Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

This August-November stretch of the year is kind of a slog, but I still can't believe it's the end of September! I think being so busy lately has had something to do with it, between work and home, but I'll take it. Last weekend Sawyer and I hiked around a nature preserve in Orange County that was new to us and then Sunday we met for a park date with some friends. Next weekend I have a virtual book club, am hosting a different small book club outside, and Sawyer and I may go to Knots for an hour or two on Sunday morning when they open for the Halloween stuff. We are still being super careful, but since everything is outside and we will masked I think we are okay before it gets crowded.

Speaking of the c-word, I am giddy with excitement about the pediatric vaccine. When I saw the update last week about them being so close to a EUA I stopped in my tracks at 5:15 AM outside walking the dog in disbelief. We are so close! 

I am reading Sharks in the Time of Strangers  for one of my book clubs and am loving it. It wasn't on my radar at all, so it's the perfect example of why we should be open to books that might seem outside of our interest. 

I am using nearly half of my yearly classroom budget on books for my classroom, which mean I just submitted an Amazon order for TWENTY new, high-interest, quality books, for the kids. It's kind of a pain to deal with reimbursement, but it's worth it get the most bang-for-my-buck.

I am totally sure the Sex and the City spin off on HBO will be a total disaster, but I have to admit once it's on I'll probably bump into my to-watch list. This is absolutely no indication of when it will actually be viewed, though, since I still haven't finished the Friends reunion I was excited about back in May (or the Flight Attendant, which I started in December). 

Oh, and since we're talking about Friends, I was totally suckered into buying Jennifer Aniston's new hair product Lolavie product since Jessica Yellin of New Not Noise posted her before-and-after pictures. I'm the worst.

While we're being confessional, I also did some damage on the Frye boots site because they gave me a $50 off coupon, and I also stared my Christmas shopping for Sawyer since the headlines have been all "shipping and inventory delays expected." I am a marketers dream (aka sucker), which is incredibly ironic because that's my husband's field and I should KNOW BETTER. 

Go Giants (as in baseball, since I gaf about football, thankyouverymuch).  

Five Things About... Antigone by Sophocles


This is the fifth time I’ve taught this classical play and the sixth or seventh time I’ve read it. It’s a sort of chicken-or-the-egg sort of situation- do my students love it now because I love it or do I love it now because my students do? I read the other two plays in the trilogy a few years ago and I think they helped- I play up the incest component of Oedipus and Jocasta hard in my background lecture and the kids DIE when they hear about the curse. Boom. Total investment in what one students called “the incest babies.”

There are so many great thematic concepts to discuss with the kids that relate to current events- power/authority, corruption, gender roles, etc… Timeless.
Confession: choral parts are not my favorite, although I see the purpose and appreciate the context. Keep up the good work, guys. 

I had my students read this in small groups, outside, with their masks on, and 99% of them gave me positive feedback on it (I asked on a reading assignment and told them they’d get full credit no matter what). They said that it was great to get fresh air, so something different, that it was easier to discuss with their group, etc… it took six class periods and I loved it too! We will be outside much more often in the future. Take that, covid!

Can we just appreciate Haemon? He tries so hard to rationalize with his father and save Antigone.

Five Things About... Kafka on the Shore


I’ve owned this book for a very, very long time- so long that there’s a sticker for $14.95 from Borders (rip) on the back. I’m so angry at myself for waiting so long to get to it- if I had read it twelve years ago (or whatever) I would have probably read half his backlist by now. 

The timing of reading this book was perfect- coincidentally I am teaching Sophocles’ Antigone right now and am moving into Kafka’s Metamorphosis soon, both of which are tied to this text. Oedipus’ curse of killing his dad, sleeping with his mom, and finding himself in exile is also that of the main character, while Kafka-esque existentialism runs rampant (although interestingly, there’s a lot of absurdism in the text as well, which is not the same). There’s so much to unpack on a philosophical level that I probably need to read it again someday. 

This is my third Murakami book and I’m yet again so appreciative of his prose. He has this sort of ethereal quality that makes Japan seem sort of mysterious or delicate. His descriptions are perfect, his subtle wit is ever-present, and his dialogue spot on. He is notorious for his poorly-written sex scenes (I think he’s even won mock awards for this!), though, and this one does not disappoint. We’ll forgive him. 

There were many characters I was quite fond of, but the elderly Nakata, who has no memory of this past and can talk to cats was my favorite. 

The ending was a big fat slap in the face of WTFery; let’s just say slow-to-die giant slug emerging from a dead body level strangeness. I have my theories about that whole scene, and many other strange ones, but sometimes you have to accept magical realism, reading a book with cultural allusions and ties you might not understand, and the author’s own internal projections. I love reading about this book, but I’m also okay not truly understanding every piece of it. Fun fact- after this was written the publisher set up a website with questions, which topped out at 8,000ish. Murakami a answered 1,200, but unfortunately many haven’t been translated.

Five Things About... Nightbitch


Five things about Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder:

1. When people ask me what this book is about I tell them it's equal parts Kafka's Metamorphosis, Kevin Wilson's Family Fang, general mom angst, and feminism.

2. I love that the whole SAHM versus working-mom conundrum was explored in a diplomatic way. Basically, it's all challenging and the grass tends to be greener on the other side.

3. There are so many opposing forces in the text, which I found fascinating. Realism vs the absurd, science vs art, men vs women, employed vs unemployed, children vs parents, animals vs humans, day vs night... if we think about our lives, this perpetual tug-of-war is constant and part of the reason why we're always so exhausted. 

4. The evolution of the main character, who is unnamed in the beginning and then referred to as "Nightbitch, ironically, as the book continues, is a whirlwind. Her animalistic nature cannot be suppressed and the commentary on what can happen to us if we ignore our needs is loud and clear. The ultimate harnessing of this struggle and utilization of it for power, instead of seeing it only as a weakness, speaks volumes and provokes more questions about authenticity. 

5. This book isn't perfect; the pacing is a little off at points and I wish there was more to a one-sided emailing campaign the main character embarks on (but I get it, her evolution needed to be of her own volition). Nonetheless, I found the novel incredibly ambitious and unlike anything I've ever really read before. I can't wait to see what Yoder does next. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

1. We just completed the first grading period (six weeks) and it's going okay! I have had a few kids officially out with Covid, but guess what? The kids who sit in the areas surrounding them did not. Why, you ask? Because they are all wearing their masks properly and some are vaccinated. Science is the best.

2. Despite my issues with Newsom I was incredibly amused by the recall election results last week. I mean, nearly twice as many voted to not recall.... 

3. I finished Kafka on the Shore by Murakami yesterday and it was so impressive. I think I need to read it again to really let everything sink in (but probably won't any time soon), but what he does with his characters, the story, the setting, the themes... I could go on and on. It's a special book and I definitely need to read more by him.

4. Sawyer has to decorate a fake pumpkin as a book character for a contest at school and he didn't even hesitate before picking Dogman. Do I have time to help him do this? Not really. Am I so happy that he gets to do activities like this this year? For sure. And it is a pretty cute idea.

5. I went with my friend so she could get her first tattoo yesterday and it made me so sad that my appointment for my next (and probably last) one isn't until May (although not sad enough to find someone new... I go to Daniel Winter and his availability is pretty ridiculous if you're not a celebrity, haha. He does really great work and I need his fine lines, so I'll wait!). It was so much fun to see what other people were getting and see the different levels of nervousness. 

6. Every weekend I've been trying to get a little house project or extra chore done, and this week I did my succulents. Part of me is impressed that they were mostly alive after so much neglect, but part of me is deeply embarrassed that I've let them go for so long (years!). It does feel really good to knock some nagging things out, though.

7. My students are reading Sophocles' Antigone and we've been doing it outside in small groups and it has been the best (they keep their masks on). We are three days in and have three days left, and I'll be sad when it's over. They're so much more relaxed and conversational outside, which makes it a pleasure to walk around and get to hear them talking about the play. 

8. Last weekend Sawyer and I went up to a small lake in the mountains and walked around for a few hours. It was such a nice break from where we live and it we were still able to be back to swim and relax in the afternoon. I am really trying to take advantage of the nature that's within an hour or two of my house; I am so good when I travel, but I get stuck in a rut with a few places locally. Time to change things up!

Five Things About... We Are the Babysitter's Club

We Are the Babysitter’s Club: Essays and Artwork from Grown-Up Readers by various writers and artists 

As a huge BSC fan from about, maybe, second to fifth grade this was nostalgia city. I always wanted to be a Stacy, but was probably 80% Mary Anne, 10% Kristy and 10% Mallory.
I loved the mix of both critical and complimentary pieces. There’s a lot to dissect when looking at treatment of race, disabilities, and gender. Martin got some of it right, ahead of her time, and some not so much. 

The collection was representative of a diverse group of writers and artists, which I really appreciated. BSC meant so many different things to so many different people. 

I love that I wasn’t the only person who loathed the chapter reviewing who everyone was and what they were like at the beginning of each book. The worst. 

The flow and organization was well-done, but I will say one minor complaint I did have was that a few of the pieces felt slightly redundant. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts


1. Still in shock that LA Unified is mandating vaccines- obviously we know I am pro-vax, but I am a little surprised that they're making such a bold move, given their size. I love that they had a closed-door session yesterday that had one agenda item- impending litigation (or something like that). They know it's coming and they give zero effs! It will be interesting to see if other districts follow.

2. Things have been going relatively smoothly this week and I've been really trying to adjust my thinking from "when is something bad going to happen?" to "let's just enjoy this." I've also been really thinking ahead to the next few months and have made a list of all the things I want to do, safely, and it just makes me happy. 

3. I'm reading Nightbitch still and am  loving connecting it to Kafka's Metamorphosis. I'm reading Kafka on the Shore by Murakami, coincidentally, which I find amusing ("tell us you're an English teacher without telling us you're an English teacher"). 

4. This weekend is shaping up to be pretty great- Saturday morning I plan on going up into the mountains and doing a little morning hike with Sawyer and then Sunday I have plans to walk with a friend in the morning and then we are meeting up with Sawyer's friend's family outside for some ice cream. Friends, outdoors, and food- right up my alley. 

5. Everyone is telling me to watch The Chair, and I promise, I want to, and I will. Not sure if it will be this calendar year, but eventually I'll get there. 

6. There's a new illustrated Jim Kay Harry Potter book coming out this month that looks at "366 moments" at Hogwarts (or something like that). We'll see if I can keep it for Sawyer for Christmas or if I let him have it early. It looks like so much fun! We're reading the fourth book verrrrrrry slowly, which is actually sort of nice, since we get a little Potter every day. 

7. I haven't done any writing, really, outside of the blog and my journal, in a long time, but I'm thinking of entering a flash fiction contest next month. It's only $30 bucks or so, and I love the premise of having to be concise and fast. I did one several years ago and was picked to go to the next round but got super, super sick and couldn't complete my entry! I need a second chance!

8. I told myself I'd order a Milk Bar cake for my birthday this year, but that I said maybe I could get it at the end of October after making through the world's longest teaching month... now I'm like "end of the first grading period?" (next week). I made the version in her cook book and it's really good, but they are a TON of work. We'll see how long I last. 

9. I resisted Olaplex for a looooooong time, but I finally bought and used Number 8 and after one use I might have to cave in and get more products. It's just so good. Gah. 


5... things about Labor Day Weekend
- I drove to Modesto super early Saturday morning for my sister's bridal shower. She's getting married next month, so I'll be back on the road before I know it
- I got lost in the country on the way to my other sister's new house, since she GAVE ME THE WRONG ADDRESS. It was actually kind of nice, since I passed by my mom's ex-boyfriend's dairy twice, saw where my old friend used to live, and drove by some people who let us swim in their pool when we were little (they had a slide, it was a really big deal). I didn't grow up in the country-proper, but in a subdivision on the outskirts of the town. It's the best of both worlds
- I have some SERIOUS issues with the Central Valley (see also: how do we get all the Larry Elder signs removed?), but that moment when I come down the 99 from the Grapevine and see the fields I get this super nostalgic "I'm home" feeling. A few minutes later I swore a crop duster was about to hit my car, I kid you not.
- For the first time in a year and a half I stayed in a hotel alone and for maybe the fourth time since having a kid and getting a new dog I slept "in" until 8 (not joking, I can count on one hand how many times I've slept in since Sawyer was born).
- I made my family of to my favorite taqueria and ice cream place, not that they seemed to mind

4... books I'm currently reading
- Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder
- Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
- The Molecule of More by Daniel Lieberman and Michael Long
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling 

3... things about fall I'm looking forward to
- cooler weather cooler weather cooler weather (and it hasn't been that hot)
- doing some of our normal Halloween things we didn't get to do last year (my husband and I have talked about how to do trick-or-treating, dressing up to go to Knott's Berry Farm, and a few other things safely and I believe we have arrived at a good plan) 
- hiking more! After getting in so many miles in Tahoe (over thirty over three days) with Sawyer I'm so ready to hit some local ones

2... books arriving tomorrow
- Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney (I feel so conflicted about Rooney...)
- Matrix by Lauren Groff (a true test of whether Groff can do no wrong) 

1... thing I might as well set a Google alert for, since I check alllllll day
- news on Pfizer submitting 5-11 vax data to the FDA. They said September, okay? 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Since starting my "Five Things About..." posts I won't be doing separate monthly recap posts here. I did read seven book in August, pictured above, though! Clearly I've needed to escape.  

The fires in Lake Tahoe are breaking my heart. We were there in July and they Tamarack Fire had just started- it has gotten a million times worse. I have a friend on the east side of South Lake and I keep checking to make sure it hasn't gotten to her. 

The theme of this week has been "death by a thousand cuts"- lots of generally manageable problems piling up and up and up. Finally last night I had to give myself a massive pep talk (and it was only Tuesday, haha) and totally refigure my expectations for many different things. After a truly horrific start to my morning today I rallied and might not die after all. 

I am going out of town this weekend and I asked Sawyer what he was going to do with his dad while I was gone and he said that they'd "have a party" where they would "eat cake and draw pictures for each other." Scott hates cake, so it will probably be more like Sour Patch Kids, but I can't wait to see their drawings, haha. I love how my son is so satisfied with the small, fun things in life.

On that note, a friend and I were just chatting about how the last two years and impacted out kids. I know that a lot of people focus on what their kids have lost, but I think a lot of us will be surprised (well, if we've set a good example, that is). My son knows a lot about being safe for our community, trusting science, making fun with what's around us, and about some of what goes on in current events (we still talk about the shooting of George Floyd on a monthly basis... Sawyer wanted to write a "mean" letter to Derrick Chavin in prison which was one part awesome and one part a little sudden). 

I haven't spent the night alone in a hotel room since February of 2020, before a half marathon, which meant I got up before dawn. I also can count the number of times I have been able to sleep in past 7:45 am since Sawyer was born in 2014 on one hand, so the fact that I am going to be alone in a hotel this weekend and not have to set my alarm the next morning is next-level MAGICAL. 

I am reading Murakami's Kafka on the Shore and boy oh boy oh boy did things just get weird. 

I just realized I haven't watched any sort of anything in almost a month- I clearly don't miss it. 

I absolutely do not support what is happening with reproductive rights in Texas at all.