5 Regrets (That I'm Willing to Share on the Internet)

I just finished up Matt Haig's The Midnight Library, which is all about regret and figuring out what we want out of life. This was not a perfectly written book; there were some plot holes, some lackluster attempts to gloss over things that needed more explanations, and also the occasional reliance on clichés. I did find it entertaining and thought-provoking though, and appreciated the conversation it invokes about regret, something that has sort of become a bit of a taboo concept in our culture. These days we're obligated to be so #blessed while writing in our gratitude journals while drinking fair-trade coffee with oat milk in the morning. Regrets? Those are for basic people who don't compost their k-cups and probably push little old ladies into the street.

Maybe I'm exaggerating (definitely rambling). 

But I do think that regretting one's past is frowned on a bit, and if you're a mom you start delving into that sketchy territory where your regrets might eliminate certain family members, which is a big fat no-no. If you imply that you wish you would have done something differently in the past you immediately must add the caveat that you'd want your family to magically remain as is, somehow (see below for mine*).

Why does regret have to be such a bad thing? Why is it wrong to wish you would have done something differently or feel less than happy over something that played out? Isn't that an opportunity for reflection and growth? I thing having regrets and not feeling motivated to change is the real issue, and that's the space where danger exists. 

 There's a book of regrets that the character has, so, I thought I'd share with the world some of my regrets:

1. I would have traveled more (pre child): I love traveling with my son, but I wish I wouldn't have been such a tight-wad and would have gone on more trips before I was a mom. Even more quick (non-Vegas) weekend trips! I also really, really, really wish I would have done a semester abroad in college! 

[How I can fix it: once this #!%&*# pandemic is over I can take trips with friends or even *gasp* alone. Now that Sawyer is older this is more of an option]

2. I would have explored a different career path: I truly love teaching and my position, despite the challenging year we have had. I don't think there's just one career for everyone, though, and if I hadn't been a teacher I probably would have been a doctor, PA, or nurse practitioner. I also really love event planning (logistics make me happy), and I always say if I won the lottery I'd build an awesome venue and help with all the weddings and whatnot. 

[How I can fix it: I don't plan on changing professions, but I can keep learning and growing. I think I might subscribe to MasterClass this summer to broaden my horizons, and I'd still like to write a novel one day]

3. I would have partied harder in college (within reason): I went to UCLA for my undergrad and my boyfriend for three of the four years went to UCI; I went to parties at his campus a lot, but I wish I would have focused more on having a better social life at my own school. Between school itself, working and commuting for two of the years I was stretched really thin (this would become the story of my life, haha).

[How I can fix it: This one is a bit tougher, but I think I've done a good job at cultivating a really great group of friends as an adult that eases the feelings of remorse here]

4. I would have been a crazy-aggressive dog mom when our dog Chomsky was sick- He passed away really quickly, but I wish I would have taken him to the emergency hospital and not our normal vet earlier (or something like that... I honestly don't know what the right steps would have been, but I wish they would have been different so he would have lived).

[How I can fix it: Again, this one is a little permanent, but I can make sure to be the best dog mom to Ellie, even when she is driving me absolutely insane]

5. I would have stood up for myself more- There have been many moments, with lots of people, where I wish I would have advocated more myself and what I think/feel. I have set a precedent in a lot of areas of my life for being agreeable and accommodating, and it has come at my own expense. Going to therapy when I was younger and had more flexibility with my time probably would have helped this. 

[How I can fix it: It's never too late to take change! Life is too short to let others steal your joy... either get on board or step aside]

*We are going to assume that somehow every regret I had would not interfere with my family. I don't want to add that to each one "I regret xyz, but not really, because what if that means I wouldn't have my family." Boring. Let's just pretend for the purpose of this total hypothetical exercise I get my way.  

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

1. I had my second Covid-19 shot on Monday and ended up feeling like a dumpster fire. Albeit a very grateful dumpster fire, but it was still a rough day and a half (especially getting it on a Monday... starting the week feeling horrible was not the best. Nonetheless, I am happy I got my appointments!). I feel fine now, but I still have a pretty swollen, red bump at the injection site. Interestingly, both times I had my shots I was told that I was a "bleeder" and was asked if I was on blood thinners (I am not). I left a message with my doctor, curious to see why that might be, and I guess she wants me to make an appointment. Sigh. I don't think it's anything and was hoping she'd just send a message back telling me not to worry, but it does feel irresponsible not to follow up. 

2. An appointment I am over-the-moon excited for? My hair. I had it done in August and am lucky that my stylist is willing to do my hair at her house (one of the perks of going to the same person for like 16 years). I am most definitely not one of those people content with their highlights growing out and hints of grey popping in, nor am I in love with my dry ends. It's a hot mess right now and I can't wait for order to be restored. 

3. Sawyer, my first grader, goes back to school on Monday. We've had like 391 start dates this year, but this is the real deal. Our county case numbers have gone way down and TK-6 grades can start back once their safety plans are approved my the county and state, which his district's have. He goes back for 2.5 hours four afternoons a week and I am incredibly thankful that he has the opportunity to be around others and that I am able to transport him without stressing about my schedule. It will be super weird to have him not at home... He has been under parent supervision for 11.5 months straight, so having him out in the world feels strange. I predict I'll be used to to it after approximately two days. I also predict that I will cry my eyes out on the way home from taking him (although not too much, since I have another class to teach when I get home, haha). 

4. I started my symbol-per-book embroidery hoop and am really pleased with the format. I am determined to keep up with it this year!

5. Once upon a time, when I was in seventh grade I took an aerobics elective class and I remember really liking it and thinking it was a good workout. Lately I have been taking Ellie to play outside a lot in the backyard and I've been using the pool border as a sort of step, just to move around and kill time. I then realized what I was doing was basically step aerobics and decided I might buy a step for inside and really get in touch with my inner eighties work out woman (pastel leotard optional). 

6. I am reading Interior Chinatown Charles Yu right now and am really enjoying it. We have book club for it on Friday and I can't wait to discuss it. I'm also making my way through Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall, which has been really thought-provoking and humbling. 

7. Never, ever, ever put in your information in a car dealer website- they will never leave you alone. I mean in a way I think that I am playing hard-to-get is giving me some leverage, but still. So annoying (and totally my fault). I honestly don't know what I'm waiting for... 

8. I did something amazing the other day: I got the email I use for students and Google Classroom down to ZERO. ZERO! Magic, I tell ya.

9. I just read an interesting article on CNN on how family estrangement is increasing, especially in regards to the parent-child relationship. I am so, so, so thankful for how close I am to my mom and that I talk to at least one or two of my three siblings each week, even if it's just a quick text. It's great how there are little niches carved out for the three of them, whether animals, Harry Potter, sports, exercise, reading, whatever. I miss my family so much, but I am so happy we've made efforts in our own ways to stay connected. I think my mom and Sawyer have an exciting lunch date this weekend, which makes me so happy to see.

10. Three nonfiction books I've added to my wishlist:
The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together by Heather McGhee 
The Power of Ritual: Turning Everyday Practices into Soulful Practices by Casper 
Running with Sherman: How a Rescue Donkey Inspired a Ragtag Runners to Enter the Craziest Race in America by Christopher McDougall 

Bloggers Banter: Bastard Out of Carolina

Julie and I did another buddy read and post on Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison. Read our conversation below:

Christine: First of all, I have to admit that I read this when I was probably sophomore or so in high school and didn't remember how intense, and graphic, it was! It was on a recommended reading list from an English teacher and I thought it would be funny to put a book with the word "bastard" on my Christmas list. Nonetheless, as an adult I thought it was heartbreaking, powerful,  and well-written. 

Julz: I can’t even believe you read this as a 14-year-old.  I do have to admit, it probably would have made me feel less guilty about certain things I felt as an adolescent had I read it at that age. 

But good heavens, the rape scene was pretty much the most terrible chapter ever. And I’ve read some graphic stuff (American Psycho, The Painted Bird).  Even typing the words Daddy Glen makes me nauseous.  

Christine: I think Bone's mother, Annie, was one of the most frustrating, infuriating characters in the text for me that I really had to push myself to feel any sort of empathy for (she chose to basically ignore the fact that her husband was abusing her daughter). What about you? 

Julz: Yup, infuriating is the word I would have used, too.  But (playing devil’s advocate here), she was seduced at 14, a mother by 15, a widow at 19, and married to an abusive douche at 21. Tragedy piled on top of tragedy.  Ultimately, though, she was the enabler, and I know well enough that those are the worst kinds of people.  

Christine: I think that's a good point, that she was so much younger than she seems. The circumstances of her life aged her so quickly, and while that does make me muster up some sympathy I still think there is some sort of inherent maternal right/wrong one would have hoped she'd developed. I guess her leaving Bone at the end was really the only thing she was capable of doing to help her daughter.

One interesting theme that stood out to me was the emphasis on physical beauty. So much time was spent describing characters, evaluating whether they were good looking, etc… They lacked the means to provide better lives for themselves, but being naturally attractive was free. What did you make of the running commentary on appearances?

Julz: (in response to Christine’s most English teacher question so far) Beauty is a commodity.  If it helped Anney earn more tips, so be it.  Uncle Earle probably got let off the hook more often than not because he had handsome features and knew how to flaunt them.

Christine: This book is quite episodic. So many of them stood out to me- the whole chapter on theft, her aunt's nervous breakdown, and her relationship with Shannon. What about you?

Julz: I certainly didn’t think Shannon would meet her end as she did!  That was a helluva punchline for that episode.  My favorite was the break-in at Woolworth’s.  I could not figure out the dredge/grappling hook obsession until I realized how nefarious it could actually be.  The episodic nature reminded me a little of Owen Meany, except without the symbolism.  Speaking of, we encountered Wheelwrights in Irving and now we have Boatwrights…

Christine: Besides Bone, I really loved Uncle Earle. He of course had some less-than-redeeming qualities, but I appreciated his protective nature and honesty. Who did you gravitate towards?

Julz: Aunt Raylene is the one I connected with and admired most.  Probably because of her stoicism.  I figured her out from the get-go, but she still had a mysterious aura.  I loved her independence and resourcefulness.  She wasn’t maternal, but that didn’t mean she wouldn’t fiercely defend her family.

Speaking of family, the Aunt factor here had a bit in common with A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.  And Bone and Francie are both good students who escape into books.  Did any other similarities resonate with you?

Christine: I can see that, now that you mention it. I hope that Bone was able to use her bookish tendencies to escape poverty. And aunts in general are often an interesting sort of archetype- a romanticized version of the mother. I remember when I was young I adored one of my mom's sisters. I thought she was so much cooler than my mom (sorry, mom), but in retrospect she was actually so similar, just in better clothes and the ability to be more patient because I wasn't her kid.

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

 1. Sawyer was able to have two virtual book club-ish type meetings over the long weekend and it makes me heart so happy for him to have time to interact with kids his age. The first one was with the sons of my old high school friend- we realized the kids loved Dog Man. The second was with a kid Sawyer already knows, so my friend and I just sort of shut them in their rooms to do talk about Diary of a Wimpy Kid, thinking they'd last ten minutes. They went for over an hour, talking about the book and lots of other silly things. It was great!

2. Over the past weekish there have been many stressful fires I've had to fight- possibly childcare arrangements for the fall (so much uncertainty in the world, STILL), an issue with getting my second Covid19 vaccine scheduled (oh, county health... I love you and I hate you), and getting our taxes done (three hours of phone calls later our return was in tiptop shape). The bad news is that I spent most of my week off trying to deal with these things, and the good news is that they all have happy endings. I love having time off from work, but this week it has felt good to get back into a routine and have a lot of things to be happy about!

3. I'm I the only one that's a huge baby about getting a new phone and dealing with the set up? First-world problems, I know.

4. I have been thinking about signing up for MasterClass, but I know the smart thing to do would be to wait until the summer when I have more time. There are so many cool classes to take, with so many amazing people. I feel a little stifled lately, culturally, intellectually, whatever you want to call it. I like the flexibility of MasterClass and I know that paying it all at once makes it feel expensive, which will motivate me to use it. I used to use Coursera, but I think the fact that it was free ended up being a sort of deterrent (although I did follow through with a bio class or two that were great refreshers).

5. Speaking of feeling intellectually stunted, I "went" to a reading last night, Rebecca Makkai interviewing Brandon Hobson. They did a great job and I can't wait to read his new book, but I still much prefer going to the real thing. I like driving to DTLA on a weeknight, knowing that my family has to figure things out while I'm gone. I enjoy getting a little dressed up and sitting in the audience, either alone or with a friend, eavesdropping on the people around me talk about other authors, their jobs, etc... It's a thing and this was not. 

6. I bought several books the other day, for several reasons. First: I wanted them. Second: We got our taxes done and I usually take a small portion of and treat myself Third: There was a buy two get one free sale. Here's the thing: I should have just left it at the first item. I am horrible about feeling like I have to justify expenses, when I do not. I am incredibly responsible and if I want to buy something than I should be able to. Is this is a result of patriarchy? My upbringing? Social media? My own personality? I'm not sure. 

7. I mentioned that I'll be receiving my second Covid-19 vaccine, which makes me so very thankful. I had some intense arm pain that traveled into my next for a little while with the first, and some exhaustion that may not have even been related, so I'm truly interested to see what the second one brings. The CDC uses a text system to contact you every day for the first week to get your symptom update, and then weekly after, which was easy and important for people to do. It's been really great to see my friends get their shots and I can't wait until anyone who wants one can go in!

8. If the numbers in our county keep going down there's a chance that Sawyer will finally get to go back to school soon, for half days. His district has gone back and forth about seventy times since the fall, but it feels more definite this time. I have faith in his teacher and school to be safe; there will only be about 11 kids in his classroom and they must be masked. I teach high school and the data has to be even stronger for us to go back, which I don't know if I'm too optimistic about happening this school year. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

[link to Etsy seller's page]

1. I have this week off for President's Week (or whatever my district is calling it), and while I'm not one to complain about time off, it hasn't been amazing. Part of this is because Sawyer's district is not off, meaning we still have to get moving in the morning and I have to help him with his work. Another issue is that I've "assigned" myself really boring chores that I've been putting off for ages (redoing shelving paper in the pantry, cleaning out drawers, cleaning out fans, getting tax docs ready, etc...) and the happiness of productivity isn't trumping the irritation of the tasks. I've also let a few things totally ruin several days so far, but that's on me. I finally had a good-ish night of sleep, so when I got up this morning I felt like the funk had been lifted, so at least I can somewhat enjoy the last five days of break. I don't normally get like this, so I'm annoyed but also trying to give myself a break.

2. I think we finally turned the corner with my dog's stomach troubles, after nearly three weeks of dealing with it. I'll spare everyone the details, but it's been really irritating and slightly worrisome (she has been acting fine and eating and everything, so it was more of "let's figure it out" not "ohmygod she's super sick"). Unfortunately, I'm not sure if it is the strong medication she was recently given or the change of food, but nonetheless, we're getting there!

3. Speaking of dogs, I am here to admit I really hate the puppy/young dog stage. I like getting them this young so we can train them to our liking from the get-go, but four to like nine is the best. I feel this way about kids, too. Babies and toddlers are the cutest, but once my son was about three it just kept getting better and better. 

4. Books! First of all, Julie sent me the best coffee table gnome book after reading my post last week. I am reading Hood Feminism and Bastard Out of Carolina right now and have two books for two book clubs after. Sawyer and I finished a Magic Treehouse  book and also James and the Giant Peach

5. I generally do my own embroidery creations, but I bought this Chloe Jo pattern this morning and hope to get to it in a few weeks (see above). I will make some color changes, but I just love it so much!

6. I finished the 2000 piece Star Wars puzzle that my husband bought and we started last April and I couldn't be happier. He said I could have just taken it down, but not finishing what I least help to start is not how I do things. I will never participate in a puzzle that is more than 1000 again- mark my words. 


5 books high on my wish list:  
1. Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted  by Suleika Jaoad
2. Our Lady of Perpetual Hunger by Lisa Donovan
3. Luster by Raven Leilani
4. One All Fronts  by Clarissa Ward
5. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

4 really boring adult things I'm doing during my week off
1. Prepping for taxes
2. Scheduling a fence repair
3. Redoing the shelving paper in my pantry
4. Cleaning ceiling fans

3 things that aren't as exciting as a vacation but better than above, that I'm also doing during my week off
1. Reading a ton
2. Working on a few embroidery projects
3. Finishing this stupid 2000 piece puzzle my husband bought and abandoned LAST APRIL. It's taking up valuable real estate in our dining room and I want it done and gone. 

2 things that I'm trying to work on
1. This past weekend something INCREDIBLY stressful came up that I had to deal with, but couldn't until Monday. I spent the ENTIRE weekend inwardly panicking over something that was easily resolved by 10:30 am... it was so unnecessary. I used to do the time when I was younger, but have done a better job of being a more reasonable adult... I need to get it in check asap.
2. Post-lunch, pre-dinner snacking. I am the queen of portion control during meals, but I also mindlessly graze. I've decided I can only have a snack during certain times in the afternoon and I've already dropped a few pounds

1 thing in the works that I'm looking forward to
1. I have this crazy idea that involved going to Yosemite for a very, very, very brief amount of time after the snow is gone. Sawyer and I usually go every spring, but didn't last year, so it's been nearly two years since I've been. I think I have a plan. 

Remote Teaching: Some Things That Are Working

[Preface: This is a very, very long post about teaching and what's going well right now. It also has a very, very long, possibly unnecessary, introduction. You've been warned]

No one likes a Braggy McBraggypants, so I hesitated about posting this, initially, but then I remembered that thing about how society treats women like they should never be proud of their accomplishments, so here we are. I am by far not a perfect teacher (just ask any student I've ever had), but I'm also dedicated to making distance learning work for my students (and me!). 

I teach four sections of IB English and one of IB TOK, which means many of my students (not at all,  though) are at least somewhat motivated. That being said, they do naturally struggle with procrastination, focusing, and even asking for help, which happen in real-life teaching and is magnified by the situation we are in. I think there's a natural tendency to think teachers who teach higher level kids have it "easier," which I understand on some level. I've taught non-advanced classes, though, and at the end of the day I feel like what I am doing currently has actually been more of a challenge for me- I create my own curriculum, I have the pressure of huge tests that cost money hanging over me, and my kids do a lot of work that needs to be graded in a timely manner with feedback, most of which is heavy writing/analysis (not that this isn't the case with all teachers; it's just that my kids are the ones who are going to email me at 2 am asking why they missed a point on #3 and when I'm planning to grade the essay they wrote yesterday). Like anything in education, it's hard and takes a lot of work. But I'm up for it!

All students deserve the best possible education they can get, no matter what the format may look like. Right now it's through a computer, so it's literally my job to provide that. This is my fifteenth year of teaching and it's also been the hardest- I've hard to dig deep and really figure out what's working and what's not, just as I did as a beginner. I am constantly reflecting, improvising, changing, and adjusting. Now that we are a month into our second semester, I've finally figured out some things that are visibly working for me and my students, so I thought I'd share. Typically, I'm not really good at sharing- I hide food in the pantry I don't want my family to eat, I don't do a lot of collaborating with colleagues, and I only allow carefully vetted people borrow my books. But, these times are different, right? Also, for purpose of reflecting, I've also included some areas I need to continue to work on as well. 

- Song at the beginning of the period- Super easy and silly, but the kids can guess (errr Shazaam) the song in the chat for one solitary extra credit point. It's just nice to set the tone! I play a lot of classic rock and stuff from the 90s. 
- Chat question at the beginning of the period- Usually this is something pretty low key that can be answered in a few words. Sometimes it's random ("do you like candy corn or are you a normal person who thinks it tastes like trash?"), but sometimes related to content ("When reading Plath's "Bitter Strawberries" poem what did feel was the primary tone?"). It's up a minute before class starts and remains for a few minutes while everyone trickles in.
- Instagram presence- I've done this for awhile and it's just a fun way to seem more human to the kids. There's a lot of pictures of my dog, son, things I'm reading, etc... I also do a lot of interactive "would you rather" polls, question boxes, etc... 
- Extra credit 1 point opportunities- I do them for participating in breakout rooms, offering to be a group spokesperson, guessing a song title, turning something in first, etc... I keep track of them by hand on a blank class roster and add them in to their grade once a week. 
- Visiting work-in-progress on GC and leaving comments- It's the virtual way of walking around the classroom! 
- Camera breaks- 80-90% of my kids have their cameras on each class, which is pretty awesome! Starting on the first day, I told them I expected them on and if it went well I'd give them a 5-10 minute no-camera independent-work break at the end of the 80 class session. 
- Popping into breakout rooms with my mic and camera off- My students meet in breakout rooms once or even twice a week right now, and I make it a point to visit each to listen in. Whoever participates when I am there gets one extra credit point, plus I try to write something complimentary in the chat
- Be as workout instructor-y as you can- I am not a natural cheerleader, I'll be the admit. I've worked super hard on being positive and thankful every day with my students, though, since I know they need to hear it. Think about it- no one wants to go to a workout class with an instructor that is flat and never pumps you up! I'm not going to ever be invited to teach a Peloton class, but I try to keep up with verbal the positive reinforcement 

(*the kids can only earn up to 5 points extra credit from these sorts of engagement activities a week)

- Follow-up email list- I have started keeping a secret list of students who mention they have concerns outside of class to follow up with. When we are in person it's super easy to ask a student to stay behind for a second to ask him or her how it's going after a relative has passed away or whatever- it's really hard right now. I try to keep notes on who I have followed up with when. 
- At least five positive emails to students every Friday- This might be about improvement, all-round good work, or even something silly, like I like a poster in their background. It's really, really fun to send out cheery messages, even if I don't get any sort of response back (although I usually do! The kids are missing so much positive reinforcement and acknowledgements, so I think this makes them happy).
- Keeping the same breakout rooms (virtual groups)- My students were a little reluctant in breakout rooms at first, but I keep the same ones in each and now they are doing pretty great! When we are in class it's the same way- they sit in table groups and become one little family for the year.

- Rubrics- Creating rubrics in Google Classroom for as many assignments has helped me move through things faster. My students have to do something I made up called "The Poetry Protocol" right now, every day, for a few weeks. A rubric that I can keep using in GC has helped a ton.
- Grading calendar- I assign myself assignments to grade each day with a color-coding system that helps me visually see what I need to do each week
- When I grade what- I've worked really hard on being strategic about what I can grade when. If I am helping Sawyer with his work it's not the time to grade writing of any sort. I can, though, work on checking off a short assignments or the weekly attendance question our district requires
- Chunking grading- Often I'll tell myself that while I don't have time for the entire "stack" I just have to do five or ten assignments at once. Doing this a few times a day on the weekend helps me get through things

- Analysis worksheets- I created this quick worksheet/graphic organizer that calls for the kids to annotate a short passage or quote and then write bad, mediocre, and great analysis. The score is out of 15 and when they start reaching 13 they can quit doing the bad and mediocre sections, and just the great (I call them something different). It has resulted in a lot of improvement and I will use it forever! 
- Emailing kids with Ds and Fs- No on like a weekly(ish) reminder of not-the-best grades, so I think my little notes help some of them get work done. 
- Inviting specific kids to come to office hours- It's hard for them to say no when they are being singled out in a nice way. 
- Options with projects to meet needs and supply availability (example: a Flipgrid, a writing project, or an art project)- I did a project for each book while in-person, so I am trying different ways to do it now. I did it last semester and I got the coolest results! Diorammas of the set of the play we were reading, scripts for additional scenes, monologues, etc... 

- Stop checking student email by 9- I have had to really work on this, since there have been many nights that I a lying in bed at night replying to kids before I sleep.
- Working for 3 hours alone upstairs on Fridays, since I am not going into work- We don't do any live teaching on Fridays, so for the first semester I was going in to my classroom those days. We've had a lot of COVID-19 cases on our campus with staff members that are still required to be at work, so I've opted to stay home. I head upstairs after I get my son on his Zoom meeting and work for three or so hours straight (I work all afternoon, too, but I do it from downstairs, which opens my grading/planning up to interruptions). 

Things to work on: 
- Getting in more timed writes- Back when things are normal, my students do a timed write every other Friday. Now that I only see them twice a week I have cut way back, which is bothering me. I don't think there's a good solution, but I need to figure something out.
- Not being so reluctant to bring tech- I have mixed feelings about this. I think a lot of teachers were a little obsessed with all the techy bells and whistles at the beginning of the year, and it ended up being a waste of time. That being said, I could do a better job of implementing a few more tech-based components into my class. 
- Contacting parents- This is so hard when you have, like 150 (or so) kids. I am making it my goal to reach out to certain ones at the end of each grading period. 
- Grading- This is a huge battle for English teachers no matter what kind of teaching we are doing. The fact of the matter is out kids write a TON and it takes a lot of time to grade it. Now, with having to do it on Google Classroom, it takes even longer. I have gotten better, but grading will forever be something I'm dealing with.
- Bringing in some past alumni to make some videos or something else that's inspirational for me current students (I've had this on the back burner since August!)
- Ignoring the (metaphorical) background-pandemic chatter- There's a group that doesn't want to go back until everyone is vaccinated, and there are people who think we need to go back right this second. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter what they think. What matters is what our county and district is deciding is safe and whether I am doing my best to educate my students (I am). The negativity of others is their problem, not mine- I've worked hard to stay positive and do my best.

So, that's where I'm at! This isn't ideal- teaching in the classroom is better for delivering content, assessing student needs, and building community, but this is what we have to deal with right now. Instead of spending my time wallowing and being mad at the universe at the cards we've been dealt I've decided to channel my energy into making this best experience that I can for my students and myself. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

1. Sawyer and I drove out to this place called Cabazon, close to Palm Springs, the other day to see these huge dinosaurs painted for Valentines Day, plus a little outside dinosaur walk-through experience. It was so silly and touristy, but he LOVED it and we were able to go after work and be home in time for dinner. It was a good way to start off February. 

2. I have go to get my passwords under control- I have so many variations and I don't keep track of them (they're all just stored in the cloud or on my laptop). The other day I had an Instagram issue and for approximately 93 heart-stopping moments, I thought I lost everything in my account. Maybe this should be one of my March goals.

3. My son is 200% obsessed with Dog Man right now, and my mom made the comment that she should read one. Guess who received Dog Man: A Tale of Two Kitties yesterday and is expected to read for a book club discussion asap? Considering Sawyer can talk endlessly on the topic I think I'll be able to set the two of them up in his room for an hour and go get things done. 

4. I am off starting on Saturday for ten days, since our district takes some time off for the two President's Days. I am SO excited. I am planning on being mostly caught up, besides a set up timed writes, so I can take it relatively easy work-wise. Sawyer still has school for part of time time, which would be far better if he was actually there in person (our county has been seeing a huge downward trend in numbers lately, so hopefully the little kids can safely start back in a month or two... when the time come he is super ready with his Harry Potter backpack, haha).

5. One of my goals for the month is to "go" to a reading/event. I am really excited about Brandon Hobsons' new book, The Removed, and I saw that he's doing a reading through PEN with Rebecca Makkai, who I adore. It isn't free, but for $12 I know I'll show up. I have been feeling a little uninspired lately, so I'm hoping this will be good.

6. In 2019 I stared a symbol-per-book embroidery hoop and failed to finish it- I think I came  up like 10 books short at the end. You have no idea how much that bugs me! I didn't even attempt 2020, but I want to start it up (let's be real, the completion-ist in me is also contemplating finishing 2019 and 2020, too). I have a new design plan that I think will look more organized. 

7. Two bookish sites I'm obsessed with right now- NPR's Book Concierge and the Brooklyn bookstore Books are Magic (they have great recommendations). 

February Goals, Plus January Revisited

[These posts are really to hold my self accountable- writing them out in a public way is super motivating for me! Feel free to leave a comment with your goal for the month]

I typically loathe January, so I'm pretty happy to see it leave! It was a weird month that felt really long. There were some good moments, though, which I need to focus on. I got my first Covid-19 vaccine and a lot of my teacher-friends did as well. There were two book clubs, six books read, lots of exercise, some new and overdue personal boundaries established, and some good news about our union negotiations. Plus, shall we not forget, a new president! There were some more challenging moments, too, though, like some ongoing, nagging, gastro issues our puppy is having, the weather (how dare you be cold, winter?), and some frustration with not getting enough done (self-induced). I did make some good progress on my January goals, though:

1. 20 treadmill sessions and 10 yoga or Melissa Wood Health workouts- Yup! 
2. Stay on top of grading- Miracles can happen! Yes! It feels so good. 
3. Complete 2 new embroidery projects- Nope (almost finished one)
4. More fruits and vegetables- Done!
5. Average 6 hours and 40 minutes of sleep/night- Barely! I averaged 6 hours and 41 minutes

For February:

1. Log at least 100 hours in the Forest App- I was going to say "use my phone less," but I do some of my workouts from it (the Down Dog and Melissa Wood health apps) and then sometimes watch a show on my phone if I walk on the treadmill. I also answer work emails there sometimes, too, so it's not all mindless scrolling.

2. Average 6 and 45 minutes of sleep/night- I am hoping the SleepTown app will help! I have used twice now and I'm right up my alley (it's by the makers of the Forest App, so no surprise). Basically you tell it what time you want to go to bed and wake up every day; if you stick to it you get a building, which  then generates coins for you to spend on other buildings. If you use your phone during the window of sleep your house is *gasp* destroyed. I have the bad habit of spending 10-20 minutes a night right before I sleep on my phone, which I need to spend sleeping. 

3. Get ready for our tax appointment- Boring!

4. Start an emergency binder- My husband knows very, very little about our household logistics (mortgage, life insurance policies, the HELOC payment, how to get in touch with my friends if there's an emergency, utility accounts, etc...), so I want to slowly start putting together a binder of info. I don't plan to be incapacitated or dead any time soon, but it should be there just in case.

5. Go at least two "fun" places with Sawyer- December I made fun happen, but January was sort of... boring (see above). This month I want to take my little buddy to two, as he calls "fun," places (safe ones, though, where we can social distance).  

6. Teach Sawyer to tie his shoes- He's almost seven, but since this school year hasn't involved a lot of shoes, it's sort of been unimportant. February is the month, baby! I am going to focus on helping him master one step of the process each week, for my sanity and his. I want to start really slowing down and helping him own one independent skill a month (tying shoes, washing hair, do a better job brushing teeth, making a simple lunch, etc...). 

7. "Go" to a reading/event- So many of the places I'd go to things in-person to offer tons of virtual events that I've been ignoring, since it's not the same. I need to be inspired! I need to hear smart, cultured people talk! I plan to go to at least one. 

8. Do abs at least twice a week- Making cardio a goal is stupid, since between walking the dog and running I generally banks 12-20,000 step a day. Strength training is my nemesis, so I need to start doing more of the MWH ab videos. 

Happy February! 

January Reads

January is over! Pandemic or not, January traditionally drags for me. Winter finally arrives to Southern California and the post-holiday letdown is in full effect. This year January combined with the current Covid-19 situation just makes for massive ennui and I've struggled with it for weeks. But, it's February and I've shelved my January attitude and I'm really trying to move on (I also get ten days off this month, makes things a smidge easier to handle). Blahs or not, I did manage to read six books! 

First up were two book for my two book clubs (honestly, book clubs have been such a life saver- I think my love letter to this necessity needs to be it's own post). For the meeting with my two close friends, we read Anxious People by Fredrik Backman, which was such a treat. Backman is a great palate cleanser, without being total fluff. He's accessible to most readers, but he also deviates from standard narrative structures and brings in timely perspectives. This novel centers around a semi-hostage situation at an apartment showing, the reader learning the back story of all the people involved. Everyone may not be likable, but each provokes empathy. Backman also forces you to reflect on your on biases, which I appreciate. My other book club read was The Burning by  Megha Majumdar, which excelled in writing, plot, and character development. Set in the slums of India, we watch as a young Muslim girl is falsely imprisoned for something she wrote on Facebook, and sit on edge of our seats as we watch the two other characters, Lovely and PT Sir decide whether or not to help her cause. It's a story of class, morality, politics, and corruption that I can't recommend enough. 

I started the month off with a lot of Sylvia Plath, since I am teaching a unit on her poetry to my IB English juniors. I reread The Bell Jar and then Pain, Parties, and Work by Elizabeth Winder, which details the summer that The Bell Jar is based off of. It was such a great pairing, the novel and the biography- I knew that Plath used a lot of her own life for The Bell Jar, but really didn't know how closely aligned it really was. Winder included interviews with women who knew the poet, too, during their time at the magazines that summer, which I thought was really interesting.

Reading Derick Lugo's The Unlikely Thru-Hiker An Appalachian Trail Journey was a real treat for my cabin fever. A self-proclaimed metro-sexual from Manhattan with limited hiking experience, Lugo decides that he's going to devote at least six months to hiking this trail. We follow him from day one, grimacing as he struggles to set up camp, smiling at his interactions with fellow hikers, rolling our eyes at some of the dialogue, tearing up when he says good-bye to a dog he found, and cheering him on as he approaches the end. It really goes to show that the old cliché can really be true- if there's a will, there's a way.

And last, another memoir, this time Bravey by Olympian runner Alexi Pappas. I think I may do a longer post on this later in the week, but in a nutshell, she talks about her struggle with her mother's suicide, the decisions she made during her youth to become a runner, her depression after the Olympics, and how she got help for her mental health concerns. I loved her honesty, humor, and reflection. I have to admit that the word "bravey" really bugs me, and at times I didn't like the arrangement of the chapters (it lacked cohesion and order at times), but those complaints don't detract from the important message of her story.

6 books
3 fiction, 3 nonfiction
4 female authors, 3 male
4 white authors, 2 authors of color
1,634 pages (average of 52 pages/day)