Bookish Banter- A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

 Anyone else living in that weird in-between-holidays time right now? Definitely me (hence why this was supposedly scheduled to post yesterday but apparently I screwed up). Julie and I read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, a reread for her and a new one for me, and we both totally enjoyed it. It's always such a pleasure to "talk" about books and I am so thankful that Julie does most of the formatting (especially this time around, since December has been insane). Now I just need to choose what to reread next! 

Julz: I picked this book because it was one I wanted to reread and because Christine hadn't yet read it.  It's a modern classic, and I initially read it over a decade ago for book club.  I'm so glad I did, too...  It's a wonderful story and a modern classic.  Would you agree?
Christine: I admittedly went into this with very little knowledge about the book, despite owning it. It's one of those classics that have just slipped through the cracks. I deeply appreciate the female bildungsroman genre, and it was so rare in this time period! I really wish I could fit this novel into my curriculum, there's just so much to unpack.
Julz: OK, I’m admitting I had to look up the definition of bildungsroman.  I’m ashamed.  But wow, that is quite the compliment that you would love to teach this book!
I thought it was so sad that the librarian never recognizes "...the little girl who took a book out every day and two on Saturday.  A smile would have meant a lot to Francie and a friendly comment would have made her so happy."  Why did the librarian, who didn't even like children, irritate me so much?!
Christine: I just read that part fifteen minutes ago, so that annoyance is fresh for me, too. I think there was an interesting parallel there, between the total disinterest in clientele and not being the one to put the flower in the bowl was such a great move on Smith's part. The librarian was simply punching the clock, which seems too blasphemous to book-lovers like us. I was equally frustrated by the English teacher who told her to write beautifully. 
Julz: Was Sissy's episode with Johnny drying out motherly or seductive?  As much as I liked Sissy, I thought that whole whiskey-in-the-bosom thing a little awkward.  
Christine: There were definite sexual nuances there, and I really thought they were going to sleep together. There seemed to be a lot of overlap between being maternal and being sexual; for Sissy they were almost the same, until she actually had a child of her own. I was sort of impressed with how Katie handled it, with the not-so-subtle line when she came out about them being sisters.
What did you think of Sissy's "pregnancy"? I was torn between being absolutely amused but also a little sad for her. 
Julz: It was totally pitiable, but her own belief in achieving it and going through with the charade said a lot about her character.  The whole episode was Sissy in a nutshell.
OK, another thing that got me down was Francie's first experience at school.  But I was thrilled when she set her sights higher and was able to get into a better school (thank you very much Papa for finding a solution).  But what moved me most was Francie's graduation and that she wasn't expecting flower, but Papa had the forethought to write the card and have Sissy buy flowers.  That was emotionally gutting.
Christine: Oh god, if this was a movie I'd be bawling (actually, I think it is a movie? Not sure). You're totally right about her father always solving problems, despite having so many of his own. This ability to be paternal made his failings so much more heartbreaking. 
It often made me sad that Francie had no friends and commented later on her dislike for other women. Do you think she would have been less ambitious if she were more social?
Julz:  I was remembering the graduation scene again where all the girls were vying for her attention and she suddenly realized she could have had friends all along.  But maybe I interpreted it differently as far as sociability goes.  When you have to survive poverty and support a family, you don’t really have the luxury of fostering friendships.   And because Francie had to be so self-reliant to put food on the table, she figured she’d spend every spare moment on self-improvement.
This has to have been pretty ahead of its time, even scandalous, considering some of the topics it addressed: alcohol abuse, poverty, illegitimate children, sex, even a pervert molester!  Are there any other issues you were surprised to encounter considering it was published in 1943?
Christine: I agree, there were a lot of little mentions of things that she seemed to deliberately, yet casually, insert throughout the text, like the box of condoms, the fancy lace underwear she bought herself for Christmas (well, from Neely...), and the fact that Sissy always called her boyfriends "Johns" (which I guess could be in the nature of a pimp or in the "Dear John" sense... I'd have to check into when those phrases were actually used). I think this idea of pushing the envelope for coming-of-age novels is what makes the successful ones that way, if we look at what, say, Salinger did in The Catcher in the Rye
Julz: Blerg, I hated Catcher.  But I’m so glad you liked this!  And I’m happy I was the catalyst for you to finally read it!

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

2020 Mood

1. Oh man, Monday was the worst. Ellie, our Golden Retriever, was spayed last week (oh man, trying to keep her calm for two weeks, even with medication, is HARD) but was showing signs of a UTI, so I had to deal with the vet. I also had a huge mix up to sort out with my doctor and two pharmacies, and then a missing credit card (I found it). Then, to top it off, when I went to unclog the pool vacuum I found a field mouse in the suction hole that I then had to pry out (with several layers of plastic covering my hands, don't worry). None of this is catastrophic, I know, but all in one day was super annoying. (and we still don't know if she has a UTI because we're waiting for test results... aughhhhh.... she was basically housebroken before but now has to go out every 90 minutes so she doesn't have an accident). 

2. California is basically entirely under revised stay-at-home orders now, since COVID cases are skyrocketing, and I saw the best tweet. It said, "if the stay at home orders that are coming are going to massively change the way you've been living your social life lately, it's quite likely you're the reason we're going to get more stay at home orders." SO TRUE. I hate it when a few bad kids ruin it for the class (and by "a few" I mean millions).

3. Another great tweet: "the entire education system is built on unpaid teacher overtime." This basically sums up this first semester perfectly. 

4. I like to go to work on Fridays, sine I don't have synchronous teaching, just so I can get some alone time to focus on planning and grading. Because of the rise in cases in our district's personnel and the area in general, they've stopped letting us go. Trying not to cry....

5. I signed up for a Zoom visit with Santa through a company called Jingle Ring and after the fact saw that a lot of people had trouble with their visits (as in Santa not showing up), so I didn't tell Sawyer until we received several email confirmations and then the visit link the day of. And, guess what? After twenty minutes of watching their warm up programming they ended the visit without Santa. I was livid as I watched my six-year-old put his teary face down in his hands and say his "heart was broken." He then ran out of the room, threw his Santa hat on the floor, and went to his room. Luckily he calmed down quickly and bought my story that it wasn't Santa's fault, just the company he uses to get online. Jingle Ring refunded me and gave me a comp code for a new visit, but I'm just still SO mad that they're screwing up so many experiences in a year where kids have been repeatedly let down. 

6. I've been trying to do something Christmas-y with Sawyer every day, even if it's just something small like reading a holiday book of drawing Santa pictures. I know if he was in-person school he'd be doing tons of activities, so I'm trying to compensate at least a little. His school is working with a company that does art lessons, so for only $10 I can pick up a kit for a project today and they'll send me the link to walk him through it tomorrow. I love it! I don't really have to do anything! 

Hitting the Wall

The end of the week. 
The end of the semester.
The end of the year.
The very-abstract-end of COVID.*

This should all boost my spirits, but it's doing the opposite, or so it feels. Every day feels harder and harder, each day requires more energy and patience. Instead of feeling this spark of optimism that so many of these shifts should inspire, I feel like I should win an award for making my family dinner each night, finishing a stack of essays, or helping my son with a craft. Spoiler alert: no one is giving me any kind of reward whatsoever (and often it feels like the opposite, whatever the opposite of "not an award" is). 

Having ran (or jogged... waddled... "ran" is clearly a bit too generous, but you get it) so many races, I should know better than to assume the final stretch is easy. No matter when the distance, a 5k, 10k, 10 miler, or a half marathon, the last little bit is always excruciating. You hit the wall. 

Technically, when we're talking about strenuous activity "hitting the wall" is when you basically deplete your glycogen stores and feel super tired, but for many of us it's mental, and even emotional. After running ten miles and knowing you still have another 5k to go, a whole race distance, the finish still feels impossibly hard to get to. After spending so much energy you get to the point where you don't know if you have much more to give, and the fact that you know still have to, makes it all that much harder. 

This is where I am at this week, but with life, as opposed to running. And this is clearly where most people are, whether it's with not seeing family because *gasp* actually caring about Covid restrictions, helping kids with distance learning, trying to work at home, finagling the holidays, whatever. Everyone has so much on their plate and it's not getting easier. I mean, sure, if we're sticking with serving-ware imagery, the plate is totally going to get slowly washed and put away, but not soon enough. And I don't even have a dishwasher right now (sigh...), so I'm going to have to wash and dry that damn plate myself.

What was I talking about? Buying new bowls?

The end is in sight, but it's still really far away. 

So, what do I do when I hit the wall when running? I usually try to think about the junk food I'll buy on the way home (burrito, Diet Coke, and a shake), find some new songs on my playlist, slow down and walk if I need to, and force myself to "run to the next corner and reassess how I feel." How does that translate into right now? Bribe, distract, slow down, and, take it one chunk at a time. 

It's not perfect, but it's something.

*I am realistic, I know that the vaccine isn't a complete method of elimination and that life won't suddenly return to normal, but compared to where we were last June, this is the homestretch, at least when I am being a glass-half-full kinda girl...

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts


1. Once upon a time there was a girl named Christine and she knew in her gut that the Moderna stock would skyrocket, so she took the plunge and invested, over a few months, $50 whole bucks through Robinhood. Her money doubled this week and SHE COULD HAVE BEEN RICH IF SHE WOULD HAVE BEEN A GROWN UP AND ACTUALLY PUT IN REAL MONEY. And her student loans lived collecting interest, happily ever after. The end.

2. Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving- we stayed at home and did a huge feast for a small family. I had an incorrect premonition that my oven was going to break mid-cooking, since a few weeks ago it lost power randomly for a second, but luckily it did not. 

3. I spend a lot of time over break grading, which was great because I am in a much better position entering the last three weeks of the semester, but also kind of a bummer because I worked every single day (including Thanksgiving). 

4. I took Sawyer to his school to take yearbook photos yesterday, which was so strange to me. This is a new school for him and we haven't set food on campus at all, besides me running in the office once and picking up packets out front. I am glad we are able to do it, but it's so weird. He is supposed to start back under the hybrid model in January, which means he'll finally be in a classroom safely, but with the amount of people ignoring safety recommendations and numbers skyrocketing I guess the county could yank their waiver.

5. Ellie is going in to get spayed tomorrow and the vet, and my sister who works for a vet, have both advised me to consider being ready to give her mild sedatives for her recovery period, just because she has such high energy and could jeopardize the sutures. On one hand, it feels like cheating to keep my dog mellow for 12 days, on the other I know that she could a do a lot of damage with all the jumping around she does, too. 

6. I am trying to plan safe Christmas activities, so Friday we are driving to the local fairgrounds and doing one of those drive-thru light experiences. Sunday we are supposedly Zooming with Santa (I've seen so bad feedback on the company's facebook page, so who knows), and I guess it's time to start baking and crafting, too. December is here...

7. My son was in a reading competition for a fundraiser at his school and we were LIGHT YEARS ahead and SOMEHOW the PTA president's son apparently pulled away... after the end date.... WEIRD. Also, please send me a trophy for not writing a snarky email.