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:


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 


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

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.

David Sedaris Reading

I couldn't not post about the David Sedaris reading I went to with one of my friends on Mother's Day, even thought it feels like ages ago. It was at UCLA and it was my first literary event since before the pandemic, so the whole thing just felt very serendipitous. Here are some of the highlights:

Back at my Alma Mater! Go Bruins! 

We ate ice cream sundaes for dinner. It was Mother's Day, okay?

Poetry Guild providing some custom work! 

Sedaris did not disappoint, and we had great seats!

Summer Breaks (Get) To-Dos

I love a good summer to-do list! I tried to stick to ten things I GET to do and ten things I HAVE/NEED to do:

The fun stuff:
1.  Three nights in Modesto for my sister's wedding- Sawyer is in it, all my siblings will be there, it's Graffiti Weekend (a local thing), and the wedding itself is at a lavender farm. It should be great!
2. Today we are taking Sawyer to his first reading- Dan Santat in Pasadena. He just finished up his graphic novel, so he is super excited to meet the author/illustrator. It's at my favorite socal bookstore, Vroomans, so it will be a great excuse to spend some money time there, too. 
3. Lots of beach days! At least three solid says throughout the next two months, I insist.
4. A science museum in Orange County has a cool new space exhibit I know Sawyer will love
5. Tetons and Yellowstone trip
6. Hiking Half Dome with my dear friend- Yosemite twice in one year!
7. A quick trip to San Luis Obispo to meet up with my brother and his wife so that we can meet his baby, finally
8. Hollywood Bowl tickets for the three of us
9. Sawyer's art camp- that will be five afternoons that I get to drop him off and have a few hours to myself 
10. Friend time, with and without kids
11. Bonus: park reading dates with Sawyer, hiking at new and old spots, and reading at least 12 books 

The stuff that has been put off and needs to get done:
1. Fix some shutters
2. Buy seven million bags of dirt and level out the flower beds (yes, I could pay the landscaper to do it, but this is in my wheelhouse of tasks I am capable of doing)
3. Steam clean the carpets
4. *Possibly* redo Sawyer's room 
5. Catch up on my year-in-review book
6. Help Sawyer review math, practice his handwriting, and obtain some life skills that he should probably already has but does not
7. Finding a babysitter (I have a lot of contenders, but I need to find someone I trust with my kid, house, and dog. I also want someone who is fully vaxxed and boosted, and isn't out on the weekends at crowded bars... so, yeah, a chore that I need to do because my husband and I have some events to go to without Sawyer)
8. Buy Sawyer a bigger bike and teach him to ride it- this has never been a priority for any of us, but I feel like it's something all kids should know how to do, so I guess this is it (at least he can swim?)
9. Plan the first week or two of school so I don't have to think about it when I go back and am trying to wrap my head around... being back
10. I've done a lot of organizing and cleaning so far this year, but I need to finish up the garage, a few things in the backyard, etc... 

Five Thing About... Fiona and Jane by Jean Chen Ho

This is essentially a book about identity and coming-of-age. How do our relationships with others impact us? Are our decisions our own? How can we reconcile cultural pressures with individuality? 

The pacing of the book was a bit inconsistent- there were parts that had me captivated and others that were much slower. The narrative itself seems to have an identity crisis itself, between whether it was more character or plot driven, leaving me unable to really sink my teeth into it. 

I did appreciate the narrative structure- the author was clearly taking risks with having two different narrators (one third, one first) and the text moving around in time. 

Many of the conflicts lacked the depth they could have, and some felt a bit anticlimactic. The ending “twist,” if you want to call it that, also didn’t quite pack the punch I think the author intended it to have. 

I love books that take place near where I live- this one is set for a big chunk in Southern California, so I enjoyed being familiar with places they mentioned. There’s also quite a bit in NYC and some in Asia, as well. 

Five Things About... One More Thing and Stories and Other Stories by BJ Novak

These are perfect for when you are super busy and can only read in small snippets. While there are a few longer stories, most are between 1-3 pages, and none require excessive brainpower (not that they’re fluff).

There was one story in particular that I earmarked to use with my students- a personification of the stock market. Novak’s comparison between the high and lows of a person versus Dow was perfect!

There were some issues in terms of consistent quality. In a way, though, thinking of how comedians write jokes, it sort of fit. Some of them hit… and some of them don’t. There were some that made me roll my eyes or just sort of inwardly groan, much how one does at an improv when a bit falls flat. 

If you are easily offended this may not be for you. They aren’t too obscene or vulgar, but there are a few stories that are ironically crass that might not be for everyone. 

There are reading group questions at the ends of some of the stories and the book as a whole that are pretty amusing (especially ad an English teacher who is always making up questions).

Books in Real Life

1. I got "survival is insufficient" from Station Eleven tattooed on my wrist this past weekend. I made the appointment last August and it was finally time! Daniel Winter  did it and my last one- if someone is permanently marking me up it's this guy (he did my tree on my neck, as well). This will probably be my third and final one, so I'm glad I'm going out with something I absolutely love.

2. Last weekend I went to La Jolla alone for two nights and it was absolutely magical. I drove down on Friday night and on Saturday I slept as long as I could (fine, until 7:30), got up and just started walking. I got coffee, walked around a museum of modern art for an hour, ate at Sugar and Scribe, and walked some more. All in all it was a 10+ mile day! I went back to the hotel and read for several hours, ate dinner without having to help anyone, went to bed, and went home to my family the next day. I think this needs to be a yearly tradition.

3. Before ending for the year I allowed my students to create their own "A" from The Scarlet Letter and I wanted to get in on the fun, too, so I embroidered one. It was so much fun! I didn't have any sort of plan, I just sat down for a little bit each day and did a variety of stitches in a few different shades. Ideally I'd love to do a hoop for each book I read with my kids, but we'll see.