March Reads

I talked a little bit about how disappointing my recent reading habits have been in a post earlier this week, so the fact that I've read four books after being off half a month is pretty pathetic. On the other hand, I'm so competitive with myself and goal-oriented that I'm pretty much guaranteed to have a much better reading month in April. I'm just going to put in out there now, but I'm hoping to come in at a solid eight books, doubling what I've done here

Before work I read Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, for hopefully the last time. Ever. We are switching the curriculum and it will no longer be included, so hopefully we're parting ways permanently. It's racist, it have some incredibly boring parts, and my students despise it.

I read two other novels, The Cactus League by Emily Nemens and The Power by Naomi Alderman. The Cactus League was about spring training and followed several characters, including players, executives, players' wives, etc... It had some really solid parts, but it also was a little slow in others. It was fine, but nothing amazing. The Power, on the other hand, was outstanding. It was our book club selection for our English Department book club, which we had via Zoom last night (it was such a breath of fresh air!). This feminist sci-fi novel looks at the world from the perspective of women being in control, once they realize they have this electric current power that they can harness to gain dominance over men. We had some really great discussions about authority, the use of the frame story (my one issue with the novel), and how men were represented. It was really outstanding in terms of characters and story. 

Finally, I read one memoir this month, Chuck Palahniuk's Consider This. I have read some of his older stuff, at one point finding his newer works subpar (but I haven't read some of his newer newer ones, so I can't speak to those), so I was interested in what he had to say. He spoke about his experiences as a writer, but also gave a lot of really helpful advise to those who are interested in writing fiction (I hesitantly raise my hand). He didn't come out and say it, but I felt like some of his more recent books were just sort of churned out to make money (he has always had money trouble, both from his own doing and from someone who worked for him embezzling). I have always had a soft spot for Palahniuk, as his was the first author event I ever went to, in college, when a course required attendance to a reading of our choice that quarter. Hundreds of us were smooshed into a Barnes and Noble in Santa Monica with no AC (turns out this was intentional) while we waited for him to read from Haunted, bringing severed plastic limbs as prizes (he talked about how he did this to stop people from wanting him to autograph their actual body parts for eventual tattoos). 

Hopefully when I return for April's reviews I'll have lots more to say and maybe we'll see some progress with, as my son calls it, "the sickness" in our country. Stay safe, stay healthy, and try to read as much as you can, friends. 

What I've Learned About Life from Reading Memoirs

Over the last few years my nonfiction reading has increased by quite a bit, being partial to memoirs from runners, chefs, travelers, and writers (and the trashy celebrity ones I listen to occasionally). I think in a way these books are a form of self-help for me, as most of the time you're learning about someone who has experienced major obstacles and has had to dig deep to succeed. For me, that's a lot more influential than an instruction manual on how to live life. I've been thinking a lot about some of the major takeaways lately, as I just finished one, so I thought I'd share a few:

If your child writes a memoir, how would they portray their childhood? This has been such a huge one for me everyone always talks about their childhood in their memoirs (see below). There have been some stressful things that have come up in our home since Sawyer has been born and I either try to keep them from him, or explain things in age-appropriate terms. I try to be positive, a problem solver, admit to my mistakes, and also show that I have my own interests outside of just motherhood and my job. I'm sure their are flaws he'll hone in on once he's older and more reflective, but above all I hope that he sees I've always really tried.

Speaking of childhood, no one cares (with exception)
I usually really can't stand the childhood sections of memoirs, unless they're particularly interesting for some reason. It's just one of those things... if I don't really know someone I don't need to know they played soccer for three years, what type of cigars their father smoked, or what their mom cooked on Sunday nights. Call me a monster, go ahead, but those really are the sections I can't wait to get through.

Problems resolve, and new one arise
Ain't that the truth? So, if you're a memoir-writer it's because you presumably have a unique story to tell, and you're obviously still alive and able to tell it. If you look at the range of memoirs, there's everything from abuse to accidents to disabilities to poverty to every other horrible condition imaginable. These people rise up, conquer the challenge and often have to do the same later. But, it's like running- at first five miles seems impossible, but you do it. Then, when you later have a seven-miler on your schedule it doesn't seem as bad because you've built up the endurance. It's the same way with life- we can hone those problem solving skills and be ready to take on more. 

Be willing to accept help, and then give back when you are able
So few people do it alone, whether they ask for help or it is forced upon them. Personally, I detest asking for help, but there have been moments in my life when I have had to at least accept it. When I was nineteen, in college, I needed help with getting a down payment for a new car so that I could commute and stay at UCLA; my mentor/boss/friend who had no children lent me the money and we created a schedule for paying her back. I was horrified, but now as an adult I know that she really wanted to help and did it because she could. But then, once able you have to give back (I'll refrain from publicly patting my own back). This happens in memoirs ALL THE TIME- people start scholarships, foundations, they mentor others, they help advance careers. I can't think of any memoir where someone did it alone.

Repression will come back to haunt you 
Oh yes, the possible outcome of compartmentalizing! Not all, but many of the memoirs I have read have had people really struggle to come to terms with things from their past. I think the act of writing these books is therapeutic in and of itself for many of these people, but often there is mention of therapy, life changes, heavy conversations, etc... that help the authors come to terms with things that have happened in the past. 

Push Yourself Harder
You don't write a memoir because you sit on your ass and watch Netflix all day. You end up writing a memoir because you did something great or you persevered through something hard. People are running marathons with one legs, overcoming no formal childhood educations to become celebrated academics, and start from poverty to build empires. You can really do great, big things if you want to. 

Some of my all-time favorites (memoirs with a few essay collections thrown in):

Anything written by Leslie Jamison- focus on her life as an addict and academic

Heavy by Kiese Laymon- a memoir that looks at what it means to be black, gay, and to struggle with your body in America

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi- A doctor details his journey with cancer (although maybe not during Covid19)

I Am I Am I Am by Maggie O'Farrell- She recounts her many brushes with death, both literal and metaphorical

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah- Noah talks about his life in South Africa under The Apartheid 

Becoming by Michelle Obama- She's amazing- no need to say more

Dear America Notes of an Undocumented Citizen by Jose Antionio Vargas- Fascinating discussion of immigration 

Save Me the Plums by Ruth Reichl- The story of  Gourmet magazine's editor

I Hear She's a Real Bitch by Jen Agg- A female restaurantear who has to fight the boy's club in Toronto

Anything written by Anthony Bourdain 

Let Your Mind Run by Deena Kastor- a running memoir that's applicable to the sport and life in general (it's so motivating, I use it with my students too)

Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family by Amy Ellis Nutt- a story of a family in which one of their twins was trans-gendered and how they navigated this road together 

Leaving the Witness by Amber Scorah- A look into Jehovah Witness, and leaving it

The Rules do Not Apply by Ariel Levy- I thought it was such an honest, raw look into a marriage

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea by Alyssa Mastromonaco- A Obama staffer who is just so brilliant and witty

How to Murder Your Life by Cat Marnell- Holy cow, I learned so much about drugs from the beauty editor's memoir

Are You Even Reading (Books)?

Two weeks ago I was at work and found out that we'd be out for three weeks (and then six weeks and now who knows). Of course a million thoughts were going through my mind, admittedly "I'm going to get to read more!" was one of them. I made a stack of books to get through and confidently posted about everyone everywhere nailing their Goodreads goals for the year.


In the last two weeks I've finished three books, the exact amount I would have if I was working (I think I actually probably would have read four by now if it was business as usual). There are lots of reasons why:

Teaching my son I treat this like another job, planning lessons the night before, prepping, and really trying to make sure he's progressing 
My actual job Distance learning planning for my students, plus catching up with grading, zoom meetings with colleagues and students, etc...
Covid19 Distract-a-mania! The other night, for example, I spent thirty minutes on my phone researching drugs being tested to bring some relief. I'll let you guys know if I find anything encouraging so we can all buy massive stock in that company (spoiler alert: eff Gilead, those shady SOBs)
Exercise I know, this is strange, but in order to stay sane I am getting in about two hours of activity a day, between walking with Sawyer and working out at night.

This has got to change. This was not how I wanted to have time off, but the fact that I'm not on track to read a billion books is disappointing. Despite having my hands full, here are a few ways I plan on doing a better job reading:

- Catch up on my pre-school closure grading asap, so I'm not constantly grading old work throughout the day
- Utilize my Forest App even more. I do a great job of using it while I'm teaching Sawyer and working on work, so now I need to turn it on while I am reading too (yes, I am a good tree-lover; I rarely kill them and am disciplined enough to not let them die... if you don't know what the hell I am talking about, check out my very favorite productivity app)
- Set Sawyer's rest time for fifteen minutes longer and read during that time (the first hour is designated work-only; and I work many more hours than that during the day, for the record... this is just a nice, quiet chunk I can spend on it as well)
- Block out a half an hour most nights right after I am done working out/showering, before I commit to doing something else. 

If I can't put a serious dent in my TBR pile then I don't even know myself anymore. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

1. If you have kids and are responsible for coming up with any sort of content, I highly recommend the site Teachers Pay Teachers. I bought an ebook of over 200 site word activities and another for kindergarten math for less than $18. You are supporting teachers and their hard work and helping yourself out at the same time.

2. I finished a book! Finally! I feel like with everything going on I'm incredibly slow right now, but I finished The Power this morning and really loved it. it was our month's book club selection, which we hope to maybe reschedule over Zoom or something.

3. If you're looking for a treat, Porto's, a Cuban deli and bakery in Southern California, is delivering! They offer $10 off your first order and ship the goods frozen, so you can bake them at your own convenience. I ordered two boxes worth of pastries yesterday and then arrived today! I don't have much room in my freezer, so I'll have no choice but to eat them asap.

4. I started watching Little Fires Everywhere on Hulu and I think it's pretty good. I hate the score, though... it just feels too ominous something. I'll definitely keep watching.

5. Speaking of watching, once I catch up on LFE and This is Us, I need to watch this crazy tiger docu-series that everyone is talking about. Have you seen it? Should I go for it?

6. Our district is finally coming up for air and is supposed to get us some more clear cut parameters about distance learning requirements after our "spring break" (HA!) next week. I totally get the delay- they've been trying to navigate getting the food program established, working with the unions to get everyone's position clarified, etc... It will definitely be nice to have expectations, though. I know I have been doing assignments, grading, interacting with kids, etc... but I know some teachers feel like they are floundering. I'm also excited to have a better idea about how we're supposed to do grades for the semester, since we need to make sure we are in compliance. 

7. I get so excited at the prospect of packages now! I'm not like shopping or spending lots of money, but you know, "yay, my Target delivery of body wash, crayola paint, candy, and coffee is on it's way!" Although I'm trying to be good and sterilize everything before I take it into the house, so it's actually a huge pain the ass. 

8. I ordered a book the other night from Amazon and I saw that it won't arrive for a month. Wow. If that's not a sign of the times I don't know what is. I remember back in the day where it would have been, like, 1.5 days. But I totally get it and support it. Plus, lord knows I have, ya know just a few (ONE HUNDRED, I HAVE ONE HUNDRED) unread ones I can be going through. Target is still an option, though, and while they don't have all the books I'd want, they do have a lot of new released (like the Emily St. John Mandel one that just came out).

9. Despite today's Porto's delivery, it's time to bake cookies. 

A Day in the Life... Social Distancing Style

Over the years I have chronicled periods of life through "day in the life" posts-  there's one focusing on work, one when I didn't have a kid, one when I was on maternity leave, one when I had a toddler, one on summer break, etc... You get the gist. Well, I'll be damned if I didn't do one for this weird, weird time we're experiencing. Monday was a pretty "typical" (what the hell does that even mean right now?) day, so here's what it looked like:

7:30- 8:00 slowly wake up and get moving

8:00-8:30 Sawyer and I eat breakfast and get dressed. For me, this whole getting-out-of-the-pajamas thing is important. Sure, I still wear a lot of leggings or sweats, but I do my hair, apply a tiny bit of makeup, and put on earrings. I enjoy getting ready in the morning, so this makes me feel "normal." 

8:30-9:40 This is our first chunk of school time. I am going to do a more detailed post on how I am scheduling this out and deciding what to do, but we spend this time getting rolling for the day, starting with language arts- independent reading, sight words, writing, and phonics reading. Anytime where he is working on things independently I jump on my computer to work with my students on Google Classroom or grade (I won't keep repeating it, but I am teaching my son and doing things for my classroom intermittently all day). 

9:40-9:55 Recess! We do a scooter ride around the neighborhood (no one is ever out during this time, so social distancing has been a breeze) and have a snack 

10:00-10:10 Virtual sharing time! This was our first day doing this with my good friend her two small kids and it was super cute. We are going to have prompts each day and we video chat and the kids just talk about what they're sharing and ask questions. 

10:10-10:50 Finish language arts time, today we reviewed the "sh" blend and moved into "ch." We do a lot of work on white boards and today he used some of the words to make a little booklet with pictures and words using the new skill.

10:50-11:30 Math time, condensed version. Today we did a 100s chart and practiced sorting and counting change. I usually do more here, but I wanted to get in a walk before lunch.

11:30-12:30 Our daily long walk time. Our neighborhood sits up on a hill, so we walk down the hill and into a new development that is still under construction. There are very little people out, but it's new and pretty and a nice place to walk. Our neighborhood is more active at this point, but everyone is being great at stepping off the sidewalk or crossing the street to respect space (all the while waving and saying hello).

12:30-1:00 Lunch time! I hate making my kid lunch- it's boring. Necessary, so I do it, but it's really not my favorite.  It's like breakfast is easy, dinner can be fun, but lunch a weird limbo.

1:00-1:45 Science! Sawyer had been learning about bugs before this all started, so we have kept that up with a few bugs a week. Today we watched some videos on snails, examined them while we were on our walk, and made one out of paper plates.

1:45-2:45 Sawyer has a mandatory rest time in his room for an hour each day. I use this time to do things for work. My main thing right now is posting each day discussion questions and assignments for the students on the books we read. At this time we are finishing up Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness and transitioning to Kate Chopin's The Awakening

2:45-3:45 While I finish up some things I wanted to do for work Sawyer does some color-by-number print outs that are his new obsession. I am working on grading some tests, emailing students, and compiling a list of college acceptances as they role in. We need things to celebrate!

3:45-4:30 Chore time- laundry, vacuuming, kitchen cleaning. I make Sawyer help me with laundry- he's turning into an excellent towel-folder.

4:30-5:15 I try to grade some more, but Sawyer interrupts me every five minutes to show me things he's building with his LEGOs. I know this is part of our life right now- he's missing school, I'm his main companion, and besides taking care of my professional obligations, my other responsibility is making sure he stays his happy self. Everything takes a lot longer, but I have the time, and I don't want him to feel lonely.

5:15-5:40 Finally, for the first time all day, I attempt to read for a few minutes. LEGO production is still in full force, though, so not many pages are finished. In my head I am SCREAMING "leave me alone leave me alone leave me alone" but, see above. There's a lot of change right not, and he'll go to bed eventually and I'll have more time.

5:40-6:10 I get dinner going and head out for my nightly pool-skimming. We have a pool guy who comes once a week, but we have a lot of plants blooming right now and dropping crap into the pool. I really don't want to have to pay for pool pumps and filters breaking right now, so I spend ten minutes a night doing this. Can you tell that I'm trying to convince myself to keep doing it? 

6:10-7:00 Dinner with my son and husband

7:00-7:20 Help Sawyer take a shower and then we FaceTime with my mom for a few minutes (I try to do this a few times a week). We only see her a few times a year, so it's been nice to see her face more lately. 

7:20-7:55 Sawyer settles in for his screen time, watching Toy Story 4 and I get to read. 

7:55-8:15 Bedtime routine (a few pages of Harry Potter, songs, our question of the day, sharing our favorite things about the day, plus our least favorite, etc...)

8:15-8:25- Get ready for yoga, Marco Polo with a friend. I had never used the app until this, but it works really well for us! There are some people I think it would be weird to Marco Polo with, but it's been super fun us to leave video messages throughout the day.

8:25-8:55 Down Dog Yoga session! I have used this app for years and love it so much. 

8:55- 9:30 shower

9:30-10:10 Work on blog, read a few pages of The Power. I really love this book, but it's been tough to read lately, at least to the degree that I would like to. Once I get my grading under control it will be easier, I'm sure. 

10:10- 11:10 Embroider and watch This is Us (I'm like ten episodes behind or something, so if I watch an episode a week I'll probably catch up before this whole thing is over).

11:10- 11:40 Finish prepping stuff for homeschooling tomorrow, finish replying to student emails

11:40- bed (lay in bed for forty minutes because I opted to have an adult beverage instead of melatonin tonight... I won't do both)

How I'm Making this "Work" For Me

I use the phrase "work" very loosely, as this whole shelter-in-place thing we're doing in California is hard. Considering that I have a young child, I'm still expected to work the best I can, and I need to protect my sanity, I'm really trying to establish a routine and keep trucking along. I put together a list of what has helped me through this last week, so I thought I'd share. Obviously everyone's resources, demands, interests, philosophies, etc... are different, but this is what has worked for me so far:

Homeschool- I'll talk more about what I'm really doing in a different post, but we're doing school Monday thru Friday from about eight-ish to between one or two. I know that there's a lot of different thoughts about this floating around on social media, but I'm a credentialed teacher (I can teach high school English, Biology, and elementary school) and feel very equipped to help my son stay on track, if not get ahead. It's good for both of us and I've had fun blending interactive activities and more traditional workbooks and such.

Work- I have two main things that I am doing: trying to grade everything I brought home, since I was incredibly behind before we left, and creating new content to deliver on Google Classroom on the book we are studying. I have solid participation from my kids so far, so I'm really happy. I grade when Sawyer is working on things he can do independently during his school day, during his rest time in the afternoon, and just whenever I can squeeze it in.

Walking outside- We take recess breaks so Sawyer can ride his scooter around the block and then we take an hour walk late in the morning or early afternoon for some serious exercise.

Real exercise- Most nights I do yoga, run on the treadmill, or do incline walking. I try to get in at least 12,000 steps a day and lately on average closer to 15,000. 

Connecting with friends- Every single day I check in with people, and people check in with me. I've been using the Marco Polo app, Facetime, Instagram, and just plain old texting. It has been incredibly important!

Having a daily to-do list- This is a time where we are very powerless. For me, dictating what I'm doing during the day and holding myself accountable helps a lot. I haven't jumped into any huge projects, yet, since we're going to be here awhile (but yes, I can see caulk and shelving paper in my future...). When I don't feel productive I get depressed, so this is really important for me to do every single day. 

Do fun things- Bake, read, craft, blog, whatever! I'm being strategic- I usually save baking for the weekends, so cookies are going down tomorrow. Sawyer is super excited for a new LEGO set that we have from Christmas still, and we also said we could make a tent fort in his room. I bought a TON of new art and craft kits for him and I plan on bringing out one or so a weekend so we have those as options, too. 

This isn't to say I don't have my moments. I try really hard to have it together all day when Sawyer is up, but sometimes I do get bummed out at night. My worst moment was canceling our annual spring break Yosemite trip the other day. I did it online and was basically heartbroken, but when I called the next day to inquire about the refund the nice man reminded me that they weren't going anywhere and they'd see me again later in 2020. So true. I feel sad reading about all the stories of people being laid off, mad about the squabbles over relief packages, and anxious as I watch the stock ticker each day. I am also staying up way too late and am still up by seven at the latest, which I know is a slippery slope for my ability to stay relatively happy. 

I am so thankful for my job, my son, and the fact that we can still order things online. 

How are you? What are you doing to survive?

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Can one think about things other than being cooped up at home, these days? The falling market, the uncertainty, the closed schools, the impending illnesses- you get the gist. I'll try to keep it light(ish) after yesterday's heavier post.

I can't wait to start watching Little Fires Everywhere! I liked the book enough; I didn't think it was the literary tour de force that others did, but I enjoyed it look forward to seeing how they're adapting it for the small screen. 

Other shows I plan to watch in the upcoming weeks: catch up on This is Us, lots of Top Chef (and any other cooking-related shows), and... well, honestly, I don't even really know what else is out there that I want to watch because it's usually not an option. So far I've watched Jojo Rabbit and 2/3 of Avenger's End Game.  

It is incredibly rainy and cold in Southern California right now, which is a bit unusual for this time of the year, especially after a really dry winter. The timing isn't stellar, but we still walk a lot and as soon as we get some sunshine I have about 13 boxes of sidewalk chalk we've accumulated that will get used asap. 

I'm going to just casually drop this here, but I think I might use this time to start writing a novel (says cooped up wanna-be-writers everywhere across the land). 

My friend and I have started using the MarcoPolo app and I am horrible at it! I was talking politics and didn't even realize I was using the "macho" sound effect and sounded like some sort of body builder or something, hahaha. 

I posted a brief interview that NPR did with Chinua Achebe at 2:30 this afternoon and by 4 there were already nearly fifteen replies from my students- there were no points involved, just the request to simply respond in some way. Yes! They're doing it! Of course seventeen and eighteen-year-olds would get in the groove of this tech thing asap. 

As a Mom. As a Teacher. As a Fan of Public Health Policy.

Monday-Wednesday of last week- things are getting progressively hairy with the coronavirus
Thursday evening- our school board meets, they decide to suspend, basically, all extracurricular activities
Friday at noon- school board meets again, decides to close schools until after spring break, which means three weeks out. Teachers are told they would have to work contractual hours to promote distance learning. My son's private kinder closes. It then reopens several hours later, although my husband and I had decided to keep him home
Saturday/Sunday- Countless emails fluctuating from "teachers don't come back at all" to "teachers come back on Monday" to "teachers can come back on Tuesday" (many of us needed materials)
Today, Tuesday, morning- teachers in my district are allowed to go back to work to gather belongings for three hours (yay! We get to talk to friends at a distance! It was like the weirdest, happiest reunion ever)
Today, Tuesday at noon- the county of Riverside declares that all schools must be closed until April 30
Today, Tuesday, late afternoon/early evening- the Governor California says he doesn't think we'll be going back to school this school year 

I cannot keep up. As a mom, teacher, and someone who is incredibly concerned about public health I feel super conflicted; I feel empathetic of every party and opinion involved. In a weird way, this is a blessing in disguise- a very exhausting one. 

As a mom, I want to keep my kindergartner home as much as possible. I fully get the evidence that kids are as low-risk as you can get and I am eternally thankful. But, that being said, my kid touches everything and bites his effing nails. As a mom, I am also slightly terrified at the prospect of hunkering down in my home with a little boy who rarely STFU and is quite energetic. He is an only child and I am sad that he won't get to be around his friends, so I've been in touch with a friend of his to do some FaceTime and I just realized I had another one of his friend's mom's numbers. Better than nothing! As a mom, I am also incredibly excited to get to spend so much quality time with him and get in touch with my old elementary teacher self and provide structured content for him every day. 

As a teacher, I am absolutely devastated. I love my students very much and we have all worked so hard their junior year and now their senior year to prepare for the IB test in May and for college (I teach about 120 seniors daily). There's so much uncertainty and I hope that we can figure out something that is flexible and works. As a teacher, I am thankful that I am being paid and I plan to fully rise to the occasion. I am providing daily work on Google Classroom, am interacting with students constantly, and I even let them in on my Alumni Instagram account, just so we could maybe do some Instalives and have some fun distractions (unless they get too crazy, than I will shut that down super fast, haha). As a teacher, I am worried about my students' mental health, the challenges their lower-income households will surely face, and the fact that they are losing so many end-of-the-year experiences that they worked so hard for. As a teacher, I am worried about the classroom content that millions of students are missing out on, as there still is about 1/3 of the school year left (although, minus a few weeks for state testing at some levels, a week for finals/end of the year activities, etc... so not quite as bad). But, as a teacher, I am cautiously optimistic. Teachers are problem solvers. We get shit done. During our thirty-minute lunch breaks we're capable of eating, responding to emails, gossiping with colleagues, filing papers, and peeing- all at the same time (well, maybe not the peeing part). We're resilient- we've seen monstrous cuts to funding over the years, we've taken on school boards and won, we've had various kids in our classrooms simultaneously throwing up, itching from lice, and throwing pencils across the room. We will rise to the occasion as a profession and do our damned best to make sure we are working with the parents who are willing to help their kids as much as possible. As a teacher, I am also worried about the parents who don't want to help, but, as a teacher, I'm used to that. And I will still do my best, as I will next year (and the year after) when we're trying to work on rebuilding the learning deficit that has grown I will try the hardest I've ever tried. 

As a fan of public health policy (yeah, this is an awkward phrase, I own it), I get it. I totally and completely get it. Look at Wuhan- they have had this virus for about two and a half months, and they are just now returning, cautiously, to life. Their response was much more aggressive than ours, so the fact that we're so behind makes the prospect of a longer social distancing necessity realistic. As a fan of public heath policy, I understand that Americans aren't immune- we aren't more special than the rest of the world, and because of the size of our country we are at incredible risk of losing so many. As a fan of public health policy, I am angry that we are so far behind with testing and that a country of such resources and intellect didn't face this catastrophe with bolder, swifter measures. As a fan of public health policy, I understand that experts are going to have to make unpopular decisions for the good of the population that are going to anger parents. As a fan of public health policy, I understand you can't have it both ways- if you want people to live and society to resume, you can't continue with life as normal in the present.

I get it. This is a huge, huge, huge problem- kids out of school means no learning, child care issues, parents not being able to work, family conflict, safety concerns, subpar nutrition- the list goes on and on and on. I get it. I feel it. It scares me. I grew up in a household that barely lived paycheck-to-paycheck and I fully comprehend how devastating this would have been to my single mom. I cannot wait for this to be over so I can donate some cold hard cash to charities that will help recover, my excess pantry items to food banks, and my time to students who need remediation.

But you know what else scares me? The recent model that came out today that said 2.2 million Americans could die if we don't take drastic measures. That number basically guarantees that most people will be touched by death in some way. That could be your grandpa. Or mine. It could be your best friend's daughter in remission for cancer. It could be a colleague with Lyme Disease. I would rather deal with a prolonged school closure than risk this widespread loss of lives. Do I think that maybe we should slow down making decisions? Yes. But remember when we slowed down and didn't prepare for this virus? That didn't turn out very well, either. 

It's going to be rough and sometimes terrible. But let's figure out how to flatten the curve, okay? 

Hibernation Reading

I definitely don't want extra free time as a result of something horrible, but I'm also not going to waste the opportunity to do more of the things I love at home. Naturally, reading falls into that category, so I've combed through my extensive TBR and made a stack to get through during the impending weeks of hibernation (doesn't that sound so much nicer than "social isolation" or "quarantine" or all the other terms we're using these days?). As of right now I go back to work three weeks from tomorrow, but.... who knows. This hearty stack of ten will definitely get my started!

Me by Elton John- I've been working on this one for a few weeks- it's super fascinating, but I usually read autobiographies and biographies a little slower, in shorter spurts while I'm also reading a novel.

Apeirogon by Colum McCann- This new release is quite long and apparently fairly complicated in structure/style, so HELLO, perfect time.

American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson- If it's good enough for Obama it's good enough for me. 

Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout- I loved her other ones, so I'm sure this one will be great too. 

The Power by Naomi Alderman- This was out book club selection for our upcoming English Department meeting, what we aren't having. I'm still excited to read it (maybe we can do an email thread or something).

Consider This: Moments in My Writing Life after Which Everything Wa Different by Chuck Palahniuk- I was a fan of some of his earlier stuff and then it went way bad. I'm thinking this is going to explain a lot! 

Hagseed by Margaret Atwood- This retelling of The Tempest sounds interesting and I even reread The Tempest to prepare for this... like two years ago. Oops.

Quiet by Susan Cain- I'm not sure if this is the best time or the worst time to read a book about being on your own, but we'll see. 

Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks- The poor man and his wife have the virus, so I guess this is just a gentle nod to them taking it like champs and being such social media role models. 

Talk Talk by TC Boyle- I've had this for eons, so it's way overdue. 

This is the year we're all meeting our GoodReads totals, that's for damn sure. 

Some Non-Virus Resources

Oh man, this is... something. I found out in the middle of the day on yesterday that our district was closing for three weeks, one of which being spring break. So, now I'm home with my kindergardener and husband for at least 23 days (and you never know what's going to happen after...). For the past two or three weeks I have been slowly stocking up on supplies and preparing in general- people I admitted this to thought I was crazy, but I am a planner and I was trusting my gut as I saw things happen abroad. I really had a few days where I got really, really anxious (internally), and that's when I started taking steps to make sure I could take care of my family. I didn't go crazy buying toilet paper, but every time I was at Target or the grocery store I grabbed something- an extra bottle of Advil, some backup contact solution, more granola bars, etc... This isn't to say I feel okay about our ENTIRE WAY OF LIFE CHANGING, because I don't, but I do feel better than before. I've been thinking about ways to stay more focused, calm, centered, and productive* during this time off and plan on sharing a lot of it here, along with lots of other posts about reading and whatnot, since god knows I'll have plenty of time. 

Headspace App- I have never been into meditating, even though I love yoga, but like two months ago I was going through some personal things and coincidentally saw that this app is FREE for teachers! I've heard conflicting information about whether it's just for a year, or forever, but still it's a great deal. I primarily use it at night, to help wind down to sleep, but there are so many options for anxiety, anger, productivity, loneliness, happiness, etc... You can decide on the length of many and the narrator's voice too. 

Forest App- I have been a HUGE fan of this app for years (I think it's a few dollars)- it forces me to take breaks from my phone. I don't consider myself addicted to my device, but there are definitely times where I am guilty of wasting time on it, or allowing it to distract me from grading or whatever. Right now I have found it incredibly useful when it come to distancing myself from reading the news sites too often. Setting the app to grow a thirty-minute tree forces me to stop getting updates and find something better to do with my time. 

Down Dog Yoga- I subscribe to the premium service for I think $7.99 a month, which is a fraction of the cost of even a yoga class, let alone belonging to a studio. They have tons of free features, though, and I think they've expanded the options through the month of April to help people be active at home. 

Serial Reader App- If you've meant to read more classics this app is for you (there's a free version and one that cost a few dollars if you want to get your installments ahead of time). Every day they'll give you another chunk of an Austen novel or Dostoyevsky or whomever that helps reading these "I meant to" books easier. 

Scholastic Learn At Home- I haven't started using this yet, but it's a free system that helps parents deliver content to their kids at home. It looks like there will be 25 days worth, each day having a book to read on a certain subject, plus interactive components as well.  

Jessica Yellin's Instagram account- I love, love, love Jessica Yellin, a reporter that focuses on "news not noise." She posts daily in her stories, does igtv, and has regular posts to. This is virus related right now, but I must say I always feel informed and rational after listening to her.  

*I completely admit my privilege here- I am lucky enough to be a salaried employee who will keep getting paid, I had the resources to buy a little extra, we are healthy, etc... Right now I'm not sure how to help others, but I am focusing my energy to support my students who are worried about graduating, IB tests, etc... I am also trying to thank EVERYONE at every store, our school custodians, the guy working at the gas station, our bosses etc... I know that that's not the same, but I think validating everyone's efforts is at least temporarily a kind thing to do. I can't wait for this to be over so I can donate all of our extras to the food pantry on our campus for students-in-need

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

How are we doing? Isn’t this whole Covid-19 debacle just completely… exhausting? I am so tired from checking the updates, from living my life as normal, from making sure my house is stocked with the perfect amount of “not-overreacting but being prepared” supplies, and from just talking about (but can we really stop?). I totally understand and relate to what everyone is thinking and feeling. It’s just a glorified cold, you’ll be fine if you get it. Yup. It’s detrimental to the elderly and those without compromise immune systems. Yup. We need to keep schools open. Yup. We need to close schools. Yup. We need to live our lives. Yup. We need to reduce large public gatherings. Yup. It’s just so surreal; I’m grading and fantasizing about summer break, and yet there’s this huge, scary, life-as-we-know-it altering-thing lurking in the background. I have so little confidence in the government, in the response of my fellow man, and even in hand sanitizer. Fast forward six months down the line? I think we’re going to be okay.

This weekend we are laying looooooooow, both because of the virus shutting a lot of places and events, but also because we’re having strange, foreign, “wintery” weather here in SoCal (read 65 degrees and rain). I hope to get some grading done, lots of reading, and working on a new cross stitch project I have planned for my Etsy shop. I think we are also going to my friends’ son’s birthday party for a few hours, so that will be nice. I’ll be the first to admit that, after people dying of course, the next reason I am most bothered by the virus is because I need to be busy and leave my house in order to feel happy. Those opportunities being jeopardized really disturbs me. Luckily I don’t think they will close down hiking trails and beaches for this (I don’t think anyway).

Evidence of me in fact NOT being a coffee snob whatsoever: I am so excited to try Wendy’s Frosty-ccino. It’s coffee  plus Frosty- how can I not love it? It’s like the least classy affogato ever.  

My friends and I at work were discussing books that we read when we were younger that we remember liking but don’t exactly remember and need to reread. On my list? Henrik Ibsen’s A Dolls House, Isabel Allende House of the Spirits, William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, and Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I am generally not a fan of rereading, just because there are so many books out there, but I also know the value of rereading, since the books I teach at work are the ones I know best.

I had a meeting all day, so my kids had a sub, and the man is just the nicest guy ever. He’s probably in his sixties and I always feel like I’m leaving my students with their grandpa for the day. He keeps them in mind, but he always so sweet and leaves me the kindest notes.

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

[I made this!]

Super Tuesday? Super interesting. 

Coronavirus, huh? The mom and teacher in my is trying not to panic, but the more rational side of me with some science classes under my belt knows that, while concerning, most people are fine. I did stock up on some supplies this past weekend, in case we are stuck home for whatever reason. I did not turn into a hoarder (my most important buys: pantry staples for quick dinners in case I am sick, children's Motrin and adult Advil, protein/granola bars, and some extra laundry soap). 

I started a bookstagram for the blog, @bookishlyboisterous , but mostly so I could just make sure I had the user name and no one ever swiped it. I'm going to attempt to post more on it, but it's not a huge focus right now. Feel free to follow, it's public! I put much more energy into my personal one, and the one for my embroidery, @daily_floss_ (I hate that I have multiple instagrams... it seems so extra... but here we are, in 2020 juggling social accounts like I have alllll the time in the world). 

I am rereading Conrad's Heart of Darkness for the fifth time, and man do I dislike it. The racism of the time, the meandering syntax, the waxing and waning about the sea. I think this might be the last time ever, thank goodness.

I am also reading The Cactus League by Emily Nemens, and I'm no so sure yet (I'm about sixty pages in). I'm just not sure where it's going, which isn't always a bad thing, but I don't know if that sort of nuance is working here. I do have a soft spot for spring training, though, so that is keeping my hopeful.

My kid woke me up in the wee hours of the morning because he had a bad dream... about his nipples falling off. Again.

Since I'm totally all over the place today, I bought a sweater shaver to hopefully revitalize some of my sweaters. I'm slightly terrified to use it, despite the thousands and thousands of good reviews on Amazon. 

My son has the cutest field trip next week- they are taking their teddy bears to a pretty major area hospital to get check ups for them. The rationale is that it will help the kids become more comfortable at a hospital in case something is ever wrong, which seems like a good idea to me (although.... going back to the Coronavirus.... haha).

My husband and I watched Knives Out last weekend and I really like it! 

February Reads

I must say, I wonder what my monthly review at the end of March will be like- will covid-19 have created total chaos? Who will the likely Democratic nominee be? Will I have survived a month of crazy deadlines at work? Needless to say, my stress level is pretty high. Luckily this wonderful hobby provides the perfect escape, as seen by my six books read in a slightly-shorter month.

I wrote about my experience reading American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins already- you can find my thoughts here

I read two nonfiction books this month, Save Me the Plums by Ruth Reichl and The Rise of the Ultra Runners by Adharanand Finn. Reichl's memoir is about her time spent as the editor-in-chief of of the now-defunct Gourmet magazine, and it was just exquisite. Her stories are fascinating and her writing so this wonderful combination of precise and descriptive. I will absolutely be reading more from her in the future. Finn's story of how he fell into ultrarunning will win over runners for sure, as well as those who love to be inspired by stories of perseverance. 

The two novels I read, Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson and Weather by Jenny Offill couldn't be more different from each other. Wilson's quirky story of a woman who is falls into caring for twins who burst into flames is both entertaining and sentimental (his novels never disappoint). Offill's Weather is told in her simplistic, yet incredibly complicated prose (she is one of the most unique writers of our time), detailing a woman's time spent handling the mail of a podcaster who focuses on climate change. 

And finally, I just finished Anjali Sachdeva's short-story collection All the Names They Used for God, and it was absolutely amazing. Each story was close to perfection, which is rare for a lot of collections. Her ability to craft such intricate stories with well-rounded characters in such a short amount of time impressed the crap out of me.