Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts


 
1. See above for what I read in August! I really, really loved the Louise Erdrich one and Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow (so much better than Ready Player Two...)

2. I got my Covid Booster on Thursday night and, like my predicted clockwork, it knocked me out twenty-four hours later for twelve hours (I always get Moderna and always have pretty strong side effects). I was so confident in the timing that I even agreed to go to Happy Hour yesterday evening, and I felt totally fine until I got home, haha. I know there is some who think we should wait a bit to get it, but my husband has really big work trips in October and November, so this works best for our family. 

3. September has been quite the month for home repairs issues, and it's barely half way through (cue crying emoji). We had to have a huge tree removed in the back yard, our eleven-year-old dryer quit so we replaced the pair, and then the pool guy texted yesterday with the news that our salt cell was dead. The joys of home ownership, right?

4. Despite the home stuff, this month has been a lot of fun so far- my friend had a big Roaring 20s dress up birthday party that another friend and I went to, my new babysitter has come over again and we absolutely love her, my husband survived flying to Seattle (he hates flying) for work, Sawyer had to memorize a poem for school and did wonderfully, I have gotten together with a few friends, and, most importantly, it is no longer 106 degrees. 

5. I got the weirdest, best mail yesterday: my Warby Parker try-ons, a kit that will supposedly teach me how to crochet a penguin, and Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt.

6. I don't know if I am going to listen to them all, but I just discovered the Podcast on Spotify 60 Songs that Explain the '90s. Such a flashback to my youth- the first one is Alanis Morrissette's "You Oughta Know," so we're off with a bang! 

7. There are SO many good new released this fall- I made a reel for my bookstagram account (@bookishlyb) but don't know how to get it here/don't have the time to figure it out, so maybe I can get my shit together and do a post. Debatable.

8. Honestly, I do consider shuttering this blog a few times a month, just because I hate doing things I can't consistently maintain. I don't want to, though, since it's a fun time capsule of a really huge chunk of my adult life, and I do enjoy popping on just to write a few times a month. I enjoy writing things that aren't emails, student assignments, etc... so that alone is probably reason enough to keep going. More than anything, I just need to reframe what exactly my expectations are for the space. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts




August! It's over! I managed to read six books this month, but it has been really full life-wise (hence no posts here). Some of the highlights (and a few lows):

- Sawyer started school and all is well between his new teacher, the center that transports him before/after school, etc... He goes to art class a few times a month and is now doing weekly swim lessons, since we've talked about him joining a swim team someday (I have maxed out on what I can teach him, which is pretty limited, so now I need a professional)
- I am wrapping up my fifth week back, which is crazy. The days themselves can drag on and be really tiring, but as a whole the year is off to a quick start
- My husband is traveling A LOT for work, which is so weird, since he never has before. Luckily I am a very independent woman who has no problem holding down the fort (pats self on back) 
- We have to have a tree removed from our backyard tomorrow and I'm pretty sad about it. It's a huge eucalyptus, but the roots are doing some damage, so it's time to pull it out before anything becomes too expensive. I am pretty nervous about it all, since it's right next to pool equipment, but they're insured and I'll be at work the whole time. By the time I get home it should all be over 
- I went hiking last weekends with some friends and then we had brunch afterwards- my idea of a perfect friend date
- WE FOUND A BABYSITTER! She is an old student now in graduate school and I trust her completely. We did a trial run a few weeks ago and it went smoothly, so she's coming this weekend for a longer stretch. The prospect of all the future dinner's out with just my husband is so exciting (not that I don't love taking Sawyer places, but we are together A LOT)
- The three of us went to the Hollywood Bowl to see Back to the Future. It was so fun! 
- I renewed mine and Sawyer's Knott's Berry Farm passes, which we haven't had for awhile. I had gotten a little sick of it and probably will again, but it's fun for a few hours. We thought about getting Disneyland season passes for a minute, but we'd have to go like once a month to make them worth it and I'm more of a go-once-a-year kind of person, so we opted to not. 

And a few more things...

- I have gotten super in to the band Lord Huron this summer and I'm so bummed I missed my chance to see them in concert when they were touring 

- I am SO glad Sawyer's new teacher doesn't use Class Dojo (it's this app that connects the teacher to the parents and allows them to award points for things, take away points, post messages/pictures, etc...). I think it could be utilized well, like I have friends who just use it for messaging, but I think teachers should just handle their day-to-day classroom management in their room without a sort of tattle-tale big brother sort of app (and Sawyer only got one point taken away all year... I just don't like it). 

- I am so happy for the people that the student loan relief bill will help! I paid mine off last year, so I won't benefit, but I know people who will. It doesn't take away from the fact that their is a HUGE problem with the ridiculous college costs that exist now, but at least it's a little help

- Let me just tell you, the two minutes you're on hold with your kid's school secretary trying to figure out why they were marked absent after you are very sure you dropped them off at the daycare center that transports them is excruciating. Because there's this middleman taking him to school I check his attendance through an app every minute to make sure he made (and on time). One day last week he was marked absent, just a few days after a registered sec offender managed to get on a nearby elementary school campus. Luckily his teacher just made a mistake, which I know I've done, but I probably lost a year off of my life!

- I can't wait for this weekend! Despite it being 106-110 degrees, I have big plans. My friend's Roaring 20s costume party is this weekend and another friend is my date since my husband has a work trip, another friend is coming over to swim one day, and then Sawyer and I are taking Ellie to meet another friend's puppy (this will probably go poorly for the dogs, since Ellie is terrified of other animals). 


Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts



Hey! It's me! I'm back from an incredibly busy stretch of the summer. Since we last chatted, I have:
- taken Sawyer aquarium
- had two book clubs
- chauffeured Sawyer to and from art camp for a week
- drove to the Bay Area to pick up my sister and while there spent the day in San Francisco 
- spent a day in La Jolla with Sawyer and my sister
- had a park reading date with the above two
- did eight miles of hiking with friends in Big Bear (our Half Dome trip was canceled because of a fire, but we rallied and made the best out of it!)
- met family for the day in San Louis Obispo, which is four hours a day

I started back at work yesterday and was quickly reminded as to how much planning goes into being a working mom, if things need to run smoothly. Luckily this happens every single year and I rapidly acclimate to the rush of work days (Sawyer hasn't even started school again yet, nor do I have any grading! That's when the true craziness begins.

My husband and I got to go out to a non-child-friendly restaurant in a different city last night, since my sister is in town. And in a few weeks we get to go out again, since we finally found a babysitter. A miracle!

I am about 100 pages into Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin and I love it so much. Don't be put off by the synopsis- it's really great and not about videogames.

I read seven books last month- all of them were really solid except Cult Classic. I definitely prefer Sloane Crosley's essays. 



I'm kind of at a standstill in terms of how I want to handle reviews here and on Instagram. I've tried doing quick little bullet points and monthly round ups, but nothing really sticks. Honestly, I think I'm probably just going to do whatever I feel like! Definitely a round-up picture/post, but maybe just mention the ones I really like or have time for. 

We finally caught up with Yellowstone and this is totally the fastest I have watched anything since Sawyer was born- I love the show so much I'll probably start re-watching episodes on the treadmill. All I know is that I wish there was a little more Beth in me, because there are have needed some of her sass. 

So, how did I do on the list of things I needed to finish up before ending the summer? 

- finish six books (YUP)
- finish current embroidery project (NOPE)
- embroider a necklace (I have these little sort of metal settings that are clearly hard to describe) (YES, but redoing) 
- have a fun weekend in the bay area/SF when driving up to get my sister (YUP)
- have loose ideas for the first week and a half with students (YUP)
- do some boring yard work (YUP)
- Half Dome ready (I need to go to REI, stay active, etc...) (YUP, but didn't actually go)

Bookish Banter: Middlesex

Hey! It's me! I'm alive! Until my next update, here's a conversation between Julz and I about a reread for both of us- Jeffrey Eugenides' Middlesex. It's hard for me to reread things, since there are just sooooo many books to read as is, but I always walk away with a new, deeper understanding and appreciation that I should do it more often.


Christine: Obviously fate versus free will is a huge thematic component in the text, which is a nice tie back to the classical references and ancestry. Then there’s also the idea of nature versus nurture, which is an interesting extension of that concept. How much control did the characters have of their lives? Their futures?

Julz:  I think free will was more prevalent than fate.  Sure, there were things that were beyond the characters’ control, like civil unrest and the goings on of the wider world, but every decision they made shaped the lives of their family.  Like, um, marrying your brother! 

I could totally relate to Callie here:  “Gradually as most of the other girls in my grade began to undergo their own transformations, I began to worry less about possible accidents and more about being left behind, left out.”  That was so me until my junior year of high school.

Christine: Father Mike and Jimmy Zizmo both marry into the family and end up showing their corruption (although Zizmo is much more overt and immediate). Both are religious figures and are outsiders- what do you think Eugenides is saying about those not blood related to the family? Or even religion (I know Zizmo’s organization wasn’t exactly traditional)?

Julz: I think the way Eugenides addressed religion made it sound more like superstition and it felt like he was rolling his eyes at the concept of organized religion. Maybe that’s why he portrayed Mike and Jimmy as corrupt, as they were a reflection of those institutions.  Hmmm?

Christine: Agreed! Speaking of secondary male characters, what do you think of Dr. Luce? Part of me hated him for treating Cal as a mere specimen, but if I try to look at things objectively, he’s a scientist and this is a really, really different time period when it comes to sexuality and patient transparency. 

Julz: Well, that can circle back to the nature versus nurture concept.  Luce was convinced that despite her maleness, Cal could continue as female because that’s how she was nurtured.  I didn’t really feel strongly either way with how Luce handled Cal.  I think he expressed enough compassion toward her, and yet, there was a bit of detachment when studying her.  Hey, it was the 70’s they were all probably smoking cigarettes in his office.

Christine: I loved this book, despite forgetting a lot of it (I did read a really long time ago, in my defense), but I had one criticism, and that was of some of the symbolism being a bit too obvious, namely the spoon and the house address. Any nitpicky problems? 

Julz: I didn’t think Eugenides was hitting me over the head with symbolism any more than say, John Irving.  I read it probably 15 years ago, and it was pretty much like reading it for the first time again.  This book definitely cemented my love for multigenerational family epics (unabashed plug for Ursula, Under by Ingrid Hill). 

My one irritation was that we didn’t get the punchline to Cal referring to her brother as Chapter Eleven until the very end.

And funny enough, the first time I read this book, I highlighted the following (about the house on Middlesex Boulevard): “…communism, better in theory than reality.”  I’m guessing I did that because it’s so similar to a quote from the Simpsons.

Christine: I will have to check that one out. I always say that I don’t like them and then end up eating my words, hah!

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts



I have never had such an immediate nostalgia for a vacation before, this one for the Tetons starts basically immediately upon returning home (Yellowstone was cool, but those Tetons... man). In order to curb this I made a list of some places to go to shake things up a bit this fall, to get me out of suburbia. One plan that I'm most looking forward to is at one point taking a half day on a Friday, driving up to Visalia, and then going to the Sequoia National Forest to hike on Saturday and then returning the following day. I've also never been to Joshua Tree (honestly, I don't have a huge calling toward desert landscape, but I have National Park pass now, so I might as well use it) nor have I taken the aerial tram from Palm Springs up to San Jacinto Mountain to hike. Sigh. I'm trying.

In an attempt to escape through the written word, all three of the books I am reading right now are nature-based (and so good!)- Fuzz by Mary Roach, The Salt Path by Raynor Winn, and 100 Hikes of a Lifetime by Kate Siber. I need to finish something so that I can start rereading Middlesex for a buddy read with Julie (and then start Young Mungo for book club next week!). 

Last week we laid low after Sawyer got a twenty-four(ish) stomach bug that through him for a major loop. We tested him a few times for Covid, but luckily it was just a quick virus (that no one else got!).

Yesterday the three of us went to Legoland, which was lots of fun. We got there when it opened, did all the rides before the crowds started, and let Sawyer obsess about the model cities. 

We are supposed to hike Half Dome in two and a half weeks, but there's a pretty bad fire at the south entrance, where we enter from, right now. I'm also concerned about air quality and the heat... 

I finished the LEGO typewriter set the other day! It was a bit tedious and maybe not as fun as the other sets I've done, but it wasn't too hard. It moves like a normal typewriter but doesn't actually type. 

There are three weeks left of summer vacation- here are my biggest to-dos:
- finish six books
- finish current embroidery project
- embroider a necklace (I have these little sort of metal settings that are clearly hard to describe)
- have a fun weekend in the bay area/SF when driving up to get my sister
- have loose ideas for the first week and a half with students 
- do some boring yard work
- Half Dome ready (I need to go to REI, stay active, etc...)

A Few Things About... Happy-Go-Lucky by David Sedaris



This collection of essays from Sedaris is in line with his others, covering topics ranging from family, his partner, culture, his book tours, and current events (including BLM protests and the pandemic). This isn't a bad thing- it's what he does, combined with his candor, wit, and quirky observations.

Sedaris said he answers snail mail fan letters, so I am going to write him one and ask him to by Fitbit friends with me, since we are both hardcore step fiends. I told Scott and the look he gave me was PURE judgement, hahahaha. I told my two friends who are also reading this and they totally egged me on. True friends, true friends. 

Sedaris always writes about his family, but he spends quite a bit of time discussing the death of his father, whom he had a rough relationship with. I appreciate that he doesn't romanticize his feelings after he loses him- so often once someone dies they become a hero, despite sometimes hurtful flaws. 

No matter how I feel, pandemic writing is here to stay. Sedaris' doesn't make me feel pessimistic or anxious, but thankful we've come so far. 

A Few Things About... No One is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood



If you want to feel guilty about how much time you spend on your phone or other device then THIS BOOK IS FOR YOU. The unnamed main character spends most of the book completely and totally absorbed in "the portal" which is basically just her online presence. Eventually a family crisis brings her out of it a bit, but the fact that she was just so entrenched is a lesson for us all. 

Lockwood's satirical, over-the-top writing may not be for everyone, but despite laying it on a bit thick at time it certainly is effective. So much of social media and "softer" news sites is so trivial and mundane, and we know it. Lockwood also provides continuous commentary on the ever-changing internet vernacular, forcing her audience to question the origins of phrases and words that pop into circulation. 

While Lockwood's efforts are admirable, I do think that at times she overuses shock value, whether it's in passing online comments the narrator is reading or her sister's baby terminal disease. I think this can be a really useful technique, but just a touch overused here. 

When David Sedaris promoted it at his reading (and Lockwood came out and read from it!) he mentioned how it was perfect for millennials with short attention spans, since the format is comprised of super short paragraphs.  

"Was that Satisfying?"


 

"What did you do all day?" Louisa asked.

There had been a time when Mirella liked Louisa's questions- what a gift, she'd once thought, to be with someone who was so interested, interested in everything she'd done all day, someone who cared enough to ask- but tonight it was an intrusion.

"Went for a walk. Did some laundry. Stared at Instagram, mostly." 

"Was that satisfying?"

"Of course not," Mirella said, a little sharper than she'd intended, and Louisa gave her a surprised look. 

Sea of Tranquility, Emily St. John Mandel (60)

---------

Was that satisfying? 

Ever since finishing Sea of Tranquility  the other day I keep returning to this seemingly inconsequential line, which also tends to elicit humming of a certain Rolling Stones song, naturally. It also reminds me a little of Marie Kondo's nauseating phrase "does it spark joy?" (no Marie, my iron doesn't spark joy, but sometimes I need to remove the goddamn wrinkles from my shirt, so back the hell off). But, this is different. Was that satisfying?

Simply put "satisfying" means "giving fulfillment or the pleasure associated with this." I mean, that's really the basis for a happy life, right? Or at least contentment, being fulfilled and finding pleasure, both of which come in all shapes and sizes. 

Satisfaction is so personal and can vary within one person, dependent on the time, day, or phase in life. A satisfying weekend to me as a college student (cheap cookies, an afternoon binging illegally downloaded movies with my boyfriend, and news of a canceled class) is so drastically different from me now as a thirty-eight-year-old (slaying a long to-do list, a good meal, time with friends, time with family, a tough workout, and some sort of activity out of the house... clearly it takes a lot more now, haha). Satisfaction depends on what our goals and desires are, as well. I am satisfied when I feel productive, active, and involved, while others would feel the opposite. There's a billion different types of satisfaction, as well: emotional, physical, professional, personal, spiritual, gastronomical, creative, social, cultural, familial- the list goes on and on. It's more than just happiness, but it can be an integral part of what brings us joy in our lives. 

I think there's a difference between short term satisfaction and long-term, as well. This could be with healthy habits (maybe walking is satisfying today, but over time will it really support long-term fitness goals?), finances, careers, and who choose to spend our time with. 

More than anything, I found two points of importance in this phrase. The first is in regards to myself. Is what I am doing bringing satisfaction? I hate folding laundry, but the idea of clean clothes and being done with a tedious chore does in fact satisfy me. A work out? Definitely. Time spent playing with my son? Sure! And while I never sit down on the couch to watch TV alone, an hour  or two watching something with my husband satisfies the need to have time with just him (as opposed to conversation interrupted by a certain little kid, work emails, chores, the dog, etc...). This works the other way, too, though. This morning I found myself getting carried away with my Instagram scrolling- five minutes was a satisfying break from responsibilities, but the fifteen minutes I was approaching felt like a time suck, which was where the "was that satisfying?" question comes into play.

The second point of importance is a return to above when I remarked satisfaction being different for others. Sometimes I hear how others spend their time and I just... don't get it. But satisfaction is personal and after a long day at work or caring for kids a few hours binging crappy TV really is a satisfying release for them (just how I'd prefer ice cream to carrots). As my son CONSTANTLY reminds us, mostly when we're telling him he's incorrect, "different people like different things." 

While nothing is perfect,  this phrase is a good reminder to focus on what brings value to our lives but also the permission to slow down and enjoy what does bring us satisfaction. 

A Few Things About... This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub




This book is about time travel, but, thank goodness, really is not. Sci-Fi isn't my favorite genre, but Straub makes this trope her own and focuses more on Alice, the main character's, relationship with her ailing father and the decisions she's made in her life.

Books like this are always meant to make you pause and take stock of your life- what if you would have done things differently? What would you change if you could go back in time? I'm a little concerned that this is going to become an overused genre (can we blame The Midnight Library?), but I did appreciate that there was a lot of foundational context provided before this element entered the plot. 

If you need a pool/beach read but don't want to slum it, this is a perfect book. Straub is a solid writer, the plot moves quickly and there are some endearing quirky moments. Still, you can look up occasionally to check on kids, doze off, or grab a drink and you won't feel lost.

I didn't love the ending- maybe just me, but I thought it was a little abrupt. 

A Few Things About... Talk to Me by TC Boyle




I find primates fascinating, in terms of their genetic similarities to humans and how that can result in such complex relationships with people when they are held captive. This is definitely the case in the novel as we see Aimee forge such a close bond with Sam, a chimp that is being taught by a researcher to communicate using an incredibly broad vocabulary. 

Aimee's character development was fascinating- she starts off as such a quiet, lonely student, but then forges these incredibly strong bonds with Guy, the researcher, and Sam. Do her choices show a sense of independence, though, or an inability to be alone and hence the decision to succumb to co-dependency? There are moments when she exerts such strength, yet it tends to be done to preserve her relationship with the chimp, especially.

The peek into the bureaucracy of financing scientific projects at the university level was interesting and, unfortunately, I think, despite the book taking place many years ago, it's still the same. What's going to create the most published articles? How much will be gained or lost? What will make the facility look the best? What's good now, as opposed to the future?

The ending was a little zany, which I guess you can't not expect when reading a book on the subject matter. 

A Few Things About... Election and Tracy Flick Can't Win by Tom Perrotta



I quickly reread Election, since it had been a very long time. I will say that I think it’s the stronger of the two, just in terms of writing. Perrotta is more subtle and effortless with his wit in the first, and while the second one is definitely not bad, it feels forced at some points.

I love Tracy Flick in both,  and I think there are things I identify with in her adult character. I understand deciding on a different career path than originally intended, measuring your self-worth by your productivity, and stifling your emotions to plow forward and save face (don’t I sound like so much FUN? haha). I also loved that she ended up in education, since I can definitely relate to that. 

Perrotta’s format is similar for both- he ties a cast of characters together, examining intricacies of their lives, allowing the reader to empathize in situations we might not otherwise. The only drawback is that in the second one, especially, I would have liked to see maybe one or two threads left out and more depth with others. 

The ending of Tracy Flick was definitely written for a movie in mind… let’s just keep it at that

Five Things About... Vladimir by Julia May Jones



First of all, I liked that this book focused on the sexuality of a middle-aged woman who was starting to grapple with the implications of really aging. At thirty-eight I do occasionally wonder what this phase of life will be like, so I appreciated the glimpse. There was a level of physical insecurity that the narrator constantly battled, which I think runs counter to this popular assumption that women after a certain age often "let themselves go." 

I tend to enjoy the academia trope, which this definitely unders. The narrator, her husband, and her object of desire are all professors and much of the background is set at a college in upstate New York. 

While I can see how some might criticize the narrator's voice, it is uniquely hers. She is deeply flawed and makes some very poor decisions, yet there's an honesty there that I at least found interesting. She really is embodying this sort of stereotype that has been created about many male professors- she's pretentious, she's opinionated, and she's egotistical. Her husband is all of this and more, so in order to survive in her marriage and at the college she works at she's become this way as a defensive maneuver. 

I appreciated the look into an unconventional marriage; it's not open... but it's not closed. Granted her husband takes advantage of this (and some of his students) more than she does, but she agrees to it and is vocal about that. There are a lot of issues between the two of them, but deep down there is love and I think that as a society we are just now slowly coming round to the idea that marriage means different things to different people. My husband and I are faithful, but there are things about our relationship that others raise their eyes at (separate bank accounts, I didn't change my name, he doesn't generally travel with us, etc...), so I like the idea of embracing more progressive moves. 

The last fifty pages are ridiculous. I mean, they're entertaining as hell, but things get a little crazy and I don't know if all the plot choices were the right ones. 

Mid-Year 2022 Goals Check In


 
I've made prioritizing my 2022 goals a serious thing- I have a chart for each month printed out on a clipboard in my office that I update and I am trying to do a few of these posts too. Here where I am not that we are half way (!) through this year:

Read 75 books- right now I am ahead of schedule 

Average one non-stretching yoga workout a week- I am behind here, mostly because I am prioritizing prepping for Half Dome next month. Obviously yoga would help that too, but I always find myself jacking up the incline on the treadmill. Hopefully I can get back on track so my average hits my goal

Either do a DIY home project or pay someone to do something- Yup! Since March we've had a ceiling leak fixed, rooms painted, sprinklers fixed, security cameras installed, door locks replaced, and I have started adding soil to flower beds 

Pay off car- yup, a few months ago!

Hike once a month- above and beyond

Donate each month to a cause- I have monthly contributions set up for Planned Parenthood and Doctor's Without Borders

Stay on top of book reviews, posts, etc...- Barely, but not horrible (I have like 8 books I need to catch up on right now)

Organize something each month- yup! 

Send a card via snail mail each month- good here too

120 Forest App Hours per month- Yes, but no margin for error.  

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts- Vacation Edition



I have never played the lottery, but I might need to start so that I can afford a summer home in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The Grand Tetons were hands down the prettiest place I've been to in the United States, and other than Banff, maybe ever (yup, more so than other very naturally attractive places I have been to, like Hawaii, Tahoe, the Caribbean, and Tuscany!). We've been home for a few days and I am wistfully going through pictures, so I'll use this post to relive some of the memories:

We flew from Southern California to Salt Lake City super early in the morning, since I wanted some time to start vacationing that day still. I conferred with one of Scott's cousins who lives up there and she gave me the prettiest route from Utah to Wyoming- the five hours flew by because I could not stop drooling over the landscape (Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming). Sawyer is a great little traveler, so despite leaving the house at 3:40 am he was in good spirits for the rest of the day. 

When we arrived we quickly dumped our stuff at the hotel, drove to the Tetons (about 20 minutes from our hotel in Jackson Hole) to scope out the next day's trailhead, went back to town to hit up the grocery store, and then walked around before dinner. We had a suite, but I generally make it a point to NOT cook on vacation. Since we were going to be hiking all day I had to get some provisions, though, and was thankful for the kitchen to keep everything. 

Oh, and we also had to rent bear spray, a first for me. The nice man at the wilderness supply store answered all of Sawyer's 8297429 questions- employee of the year. 


The next day we drove to Jenny Lake, which is just impossibly stunning. Ever five minutes either Sawyer and I would just say, "it's so pretty!" It was raining a little bit when we first arrived, so we waited for it to pass and then did a nine mile hike that took us all the way around the lake with a detour for a waterfall and a lookout. I can't get over the views of the Tetons and the lake- take me back! That night we walked into Jackson Hole for take out, which we ate at a park. We heard honks and yelling, which turned out to be a protest in the town square (the Roe ruling came out that day). We hung out there for awhile and then walked to an Elk preserve and saw zero elk (still super pretty). There was also excessive ice cream eating, as to be expected. 




The following day we did a ten mile hike in another part of the Tetons, near Jackson Lake. Also stunning, but a bit more buggy (poor Sawyer, they loved him). We then drove up to the Jackson Hole ski resort and took a tram up over 4,000 feet to Rendezvous Mountain (which tops out at 10,450 feet). I am not afraid of heights, but I was a tiny bit concerned about mechanical failure... luckily there was a waffle shack at the top that kept my eye on the prize. There was also a lot of snow, which was super cool for Sawyer. 


The next day we drove to Yellowstone! They are using an alternating license plate system to help curb the crowds after the flooding, so we didn't have to fight throngs of people to see Old Faithful or any of the geothermal pools (which were so awesome). We also had the total Yellowstone bison experience- we got stuck in a traffic jam with them and were able to park and be within a few yards. They smell horribly, but it was worth it. Sawyer and I were absolutely giddy. 




Then we drove back to Salt Lake City and came home!

All in all, it was one of my favorite trips, ever. There were two snafus, though, which I feel obligated to mention so that it doesn't seem like complete perfection. Right after I drove through the Tetons and was headed into Yellowstone Delta texted me that they had canceled my flight for the next morning and rescheduled it twenty-four hours later. That was not going to work, but I had basically no cell service. Eventually I had one bar, pulled over and managed to get a flight home for the right day and four hours earlier. While waiting for the change I managed to get another night at the hotel, but the car had to be taken back, since rentals are out of control. Nonetheless, it was taken care of in an hour or two and ended up fine. And considering the state of current air travel I was pretty sure something would happen! 

The second issue happened when we arrived at our hotel in Salt Lake, less than ten hours from when we had to leave for our new return flight. Sawyer was in horrible stomach pain- it almost ended up being like a weird bout of quick food poisoning... or something? Without details, I was a little stressed because there was not backup plan (I ALWAYS have at least one). I couldn't take a sick kid on an airplane (we had to leave the hotel at 5 am the next morning) and I couldn't drive home to California because of the rental situation. I slept very little and even at 1 AM he was still whimpering in his sleep. Miraculously, when I woke him at 4:45 he was 100% fine. 

So, a few hours of stress in one trip- not bad! I'll take it! Traveling requires flexibility and traveling alone with a kid even more so! 

One thing I've always known but spent quite a bit of time thinking about this trip was that I am not in love with where I live (I live in Socal, but inland, where it's hot, dry, crowded, and a little too conservative). Sure, I can drive to the mountains, beach, or desert in an hour or two, which is awesome, but there are just so many more natural places out there. I'm not moving, since I do love my life here (friends, house, job), but it just reinforces my determination to travel. 

Oh, and I did read Tom Perrotta's new one and most of David Sedaris' while in airports, especially. 

Five Things About... Unlikely Animals by Annie Hartnett



This book feels a lot like The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff (although I enjoyed this one more) or even The Gilmore Girls. Quirky plot and characters, small town vibes, and a young smart (but floundering) protagonist. Also: a fox imported from Russia, a dying dad who does some pretty outrageous things as a result of his memory loss, a crazy community musical production, a private hunting compound for the filthy rich, and a sweet dog named Moses. 

Magical realism is one of my favorite genres, and this one has a magical healing touch and some ghosts. 


The narrator is this sort of omniscient cast of spirits at the local cemetery. It is a loose spin off of the Greek Chorus, but far less stuffy or preachy. They’re there, they know what’s best, and they’re very dead.


The main character spends quite a bit of the book substitute teaching and becoming involved with the small class of fifth graders. I love that Hartnett chose to go the endearing route with the students, and she spends a lot of time developing mutual growth in Emma and the kids. 


The opioid crisis was also addressed on the text, with the main character’s brother a recovering addict and the teacher she is subbing for involved with the issue. 

Summer TBR



{so, this has been sitting in my drafts for a few weeks and I totally forgot about it! I've already read several of these, but I didn't want a post to go to waste!)

Oh, summer break, so many of your activities lend themselves so nicely to reading. Travel? Yup, on the plane, in the hotel, on a balcony. Pool lounging? Of course. Hot temps that need to be avoided? Find my on the couch with a book in one hand and a tug-of-war rope for the dog in the other. Temporary SAHMing? Let's have "reading time" together at the park! Not to mention the fact that I don't have papers to grade, lessons to plan, concerns to stress about, time spent commuting, a grueling 5:08 am weekday alarm, time spent helping my kid with his homework and ALL the other time demands of the normal work year. 

Just, really, so much time to read.

So, what's on the docket? 

Here's the list of books I plan to get to over the next two glorious book-filled months:

Fiction:

Unlikely Animals by Annie Hartness 

Young Mungo by Douglas Stuart

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood

Vladimir by Julia May Jonas

This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub

The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante

Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel

The Candy House by Jennifer Egan

Tracy Flick Can't Win by Tom Perrotta

Cult Classic by Sloane Crosley 

Non-Fiction

The Gardener and the Carpenter by Alison Gopnik

Happy-Go-Lucky by David Sedaris 

Buried in the Sky by Peter Zuckerman and Amanda Padoan

Black, White, and the Grey by Mashama Bailey and John Morisano  

From where I sit, fourteen books might be possible? 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

[It's me and my wedding date!]


Hello from summer! I am taking a break from making sure we are set for our trip to the Grand Tetons (and maybe a day at Yellowstone, depending on if their reopening of the south entrance goes as planned). I haven't flown with Sawyer in four years (when we went to Banff), so I feel a little discombobulated. I keep reminding myself that 90% of what I need to pack can be picked up at a store in Wyoming if need be, so it's FINE. I am just thankful the weather looks good, we didn't end up with Covid after an EXTREMELY close contact scare at my sister's wedding, and that I am able to do this in terms of finances and time. Now about that 3 am alarm tomorrow morning... it's fineeeeeee.

We went to Modesto a week and a half ago for my sister's wedding and it was a blast. I hadn't seen my brother in two and a half years, so we spent a lot of time together, and there were other family members that it was good to see. We did a lot of "Modesto things"- bowling at the local bowling alley, eating at places unique to there, some mini golf next to the Blue Diamond Almond packing facility, and going to the American Graffiti Parade. The wedding itself was absolutely beautiful- it was at a lavender farm, the temperatures dropped from 104 a few days prior to 85, and Sawyer was a rock star junior groomsman. It was the first time my siblings and mom have all been together in three or so years, so it was nice. 

Circling back to the Covid thing- we are so, so, so lucky we didn't get it. But, I was super cautious, which I think some people were sort of rolling their eyes at, but HEY, I have a HUGE trip to go on and I wasn't going to let it get ruined. We avoided all inside gatherings at my mom's house where masking would have been weird, we wore our masks when we were bowling, elevators, or in stores, and we spent a lot of time outside. Sawyer wore his mask at the reception, since he was a social butterfly and on the dancefloor like a maniac (he is also recently boosted). There were actually a lot of other people masked, since there were many international guests, so it felt totally fine for him. Anyway, enough on that, except that precautions work! 

I have been reading like a fiend- I finished my seventh book of June yesterday and have a few more packed. This happens every summer and I love it.

I love my son so much, but I am trying to figure out how I can get away for a weekend with my husband. We haven't done that in a bajillion years and I'm thinking maybe I can make it happen this fall. There aren't many people I trust to stay with Sawyer, the dog, and house, though, so it does take some planning. 

I did a 10.6 mile hike over the weekend by myself at a local trail and I did a pretty solid job, despite the realization that my new hiking boots are just not... okay. I did it in a little over four hours and gained well over 2,000 feel in elevation. I covered well over that distance in Yosemite and Tahoe, but with Sawyer we take a lot more breaks and the incline was more intense here. I am hiking Half Dome in about a month with some friends, so I'm trying to make sure I'm ready! I definitely missed on the caloric front, though, so I need to adjust my nutrition a bit so that I'm not starving and have plenty of carbs. 

July is packed full of goodness- art camp for Sawyer, lots of plans with friends, a quick trip to the East Bay/SF, Yosemite, and maybe a museum or two. 


Five Things About... Groundskeeping by Lee Cole



As a whole, I really liked this book, but I must say I wasn’t enamored with any of the characters. I felt some slight empathy towards the narrator, Owen, as he seems to be struggling to get his life together, but he was definitely flawed (and not in a noble way, more so annoying). His sort-of girlfriend, Alma, I found pretentious, judgmental, and attention-seeking. Her only redeeming quality was the fact that she didn’t deny these attributes, but it wasn’t enough to win me over.

This was the first book I can remember reading that was set in Kentucky, and while I don’t want to necessarily book a flight, I have a feeling it would be pretty to drive through. The confederate flags and Trump groupies I could pass on, though. 


Speaking of Trump, I did appreciate how Cole brought politics into his text in a way where there were frequent, sometimes subtle, references but not pages of political musings (except a few that were relevant and well-placed, like after the election).


I’ve noticed how Iowa Writer’s Workshop Writers, like Cole, all have some sort of similarity I can’t  quite pinpoint but know exists. We discussed the at times excessive sensory description at book club, which might be it,  but I think there’s more. Some sort of general stylistic attribute- a polish that’s a little too forced, perhaps? I don’t want to criticize (although I guess is am a little bit), but there’s just something…. 


Without giving entering away, I thought the ending was fine. Considering alternative options, this was fine with me.

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts


I
t's officially summer in our house for Sawyer and I, since his last day was Friday! He's at a great age where we can hang out but then I can also tell him to go "find something to do," haha. For example, I played with him with LEGOs for an hour and then we watched the first episode of Obama's Our Great National Parks doc (I have to confess we're actually using this as part of our designated "mom school" time- more below). Now, I told him to go occupy himself so I can schedule some posts and I don't feel bad at all.

So, "Mom School" is a term Sawyer coined ever since I broke it to him that we were going to review skills for a bit each day we are home and not super busy this summer. Nothing crazy- I just got some Teacher's Pay Teachers resources that will help him review some of the math concepts his teacher was just introducing and to get a jump start on multiplication (and despite my desire to drill-and-kill, we are doing arrays, commutative property, etc.... since I know that's what Common Core require). He has to read a bit each day (he does this whether I tell him to or not, though) and we'll do some writing and whatever else. I'm talking low-stress thirty-forty minutes. Math is definitely something he has to work harder at, so that's really my main focus. 

Last week I totally utilized the four days Sawyer had school and I did not- I met up with two different groups of friends, got my hair done, and read in peace for hours. 

Over the weekend the three of us went to Vroman's in Pasadena for a reading by Minh Le, a children's author. This was Sawyer's first reading and Scott's first time at this book store, which is my favorite in Southern California, so it was a fun morning (plus ice cream at one of our favorite places). We also went on a hike the next morning, with the dog, to a local trail. I try to go once a month, but this was the first time the four of us have gone together!

Summer reading is in full swing! I just finished TC Boyle's Talk to Me and am currently (finally) reading Jesmyn Ward's Savage the Bones.  I have a big stack I ordered for summer (the final two are arriving tomorrow), but I wanted to try to squeeze in a few that I'd had before first. 

My passionate love for the show Yellowstone is still in full effect- we just started the third season the other day, which is marathon speed for me, since we started it just a few months ago (maybe now that it's summer we can watch more than 1-2 episodes a week, haha). I am glad my husband has finally warmed up to Beth, my favorite. 

I had no idea that I liked Harry Styles, but apparently I am, since I cannot stop listening to his new album. 

I have obviously put writing a book on the WAY back burner, but sometimes I do think about it. Recently, I started thinking about a short story collection focusing on people I don't like. I don't know what angle I'd really choose or whether it would be cathartic or not, but it just seems... interesting. I could write in a way of empathy or I could really go for it and showcase their flaws (probably much more fun, haha). The possibilities are endless. 

The next few days are going to be super slow, so I should get a ton of pages in, and then Thursday we have a beach day planned and Friday through Monday I will be out of town! The fun begins.

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