Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

I could do A LOT of complaining right now about things that will soon be resolved, as they normally are, or I could focus on some quick good things. I'll go with that! Here are five great things as of late:

1. We took Sawyer to Universal Studios over the weekend for a birthday surprise and it was lots of fun! We had the pass that allowed the express lane for the rides, so we didn't have to wait for much at all, which was great, since it was incredibly crowded. Sawyer was chosen for the show at Olivander's in Hogsmeade's Village, which was super cool for him.

2. My mom was in town this weekend, so that was of course awesome! I took Friday off for an appointment in the morning and then when she got in we went to lunch just the two of us before I lost her to Sawyer when he got home that afternoon. No hard feelings, I love that they love each other.

3. We are having our IB Celebration in-person Tuesday night for the first time since 2019 and I can't wait. I love it more than graduation and my students are the seniors this year, which makes it even more special. Sawyer is going to join me and I'm excited for him to go to something at my work again. He used to come once in awhile after work so I could grade or to events, but it's been years. 

4. There are no major holidays or birthdays that I am responsible for making special for many many months. I cannot explain how happy this makes me (my son's birthday is actually tomorrow, but the brunt of it is over). 

5. Nineteen more school days with my seniors, twenty-four school days total, and only five Mondays left for the school year. I love my kids, but I have never had a more exhausting year and this last stretch has been particularly grueling (case in point: I have only finished two books so far this month. TWO. Atrocious). 

Fine Things About... Fox & I by Catherine Raven

This book is not for everyone- it’s very description-heavy for most of the text (plants and animals). There were definitely times where I wanted more information about the author and her life, but, nonetheless, I really enjoyed it.

The relationship between the author and the fox is realistic in terms of what would happen between a biologist and wild animal. The connection is gradual and she relies on her education and experience. There’s no petting, eating from hands, or collars- she isn’t trying to domesticate him.

Catherine Raven the woman is really fascinating- exceptionally intelligent, pragmatic, and introverted. She gives us hints of a troubled upbringing and how she became fiercely independent out of necessity. The Darwinian concept we all learn in the first week of a life sciences class clearly applies to her as well. She’s honest about her social struggles and the strategies she uses to help read people and build relationships.

The descriptions I mentioned above are packed with imagery, details, and objectivity. I actually used a passage with my students and while they may not all be running to pick up their own copies of the book, they quickly picked up on the vividness of the setting.

The ending was bittersweet and I found myself getting choked up- that’s all I’ll say. Despite my emotions I have to admit that the conclusion was true to the entire text.

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Last week was a lot- work deadlines, Etsy deadlines, solar panel issues (thank goodness for warranties and me keeping an eye on the production data), poor sleep, prepping for painters, and it was too hot, too soon. 

I must have clicked on one too many sad-kid Instagram story because the algorithm is serving me the most depressive content ever. Thanks. 

I saw something recently that anxiety is one part uncertainty and one part doubting our ability to cope and my mind was blown. That's exactly what it is, which then made me so mad at myself. I have had to deal with so many bad things in my life and I've managed to survive everything. Such a great perspective. 

Speaking of anxiety, haha, I just added The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel to my wishlist. I have serious issues regarding money- if you know me personally or have been a reader here for awhile you know that. I'm not bad with money- quite the opposite, ifIdosaysomyself, but I have a lot of nerves tied up into it. I grew up in a household where we were always struggling and it's really impacted me as an adult. In a way it's great, because the only debt I have is related to our house and I have a health savings, but it also makes me scared to invest and to even spend (and the preoccupation when I do... ugh). 

We haven't watched Yellowstone in over two weeks and I'm sad. We had some painting done (for once! I was not the painter!) and our living room and kitchen were covered in plastic for a few days, so hopefully this weekend we can get crazy and watch, like, two episodes or something. 

It really bothers me that so many states are becoming lax about reporting Covid data to the CDC. Yes, it isn't reliable right now because people are testing at home, but at least hospitalizations! And percent positives! And it's not because I'm necessarily worried, I just think that if health officials want to be proactive and work to curb any hot spots they need data at all levels of outbreak. 

Looks like I'll be hiking Half Dome for the third time this summer! My friend and I both entered the lottery and she got in! It's going to be great motivation to really focus my work outs over the next three months. Hello incline! 

This weekend is shaping up to be busy and fun- I am meeting a friend Saturday morning, afterwards a few of Sawyer's friends are joining us for his art class, and then one of my least favorite holidays, Easter (I don't hate it, it just always sneaks up on me). We aren't doing anything big, since it's just the three of us, but I am going to make a big brunch and Sawyer and I will make your delightfully tacky bunny cake. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Last day of spring break, and also the first full day being home after vacation in Yosemite. Although I am not thrilled about going back to work tomorrow, I am excited for the next two months. There are lots of exciting things that are work-related and personal-related that will help the last stretch of school fly by. Just this month alone we are getting some painting done inside (so ready for a change and to buy a whole bunch of new accent pieces), we have a big surprise birthday weekend planned for Sawyer, Easter, and we have a special IB night for students. 

We had a great time in Yosemite. We hiked well over ten miles each day and were super lucky with absolute perfect weather. We stayed at the same hotel we always do, The Tenaya Lodge, which is worth every penny and the hour drive into the park. My sister, brother-in-law, and mom came up for one day, which was so nice. This was my sixth trip with Sawyer and I think my eleventh time going, ever, so I'm thinking of doing a longer post later about some of our memories, tips, recs, etc... 

I just knocked a huge, annoying item off my work to-do list, which is such a relief. 

I have always had the worst feet- they're dry, they crack easily, and they're ugly (part of this is genetics, part of this is because I like to walk around barefoot). I saw a influencer recommend AmLactin cream and I bought in on the spot. After just one day I noticed a huge difference and now after a week I have new feet. It's a miracle in a $10 bottle. 

I think I mentioned this before, but I went the entire pandemic not using any sort of food or grocery delivery. Last week I caved and used Instacart and yesterday when I got back from driving home I used Door Dash for dinner. Who am I? 

I read Black Cake over break and really enjoyed it! I am listening to Jennifer Egan's A Visit From the Goon Squad, which I read when it first came out. Her second book in the series comes out soon, so I wanted to revisit it first, but, as it turns out, I don't really know if they're truly related in content, maybe just structure. Oh well! 

My husband and I painted a Where the Wild Things Are mural on Sawyer's bedroom wall before he was born and he's recently expressed interest in redoing it. Scott and I were just talking and I think we're going to do a Super Mario one this summer. He is SUPER busy with work and commuting now, so I think he will draw the actual picture and I'll do the painting. I'm actually really excited! This will be the last one we do... if he wants to keep it until he moves out, great, if not, we will just do solid paint color. 

Last week's to-dos:
This week's to-dos:
- donate old clothes (I have them all ready, I just need to drop them off)
- get a chunk of grading done before leaving for Yosemite (yup!)
- Finish Black Cake  (done!)
- Get mostly done with an Etsy order (yes!)

This week's to dos: 
- finish and ship Etsy order
- Create pattern for quick Easter embroidery
- decide on paint color and prep house for painters
- finish Fox book
- Be 50% done with my next round of IB submissions 

Five Things About... The Swimmers by Julie Otsuka

This short novel spends the first half devoted to a community swimming pool that must close after it develops several unexplained cracks, and the second half on one of the swimmers, Alice. Alice’s dementia worsens and her family ends up placing her in a memory care center, where she slowly declines.

This is my first Otsuka novel, so I’m not sure if the others are like this, but her syntax is so attuned to her content. I actually used a passage with my students last week, since they often struggle to articulate the effect of sentence structure on the reading experience. 

I really enjoyed coming up with different theories on the mysterious cracks in the swimming pool. A neurological metaphor? The cracks represented synapses that were forming in the pool instead of Alice’s brain? A representation of our anxiety as we spiral into a constant web of worry? A way to show the inability of experts to form cohesive explanations? 

I think the book captures what it’s like to make the decision to place a loved one in a memory-care home in such a way where the detached, clinical tone makes the reader feel the emotion that the prose explicitly lacks. It also points out the business side of such facilities- at the end of the day it’s always about the bottom line.

The reminder to find something or somewhere to escape life’s stresses is broadcasted from the very first page. Life is hard and busy- we are all entitled to have a place where we can forget about our worries for a little while a few times a week. Maybe it’s swimming, or running, reading, or painting. Otsuka shows us that we have more control over our lives and are happier when we have an outlet (it wasn’t a coincidence that Alice’s dementia worsened when the pool shut down).

Five Things About... The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri (teacher edition)

This was my second time reading this novel and my first time teaching it. My students are about 2/3 the way through and, for the most part, really like it. They’ve been having great discussions and their quiz scores are pretty decent, so we’re off to a great start!

I’ve been having the kids track the different developments the main character has with his name in conjunction with his development/identity formation. They’ve done a great job making connections, combining the concept with different types of conflict, and even applying it to their own lives. 

Lahiri’s descriptive writing if full of figurative language, but the right amount. Some authors overdo it, while some deprive of us of imagery. Lahiri’s balance is perfect. There are is an endless amount of passages for the kids to practice analyzing the writing style, in an accessible, meaningful way. It does also ensure they read closely, so it’s forced some of them to slow down their reading.

Given the fact I teach seniors, the various romantic relationships Gogol finds himself involved with keeps the kids interested. They love criticizing his girlfriends, commenting on his parents’ role, offering hypothetical advice, and predicting the fate of each partnership. They’re going to start reading about his final relationship with a fellow Indian woman that his mom suggested he call- I can’t wait for them to learn the outcome!

The students are starting to see how there are so many connections at different parts of the text- they’re actually noting that Lahiri deliberately constructed her plot so that different threads would show up later to be tied up. They have complained that they think she moves through his childhood too fast, but I think part of that is because they like reading about younger protagonists.