Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

1. October! I have been sort of dreading the holiday season this year, just because I usually jam-pack every weekend with fun things for Sawyer and I for nearly three months straight. You're not going to hear any "it feels good to slow down" talk from me- I'm bummed that we won't be pumpkin-patch hopping, eating breakfast with Santa, or running in festive attire. But, it's still important to celebrate, so I'm going to work hard on doing what we can with what we've got.

2. Schools might start back in our county soon, since the numbers have been steadily improving according to the state's metric. We will start back in a hybrid format, which is basically going to be a nightmare, for many reasons that I won't make my head and stomach hurt lamenting here. I will say that my son's teacher has been posting pictures of her classroom and it looks incredibly safe and well-planned out, and since there are only 20 kids in his first-grade class I think they can do a good job social distancing.

I will say that it continues to be a complicated, fluid, and emotionally-charged issue and I have absolutely no room in my life for people who are going to withhold empathy on the topic, in either direction. That are a lot of valid concerns on both "sides."  

3. I am doing a mileage challenge in October in order to earn myself an RBG medal- 87 run/walk miles. It's less than three miles a day, so between my normal treadmill work and the fact I can walk the puppy outside soon it should be easy. 

4. I am reading I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika Sanchez as part of my advisee duties for a student research paper and while there are a lot of good things about it, I stand solid in my preference that I just don't really like reading YA. There's something about an adult writing from the perspective of a teenager that just doesn't quite work for me.

5. I mentioned it before, but I can walk Ellie starting on Sunday, since she is fully vaccinated. I am SO excited. She has SO much energy and it will be a great way to get out in the nice cool morning air before work starts. 

6. Why did I watch the debate last night? Why did I waste my time? Why will I watch the others? Ugh. The worst. Remember when there was some sense of decorum and procedure to these nights? Back before Trump entered politics? 

7. I really, really miss my family. My mom lives like six or so hours away, but I usually see her four or so times a year. I think this has been our longest stretch- since last Thanksgiving. My brother moved to the midwest a year ago, so that makes it easier to process, but I miss him too (he used to live in San Diego, so I saw him probably every other month). I keep telling myself "when all this is over" (what does that even mean?) I'm never spending another weekend at home. Man. I should have bought a little RV a few years ago. Why can't I be psychic? 

8. But, if it was even a legit thing, would I even want to be psychic? That's a lot of responsibility. 

9. I'm not sure if it will happen, but I want to try to post every day for a week. 

Three Things That Made Me Tear Up Today


I'm a bit of a crier- it's who I am. Not a crier at work or with friends, or even people outside my home, but more of a solitary crier, mostly. It's not that I'm ashamed of crying, in fact I find it incredibly cathartic and, clearly, easily admit to it. I just think that when you cry in front of someone else you're at least subconsciously asking them for something; support, an apology, understanding, whatever, and I have some serious issues about accepting things from others, material or otherwise. So, I cry in the car, on the treadmill, in the bathroom, wherever need be. I know of a person or two in particular who have mocked the act of crying and I think it's pretty disdainful. Not to pat myself on the back, but I'm a pretty tough, efficient, self-reliant woman, and I can cry with the best of 'em.

Quite the intro, eh? Is being defensive a super power yet? Asking for a friend...

Today was a long, busy day, and I should be in bed, but I felt compelled to share a few things from today before catching some shut eye, just in case you too need a good cry. Three things, plus a bonus option, coming right up:

Watch: Father of the Bride Part 3 (ish), which came out today on Youtube, was so incredibly corny, eye-roll inducing,  and predictable, yet I bawled through most of the twenty-five minutes (on the treadmill, so hooray for multi-tasking). First of all, I loved the first movie and I can say it's one of the few movies I can re-watch, so there was definitely a nostalgic factor. Second of all, I want someone to love me as much as the Banks family members love each other. They all just absolutely adore each other and are so cognizant of each others' feelings. I mean, can they adopt me? Please?

Listen: Today's special episode of The Armchair Expert that detailed Dax's lapse of sobriety made me cry at many points. First of all, I often find him incredibly annoying (I'm there for Monica, okay?), but his honesty, vulnerability, and clear love for the people in his life just killed me. He took such a risk putting his story out publicly and I was worried at first that it was just a sort of ploy for publicity, but after listening I didn't feel that way at all. I understand his need for control and also his desire to wake up feeling good in the morning. I also really felt for Kristen Bell, who I can take or leave, and, of course Monica. I think people often focus so much on the victims of addiction and mental health, and rightfully so, that they forget about the caregivers. It's really, really hard to be on the receiving end of someone who is struggling's anger, depression, dependency, etc... 

Read: I am currently reading David Chang's memoir Eat a Peach, and he talks quite a bit about how he uses extreme productivity as a way to manage his mental health and, while getting modestly teary-eyed, I just felt so heard. People make comments about how much I do and I often think it comes from a place of at least a little cattiness. They don't get it: I need to do things or else I won't do anything. And I don't mean "lay on the couch all day watching TV" kind of nothingness, I mean "worry myself to the point where I can't eat, take care of my responsibilities, end up making endless lists, running obsessive calculations, running through scenarios B-Q, etc..." kind of not do nothing (so basically, while this does sound like doing "something," it is nothing productive or beneficial). It's taken me a looooooong time to tame the beast, and being busy is the way I do it. Yes, it's been intensely hard since March, for various reasons, but I keep productive and structured. David Chang gets me. 

Bonus: Get super convinced for a few moments that something is realllllllllly wrong with your upstairs plumbing, and then figure out that everything is basically okay. While maybe not a catalysis of a good cry, a quick tearing up may be in order (and perhaps a glass of wine). 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts


1. We are going into week seven of distance teaching and learning... I have never been so tired in my whole life (including when I had a newborn). 

2. What is JK Rowling doing? Ugh. I have a first-grader who is obsessed with the Harry Potter franchise and wants to be Harry for Halloween, meanwhile she has to keep running her damn mouth.

3. Halloween in 2020... what the actual hell? We are going let Sawyer dress up and we'll walk around the neighborhood (masks handy) to get the feel for things, and then I'll buy him a few bags of his choice of candy. Honestly, it sounds like a total win... he gets scared of some houses in our area and I feel like we skip so many as is. Plus, he ends up eating maybe 1/3 of what he gets anyway.

4. I started subscribing to the Melissa Wood Health app and really like it so far. Actually, I hate it, since I hate strength training and anything that isn't cardio or straight-up yoga, but I know it's good for me. I love that some of her videos are only 10 minutes- I was able to get through an arms one last night while I supervised Sawyer's shower. Clean kid, eventually super sleek muscular arms (ha). Win-win.

5. I haven't embroidered in seven weeks and it breaks my heart.

6. Last weekend Sawyer and I desperately needed a change in scenery, so we tired the crazy puppy out (she has 2.5 more weeks until she will be fully vaccinated and can walk outside) and the drove to a large regional park nearby. We walked around for awhile and then had -drum roll- A BOOK PICNIC. We had lots of snacks and read on blanket under a big tree for thirty minutes (Dogman for him, Rodham for me) and it was the highlight of my...  week? Month?

7. Speaking of the crazy puppy she had a two hour period the other day where she was so lethargic and sad that we almost had to take her to the emergency vet. Then, miraculously, she was fine. 

8. Sawyer is obsessed with making comic books- I think I've mentioned it before, but he's still at it, churning out nearly one ten-page story a day. It's just so fun to see his creativity (and it takes him 2-3 hours, so it's been a great way for him to occupy himself). 

9. I am absolutely devastated by RBG's death. I'd like to write a post on it, but who knows when I will have time. I have admired her greatly for several years, one of my highlights of 2018 being a girl's night out to a museum in LA that had a huge exhibit dedicated to her. 

11 Ways I Use My Teacher Instagram Account

A few years ago I sucked it up and created an Instagram account for my kids who had graduated, after declining follow requests from students on my personal private account daily. It ended up a great way to keep in touch and it was always sort of a fun way to tease my current students, telling them that I wouldn't associate with them on social media until they were graduates. I have my students for two years, so I end up being super close to many of them- it's a good way to ease my sadness about them graduating. 

Then March 2020 came and my seniors were ripped away from me in one day, without getting a chance to say our proper goodbyes. Within a week I changed my mind and allowed my students at the time to become Instagram followers, which made me officially change my policy and allow all students past, present, and future to jump on board. 

A few things to remember before the fun parts:

1. What is your district's social media policy when it comes to teachers and students? Mine is super relaxed, for better or worse, but always be mindful so you don't get a wrist slap (or worse) later!

2. Pretend that your administrators and the students' parents all have access to see every tiny little thing posted. 

3. Recruit a few colleagues to follow you, just in case anything comes up later.

4. Keep your account private and have some way of verifying students (I ask them about their schedule). If you feel like you might need to keep a spreadsheet with user names and actual names go for it! I don't, but I can see how that might be helpful with some groups.

5. Have clear cut parameters; I won't discuss grades on social media, and encourage kids to email me with anything that can't be resolved with a word or two (checking due dates is great, giving feedback on a thesis needs to move over to email). You might also have a standard message about decorum that you DM a kid once you accept their request.  

6. You are doing this to build relationships and communicate- if any student gets in the way don't hesitate to block them (tell them why, they need to know). Following you is a privilege, not a right.

7. DO NOT follow the kids back. I feel very, very, very strongly about this and tell my students this more than once. Once you follow them back you are opening yourself up to seeing parts of their lives that might require you to call their parents, CPS, or even the police. DON'T DO IT. 

How I Use the Platform:

1. Post reminders- This practical reason comes in so handy during this time of distance learning! A few weeks ago I posted constant stories so that the kids would know when to pick up text books.

2. Get (appropriately) personal- I find it a lot easier to work for people who I know and can connect to, so I try to share about my life here. There are lots of pictures of Sawyer, vacations, hobbies, the puppy, and other weird little tidbits about my life. I put subtle posts up so that they know I am an ally, as well, since I want kids to feel comfortable telling me more about themselves! I try to post a few stories a day, too, since I know a lot of them watch there based on the stats.

3. Polls and questions- People love to easily contribute and feel compelled to weigh in, so I find the polls and question boxes to be a great feature. I post literary-based "would you rather" sort of questions, but also a lot of ones for fun, too. For example, I did a whole series of ones based on reading preferences last spring, but then lots on cereal a few days later. Right now I have a simple question box up about the long weekend. I could technically do this for feedback on content, but I really try to not push my classroom content super hard on this platform.

4. Personal  validation- Last spring I did a few "star students" each day, recording video for stories. Despite the fact my students at the time were eighteen-years-old, they sent me so many sweet messages thanking me for the appreciation. I have been thanking kids who come to our office hours lately and plan to expand this soon.  

5. Group shout outs- I like to the thank specific periods or the group as a whole, as well. My kids have been doing an amazing job with attendance and submitting work, so I made sure to pop a note on stories and tell them this last night. 

6. Fun extra credit Easter Eggs- Sometime I'll do a quick little competition with a question and tell them the first ten kids who answer get a few extra credit points. I've also hid quiz questions or hints in stories before, as well. 

7. Track down hard-to-reach kids- This came in handy several times last year when some of my seniors disappeared when schools closed. You can see when they check their DMs, which is super helpful.

8. Keep in touch with alumni- One of the hardest parts of being a teacher who loops with her kids in 11th and 12th grade is when the baby birds leave the nest. Instagram is a great way to connect- I'll put up polls for the older kid about college or even DM them personally to say hi. 

9. IGTV book recommendations- I never thought I'd use IGTV, but here I am, looking like a fool while talking about books. You can see the views and I'm always pleasantly surprised the kids are actually watching me yammer on and on about reading for fun. 

10. Scavenger Hunts, Pictures Submissions, etc...  I have had students send me pictures of the nearest book close to them to re-post, pictures of them in their masks ("maskies"), shots of their pets, etc... 

11. Day-in-the-lives: I haven't done this yet, but eventually I want to recruit my past students to do some Instagram Stories takeovers so my present students can see what it's like to be a UCLA, Cal, CSUF, RCC, etc... student. I might do one myself, too! 

A few other helpful hints:

1. Always ask before you tag a student or post something they've written or given you. Common courtesies!

2. There are a lot of fun word/text app out there that let you make cute, custom test boxes (I love Word Swag)

3. If you're comfortable, ask your family members or pets to say hi. The kids love meeting people! I did an AMA once with my son and the best was when my students asked him about the symbolism in The Cat in the Hat

4. Repurpose the pictures you put on your personal account and just change the caption if necessary. 

August Reviews

Oh man, August kicked my ass. We had some crazy hot days, I went back to work, Sawyer started distance learning, I had some extremely hard personal days, and Ellie is an actual puppy tornado. Somehow we managed to make it out alive, though, and September is here. I got through four books last month, which is nothing short of a miracle- here they are:

I reread The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger for what seems like the thirty-eighth time, when in reality it was probably the sixth or seventh. I teach it every other year and, despite my easy annoyance with Holden, I think it has been the perfect book to start distance learning with a group of juniors I don't yet know. 

I finally finished Bill Bryson's The Body: A Guide for Inhabitants, which was just amazing. In his typical witty, fascinating, expertise tone, he talks about basically every aspect of the body, from the skin to the heart to reproductive system. It was a great combination of accessible biology and unknown facts. I need to buy more of his books. 

I adored David Mitchell's newest, Utopian Avenue, a more literary, gritty, well-written version of Daisy Jones & the Six. This book had a kaleidoscopic narrative, which isn't for everyone, but I really loved. He delves into the lives of four band members, which of course all includes variances of the typical sixties drugs, sex, rock-n-roll. This book meets my trilogy of greatness for a book- the writing, characters, and plot are all spot on. 

Finally, I, a self-proclaimed hater of poetry, read a small volume of poems this month called Build Yourself a Boat by Camonghne Felix. I saw the book on Instragram and loved the cover and title instantly. Build yourself a boat- take care of yourself, be your own advocate, don't want for anyone else to save you. Yes times a million to all of it. I saw Roxane Gay read it as well, which made me even more curious. It was timely, heartbreaking, and extremely well-done in terms of structure.