Favorite 2019 Memories

Whelp, that's a wrap. 2019 was... hard. I know no one likes vague blogging, but in the interest of privacy, all I can say that this had to be personally one of the most challenging years of my life. It required a lot of bootstrap pulling, relying on close friends for support, prioritizing my son, flexibility, and trusting my gut. There was also a lot of awesome, fun, and happiness in the mix, which made this year survivable, but also more emotionally... inconsistent. I'm really, really tired, but I'm also grateful that things are currently better and that I can see the good in the bad. I'm not sure what 2020 will bring, but can we ever? In the interest of positivity, I've decided to put together some highlights of my favorite parts of this past year:

Travel- I didn't go anywhere far or life-changing, but I was able to take Sawyer on our annual trip to Yosemite in the spring and we also traveled up the coast together during the summer for a few days. I went to Zion on a quick hiking trip with friends, which was beautiful and challenging, and my husband accompanied us to the Central Valley for Thanksgiving, which was the best combination of ordinary and fun. 

Deciding to train for my 12 (or 13th?) half marathon- It was a tough decision, but I've worked hard at taking care of my feet and sticking to a training plan. I generally dread most of my runs, but once I start I'm fine, and, once I'm done, thrilled. It's good to have a fitness focus, since I think I stop pushing myself when I'm just working out in general. The fact that this training cycle is during the holiday season has been a huge benefit- no weight gain from eating ALL the cookies. 

Concerts- This year I saw Elton John and the Strumbellas, two of my absolute favorites. I love live shows and each were amazing in their own ways. I probably liked the Strumbellas more, just because it was a tiny venue and they were so charismatic, but the fact that I can say I've see Elton before he retires/dies is pretty awesome. 

Opening my Etsy shop- This was really, really hard for me, as I get nervous about putting myself out there. What if no one bought anything? What if people made fun of me? What if? WHAT IF? It's actually gone really well; I've sold a lot more than I thought I would, it's been incredibly fun to run my embroidery Instagram account, and I've done lots of fun custom orders. I love that people I know buy things and I love that complete strangers do. I can't wait to keep going in 2020. I'm so thankful for everyone's support, whether they've ordered hoops, followed me on Insta (@daily_floss_), or just have said nice things. I've never considered myself creative, so this has been really out of my comfort zone.

So many friend dates- One of my favorite nights of the year was a four hour slightly-drunken dinner with one of my best friends at the good ol' reliable Cheesecake Factory. Besides that, there were just so many casual outings, fun events, kid-dates, etc... with so many good friends. Not a day goes by where I'm not incredibly grateful for all of these people- they're low-maintenance, supportive, smart, flexible, fun, and thoughtful. I've become even closer to some ladies this year, too, and I'm just seriously so happy to have a great circle. 

Sawyer starting kindergarten- It's been so fun watching him grow academically and socially. He is kindergarten full day at the place he was at for preschool, which made the transition super easy. He is in a new class with new teachers, but a lot of his friends are there. I love that they do a lot of science in his class, as well as just a lot of important fundamentals (like cutting) that sometimes get lost. 

My surprise student cereal birthday party- This really, really touched me. So often I am the planner in most of my relationships, but my students took control and did this for me all on my own. There were so many sweet touches (a poster they all signed, a class singing of "Bohemian Rhapsody," decorations, etc...) and it was just the nicest thing. 

Christmas season- Sawyer would say at least daily during December that Christmas is his favorite time of the year- his excitement was contagious. We did so many fun things, from a botanical Christmas garden, Knott's Berry Farm and the Zoo, decorating gingerbread houses with his friend, seeing Santa, etc... we had a great time.  

UCLA Visits- I've been to my alma mater UCLA more this year that I have in several years combined, which is always a fun walk down memory lane. I went for the Michelle Obama Reach Higher Event with work, two readings, and to a gymnastics meet.  

Here's to 2020! 

The Ten Best Things I Listened to This Year

I'm in the car a lot, between my every day commuting and all the things we do during on weekends (and just, you know, Southern California traffic), so I listen to quite a bit. Sometimes it's audiobooks, sometimes podcasts, and sometimes music, depending on my mood and whether or not I'm alone (I stick to music when I have Sawyer or other passengers). Here's a list of the top ten things I listened to in 2019, in case you need something to start off your year:

1. The Armchair Expert (podcast)- Dax and Monica could probably talk to pocket lint and make the whole thing fascinating and hilarious. Since I don't have all the time in the world to listen, I generally listen to the episodes featuring celebrities I know or their "Experts on Experts" episodes, which feature a lot of people in the science and psychology industries.

2. Bad on Paper Alyssa Mastromonaco episodes (podcast)- I love Mastromonaco's two books that detail her time working for Obama and her insights on the two BOP episodes she's on are informative, funny, and will make you want to be her best friend. As a whole I really enjoy BOP, but it can be hit or miss, just because some of their focuses aren't my thing (YA novels, for instance). I love the two hosts, though!

3. The Daily (podcast)- The news cycle intimidates me; there's so much of it and I have so little time. Luckily the NYT's The Daily gives me 20-30 minutes every morning, generally focusing on the biggest news story of the day. Plus, there's something so endearing about Michael. 

4. Slowburn, Season 2- Monica Lewinsky- I listened to this season on the way from Vegas to Zion and back- it was the main reason I didn't drive my car off the road from that awesome DayQuil/cold/hiking exhaustion combo. I was young when the scandal erupted, so it filled in a ton of holes that I had had. So interesting and sort of timely, too, considering the current impeachment. 

5. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb (audiobook)- I am fascinated by therapy, so this was basically two for the price of one: the story of a therapist and the story of her experience on the other side of the couch. I loved the stories, her insights, and the reflections it catalyzed in myself.

6. Leaving the Witness by Amber Scorah (audiobook)- The author discusses her experiences as a Jehovah Witness and then how her life was once she left it. I have had several students over the years who are JW, so this book provided me with some helpful information when trying to understand some of their philosophies. 

7. My Friend Anna by Rachel DeLoache Williams (audiobook)- This story was insane- a fake heiress totally duped the author and was able to swindle her out of tons of money. It would be an excellent book club book, since there's a ton to discuss in terms of personal responsibility, trust, etc...

8. Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan (audiobook)- In all fairness I'm not quite done with this one, but it's totally captivating. A NYC journalist is hospitalized and she starts struggling with seizures, dramatic mood shifts, and other strange symptoms. At first they assume it's a mental health concern, but in the end it is not.

9. The Strumbellas: Rattlesnake- This was the Strumbellas' newest album that came out earlier this year and I am still listening to it constantly. It's this combination of folk, classic rock, blue grass, and pop that I'm totally here for (their concert was one of my favorites, ever).

10. Beck: Hyperspace- Beck's Morning Phase will always be my favorite, but this new release last month has so much fun. 

Merry Christmas

[photo cred: my talented husband; model: my crazy kid]

Merry Christmas! It's been admittedly quiet around here during these past crazy weeks, but I'm comin' back, just you watch. Hopefully everyone had a wonderful holiday season!

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

This week has been a combination of incredibly busy and bad, so I’m just going to take a moment to validate how amazing it is that tomorrow’s Friday. Tomorrow night Sawyer and I are going to a local Christmas event, Saturday his friend is coming over to decorate gingerbread houses (that I have to construct tomorrow night, t&p please), and then Sunday I'm going hiking with a friend. 

I haven’t been reading much at all- I’m trying to finish up the semester at work, ship out some embroidery special orders, do the holiday mom thing, and keep up with my half marathon training plan. But soon, SOON, some of that will wrap up and it will be time to hunker down and finish up my Goodreads goal.

A club on campus was struggling with getting donation for their toy drive, so my students decided to donate money that I would in turn go to the store and get toys with. They raised over $120 in two days and between all of the sales at Target, my donation, and the Red Card we were able to get enough toys for like 15 kids. Sawyer helped me pick them out and it was a great opportunity to talk about helping those in need. I was so proud of my work kids and my biological kid. (Also, do you know how much fun it is to go shopping for a variety of toys when you’re not paying? SO FUN).

I’ve been listening to some of the episodes of the Bad on Paper podcast and it’s definitely grown on me. I don’t listen to all the episodes, especially for authors that I know I’ll never read, but it’s entertaining and interesting.

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

At some point in motherhood I won’t have Frozen songs stuck in my day, RIGHT?

I would have loved to have had the option to vote for Kamala Harris, but I’m hopeful she’ll land a prominent role in a cabinet position of the Democrats win 2020. I don’t agree with some of her decisions as a prosecutor, but I think she’s definitely an asset.

Sawyer and I are running a 1 mile Santa run at UC Irvine on Saturday… and it’s supposed to rain. Lucky for me my kid is pretty gung-ho about pretty much everything, so we’re going to make it work. We’ll earn their finish line hot chocolate!

We went to my family’s house for Thanksgiving and it was an absolute blast. I generally host to some  capacity at our home, taking a year here or there off for just the three of us to have it together, which was what I planned on originally. Then a week or two before the holiday I mentioned I’d like to go home to Modesto one Thanksgiving in the future and my husband said he’d go this year, since we don’t have a dog. Hotel arrangements were made within twenty minute and off we went last week, dealing with horrendous weather and my son’s sudden cat allergy (thank goodness for Benadryl). But snow and swollen eyes aside, it was one of my favorite Thanksgivings ever.

On our way home from the Central Valley we timed it so we could use out tickets to a really spectacular light show at a botanical garden near Pasadena. It was freezing but stunning. We have lots of fun Christmas activities planned this year, so I’ll do some sort of picture round up in a few weeks, instead of sporadic barrages.

There have been a few articles floating around on the internet about how so much of the “Christmas magic” falls on the woman’s plate and I have mixed feelings about it all. Yeah, that’s true, but it’s all totally optional. I actively decide to plan fun things for my son, no one is expecting me to or telling me that I must. There are things I have decided to sit out this year and no one has given me any grief. It isn’t like cleaning or cooking; those things have to get done and the balance of gender equality is a relevant discussion there. I can see the transfer, but I guess the fact that I really have a ton of fun with the holiday hullabaloo prevents me from getting my feminist undies in a wad.

While we’re on the topic… the Peloton add. I guess I’m going to be a bad feminist again- people got a little too triggered by it. People are reading way too much into it; she got a crazy expensive bike from her husband, worked hard at being diligent about using it, and was happy with the outcome. If anything, the actress over-acted a tad, but, honestly, there are so many worse examples of patriarchy and body-shaming in this world to get upset about. (I haven’t watched Black Mirror; I head there’s a connection, but… I don’t care ?)

My reading has been really slow lately, since I’m trying to get through some Etsy special orders and end-of-the-semester grading. I need to read seven books, though, so as soon as those things are done it’s double time!

I was so lucky to spend time with two friends on separate occasions during Thanksgiving break and, I swear, it was like free therapy (we all said the same, too). It’s just so helpful to have sounding boards in life and I am so lucky that I have some amazing ones. And it’s awesome that it’s mutual; we take turns needing feedback and it never feels one-sided or unfair. I have definitely hit the friend jackpot.

Teacher Tuesday- Happy, Focused, and Clear

[all about the Struggle Bus!]

This year I’ve instituted a few new things in my classroom to help both students and myself, so I thought I’d share them today.  

Happy: Every day I pretty much as soon as I walk into my classroom I make a to-do list for the day (Mondays I make a master list and then farm out the big, looming tasks; I’ll cover organization in another post), and earlier this school year I’ve started adding three things at the bottom that make me happy or are positive. I don’t usually buy into “think rainbows and butterflies/manifest your greatness/everyone is beautiful” kind of thoughts, but this has really helped me start the day and refocus if things get rough later. These items can be about home or work, simple or complex, important or trivial. Today my list was that I paid off my iPhone, sorted some thing out with our picky HOA (grass is hard to grow in December, sheesh), and that I was able to confirm some fun plans later this month.

Focused: My students are okay with their cell phones; some never look at them, some way too frequently, and some have cheated with them in class. I don’t like taking them away, just because they’re not toddlers and also for liability reasons, so I bought clear plastic boxes (with lids!) for each table group and when I see they might be becoming an issue, or we’re taking a test, I have them put away. This way the phones are right in front of them and I don’t have to touch them. It’s been so easy, cheap, and effective that I’ll do it until everyone has communication chips permanently implanted in their bodies.

Clear: We read a lot of complicated works in IB that the students often have issues with, but might feel uncomfortable asking. I now have a “Struggle Bus” poster on one of my cabinets that students can put question post-its on, which I’ll address as we move through the work. We had a ton for Macbeth but less so for the last book, which I thought was interesting. This also helps inform my future teachings of the books, as I can see what the kids are having the most trouble with. Even if it’s not being utilized in droves, I like the fact that it is a resource for kids to get come clarification if they need it.   

November Reviews

This month I read three books, bringing my yearly total to 65 so far, 7 shy of my goal of 72. I would feign trepidation if I had more energy right now (I just ran 3.5 miles after a looooooong day, so the reserves are spent), but, honestly, I'll make it happen. It's who I am. If I was 37 shy I'd balk at the notion a bit more, but 7? I got this. Would it have been a tad more helpful if I would have knocked down five in November as planned? Of course. But, here we are 

The first book I finished was Daryl Gregory's Spoonbenders, which I was a little unsure about, since it is sci-fi book. Verdict? I really enjoyed it and hope there's a movie some day (Wes Anderson? Hello?). The story spans through three generations, starting off with a married couple who may or may not have psychic-ish powers, which may or may not be passed down through their lineage. It's fun, it's creative, and it's a unique look at family bonds.

Also in the sci-fi vein, but very, very different, was Her Body and Other Stories by Carmen Maria Machado. Man, I loved these stories. Most of them started off fairly typical, but then there'd be these sci-fi-esque kind of twists, some of them more obvious than others. The first in the collection is a take on the woman who wore the ribbon around her neck, anther a collection of episode synopses for Law & Order SVU, in which things take a bit of a turn. I can't wait to read Machado's memoir in 2020.

The final book I was read was The Affairs of the Falcons by Melissa Rivero, the story of an undocumented family in the US who is struggling big time in New York City. It's an interesting look at the layers of struggles they faced; being scared of immigration officials, poverty, wanting what's best for one's kids, navigating the social construct of one's community, drama with extended family members, a lack of control over one's body, and struggles within a marriage (and all of this is happening to one woman, dear god). Frankly, it was pretty heartbreaking, which makes me feel almost guilty when I have to say that I've seen better novels within this genre. It wasn't bad, but some of the pacing was off.