Five Thoughts on Outline by Rachel Cusk

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I'm  not really sure when everyone on bookstagram started posting about Rachel Cusk's trilogy, starting with Outline, but I was quickly intrigued by the idea of a series that was literary. She's quite polarizing, which made my intrigue grow, and now I see why. Here are five take-aways after reading Outline:

1. If you aren't a fan of character-driven books, this isn't for you. There's basically no plot whatsoever, and the structure if semi-episodic. The episodes, though, are just the narrator's (we eventually learn she is Faye) interactions with others.

2. Cusk's syntactical choices are a great representative of the characters and subjects in which they are employed, yet do sometimes irritate me. I love long sentences, but I don't always love really long sentence, ya feel me? She's no Faulkner, rest-assured, but there were a few times I was dying for a period. 

3. There are so many nuggets of wisdom about marriage, life, love, writing, etc... that kept sneaking up on me and knocking my socks off. I am definitely regretting not reading with a pen handy.

4. I have a definite soft spot for books about writers. While it's not necessary about writing, the idea is constantly in the background. 

5. Cusk develops a steady tone that is perfectly complemented by her setting. Athens is stifling hot, bright, but also mellow. And throughout the novel it feels the same way- the narrator is having these languishing conversations with people that simultaneously feel important and never-ending. This book in it's entirety feels like a hot, Mediterranean afternoon with some academics. 

I think I might start doing this for all of the books I read from now on, as opposed to a big pile of word vomit at the end of the month. I'll link back each month to these little reviews, but it might be something I try. Of course this is probably a dumb thing to do now that life is going to be super ridiculously crazy, but we'll see! 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

I can't even articulate how disappointed and angry I am in this country for effing up the pandemic again. Delta prevalence exists because eligible people didn't get vaccinated. Plain and simple. A virus mutates when it has able bodies to do so in, and it does, because of so many people who refuse to take advantage of this scientific gift that millions of people in third-world countries would love to have. This is a nation of Red Bull chuggers, Botox injectors, and processed-food eaters. And you tell me you don't want to put a vaccine into your body because of what is in it? PLEASE. I just cannot. I just want to have a normal school year where my biggest concern is staying on top of grading and not if my son is going to get Covid or if my students are worried about coming to school or if we end up shutting down with twenty-seven seconds notice. 

I am having to dig realllllll deep right now to push myself to finish summer happily and productively (I go back on Tuesday). A lot of my teacher-friends agree- things feel strange this year. It's not the normal "wah I love summer and don't want to get up early" emotions that we usually feel, but instead this sort of dread and concern. Last year was so unstable and we had to  "PIVOT" so many times we were left scrambling and dizzy. And, yes,  I know most people don't get a break, but most people aren't required to teach 150ish kids a day with a smile on their faces, either. We can't act apprehensive, wary, or skeptical- the kids need us upbeat, energized, and optimistic about the school year. It's hard to feel that way right now. And no, this is not me saying I want to teach from home, because I do not (simply not true, nor would I want to be called lazy or a bad teacher, right?). I just want stability and safety for me, my family, and my students. 

Oh, and I have a feeling that the 5-11 shot won't be out until a bit later than anticipated, because of the FDA's call to add participants. It's good to collect as much data as possible, but I'm going to be sad if this impacts the timeline Pfizer had set out. 

I think once August is over things will be easier to wrap my head around. 

This concludes the venting portion of today's post... At least, I think it does. No promises. 

Happier item: my son can finally swim. He's not going to the Olympics any times soon, but after practicing for nearly every day this summer (there were tears and some very intense moments, let's just say), he can get from point A to point B without touching the bottom. Such a relief and my biggest victory in months. 

At what age do parents stop feeling responsible for their child's dental hygiene? I help Sawyer every time he brushes and flosses, so when we go in for his visits I'm the one crossing my fingers that I've done a good enough job to prevent cavities in this other human being. I got my gold stars and all, but when I asked the dentist and hygienist were like, "you have to help him until he moves out." They were kidding, of course, but, still.

My pool vacuum has been reminiscent of a drunk old man lately, constantly knocking into walls and not being able to pick himself up (I say old because in pool vacuum years he is ancient). I sort of waited it out a bit to see if he decided to enter a twelve-step program or something, but he did not, so his replacement is going to be delivered today. I am so excited. About a pool vacuum (and the leaf canister that I also got). I mean, eff the book content, but get excited about the pool equipment updates. 

I ordered Sawyer and I these book spine posters from Jane Mount's Ideal Bookshelf site, where you get to draw your books in yourself, and I am going to do a version on my own for my students! They're going to be each doing a spin that represents their favorite book and I'll make a big bulletin board from them. It will be the perfect first-day-of-school activity, since the kids know me already and our schedule is weird that day. I just emailed them all reminding them to start figuring out what they want to draw!

I don't really watch many movies, but I am ALL about House of Gucci. Lady Gaga and Adam Driver are going to be perfect together and I bet the soundtrack will be excellent, I'm sure. 

I've been doing more hiking this past week at a trail about ten minutes from my house. It's so nice to have somewhere different to take Ellie, and it tires her out a ton. Of course I start going at the end of the summer! At least it will be an option when I'm on my next break in November (gulp). It gets really crowded on the weekends, even as early as 6, since people want to beat the heat!

I feel like we are at the point in the summer where I'm looking out the window going "is it smoke or clouds?" Our home owner's insurance premiums went up a ton this year, again, because of where we live. It's unfortunate, but I am SO glad we weren't canceled like people in my neighborhood were (we like in suburbia surrounded by dry hills, basically). 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

I'm back! Summer (or life?) has just this weird vortex that skews time so intensely. Sawyer and I have been busy doing lots of fun things (having tons of friends over, going to the beach, swimming, etc...) and just got back from several days in Lake Tahoe. We had the BEST time. I hadn't planned on a trip this summer, but my husband's hybrid schedule was just too good to pass up, since I could go for a stretch of time and not have to worry about dealing with the dog. Over the course of our trip we hiked over thirty miles, read lots of books (on our own now, which the best), and ate lots. It was a really, really long drive, but Sawyer is awesome in the car.

Speaking of the car, I listed to Malibu Rising between the trip up and back and thought it was really entertaining. Not well-written (she needs to utilize some synonyms for "said"), but the perfect summer book to listen to while driving. 

While in Tahoe I finished Andy Weir's Project Hail Mary, which was also entertaining, and started We Came, We Saw, We Left, a memoir about a family's "gap year." I could never be as unplanned and adventurous as them, but I am loving living vicariously through them!

I have preordered several books recently, including Emily St. Mandel's newest, Colson Whithead's, and... Dav Pilkey's newest Cat Kid Comic Club book that doesn't come out until November (Sawyer mailed Dav a 10 page comic book he created special for him and we got back a form letter, but on the outside someone wrote him a note about his book being awesome... it was so cute... and I may have mentioned it already?).

I bought a Hyperchiller on Amazon and it totally lived up to the... hype. Ha. As a summer iced-coffee drinker, this a game changer and I am totally in love.

I have been using a lot of time-based tricks to motivate myself into productivity lately. I need to really deep clean and organize, but who really wants to do that? This morning I set a timer for ten minutes and started tackling the laundry room- I made some serious progress, and just quit when it was time. Same with a junk drawer and a bathroom. Sure, neither are quite done, but I'm over half way done and finishing up doesn't seem like a huge chore. Yesterday I did the same with my workout- I knew I needed to get thirty minutes in, so I did a quick barre routine for five minutes, ran for five more, did ten minutes of a steep incline walk, jumped for abs and arms, etc... It flew by and I got a good session in!

Work starts in *gulp* ten days, and while I refuse to do anything until then, I do read emails, and man have they started coming in.... We get three teacher prep days before the kids come, which are plenty for me. I don't know if the public really realizes that we only get paid for ten months a year, and while I choose to spread my salary out over twelve, I am not working for free on my break. I give them plenty of my free time during the school year. 

Five Tips I Use for Getting Through a "Meh" Day

Things are going well, nothing catastrophic has happened, but you still feel... meh. Know the feeling? Maybe it's from being over-tired, maybe a tiny bit of a funk, whatever it is, you're not feeling what you know to be your best. Earlier that week that was totally me- I was super tired (we have some schedule changes happening in our house right now that were totally anticipated, but still need to be adapted to), there are some nagging household things that have to be taken care of, and it's starting to get hot (I know, it's summer, it happens every year, but I hate July and August heat). Here are some of the things I did to get by-

1. Acknowledge it- I think I have spent most of my life in denial about these sorts of days, pushing myself to "be happy" and "be thankful." All of that toxic positivity nonsense. I was reading through a blog post from last August and I was so, so low- it permeated from basically every sentence. I told myself, "July 2021 Christine, you should be so thankful and happy you aren't August 2020 Christine! You are going places! Seeing people! Your family is super happy!" While this is all true, I was denying myself the option to even feel less than Suzy Sunshine. I think relieving that pressure helps right out of the gate.

2. Make plans- This really is the not-so-secret to my happiness, that I've been really vocal about. When I have thing to look forward to I automatically feel happier, so I made a hiking date with a friend and invited some people to come swim next week.

3. Get productive (with easy things)- I find that this is not the time to say, paint a room or clean the garage. Instead, I do a few quick tasks on my to-do list and benefit from the endorphins of productivity (my drug of choice).

4. Be creative- Lucky Sawyer loves to sit around and do projects, so I can recruit him to hang out with me while I plan an embroidery project or, like lately, work on a LEGO project.

5. Work out- Even a five minute break to do some quick weights, yoga asanas, or a walk around the block helps.

Bonus- Go to bed early. I am horrible at this (not that I stay up that late, but once Sawyer is in bed my "ohmygod I'm freeeeeeeeeee second wind kicks in). 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

After buying it a very, very, very long time ago, I finally finished the LEGO Tree House, which was so much more satisfying to put together than anticipated. I really enjoy LEGOs and play with my son fairly often, or at least supervise while he puts together sets. I love tree houses very much, so it was the set for me. It took probably 12-15 hours over the course of several weeks, and I'm a little sad that it's done.

I just got the call that my new reading couch is ahead of schedule and will be delivered on Monday. I'm so excited!

I just ordered a magical drink chiller that apparently will turn my hot coffee into iced coffee in just sixty seconds. If this is true it will be life changing. 

I've been a reading machine since school got out- I think I've read twelve books so far? It's so nice to have so much time to just read and not feel guilty about needing to work or do all the other domestic things I have to put off while I'm gone during the school year. I just started How to Be Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi and Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri and both are wonderful so far. 

Even if you aren't a podcast person, listen to the Critical Race Theory and Alzheimer's Drug episodes from this week on The Daily. CRT is becoming a hot-button issue where I live (although it's not even CRT... it's ethnic studies, which is really  not the same),  which I will probably complain about several times a month indefinitely. The Alzheimer's one is actually super disappointing, since things seem really, really fishy with how the FDA approval played out. My grandma is in the late stages of the disease, so I was hopeful that other families would maybe have an option to helped love ones in the future and not go through what we have. I am trying to be optimistic that even though this one seems to be shady the drug technology is headed in the right direction.

I hit it off with one of Sawyer's friend's moms and we went out the other night and all the sudden we had been sitting at a restaurant bar for three hours and were shutting the place down. It can be sort of awkward navigating the social life of your child when they're super young, so I feel super lucky that some of his friends have cool moms.

I have meant to start an allowance for Sawyer for a few years now, but I never have cash on me! My friend suggested fake money and I can't believe I didn't think of that sooner! I ordered some the other day and we're off and running! I attribute my money-sense to having an allowance from a very young age and being forced to budget. My parents didn't have much money for extras, but they would give us a few dollars a week- it was up to us to save for new books, extra clothes we wanted, going to the movies, etc... I want him to be in the same boat! 

June Reads

My first month of summer break was a success in many ways- we've been super busy with seeing friends and going to places we haven't been in awhile, and I've also read nine books.

Four of the books were nonfiction, one being a guide for the course I teach, which I won't bore anyone with the details about. Alison Bechdel's The Secret to Superhuman Strength was a graphic memoir that examined her lifelong experiences with intense exercise. She ties it to many historical figures, which, frankly, I could have done without, but still appreciated. The Science of Yoga is a super in-depth, practical guide at the anatomy that connects to the most important asanas, plus a lot of extra information about yoga's connections to your health. I am try to improve my practice this summer and also use it as a way to deal with hip pain, so it was very helpful. World of Wonders by Aimee Nezhukumatahil was a collection of essays that tied her experiences to the natural world, along with some illustrations. Her writing was absolutely beautiful and she was incredible poignant, but sometimes her links between her life and plants/animals seemed a little far-fetched. It did make me think about what a cool creative writing assignment this would be for my students, though!

On the fiction front, this month was rock solid. I reread Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, which I read back in high school. I don't always love books from this time period, but this one I definitely look back at fondly. Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell surpassed the hype, with stellar writing, character development, and plot. I am not typically a big fan of historical fiction, so I went into this anticipating appreciating it but maybe not liking it, but I was wrong. Dawne Walton's The Final Revival of Opal & Nev was a more topical, better written version of Daisy Jones, which I know a lot of people would like to come at me for saying. I wrote a bit about Lisa Taddeo's Animal last week, and while I had some issues with some of her choices, I thought it was definitely a read I'd label as "an experience." She's such a unique writer and I can't wait to see what she does next. I finished The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich most recently, for book club, and it was a great combination of solid literature with historical implications. 


5 Things I'm Looking Forward To:
- Finishing a virtual IB four-day IB training (it's actually fine, just better in-person)
- Two book clubs this week! One a lunch!
- Two playdates this week with kids whose parents are friends
- Going to Torrey Pines this week to hike around the beach and maybe a stop in La Jolla for the Sugar and Scribe bakery (I've ordered things online, but would love to go to the actual place while we are close)
- Vacation... now that it's happening I'm obsessed

4 Books to Finish This Week:
- An IB training book for next week, so that I feel better about the curriculum changes
- Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America by Ijeoma Oluo
- Delicious! by Ruth Reichl 
- A yoga anatomy book 

3 Things I Am Currently Listening To:
- The Office Ladies, Season 2
- To Live and Die in LA, Season 2
- Yearbook by Seth Rogan (so funny!)

2 Things About Doing LEGO (you have no idea how hard it is to not pluralize LEGO):
- I am doing a large Treehouse set right now and am enjoying it SO much. I've been working on it for like two weeks, just doing a little section every day or so, and it's so relaxing and rewarding. 
- I ordered their typewriter set that was just released- I couldn't resist! But, that's it! I have space to display just these. 

1 Goal for the Week:
- Move my bike off the trainer in my office/gym where it is never used, to the garage, so I can get it back on the streets occasionally 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

1. I just reread this post about being socially-isolated for three months that I wrote last June and I laughed so hard at the "really toxic auras" comment. Oh, Christine of June 2020, it got worse. Ha! The whole post made me really, really thankful for what life is like right now. 

2. I am GOING ON A TRIP next month! Sawyer and I are going to Lake Tahoe for several (yes, SEVERAL) days and I couldn't be more excited. I don't want to fly with him until he is vaccinated, nor do I want to drive a million hours in the car, so Tahoe was a great choice. Probably 8-9 hours with stops, I can see my mom on the way, and it will be WAY cooler there than it is where I live. Plus green nature, as opposed to the dry brown vegetation I'm currently surrounded by. I am so, so, so thankful. Also, I need a break from my dog. 

3. I've been a reading machine in June- I think I've finished six books so far and will probably get another three or so done by the end of the month. Sawyer is in summer school in the mornings, so that has given me some uninterrupted time. Next month will be a lot busier but I'm still making a huge dent in my yearly goal.

4. I am continuously disappointed with Prime Day, year after year. 

5. So, I bought myself a reading couch for the master bedroom instead (in my defense, the chair I have is basically the opposite of ergonomically designed). It's being delivered in late July and I can't wait!

6. We had friends over for lunch and swimming yesterday and it was the best. Our kids are finally old enough to (mostly) just play so we can catch up. I have loved my son at all the various stages so far, but I love this delightful mix of "I can entertain myself" and "I still love my mom and want to snuggle with her on the couch" that seven brings (and hopefully eight and nine as well). 

7. I'm reading Louise Erdrich's newly-crowned Pulitzer Prize winner The Night Watchman and it's so good. We have our English Department monthly book club for it next week and I think it will be a good one to discuss. 

8. I was super excited to finally realize that my Down Dog Yoga app also includes their sister apps for Barre and Meditation in my monthly membership. I would like to attempt to meditate occasionally, just because I think we can all benefit from slowing down and taking a breath, but mostly I'm thrilled with the Barre component. I did a ten minute ab focused session today and I can tell this will definitely be a part of my fitness routine. 

9. I feel so bad for Britney Spears. 

10. I know I've mentioned this before, but my two sisters are both getting married and my brother's wife is expecting- I love seeing everyone's excitement and prep! 2021 has been (knock on wood) SO good to my household and many family members- there's just so much joy. I'm just so thankful.

11. My dog is making it her mission to befriend everyone on our walks over the age of fifty. She has so many old-people friends.

12. I recently had to go on the IRS website to change some information regarding the new Child Tax Credit, and MY GOD the process for getting an account for the website is a lot! You have to send in pictures of your driver's license, provide your SSN, authenticate your email, wait for a two-factor code, and swear on your mother's grave. It had to be done so we don't get dinged at tax time next year, so it was a necessary evil, but sheesh (now I just have to get my husband to do it, haha). The whole time I was worried that I was going to get rejected and have to prove myself to one of the scariest governmental entities. 

Shock Value

I don't consider myself someone who is shocked easily- I mean, I've been a public school teacher for like fifteen years, over a decade of which has been with high school students. That being said, there have been some notable moments as a reader where I've been pretty shocked, for various reasons, whether it be the context of the story, my age, or the extent of the vulgarity. 

My age, which directly corresponds to my naïveté, is of course something to be taken into consideration. I read John Grisham's A Time to Kill when I was probably eleven or twelve- I had absolutely no idea that people sexually assaulted children. I remember reading this on Christmas Eve, late at night while everyone was sleeping, the juxtaposition of this sad surprise and the gifts from "Santa" under the tree (I didn't still believe in him then, I wasn't that innocent) notable. A random mass market paperback that I believe was called Shank informed my very young self what a "glory hole" was in a prison- again, I was probably like eleven and had used my allowance money to buy this book at Wal-Mart. Lest us not forget Flowers in the Attic where I learned what incest was- are we seeing a theme with all of my young literary surprises? 

In college, my shock of a different variety; here the shock was the challenge. I read difficult texts in my IB program in high school, but I remember taking a Russian Literature class as a freshman and being blown away by the rhetoric that juniors and seniors were using to discuss Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy. I was also shocked by the sheer volume of reading I'd be forced to do in a week, something that sounds pretty darn wonderful now. 

As an fully-cooked adult, true bookish shocks are few and far between. Chuck Palahniuk definitely comes to mind, one of his short stories about a young man who loses one of his most dear appendages to a pool vacuum being one such example. I haven't read much of Palahniuk's recent works, but I remember grappling with this idea when I read him- when does shock move from a strategic tool to a gimmick? He constantly towed the line, sometimes crossing over, sometimes being strategic and brilliant.  

Over the weekend I read Lisa Taddeo's newest release, her novel Animal, and I felt similar. As a whole I thought it was excellent; her examination of a severely damaged woman's psyche captivated me from the first page. By the end, the shock value had been laid on a little thick though, including the scene outside at the end (I don't want to spoil it). Her use of this device has range, though, and isn't all coming from a place of purely gore. We're floored by her financial decisions, her use of men, her reactions, her emotions, her sexuality, honesty, physicality, and background. The shocks are meant to unsettle you and force you to actively decide whether you will be judgmental or empathetic.

As a whole, I see shock the same way as I see most of other technique a writer uses; it has to be done well to be effective. If the placement doesn't pack a punch the impact will be negligible, while too much comes off as immature and cheap. I think Taddeo, while laying on a little thick at times, still manages to end up ahead. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Me, every day.

Next week is pretty busy, so this week I've forced myself to not make any official plans Monday-Friday. Honestly, it's been really great. Basically, each day is spent having a few hours to myself while Sawyer's at summer school and my husband is working, and then after I pick the kid up at noon the rest of the day is me alternating between spending time with him, reading, and doing whatever else I want. It's so much easier to wrap my brain around being at home when I'm not doing so for the pandemic. 

Next week I have three friend dates, a book club meeting, and a virtual four-day training for work. The week after Sawyer is done with summer school and I'm starting to plan some outings and invite friends over to swim. I love having people over again! 

California has "opened up," which is interesting. It's so great to see the numbers down in every horrible category (positive tests, ICU admits, death, etc...), but it still feels really weird. I still plan on wearing my mask in indoor places, since my son needs to and I want to set a good example. Even when he is not with me, I will wear one when I am indoors (like a crowded store), just because I could still technically contract it from someone and bring it home to him. I know the stats on kids not reacting the same, but it gives me piece of mind to know I'm still doing my part to keep him safe. I don't have a backup, okay? 

My mom was down last week and Scott and I were able to *gasp* go to dinner alone for the second time in a month. This time we actually went to a *double gasp* place that wasn't in our city and needed *that's right, triple gasp* reservations. And it was at like 8:30... at night. Wild and crazy, indeed. But honestly, it's so nice. We have very few people locally who I would ask to watch him while we went out, since I'm not ready to have my old rotation of college kids come to my house yet, so I'm thankful that my family was around at the right time. 

I watched a movie! The shocks continue! In the Heights was a lot of fun, although I am definitely aware of some of the backlash that's occurring in terms of the issues with racial representation in it. 

I am listening to so much right now in terms of podcasts and audiobooks- I started Seth Rogan's Yearbook, which is hilarious, and I am going to download Malibu Rising when I am done with that (please don't come at me, but I don't think TJR is a great writer; I appreciate what she did in terms of format for Daisy Jones, but she's definitely a listen, not a read). I am listening to The Office Ladies as I slooooowly rewatching episodes, and am also keeping up with Bad on Paper, some episodes of The Daily, Smartless and The Armchair Expert, and want to start the next season of To Live and Die in LA. Luckily I walk the dog for well over an hour a day, but still. So many options. 

I started Lisa Taddeo's Animal yesterday and... wow. So gritty, so dark, so sexual. It definitely falls in line with Three Women in the sense that Taddeo definitely has a really particular, unique voice that is present in her fiction as well. 

20 Years Ago...

If we're going to be totally honest, I sort of forgot that this year marked twenty years since I graduated from high school. I vaguely remember some social media chatter last year about what would happen with the reunion with the pandemic, but I've had bigger fish to fry. Then today I saw some of my old friends posting pictures and memories and I had to jump on the nostalgia train with a few of my own. Twenty years? How am I this old? Yet, also, it feels like lifetimes ago.

I dug out my photo album and spent a few minutes reminiscing, remembering back to our big senior trip to not far from where I live now (we did Downtown Disney's now-gone ESPN Zone, Grad Night at Disneyland, stayed in a hotel for a few hours, and then hit Six Flags up for the day on the way back... thirty-seven year old me cannot imagine how tired our poor chaperones were). There was our IB Senior Banquet, graduation rehearsal, graduation itself, a small gathering with friends that night after family stuff, and then a week of get-togethers. The normal stuff, really. 

For the most part, I really enjoyed high school. Not to the point where I consider it my glory days or anything, but I was fortunate enough to get swept into a group of fellow IB students, and we stayed together all four years. I had come from a close-knit group that stayed at the same school from kindergarten to eighth grade, so having this sort of school-within-a-school idea helped make the jump between the two places easier. I had friends, I did very well academically, I respected my teachers, I was involved in extracurricular activities, I went to all the school events, had various little part time jobs (umpiring, babysitting, etc...), blablaba. I had a boyfriend most of freshman year, played the field for awhile, and then finished up senior year with a guy I dated throughout college (until I met my husband, but that's a story for another time). I stayed out of trouble, but I also had a lot of fun.

It wasn't all sunshine and rainbows, though. My dad killed himself at the end of freshman year, and a lot happened in my immediate family consequently. I was the oldest of four, which meant that I spent A LOT of time helping my mom, especially with the two siblings who are a lot younger than I am. Money was a constant issue and I had to work hard to secure various forms of funding, on my own, to go to UCLA. My boyfriend and I senior year had a dramatic relationship (although most high school ones are), and I felt often very anxious about him leaving me, so I never pulled the plug (this continued for three more years... sigh...). The culmination of the stressors of home and my relationship led to a great deal of anxiety, which I at the time had no idea how to cope with. I lost a lot of sleep, got sick often (I had strep throat multiple times one year), and wrote in my journal lists and lists of backup plans and fears. While all of this was obviously unfortunate, everything I went through during this time really helped me learn to push myself in a lot of ways and I'm proud that I was able to handle so much, so young. Life handing you lemons and all that. 

What makes me the most amused is that my life twenty years later is nothing at all how I thought it would be. I thought I'd be a doctor... I'm an English teacher (although I can teach biology). I thought I was going to be marry the other half of my four-year-old dysfunctional relationship... I ended up with the guy I started dating soon after I broke it off with high school boyfriend boy. I thought I'd have three kids... I have one. I imagined I'd live in a big city... I live in a suburban city that I'd never even thought of back then. Life definitely doesn't end up the way we think when we're seventeen or eighteen, and that's probably for the best!

I'll finish up by saying that I feel incredibly lucky to be friends with several people from high school, though, despite how far and wide we've spread. The education I received during those four years prepared me so incredibly well for college and I'm glad that I had to figure out things for myself.  

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

My mom is coming tonight! After not seeing her for sooooooo long it's so exciting. Technically this is the third time in the last few months (although one visit was less than two hours), which feels so lucky. We have a few things planned and then she will also be spending a chunk of time with my grandparents. Scott and I have reservations out for a late dinner one night, which seems like such a treat (although we just went out alone a few weeks ago when my sister was down, but still). 

Yesterday Sawyer and I went to Knott's Berry Farm for the morning, since our annual passes have been reactivated. He has always been incredibly easy to go do things with, ever since he was tiny, but now that so much time has passed and he's even more self-sufficient going to amusement parks and the like is a total breeze. 

A few of my students have joined Goodreads and I love seeing what books they're reading, earmarking for later, etc... I've even spotted them interacting with each other over literature they read for fun (Sally Rooney), which makes this English teacher so happy!

I watched several seasons of The Office back when it was actually on, but only made it to season... 5? My husband is full-blown obsessed and has watched the show in it's entirety a few times, and is willingly re-watching with me. The show is of course hilarious, but now I am more motivated than ever to watch since I love the Office Ladies podcast SO MUCH. 

Sawyer and I had a book party the other night- basically, he just took advantage of the fact that I love that he reads so much and brought a bunch in to read in my room past his bedtime. It was actually pretty perfect- every time he started getting chatty I just threatened to kick him out, which shut him up real fast. We got a ton of reading done!

Sawyer starts summer school next week for four hours a day (just two weeks of it), and I can't wait to have some brunch dates and time to *gasp* myself. We have some fun things planned for some of the afternoons, so it's basically perfect. 

Not to sound annoying and bougie, but I've had my eye on a recliner from Pottery Barn for reading in for a few weeks but cannot take the plunge. In my defense, it's really hard to find modern, cozy chairs, but the price is so steep. I keep thinking that I could put the money towards my car, my 2022 summer trip, or some other responsible endeavor. But then I sit for an hour in my sparsely-padded not-so-ergonomically designed current reading chair and I start fantasizing about the PB one again... 

The school district where I live, where my son goes to school, is starting to develop their ethnic studies courses and implement elements of CRT (critical race theory). If I read ONE MORE COMMENT implying that it's "racist" to make white people examine their privilege I'm going to scream. It's incredible how people take one nugget and run away with it, making gross generalizations and acting ridiculous. I've been saying for years that the best way to develop a better society as a whole, one with empathy and intellect is to start with kids. And I'm not just talking about race- we need to teach kids to think more critically about a lot of issues, look at things from different perspectives, and be responsible citizens. I have a feeling it's going to get ugly. I need to take a deep dive into what a CRT (both critical race theory AND cultural responsive teaching) curriculum looks like, but I do know I want my son to receive direct instruction on the mistakes our country has made and on how to be an ally. 

Summer Plans

This summer is a strange, limbo sort of year. A million times better than last year, but also not typical. I would love to take a big trip, but I am not for two main reasons, the first being is my travel partner is seven and is unvaccinated for a few more months (hopefully he can get his shot in the fall, and then I fully intend to fly somewhere close by for a long weekend... maybe Tahoe? Portland? Who knows!). The second is that if I'm going to spend thousands of dollars on the trips on my list I want to fully experience everything there is to offer, no COVID limitations, closures, etc... I feel fortunate to have taken some great trips in the past and some renewed patience, so I can get over this one last hurtle!

So, for summer 2021 I want to make the best out of staying local! I want time at home without the dark, uncertain cloud of the pandemic looming, I want to see friends, I want to have people over (we've already started having friends over to swim again and it's so nice!), I want to go places we've missed over the past sixteen months, and I want to spend time just relishing being in what feels like the best place I've been in a few years (knock on wood and whatnot). 

I wouldn't be me if I didn't have some sort of plan to publicly declare, though, so here's some of the things I hope to accomplish:

1. Continue to work on the dog-training (she gets better and better each day, she just has TONS of energy and still wants to eat all the things)
2. Do some sort of small-improvement project (other than the new dishwasher being installed in a few days... maybe replacing all the door knobs or something like that)
3. Reorganize clothing closets 

1. Keep up our screen-time ticket system (this was one of my stipulations when we bought him a Switch for his birthday... no endless playing, no playing every day, and additional weekend time has to be earned with extra chores)
2. Work on bike riding, shoe tying, swimming, and time telling
3. Strengthen math skills
4. Play dates aplenty 
5. Look into starting art classes

1. Abs and arms. Abs and arms. Abs and arms. 
2. Bring back yoga big time- 4 days a week
3. Try to get my hip problem under control without needing an MRI, PT, etc...
4. Sleep more

1. Read 18 books 
2. Create a few new hoops for my Etsy shop
3. Go to the places we missed, and then some 
4. Lots of in-person friend time
5. Join Master Class and do at least three courses 
6. Be more active here, on my Instagram accounts for Etsy and books
7. Learn some basic frosting piping skills (I really don't know why)
8. Get caught up on a few shows- I started The Flight Attendant in January and still haven't finished 

1. Decrease in iPhone time
2. Start and get caught up on 2021 year-in-review book 
3. Try to plan a weekend away with a friend (if it works, AWESOME, if it doesn't, okay, but we must TRY)
4. NOT do anything for work, other than a virtual training I have in a few weeks, until August (call me selfish or lazy if you'd like, but after a long, tough year that required constant above-and-beyond I'm reclaiming my time)

More than anything, I just want to feel like I did something every day- maybe it's big like go to Disneyland with my family like we just did, or productive like calendaring a plan to pay off my car way early, or leisurely like finish a book by the pool. Different strokes for different folks, but I can't handle wasting days. 

Summer Stack

Not pictured: Lisa Taddeo's new one, out next week

For the record, yes I was nervous about putting a stack of books by so much water, but, you know, summer picture opportunity and all that. 

Every year to reward myself for making it to the end of the school year alive, I buy myself a box of books, after months of limiting my purchases (not completely, since I'm not a total glutton for punishment). I don't necessarily commit to reading every single one during my eight weeks off, but I generally though most. 

A few things to note:
- six of them are nonfiction, which is quite a bit!
- ten are by women
- the one I'm most unintimidated by is Rachel Cusk's Outline, since word on the street is that it's tough (but rewarding)
- The shortest is Jhumpa Lahiri's Whereabout, a novella clocking in at just over 150 pages, and the longest is Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir, at almost 500

In a very small nutshell, why I chose each:

Outline by Rachel Cusk- love stories about writers, also up for the challenge

The Hour of the Land by Terry Tempest Williams- I love well-written books about nature, especially after reading Portage last summer. I am not planning on any big trips this year (next year, though! No clue where!), so this will give me some inspiration!

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott- A friend recommended this to me, plus it seems like a creative push

North by Scott Jurek- I am not always a huge fan of Jurek's voice, but he is an absolute beast when it comes to running, so I can't wait to hear about his time on the Appalachian Trail

Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri- She wrote this in Italian, which she learned really as an adult, and then translated it back into English

Of Women and Salt  by Gabriela Garcia- Latin American family saga

The Souvenir Museum by Elizabeth McCracken- short stories with rave reviews

Our Lady of Perpetual Hunger by Lisa Donvan- food memoir!

We Came, We Saw, We Left  by Charles Wheelan- a family takes to the road during the pandemic (what we all wished we had done) 

The Sum of Us by Heather McGhee- McGhee looks at how racism is actually a poor financial choice for the nation 

The Guncle by Steven Rowley- I loved Lily and the Octopus and heard this was fun

Project Hail Mary  by Andy Weir- his first was great, his second mediocre... what will the third attempt yield?

The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue- I have been meaning to read another book by the Room author and this one had good reviews

Animal by Lisa Taddeo (not pictured)- Nearly everyone read Three Women when it came out a few years ago, her nonfiction account of three women and their sexuality, and we're all standing by to see what her novel will be like 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

From Disneyland 

Summer break has arrived! I have been very absent around here lately, since life has been pretty hectic. In the last few weeks alone I have gone wedding dress shopping with my sister, to see my grandpa, to the San Diego Zoo, to Disneyland, to our graduation, and to the Central Valley to meet my mom to drop off my sister (we met half way). I also had to deal with a very visit that lasted a few hours with Ellie (she is fine now), buy a dishwasher, and get my classroom ready for the summer school teacher who is taking over for the next few weeks. PHEW. But so many good things, all thanks to the vaccine. 

The rest of the month will be pretty busy, too, and we'll see what July will hold!

I ordered my normal summer box of books, which I'll post tomorrow (really, I will, the school year is about broken blogging promises, not the summer). My TBR is absolutely insane right now, but I give no effs. That's what new bookshelves are for. 

I was soooooooooooooo excited for the Friends reunion but I have to admit I've only watched the first thirty minutes! I think it's a lot fun so far, I just can't get enough time to sit down in one chunk to watch it. 

I had subscribed to the Melissa Wood Health app, but recently canceled my subscription, since I thought she handled the pandemic really poorly (and also, her personality doesn't quite... "mesh" with mine). Instead I am going to sign up for Master Class instead! The first session will probably be dog training, haha. 

I have had an unresolved hip issue for years (long boring story), but it's gotten quite uncomfortable lately. Since resting isn't really my thing, I decided to basically throw all the tools in my tool box at it- icing, yoga with a hip flexor emphasis, nightly foam rolling, and adjusting how I walk/run Ellie. It's been getting better, but now I regret not trying one thing at a time, since all of these things take quite the commitment.

My brother has finally publicly announced that his wife is pregnant! Yay! I am sending the baby a book every month until it's born, so that it can start it's little TBR pile in utero. He/she is born in December, so I am hoping to fly out to Kansas where he lives  over my February break (weather permitting). I am so excited to have a little niece or nephew that I can snuggle and send things to! Sawyer is super excited, so I will hopefully bring me too- he can't wait either. 

Some not so fantastic family news is also on the horizon, too. My grandma has suffered from Alzheimer's for many years now and is in a residential care facility down the street from my grandpa. Her condition has started to rapidly deteriorate and she is losing the ability to swallow. Her advanced directive is pretty explicit, so we are predicting that her time left is starting to dwindle. I lived with my grandparents for three years during college, so I was obviously very close to her. She wasn't the typical grandma who spoiled us, but I would have been terribly uncomfortable if she had been (spoiling is not my love language, haha). She hasn't recognized me in years, but what actually makes me the saddest is just seeing how my grandpa talks about it all.

Dinner last night was Half Baked Harvest x two: Pesto Chicken, Corn and Avocado Salad and Herby Everything Cheddar Swirl Buns. She can do no wrong. 

I also plan on being a lot more active on my bookstagram account, so make sure to follow along at @bookishlyboisterous 

May Reviews

I am sitting here right now, looking out my dining room window at the pool water splashed all over our backyard from our first real summer swim and I'm slightly in disbelief that we've made it. Summer. While I'll wax and wane on future posts, I just have to say that the last month has been completely different than the last year and I couldn't be happier. Life was far busier than recent months, but I still got through four books, which seems meager but also impressive, considering how many papers I graded and hours away from home I spent. 

The clear winner of the month for me was Between Two Kingdoms by Suleika Jaouad, a memoir about a young woman's fight with a rare form of cancer. The beginning of the book is her her experience struggling with the disease, the middle her adjusting to remission, and the final a road trip she takes to meet the people who wrote to her. Beautifully written, emotional, and honest- go buy it.

I also read another memoir, the graphic one, And Now I Spill the Family Secrets by Margaret Kimball, a story about a woman's family history with mental illness. I felt a strong personal connection to this one, since I too had a parent commit suicide when I was young. It was fascinating to see how her family's story unfolded and how she coped with what was going on around her, starting with such a young age. 

Danielle Evans' collection of short stories (and a novella) The Office of Historical Corrections was everything the hype said it would be- rich, well-developed characters, plot lines with quirk and brutal social honesty, and overall cohesiveness.

The only book that really wasn't a win this month was Outlawed by Anna North. I typically feel that Reese Witherspoon's book club is hit-or-miss (probably more misses for me), but this one sounded fun! And there were spots that were really entertaining, but given the subject matter of female reproduction and sexuality, I thought she could have done a much better job of shedding light on her topic. The characters were flat and the plot rushed. 

I CANNOT wait to blog more, read more, sleep more, and get out of the house more! Hopefully I at least double my reading for next month!

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

I just started the graphic memoir And Now I Spill the Family Secrets by Margaret Kimball and it is SO good. This is the second memoir I've read this month, both of which are stunning!

My need to be a people-pleaser has been struggling with my tendencies to have strong opinions lately and it's absolutely exhausting. Navigating inner and outer conflict is complicated. There's this sort of balance I strive for- how can you make your thoughts known in a respectful way, while not being steamrolled? Obviously who you're up against is part of the battle, but no matter it's exhausting. 

Also exhausting is running with the dog nearly every morning 5:30- my body hurts everywhere, a combined effect of running on concrete (I usually run on the treadmill) and my gait being changed from handling a leash. I started foam rolling, which has just made my arms sore from pushing my lower half against the roll. I know it's worth it and I'll adapt, but in the meantime I'll just whine more than usual.

I think a topic in education (life?) that really needs to be addressed right now is moving past the trauma of the pandemic. Yes, I know we aren't completely past it, but we have to stop being reactionary and be proactive. How can we change the rhetoric next year to treading water to swimming forward?

I just yanked out my son's front tooth because it was dangling (he let me)- the Tooth Fairy needs to bring be a treat too. That noise. That feeling.

I am going out to a restaurant with some friends this weekend, for the first time since pre-pandemic (going out and the three of us being together all at once). I cannot wait. I also have a pedicure this weekend, so it's basically Christmas.

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

1. I know, I normally do these on Wednesday.... so does that mean I'm a few days late or a few days early?

2. I just finished Between Two Kingdoms by Suleika Jaouad and I cannot stop gushing about it. Her memoir is about battling nearly-terminal leukemia and then traveling the country to visit people who wrote her while she was a columnist at the NY Times. It's basically perfect. I enjoyed the medical part, the personal aspect, and the travel component. If I can get it together, I plan on writing a whole post on the book.

3. I received a few books in the mail yesterday, despite my temporary deal with myself to wait until the end of the school year and purchase everything at once. In my defense there was a deal, so who am I to argue with being fiscally responsible? Two are graphic novels, and then I finally got The Final Revival of Opal Nev, which I'm super excited about.

4. I started a shared doc in one of my book clubs so we can put our ideas down for our next year of selections and I think it's so interesting to see what people put down.  I've only put one so far, but am resisting the urge to plop down a dozen more. 

5. Most of next week at work will be consumed with some online assessment, which I'm super bummed about, since we just finished Macbeth. I am, though, also super psyched to get some massive time to catch up on grading and hopefully do the rest of my lesson plans for the remaining two weeks of content I have left to teach.

6. Yes, that's right! Three weeks until summer break, basically! I can't believe it. Sawyer is in school a bit longer than I am, so I cannot wait to have a few days of time to unwind alone. We don't have a trip planned this summer, since everything was so up-in-the-air with Covid, but I renewed our annual passes to the San Diego Zoo and Knott's Berry Farm, so it will be pretty darn awesome to start going to the places we weren't able to for so long. Between those types of things, the beach, etc... I am hoping my cabin fever will be kept at bay. I might try to manage one little trip away at some point, but it also depends on a few other things. Who knows! Starting next year, I plan on a big trip every summer. Short-list options: a drive up the West Coast as far as Whistler (in a rental so that we can fly home), NYC, Hawaii (I may be able to convince my husband to come on that one... we have already been but I would like to take Sawyer), Charleston (this might end up being a long weekend sort of things with a friend), Nashville (yes, I want to go just so I can go to Parnassus.... also a long weekend situation) Chicago, and Montana. I could go on and on. There's also a BIG trip to Europe in the beginning stages of planning with a friend, Sawyer, and maybe my mom, but that's going to be in probably three or so years when he's a tad older. Maybe I need to write a whole post... stop rambling, Christine... 

7. I have been running most mornings with Ellie before work and it's so effing hard to commit to this as 5:30 am. I have found the trick is to push myself into wearing shorts and a sports bra- if I can just put these things on and get out the door, I'm awake enough after walking half a block or so to just bite the bullet and speed up. It's ironic, though, that the thing I dread ends up making her so tired and my so happy. My mood is noticeably better on days I run instead of walk, not that it's bad, it's just downright good when I suck it up and go. 

8. I'm getting another tattoo! I had been thinking about a very small new for a year or two, one but wasn't sure where I wanted it. I finally decided the other day and emailed the artist I used for my tree one and he booked me. For May. Of 2022. I know. This guy has sort of blown up in LA and is in high-demand, so I get it. I would find someone else, but he does amazing fine-line, single-needle work and since this is going to be really small writing there is absolutely no room for error (is there ever any room for error on a tattoo?). Something to look forward to, I guess!

9. I have to start dishwasher shopping.  Appliances are the absolute worst- so boring! I haven't had a working dishwasher in WAY TO MOTHER-EFFING LONG, so I'm of course absolutely thrilled at the actual prospect, it's just getting there that is a drag. 

10. The weather has been absolutely amazing where I live- it's this wonderful time of year where the highs are in the 70-80 and the nights are chilly. Having to stay inside seems like a total punishment! I just want to go lay outside with my book and Diet Coke and alternate between reading and dozing. Soon it will be approximately 187 degrees and I'll be complaining nonstop. 

11. I sent my mom a huge order of pastries from Porto's for Mother's Day. Our family's love language is carbs.

12. This weekend is kicking off a stretch of a few jam-packed ones in a row. HOORAY! Tonight we have a park play-date with Sawyer's friend (I love his mom, so this almost feels like a social activity for me, too), tomorrow we are going hiking, and I hope to take most of Sunday "off" (mom "off" is basically 50% of a break, at least when you have little ones). 

May Goals, Plus April, Revisited

The treadmill is beckoning from across the room, so I'm going to make this fast. I did pretty well with my goals this month: 

Buy a new phone- Nope! I've decided to just wait to deal with it until summer. The one I have is fine and I'm being horribly over-dramatic, so it's been tabled.

Finish and ship all Etsy orders- Yes! All seven orders, six being custom, have been sent out into the world. I also squeezed in a gift for a friend. 

Get a few health issues under control- Thank goodness! Yup! I had some issues with my eyes that are a million times better and I will hopefully be in the clear after my recheck later this week. I also had a stomach issue that improved dramatically with a round of medicine, so I am a happy camper. 

Make sure Sawyer had a great birthday- Yup! We had a great weekend. His friend dropped by a surprise gift on Saturday and then on his actual birthday Scott and I took him to walk around the beach and we did gifts, cake, lots of family FaceTime, and his favorite dinner. 

Step up my skin care- Yes again! I am not getting any younger, so I've slowly built up a good routine that hopefully will prolong the inevitable. 

Stay away from a really negative Facebook page associated with my son's school- Yes! I really don't have time for that toxicity, anyway. 2021 has been a much happier place on the Internet, so any little change that adds to it is awesome. 

Now, May:

Finish the school year without losing my mind- I like to make my goals easily quantifiable, and trust me- for a teacher this is

Have fun doing fun things- I feel like May marks my return into the world. Every weekend is pretty booked and I am beyond thrilled.

Two non-Etsy embroidery hoops- I love that people trust me to create things for them, but I have been itching to try out a few of my own ideas. One of these things needs to be updating my book hoop. All I have done is January- and these really aren't that time-consuming! It just gets pushed back first, I guess. 

Keep running with Ellie- I have converted 4-5 of our daily morning walks to at least partial runs, and I want to maintain that (for both of our sakes)

Finish rereading Jane Eyre- I really do enjoy it, I just can't always read it in huge chunks or I get sleepy