January Reviews

January, good bye, good riddance, see ya next year! I know it’s the common thing right now to lament the fact that January feel forty-two months long, but it really has. I’m cold (I know, I know, I live in Southern California I shouldn’t complain), I’m tired, and I’ve just recently gotten over my sad “the holidays are over” blues. One glimmer in the grey? I’ve read eight super-diverse books this month, which is probably the most I’ve ever read during a non-summer month. 

I started off the month reading the critically-acclaimed Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday. It was a dense novel of two different stories (plus an ending sort of appendix or coda), one about a young editor’s relationship with a much older writer and another about an American Iraqi detained in London. I honestly need to read it again, to more closely examine the connection between the two; there’s the obvious reveal at the end that I won’t spoil, and I did catch glimmers of threads throughout. I know that this is a huge criticism she has received of her writing, but I don’t fault Halliday at all for not explicitly spelling out her message to the reader. Nonetheless, her writing is superb and I will read her future endeavors.

Also, in line with the “popular literary fiction” genre, was The Leavers by Lisa Ko, which we read for book club this month. This book told the story of Deming Guo, a young Chinese boy whose mother disappears, resulting in his eventual adoption by a white couple. The book explores issues of identity, adoption, motherhood, and family, all the while making an important comment on how America treats those in search of a better life within our borders.

I read two less challenging books this month, The Perfect Nanny by Leila Silmani and The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker. Silmani’s novel about a French family who ends up hiring a nanny who kills their children ended up being much better written than I had thought it would be. After seeing it on so many “best of” lists I was intrigued as to why something I had presumed to be total junk was getting so much attention. The Dreamers I was a little skeptical about, since I thought her first book fell a bit short but had potential. This one, about people in a small college town who fall into deep sleeps but a mysterious illness was much better, but still definitely lacked substantial depth. It will definitely be on my “beach reads for literary people” once the weather warms up.

I read two books this month that were a tiny bit outside of my normal literary comfort zone, The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson and Watchmen, the graphic novel by Alan Moore (and these two couldn’t be more wildly different from each other!). The Argonauts has been deemed “autotheory,” in the sense that Nelson uses criticism and theory of works to examine her own life, specifically her sexuality and experience with her partner. It was fascinating but tough, not in terms of content, but just because I haven’t read a tone of criticism since college. It did feel good to work that literary muscle again! Watchmen was recommended to me by a friend a work and my husband, and there were aspects I really enjoyed and some I did not. I’m glad I finally read it and will definitely recommend it to some of my students.

After seeing Kamala Harris speak a few weeks ago, I sped through her new book, The Truth We Hold. It all sounds good, of course. She sound liberal, capable, fair, and equipped to the do the job… in the book that she wrote about herself and record. I’m not saying she isn’t any of those things, because I really felt inspired listening to her and feel that me voting for her is a real possibility. I just want to be informed, patient, and open to all choices at this stage of things.

And to round out the month, I reread Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis for the fourth or fifth time in my life, since that’s what I’m currently teaching. I always look forward to all the projects we do with it and of course our big class discussion that round out our study.

What did you read? What was good? 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

I just completed the above project for a friend's new baby. It was so fun to design and finish! Instead of framing it like I normally do, I backed the hoop with felt, which ended up a nice change. I'm currently on a RBG series, which is shaping up to be the best kind of obnoxious. Stay tuned. 

I finished Watchmen today and while not all parts were my favorite, I definitely can appreciate Alan Moore's work. It's a deeply thought-provoking work and the different layers and components worked together to tell a good story. I just wish it was a novel.... (although then I would probably deem it to sci-fi and not read it).

Margaret Atwood is coming to UC Riverside, which is about thirty minute from my house, but I can't make her talk! Someone amazing comes close and I can't go? Gah! Luckily I've already seen her, so I'm not quite as heartbroken.

I am completely caught up with my grading, which is a miracle. I mean the semester is barely two weeks old, but I've managed to grade 120 of each a set of questions, a quiz, a reflection, and a in-class essay. I've been teaching my kids more about time management lately, and have been trying to really practice what I preach. We have a President's Day break soon and I'm trying to go into with nothing to do. 

Now that the holidays are over, I've been counting calories again this week. It's the worst, but also the best thing I can do to lose a few pounds. I was reading a blog the other day and the blogger was so obviously terrified to admit to her readers that she was trying to lose baby weight by counting her macros and it made me so irritated. Yes, we should love our bodies and be proud, but it's also perfectly okay to want to lose a few pounds (as long as it's needed and done healthily). I hate that we're either judged for looking a certain way OR judged for wanting to look a certain way. There's no winning.

The countdown to Friday is ON. I am taking the day off, since I have a morning doctor's appointment. That night my friend and I are driving out to LA  for the Elton John concert. I grew up listening to him and still have him on basically every play list I create, so I can't wait. The rest of the weekend is supposed to be pretty rainy, so I plan to spend some QT in my sweatpants with a book on the couch. There will probably be some games of Candyland and some Magnet Block building in there too...

Writing Update (3)

The last time I wrote about my own personal writing-novel endeavors was back in November, and I was well aware that my efforts would undoubtedly stall during the holidays. And while they did, I did make some important decisions about what I was working on.

The biggest development was that I decided to pretty much scrap what I had been previously working on and go with another idea. I don’t want to go too much in detail here/yet, but my new plan centers around a school, taking advantage of the microcosmic qualities that campuses possess in terms of staff and students. The storyline that I had been working with before just felt too forced and I was having difficulties with the timelines matching up and what writing in the near future would mean. I may return to the idea someday, but for now it’s definitely on the back burner.


My biggest issue right now is determining an actual plot… I have an idea of what I want the narrative structure to be like, who the characters are, and thematic implications, though. And while I am a huge proponent of character-driven stories, I do need something to propel the story forward.

Current Reads

I feel like I am totally in the thick of it, reading, wise, so here's what my nose has been stuck in lately:

I have had this cookbook for several years, but I dusted it off the other day and used the basic recipe for calzones. They were perfect! There were a ton of other recipes in the book that all stem from the basic mother-dough recipe, so I'm excited to experiment and wish I would have earlier.

I've been reading Watchmen by Alan Moore at the recommendation of my husband and a friend at work, both agreeing that the existential nature might work well while teaching Kafka's The Metamorphosis. It's outside of my comfort zone, but I am enjoying it.

I am getting through a stack of essays on Maya Angelou's poem "Still I Rise," which I used as a blind timed write assignment, the first time they've had to do one on a poem (usually it's a passage). They're surprising me and doing pretty well!

I basically devoured Kazuko Aoki's Embroidered Garden Flowers, which has helped me expand the variety of flowers I use in my work and develop some new stitches. It's a beautifully put together book, and I might get some of her others. 

I am about 50 or so pages into Richard Powers' Overstory, which I am enjoying, despite being a little daunted by the density and length. I know it will worth it. 

The last week or so has been INCREDIBLY busy and I've been trying to put my nose the grindstone and really try to knock out tasks to stay on top of the necessities at work and home. I do try to make time every single day to read, though, since it keeps me centered.

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

I’ve recently started two new books, Watchmen and The Overstory, and I’m finally starting to get into both. It’s been tough!  They’re both dense in their own rights and each deserve chunks of my time so that I can establish some sort of grip on the texts, which I haven’t been able to give the last few days. I know both are worth it, I just need get there.

I am listening to The Other Woman by Sandie Jones and it’s the fluffiest, most entertaining story ever that is perfect for driving (when alone, of course).

I am trying to cut back on my Diet Coke consumption and it makes me extremely sad. I know that it’s for the best, and I’m not quitting, because you shouldn’t give up on things you really love, but I am trying to noticeably reduce what I drink. Please note that I am not divulging how much I really drink…

We started a new semester this week and I love that each kid gets to start over. I’m really focusing this semester on how to help them with their time-management skills, since many of them have a full load of advanced classes, plus extracurricular activities. It’s also been nice for me this week, since they haven’t had any assignments due, meaning I have had nothing to grade. We all win.

Sawyer is having a definite moment with Disney movies from when I was a kid- Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Little Mermaid. He is constantly requesting songs from these movies be added to his Spotify playlist for the car (yes, he has a playlist, so I don’t have to hunt around for songs), which means I’ve had “Be Our Guest” stick in my head for like a week.

I made calzones the other night using Broke Ass Gourmet’s basic pizza dough recipe and they turned out so great. I usually use another recipe, which requires more time for the dough to rise and ends up baking up a little tougher. I actually have her pizza dough book, which I’ve never spent a proper amount of time with- this recipe has made me excited to see how versatile the recipe really is.

I’m incredibly irritated by the government shutdown, but even more so now, since it’s looking like it might impact my spring break plans. We have gone to Yosemite for the past three years for a few nights, but since the National Parks Service isn’t working, the park is reportedly pretty trashed. There’s no way I’m driving seven hours and spending a solid chunk of change on a hotel to hike around human waste. I will probably reserve the room just in case things are resolved, but then I’m also torn between staying home and saving money, or finding somewhere else to go. Granted the impact it is having on me is FAR LESS than it is having on people who are going without paychecks, so I do recognize my problem is minor. These people. I swear.

This weekend is shaping up to be looking good- time with a friend Saturday morning, and then the San Diego Zoo Safari Park with my brother, his wife, and my mother-in-law Sunday.

Weaknesses (of the Bookish Variety)

I have lots of weaknesses, unfortunately. Diet Coke. Sugary cereal with cartoon mascots. A certain baking show set in Britain. Hell, baked goods in general. Skin care products that promise dewy complexions. Puppies. The list goes on and on and isn’t devoid of some literary ones as well. Here are a few bookish weaknesses that I just can’t shake:

Magical realism- I read House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende when I was a sophomore in high school and was instantly hooked. There are so, so many that I haven’t gotten to, but I’ve loved seeing how the genre is represented in different countries by different authors (man, that sounds like the makings of a great class to teach, or take). I’m a pretty realistic girl, so I’ve always steered clear of fantasy. Magical realism offers a tiny sprinkling of imagination in a probable plot, which makes it so attractive to me.

Medical memoirs- Once upon a time I was going to be a doctor. In fact, in my eighth grade yearbook career goal quote I claimed I was on track to be a pediatric cardiologist. I’ve always been a fan of medical shows, worked for a vascular surgeon for my entire undergraduate career, and even studied for and passed the test to earn my biology credential. Since my pursuit of this interest never actually came to full fruition (as I stare at papers to grade… womp womp womp), reading about real-live doctors who lived and breathe medicine is the next best thing.

The quirky protagonist- At the end of the day, I fully acknowledge that I can be lean a little towards the eclectic side, especially in my interests, so I guess these are the type of people I most find myself identifying with. I also find more depth in characters who are written from this perspective as well, since perfect cookie-cutter people can be a bit boring (or perhaps I’m projecting).

Anything about running- I have been a runner for over a decade, and while I’m not fast, I am consistent. I also have a deep appreciation for people who have spent their lives training to be great at my hobby, as well as those who have overcome great odds to fulfill their dreams. I also find reading about running to be incredibly motivating- I’m quite positive that there is a direct correlation in my mileage ticking up the weeks I read these types of books.

Interconnected short stories- I am such a sucker for short story collections that have interwoven threads between the narratives. Perhaps there are just little Easter eggs here or there, a minor character showing up multiple times or the same even occurring in the background. Or maybe it ends up being a larger factor, like in Tommy Orange’s There There. This concept, the interconnected short story collection, is actually something I am exploring in my own writing right now (it’s heard, guys… more later).

Women's March Los Angeles

Yesterday my friend and I went to the Women's March in LA, just as we did last year. The weather was spectacular after nearly a week of rain, the signs were genius, and the overall message was essential. 

I appreciated the emphasis on intersectionality this year, as that is what third-wave feminism is all about. There were a lot of groups there to spread that message, which is incredibly important in this day and age. There are so many levels to feminism- race, sexuality, class differences, etc... that have to be recognized. We live in a complicated society and we have to move past the simple definition of the movement. There were also plenty of men present, which of course is awesome. 

There were definitely less people, due to the whole ideological split that happened with the march movement (it's a long, complicated story.... Google it...), the poor weather during the week beforehand, the complications of the teacher's strike (I completely support them! I stand with UTLA!), and just the sort of lack of momentum that's caused from the exhaustion that is the Trump administration. There were still thousands and thousands of women there, don't get me wrong. It just wasn't as insanely packed as last year (and the year before, from what I have heard). 


I definitely plan on attending every year that there is one- it's important.  

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Hey there! Leave your link in the comments if you play along.

1. I live in Southern California and it has been raining for like four days straight, which is very rare for these parts. Usually we get a half day here or there, but we've gotten several inches since Sunday and it's starting to get old. I feel like a jerk complaining, buuuuuuuut mild winter weather is supposed to be one of the perks of living here. Sure, we overpay for our houses, sit way too long in traffic, but, dammit, give us our sunny 65 degree winter back. 

2. I have been bitten by the embroidery bug hard, and busted the above pattern out last weekend. I had a bit of an epiphany for what I could do for my own series of patterns the other day, so maybe my Etsy shop will be opening earlier than I thought.... or not. I am really nervous about doing it. What if it fails and no one buys anything? Or what if I can't keep up with the orders? What if it turns into a chore and I end up dreading it? I just don't know.

3. I just started Kamala Harris' new book, which should be timely considering it looks like she's going to announce her presidency soon.

4. I am watching the UTLA strike in the Los Angeles Public School District carefully, since it really could be a big moment for teachers, unions, and our state. Our own union had some pretty hairy negotiations earlier this year and we were starting to throw around option to strike too. From this I know that they did not make this decision lightly. 

5. It's finals week at school, which means we have strange schedules, lots of grading to complete, and planning for the new semester. I'm also fighting off the beginnings of a cold and have a crazy four-year-old who hasn't been outside since Saturday. And on that note, I'm wrapping this up for bed (or at least the incredibly lengthy process that involves a lot of straightening, a bit too much time on my phone, assorted skincare products, and melatonin). 

Parenting: Expectations vs Reality

The other day I was talking about parenting with a few friends, and how some of the things you thought pre-children end up being dramatically different once you have them, while some things actually end up meeting your expectations. Since then I've been thinking a lot about those things, the ones that ended up went according to plan, and those that didn't. Naturally, there's a list:

(disclaimer: this is about my experiences and what works for my family. We all have different experiences, preferences, and situations and I'm not here to judge)

(disclaimer #2: this ended up being long.... moms love to talk about parenting)

What I was wrong about/didn’t realize:

How fun it is- I actually never really thought about the potential for fun all that much when I was pregnant, mostly because I sort of assumed that my mom had little fun raising the four of us (sorry mom...). It has actually been such a blast! I love doing simple things around the house like building with LEGOs or larger activities like going on vacation. Everything is so fun and exciting to him, and that positivity ends up being contagious. 

My child is an incredibly picky eater and it is incredibly irritating- I am quite picky myself, so why I didn't think my kid would be is BEYOND me. I think because he was pretty easy when he was first started eating solids I just assumed that he would continue to eat anything I put in front of him. Not so much. I also didn't anticipate how annoying, and sometimes enraging, it would be sitting across from him having stalemates over how many bites of meatball (or whatever) he needed to eat. He's actually gotten better lately and negotiations have improved, but there have been some "moments," to say the least.

Just how tiring it really is- I'll talk about my failure at sleep training in a second, but Sawyer didn't sleep through the night consistently until he was about three and a half. He didn't wake up screaming, but he'd wake up 2-4 times a night even after he stopped nursing, and it was brutal. He'd have bad dreams, need his blankets, think it was morning, etc... and I'd have to settle him back down. After working a full day, taking care of the house, being a mom, trying to work out, etc... it was just soul-crushing. Yes, I'm still tired now, and still don't get enough sleep, but it's much better. 

How stressful childcare logistics are- We knew that we'd use daycares since before he was born and it was my task to find one (we don't have any available family and I didn't want him with one single person alone all day every day, anyway). We knew we wanted something secular and geographically convenient, so I interviewed tons of places before going with a home daycare my husband's sister's kids went to. It was great while he was a baby, but we outgrew it and then she ended up retiring, so I had to find another place when he was three. That was incredibly stressful, but we ended up finding an AMAZING preschool that I wish he could stay at until he goes to college. Both times made me really anxious; there were tears, lost sleep, excessive internet searches, etc...

That I'd fail at sleep training-  I really, really planned on making Sawyer cry it out and read all the books. Night one: he sobbed uncontrollably for hours to the point were he vomited in his bed. The mother-effing end. I couldn't watch my super happy, easy-going baby go through this. And yes, I was the mom crying in the other room while this was being attempted.

That I wanted another baby- I come from a family with four kids and always assumed I'd have multiple kids. Turns out we're one and done; kids take up tons of time and money and I know myself well enough to be confident that I'd become a complete monster if I added another one to the mix. I don't have enough time in the day to work full time, be a good mom, take care of my home, participate in my own hobbies, have a social life, and sleep. Some women can do it amazingly, but I am not one of them. Plus I am thirty-five and it took us awhile to conceive the first time around. I have moments where I reconsider,  as I do sometimes feel guilty Sawyer won't have a sibling, but I don't feel okay bringing another life into the world just because my kid might like a playmate. 

The strain it puts on marriage- Clearly I won't be airing our dirty laundry here, but for most of Sawyer's life my husband has worked very long hours and I have done a lot of the domestic stuff. My schedule is really conducive to child-rearing, which is awesome, but it can also be tough. It's also rough when your baby is breastfed and you're their main source of food and comfort- it became habitual. We didn't get divorced, though, so clearly we figured something out. 

How much kids talk- My child doesn't shut up. Ever. This is hard for me because I hear people talking ALL DAY at work and don't have time to decompress until he goes to bed. Back before he was born I'd have until my husband got home from work at like seven to collect myself, but now, not so much. I mean I'm glad he talks and that he wants to interact with me, but all he does is talk. And talk. And talk.

Pumping is a huge pain- I honestly had no idea what a huge pain in the ass pumping would be at work- the stress of not pumping enough, making sure no one walked into my class to interrupt, dealing with all the pump parts, washing everything at work, and the freezing/thawing task. I stuck it out until he was a year, and I was really proud of that, but I hated it SO much.  

Things I ended up being right about/expectations that proved true:

Limited screen time- I limit Sawyer's screen time to about a half an hour on school nights, with more flexibility on weekends. He doesn't get to use the iPad unless we're in the car for like more than three and we don't take it to appointments or dinner out. Mostly this is because I want him to be active and playing, but also because I don't like all the extra noise that comes with technology. I think coping with boredom is an important skill too and I know I am guilty as an adult for relying on my phone to alleviate that. We do have some educational apps, but, honestly, I usually forget to have them to them because he's too busy playing with LEGOs or blocks. 

Not wanting to be a stay-at-home mom- I've known my whole life this isn't something I was interested in; I need to be around people and get out of the house. Being a mom is important, but I put a lot of value in my career as well. It was tough sending him to daycare the first week or two and I always love extra time off with him, but I could never stay home full time. 

Maintaining an active social life- I probably am more social now, since I need to get away and have some time with friends! I make it a point to go out without Sawyer at least twice a month and then with him sometimes too, when meeting up with my mom-friends. I honestly don't know what I'd do without the time I have with my friends!

Still devoting time to my hobbies and interests- I refused to be a mom that quit doing what she loved because she had kids; I read just as much (if not more), I work out, I bake, etc... If it's important you make it work.

Being flexible- I really mean this in the broadest sense; routine, health, expectations, etc... I knew that I wanted to make sure Sawyer was on a routine, but I also knew that I'd be flexible so that we could still have fun. I know kids get sick and you have to adjust your life, and the same with just having rough days. Very little is locked in when you have a young kid, and I think growing up in a big family prepared me for that. 

Not being dramatic about health concerns, behavior, etc… Kids get sick, kids get upset, and kids regress in certain areas. Again, being around little kids growing up helped me big time here. I am also super chill when it comes to medical issues in general, so it takes a lot for me to take Sawyer to the doctor (he has probably gone in less than ten times in his life, not counting well-child visits). I have been lucky, though, as he has been relatively healthy. (I will admit that anything with teeth bugs me, though).

No babies/kids in my bed- I can't stand touching anyone when I sleep, so this simply wasn't going to happen. When he was tiny I probably would have been fine, since babies are relatively still and cuddly, but I knew that if we settled into the habit it would be hard to break, so I really forced myself to stick to it. There were many, many nights that I wanted to just bring him to sleep with me so I could knock out, but I was determined. A few times when he was sick and  I slept with him on the couch to really be as stubborn as possible.  

Exposing him to lots of things- Before I was pregnant I was determined to get out and about as much as possible during his baby and toddler years, so that he would be exposed to different places and people, and would learn how to act appropriately in different situations. He likes visiting museums, but will also go crazy at the trampoline park. He'll walk around zoos or hike for hours and knows how to sit still in the movies. This didn't just happen, though, I started taking him places when he was a newborn and had to really learn to be patient and positive.

Being (appropriately) honest- I never wanted to sugar-coat things for him, so we call our body parts by their names, have given him the basics on death, and he knows that sometimes moms and dads fight. I keep it age-appropriate, but I want him to have a firm grasp on reality.

Making Sawyer as independent/self-sufficient as possible for his age- My mom was a stickler for chores and for making us do things on our own (I remember learning to use the phone book quite young and calling places like the library on my own to see when they were closing for the day), so I knew that when I had kids I'd do the same. 

Parents! What were your experiences? 

Kamala Harris at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre

Yesterday afternoon a few friends and I drove to LA to listen to Senator Kamala Harris promote her new book, The Truth's We Hold, at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre. Given that she's reportedly planning to announce her run for presidency next week, the outing seemed timely and important. The crowd was disproportionately female and the energy was high- these were our people, for sure.

Senator Harris didn't disappoint, discussing her upbringing, her roles as a district attorney and attorney general in California, her views on bipartisanship, her hope for the country, and what motivated her to write this book. She was incredibly well-spoken, appropriately candid, warm, funny, and impressively intelligent. I appreciated her metaphor of a house for the country, that our foundation is still intact, despite the fact that we've been through a "natural disaster" and the roof might be a bit damaged. I left inspired, hopeful for the next election, and relieved that there are still politicians that can create positive change. 

This isn't to say that she's perfect. I know that more and more is coming out about her track record with prosecuting certain crimes and the incarceration rate when she was in charge. These things are important and I plan to do more research on whatever democratic candidates end up running. I think my biggest struggle right now is that anyone with experience and similar views as me is instantly deemed "better than who we have right now!" While this is true, it's important to remember to not get attached to anyone at this stage in the game... it's going to be a long twenty-two months. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

I am not a fan of January. I deleted the long lament I initially wrote, and will sum it up briefly: between things at work and home, the cold dreary weather, plus the general post-Christmas emotional deflation, I feel lethargic and burnt out. Itwillpassitwillpassitwillpass.

I have started teaching myself how to embroider, which I think I might actually like more than cross-stitching. Sure, it’s more complex and the patterns aren’t as cut-and-dry, but I love the look and the fact that it’s actually a lot faster. The picture above is of my first attempt, and while there is definitely a great deal of room for improvement, I am admittedly quite pleased. I’m already weighing options for my next project and starting to plan some of my own patterns.

I am going to a Kamala Harris event this weekend with some friends in LA and I’m really looking forward to hearing what she has to say (and getting her new book). I have mixed feelings about her running for president, as I’m conflicted between playing it safe and supporting someone who will truly bring change (ie someone like Biden versus someone like Booker), but I am excited to learn more.

Sawyer, who will be five in April, is all of the sudden questioning his own mortality. LOVELY. We were driving to school the other morning and he voiced his concern regarding dying one day. It hasn’t been a topic in our home lately, but he’s been pretty fascinated with zombies, so I’m guessing his amusement has turned into curiosity and worry. Google told me this is fairly normal with preschoolers and I did my best to reassure him, but it wasn’t a discussion I was really expecting at 6:45 on a Monday morning. I try to approach all topics like this honestly and openly, but also in an age-appropriate context. Yes, we all die. Yes, men have penises and women have vaginas (well, assuming that’s how they identify, but we’re not there yet). Yes, sometimes guys marry guys and girls marry girls. Yes, mommies and daddies argue sometimes. I guess we’re just entering the next phase of parenting.  

While we’re being morbid, I have to confess something: I picked up Chomsky’s remains from the vet over a month ago and they’re sitting in the bag in our laundry room still. His collar is in my car, which is a nice little reminder, but his ashes are really just because my husband prefers that’s what is done with our deceased pets. He has Cordie’s, but Chomsky’s, whelp, they’re sitting in the laundry room sink in their nice cedar box (and no, Sawyer has no idea, so this isn’t where his preoccupation is coming from).

I am currently reading The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson and it’s definitely very different what I normally read. It’s labeled at “autotheory” and described as a “genre-bending memoir,” that describes her experiences pregnant, as a mother, and also as the partner of a person who doesn’t gender-identify. I think I’ve spent a fair amount of time over the past few years reading literature and nonfiction by people of color, but this is definitely a population of writers that I haven’t really delved into. I think I’m still sort of developing the vocabulary do adequately discuss what I’ve learned and read, but I’m planning on a post focusing on this book and my experience listening to Vanishing Twins by Leah Dietrich.

In the mood to bake cookies? I used to bake these chocolatepeanut butter cookies years ago and made them again last weekend. Sure, they require chilling and are really two cookies in one, but they’re so good and stay soft for DAYS.

5 Books I Might Possibly Reread... Someday

There are very few situations that I honestly feel warrant re-reading: picture books to my son, books I am teaching at work, and selections for book club (and only if I must). It boils down to the simple fact that my TBR list is just too intense to justify spending precious time on books I’ve already devoted hours too. Once in a while, though, usually when I am hearing my students discuss their outside reading assignments, I do have the desire to revisit some favorites. And while I don’t have any immediate plans to, here are a few that I’ve definitely considered lately:

House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende- I read this in high school and instantly fell in love with magical realism, so I feel like the origin of this preference deserves a reread. Fun fact: in college I wrote an impassioned letter to the editor of my hometown newspaper defending the novel when a group of parents were trying to remove it from the IB curriculum.

Crime and Punishment by Fydor Dostoyevsky: This is another high school love for me, which also sparked an interest in Russian literature (I took a few classes in college on it). I remember we had to do this sort of “interactive notebook” on in junior year and I CRUSHED the assignment, doing every possible variation and option the teacher gave us. I received plenty of extra credit with the comment, “Whether this is a labor of love or a love of labor, I’m not sure.”

The Narnia Series by CS Lewis: I have all of these in one collected volume but I’ve been tempted to buy a boxed set, especially since I’ll be able to read it with Sawyer in a few years. I remember these books so fondly and was so proud that I completed them all. (Julie has been reading them! Check out her reviews)

The Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole: I know I loved it and thought it was hilarious, but I seriously remember very little. I’m disgusted with myself.

Something by Oscar Wilde- I took an entire seminar on his my senior year in college and I loved everything. I actually reread (shockingly) The Picture of Dorian Grey a year or two ago, but there were so many other great ones.  

Why I Can't Go To Sleep:

[in bed]
1. I forgot to turn the upstairs heater down, but now it's sort of just cycled on and I don't want to confuse it. I'll wait a few minutes.
2. Did I check on Sawyer when I first came up here? I need to make sure he doesn't look like a human q-tip with his blankets over his head and pulled tight. Can I see him on the monitor?
[looks at monitor]
3. Dammit, I'll just go check on him. If something happens to him and I didn't check on him after considering checking on him I'd never forgive myself. Plus, then I can turn the heater on.
[checks on Sawyer, turns heater down]
4. I need to pee. Again.
[goes to the bathroom, goes back to bed]
5. What is that weird noise the toilet makes as it's done filling up? Has it always done that? Is there some sort of weird dripping happening in the walls? But I think I remember hearing that and being bugged by that like a year ago, so if something was wrong it would be a huge leak in the wall, right? 
6. But what if something is wrong and it's just getting worse? And what if the insurance cancels our policy after we submit a claim? 
7. Wait, now what is that other noise? Is that the pool pump? Why would it be the pool pump? Is the part that is still controlled by the house keypad cycling on because it's in freeze mode, since it's so cold? But the new pump doesn't do that, so will it break? Are we going to ruin our new $1700 pool pump? Do pipes really freeze in Southern California? That seems ridiculous. I had short sleeves on today. 
8. Also, what has been going on with the pool sweep lately? Why doesn't it ever go into the shallow end? I'm going to get a text from the pool guy this week, I know it. 
9. I need to relax and let this stuff go. I can't do anything tonight but sleep.
10. It would be so nice to just go away alone for like a three-day weekend and just relax. Where would I even go? The beach? Mountains? Palm Springs? I could sleep in, I could get a massage, I could read for hours, I could eat room service... but mostly the sleeping in dark, quiet room in a huge bed to just get a handle on this exhaustion. 
11. But how could I even justify the expense? And would people think it was weird? Why do I even care? I work hard at home and at my job, and I make my own money, I deserve a break once in a damn while. Why don't more women just take a stand on go away for weekends alone? 
12. Maybe it's the neighbor's pool. Maybe if I crack the window I'll be able to tell.
[cracks window; it's definitely the neighbor's pool]
13. Why do they run their pool at night? Should we be doing that?
14. Why do I worry so much about the pool? It's outside, that should be at least a little reassuring. Maybe because the pool guy scares me a little bit and because repairs end up being so costly? Maybe because I have no control over it?
15. I worry about a lot of things I can't control: the pool, HVAC, plumbing, the stock market, etc...
16. Rich people are so lucky. They have like... groundskeepers. Or if they don't they can just make a call, hand over a credit card, and it's done. And if they're super inconvenienced they just check into a hotel, or just stay at one of their other homes.
17. I loved those houses in La Canada/Flintridge when were were up there, they were so huge and fancy. I wonder if they do seasonal home tours...
18. I'm so tired. I really need to make an effort to go to sleep. I don't even feel very good, I need to sleep. How am I going to get back on a normal schedule again? Why isn't the melatonin working like it did before I went off it?
19. I should probably go to the bathroom one last time, just in case.
[goes again]
20. We never got the rebate on the pool pump. I need to email them.
21. I need to email Kathy about meeting up next month too, dammit. What is wrong with me? 
22. There was something else I needed to do, but I don't remember. Crap. 
23. Wait, is there trash pick up this week? Is it pushed back because of the holiday? I think so. Right? I need to check in the morning as soon as I get up. 
24. Oh, I remember now- I need to make an appointment with the tax lady for next month. I really hope we get a lot back... I wonder if the calculators are current online now, I could put in some preliminary numbers tomorrow. I'm always so off, though, and we end up getting so much more back, so it's probably not even worth it. 

[this is why it takes me about 30-60 minutes a night to go to sleep, which is horrible... anyone have any great tips? I know all the regular ones, make a list before bed, don't use your phone, have a routine, etc... any others? I've thought about a weighted blanket, but then I saw somewhere that people who are claustrophobic don't like them, which I am, so now I don't know...]

December Reviews

It seems so last year to post December reviews (ha. ha. ha), but here we are, sticking to the plan, being consistent. Admittedly, my plan for December was getting through shorter books and graphic novels so I could make my goal of 71 books, so when I say I read eight books it wasn't like I was busting out War and Peace or anything. But, eight is eight, right?

I read two graphic novels, Lena Finkle's Magic Barel by Anya Ulinich (thank you Penguin for sending this an embarrassingly long time ago) and Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel. They were both about writers, somewhat autobiographical (Bechdel's more so), and about struggles with relationships. I enjoyed both but didn't necessarily feel moved in the same way that I've felt with graphic novels I've read this year.

Kara Goucher's Strong was a huge letdown. It was part running motivation and part journal, but as a whole it was incredibly generic. The pictures of her were good and the layouts were appealing, but I thought it was a waste. 

I read two collections of short stories, Pure Hollywood by Christine Schutt and Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah. Pure Hollywood was quite mediocre with a few moments of greatness. The writing felt like that of a writer who had maybe been great in her prime but had maybe lost a little bit of the gloss of her earlier work. Friday Black was an amazing commentary on race and societal values, with fantastic writing and some sort of futuristic/sci-fi vibes. 

The two novels I read were both quite good, Sigrid Nunez's The Friend and Meg Wolitzer' The Wife. Interestingly, both described relationships with older male writers that each of the female narrators has. The unnamed narrator in Nunez's work ends up inheriting her dead friend's Great Dane and must cope with his grief and her own. Joan, in The Wife, has decided that she's over holding her husband's hand at every stage of the writing process and wants an out. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Happy New Year! Link up in the comments!

1. Four more days until winter break is over! AUGH! I need to start doing the things I said I was supposed to, like re-caulk the bathroom shower, clean the garage, and take clothes in for donation. I've done the fun things, naturally. Luckily I don't have a pile of papers to grade looming over me, which helps significantly. 

2. My mom is in town with her husband and today we all went with my brother to see the floats from the Rose Parade in Pasadena. The level of artistry is off the charts! I was able to chaperone a group of kids to work on the building several years ago and was amazed at how long it takes to create each one. 

3. Yesterday we went to visit my grandma, who has Alzheimer's, in a new assisted living sort of place that she's in. It was a really hard decision for my grandpa to make, but he had triple bypass a few months ago and need some support. Luckily, the "facility" is really just a home that takes in people to care for and is basically across the street from my grandparents' home. My grandpa can walk to see her a few times a day and the place is immaculate and so well-cared for. It was reassuring to see her happy, taken care of (someone did her brows!), and comfortable. 

4. I've started listening to Vanishing Twins by Leah Dietrich, a memoir about her identity, sexuality, and marriage and am in awe of her writing. She reads it as well, which I think helps so much. It's always interesting to me, how people decide that "yup, my life has been fascinating and I can successfully write about it." I have a book on this topic, actually, but haven't gotten to it yet (shocking). 

5. I also just started Asymmetry, by Lisa Halliday, and I feel like such a failure for not knowing that it has been out of almost a year. 

6. I was upset to see some reports of bad behavior of people in National Parks during the government shutdown. To be honest, I think that they should just shut down as well- you can't trust people! Sure, most visitors are going to try to do their part, but the infrastructure in place just isn't built to run itself. Rangers and maintenance people are needed to take care of trash, plumbing issues, and supervision of the occasional hooligan that stops by.

I Love to Love Them: Resolutions (2019)

I'll admit it loud and proud: I love resolutions. Some year I have a ton, others, like last year, I may only make one, but nonetheless, I appreciate a time for goal setting. The older I get, the smarter I am about creating tasks for myself- I need to be reasonable and set the bar only so high. Things need to be measurable, as well (am I starting to sound like a PD for SMART Goals?). In order to help with this aspect, I plan on making a good old-fashioned chart to post in my closet or somewhere I see frequently as a reminder. So, without further ado, here's what I hope to achieve this year, reading and otherwise:

1. Read 72 books- last year I read 71, which I finished with about eight hours to spare, so we won't get too crazy.

2. Reduce my TBR pile 30% by the end of the year- right now it's at 114 books (gulp), so by the end of the year I need to be at 80. This leaves me plenty of room to buy books, but it adds that layer of accountability in slowing down the pace of purchasing.

3. Do yoga 100 times- I pretend to not know why I don't do more yoga, but the honest answer is that I'm a slave to my Fitbit and have this deep-rooted love for seeing my step total climb. This means my exercise is centered around running or hill-walking, leaving yoga by the wayside. I feel a million times better when I do yoga, though, and I know that I was at my personal best fitness level in 2012, when I was running three times a week and doing 2-3 90-minute yoga classes at a legit studio. My practice will have to be at home now, with the Down Dog App, but I desperately need to recommit. I detest strength training, which becomes more and more important as we age, so this also will help with that. And, finally, yoga makes me want to eat better. Cardio makes me crave crap, which I justify with the calorie burn, but yoga makes me want salad and water. 

4. Log 600 miles (running or walking)- I KNOW. This is at least partially negating everything that I just said, but I don't care. I want to, so I will.

5. Save $45/month for Christmas- Between my Amazon points and the cash I set aside, I basically covered all of my Christmas gift costs. That's my goal again! It made looking at my credit card statement the other day so much easier than past Decembers, that's for sure. 

6. Consider starting an Etsy Shop- So this is BIG maybe, but I have some ideas for some literary cross stitching that I think might work, and I have recently started embroidering and, well, not to be arrogant, I don't suck at it, as it turns out. I don't want to start something that I can't commit to, though, or that I end up half-assing. So come this summer we'll see if it's something I want to do. I feel like I owe it to myself, my ideas, and this creativity that sort of laid dormant my whole life, to at least consider it.

7. Write a rough draft of a novel- I actually have a post coming up on my writing progress, but, honestly, I don't think I'm busy enough between teaching, parenting, having a social life, etc... so I might as well attempt this to, right? Basically, I refuse to give up this dream and even if I'm putting in on my resolution list at seventy-three I won't let it die. 

8. Teach Sawyer to read- I am working really hard to NOT be a pushy teacher-mom who forces academics down his throat, but he's shown an interest and is in preschool, so I'm going with it. He starts kinder in August, so chances are his teacher will feel the brunt of this one, but I definitely plan on doing at least some of the front-loading for her. 

How 'bout you? Any resolutions?