Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

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1. No matter how many stacks of papers I have (a lot), it's still always great to finish a pile and put them in the grade book.

2. I'm reading History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund right now and it's really disturbing me. It's good, definitely, but she alludes to something happening to a young boy at the beginning so I'm just on pins and needles for this bad thing to happen. Since I've become a mom I have a really hard time with this sort of thing, but I'm sucking it up for the writing.

3. Joe Biden's new memoir, Promise Me, Dad and Andy Weir's Artemis both came in the mail for me yesterday. I think this will conclude the book buying until after the holidays. 

4. Starting on Saturday I have things going for nearly a weeks straight, but I am SO excited, since it's all fun stuff (I have next week off for our Thanksgiving break). I'm running a 5k at UCLA, I'm taking Sawyer to Knott's for a few hours (we have super cheap annual passes, so I can do that now and not feel bad), I'm getting my hair done, I have plans to see friends, and hopefully some reading, running and relaxation. I just have to get through the next few days at work.

5. I think the site Cupcakes and Cashmere is a little fluffy, so reading her blog is definitely a guilty pleasure. She did post something timely for me last week, though, about remembering that a lot of the time when people act negatively towards you it really is a problem on their end. So, basically, yes, people may hurt your feelings but often it's because they're having a rough time, are insecure, or thrive on negativity. Obviously that's not always true, since we all deserve attitude from others on occasion. But recently someone I care about greatly has been a little judgmental towards me and I've remembered to pause and look at things from a different perspective. 

6. So, it has to happen- we're getting more crappy Ikea bookshelves. We have several tall Billy book cases with shelf extenders in our great room, but we've outgrown them. We want to do custom shelving, but that is probably after a year or two of saving for the Big Remodel. For now I'm going to get a few small white units for our dining room, which means I get to reorganize. 

7. I made this pumpkin cake, minus the toppings, and layer instead of sheet, last weekend and it is so good! It's basically pumpkin bread in cake form with an extremely delicious.

8. One of Sawyer's teachers is leaving next week and I am so bummed. She is the lead teacher for his room (the other two teachers are great, though) and has been such a huge help transitioning him there. I know this is part of the process, but I still was sad when I head the news. 

The Pros and Cons of NaNoWriMo

As most of you probably know, November is National Novel Writing Month, better known as NaNoWriMo. If you choose to actually participate in “the movement,” you pledge to write 50,000 words by the end of the month, which equates to about 1,666 words a day. Five or so years ago I decided to do this, and was successful at meeting the final word count with a day or so to spare, no easy feat considering I was working full time and hosting Thanksgiving. Every year during this time I reflect on the experience with mixed feelings. On one hand, I’m glad I did it. On another, it was actually kind of a huge waste.


A friend of mine at work participated at the same time, so it was a fun experience comparing numbers and lamenting together.

I always enjoy a project.

I loved the graph features of the website- I’m driven by numbers and progress, so it was really motivating to log on and see where I was every day.

It was a good writing exercise- there is something to be said for being able to produce under pressure.

Bragging rights!


NaNoWriMo is really about quantity, not quality.

Somewhere around day 15 or 20 the goal became a massive chore, which took away from the initial fun and passion.

Because of the time and word count the process never felt organic. If you lag one day you have to make it up later.

There really isn’t time to revise, at all, which for many people is part of their natural writing process.

Novels are generally more than 50,000 words, so if you really want to write a book and try to publish it, this would be an awkward amount to stop at (not really a novella, but not a novel either).

I am actually quite embarrassed about what I wrote, which seems like a pretty pathetic end to a month of hard work.

Personally, I'll never do it again and the whole thing sort of left a bad taste in my mouth. Anyone else try it? Thoughts?

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

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1. I finally got all the nonsense surrounding my small car accident taken care of- DMV paperwork sent, car dropped off at body shop, rental picked up, and statements give to both insurance companies. Adulting is such a pain.

2. I wrote a post yesterday about my reading since the election. Here it is in case you missed it.

3. Not only is Friday a day off, but it's also the day Taylor Swift's new album comes out. Stop judging me, thanks. I'm in the car for over 90 minutes a day and need new music. 

4. I'm getting a little desperate with Sawyer's up 2-4 times a night sleeping schedule (sometimes it's to go to the bathroom, sometimes he just wants to get up for the day, sometimes he just needs to be redirected back to bed, sometimes he has nightmares; we don't let him sleep with us and he's not throwing fits, so it's just all really frustrating and exhausting). I ordered a new nightlight, started infusing lavender oil last night, and am going to start him on an ounce or two of tart cherry juice this weekend. If none of this works I may have to ask the doctor about baby melatonin (I am very, very hesitant to do this, though, but I am not opposed to just talking to the doctor about it). This has been going on for over a year and it's tough (mostly for me).

5. My students just turned in a huge stack of "future memoirs" they wrote after reading Michael Ondaatje's and I am actually excited to read them! Using his as a model, they had to write seven pages of text and then use two other mediums for three more pages (photography, maps, song lyrics, etc...), discussing a trip home twenty years in the future. They had to have some sort of purpose (reconciling with a family member, a reunion, personal growth, etc...), so it was really more of a creative assignment than anything. Several of them admitted that they really enjoyed the assignment after so much whining, which is always a win as a teacher. Now I just have to get through some of their regular essays first. 

6. I'm still plugging away at Jeffrey Eugenide's short story collection and I really like it. I just haven't had much time to read this week, but hopefully I can finish it up this weekend.

7. My son just got mad at me for something and told me to "go to Target." Like that's a punishment? 

How the 2016 Election Has Impacted My Reading

Tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of that one time America voted Hillary Clinton as President. Unfortunately, the Electoral College did not, so today our already conflicted country is now run by a man who has no real interest in maintaining or promoting peace, social justice, human rights, environmental stability, health, or really anything else positive and fair. The night of the 2016 election I remember a feeling of numb disbelief as I sat on the floor and ate Halloween candy with a side of wine for dinner. I was scared and pessimistic, and I still am today. This country is on the verge of collapse on so many levels that I can’t help but to constantly question how Hillary Clinton possibly could have done a worse job.

Relatively soon after the loss I took stock of what I could personally do to back up my vote. I started donating more money when I could to causes I knew would feel the brunt of budget constraints (Planned Parenthood, The Sierra Club, and the ACLU). I have contacted representatives over the issues I am most concerned about (it’s so easy with email, guys!) and I give my students opportunities to reflect about causes that impact their world (DACA, fears regarding shootings, etc…).

This last year has greatly impacted my reading, as well. I have made a significant effort to better educate myself on issues that I may not have first-hand knowledge of or need to understand better. I also bought my three-year-old son a slew of books as a starting point to talk about concepts such as gay marriage, poverty, racial differences, and gender equality. Reading and books have always been what I turn to in times of stress and when I need to learn, and the last year has been no different. Because of this I have seen a bit of a change in my reading and purchasing habits and I thought I’d share some that have helped me better cope and, more importantly, understand.

Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance
I read this book immediately after the election to try to wrap my head around the mentality of those in states who voted Republican. Vance offers a unique perspective as someone who was able to make it out of the extreme poverty of the region and obtain an advanced education. I don’t think anything in this book necessarily was incredibly new, but seeing it spelled out in front of me last November was helpful.  I finished the book feeling depressed and angry, but I did have a better understanding of why some people voted the way they did.

How to Win at Feminism by The Reductress
Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
As a woman and a feminist I don’t think I have ever felt in my lifetime that the progress of our sex is in as much jeopardy as it is today, whether it’s because of an attack on the right to make decisions about our own bodies, access to affordable birth control, or the way the president has treated women in the past.

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
This is beautifully written novella that describes the journey of a young refugee couple from, presumably, Syria who face extreme difficulty while trying to simply work for a better, safer life. The magical realism adds an additional element that enriches their story, as does the complex relationships Hamid creates. We see the horrific pictures on the news of refugee boats capsizing and countries refusing to help, but it’s so easy to click to a new site or change this page. This book resonates longer and humanizes the crisis even more.

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
I confess, I have been a total slacker when it comes to taking the time to really understand the Israeli/Palestine conflict. In an effort to better understand more than just the basics, and to read more graphic novels, this book was a really interesting starting point.

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
One of my favorite books of the year, Shamsie retells Antigone using ISIS and the public’s perception of Muslims. The story begins with the protagonist at an airport carefully answering security questions so that she will be permitted into the United States to further her education- she knows how meticulously she is being scrutinized and that many may judge her for wearing a Hijab. Differing opinions regarding cultural assimilation end up being at the forefront as well, straining familial and potentially romantic relationships. Shamsie’s usage of the underlying themes and issues in Antigone, in combination with more timely issues proves to be close to perfection.

The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas
I am definitely not a YA reader, but I had some serious FOMO when it came to this book, and I had a hunch that it was important. I was right- every white person needs to read this book, like, yesterday. Centering around police brutality/shootings, this novel deals with the complexity of race in America and how we need to be better. I will never understand what it means to be and African American, just as a man will never understand what it means to be a woman, but I can listen, ask questions, and be an ally when/if needed. Next semester my students have to read an outside reading book dealing with social issues, and I will definitely let them read this one (with parental permission, of course).

What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton
This was a much  more interesting read than I thought it was going to be- I was worried it may become bogged down with political jargon, long-winded excuses, and rants. Sure, there was a little bit of that, but I thought as a whole it was a really thoughtful reflection of what happened before, during, and after the election. I’ll never say Clinton is perfect, but I still stand by my opinion that she was the best choice last year.

Evicted by Matthew Desmond
We read this for book club last month and I learned a lot about the eviction process and issues with housing in America (this book was set in Wisconsin). It is so, so hard to get out of the cycle of poverty and eviction, and there are so many people out there ready to take advantage of those caught up in it (or just ignore them completely). What struck me is how tough it is for the kids- when moving from place to place and watching one’s parents struggle so hard, it’s incredibly challenging to know how to do differently as an adult. It’s heartbreaking.  With gentrification, the widening of the class divide, and the ineffectiveness of the government, help doesn’t seem to be anywhere in sight.

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? By Alyssa Mastromonaco
I listened to this book over the summer and adored every minute. Mastromonaco was Obama’s Chief of Staff and it was fascinating hearing about her experiences in the White House. She’s funny, smart, and the professional, diverse, fair environment of the White House she discusses seems starkly different to what it seems to be now. It made me miss Obama even more than I already did.

Purchased (but not read yet):

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
I purchased this when the “taking a knee” controversy started at football games, even though I had meant to pick it up months ago.

The Accusation by Bandi
North Korea is the enemy, but what about the actual people who live there? I know so little.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of what all was published last year on the social, political, or cultural level. I also didn’t limit myself to books just in line with these is

Lessons from Last Week

Car insurance is so important/if no one gets hurt you win
I was in a decent-sized fender bender with Sawyer on Thursday and while both cars got banged up, and the other driver is trying to place blame on me (I'm not going to get into it right here, right now), everyone was completely fine and both cars were drivable. Even if I have to eat my deductible, it's still so much better than the alternative. And again, everyone was safe. I saw two horrible accidents within twenty-four hours after and I just can't stop feeling thankful (and being really, really, really careful when driving). 

Don't Wear Tight Pants
I wore extremely tight fake leather pants as part of my costume on Halloween (I was Batman) and ended up with extreme stomach pains and accompanying issues for the rest of the night, to the point where I told my husband that if Sawyer wasn't sleeping I would have had him take me to urgent care, I so miserable. I was totally fine otherwise and hadn't eaten anything weird. Mama just can't hang. 

Just Take the Cold Medicine
Christine, you already dealt with an upset stomach, don't be martyr. Just take the DayQuil (I did, although I was fine the next day, so I'm not sure what the problem was). 

Don't Google Your Child's Health Concerns
So, without going into too much detail, Sawyer had a GI issue earlier this week and I knew immediately without the internet that I needed to run it by the doctor asap, but couldn't get in until Thursday, leaving my over two days to ruminate. My fear and stress got the better of me and I started poking around online and my concerns were confirmed. Luckily, after seeing the doctor he felt that the fact the symptom was presenting in isolation meant it was most likely a fluke, although he sent us for blood work and an ultrasound to be safe. I have to say my kid is a champ- he didn't cry at all during the lab work and he was so chill while getting his ultrasound he fell asleep! My gut (ha. ha. ha) is telling me that things are probably fine, but I will be thankful to get the test results later this week. He's my best buddy and the mere notion that something is wrong makes me feel as sick as I did when wearing tight pants. 

Promise Your Students
I swore that I'd have all of their reading quizzes graded and put in the grade book by Monday and that sense of obligation pushed me to get that stack done this weekend (that stack... there are many more stacks at work). So, spending many hours grading this weekend wasn't fantastic, but it'll be nice to be able to check to so many assignments off my grading calendar tomorrow morning. I really, really try to be honest and straightforward with my students at all times, so it was important to me that I hold up my part of the bargain. 

Take a Minute
Obviously, last week was pretty crappy. Everything was manageable, but two bouts of sickness, a potentially stressful health issue for my son, and a small car accident all in one week was a lot for me all at once. Yesterday my husband had plans all day, so instead of working through Sawyer's nap time like I normally do, I said screw it, watched This is Us and cross stitched for an hour and a half. It felt gluttonous and was what I needed.  

Your Kid Will Never Sleep In, Ever, Not Even For a Sleeping Holiday 
Nope, there was no extra hour of sleep for last night's sleeping holiday (come one, that's really what it is). I knew that was going to happen, but the 4:45 wake up this morning was still sad. I made the best of it, though, taking Sawyer to get pancakes before 7 and to walk around the duck pond before 8. My kid chooses not to observe the WONDERFUL HOLIDAY that is the End of Daylight Savings, but that is his ethical, moral, and personal choice. I have to respect it. 

Sometimes You Have to Be An Adult
Because of the unexpected expenses of at least putting up the initial costs for car rental and my insurance deductible, I made the call to cancel my quick little weekend trip up the coast alone to be fiscally responsible. It stung, a lot (there may have been a tear or two), but I knew in the end the added expense would be more stressful so I pulled the plug. There will be other chances. 

Remember the Good
There were some good moments this week- Halloween, pre-stomach disaster, was so fun this year! Sawyer had a costume parade on Friday too, at his school, that was the absolute cutest. I've also been loving Jeffrey Eugenides' newest short story collection and am excited about an unrelated blog post I'm working on for this week. I got in two short runs this weekend, taking it easy after not feeling well this week, and a few walks too. I was able to touch bases in various forms with several friends over the past few days, and of right now I'm winning my week for Fantasy Football. It's not all bad.