Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

The best part of football is when it's on and you go grocery shopping and no one else is there. Touchdown for Christine in the frozen foods aisle, GO TEAM MEAL PLANNING!!!! 

My grandma's funeral was yesterday, which meant seeing a ton of relatives I haven't seen in years. Always interesting...

There should be some sort of celebration that this month is practically over. 

Preface: I have never smoked anything in my life, not once (asthmatic lungs) and, while I don't believe in reincarnation, the prospect terrifies. EVERY SINGLE DAY I crave a cigarette at some point, usually in situations of stress or transition (like dropping Sawyer off and driving to work). Hear me out: what if my worst nightmare is actually true and reincarnation is a thing and past Christine was a chain smoker who died of lung cancer? 

We just finished The Awakening at work and it has been such a treat to discuss with the kids. They have so many opinions about Edna and her death! 

I think I might plan a trip this summer, involving passports and air travel and a big fat asterisk that denotes "COVID willing." 

Current obsession: 
- MILK Bar Ice Cream
- Deciding what kind of rowing machine to buy
- Olive and June nail polish
- gummy bears from the farmer's market
- indoor paint color 
- clay earring stud makers on Etsy
- my new hair bubble wand 

Five Things About... The Maid by Nita Prose

If you liked Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine then you will love this one too. There were a few times where I thought the similarities were a little too close, though…

The minor characters were absolutely delightful- I want follow up books about some of them! The group who works to help Molly will restore your faith in humanity.

Molly, who presumably is on the Asperger’s spectrum, is a maid in an upscale hotel and takes her job super seriously. I went back and forth on the takeaway about the hospitality industry- on one hand I thought it was great that Molly had so much pride in her job, and it shows that all positions in a corporation are important. On the other, despite the author working so hard not to, sometimes it felt that Molly was either being mocked or pandered to. Just please make sure to always, always, always tip the housekeeping staff. 

This is the perfect mystery for people who don’t want anything to gory or suspenseful. I’ve seen it compared to Clue or Agatha Christie, which makes sense. There aren’t dramatic twists or turns and while it is fairly predictable, but I didn’t feel deprived. 

Another thing that I really appreciated about this is that it was more thoughtfully written than most mysteries; Molly is much more developed than most protagonists in this genre.

Ten Things I Do Every Sunday

It's no secret that I'm a big fan of routine and efficiency, and if I'm going to get up early Monday-Friday and deal with all the work/kid/house responsibilities then things need to go according to plan. Sunday is incredibly important for making sure I set myself up for success the rest of the week- here's what works for me:

1. Meal planning and grocery shopping: I cook Sunday-Thursday, so I decide what we're eating each night and shop first thing in the morning, before the stores get too busy. More people equals longer lines, and I have no time for that. 

2. Clear my inbox: I have two work emails and I make sure that they're all taken care of so I don't begin Monday morning with a digital avalanche when I sit down at my desk (students have totally embraced this way of communicating since starting the pandemic).

3. A hard work out: I get in an extra long treadmill work out or yoga practice so that I'm heading into the week with one taken care of.

4. Outfit planning: I recently started planning all of my outfits for each day of work and it's saved me so much time during the week. I usually do it the night before, but this is even easier.

5. Get gas and clean out car: I always fill up my tank while I'm grocery shopping and use the time while it's filling to make sure my car is cleaned out.

6. All the cleaning and laundry: I know there are different philosophies on this, but it works for me. 

7. No work after dinner: I'm not wasting my last precious hours of the weekend on work! Nope!

8. Review weekly schedule: I check to see if there are any appointments or changes that I need to account for and make sure they're on my phone and paper calendars. 

9. Task-out extra chores/errands: I assign time for extra things during the week, like picking up a prescription, making calls, etc... that way they don't all pile up on one day and I can make sure they're all getting done.

10. Blow out hair and nails: At least this week I can have two or so days and not have to worry about things (well, three, since on day my hair goes up and my nails can just look like junk, haha). 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

1. I know that it's a total cliche, but January just will not end. I can't believe there are so many days left. It's like Groundhog Day or something, except each day bring fresh new challenges to deal with, so, YAY.

2. I don't want this to sound preachy, but remember to go out of your way and be grateful. People are working so hard right now in different service industries and they make so little for what they are doing. I went to pick up a dinner order last weekend and it was forty minutes after they said it would be. The poor server handling the take-out section was alone after three people called in and was nearly in tears. Then a few days later I gave one of Sawyer's daycare teacher a thank you note and a small gift in appreciation for how amazingly she handled what could have been a terrible situation and she almost cried too! Just be nice. People need it (and it's my goal to do so even more).

3. Two new books just arrived at my door: Crying in H Mart and Olga Dies Dreaming (the first one is for book club, but I wanted to read it anyway). My wish list is crazy right now... so many upcoming books to be excited about!

4. I am reading the first Boxcar Children book to Sawyer and night and it is SO poorly written. Nonetheless, he likes it and I love the sort of nostalgic, wholesome feel, so I'm sure there will be many more of those in our future. We spent half of 2021 getting through the fourth Harry Potter book, so now we're reading some other ones I've wanted to. He reads books on his own, but at night I read to him for 10 or so minutes. Our deal right now is I pick a book, he picks one, which is fun. 

5. My grandma's service is next week and boy-oh-boy do I know where I get my planning tendencies from now! She specified in the plans that she and my grandpa made many, many years ago for her service the shade of lipstick she wants to buried in. I am so impressed. Goals. 

6. I have talked about this for like five years, but I am finally going away for a weekend alone. I booked the hotel yesterday for weekend in March, and I can't wait to sleep in and read on repeat! There might be some beach walking and some eating involved, too. 

7. Also planned for March is our annual trip to Yosemite that we weren't able to take in 2020 or 2021. I am kind of scared to admit this out loud, because I know there are so many things that could prevent it (same as above). We go during spring break, so there's always the risk of snow, out of the gate. There's the threat of either Sawyer or I getting covid or a new variant. I am trying to not get excited about any sort of overnight stay, but the option is just so exciting. 

8. I finished Joan Didion's The While Album, this week, finally and I don't know what I think exactly, yet. Some of the essays were great, some that I didn't expect, but then some were just so dated. More to come.

9. When we all stop being obsessed with WORDLE? I hope never, but I'm always fascinated by the shelf-lives of these fads. I think I'm going to have my students in second period play, since we have announcements and most of them ignore them anyway. 

Five things about Taste by Stanley Tucci

First of all, the writing is witty, conversational, smart, and just plain fun. I’ve seen him in many interviews, and he’s just as delightful as an author. 
There are several recipes in the book, and, even the ones that I’d never cook or eat I still enjoyed reading (there are some that I do plan do make, like a zucchini pasta). While the ingredients that need precision have the proper measurements, there are also those that call for things like a “fuck ton,” which I thought was pretty helpful. 
I’ve been to Italy once and loved it, of course (does anyone not?), so I appreciated his descriptions of different regions that I’ve never been to and the food they serve. He also talked in detail about a trip to Iceland, as well as food he’s eaten in the US and Canada. The balance of travel and food was perfect. 
Food! Of course! Whether it’s perfect pasta, childhood favorites, strange sausage eaten with Meryl Streep, or pork roasted in his backyard, he describes taste beautifully. He’s a total food snob, but generally nice about it (unless you cut your spaghetti, and then he’ll hate you forever).

His sections on his cancer were much more serious. his discussion on the way in which he struggled combined with his love of food were poignant and honest. 

Five things about… The Awakening by Kate Chopin (teacher edition)

I love hearing the different perspectives on Edna, much the same as when we read The Catcher in the Rye. Whiny and entitled? Deep and conflicted? A little of both? I have felt so many different things about this book over the countless times I’ve read it, depending on where I’m at in life, so the teenage take is fascinating. 

While the sea motif is incredibly overdone in the novella, it is a great way to reinforce this device and push the students to think past  the obvious. It’s also a good practice at tracking shifts and importance, as well. 

The array of thematic topics to build on is vast: marriage, love, friendship, motherhood, independence, class, the arts, identity, gender, race… This means there are an abundance of writing prompts, discussions, etc… 

The language is pretty dense at times- not in terms of complexity, but detail. I appreciate that it really forces the students to slow down and focus, or else they’re bound to miss things (and not do so well on their quizzes).

On a personal level, while I think Edna has no idea what it means to actually have to be mom, I think she was definitely the OG self-care pusher. Paint! Swim! Sleep in! Socialize! Have a beer! Send the kids to grandma! Do all the fun stuff, whenever you want, because YOU DESERVE IT, GIRL. I appreciate her desire for independence, but her techniques were flawed. 

Five things about… The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan

If you are a mother, this book is probably going to emotionally crush you. I don’t cry often while readying, but this one got me. I’m not saying it’s written perfectly, see below for plenty of criticism, but Chan got me.

The book is incredibly readable and really hard to put down- I was compelled to see if Frida would pass her units at mothering school and would eventually be reunited with her toddler. I was definitely invested in their reunification. That being said, I think the book was a bout fifty pages too long- there were a few points that felt unnecessary, certain events simply replicated in different ways. 
The book does raise really interesting questions about CPS and the role government plays in protecting,  or in some cases not protecting, children. There were a lot of details that were glossed over, though, and some vagueness that felt unrealistic and almost lazy at times. 
Akin to Klara and the Sun (although nowhere near Ishiguru’s level), the relationship potential between AI and humans is explored. While at the school, Frida must practice parenting on a pretend child who is eerily similar to a real one. Will we ever get to a point of attachment with an inanimate object that feels real? Unfortunately, this was another area that l didn’t think was as well-done as it could be, corners cut when explaining some of the technicalities of the robotic children. In Chan’s defense, this isn’t a sci-fi novel and didn’t really matter in the scheme of things, but I HAD QUESTIONS. 
Besides sadness and suspense, another emotion that I frequently felt was frustration with the main character. On what planet could she possibly leave her baby alone? Why didn’t she better communicate with others? Why did she let her ex-husband’s girlfriend have so much control? Why didn’t she ask her parents for more help? Why didn’t she get a better lawyer? Why was this school possibly allowed to exist? Why did the ending happen as it did? The list continues… 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

We just finished the second week back to work and I am missing, on average, about 25% my students each day to absences, mostly involving having Covid or needing to quarantine because of an exposure. The district is giving us KN95 masks and each kit and staff member left with a testing kit on Friday to use, hopefully, before returning Tuesday. I had to test my own child, at home, yet again, too, and luckily we're all good (he didn't really have proper symptoms, and I think the culprit was eating a very expired Twinkie on accident... I kid you not). It's just mind-blowing. 

We had to move our book club to a Zoom one night for various reasons, and I can't wait to discuss Stanley Tucci's memoir Taste with my friends. He is such a gem. 

I have a few reviews FINALLY going up this week (as in actually prescheduled), and I'm excited to already be on my fifth book of the month. This month might suck, but my reading does not.

Important self-realization epiphany: I like puzzles after all. My husband bought one that was approximately 73853985395 pieces at the start of the pandemic and it sat in various states of not finished for about a year. It was literally collecting dust, so I bit the bullet and did the rest. I declared a total hatred for puzzles and not another ones was done until a few weeks ago when I helped with Sawyer with a 500 piece one. I decided 1000 pieces would probably be fine, so I started one yesterday and realized that it's a great way to listen to podcasts or watch shows I wouldn't otherwise. Yay. 

Speaking of acquiring new hobbies, I am 99% sure I am buying a rowing machine once my car is paid off this spring (trying so hard to wait until then, although if I do I will have less time to be in better shape for my wild and crazy summer). I loved using the rowing machines at the gym, but always balked at the idea of sticking more exercise equipment in my office, since there's already a treadmill and a few other fitness items. But, who the hell cares? The space is there. 

In my quest to hike at least once a month, Sawyer and I went to a new-to-us trail last weekend and it was awesome. There are several other trails at the same park, some of which look really challenging, so I'm excited to try more in the future.

My year-in-review book came the other day! It's always such an exciting time, seeing the fruits of my labor. I will never regret taking tons of pictures and spending the time and money to do these. 

And, to end with sad news, my grandmother lost her battle with Alzheimer's on Friday. She has been deteriorating a lot over the last year, and then in the last week or two things escalated. She didn't seem to be in pain and saw several family members right before passing, so at least we have comfort that it was peaceful. In many regards she's been gone for years, and I think the saddest part of my is knowing how hard it is on my mom and her siblings. My grandpa, who just turned ninety, is doing well and I am sure there has to be some relief, since he's been on edge about the actual even happening for months. Death is never easy! My grandma was not the "welcome to my home let me get you some milk and cookies" kind of woman, but instead the "hey, welcome, if you need anything you know where to get it, I need to clean up because I have Bunco tonight, Mission Circle in the morning, and I have my shift at the food bank the next day." Her work ethic and problem-solving made my mom who she is and, hence, me who I am. She was generous but reasonable, loving but not doting. She will be missed. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

I went back to work on Monday- our school is open for business... for now. I have been missing probably 15-20% of my students collectively each period, and I have several out with confirmed COVID or for quarantining after exposure. We're plugging along at reading Kate Chopin's The Awakening,  so in many respects it feels very normal. On the other hand, there's this constant black cloud/elephant in the room constantly. Emails from the admin and district office, lots of subs on campus, etc... So far we haven't had trouble with outbreaks that occur in our actual classes, and I am hoping as long as we can keep it that way we can stay open. I post all the work I assign on Google Classroom and the absent kids are keeping up on it, for the most part, but it just feels a little depressing to have to face this every day. My son goes back on Monday, and I hope that his class and daycare stay open... I don't even remember what it felt like not worrying about everyday logistics...

If your cuticles are trashed from two years of straight hand-washing, I highly recommend Essie's Apricot Cuticle Oil. 

Recent book purchases:
The Maid
The Death of Vivek Oji
The School for Good Mothers
Fiona and Jane
The Third Pole: Mystery, Obsession, and Death on Mount Everest 

I still have not given up hope on doing my symbol-per-book hoop from 2021. I think I got through May, which means if I do a month every three days I could still finish it by the end of this month- not too bad. I do have an Etsy order I need to get done first, though, so maybe I'll give myself a few days grace.

I finished my year-in-review book, speaking of 2021 projects, last weekend and it was such a huge difference from 2020. I really want to be better about doing it after each month is completed so that I can remember more details, but, admittedly, it's a task that is perpetually moved to the lower priority. 

My dog, man. The other night she was sick at 3 am, due to overeating of some frozen corn (don't ask...) and then later that day when we were walking she tripped me and I am now the owner of a skinned up leg that looks like I'm actually a seven-year-old trying to ride a bike with no training wheels.

I'm obsessed with the Milk Bar Cornflake Chocolate Chip Ice Cream and I am starting to feel like my Target isn't going to sell it anymore. Just to be safe I ordered four pints from another Target to pick up tomorrow. This is why my husband and I have separate accounts... so that I don't have to share. IT'S ALL MINE. 

January is usually sort of a down month when it comes to planning weekend activities. This weekend I think Sawyer and I are going to go hiking in Orange County and then I need to hunker down and get a ton done around the house.  

Top Ten... Things I Realized in 2021

My last top ten list of the year!

This year was a fairly good year, as a whole, minus the whole pandemic flare up here at the end. Here are some of my most important "ah-has"-

1. You can do a lot of with a drain snake, vinegar, and baking soda- There's more to this, really, besides my newfound talent at cleaning out drains ALL BY MYSELF. House woes cause me an exceptional amount of worry- one of my top five anxiety triggers. But, I'm getting better at figuring things out and reassuring myself that with a credit card and a phone you can get anyone to fix anything, really. 

2. OPI nail polish is worth it- I resisted painting my nails my whole life, because I hate chips. I've seen the light in $10 a bottle polish. I've also always hated my super dry hands, so this makes me feel like they're not as ugly.

3. Nature will always be there for me- A lot has gone down in my life in the last three-ish years (plus the pandemic) and there has been a lot resulting instability. Besides my friends (see below), nature is the one constant that is always there for me. There will always be trails, the ocean, trees, and parks to escape to. The sense of peace I get when looking at trees or mountains is so reassuring.

4. "Build yourself a boat"... a few years ago I read a poetry collection with this title and the sentiment has always stayed with me. If you want something done right, you have to take charge and do it for yourself. Save yourself. Be in control.

5. I have the best friends- I know at any given moment if I need something I have at least five or six people I can call who will back be up asap. 

6. Auto-renewing coffee and dog food really do make life easier- Seriously. 

7. It's okay if a relationship doesn't work- Sometimes it's okay to accept that a relationship with someone isn't going to work. Why go through the pretenses of faking it when personalities just don't click? It's okay to hope the best for someone, part ways, and move on. I fully believe in doing the work if both parties want to, but if not, there are so many other ways to focus our energy. I think it's fine to leave the door cracked for the future, but if things don't work for the present it's totally cool. 

8. My son is going to have to figure shit out at school for himself-  I mean I knew this after him being in childcare since he was a baby, but now that he's in a really public school all day for the first time, I have had to accept that he has to figure things out socially, with his teacher, logistically, etc... on his own. And he can, because he's a smart, strong, independent kid. I can give him advice and ask questions, but it comes down to the choices he inevitably makes.

9. I will never wear the shorts I wore in 2013 in the Caribbean again and it is okay to toss them- They're way too short and the pattern is dated, good bye. 

10. It's okay that I define myself by my productivity- I know the big trend right now is to fight this and take more time to relax, but I don't want to. This is who I am- I need to be busy, I need to cross things off my to-do lists, and that is okay. I get super depressed when I am stagnate and that's not good. My version of self-care is getting shit done in a timely manner (and yes, I do put things on my to-do lists like "read 100 pages" or "play with Sawyer" or "watch a show on the treadmill" so that I can sneak in things like that). 

Top Ten... Things I'm Planning to Do In 2022

I know resolutions are pretty controversial- some people love them, some hate them, some keep them, some forget them. Personally, I'm a fan and am pretty realistic about the process. I aim a little bit higher than I can accomplish so that I have to reach, but I know that I probably won't achieve perfection. We just want to be better, right?

Last year:
1. 74 books- check!
2.  Be social, pandemic be damned- Heck yeah! Party animal, right here (not really, but I see friends outside of work, safely, a few weekends a month) 
3. Increase non-cardio- Sort of? I did more in 2021, but I wasn't consistent, so this doesn't feel like a win
4. Do my best at distance learning for me and Sawyer- yes, to the detriment of my sanity, haha
5. Be a good dog owner- yes, but at a year-and-a-half she is still a work in progress! She's getting there
6. More personal essays to the blog- like strength training I'll say that I did do more personal writing, but not enough to check the box

This year my list is sort of a mix of goals and things I hope to do, all the while trying to push myself in a manageable way. I like to think about how I can make progress on a monthly basis, so I plan to create a chart for each month and post it in my office/work out room so I can force myself to track my progress. It works for me! Here we go 2022!

1. Read 75 books

2. Do one tough, non-stretching focused yoga work out a week (I'm already logging 13,000- 20,000 steps a day through various cardio activities, so that goal isn't necessary) 

3. Do one sort of DIY or home improvement project a month. It can be as small as tightening all cupboard handles or changing all the dead lightbulbs or as big as painting a room. It also counts if I go through the trouble to hire someone to do something!

4. Pay off my car (student loans in 2021, car in 2022, HELOC in 2023!)

5. Hike once a month, even if it's just the local trail a few miles away

6. Donate each month to an important cause (I am really inconsistent about this... mostly I just forget!)

7. Stay on top of mini book review posts (I know no one cares, but I like doing it and it makes me happy when I'm consistent)

8. Organize something once a month (my work bag, a closet, my computer files, the garage, WHATEVER)

9. Send someone a good old-fashioned card once a month- I am so in awe of people (Julie! my sister! Lianne!) who send notes and cards to people in the mail frequently. Good, happy, friendly mail is the best! It's such a thoughtful, kind action and I think putting that sort of wholesome goodness in the world is important. Sending a text or email is great, but I think taking the trouble to buy a little card and actually address an envelope is so nice. 

10. 120 Forest App Hours a Month- I use the Forest App to help me use less of my phone and it works super well for me. This means that for at least four hours a day I won't touch my phone! No checking email, no texting, no looking at social media or the news, etc... 

Top Ten... Books of 2021

True to form, I finished my reading goal of 74 books on December 31st and promptly set my 2022 goals for one book higher at 75. Selecting my top ten was a little more difficult than past years, I think. About half were easy choices (Murakami, O'Farrell, Ishiguro, Walton, and Jaouad), but the rest I really deliberated on. It wasn't that I didn't read good books this year, because I did- they were just a solid pack with fewer stand alone shining stars. 

A quick one-sentence overview on each:

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw- Strong short story collection from start to finish 

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami- Japanese magical realism and existentialism 

The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich- Native American family struggles, plus fighting for rights 

North by Scott Erdrich- Part running, part travelogue, part motivational 

Sharks in the Time of Saviors by Kawai Strong Washburn- Hawaiian family saga with some magical realism thrown in

The Final Revival of Opal and Nev by Dawnie Walton- A better-written, deeper Daisy Jones

Between Two Kingdoms by Suleika Jaoad- Emotional rollercoaster ride along a young woman suffering from cancer

On All Fronts by Clarissa Ward-  Kick ass female journalist who is based in the Middle East

Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell- Goddammit with the plagues 

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro- Humanizing AI