Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

1. I had my yearly well-woman exam the other day... over the phone. Ha!

2. Sawyer and I are starting a fun little project for part of his school review time that we do most days- he is writing letters to characters from books he loves. To start things off he did one to Hagrid today, complimenting him on his dragon and asking about the itchiness of his beard. There are so many skills- letter writing format, spelling, writing different kind of sentences, reading comprehension, and art when he draw a picture. 

3. I head Laurie Santos, a psychologist, on The Armchair Expert talking about happiness and was so excited to hear she has her own show, The Happiness Lab. I listened to one episode yesterday about creating good habits and I really liked the practical advice of her and her guests. I can't wait to listen to more! They're in the 25-45 minutes range, which is perfect. 

4. People are always surprised to hear the types of audiobooks that I listen to- mysteries, self-help, memoirs, etc... I never want to listen to something that I think is of a higher quality, since I rather read it!  That being said, I just finished Then She Was Gone  by Lisa Jewell and the first 2/3 was pretty good, the last 1/3 when they were tying things up a little predictable and forced. I just started Tarryn Fisher's The Wives and it's fairly entertaining. 

5. Our friends from out of the state are out staying with their family and are coming over for a socially-distanced visit in our front yard tomorrow. I'm excited! New faces! At my house! 

6. Masks! I have worn them in places where I can't social distance from the beginning and originally made some of my own. Now that Sawyer and I are going to more parks and trails I want to have some for him, just in case we find ourselves in a situation where he needs one (plus he might have to wear one when he goes back to school in the fall and needs to get used to it). The biggest problem I have found with him is getting the elastic loops to stay on his ears, so I ordered one from Vista Prints- it is super soft, cute and the ears have adjustable locks. The only problem is that they're $14 a pop! I ordered some little silicon tubes that fit over the elastic as well, so I plan on making him some more and using those, too. 

7. Earlier this week we went to a wilderness preserve nearby and hiked around for almost two hours in the morning. It was beautiful! It's a thirty minute drive from my house, which isn't bad at all and there are enough people around so that you fairly safe, but you also don't really cross paths either. Perfect!

8. One of good friend's moms passed away from Covid19 the other evening, after a valient, rough battle with it. Please wear your masks, stop having get togethers, and be smart about where you're going. No one is too special to follow community health protocols. This isn't political, we aren't turning into a "socialist country," and just because you think you're strong enough to withstand it doesn't mean you are, or the people you live with are.

9. I've had to really practice responding with grace lately and it's really, really hard. Oh, Covid19, you really are character building. 

10. I started my 2020 year-in-review book yesterday and it's going to be the strangest one yet! I am so lucky we did so much in January thru mid-March. I am looking forward to doing the stay-at-home times, just because I know in a decade I might not remember how odd this time of our life was (at least I hope I'm not dwelling on it...). 

What I've Learned from the Last Three Months of Social Isolation

I will admit my privilege before I even begin this post, just because I know I am fortunate to have my job, home, health, and amazing son. I also know that I only have one kid, which is far easier than having multiple on many levels (but also really tough because he relies on my for all of his basic needs being met and companionship). That being said, this has been the hardest period of my life for obvious reasons, and others. We all have our stuff, right? Again, I feel like a jerk confessing this, considering so many fortunate aspects to my life, but it's the truth. That being said, there have been bright spots and I have learned a lot, some serious and some more trivial. In true-to-me nature, there's a LONG RAMBLING list:

If you really want to be connected to your friends you'll find a way. Zoom, Facetime, House Party, Marco Polo, texts, calls, etc... all work! They aren't the same, but they're better than nothing and often more convenient. There are friends I think I actually talk to more now that before! How awesome is that? This has definitely been a reminder that I need  my friends and am super fortunate to have the ones that I have. I have a standing happy hour late every Friday night, another one every-other-Mondayish, am in two book clubs, Marco Polo one friend multiple times a day, plus all the other random forms of communication. I am slowly getting to add in socially distanced outdoor visits with friends, but it's definitely not the same as getting to sit across from them at lunch or getting coffee. But still- I feel good about my social efforts. 

I go through a lot of scented candles when I am home. 

Mandatory rest-time for my child is absolutely necessary and good for us both (he does not rest; this is the original intent, but it has morphed into "be quiet and stay in your room until your alarm goes off"). I know I mention this all the time, but I don't care. 

There is a correct balance of social media consumption; I haven't quite found it. Too much leads to wasted time, not liking people I didn't actually realize I disliked so much, and emotional drained. Too little and I feel disconnected and isolated.

News is best read once or twice a day. It changes a lot, but the change in and of itself is predictable. Also, I have had to learn to remind myself a million times a day to remember headlines are just click-bait and not to worry when I see "Expert's dire warning of xyz," as it may actually  be applicable to something 500 miles away. On that note, I hate paywalls. 

There are people I find to have, shall we say, "really toxic auras," and I've had to do a lot of blocking, muting, etc... On that note, it has been a good exercise in empathy. Are they being a huge ridiculous pain because that's actually who they are? Or are they lonely? Stressed? Scared? It's hard and admittedly not always my go-to way of interpreting social media posts, but it's been a good way to stretch. 

My son is an absolute gem of a person (despite the fact that I do in fact need breaks from him). He has had his whole little world turned upside down and he still wakes up smiling, over-the-moon excited when he's surprised with the occasional glass of chocolate milk, and ready to draw a million pictures a day. He has made so much progress with his reading, talks pretty much every waking moment, and has become excellent at folding towels. He is the best part of every single day and this is more bearable because he's with me. 

Exercise is the only way I've been able to survive this, in terms of keeping my sanity. We take a long walk in the morning, usually close to an hour, I have started doing more and more yoga in the afternoons, and I often run or do an incline walking session after Sawyer goes to bed, or before dinner. There are things that have brought my some incredible anxiety (I know, I'm not the only one) and exercise has always been my form of therapy. It also helps tire me out so I can sleep at night. 

Despite limitations, I have still had to plan things to look forward to. Now that we are able to add some parks and trails in the mix I am trying to use that as the carrot I need dangled in front of me, as well as any sort of social interaction I can get. I still treat weekdays as more structured time, including getting up and ready at a normal hour, having my son do some review work, creating schedules for myself, etc... Weekends I get to sleep a little bit later and Saturdays I try to not do any boring home projects or extra domestic stuff. In the past I relied on time away from home with Sawyer as a break and for fun, and it's admittedly been a bit crippling to not be able to do that anymore. I spend a lot of time outside in the backyard too... I don't know. It's just really hard. I'm not sitting here lamenting not being able to like go to Fiji or something, but... yeah. I'm still trying, though, to have those things to work through the hard times for, as creative as I have to be (a new recipe to bake? Take out on Saturday nights? Sneaking out while Sawyer has his screen time at night so I can walk and call my mom? Ordering something? All of this). 

I have to take responsibility for my own happiness. This isn't just a social-distancing thing, of course, but this time has been a huge reminder of that.  We are all going to have our own narrative when we look back on this time and so far I can say that I've struggled, but I've worked hard to make it the best that I can, for both me and Sawyer. There are days where I feel like I should get a trophy for getting up and getting Sawyer his morning bagel-cereal combo or a medal for keeping the house clean and dinners made, but no one is going to thank me or send accolades. And it's not even that I need that much validation, it's just that sometimes doing the same thing over and over again doesn't really feel like auto-pilot, it feels exhausting. Luckily, after a walk and coffee I'm able to rally and knock out my to-do list, play with my kid, etc... But, again, it's on me. I listen to the Armchair Expert and they talk about having a list of things to do when you feel that happiness slipping away; it's my job that I use it to control how my day goes.  

I don't want to do house projects. I mean, who does, really, but I seriously don't feel like re-caulking the shower, touching up paint around the garage door or back cement wall, steam cleaning the carpets, or deep cleaning every room in the house (those are the things I had planned on). I mean, I will, hopefully, do all of these things before the summer is over, but I really don't want to. I also am very aware of my limitations as a homeowner- pardon my language, but I don't really know how to do shit. 

A One-Woman Anti-Racist Book Club

I have one major issue and one major prediction for the outpouring of support for Black Lives Matter and racial inequality in this county. The issue: so many performative allies. Post-post-post-post-post-post. But what are you doing? What is your call-to-action? The prediction? Americans, as a whole, have the attention spans of rats (like, you know, getting bored of being safe for a global pandemic after like five minutes) and I can see this becoming a passing phase for many. 

I don't want to be that person. I have tried to create my own call-to-actions every week, whether it's donating a few bucks to charity, working on the BLM embroidery hoops for my Etsy shop, reading books on my own, talking to my son about what's happening, or emailing elected officials (this is so, so, so easy, and I have found after sending Facebook messages to many local ones that I get quick, personable responses back within hours, including two police departments, a mayor's office, and an assemblyman). But who will hold me accountable to keep doing things?


And that's the thing, as non-black people we need to take a good, hard look at our track records of staying focused, disciplined, and to follow through. How many diets or work-out routines have you quit? How many friends or family members have you simple lost contact with because you couldn't be bothered to text? How many home projects have you not seen through until the end? And those things aren't even that important, in the scheme of things. I'd hope that something this significant and huge would maintain a strong hold on America, but when I look around, I just don't know.

And sure, you don't need to shout from the rooftops what you are doing. Does it hurt to mention it, to gently nudge the talkers into becoming doers? I don't think so. You don't need to screenshot your donation receipts or a video of you calling your mayor, but I think it can be motivating to people who need a kick-in-the-pants to act to see that their peers are out there actively trying to be a part of the solution. There's a difference between being showy and self-serving and encouraging. 

I can sit here and be pessimistic (or realistic?) about the fickle nature of my fellow countrymen, or I can take responsibility for myself. What I pledge to do each month:

- Make a donation to Southern Poverty Law Center or Campaign Zero
- Keep the dialogue open with my son
- Post links to relevant articles and podcasts on my Google Classroom page- I think I will start doing this on each Monday
- After fulfilling the orders for the BLM hoops on my etsy show I'll keep it going for those who are interested (I donate the profits to chartiy)
- Start my one-woman book club... keep reading!

The One-Woman Anti-Racist Book Club
Okay, fine, this isn't really a true book club, since it's just me. But I want to make sure I am reading at least one nonfiction or fiction book a month that is by a black author. I went back through my records and in 2019 I read ten. This year I want to read twelve or more, and from this month forward I plan to post here about it, focusing on what I learned, applicable quotes, and more about the author. 

There was a hashtag going around twitter recently about how much authors made for their book advances, at the discrepancies between white authors and BIPOC was clear- using our voices as readers and bloggers is one way to highlight books that deserve more attention (while learning how to be better allies ourselves). 

I read a few posts lately from black authors who are reminding readers to not just read nonfiction accounts that are strictly about race; to paraphrase one (sorry, I don't remember the source) she  said that we need to read about the everyday lives of black people that show them falling in love, getting annoyed at their kids, having careers, etc... So my goal is to read a variety of books! 

I just finished my first one, Brit Bennett's newest, and will post about it next week.

I hope that everyone will join me in finding some sort of way to act, not just post or talk, about making America a place.

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

1. Whelp, the school districts here in Southern California are starting to unveil their plans for next school year and so far it seems they want to go back to a full, physical return, on the scheduled start date. I have extremely, extremely mixed feelings and I see both sides. On one hand, distance learning was a band aid and we all tried really hard, but yet there wasn't a ton of new content being learned. I am eager for my son to start his new school and be around kids again, even if it's a totally new socially-distanced way. I can't wait to teach in front of kids and be able to leave the house every day, as well. BUT. Covid19 is increasing and people are still dying (I have four different friends who have had family members diagnosed with it or die, recently). It's simply not safe for at-risk educators and students to return the classroom, and something needs to be in place for these people.  I know teachers who have been directly impacted by this virus and their concern about returning is real and should be acknowledged. I have absolutely no patience for the lack of empathy I have seen from some people regarding this issue and I hope that after some growing pains problems can be worked out.

2. While we're on this topic, the governor has mandated masks mandatory in the state. THANK GOODNESS. It angers me so much how people want everything to open fully back up, but they're not willing to compromise with something incredibly easy and helpful. Research has shown that wearing masks can reduce the rate 60-80%, which is HUGE. This issue has really shown the true colors of some people- how are people so entitled and selfish that they think they're somehow exempt from a COMMUNITY health issue? I hate masks- I am claustrophobic, I have horrible year-round allergies, and a patch of dermatitis that I struggle with on my chin as is. BUT I STILL WEAR MINE INDOORS AND HAVE ONE READY TO WEAR WHENEVER I LEAVE ME HOUSE. Fine, you're so mad at the government for telling people what to do, blablabla. This is bigger than you and your pride. Go have your moments of teenage rebellion when people aren't dying. Wear your damn mask. Bedazzle it. Buy lots to match all of your outfits. Write "F--- Gavin Newsom" on it if you want. Whatever. Just wear it.

***The venting portion of today's post is now over, thanks***

3. Good news: the DACA ruling! I have had so many students over the years that this effects, so I was so exited to see the decision this morning.

4. Good news: I was able to go to my friend's house a few days ago for a socially-distanced visit in her back yard, for the first time since the beginning of March. I usually see my friends a few times a month, so this was such a welcome return to something that seemed normal. We were probably 10-12 feet away from each other the whole time and it was safe, practical, and I can't wait to go again (and yes, I had my mask in my purse in case something happened and we had to huddle up... like... an injury? Earthquake? Ha! But seriously, I did). 

5. Good news: Sawyer and I have also started in hot-and-heavy on the park circuit, now that we are able to leave our neighborhood. We have gone to a few nearby, and then two others in Orange County. One, Carbon Canyon, I had never been to before, and they have a grove of the only coastal redwoods in this part of the state. It smelled like Yosemite. (And, yes, again, I carry masks, gloves, and sanitizer in my bag). 

6. Good news: tonight I have a book club meeting, which is with two friends. We read Emma Straub's All Adults Here and I really enjoyed it. If you want to read something that feel like it's set in Star's Hallow, this is your book. Was it perfect? No, but was it a great summer read that made me happy? Yes. 

**** The good news portion of today's post is now over, balance achieved***

7. I am staring out my son's bedroom window right now at a large tree that is probably two years overdue for a trim. The guy who does our lawn gave me a quote and it is totally, totally reasonable, but I, to be honest, I just don't want to spend $350 on a tree haircut. I want to spend $350 on books, back-to-school dresses, or more cheap sunglasses/bathing suits/coverups from Target.

8. I think I wrote about falling in the pool two weeks ago, but in case I didn't, I fell in the pool two weeks ago. I hit my shin really hard on the cement pool/spa divider on the way down and while I don't have pain when I walk now, something is still wrong and I can barely run. It seems the pain has sort of morphed down from the upper shin/knee region into the ankle as a whole. It's lovely. 

***The whining portion of today's post in now over***

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

1. In the next few days I will be writing a post on how I plan to take actionable steps to be a better ally. It's one thing to say things, but we have to do more as well. I already have a few things in the work, but I want to be more deliberate and consider the SMART Goal approach. I am so tired of all of these brands and social media influencers (neither of which am I) making these sweeping gestures. 

2. There is SO MUCH controversy in California regarding what it will look like when schools open in a few months and I would be lying it I said it didn't stress me out. I am trying to breathe through it, recognize and respect all opinions, and remember everyone is going to have a lot to logistically handle. No one is going to be happy, end of story. I hope to whoever that we can get a viable vaccine by the end of the first semester so we can feel a little bit better (but that's a conversation for a different day...) 

3. I am currently reading The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander and The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. They're both challenges in their own way, which I'll discuss when finished.

4. Are you on Goodreads? Is there an option to record books secretly, so that they count towards your challenge but aren't broadcasted for everyone to see? I'm reading a self-help sort of book that I don't want everyone to necessarily see, but I want to count, dammit. If there isn't a way, I'll just say I've reread something already on my "read" shelf, I guess. 

5. I miss having a dog, but I don't miss taking care of one, nor do I want to train a puppy. But DAMN, every time my son starts talking about Huckleberry, which apparently it will be called, I start feeling guilty and a tiny bit wistful. He's all locked up without a sibling, I could get a dog... but I also don't feel like having something constantly watch... cords... toys... furniture... all that peeing and chewing. I know we could get an older dog, but we are partial to getting them as puppies so we can train them (we have had two amazing dogs that we got around three months and both passed away in 2018).

6. As I write, Half Baked Harvest's Southern Double Crusted Cinnamon Sugar Peach Cobbler is cooling on my counter and Samin Nosrat's Buttermilk Chicken, from her cookbook, is roasting in my oven. We'll be eating well tonight! 

7. Sawyer and I have slowly started reentering society, by way of parks. Basically, that's going to be the story of the summer- how many parks and wilderness areas can we go to? I am also going to slowly start social distancing dates with my friends again- thank goodness! I have been cooped up with two males for nearly three months... I need some girl time. I have been fortunate enough to have some amazing happy hours with a few friends quite often, but nothing replaces in-person bonding. 

8. What I really want is to go to Yosemite. It's not happening this summer, and I get a little teary when I think that it's opening soon and I won't get to be there, but maybe in late October or November, before the snow, Sawyer and I will be able to sneak up for a long weekend (we have gone every spring break for the past four years, three of those trips just he and I, so canceling this year's was very sad for me). 

9. I went to the downtown area in nearby Riverside and walked around by myself the other afternoon (in the 96 degree heat) to see the artwork left behind on the preventative plywood businesses put up before the protests. I think there is talk of saving everything for a local museum, which I hope happens (see one picture above).

10. A friend and I are putting together some fun activities to do with our kids via Zoom this summer. They've at three sharing days a week (jokes, toys, etc...) but we're going next level now. This week my friend is teaching the kids how to make slim tomorrow! We're doing some stuff with empathy, science, and art too. 

Anti-Racism Embroidery Hoops

I have always tried to provide some financial support for The Southern Poverty Law Center, ever since the last presidential election. I won't sit here are pretend they're going to be naming wings in their central offices after me or anything, but I have tried to give some when I can. 

I wish I could give more. And not just to them, but to so many groups fighting racism and unjust behavior. 

After a lot of thinking, I decided I could give some of my time and skills. I was stitching some embroidery hoops for my classroom and decided I could use that as a way to help.

Each of the two hoop designs are $20, with 100% of the profit going to one of four charities on the drop down menu when you look at the product. $10 goes to shipping and supplies and then $10 will then be donated to the charity in your name. Emails will be sent confirming the donation within 48 hours of the purchase. 

I think I am about 75% sold out of the inventory I posted, and once I get those made I will open it back up to more, if there is a need (I just want to be realistic about how fast I can stitch!).

If you're interested, here's the link! I can also do other quotes of similar sentiment if desired- just message me through Etsy!  

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts- Anti-Racism Recs

When it comes to teaching people about anti-racism, white privilege, and the horrific inequality in this nation things get tricky. It's not the responsibility of black people to teach people how to do something they should automatically do. I also think most, if any, white people are equipped to teach on these topics either. We have to be thankful and willing to listen when BIPOC do speak out and we also have to look inside and share what we, as white people, have learned and share (and be willing to accept criticism when are wrong). 

For me, I feel most equipped to disseminate knowledge through sharing the knowledge of others, through books. I also have come up with a few ways to counter-argue certain lines of thinking, since I think a lot of people do well with analogies:

For the BLM Movement:
Argument: "But all lives matter!"
Counterargument: "Yes, they do, but we're not looking at issues that effect ALL lives, we're looking at how injustice effects BLACK lives. You're not going to show up at a breast cancer fundraiser and cause a scenes because people aren't donating to color cancer or lung cancer or leukemia, are you?"

For white privilege:
Argument: "I don't feel privileged! I have had to deal with ______!"
Counterargument: "I get it, I know we all have obstacles. But, think about your obstacles and consider having to work even harder than you do to get around them, because of something you have no control over. Your whiteness is something you didn't necessarily choose, but it still often provides you with an advantage. It's like people who are born tall; it's not something they asked for, but it puts them at an automatic advantage to do a lot of things! And because of this privilege of height they should help short people."

For acting entitled to racial education from black people:
Argument: "If they want me to change they should tell me how to!"
Counterargument: "You don't know how to be a good human? How to be fair? How to recognize your bias? As a feminist I don't think I should have to tell a grown-ass adult how to treat women fairly, they should know how. If you need more information there are tons of websites and books out there."

Hey! Speaking of books! These are taken from my instagram stories, so there are lots! The original order also got all out of whack, but they're all here. I have ordered a few more and have a few that I haven't read yet, but here are ones I have read and can recommend!