is a measurable goal, I'm not sure, but I think at the end of the month I'll just know how I did. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Hey guys! Link up, link back.

1. I am being all sorts of responsible this week. I'm finalizing the contract to have the exterior of our home painted, contacting the HOA for approval, switching HVAC maintenance companies, and finding some summer activities through parks and rec for Sawyer for the summer (I'm thinking a daily two-week swim class and then a once-a-week one-hour gymnastics course). I also finally followed up on some student loan forgiveness paperwork, too. I've found a treadmill repair service too that seems reputable, since the incline feature on mine is a little wonky. It feels good to knock boring things off the to-do list. 

2. I think I am going to participate in Sally's Baking Addiction's monthly challenge. Each month she posts in-depth tutorials on a skill or recipe that's a little tougher than normal, and for May it's a Strawberries 'n' Cream Cake Roll, which looks delicious. I have never done a cake roll but have memories of my mom doing pumpkin ones like a pro during the holidays when we were younger. I think I'll need to go buy a new pan and a sifter for the powder sugar, but if it's the price we have to pay for something delicious I'll take one for the team.

3. I cannot get enough of Lourde's "Green Light." It's officially on my running playlist for later tonight after Sawyer goes to bed.

4. It's 90 today. By Sunday it's supposed to be in the 60s and raining. I'm so confused.

5. This week has started off our four week straight period of IB and AP testing for mostly juniors and seniors. I have to proctor AP Gov test and an IB math exam tomorrow and I'm actually looking forward to it. I remember sitting for all of my big tests and it makes me a bit nostalgic. I also like seeing the behind-the-scene logistics of testing administration as well. I think I have two more to do next week and the UC Writing test a week from Saturday. 

6. I have never officially made it a "thing" but at the end of every school year I buy several new books to kick off summer. Apparently it's official as of today, because there's a list and a budget now. 

7. When I grow up I want to not care if people I don't really like or am really mad at are in turned pissed at me. Does that make sense? Maybe not. But it's a thing in my head and it's ridiculous. I'm thirty-three. Shouldn't I be over all that nonsense?

8. We just finished season one of The Good Place and it was the perfect light-hearted thirty-minute show for the occasional weeknight. We've also watched the first episode of The Handmaid's Tale and I loved it! Unfortunately since I get through about two whole hours of TV a week it might take us awhile to get through the show...

April Reviews

Some days I feel like we should get awards for doing the tiniest things- "oh, you came in and unloaded the dishwasher, a gold star for you!" or "you didn't lose it with your kid for whining when you know good and well that he's probably slept twice as many hours as you have in the last day, so here's a trophy!" Validate my mundane actions, universe, val-i-DATE!

Alas, it doesn't work that way. I have a consolation prize, though: book reviews. 

The Telomere Effect by Elizabeth Blackburn and Elissa Epel
335 pages
I wrote about this book here.

Verdict: Accessible and full of great reminders on how to live a healthier life, in most every arena of existence. 

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
337 pages
Ove is desperately trying to kill himself after his wife dies and he is forced into retirement. Unfortunately his neighbors and his closeted desire to help others keeps getting in the way. 

Verdict: I was worried that this book might be a little to sappy, but it was the right amount of sentimentality in the end. I loved that it was set in Sweden and the simplicity of the prose was refreshing. I sort of get the vibe that Backman's stuff might get a little old after awhile, so while I'm not going to rush out to buy everything else, I will keep him in mind when I need a bit of a break.

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
191 pages
Lucy Barton is in the hospital for an extended period of time and her mother comes to visit, a woman from a very different walk of life. Through this short book Lucy and her mother's relationship, as well as Lucy's past in general, is unfolded through quick little vignette's where the reader learns that Lucy's early life in poverty was the opposite of easy. 

Verdict: I really, really enjoyed this book. The page count and shorter chapters are deceiving; this is not an easy book. The alluded to topics are emotionally challenging and the reader must hone her powers of inference. The mother-daughter relationship is fascinating, and painful. I'm excited to order the follow up that just recently came out.  Side note: I'd love to teach this book!

Dear Ijeawele or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
63 pages 
I wrote about this book earlier in the month here

Verdict: Love her, love it, love the reminders, love the ideas generated for raising my son.

Antigone by Sophocles (Richard Emil Braun translation) 
50 pages
It's hard when your dad marries his mom and you are your siblings result from the marriage. It's even worse when your blind dad is dead, you brothers basically kill each other, your uncle is a tyrant, your engaged to the said tyran't son, and your sister is sort of a wimp. Antigone, dear girl, you just were not deal a good hand. 

Verdict: I read this book every two years and each time it grows on me. When I read it originally in high school or college I loathed it. But now that I am teaching it for the third time, dare I say, I actually kind of like it. 

976 pages