My Favorite Books Regarding Travel

I think we are conditioned to lust after vacations most during the summer, originating when we enter the school system and have vast expanses of free time between grades. Personally, I think about trips constantly, whether they're realistic or not. I remember when Sawyer was a tiny baby I planned out a fake trip to Fiji or somewhere extremely newborn-unfriendly, just because it was fun to fake it for a few minutes. It was around that time too that I really started reading more international memoirs and travelogues, a genre I've enjoyed since (both reading and listening to). An old high school friend posted about the topic on Instagram the other night and it seemed like the perfect post- here are some of my favorites:

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson- Bryson recounts his attempt to conquer the Appalachian Trail, a 2,000+ mile hike. He's comical, poignant, and honest. 

What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding by Kristin Newman-  I listened to this hilarious, yet often thoughtful, memoir of single-girl Newman's exploits around the world, often finding herself in some crazy predicaments. 

Trespassing Across America by Ken Ilgunas- Ilgunas follows the route for the then-proposed Keystone Pipeline, recounting stories of the people he met and also incorporating relevant information on climate change. 

Walden on Wheels by Ken Ilgunas- Ilgunas buys a van and lives in it while traveling, trying to quickly pay off his student loans while working a variety of jobs (and seeing the country). 

180 Degrees South: Conquerers of the Useless by Chris Malloy, Yvon Chouinard, and Doug Tompkins- I fell in love with this documentary about a group of guys sailing to Patagonia (Southern Argentina) and then climbing mountains. I definitely would love to visit that part of the world someday. 

The Lost Girls: Three Girls. Four Continents. One Unconventional Tour Around the World by Jennifer Baggett, Holly Corbett, and Amanda Pressner- Three girls spend a year touring the world, completely abandoning their comfortable lives for spontaneity. 

An Innocent Abroad edited by Lonely Planet- A plethora of well-known contributors, including Dave Eggers and Ann Patchett, write essays about memorable travel experiences. Great to read in little snippets here and there! 

A Thousand Stairs to Heaven: Love, Hope, and a Restaurant in Rwanda by Josh Ruxin- I ordered this when at the height of my restaurant-memoir binging phase, a story about a newlywed couple that moves to Rwanda and opens a gourmet restaurant and helps a nearby village with their food and healthcare situation. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

[Golden Gate Park]

Happy Wednesday, friends. If you're new around these parts every week I do these posts full of topics that are running around in my head, yet don't necessarily warrant a full post. If you care to play along link back in your own post and leave your link in the comments.

1. My day started off with a mad dash to take Sawyer to preschool and then back home to meet the plumber, whom I paid $60 for about five minutes worth of work, doing something that I really feel deep down in my heart I should be able to do. The problem is that I don't trust myself to do much of anything to our house, out of fear I will cause even more damage. I'm so envious of people that unclog drains, fix leaks, effortlessly put up shelves, swap out light fixtures, etc... I need to take Home Repair 101. 

2. The good news is that I am leaving soon to drive to Palm Springs to meet up with an old friend from my teaching credentialing days for lunch. I always forget that Palm Springs really isn't that far, ninety minutes from my house and only about sixty-five from Sawyer's preschool, and with far less traffic than going to Orange County or LA. I'm listening to a great new audiobook, Sick, a memoir by Porochista Khakpour, about her struggle with Lyme Disease, which is actually making me look forward to the drive. 

3. Currently, I'm reading Hannah Pittard's Visible Empire, which Belletrist promoted like crazy. I'm still a little indifferent towards it, but I'll give it some more time before getting too cranky about it. I'm also reading a book about preventing Alzheimer's, which is turning out to be both informative and terrifying. My grandmother has it, though, and I just feel like I'd like to be more informed and maybe ready to make some tiny tweaks to my life to postpone (if I was more optimistic I'd say "prevent," but alas I am not) the disease. I haven't any sort of genetic testing or anything, but better safe than sorry. 

4. I need to reread Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye for the 430583853 time, since that's what my students read over summer and also Blake Crouch's Dark Matter for our English department book club (I have to admit to totally judging the trade paper back appearance, but maybe it will be an easy read compared to some of the more complex themes I've been reading lately? It'll be the literary equivalent to a Del Taco burrito, I hope). 

5. Last night I went to bed early (for summer) and had my first wave of pre-school-starting anxiety. I'm never nervous about new students or administration, or even waking up early. What bothers me is that not enough time has passed for me to forget how heightened my stress levels can get, and I know soon I will feel buried, knowing I am behind with grading, that I could be doing a better job with my students, that I should be playing more with my son, that I'm not hanging out enough with my husband enough, and that I'm neglecting my own hobbies, interests, and friends. Everything becomes half-assed because in order to full-ass anything something else would be no-assed. Does that make sense? I become almost manic in my attempts to gain control, making lists, attempting to run my life efficiently as possible. Luckily, since this is the fifth school year I've started as a mom (when the panic really started) I know that the dust will settle and the new, or regular really, norm will settle in and we'll proceed.

6. Sawyer has been terrified of the pool for basically the whole summer, for some reason unknown to me. He went in once and was basically fine, but since that first time over a month ago he has refused to go in. That is until the other day. He will now splash around on the spa bench and even blow bubbles, so I'm going to claim that as a minor victory. I always assumed that he was going to love the water, since, you know, we have a pool and that should be automatic (right?), but man was I wrong. I'm glad I don't have to worry about him sneaking outside and taking a dip alone (even if he tried we have an alarm and a multiple locks on our doors), but I wish he was more open to learning to swim. 

7. We are in the middle of our typical crazy hot July (triple digit temps more often than not) and I must say that I am SO thankful for our solar panels. It will be even better when we have them paid off, but I just checked our power usage and our solar production and it's still crazy how beneficial they are. All I know is that when we do have them paid off and only have our yearly payment to the electric company for our overages I'm keeping the house at 65 from June to October. 

8. I am trying to frantically get done a ton of things around the house that I had planned on slowly doing throughout summer (I go back in ten days). In the last week I've painted an accent wall, gone through all of Sawyer's toys, cleaned up the backyard, and am organizing cupboards. I'm at the point now where part of me wants to keep being productive and the other part is more like "eff it, enjoy your last week and a half off."

9. Last Sunday I flew to the Bay Area for a day to see an old student of mine who I am close to, and we hung out for the day in Berkeley and San Francisco. I swear, it's quicker to take an hour flight up there from an airport that's only thirty minutes a day than if she had gone to UCLA or UC San Diego, considering the traffic. It was nice a nice chance to get out of our heat down here and also catch up with her before we both start our new school years. 

10 Things I Do When I'm Not Feeling It


I think, like most people, I've always had a touch of anxiety and depression. The human condition, I suppose. When I was younger I really, really, struggled with how to control it alone and often felt sick to my stomach and had a lot of trouble sleeping (I complained so often about my stomach they tested me for an ulcer... in kindergarten). Since then, though, I've gotten much better with a variety of strategies, since I "don't have time to go to therapy" and "don't want to take medication" (I think both of those things are really great tools and that everyone sort of have their own "recipe" for feeling better when it comes to mental health). 

I listen to the podcast "The Armchair Expert" and Dax Sheppard constantly references a list of ten things that he turns to when he's not feeling his best, so I thought I would do the same and share. It's nice to have a quick list of go-to actions when the moment strikes, and it also helps me feel in control over my feelings, day, and life.

1. Plan something fun for the near future: People always ask me why I'm so busy, and there are two answers. One is that I really just like experiencing things outside of the house and the other is that when I'm feeling down or a little pessimistic I'll sit down with my calendar and schedule something fun to look forward to. It's an instant mood booster.

2. Work out: I do some sort of physical activity for at least thirty minutes 5-7 days a week. Sometimes it's intense like a run full of hills and sprints, other times just a walk and maybe some ab work. Working out makes me feel so much better and I always can tell if I miss more than a day or two by the bad mood that results.

3. I get productive: Feeling lazy or like I'm not accomplishing anything bothers my greatly. I'll tackle a few things on my to-do list, get some grading done, or organize a cupboard. My need for productivity is probably a problem sometimes, since I have trouble relaxing, but I think it helps more than it hurts.

4. See a friend: I am fairly social; I like to have plans with friends two or three times a month during the school year, on top of getting to work every day with one of my best friends (and lots of other colleagues that are now friends). The other day I was extremely cranky when I woke up (that was more due to being tired than anything else), but after a breakfast date when an old friend I felt a million times better. 

5.  Go outside: A walk around the neighborhood, taking Sawyer over to the duck pond, laying in the backyard, a hike, time at the beach, hanging outside while Sawyer draws with sidewalk chalk.... being outside cheers me up. I think it's a combination of the sun/fresh air, but also being removed from whatever is possibly bugging me inside (feel overwhelmed, an argument with my husband, etc...). 

6. Reading: This is probably obvious, but allowing yourself to temporarily be transported into someone else's life is a nice distraction. 

7. Journal Writing: I have kept a journal since I was seven-years-old and it's a great place for just venting or worrying as much as I want. 

8. Caffeinate: I am a very tired person and have been since I had my kid. It's basically just my permanent state of being, and while I have adapted on one level, there are days where I'm just more exhausted than normal and it makes me more anxious. At this point I indulge in Starbucks or whatever else I can find to give me a boost. 

9. Create: This may be cross-stitching, working on my yearly family photo book, blogging, doing a house project, or helping Sawyer do new decorations for his door. Baking and cooking is also a surefire mood booster.

10. Play with Sawyer: Although he does factor significantly into my exhaustion and sometimes frustration, he is hilarious and fun. Everything is exciting to him and he's content to just run around making up games. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Apparently it's Friday... and I normally do this on Wednesday. Summer brain, I guess?

1. I have started trading in my sugary breakfast cereals for two eggs on toast with Trader Joe's Everything but the Bagel Seasoning. It's delicious, and quick enough, but still sad. I get to have cereal as a snack later in the afternoon (as opposed to several cookies), but... not the same. I have started tracking my calories and while cereal is actually pretty low-cal it's not filling and I'm always hungry two hours later. 

2. I got a few new books the other day in the mail, using the measly $5 off Amazon Prime Day coupon as an excuse. I got copies of Meghan MacLean Weir's The Book of Essie, Visible Empire by Hannah Pittard, My Year of Rest of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh, and a book about Alzheimer's, since my grandmother has it and I know that there's a genetic factor.

3. I just finished Letters to a Young Writer by Colum McCann, which I absolutely loved as a teacher and someone with aspirations to someday write a novel. I hope to maybe do a post on it in the near future. I am about two-thirds the way done with The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti, which has me completely hooked.

4. Today my brother and I took Sawyer to the beach and it was a nice few hours in the sun (but man does it tire me out!). Sawyer is slightly terrified of water, though, so he spends most of the time in the sand, which is fine too. This was the third time I've been to the beach this summer, which is probably more than I've been in the last four years. Sawyer is old enough now to where it doesn't feel  like a huge hassle full of diaper bags and worries of sunburn and sand eating.

5. Yesterday I decided to paint an accent wall in our guest bedroom. So I did. It's nice how you can do something like that for less than $50 and really change the look and feel of a room in not a lot of time.

6. I finished a cross stitch projects (see above) that I've been working on for a year and I am so glad it's finished. It's a beautiful pattern, but it got a little monotonous. 

7. I miss Sawyer's scholastic book orders. I need their summer hiatus from the program to end. 

Banff National Park Vacation

[Lake Louise]

If you ever have the opportunity to spend some time in Banff National Park (Alberta, Canada) immediately jump on it. The four days we were able to spend in the park were absolutely breathtaking and exceeded my expectations tenfold. We spent some time in Calgary, too, which ended up being a beautiful city as well. Here are some pictures and excessive thoughts from our time there:

Sawyer and I stayed overnight at a hotel by LAX, since we had a morning flight and I didn't want to stress over the morning traffic. The hotel valet temporarily lost my car, which made for a very stressful fifteen minutes (I actually growled "find my goddamn car right fucking now" at a valet, quietly so Sawyer couldn't here, but still... I was so mad), but once we got parked and settled into the terminal the rest of the trip was an absolute breeze. We flew into Calgary (three hours), got our rental car, and then stayed in a hotel by the airport. 

I packed up the kid and the car by seven-thirty or so and we drove almost two hours to the little town (village?) of Banff, in Banff National Park. It was raining a little bit, but by the time we ducked into the visitor's center for maps and bought an umbrella at a little store it had stopped. I didn't have much planned for the day, but was very eager to see Lake Louise, so we drove the forty minutes to the satellite parking lot to take a shuttle up to the actual lake. It was absolutely breathtaking, even when cloudy! The glacier was visible and the water was perfectly turquoise (rock flour + glacier water + sun's reflection). We hiked a bit around the lake for awhile and then drove back to Banff for a snack, and then a half hour back to Canmore, where our hotel was. I super-duper lucked out and our regular room was upgraded to a HUGE two-bedroom, two-bath, full kitchen, suite at no extra charge, since our room wasn't ready. It was crazy. We drove around Canmore and found a really good pizza place and stocked up on some groceries to minimize eating out breakfast and lunch, too, which ended up being a great decision. 

[Moraine Lake]

[Hiking around Emerald Lake]

[Emerald Lake + a rare Sawyer sighting]

[Takkakaw Falls]

Prior to traveling I booked an all-day bus tour through the park to sort of give us an overview of what was there and to help ease the driving/parking pressure on me. It turned out to be a great choice! We saw Moraine Lake, Lake Louise again, Takakkaw Falls, the Spiral Tunnels, Lake Emerald, where we were able to hike around for almost 90 minutes, and the Natural Bridge. Sawyer got a little antsy here and there on the bus, but it wasn't too bad, considering we were on and off so often. The bus picked up and dropped off right around the corner from our hotel in Canmore, which was perfect. The driver and tour hostess were really knowledgable and fun, so I actually learned a lot.

[Athabasca Glacier]


This was probably my favorite day in terms of what we say. We got up early and drove up the Icefield Parkway (one of the world's top ten drives) into Jasper National Park to tour the Athabasca Glacier and to walk over the Glacier Skywalk. Along the way we stopped at whatever looked beautiful- like Bow Lake, Crowfoot Glacier, and other spots along the drive. When we arrived at the Glacier we took a regular tour bus five minutes across the street to the base of the glacier and then a special six-wheel drive bus onto the actual glacier. We were allowed almost thirty minutes to walk out on the ice, which was absolutely amazing. I didn't think I'd be so impressed, but I really was. Afterwards we went to the Skywalk, which was a glass U-shaped bridge that allowed you to see 1,000 feet below. Heights don't bother me, but Sawyer didn't love it (I was proud of him- he didn't cry and went over the whole thing). Afterwards we had hot chocolate while getting one last look at the glacier and then drove back to Canmore. 

[View from Sulphur Mountain in to Banff]

This was our las chance to hang out in Banff, since I had to check out of our hotel. We took a gondola up to the top of Sulphur Mountain were we hung out for quite awhile (they had lots of different platforms with something like 500 steps total combined). We had lunch back in Banff (I had some excellent poutine) and then we took a bus out to Lake Minnewanka for a cruise around the water. We were able to hike around for awhile, too, and I let Sawyer throw rocks into the lake for almost thirty minutes (he loves doing this so very much). After exploring that area we went back to Banff and I started the sad, sad drive back to Calgary, where we stayed at the same hotel as the first night.

[Calgary Tower]

[The boys loved this]

Saturday we hung out around the hotel room for a few hours in the morning, since we were both really tired from being on the go everyday. Sawyer was getting far less sleep than normal and no naps, and I was just tired from nearly a week of solo-traveling with a four-year-old (I wasn't getting less sleep, but we were getting 15,000-20,000 steps a day and it's just gets a little draining being 100% responsible for your kid in unfamiliar places). After a late breakfast we drove to downtown Calgary to meet with Brie and her son! Brie and I have been blogger/Instagram friends for over six years, so I knew we had to meet in person since I was in her town. They took us to Prince's Island Park, where we saw the Peace Bridge and let the boys play. We walked to the Calgary Tower, which was really neat, and then had dinner together. It was the perfect end to our trip! Our sons are the same age, so it was fun to watch them play while we were able to catch up in person. 

I once again packed up all of our stuff and we drove to the airport. We had an uneventful flight back to LAX, where I had to schlepp our stuff from terminal 2 to terminal 6 parking- if you've never been there just take my word for it that it's a long way to begin with and even worse in 90 degree heat with a luggage cart and a kid. And then Southern California officially welcomed me back with a $205 parking bill for 6.5 days. 

A few things to note:
- Many, many people want to know why my husband didn't go. The answer: he has a demanding job that is hard to get away from and he also has a very real fear of flying. He is supportive of me taking Sawyer places, though, so it works out.
- The Calgary airport (YYC) is the best airport I have ever been to. It's clean, spacious, has pre-boarding comfort dogs that roam the terminals, has pre-clearance customs (so you don't have to clear in the US- the flight was treated as a domestic one when we arrived), a family security line, and volunteers to help out. 
- We didn't travel with a tour company; I chose to do some tours and activities in Banff, but it was just Sawyer and I most of the time
- My entire Canadian experience was amazing- it is the cleanest place I have ever visited. The bathrooms were pristine, there were hand sanitizer everywhere, I saw no trash by the side of the road, etc... You can tell that they take a lot of pride in Banff and Jasper.
- This was the first major trip Sawyer and I have taken together, but we've done quite a few car trips to Yosemite and Modesto, so I know his travel strengths and weaknesses! We had a few new LEGO books, the iPad for the plane and longer car distances, and snacks to keep him occupied. I didn't stress about bedtimes or serious nutrition, but I did make sure to keep the order of the different steps of his bedtime the same, which I think helped him go to sleep at night. 
- I tried to take my normal level of organization and then double it. When I packed for him each outfit went into a separate ziplock bag, which then housed the next dirty outfit. I planned out what we were going to do the night before each day and mapped our schedule backwards so that we were able to get to tour spots and times with plenty of wiggle room (feeling like I am going to be late makes me very anxious). I had a bag with me at all times that had bandaids, wipes, tylenol for both of us, an extra change of clothes, our passports, and cash. I also kept a folder at the hotel with copies of our passports, birth certificates, my driver's license, our flight information, the rental car agreement, and all tour confirmations. 
- When it came to the airports, I checked basically everything except for a backpack for each of us with no liquids (so the car seat and two suitcases). This made going through security and walking around the airport so easy! I am definitely going to get TSA Pre-Check soon, though.
- I tried not to set either of us up for failure. Sawyer can go happily on little sleep (for a kid) and can endure long distances in the car, but he can be a really picky eater (especially on the road). I made sure to buy snacks he liked at the grocery store in Canmore and the makings for PBJ, which he ate for lunch every day. I knew I would need at least an hour to myself every night after he slept to unwind, so I tried to put my phone away and read every evening (between that and the flight I managed to finish a little over two books). I also tried to let him know what was going on; if I needed him to give me a second to figure out directions I told him instead of snapping at him to be quiet. If I was worried about getting all of our stuff packed up I would give him jobs to keep him out of the way. I think traveling with him like this actually helped our communication skills, in a way. He was also forced to be more self-sufficient, like when he was cruising through LAX with a backpack on and rolling his own suitcase. 
- I had to really step outside my comfort zone and accept little offers of help, whether it was to take pictures of us, hold doors open, or even a little luggage transport cart in Calgary that whisked us off to our rental car in 1/4 the time it would have taken to walk (those volunteers are persistent!). 
- I tried to remember that this was a really special experience- that meant being patient, making stops to just look at the scenery, buying someone a few stuffed animals, taking excessive pictures, and being really thankful that we had this opportunity. 

Travel Daydreams

This might seem a bit ridiculous, since I'm about to leave for a week for Canada, but I'm already starting to think ahead to future summers and wonder where we'll head next (as long as this goes well). During that window of time when I had a full-time job and was childless I was able to go to some great places (Italy, Hawaii, the Caribbean, NYC, etc...) and it finally seems like it's time to get back out there. Here are some places I have my eyes on for possibilities for the next few years:

New York City- I have mixed feelings about returning places when traveling, but I really want to take Sawyer to do the sleepover program at the Natural History Museum. I might combine this with maybe a few more stops in New England (probably Boston and then maybe somewhere on the coast in Maine), as opposed to spending more than two or three days in the city. As long as nothing catastrophic happens, I plan on this one for 2020. 

Somewhere tropical- I love the idea of an all-inclusive family-friendly resort on maybe Turks and Caicos or Jamaica. My husband's work demands doesn't necessarily open him up to travel plans, so I think I'd maybe take my mom with us so that I could have some time to lay on a beach alone with a book for a few hours. I'm really tempted to do this next summer, but we'll see what the budget looks like (I think my plan is  a big trip every other year). 

Seattle/PNW- Another return, but my first trip was for a work trip so I don't fully count it. 

London/Germany/Switzerland- A trip like this is probably the furthest one out, since European travel with a kid is just... a lot. A friend and I have been tossing around the idea of going together (without Sawyer), so that's a possibility too. 

Yellowstone- This one I could see being a real possibility for early next summer, although I'm still sort of stuck on the tropical thing... Also a possibility, and in the same neck-of-the-woods is Glacier National Park.

What about you? What's high on your travel wish list? 

So You Want to Talk About Race

I was first introduced to the term "white privilege" several years from a friend/colleague via text, in a conversation that started out with him criticizing the dress I had on, saying it was "WASPy." I liked my dress and didn't really see it as "WASPy" and told him so- this led to a conversation where he decided to talk extensively about my privilege. I was a bit befuddled and was admittedly defensive, since I felt that all of my struggles growing up without much money, a father who killed himself, moments of emotional struggle, and the burden of college costs on my own shoulders were being completely invalidated. He kept repeating that my whiteness was my great fortune and that everything I had was because of it. It was awkward, unexpected, and, frankly I felt hurt since all I had done was wear a dress I liked (for reasons of privacy I will say that he is not African American, nor is he white). 

Here's the thing: he was right on lots of levels. I didn't understand that at the time, since the term "white privilege" and the slogan "Black Lives Matter" hadn't come to forefront yet and I wasn't exactly familiar with looking at race in this way. Sure, I knew racism definitely still existed and I was morally and socially opposed to (and horrified by) it's presence in the twenty-first century. But I hadn't done much to learn more, so I was definitely not ready to listen to him in the way that I am now. I think about this interaction often, and my feelings about it have evolved since. I've moved from hurt to basic agreement (although I still think the conversation didn't need to originate from how I dressed and would have better been done in person). I'm not really sure what motivated the person to start this sort of interaction, but at the end of the day he was correct: while there have been many obstacles in my life I am still white and have benefitted from our country's inherent racism. It's like people who are born tall: they can reach the things on the top shelf while others cannot. It's not my fault, necessarily, but there are things I can do to make a difference, just like tall person needs to help the shorter people get things out of the cabinet. 

Here's where So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo comes in, a text I had heard about a few months ago and just finished today. Oluo has basically written a primer for white people who want to learn to be better. For people who want to learn how to converse about race, make a difference in a society that is set up to benefit white people, and reduce their chances of committing microagressions, instances of cultural appropriation, and even more harm. She is honest, firm, and isn't afraid of making her white readers uncomfortable. I read the entire book with pen in hand and underlined passage after passage- here are a few that really hit home:

"Disadvantaged white people are not erased by discussions of disadvantages facing people of color, just as brain cancer is not erased by talking about breast cancer. They are two different issues with two different treatments, and they require two different conversations" (18). (This is what me from a few years ago who was just learning about white privilege needed to hear). 

"Often, being a person of color in a white-dominated society is like being in an abusive relationship with the world" (19). 

"It's the system, and our complacency in that system, that gives racism its power, not individual intent" (28). (This is something I need to work on).

"And if you are white, and you don't want to feel any of that pain by having these conversations, then you are asking people of color to continue to bear the entire burden of racism alone" (51). 

"When we are willing to check our privilege, we are not only identifying areas where we are perpetuating oppression in order to stop personally perpetuating that oppression, but we are also identifying areas where we have the power and access to change the system as a whole" (65). 

"Being privileged doesn't mean that you are always wrong and people without privilege are always right- it means that there is a good chance you are missing a few very important pieces of that puzzle" (66). 

"Our police force was not created to serve black Americans; it was created to police black Americans and serve white Americans" (91).

"Affirmative action is a crucial tool if we want to mitigate some of the effect of systematic racism and misogyny in our society" (114).

"When our kids spend eight hours a day in a system that is looking for reasons to punish them, remove them, criminalize them- our kids do not get to be kids" (133).

"The problem with appropriation is primarily linked to the power imbalance between the culture doing the appropriation and the culture being appropriated. The power imbalance allows the culture being appropriated to be distorted and redefined by the dominant culture and siphons any material or financial benefit of that piece of culture away to the dominant culture, while marginalized cultures are still persecuted for living in that culture" (147).

"Microagressions are small daily insults and indignities perpetrated against marginalized or oppressed people... that cumulative effect of these constant reminders that you are "less than" does real psychological damage..." (169).

"You are not doing any favors, you are doing what is right... Your efforts to dismantle White Supremacy are expected of decent people who believe in justice. You are not owed gratitude or friendship from people of color for your efforts. We are not thanked for cleaning our own houses" (210)

Oluo offers suggestions at the end of her book, that encourage acting, not just thinking and talking, since action is what will really make a difference. Some things that I plan on doing:

- continue to donate money to groups like the ACLU, SPLC, and Planned Parenthood
- vote diversely and purposefully (not just being satisfied with party lines, but seeing who is running within the party) 
- get involved in schools (clearly I am already involved, but I need to do better there- I am in a position to let students talk and grow)
- speak up when safe (for me this means when my students are "just joking," when I reads comments of those I know on social media that are offensive, or even if I see something at, say, the store)
- not be afraid to ask friends questions and accept their answers (I am fortunate enough to have many amazing friends from a variety of backgrounds)

This book was a good reminder, refresher, and eye-opener in many ways. Oluo provided plenty of personal anecdotes that illustrated her points well and reminded me that I will never truly get it. I can be open to conversation, I can do what I can as a white woman to bring about change and fairness, I can try to imagine what it's like using my personal experiences as a woman, but I will never understand what it means to be black in America. And while she didn't explicitly address this topic, this also reinforced the idea that I need to be mindful of how I raise my son when it comes to race and social differences. 

I will conclude this by saying that I am actually really thankful for my friend who took issue with my dress. It was sort of a turning point that started an important self-reflection process. I am not perfect, and I am sure I've done things or said things or thought things that I haven't even realized are wrong, but I want to be better. Books like this help me to be more mindful of who I want to be and what I want this country to be like. Oluo also reminded me that it's okay to screw up when trying to discuss race- it's when you quit talking and listening that the problem really begins. 

This book is important. Read it.  

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts- Tardy Edition

[I died when I saw this at a stoplight]

A few days late, but that's what holiday week's are for, right? Link up in the comments if you want to play!

1. We leave for Canada soon, so I'm trying to get everything done and ready so that the day we head out I'm not in a tizzy. I have become much more relaxed about traveling now that I'm older- if we remember our medication/contacts and there are stores where we are going then it's all going to be okay. My biggest concerns are navigating the airport with all of our shit and then my credit cards cooperating (I swear, this always happens; I notify them I'm leaving the area and then the first.... or tenth... time I go to use one it's declined and I have to call).

2. I am obsessed with the new Death Cab for Cutie song, "Goldrush." I think 1/2 of the 1,000,000+ listens on Spotify are from me.

3. I am also loving the new Instagram "caught up" feature aka "stop screwing around and get productive."

4. We've had friends over a few times and a small family gathering and this has been excellent motivation to keep my house clean. Is that the secret? Just have guests over a few times a month to ensure that your house is in tiptop shape? I really enjoy hosting, so maybe that really is the way to go...

5. CAN WE NOT FIGURE OUT HOW TO GET THOSE POOR KIDS OUT OF THE CAVE ALREADY? Ugh. The whole thing is just so terrible. First of all, it's terrible because it's just that- simply terrible. I also find it particularly terrible because I am very claustrophobic, so the very thought of being stuck in a space like that is absolutely terrifying. JUST GET THEM OUT. 

6. Yesterday after I took Sawyer to preschool I drove to Crystal Cove in Newport and spent the day on the beach reading Chemistry by Weike Wang. A whole book in one sitting! What kind of summertime magic is that? I also squeezed in a thirty minute walk on the beach, which was basically icing on the cake. I think I'll try to make this happen once more before I go back to work (for those of you who think I'm horrible for not taking my kid, I did get friend on the back of my legs, which is making dressing and sitting very painful, so the universe did give me a slap on the wrist, I suppose).

7. Speaking of reading, I'm reading So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo, which I am declaring now to be a primer for white people, despite the fact I'm only half way through. I'm also reading The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen, since I loved The Sympathizer

8. I'm off for a lunch date with my husband. This is the third time in less than a month that we've gone out without Sawyer- crazy!  In a few weeks we are going to Vegas as a family and  staying together with my in-laws one night, and then Scott and I are going to stay on the strip alone for another. This is clearly the summer of us finally hanging out by ourselves again.

June Reviews

I started the summer off right with eight books read. Truth be told, part of it was some much needed escapism after May being so rough, part of it was taking Sawyer to school and having time to myself, and part of it was simply not having to grade papers anymore. Here's a super quick rundown:

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett 
322 pages
This was a reread, since it was last month's book club selection, but basically, Patchett chronicles the lives of two families that are enmeshed together, looking at various aspects of familial relationships. The novel teases about a great tragedy throughout and we finally see it unfold towards the end. 

Verdict: This is not my favorite Patchett book, but I still enjoyed it. I identified with the idea of a family tragedy that was sort of tiptoed around for years, but also with how the Franny character struggles to find her voice at times and ends up not taking enough of a stand. I think it's easy to attack her character, since she is weak and directionless, but I definitely could relate with her at certain points.

Let Your Mind Run by Deena Kastor 
281 pages
I wrote about this memoir here.

Calypso by David Sedaris
259 pages
In this collection of essays Sedaris mainly focuses on life at his beach house (The Sea Section- ha!) and how it connects the members of his family, who come to stay often. He also writes from the vantage point of middle-age, offering observations from this stage in life. One of my favorite accounts was when he let a woman he met at a book signing who had been a doctor in Mexico cut out a fatty tumor from his abdomen, since he had wanted to keep it to feed to a turtle (his surgeon said he couldn't let him keep it). I also appreciated a few that had to do with his Fitbit, since we crazy step-counters must stick together.

Verdict: I read this book while going through a tough day or two, so it ended up being the perfect source of comic relief. At one point I thought I might need to order every text he's ever written, but I refrained (for now). I've read his essays before, and have even taught a few, but I've never actually read one of his actual books. It was such a treat. 

Pops by Michael Chabon
127 pages
This was another collection of essays, although it focused on snapshots of fatherhood instead. Chabon built the book around an article he had published for GQ about accompanying his teenage son to Paris Fashion Week, which is definitely one of the strongest pieces in the text. He writes about what it means to parent in a way that fosters independence but also provides guidance. He makes mistakes along the way, but you can tell that he truly loves his family and takes parenting seriously. 

Verdict: I really enjoyed this slender volume, the essays witty and the stories about his family poignant. I saw him a few days after I read this and after hearing him speak I wanted to rush home and read everything else he's written that I haven't gotten around to yet (we have all of his books between my husband and I, but... time).

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
325 pages
This was also a reread, since I was able to attend an event that I won through Reese Witherspoon's Hello Sunshine Book Club. I feel like I've written about that and this book in excess, so we'll move on!

Florida by Lauren Groff
275 pages   
I'm a big fan of Groff, so when I heard she had a collection of short stories coming out I preordered it immediately. The stories in this volume are all set or connected to Florida, but not the bright, beachy, Walt Disney World Florida most of us envision. These stories are filled with darker shadows about human relationships, emotions, and trials.

Verdict: I think I prefer her novels, but this was still a really solid group of stories that haunted me after I finished them. These were more about the writing than anything for me, as she's able to combine a subtle wit with tougher emotions, like melancholy and defeat. Her descriptions of the setting are just as powerful as the way she quickly and expertly develops her characters as well. 

Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl
324 pages
It seems necessary to preface this with the fact that I am not a YA reader and maybe read one a year, at most. Therefore, I am not the target demographic or reader, although I did try to keep an open mind since I adore Pessl. 

This novel is about a group of friends, including Beatrice, who are reunited after the they graduate. The elephant in the room is the unresolved death of Bea's boyfriend, Jim, which she thinks her friends know more about than they've said. After a night of partying they find themselves in an accident and then thrown into this sort of weird purgatory that they need to get themselves out of. They relive the same day over and over again and are supposed to vote for one of the group to make it out alive. Trials and tribulations ensue.

Verdict: This was definitely my least favorite book the month. I tend to find the dialogue in YA books fairly unrealistic, which I have at least some authority on, since I work with teenagers and hear them ALL DAY for 10 months a year. That aside, I just don't like fantasy stories and found the ultimate end predictable.

The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer
454 pages
This lengthy novel focuses around Greer, a bright young woman who ends up dipping her toes into feminism after some unwanting groping at a frat party (the guys ended up being the Harvey Weinstein of their campus). Soon after, Greer attends a talk by the famous feminist and journalist Faith Frank, where she's inspired and soon becomes a bit obsessed with the lady. Meanwhile, Greer must maintain a long-distance relationship, develop friendships, and come to terms with the failures of her parents. As the book unfolds, Greer ends up working with Frank and ends up questioning her role in the world as as a woman and how she will leave her mark while still handling her personal life.

Verdict: There were many things I appreciated about this book, and a few I did not. First of all, I liked that Wolitzer incorporated many types of feminists in the novel and subsequently offered perspective from each. Greer was the young idealist who wanted to be both feminine and powerful, her friend Zee navigated what it meant in terms of sexuality, Frank Faith was the old-school women's-lib leader who also had to balance that with business, and Greer's boyfriend Cory represented the male attempt at feminism. The message was strong, and the side plots helped move the story along, for the most part. I did think the book was too long, though, and the length at times detracted away from the power of feminism. I also didn't necessarily care for the way the novel was set up- it felt disjointed at times (and I have no problem with nonlinear stories). It's definitely not a quick read, but I'm still glad I went for it. 

 2,367 pages