Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

1. The Japaneses theme park industry has verbalized what I've been feeling during lock-down, if not for years. If interested in buying the embroidery hoop above, visit my Etsy shop here.

2. The last week has made me feel like I have a newborn again (although not as sore... and said baby already walks and plays)- Ellie usually wakes up 1-2 times a night to go out and then sometimes cries when she goes back in her crate. Last night she slept from 10-5:30 which was AMAZING. I am going to really try to embrace the early mornings, since no one in my house is up. Currently, as I type, it's not even 6:30 yet and I have watered a bit of the lawn, done dishes, replied to work email, and am now writing this post. We'll see what happens tomorrow... ha!

3. Sawyer was tasked with the mission to read me 50 books this summer and he's only a few away! Most afternoons he reads me one of those horrible easy-readers and then I read him a book, and at night we read a few pages in whatever chapter book we are working on. When he is done he gets to pick out a new book, which, originally I was going to do online, but my husband and I talked and we might let him mask up and go to the bookstore when it opens. He hasn't gone to a store since early March, so going to get a book seems pretty damn fitting.

4. I feel like such an adult this week- we had our tree trimmed, our pool filters serviced, I attended a Zoom call for my son's new school, and I did some stuff with money.

5. I don't care what anyone says- I am still using a planner this year. I am totally #teampaper, so I bought my new one for the school year and it's already starting to accumulate Zoom meetings, appointments (Sawyer and I are each going to the dentist next week! Oh boy!), and virtual happy hours. It actually makes me really, really happy.

6. Speaking of school... my district is apparently running a pretty tight ship in terms of schedules, which I appreciate. I have to teach "live" for about 3 designated hours a day, offer office hours, and have prep time. Sawyer's district seems much more... flexible, which I'm not pleased about. I know once we get his teacher assignment it will probably be more explicit, but I wish they would remember that families need time to plan.

7. I had one book club last Friday and another one this Friday- there are VERY few good things to come out of this mess, but now being in two book clubs that mean once a month each is pretty great.

8. I finished the most recent seasons of Dead to Me and Workin' Moms  this month, which is some kind of record. I started The Babysitter's Club, which feels a little silly to admit, but I loved the series growing up, so I can't wait to see what this is like. I have only recently started watching Netlfix more on the treadmill, which is easy if I am walking but harder when I run. We'll see how much I get in once school starts. 

Bloggers Banter- A Prayer for Owen Meany

Oh man, do you every know peripherally that you love something but sort of forget how much? That's how I felt while reading A Prayer for Owen Meany- it's just so good. Julie and I decided that it would be fun to do a rereading version of Bloggers Banter and after jotting down a few books we'd be up for rereading we settled on this. Here's some thing that stood out: 

Julz: Did you know that Irving originally wanted Owen's dialogue printed in red like some Bibles print Jesus' words?  But the publishers put the kibosh on that because it would have been too costly. 


Christine: I had no idea about the red text part. That’s so interesting. Part of me totally loves that, but then part of me wants Irving to trust his reader enough to realize the sort of allegorical implications. I wonder if his shift to all caps was done in lieu of this.  


JulzYup, I think that’s the case.  


OK, English teacher, let's talk symbolism.  The color red and the arms (or lack thereof) were obviously prominent.  Where there any others that particularly struck you? 


Christine: I really love the motif of baseball in the novel, and how it’s meaning sort of shifts throughout. There is so much that falls under the umbrella, the game itself, the cards, the ball (as a weapon). I’m also very partial to the symbolism armadillo, as well. It’s sort of this sacred mediator, between Dan and Johnny at first, then Johnny and Owen. I think everyone needs an armadillo in their life.  


Julz:  Yes, I remember when you text me about the Armadillo exchange with a cry emoji!  I need an armadillo figurine or something for my shelf. 


Do you believe Mr. and Mrs. Meany's claim that Owen was a virgin birth?  Or are they just the crackpots Johnny took them to be after Mr. Meany's confession? 


Christine: I think one’s faith is probably a huge indicator as to how Owen’s conception is interpreted. I don’t think he’s the second Christ child (although he clearly serves as Christ-like-figure), I’m more inclined to think his mom was taken advantage of.  


Julz:  You’re probably right that she was too na├»ve to know what had happened to her. They both seem like such simpletons.  I also agree, I don’t see Owen as a Messianic figure, more of a prophet than anything. 


Christine: What did you think of Rev. Merrill? Do you find him a sympathetic character? 


Julz:  I didn’t really have strong feelings for Rev. Merrill either way.  I thought he was kind of a wuss.  But the fact that he kept the baseball and Owen knew all along (pretty much) was the most significant aspect of that whole father confessional scene.  Man, those two times that Johnny heard Owen’s voice then something ominous occurred gave me the SHIVERS. 


Christine: Yes! I remember the first time I read this I was so disappointed on Johnny's behalf that Merril was his dad. I'm so glad that he had Dan.  


I thought there were so many memorable more minor characters. I love Hester, and what she represents of this time period. And Johnny's grandmother reminds me of Violet Crawley from Downton. Anyone stand out to you in particular? 


Julz:  I though Owen and Hester were such an unlikely couple. Did you know she was named after the adulteress in the Scarlet Letter? And I was looking at my Goodreads personal notes on the book from when I first read it 10 years ago and this is what I said about Grandma Wheelwright: “I loved Johnny’s grandmother. She was traditionally stubborn, amiably opinionated and comically likeable as Owen’s benefactor. 

Otherwise, I loved Tabby. Considering who her mother was, her gentle nature and the fact that she didn’t care what anyone thought was so different than even her sister. Once she had found Nice Guy Dan, I was sad they didn’t get more time together.  But I loved that Dan formally adopted Johnny and that they kept each other close throughout their lives.   


But there will never be anyone as memorable as Owen.  


Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

1. So, I took a bit of a break from blogging, it appears. Things have been a lot lately, as California has made some big decisions about schools reopening (there are certain data benchmarks that have to be met in order to allow students back in a classroom), and it has meant a lot of planning, adjusting, worrying, brainstorming, etc... within a lot of different areas that I'm involved with at work. To say it's been stressful would be an understatement, but I'm currently coming off of a really positive Zoom call that could potentially undo some other issues... so I'll take this as a good thing for today.

2. We got a puppy yesterday and I am reminded of why having only one child was an excellent choice. Constant supervision! Little sleep! So much new stuff in my house! And so on and so forth. She's a golden retriever named Eleanor Digby, Ellie for short and is barely seven weeks old. She's so tiny! I feel the same way about puppies as I do kids- I like them more and more the older they get. I know we could have gotten an older dogs, but my husband and I really like being able to train them from the get-go, so I have to just accept the good with the bad. Sawyer had no idea we were getting her and was insanely excited, as he's been begging for a dog lately. 

3. I finished Stephen King's Misery for a book club recently and it was pretty traumatizing. For one, I think we can all commiserate with being locked up right now, and, secondly, no one wants a crazy lady to cut their limbs off. 

4. I am now reading three books, The Beauty in Breaking, a memoir written by black ER doctor Michele Harper. I'm also still meandering my way through Bill Bryson's The Body: A Guide for Occupants, and Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo (for a book club). I hope to finish at least two of them by the end of the month. 

5. I have had a group of pigeons who have been sleeping on some ledges on our second story window this summer and it's driving my insane. They're messy, they bump my window and night, and they're uninvited. I tried a water gun. I tried an ultrasonic noise maker. Nothing worked! I have read that they hate shiny things, but because of the location I haven't been able to make it work. But then I had a brilliant idea: silver Mylar helium balloons with extra long string. BOOM. I got a dozen at Party City last week and every night I go and put some out and bring them in the next morning. It's a pain in the ass, but they either leave if they're already there or don't come if I get the balloons out there first. 

6. My husband and I are slowly rewatching Wes Anderson's movies- so far we've done Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, and Fantastic Mr. Fox.  I love his movies so much- the colors, the wit, the characters. 

7. If you like cobbler, make this. I think it's gone down in my kitchen four times in the last two months. Frozen berries work just as fine as fresh, I have found! 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts- School Starting Back Edition

Preface: I have a lot of very disorganized thoughts about schools restarting, and I'm using this as an outlet. These are my thoughts and my thoughts alone; they don't represent my husband's, my colleagues', my principal's, my students', my district's, etc... Mine.  

1. This week has been... a lot. Much of it was anticipating my school district's decision about going back to work, and trying to at least partially ignore everyone's opinionated chatter leading up to it. Last night they voted on a hybrid model- high school kids go to school for two days a week in a block schedule, teachers will attend all five. My own child is in a different district, and they're anticipating a full-time return, which is helpful logistics-wise, but I just hope they can keep everyone safe. It's a lot, on all fronts. I'm concerned about how much work the hybrid model will be, I'm concerned about my son starting first grade at a new school under these conditions, I'm concerned about the logistics in terms of getting everyone where the need to be, I'm concerned about staying safe- the list goes on and on. So, to some sum it up, this will, without a doubt, be the roughest first semester back EVER. 

2. I am also extremely tired of the divisiveness within our profession. I will keep saying this every single week, or even every post, but I HAVE NO PATIENCE for people who are not empathetic to those who are scared to go back to work. It doesn't mean they're lazy, they don't deserve to be teachers, and that they are not passionate. It means they might be older, they might have health concerns or they might have someone vulnerable living with them. We work in a notoriously germy environment, more so than most professions, and it is 110% okay if people are concerned about that. It's also totally okay to want to go back and teach kids! But people need to be respectful, kind, and set a good example. 

3. Also: I am extremely conflicted and every single option is bad. 

4. What happens if I need a sub? They're going to have a stranger come on campus who might not be knowledgeable about safety protocols? And then I lose the ONE day I have with a certain cohort of students a week? I see each student for two hours a week, as opposed to the normal like 4 hours and forty minutes? And that is then gone because I have to get a toothache checked out or something?

5. What happens when a student in my class tests positive? Or a teacher in the building in which I share a bathroom? Will I have to use my sick time if I get it? But, also, how can we really prove we are contracting Covid19 at work? What happens when rumors start flying that so-and-so has it? Or that the schools are shutting down again? We will be going to work every single day in a constant state of uncertainty. The union and district have negotiated terms, which we will see next week. I'm hearing good things, but clearly this means something differently to everyone. 

6. If we had chosen a totally virtual option, the kids don't learn, they're not all being taken care of properly at home, it's hard for teachers to conduct class remotely, and we are all deprived of social interactions (teachers and students... we are at the four months mark, which is a lot). The act of sending kids to school is incredibly important for society- taking that away has been symbolically devastating and disheartening. We can't keep this up indefinitely, since our country has messed up.  I want so badly to believe a vaccine is six months out, but who really knows? Plus we can't give it to kids, so there's that. 

7. I am a girl of science and statistics, and they're technically on the side of kids. Are there outliers? Yes! There are ALWAYS outliers. The numbers provide me comfort, but what about my students, who are practically grown ups? And what about the actual adults? 

8. Things are going to look so weird... plexiglass dividers, masks, plexiglass teaching screens... It's all done for a good cause, and I'm fine with that. Is that a little bit sad for me, in terms of a parent? Yes! But, kids are resilient and this isn't going to be the way it is for eternity. 

9. The curve has not flattened- people are not dying as much as the used to, at least in some places, but that does not represent the curve. The curve is based off of new cases, which are skyrocketing everywhere. There is so much misinformation and people do frightening things with it. This virus was getting better and then America decided to really and truly prove how entitled, stubborn, and stupid they are. I'm talking about the people who complained about masks, the ones that go to crowded restaurants and bars, the ones partying at rivers and lakes over holiday weekends, etc... You can't have it both way. 

10. I get to wear my dresses again and do my makeup everyday. I'll also get to see some of my good friends, if even from a distance. I'll get to leave the house five days a week and feel like I have a strong sense of purpose. These are things to look forward to. 

11. Teachers are childcare providers, at the end of the day. We are highly-educated, highly-trained, and highly-stressed. I don't know how we can expect families with two working parents to function on the hybrid model. Also, what about teachers who have kids in other districts who are also doing that? People will simply not have child care, not have the money for childcare, etc... 

12. So, what can I do? I can sit around and freak out, or I can make a plan. Things I can do right now to make going back as positive, safe, and organized as possible:

- Get us as healthy as possible (sleep, exercise, vitamins, etc...)
- Work with my son to wear his mask properly, wash his hands, etc... 
- Keep taking Sawyer to parks and places where we have to practice social distancing 
- Make sure we have plenty of masks
- Deal with a plan for childcare before and after school 
- Start prepping lessons for the first month back so that I'm reading with content and can worry about other things
- Keep getting to know my incoming students on outline platform so that they feel comfortable and ready to be in my class with me (student buy in!)
- Familiarize myself with the changes to the IB curriculum I teach so I can alleviate that stress when I go back
- Think about systems in my class to keep things hygienic- no-touch ways to pass/collect papers, no stapler usage (paperclips, names on all papers, etc...), reviewing the need to wear masks, no nose blowing inside, etc... 

June Goals, Revisited, Plus July

A long time ago I fairy regularly posted monthly goals and reported back. In honor of staying at home for a long damn time, I decided to start it up again. Here's how I did last month, and what I plan to do in July, for those of you who are voyeurs, needs some ideas, or are really just THIS bored:

1. Redo the caulk in the master shower-
 NOPE! I have been meaning to do this since November and I just really, really don't want to. It really needs to be done, though, so I need to. I plan to go to Home Depot this week, so at least that will be progress. 

2. Read ten books- Yup! Heck yeah. 

3. Get caught up with my 2020 year-in-review book- Nope! But I did make some progress, doing 2.5 months. 

4. Work on patching grass- YUP! Take that, HOA. 

5. Bake a cake from Christina Tosi's All About Cakes- Nope! Didn't even open the book. 

6. Finish a puzzle- Nope! Honestly, we might get it done (2000 pieces) by the time Sawyer goes to college. Maybe. 

7. Catch up with Etsy orders- Yes! I am almost done with 14 BLM hoops, plus I got all of the ones I had needed to finished that were ordered when I wrote this goal. 

8. Do fun enrichment projects with my son (but also keep progressing with reading and math skills):Yup! Just yesterday we did a stuffed-frog dissection kit. 

9. Keep engaging with my students online: Yup! I have started daily Instagram activities for them, too. 

10. Get the backyard cleaned up a bit-  Partially- I did about 2/3 of the things I wanted to. 

11. Work on writing- Yes... but by technicality. I have been working on one short story, which is more than I've done in years, so I'll call it a win. 

12. Organize my laptop- Nope. Didn't even try.

13. More yoga- Yes! I did twelve sessions! 

14. Set up a little sitting area in the master bedroom- Yup! I love it and use it daily. 

15. Stay on budget- FOR SURE! I killed it in June. Yay me!

Now, in July...

1. Handle the puppy situation- More on that arrival later... we don't have her yet, so I'm waiting to get super excited until I actually pick it up. You never know what's going to happen.

2. Deal with school childcare hurdles... whatever that looks like- I'll spare you the insanely boring, incredibly stressful details.

3. Handle my school district's decision on how to return with grace, empathy, and determination- my son's district plans on a full physical return, tentatively on 8/11, but my district hasn't decided yet.

4. Caulk the mother-effing shower

5. Sew more masks- I have some real issues with needing to match, so if I return to the classroom I'm going to need more

6. Keep up the good work with yoga, running, and my budget

7. Read 10 books (again)

8. Get caught up on my year-in-review book

9. Keep trying to go to one wilderness park/large park/hiking trail a week- we have been for awhile and it's been a huge mood-booster. We are very safe, go early in the morning, come prepared with masks if needed, etc... It has been a cool way to see more of our area.

10. See a few friends for socially-distanced dates- I was able to do this last month and it's so great. 

June Reads

Ten books! I am pleased that I was able to meet my June goal this month, finishing my last two books on my last day (all of these are physical books read). I have gotten in the habit of reading two books at once, a fiction and a nonfiction usually, and that has proven to be a good method for me. Before I start, one of the nonfiction books I read this month I won't be discussing, just because it's on a topic that I don't feel like talking about here. 

I plan to write a post on this book soon, but I read Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow, which is about how the criminal justice system in the US unfairly treats black people and perpetuates a cycle of poverty and crime. It's very dense, so I found that reading 10-12 pages a day for a month was a really great way to absorb and digest the content. 

Two of the books I read this month were for separate book clubs I belong to, Isabel Allende's A Long Petal of the Sea and Emma Straub's All Adults Here. I enjoyed them both! Allende's was a sweeping look at two families that were influenced by the Spanish Civil War and then the regime changes in Chile. Like always, her books really focus on family, love, and identity. Straub's is also family-centric, but in a much different way. I have made the comment several times that it reminded me a little of The Gilmore Girls, which is a definite compliment. It's a quirky look at a family going through lots of changes in a small town, navigating their place in the world and their love for each other.

I have to admit that I was a little hesitant to read Elizabeth Gilbert's City of Girls, since I really haven't loved the other two books I read of hers. This one was much more enjoyable! I don't think she's necessarily a super literary writer, but, still, the story line was interesting and the main characters a delight. 

On the flip side, Brit Bennett's The Vanishing Half  was stunning. She's a fantastic writer and her book explored race in such a unique way (two black twins are born in a black town that celebrates light skin; one twin identifies as black while the other passes as white). I learned a lot and just really appreciated Bennett's ability to craft a story.   

Pizza Girl by Jean Kyoung Frazier  and The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai were both quick, quirky, stories that I enjoyed. Pizza Girl  felt akin to reading an indie movie, the narrator a recent high school graduate that finds herself pregnant and employed as a pizza delivery girl. She befriends a mom she drops off a pizza to, while also figuring out what to do with the father of her baby. The Makkai book told the story of a librarian who ends up sort of kidnapping a young kid, but also vice versa. It's complicated and while it wasn't as good as her most recent novel, it was still super enjoyable.

Modern Love, a collection of essays about love, ended up being super charming and was sweet without being sappy. I ended up enjoying the non-romantic love stories more than those about marriage, but as a whole it was just a great read that made me hate people less.

Speaking of hate... don't get mad at me. I read Paolo Coelho's The Alchemist for the first time and I really, really did not like it. I appreciated the message and writing, but I just did not enjoy the actual story. I can see how it could be really meaningful for people, but it just wasn't my thing. It happens!

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

1. I don't consider myself a glimmering ray of sunshine, but I am also no Debbie Downer, either. I feel like I'm realistic and I try to look for silver linings. That being said, I think that alongside covid19, an epidemic of epic complaining is underway (and yes I get the hypocrisy of complaining about complaining). Some people have the right to complain, for sure, but I know SO MANY people who are just complaining because they feel the circumstances of the world are giving them carte blanche to just do so. 

2. Sawyer and I went to another new-to-us wilderness area this week, tucked away in the hills of Anaheim. It was really, really pretty and I really appreciated the diverse plants that were growing in the park. They didn't have a map, though, and cell phone service was spotty, so I was a little nervous in the beginning about getting lost. I was able to eventually get a bar of service and screen shot one and felt silly once I did, since all the trails were loops and none were more than about a mile. I wish we had been able to go on the trip I had planned this summer, but I am pleased I have been finding new places to explore locally.

3. Some friends came to visit last week and are coming again tomorrow. We just set up lawn chairs outside and are staying away from each other, so everyone feels safe and like we are following the advice of health experts. It's also really good practice for Sawyer, since he is used to hugging guests and being close to friends. 

4. I am starting daily July challenges for my students on my teacher Instagram page as a way to start really prepping for the 2020-2021 school year. We aren't sure what it's going to look like yet, but I have always felt that my connections with students has been one of my strengths. These days educators have to look for new was to build bridges, and if it means having my new juniors send me pictures of their pets one day or play "would you rather" games so be it. 

5. I have decided that buying a small Class C RV is on my list of goals for the next 5-6 years. Owning one right now seems like such a jackpot situation- you can just pack up, drive off, and BOOM! Instant vacation. I have spent quite a bit of time researching them, and I feel like if I can save a certain amount and also finish paying off my student loans this might actually be something I can afford. I could technically go and do it right now, but I despise monthly payments and am currently not really sure about how much my childcare costs are going to run when we go back to school. I am really nervous about driving one, but when the virus eases up my mom and I have a tentative plan to rent one and take a trip.