Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts + I Opened an Etsy Shop

[is that not the laziest screenshot ever?]

1. The most important news of today- I finally opened my embroidery Etsy shop! My shop, DailyFlossEmbroidery, can be found here. I am definitely working to get a handle on the Etsy platform and don't really have a super high expectations of like quitting my day job, but it's still fun. 

2. My friend and I went to Vroman's bookstore in Pasadena yesterday and we spent nearly two hours browsing the fiction section and taking pictures of books we want to add to our wish lists. It was awesome. I walked away with only one book, Sally Rooney's first, so I was pretty impressed with myself. 

3. Today I took Sawyer to the beach and he finally really and truly played in the water. He's usually super, super afraid and grips my hand like a vice when we walk near it, but today he was a totally different kid. He was "falling" into waves, running, splashing, the whole deal. A few times he almost made me nervous, since he doesn't know how to swim (sigh), but I was mostly just super happy that he was brave.

4. Almost two weeks ago we went to see The Lion King and I cracked my tooth on the Wheat Thin that I brought to be healthy (and swallowed the piece that broke off, temporarily worrying myself that I had somehow perforated my digestive tract with the SHARD... I did not). I thought it was a crown, but when I went to the dentist it was actually a real tooth with a filling... and now it will be a crown. I have to get the permanent one tomorrow, so at least the ordeal will be nearly over. 

5. I want to go to Lake Powell. I had no idea it was so lovely.

6. I finally started watching Handmaid's Tale again, after stopping halfway through the second season. I totally like the show, but it's just so heavy that you have to be in the right mood for it. It's like you either have to be in a good headspace so that you'll bounce right back, or just in a really bad one so it doesn't matter. 

7. I cannot believe that my summer break is over in four days. I look at things I did at the beginning, like go to Vegas and Zion and it seems like ages ago, but it also seems like I just walked out of my classroom a few days ago. I'm not heartbroken about going back- I really love my students (I have the same group of kids from last year, but now they'll be seniors), some of my most favorite friends are my colleagues, and routine is good for me. BUT I DON'T WANT TO GET UP EARLY AND HAVE TO LEAVE MY HOME. Seriously. 

Personal Essay- Politics (Why I Don't Think College Should be Free)

My politics, in case you couldn't tell, definitely lean strongly to the left. Not the far, extreme left, but probably the middle left. I consider myself socially quite liberal but sometimes financially a little less so, as I run a tight budget myself and sometimes I think the Democrats need to focus a little more on efficiency than spending quite so much. I also consider myself a realist in terms of certain things simply not working right out of the gate (universal healthcare) and know that a lot of progressive change takes a time (gun control). 

One thing that I have thought a lot about as the campaigning for the 2020 election starts rolling is the idea of "free college," an idea touted by far left candidates. As a kid who relied on loans, as a teacher in a low-socioeconomic area, and someone who is incredibly pro-higher education my take might be surprising- I don't think college should be free. What I do think is that college should be affordable for everyone, however that looks. When I was a student at UCLA from 2001-2005 my tuition ranged from about $3,500 to $4,500 a year (this doesn't take into account books, room and board, etc... all together each year cost about $16,000). For this upcoming year costs are nearly $13,000 for tuition alone, a huge increase that isn't matched by minimum wage, annual middle class earning power, etc... Not to mention student loan rates have gone up and living in a lot of cities has gotten more expensive as well. So while not free, more affordable that the current situation.  

This affordability could happen in a variety of ways, the most logical one is the government contributing more. Investing in college is investing in our society's future economy, plain and simple. This could also be done through more generous financial aid packages, credit for community service hours, incentives of finishing in four years, etc... Loan forgiveness could also be amped up and not made so complicated- I have made over a decade of continuos payment for my federal loans but consolidated them under a different program I'm not eligible. 

Totally free college, from how I see it, is problematic for several reasons. First of all, financial accountability is important training for the real world, both in figuring out how to finance your higher education experience, but also how to pay off loans once you graduate. Having a plan as soon as I graduated was incredible motivating for me for intrinsic reasons, but the fact that I had tens of thousands in loans was also an important kick in the butt. Another issue goes back to my realistic nature in terms of how the democrats spend money; there is no way state and federal governments are going to pony up the cash to allow all young adults go to school for free, while still providing quality educational programs. You'd see campuses deteriorate, faculty pay go down and deter experts from teaching, overcrowding, and programs even more impacted than they currently are. When does our government ever do a good job at making changes? Assuming privates would still cost, students with means would go there, as would the professors and you'd then see the gap between social classes deepen even more (I'm speculating here, but it makes sense). The money funneled into higher education would be pulled from other areas, say infrastructure projects or the care of the elderly, and those aspects of society would then suffer. And, to make my liberal friends even more angry, you'd have the issue of removing part of the student loan market from the economy, which would then negatively impact those sectors and cause dips in the market and would possibly contribute to recession rumblings. It's a domino effect. Unfortunate, but true. 

And why should college be free for everyone? The kid whose parents make $35,000 a year? Yup, they should get a generous financial aid package. The kid whose parents make $600,000 a year? They can't afford tuition? Please. There needs to be a sliding scale of aid, based on family income, with merit scholarships done separately. So maybe Beth has two doctor parents but is an amazing dancer; she can then qualify for benefits that aren't need-based. In education we talk a lot about the difference between equality and equity- this is one of those instances. We don't need to provide the same financial benefits to everyone- we need to help those in need first. 

I really don't believe free college right now is the answer. Affordable college, financial-education, creative solutions, and a realistic outlook are a much more realistic step forward from where we are now is. Perhaps free college is a good goal for twenty years in the future and we can gradually move in that direction. But in the term of the next president? I don't see how it could successfully happen.  

Personal Essay- Hobbies (While I'll Probably Never be a Novelist)

I love teaching, but in a perfect world I'd be a full-time author. I'd publish a book every few years, get to go on lengthy tours, give interviews, and set my own daily schedule. I know these are lofty goals, even for successful authors, but a girl can dream. Each year one of my New Year's Resolutions is to write at least a draft of a story, but each year I fail. And it's not like I don't have plenty of ideas, because I do. What I don't have?


If I am going to realistically look at my life right now, there is absolutely no way I can fit in writing a novel, at least one that I'm proud of (I did NaNoWriMo once and while I did finish it, it was total junk). Every single day is a balancing act, at least when I'm not on summer break. Every single day I'm being tugged in a million different directions and generally don't get a moment to myself until Sawyer is in bed at night. Every single day I have to breathe through the anxiety of not getting enough done. I'm not willing to sacrifice time with my son, exercise, seeing friends, taking care of my home, or making plans to hole up and write, which is something I wouldn't be able to find the quiet to do anyway. 

Because I like, if not love, most of the things that are "in the way" of my supposed writing career, it's an easier pill to swallow. It's not like I'm not a writer AND I'm living a boring, mundane, miserable life. I'm not a writer because I have a life full of the choices I make. A lot of the things I do I do with my son, and the boy talks a mile a minute, something not very conducive to writing anyway. So even if I decided to not work out 30-50 minutes most days it wouldn't really be a time slot I could use for writing anyway, since he's usually hanging out with me while I do it (my treadmill room sort of doubles as a playroom). Same with most of my time on the weekend- if we didn't go to a museum or somewhere else it's not like I could magically have that time to myself to write. 

Eventually Sawyer will grow up and I might have more time, depending on what our lives are like then. I have been trying to convince myself to hone my writing chops with short stories in the meantime, since twenty page increments seem a lot more doable than more than two hundred. The problem is that my ideas aren't for short stories, they're for longer narratives, and I just don't have the same interest in writing short stories as I do novels. But I guess beggars can't be choosers, right?

I'm not completely ruling out writing a novel, or heck even publishing one, but I just can't wrap my brain around how that would be possible. Maybe when Sawyer's in college I'll sign up for an MFA program that will allow me to write one as part of the curriculum or I'll run away to a writer's colony in like Greece when I'm retired. I haven't completely shut the door on the possibility of it one day happening, but it is sort of propped shut for the foreseeable future. And while it's not okay, and I could turn this into a feminist manifesto on the inequality of gender in the workplace and domestic sphere, but won't, it's the right now.

And, honestly, I have bigger fish to fry. There are more pressing, realistic concerns in my life to dwell on. Time will tell...

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts- BRB

Happy Wednesday! I'm knee (and leg and arm and every other part of me) deep in bathroom painting and cabinet staining, so this week is a wash. I have been posting personal essays, though, so check them out here and here. Back next week! 

Personal Essay- Parenting (Why My Son's Happiness Depresses Me)

My five-year-old son Sawyer is by far the happiest person I know. He wakes up in the morning signing, goes to be at night joking, and has a smile on his face 90% of the time in between. Everyone comments on it from family to his teachers to strangers. He can't even really throw a proper temper tantrum, because after about three minutes he's both bored of it and laughing again. His default setting is happy. 

But someday something is going to happen to ruin this, whether it's the natural aging process, some sort of negative event, or someone doing him wrong. I'm under no false illusions that he will stay this happy for the rest of his life, at least not in the naive, carefree way he is now. And this is so... depressing. It sounds weird, right? To say that my son's happiness depresses the shit out of me? But I guess it's not really his sunny disposition that is the source of my unrest, but instead knowing that at some point he's probably going go through some sort of pain that will pop this joyful bubble of his. To make matters worse, there's really nothing I can do about it.

But would doing something about it be the right thing? While protecting your child from true danger (accidents, disease, abduction, etc...) is totally appropriate and necessary, the lesser evils of life that might chip away at the happiness are essentially necessary. As much as it pains me to say it, he's going to need a friend to stop being his friend or a crush to rebuff him. He's going to need to have an asshole teacher who always picks apart his work and a coach that makes him run extra laps. This is what prepares kids for life outside of public school and the family home, it's what makes their skin grow a little thicker so they're not devastated every time something doesn't go their way once grown. We all know adults who are terrible problems-solvers and completely meltdown when life doesn't go according to plan, and one has to wonder what their childhood was life. I'm not advocating for parents to make the lives of their offsprings intentionally or constantly terrible, but rather help facilitate the obstacles that will inevitably come up as they approach adulthood. 

And I suppose that he may truly always be a happy person. It's not like those don't exist. While I don't consider myself a cupful of rainbows and sunshine, I am fairly positive and try to find the best in most situations. And I know a lot of happy friends, coworkers, and family members, just all dialed back from the unabashed joy he currently possesses. 

So, I have to hope for the best. I hope he can stay this happy for as long as possible and that whatever detracts from this isn't abnormally painful or unpleasant for him, just your standard childhood challenges. And I need to be present in his life as much as possible to enjoy it, and to be able to remember it later. As a teacher and realistic person, I know how kids are as they grow up. But as a mom? It really does bum me out that my smiling little buddy might not always be that way. 

Personal Essay: Spirituality (and Why I'm Terrified of Reincarnation)

One of my biggest fears is reincarnation. Having to do life all over again? And then again? Oh, and not to mention the fact that this go around may not be my first? Is that why I’m so tired? Is that why we’re all so tired? Unless someone can guarantee me I’m coming back as the incredibly spoiled golden retriever of a wealthy family I’m out. And I get that this is part of some religions, but I simply terrified of 80 or 90 or 100 years not being the actual end of my existence. Call me a quitter, I guess. 

Logically, the side of me who believes in science above all else knows this really isn’t a rational fear, nor is reincarnation something my beliefs (whatever those are) align with. But the illogical side of me thinks all sorts of crazy things, so why not this too?

If we dig a little deeper, this fear has deeper tentacles, surpassing this concept and headed into the “I’m thirty-five and still don’t know what I believe” territory. I grew up in a fairly religious family; both of my parents were raised Catholic, but had migrated to The Church of the Brethren, which we attended to various degrees throughout my childhood. I think on a lot of levels our participation was more social and for community involvement, as we didn’t talk about God or pray much at home (although my dad, who was far more conservative than my mom, did go through a stint where he was in pretty deep into the ministry arm of things). We were never told what we had to believe or forced to kneel before our beds at night. Eventually, definitely before my dad died when I was fourteen, we became a Christmas and Easter attendance kind of family.

I then didn’t really think about religion for maybe a decade or more, claiming to believe in God, praying when things were tough and still going for Christmas Eve service with my family (because #tradition). But as I started working with elementary kids they started asking me more and more what my religion was, and I needed some sort of answer. Sure, I could go with the “I don’t talk about religion at school” response, but I really try to be honest as much as I can with my students. They’re always so much more willing to work for me when they see me as an actual person; I ask them to do a lot for me, so I feel obligated to give them some tidbits in return. For awhile I told the kids I was Christian, but eventually I really started questioning that internally. Eventually I landed on agnostic, which seemed like a great compromise. No structure, but I could still acknowledge a higher power. Easy.

But... science. And babies getting murdered, people dying of starvation, child molesters, horrible diseases... all the worst things in the world. How does science explain Heaven, Hell, souls, and the Holy Trinity? We never accept things as factual unless there’s solid proof. Where the peer-reviewed articles on turning water into wine? (Joking, joking). And speaking of three guys in charge, why do they let all those horrible things happen to good people?

I know what a lot of believers would be saying: she has no faith.

But I do. I have faith water boils when heated because of how the molecules interact. I have faith in the people I love. I have faith in the importance of my profession. I don't consider myself to be a jaded, hardened cynic who is closed off, but skeptical to no end. And that's why I am where I am. 

I also know how to play devil's advocate- how could there be millions of believers if this concept of God and religion was false? There has to be some reason why they have so much faith and are so dedicated to their cause. People devote so much time, energy, money, and resolve to their chosen path, it has to be on the basis of something, right? There are people much more intelligent than I who claim allegiance to Catholicism, Judaism, Hinduism, and all the other -isms out there. 

So what am I supposed to tell my son? I refused to tell him that our dogs went to Heaven when they died, since that isn't something I'm confident in the existence of. When he gets older, or when it comes up, we'll explain that some people go to church and that there are different religions, but I'm not going to fake anything for his benefit, either way.

Above all else, despite my confusion, reluctance, and hesitation, I don't have a problem with the fact that people believe, as long as their religion isn't being used as a vehicle to hurt others. I know that it provides a lot of comfort and guidance to people when they need it most, and I am happy that they're able to find that solace. I also know that religion provides people with a place to belong, a sense of peace with what might await them in the afterlife, and something to turn to when struggling. I think that's great. 

I just don't know if it's for me. 

Personal Essay Week

Every once in awhile I have a thought that I really want to write about, and either I'll decide it's too much for Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts, too far removed from the blog, or something that requires more energy to write than I have to give at that moment. I've kept a running list and recently decided that I'd schedule a week full of short personal essays on these topics, both as a sort of mini-writing project and as a way to change up content a tad. 

I've divided the topics into categories dealing with family, politics, hobbies, parenting, and spirituality. They won't be for everyone and while I'll always try to be respectful in controversial moments, I also want to be honest and true to my opinions.

I hope you enjoy them! It's stretched my writing muscles a bit to get them out and there is always some trepidation when starting something new. I encourage you to do the same, if you ever feel like you are in any sort of a rut or want to push yourself a bit. 

Samin Nostrat is My Hero

I've always enjoyed cooking and loved baking, for as long as I can remember. When we were small my sister and I had to switch off helping my mom prepare dinner every night and were always invited to help bake, so I had an early understanding of the difference between a teaspoon and tablespoon, the importance of preheating ovens, and how long it took to boil water. As I got older, my mom released the reigns and I'd say by the time I was probably ten or so I was allowed to make cookies and such on my own (with the burns to prove it). I made plenty of mistakes. Sometimes I'd forego softening the butter and just melt the whole stick (groaaaaan). I'd decide salt was unhealthy and skip it completely or would drastically cut chilling times for dough. But that's how we learn, so no regrets (sorry mom).

Now as an adult I cook five or so nights a week and probably bake one recipe a weekend. Sometimes I feel like I'm doing more assembling than cooking on weeknights during the school year, but I do try to do something a bit more complicated Sunday nights. Sometimes I feel guilty, but it's still better than getting takeout, so I'll chalk it up to domestic survival. 

Also as an adult I've developed quite the love of cooking shows and documentaries, something that contradicts my sentiment that I could live without TV just fine. I don't know how it took me so long to discover Samin Nosrat, but now that I have I'm so excited. I heard her on an episode of The Armchair Expert and instantly wanted to be her student, friend, sous chef, personal assistant, whatever. She was smart, quirky, honest, and adorable. I quickly watched her four-part docu-series on Netlfix, Salt Fat Acid Heat and ordered her book of the same name. 

I have only read two other cookbooks in my life in their entirety, and both were Christina Tosi's. This one was much, much longer but Michael Pollan said that readers should start at the beginning, as does Nosrat, so I decided to take their advice. They are the experts, after all.

And over the course of a few days, I did, and I learned so much about the fundamentals of cooking, food chemistry, and how the four elements in the title really impact our cooking (and eating). After the obligatory introductions, Nosrat breaks her book into sections on salt, fat, acid, and heat, and the includes maybe a hundred or so recipes at the end. Each of the main sections include the significance of the component, how to work with it, how to avoid mistakes (and fix some), the scientific rationale behind her explanations, and suggestions on how to integrate the ideas immediately.

Some of my biggest takeaways:
- I under-salt my food, especially when it comes to things like boiling pasta and meat (I've already started correcting this and can taste a difference)
- the idea of adjusting heat at different stages for different reasons; I think this is something I do sometimes, but I never really realized why I was doing it
- the buttermilk chicken recipe (making next week)
the chocolate cake recipe (making next week)
- Her chart on how to use fruits and when to use them
- Why we add certain condiments naturally (because we need acid!)

I can't ignore the beautiful illustration by Wendy MacNaughton- I balk a bit at recipe and cooking books that don't have photographs, but this book proved to be a total exception. Her pictures are absolutely beautiful (I think I may embroider a few for myself), but her charts take the cake. You guys know how much I love charts. She is incredibly talented and a huge reason why this book works so well.

If you enjoy cooking, want to learn about the science in a super accessible way, or need an extra boost of confidence in the kitchen, I highly recommend this essential cookbook.

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

One of the most buzzed about books this summer has been journalist Lisa Taddeo's Three Women, a look into the sexual lives of three women over several years. I have purposefully stayed away from reviews, trying to sort out what my thoughts on the book were first. The three women are in many ways different, but there are also some solid similarities as well. When the book begins, Maggie is in high school, and we learn that she is developing an inappropriate relationship with one of her teachers, that ends up in a court (this young woman's story broke my heart the most). Sloanne owns a restaurant with her husband, who likes to set her up with other men and watch their sexual encounters. Finally, Lina is a stay-at-home-mom who desperately wants her husband to pay attention to her, so she starts having an affair with her boyfriend from high school, where she is at his beck-and-call and begs for his attention.

None of their stories are happy, none end well, and none make you feel very hopeful. And at the forefront of all of them is sex.

So what is that saying about these women? Women in general? Our society's perception of female sexuality?

The one thread that stuck out to me the most was the connection these women made between self-esteem and sex. For them, sex was a direct representation of how much they were valued by the men in their lives and not having it made them miserable and feel as if they were being punished. Their self-worth was directly tied to how receptive their partners were, some of which were particularly horrible. 

The book is incredibly intimate, Taddeo's descriptions holding very little back. She has removed herself from the narrative, and at times her truthful accounts feel more like a novel. Questioning the role sex plays in your life is basically inevitble when you read this book, so definitely be prepared for that personal aspect if you decide to read this. I think this is definitely an important book; sex is often sort of romanticized, joked about, or ignored in so much of society. And I fully acknowledge that it's personal and don't mean to imply that we need to be talking about it at Starbuck with the person making our coffee. I do think that it can be really important key in self-reflection, though, and this book is an interesting take on doing so.

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

1. I am currently squared off with my child, who is holding fast to his belief that Kraft Mac and Cheese is better than the homemade stuff I made for dinner tonight. He is an incredibly picky eater and lately I've moved to a policy where I give him less food, but he has to eat all of it. I know 11 out of 10 experts would agree this isn't the way to go, but eff them all, it's working for us. I don't have extensive "how many more bites?" conversations anymore and the expectation is there from the get go. 

2. Last night I went out for dinner with my friend, just the two of us, at all of the sudden we realized that three and a half hours had gone by the and restaurant was closing. She and I hang out regularly, but it's usually with Sawyer, so it was nice to actually have complete conversations for once. Anyway, it was just what the doctor ordered. Getting up was a tiny but hard this morning, especially at 5:20, but it was totally worth it.

3. I am currently reading Samin Nosrat's Salt Fat Acid Heat right now, cover-to-cover, and I adore it. I have only done this one or two other times, with Christina Tosi's books, but this one is for sure making me a better cook. I can't wait to try out some of her recipes. 

4. I'm also reading Rebecca Makkai's short story collection, Music for Wartime, and it's just so superbly delightful. As with The Great Believers, she's just so precise with her characters, plot, and writing. It feel like a privilege to read her prose.  

5. I have earmarked next week to be do some things around the house that I've basically been dreading. Our master bath needs cabinets restained, paint freshened, and the caulking redone. My pantry needs shelving paper, insurance needs to be resubmitted again (because they are directly aligned with Satan), and my garage needs to be cleaned up as well (luckily it's not so bad). Then, the week after that will be my final week off and I'll have some time to relax and have once more. I am not one of those teachers that goes in to work early or spends time lesson-planning. 

6. This weekend is part central- Saturday my friend is having a birthday party for her small daughter and then Sunday is my cousin's bridal shower. The weather has been unseasonably cool for Southern California (last year July had already seen a day that reached 117, meanwhile we have only hit 100 once), so it should be a nice weekend for events. 

10 Tips to Read More Books

I keep getting comments from people on social media and in real life about how much I'm reading right now, during my summer vacation (basically a book every two or three days). The books I'm finishing are generally in the 250-350 range and are all pretty much contemporary literary fiction with a smattering of non-fiction thrown in, so they're not like easy YA novels or anything (but to each their own!). I'm not a speed reader by any means, and I tend to clock, on average, about 45 pages an hour, accounting for various interruptions. That means, for a book of 300 pages I need about six and a half hours to read it, give or take. Here are some ways I've amped up my reading during my off-time:

1. Add it to your to-do list- I have a to-do list every day, always, so I'll either add an item that relates to pages or time. I'm a pretty devout to-do list follower, so if it's on there I feel obligated to get it done. 

2. Always carry a book- You never know when a fast appointment actually runs slow, when your lunch date will be running behind, or when you stop for an impromptu splash-pad visit and you can get in a few pages. 

3. Set your phone aside to limit unnecessary pick-ups- I hate myself when I do it, but I too am a random-phone-picker-upper while reading. I try to keep my phone on the kitchen counter or somewhere else out of reach more often these days. 

4. Set a timer and tell your kid/partner to shush- This sounds harsher than it is, but now that Sawyer is five, I don't feel bad telling him that I'm going to set my phone timer for twenty minutes to read and that when it goes off he can show me his LEGO creation/drawing/Magnet Block tower etc... He's getting better and better at respecting my time, and he always knows that he'll get my attention when it goes off. Plus, it's a good skill as an only-child for him to have. 

5. Read while treadmill walking- I can't read while running, but during the hot summer I spend a fair amount of time walking on the incline. I've been leaving an easier paperback on my treadmill so that I can do something productive during my workout time, rather than just look at my phone.

6. WATCH LESS TV- Yes, I'm yelling. At you. (Well, only if you're trying to read more and are an avid TV-watcher... the rest of you can go right ahead and carry on). During the school year I watch less than 4-5 hours of Netflix, but now that it's summer I probably clock in at closer to ten hours. I get it, it's a great way to unwind, but from a quick Google search I see that the average adult watches anywhere from 3.5-5 hours of TV A DAY. Even if you cut out an hour and devoted it to reading you'd get through an extra book a week. 

7. Set a goal- Goals are fun to accomplish- who doesn't feel good about themselves when they reach a benchmark? Even if you don't make it you'll still get further along than before, which totally counts. Goodreads will make it so much easier for you if you start using the app, with charts and emails. My son right now has a goal of 100 books for the summer and we mark off a box on his little paper chart every time he gets there, and he's so excited to see his progress. 

8. Be social- Join a book club, get your friend to read the same book, join Goodreads, participate in #bookstagram, etc... Reading is often a solitary activity, but it doesn't have to if you don't want it to be. I LOVE being in our English department book club, even though we struggle to get people to participate (WHY????) and it's often just three or four of us. If you don't want to commit to a club, encourage a friend to read the same book and then pick a date a few weeks away to meet up for coffee and discuss. 

9. Start easy- If you're out of the habit of reading a lot or are in a rut, choose a book that might be a tad easier than your normal choices, either in writing style or content, and get back into the groove of things there. I do this all the time- after a heavy, long book, like, say Overstory by Richard Powers, I'll definitely pick up some Sedaris or something like that to help give me a little literary break.

10. Read while you eat- Chances are, there's at least one meal of the day where you eat alone and just look at your phone. For me it's often breakfast, lunch when I am working, so I try to replace that time at least a few days a week to read.


Summer Reading So Far

My summer vacation is a little over half way done, and I must say my reading game has been strong. It's my goal to read fifteen books, and I think I've finished my ninth, five of which have been in July. 

There are a few reasons why I've been able to. First of all, I've made an effort to put my phone away for longer chunks of time, which is an obvious time saver. Sawyer is also older now, so he plays more independently, and I can also tell him, "hey, I need fifteen minutes of time to read with no interruptions, I'll set a timer and we can talk when it goes off." I've started reading more on the treadmill as well, and I make sure to always have a book on hand. I've been reading a variety of books, both in terms of nonfiction/fiction, subject matter, and complexity. 

I'm also really proud of how much reading Sawyer has been doing, both in terms of his progress learning to sound out words, reading with me, and looking at books independently. He loves looking at Where's Waldo books in the car or in waiting rooms, which has been awesome (he getting so good at them, too!). We made a chart with 100 squares that he gets to mark off each time he helps me read a book (that can either be him sounding out all the words he's capable of, or something more relaxed, like him just doing some sight words like "the"). When he fills up his chart he gets to go to the book store and pick out whatever new book he wants. It's been fun and he takes his little marks super seriously. 

I am super  bummed about my time off going by so quickly, but I'm pretty confident I'll surpass my goal. It's always been my mode of escapism.

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

1. Since we've last talked there have been not one, but TWO, earthquakes. I have an intense fear of them (lack of control, blablabla), which I know is unfortunate given that I live in Southern California. The first one hit while I was at the park with Sawyer and the second, much stronger, one hit the next evening while we are at home. There was no damage whatsoever done to my home- we are about 115 miles away from where the epicenter was, but I haven't felt one in many years so I was not happy. To put this in perspective, there were some really bad wildfires five miles away from my house last year and I all I did to prepare was close the windows and turn on the AC.

2. My goal was to start my Etsy shop when I had ten embroidery pieces ready to sell- I just finished number 8, so I'm maybe a week away! I honestly don't have any real expectations about the whole thing, but it's something I've been thinking about doing for like six months and am just going to pull the plug. I'm nervous about pricing, as I don't want to sell things for too much, but I also put a lot of work into what I've created as well (hahaha, I sound like such an asshole). If you want to follow along check out my insta account @daily_floss_ . My most recent hoop is the tree one above! 

3. I started Three Women by Lisa Taddeo, the much-buzzed about book of the sumner, and it's absolutely fascinating. I'll write a longer post on it when I am done, probably, but I think that a lot can be said about it in terms of content, as well as this sort of booming "literary nonfiction" genre. 

4. I hate it when you don't need validation for something, and aren't trying to get any, and someone who you don't want any from whatsoever so magnanimously gives you some. Like they pity you and are throwing you a bone? But in reality you don't care what they think and the whole encounter just makes your skin crawl? UGH.

5. My husband introduced me to Fleabag and I'm liking it, now that we've watched three or so episodes. 

6. I've started reading a separate book when I'm doing incline walking on the treadmill and it's definitely increased my pages. It has to be paperback and nothing too dense- like David Sedaris. 

7. I forgot that I should have been working on letters of rec for my students- I think I have like 50 or 60 to do. I'm slightly over halfway through my summer, so I should probably get on that.

8. I've been thinking a lot about travel lately, and who at this moment in time I'd actively pursue trips with (things that are more than two nights and over 200 miles away). Sawyer, because I have to, my friend Nani because we have SO much fun together, my friends Val and Yurii because they're so chill, my brother because he is up for anything, my friend Joanna because we never run out of things to talk about, and my mom because I can always be honest and she'd never be offended if I was like "I need an hour to myself, yo." (My husband doesn't travel, so he's not a part of this). I'm not planning a trip, but while I was walking today I thought a lot about how my travel style and habits have changed so much from when I was younger.

9. Today I took Sawyer to preschool for the first time in almost a week and drove to the beach to spend several hours alone there. I read a hundred pages, walked for forty-five minutes, and drank a milkshake. It was perfect. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

I have a hunch that my comments might not be working, unless maybe you have a blogger or google account? I had someone mention it and when I went in to test it the comment didn't get published unless I was logged it (despite having it set up differently). I checked all my settings today and everything was right, so I'm confused. TBD... If you are trying to comment and it's not going through send me a message on Twitter.

I am trying to get outside thirty minute a day, which is pretty easy most of the time. The days where it's not convenient is when I really have to make an effort, and probably when I need it the most. Even if it's just reading with a cup of coffee while Sawyer is at preschool or hanging out with him while he plays in the water- it all counts. 

July means it is time for business- all the things I have put off for the last year need to happen in the next month. Deep cleaning, bathroom refreshing, appointments, etc... It's gotta happen. 

I almost got a puppy a week or two ago. I still have extremely mixed feelings... I saw a three-month-old lab/German Shepherd mix up for adoption nearby. It was adorable, the right size, and the right age. But, there were a lot of cons- it was a $400 adoption fee, plus inevitble costs in the near future (exams, vaccinations, spaying, etc...), and the fact that having a puppy basically tethers you to your home for awhile. So, I decided it wasn't the right time for me and withdrew my lengthy application about two hours after I submitted it. 

Friend dates are a huge priority for me this summer and I'm trying to make plans with a friend or two each week. Being social makes me so much happier and I have more than enough time to see everyone I love. 

I've been trying to not buy new books, but I caved in and ordered Samin Nosrat's Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat after watching the series on Netflix and listening to her on The Armchair Expert. I actually think I might actually read it cover to cover- even after glancing at it for a few minutes I can tell it's an absolute wealth of information and the illustrations are so beautiful.

After having a few low-key days after our vacation, things are getting busy again. Tomorrow my husband and I are going to see Yesterday while Sawyer is at preschool (he goes 2-3 days a week while I am off... it's a happy medium for us both) and then in the evening we are going to go to a local AAA baseball game so we can see the post-game fireworks. We don't have plans on the Fourth (except maybe the splash pad? If it's open?) except to grill at home and probably eat our body weights in brownie ice cream sandwiches. Friday we Sawyer and I have plans to go to a friend's house, Saturday we are off to visit family, and Sunday we're off to the zoo. Phew! Monday and Tuesday are going to be recovery days, that's for sure (minus the dentist and doctor appointments Sawyer has... oh joy).

I just started Cormac McCarthy's No Country For Old Men and I forgot how much I love him. I've had a few male students read it over the years and they always push me to read it... finally, I'm taking their advice! 

Coastal California Trip Recap

Last week Sawyer and I took a vacation up the coast, driving from Southern California to Monterey. It was absolutely beautiful and we did a ton in the four days that we traveled. He was an absolute champ at riding in the car (they're doing a ton of roadwork on the 101 and 1, which meant a lot of time at a standstill). We stayed in Monterey and used that as a sort of home base, since most of the places (except Hearst Castle and Solvang) were within 50 miles.

Day 1: Hearst Castle, lots of stop on the 1 through Big Sur to admire the ocean 

Day 2: Big Basin Redwoods State Park, Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Cannery Row in Monterey

Day 3: Big Sur, 17 Mile Drive, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Denis the Menace Playground

Day 4: Solvang, drive home 

I highly, highly recommend this trip to pretty much anyone. There is so much to do, so many places to spot, and it's super affordable if you pack breakfasts and lunches. I am determined now to one day road trip from San Diego to Vancouver (or even to Whistler) in a rental car, and then fly home. I think I'd take close to two weeks to do it, so I could make plenty of stops. 

June Reads (also, 9 Years of this Little Space)

Oh, summer. Warmer temperatures, eight weeks off, and so much time to read. I usually put up my big numbers in July, but I started off the summer well, with five books. Considering I had to finish up the school year and took two short trips with a five-year-old I'm pleased. I'm also happy that it was such a good month of reading, with variety. 

I started off finishing our English department book club's choice, Less by Andrew Sean Greer. The book, a Pulitzer winner, is about middle-aged Arthur Less, a writer whose boyfriend is about to marry someone else. He decides to accept any and all invitations that span the glove, taking him to places like Europe, Latin America, and Egypt. Told in an episodic style, something I love, we learn more about him, his past, and his struggles. It's well-written, poignant, witty, and thought-provoking.

I read one non-fiction book this month, 26 Marathons by runner-extraordinaire Meb Keflzighi. I stand by my opinion that everyone can benefit from running memoirs; the drive, motivation, logic, and passion that professional runners exhibit is something we could all use a positive example of. I earmarked a few pages on perseverance and goals to share with my students at the start of the school year.  

I read Haruki Murakami's Norwegian Wood, my first fiction Murakami. I loved it! I loved this narrative voice, his ability to craft such imagery of various places in Japan, and the subtle humor that popped up. I can't wait to dive into more of his work- I've had Kafka on the Shore for years. 

I read Ian McEwan's Machines Like Me, which I discussed with Julie here (we both really liked it!). I also finished up the hot-read of the summer, The Farm by Joanne Ramos, which I discussed through a feminist-lite sort of perspective in this post (if you want a lighter, modern take on The Handmaid's Tale it's for you... a great summer read!). 


Nine years ago today I wrote my very first blog post here. I've always loved having this space of the internet to talk about books, or whatever else I want. There are posts that have 10 views and posts that have 300.... There are many posts with 0 comments... and quite a few with several... Honestly, though, I do it because I really enjoy it and it's a creative outlet that I need. I'm so thankful for those of you who read and even more thankful for people I've met through blogging that I've interacted in real life.