October Reviews

October! The longest month of the school year is over and I have survived. And maybe even a little better than just survived? Dare I say this month has been pretty decent? Sure, behind with grading, house a mess, tired, yadda yadda yadda, but we have had some fun and I've read some good stuff. Here's how I did:

Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg
320 pages
A tragic accident leaves June without her daughter, her soon-to-be son-in-law, her current boyfriend, and ex-husband. A town is shaken and so many lives are greatly impacted. This story shows us how people grieve differently and how easy it is to simply just be there for others (but also how to hurt them). This book touches on race, social class, and familial bonds, while focusing on vulnerability.

Verdict: This novel weighed so heavily on my heart, but at the same time was also hopeful and simply wonderful. I at first balked at having to manage so many different perspectives (that chapters are from that of several different characters), but I came around. This book will definitely be a contended for my top ten list at the end of the year (so will the next one).

The Sellout by Paul Beatty
304 pages
The narrator of this satirical novel about race and class is an African American man who decides that in order to put his town of Dickens back on the map he's going to shake things up a bit, by doing things like reinstituting segregation, keeping a slave (although he does employ the local S&M club to do his whipping, though), and changing city signage. There's so many hilarious, yet sobering elements to this book that I can barely scratch the surface here. A group of intellectuals that meet at a donut shop, a cow castration at career day in which a little girl finishes the task and keeps the remains, countless uses of the "n-word," stereotypes galore, and the obvious message that we do not live in a country where racism isn't a issue. 

Verdict: I loved this book and think Beatty is a brilliant satirist. He calls attention to important issues at hand, backslapping each with humor and wit. The problem? The people that need to read this book won't, and even if they did, they wouldn't get it. We have a long way to go.

Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple
272 pages
Eleanor is an artist who is seven years behind on her graphic memoir. Her son, a possibly homosexual elementary student, is struggling at school and needs to take the day off. Her husband, a wildly successful doctor, is basically missing. Eleanor thought that her day would be different in a good way- not in a chaotic way that would make her examine each and every element of her life closely in stressful situations. And not only is her present precarious, her past also resurfaces, showing some wounds that have still not healed.

Verdict: It sounds interesting and witty, but I think compared to Semple's other book, Where'd You Go, Bernadette, this one fell short. There were many similarities (quirky kid, Seattle, disappearing spouse, etc...) and the twist at the end was disappointing. It still did have fun, humorous moments, though, so this is most definitely one to get next year to read while floating around the pool with a cocktail.

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
517 pages
Pip loves Estella. Pip gets a mysterious benefactor. Pip sort of becomes a d-bag. Pip abandons Joe, the only person that was truly good to him. Pip- wait, you read this in high school? You remember? I'll spare you. I was about to ruin it anyway.

Verdict: Dickens. Sigh. Loooooong sigh. I read this because I am advising a student on his extended essay on the book at work, so it wouldn't have been something I chose on my own. But, as much as I make fun on if, I actually like it. Yup, I like a Charles Dickens book. Sure, he's wordy and so very, very descriptive, but there's something about Miss Havisham and Jaggers and The Convict that I sort of love. 

 1413 pages

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

[my neglected, but so loved, pups]

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1. I saw someone cleaning the outside of their house with a duster when we were walking earlier and I was like, "WHAT THE HECK I CAN BARELY KEEP THE INSIDE CLEAN!!!!" I hate that person. I don't need the bar set that high. 

2. I am very excited for Halloween next week. Sawyer is going to be Chewbacca and he loves his costume very much. I am a little nervous that he might choke when it comes to seeing other people dressed up, though, since he has completely lost it when he's seen mascots at events. Nonetheless, I already called Reese's PB Cups for the mom trick-or-treating tax.

3. I hate chewy, fruity candy, but I am obsessed with strawberry and cherry Hi-Chews. They're soooooooo gooooooooood. 

4. It's been a rough five or so days and I cannot wait for this week to be over. Actually, last week was sort of crappy too. It's been one little thing after another, which as stand alone issues are pretty manageable, but when they all start piling up things start becoming overwhelming. Compounded with a head cold and the normal bone-tired exhaustion, well, let's just say enough is enough.

5. The book we just read for book club, The Sellout by Paul Beatty, won the Man Booker. An American! Since it's a satire on race it's of course not for everyone, but I really enjoyed it and we had a good conversation. It's not a book for every book club, either, but the six of us are pretty respectful, open-minded people , so it worked for us. 

6. Last week I wrote about how I had no plans for this past weekend and how it was probably good for me. It was not. I need things to look forward to and structure my time around. It's who I am and I own it. Hello, my name is Christine, and thrive on being busy. 

7. Do you need a laugh? I think you do. Take a look at these hilarious tweets about Obama and Biden.

8. I told my son that he was going to try soup for dinner while we were washing his hands. He thought I said "soap" so the next thing I know, he's licking the soap off his hands. I can't get him try real food, but he didn't even think twice about licking soap off his hands. Sigh. Toddlers. 

9. I made Sally's Salted Caramel Pretzel Crunch Bars last weekend and they were perfection. There are a million steps, though, so they can't be done on the fly. Still worth it (so is making the salted caramel from scratch).

10. There are so many post ideas swimming around in my head right now, but TIME! If there's a will there's a way... Supposedly. Something like that. [If I type it is real].

Being Honest

1. I am constantly scheming how to get more shut eye- I haven't had a good night sleep in like five or six weeks. "Maybe I could bring my yoga mat in my classroom and nap at lunch?" "If I go to bed right when Sawyer does at 8..." "Maybe I can learn to sleep with my eyes open?"

2. After parent-teacher conferences last night I ate chocolate frosting on graham crackers for dinner and this morning I am having rice krispy squares (it's cereal, yea?) for breakfast. Oh, and yesterday I grabbed Ding Dongs from the gas station. I am horrible. Luckily I have been very active lately, but still. Disastrous. Disgusting. Dastardly. Diabetes. 

3. I have no plans this weekend and while on one level that sounds incredibly exciting and liberating it also bothers me way more than it should. I'll have no excuses for taking care of some things around the house I don't want to do but have been putting off. There won't be anything to get ready for or to schedule the days around. Honestly, I just don't like it. But I know I need it. It will be good once I can mentally wrap myself around this concept. Maybe.  

4. Sawyer's little growing pain related limp came back. He has grown another inch in the last seven or so weeks, so it makes sense, and it doesn't bother him, but it freaks me out. And very few health-related things do.

5. This afternoon we get to leave when the students do and I told the daycare provider that I'd be there about an hour and a half earlier than normal, but now I am regretting this decision and wish I would have booked a pedicure/massage/nap and just pretended I worked until the end of the normal day. #bestmomever

6. I have like eight classes paid for at the yoga studio I go to that I haven't used because I haven't been in so long. I do it at home with the app and it's so much easier, but I've wasted so much money, which is one of my biggest personal pet peeves. Bad Christine, Bad Christine.

7. I bough Cher tickets for my mom's Christmas present- the show is in Vegas in February. But honestly, it's partially for me too. Cher is the shit. I mean, come on. The "Turn Back Time" video? That lady's got it.

8.  I have been incredibly short on patience this week at work and at home but am determined to keep it on the dl (so I will write it on the blog I think more students have discovered... good plan, good plan). So at least 4352938672896724 times a day I have to do this thing where I clench up every single bodily organ for just a second and hold my breath so that I don't explode. Solid, effective plan.

9. I uploaded the picture at the beginning of this post twice, within two minutes, because I really have no idea what I am doing [in life] anymore.

10. I am reading Great Expectations so that I can advise a student with his paper and I cannot get myself to finish it. I've read it before and it's the best of Dicken's work, but I just cannot cross the finish line. I also refuse to Sparks Note it (yes, this is a verb, thanks to millions of teenagers across America), so I'm not really sure what I expect to happen before Monday. 

Happy Friday. We can do this (we have no choice). 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

[my quick day trip far away]

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1. Last Saturday I decided to take a super cheap, quick flight up to UC Berkeley to visit a student that I have been very close to for a few years (added bonus: her roommate is also one of my favorites). It would have taken my like seven hours to drive there, but the flight is an hour and the drive to the airport about the same. We walked around campus, went to a Cal art gallery, took the BART into San Francisco and went to the MOMA, and then hit up Fisherman's Wharf before it was fly home. And just like that I was home and in my bed by bedtime. It was easy, affordable, and so fun.

2. I think that a photographer should do a photo series on mom's when they are done getting ready for the morning, when they get home from work, and then when their kids finally go to sleep for the night. I swear, when I leave the house I'm a solid 6.75. By the time my kid goes to bed? A 2

3. The Snoop Dogg and Martha Stewart cooking show? It makes me want cable again.

4. Next time you go to Trader Joe's get the chocolate pumpkin cookies with orange vanilla bean frosting. So good.

5. Tomorrow night is conference time. It's a very long day- I anticipate speaking to 100 families in about four hours. It's usually really, really nice too, though to touch bases with the families and to congratulate those doing well and to give those in need of some improvement some individualized tips. I always leave tired, but also pleased. Plus Friday we get to leave when the kids do for a minimum day to make up for the time. 

6. I have to get on the Hogarth train and pick up Hag Seed by Margaret Atwood and the other's they have put out. Being the completionist I am, I think I'd want to reread (or read) the Shakespearean plays first, though.

7. The Milk Bar ships their cakes. THE MILK BAR SHIPS THEIR CAKES. I have wanted to try one for ages! I've thought about trying to make me own, but I know it won't be the same. Unfortunately, said cakes, plus shipping and handling, end up equating to... a lot of money. But, if we ate PB&J for a week the grocery budget would cover it. Hmmm....


8. I am nearly done with The Sellout by Paul Beatty for book club tomorrow and I have to say that it is one of the best satires I have ever read. It's shocking and timely and so well-written. It's most definitely not for everyone, but it's still an important read. 

9. This weekend I have absolutely no plans. Whoa. 

Have a great rest of the week!

Bob Dylan: Nobel Laureate

Finally, a debate of true intellectual merit. Does Bob Dylan deserve the Nobel  Prize of Literature, which he was awarded today? Do lyrics fit in the box that we’ve created to define something that truly is so broad and limitless?

Yes and yes.

When I first saw the headline proclaiming his victory, I raised my eyebrows a millimeter, thought “hey that’s kinda cool,” and carried on with my regular scheduled programming, figuring I’d wait until later to read up on the decision. Sure, I was a smidgen sad that there wasn’t a novel unknown to me that I’d be plopping into my Amazon cart, but that was okay, considering the 80+ unread books of my shelves.

During my lunch break I had some time to jump on the interwebs, and I was a little surprised to see that people are upset with Dylan’s win. Their points are interesting and possibly valid, on some level at least. Many discuss how a huge part of Dylan’s work surpasses the lyrics, lying in the actual melody, the harmonica playing, and his unique voice. I get that. But the words connect to this and as a package they all enhance each other. Stephen Metcalf wrote on Slate’s site that, “the distinctive thing about literature is that it involves reading silently to oneself. Silence and solitude are inextricably a part of reading, and reading is the exclusive vehicle for literature.” He raises an interesting point. But what about poetry reads? Or sitting down with your child and reading aloud something like Charlotte’s Web? If we listen to The Odyssey on audiobook is it no longer literature? I personally like to enjoy texts silently, through reading, but I don’t think it’s the only way to do something (unless I'm reading to my son or students, of course). The experience and community surpasses silence. 

This word that Metcalf uses, “exclusive,” bothers me. By definition, it serves to limit. Since when was that a goal of true literature? Literature should invite, it should innovate, it should elicit emotion and thoughts. Literature in and of itself is evolving, as it always has. Look at what it looked like when  Chaucer wrote, or Shakespeare, or Dickens. We have changed as people, as has the way in which we consume literature.

Anyone want to put $5 on Kanye trying to nominate himself next year?

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

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1. Sloooooowest weeeeeeeek eveeeeeeeeeer. I'm looking forward to the weekend, and it hasn't been a bad week (so far) by any means, I just can't believe that it's only Wednesday. 

2. Roxane Gay is coming to LA in January and my friend and I are already stalking the Skylight site waiting for tickets to go on sale. She's coming out with a collection of stories that she's on tour, so that's exciting news in and of itself. 

3. I just got tickets for the three of us to go to a limited-time-only Pixar Exhibit at the California Science Museum in December (because that month isn't busy enough). It looks super fun and the tickets include entry to the shuttle- if you're local check it out!

4. I made these cookie bars (cream cheese + corn starch= so soft) and they were delicious (I used M&Ms and a cake pan instead, so they were thicker). I also made this gnocchi one-pot sort of deal as well, but subbed sausage for the chicken and it was really easy and good. 

5. I had no idea Maria Semple, author of Where'd You Go, Bernadette? had a new book out! I had a gift card to Amazon, so I ordered it the other day. It seems like a funny, quick read that will be at least a tiny bit relatable. 

6. I also just downloaded Amy Schumer's audiobook, The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo. I had reservations for a few reasons, but the first ten minutes I listened to today on the way to get Sawyer were entertaining.

7. Not only are there SO many books that are coming out of have recently, (I've had a post in my drafts on this for ages), but there are so many new albums coming out in the next few weeks, too! Lady Gaga, Kings of Leon, The Naked and Famous, The Weeknd, Beck, and Metallica, just to name a few. Thank goodness for Spotify.

8. The other night I was so exhausted and just done with attempting productivity, that I just climbed into bed with my book and laid there and read for the first time in ages. It seems so simple and common, but it's been ages since I've read in bed and it was so very nice.

9. So, an old colleague that I am friendly with managed to convince me to try Rodan + Fields' eye cream with all of her pictures and posts. I sort of feel like I've joined a cult (but one with people with skin that's continuously improving). I've heard that there are a lot of aggressive R+F saleswomen, but she hasn't been so I decided to go for it. Fingers crossed I have the eyes of twenty-year-old in sixty days.

10. My Giants are out of the playoffs. Womp womp womp. But you know what's most important? That my "team" doesn't lose the presidential race. Speaking of that, a student asked me whom I was voting for the other day and I couldn't answer because of this very specific memo that was sent down to all employees from the district office. Not that I discuss politics often with my students, but the fact that there could be a doubt in their mind where I stand on the issue, and that I can't clarify it, irks me to no end. I'm sure they know, but I want them to know. But they can't. 

Weekend Update

Monday Eve. Sigh. Here's the thing about Sunday night: it sucks if you had a great weekend and it sucks if you had a bad weekend. Either you don't want it to end or you want a do-over. Luckily for me, it was a good one (and oh-so-tiring... I need an extra day to sleep).

Friday right after work my mom came in from Modesto. Sawyer hadn't seen her since July and I was worried he might be confused since his other Grandma has been watching him for a few hours every Monday while I teach a late class. The fact that this other lady we also called "Grandma" showed up at his door didn't phase him at all- he probably just thinks all ladies over fifty that let him boss them around can be called "grandma" now. We grabbed some pizza for dinner and then went to the homecoming game at the high school where I work for a few hours.

["Clear eyes. Full hearts. Can't lose."]

I think it's really important for teachers to stop by activities like this once in awhile with their families- it humanizes us and shows that we are willing to spend some of our personal time supporting our school and students. Sawyer had a fabulous time watching the the game, the band, the students, and the class floats at half time. We were up by almost thirty points when we left at half-time, so that was a nice note to leave on.

Saturday morning the three of us, plus my husband, made the forty-five minute drive to Peltzer Farm in Temecula for their pumpkins and fall activities. We were going to go apple picking, but it's a little late in the season for a drought-ridden California, so this ended up being perfect. This farm wasn't huge, but it also was much bigger than the smaller places near our house. Sawyer was able to ride a pony, spend a ton of time in a petting zoo that had baby goats, see some tractors, watch pig races (M.C. HAMmer was a winner), and pick out pumpkins They also had an ice cream truck, which was much appreciated because it was nearly 90 degrees by the time we left at 11. My younger brother and his girlfriend met us there as well, so it was a mini-family get together, minus my two sisters. 

Today was so much fun, too. My mom, Sawyer, and I met my friend who I have been friends with for like 25 years down at Back Bay Loop in Newport Beach to walk six miles (well, I pushed Sawyer in his chariot while he ate trail mix). It was definitely a good work out and I am so very, very happy to report that my toes cooperated the ENTIRE time. This gives me so much hope for the future... Anyway, after we walked we had lunch and then grabbed some cupcakes from Sprinkles. We came home and I realized that after 2.5 busy days after a crazy week and several nights of meh sleep that I was on the verge of collapse. So I did what any other person would do- I chugged Diet Coke and coffee, said good bye to my mom, and cried in the laundry room (for like ten seconds, and then I pulled my big-girl pants out of the dryer and cleaned the house, played with my kid, did laundry, watched the debate, made dinner, and did school work. BAM! YAWN! PASS OUT!)

Hope everyone is ready for Monday. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

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1. You know what's getting old? Taking the mature, high road in various arenas of my life. That seems to be the theme of my 2016, me opting to stay quiet and semi-classy, rather than not going off on people like I may want to. I can think of at least four BIG things I've chosen to "be good" about and it's killing me. And if I have to keep doing it, I think I should get... a prize. My tongue hurts from all the biting. 

Mini-rant over. Phew. 

2. I am reading Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg right now and am really, really enjoying it. It's very depressing, of course, since the book opens with a fire that kills a couple right before their wedding, as well as two other men, but I appreciate the multiple perspectives and thread of hope that is lurking in the background. 

3. I've wanted to take an Orange Theory class for FOREVER, but haven't been able to because the studio nearest me has a really horrible schedule and is thirty minutes to get to. I just got a flyer in the mail yesterday alerting me that they're putting one in the shopping center three minutes away from my house. I yelped with glee.

4. I think I found someone to do my next tattoo, so we're one step closer to that happening. 

5. I'm not sure how much longer I can resist the urge to buy this dress. I need another dress like I need a hole in my head, but I always buy something new for parent-teacher conferences, and they are just two or so weeks away... And this one is perfect for fall tights and boots. We all have our vices. Mine? Diet Coke and dresses.

6. I made these muffins over the weekend and they are delicious, even four days later. I'm not crazy for pumpkin like some of you hard-core PSL lovers, but I do enjoy a little here and there. The crumb topping on these was perfect (see picture above).

7. This weekend should be great. My mom is coming into town from Modesto on Friday and I think we are going to stop by the homecoming game at work for a bit. Saturday we are going to a pumpkin farm that has lots of activities for Sawyer, and then on Sunday we're meeting one of my oldest and bestest friends from elementary school to walk around Back Bay in Newport and then do brunch (or who are we kidding? We might just go to Sprinkles). I am going to get basically nothing done, though, so I really need to take advantage of the next two days. 

8. I have made an important decision. I am ditching my Mizunos and going back to Asics. I ran in a pair last night that are super, super old, but it felt like walking on a cloud. I'm sure basically no one knows what this mean. It's okay.

9. Confession: my new favorite running song is The Weeknd's Starboy. 

10. I just paid way too much money for three tickets for Day Out With Thomas. Yes, that's right, Thomas the MOTHER-EFFING Tank Engine. WHAT HAS MY LIFE COME TO? I need to plan something stat to counteract this. 

Jonathan Safran Foer Reading

I was fist introduced to Jonathan Safran Foer when I was a senior in college. I was taking a contemporary literature class and the teacher let the class vote on our last selection for the quarter, and my seminar decided on Everything is Illuminated. I loved it. Since then I have read Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Eating Animals, and  various essays and whatnot he has done here and there. I own the no-longer printed Tree of Codes, which I am afraid to handle too much because it's so fragile. He has always been one of my favorites but I had never gotten the chance to go to a reading of his. A few months ago I saw that he was doing an even with Skylight book in LA at the Colburn School in Downtown LA, so my friend and I bought tickets. 

Safran Foer's newest book, Here I Am, has gotten mixed reviews, some hating it, some praising the humor and perspective on marriage and politics. I have not read it yet, so I can't weigh in, of course (I did like the parts he read from for about 25 minutes, though). I am realistic, though, and I fully acknowledge the possibility that his first novel in eleven years might not be of the quality we have grown to expect from JSF. 

But here's the thing: I can forgive that. I consider myself a pretty proficient baker, but once in awhile my cookies will turn out flat or a pie filling just won't set up. Perfection is impossible. And, even more importantly, imperfection can be humbling. And let's just say after hearing Safran Foer speak I have a hunch that he is a man that could maybe benefit from being humbled on occasion... So perhaps what he actually needs is to write a bad book?

[view of the Walt Disney Concert Hall across the street]

Nonetheless, the reading was one of the best I've ever been to, despite the fact that the man is a bit pretentious. I generally hate hearing authors read, but this time I didn't want him to stop. I got a kick out of his candor when answering questions (he did get a little snappy when someone asked about his process, and also when another lady wanted him to name his top three favorite books and authors). He was intelligent, funny, and honest. And just a tiny bit of an asshole...

I have to note that the location was great too. I've been to Downtown LA many, many times before, but this was the first time I've been to a reading at this location, right across from The Broad and The Walt Disney Concert Hall. It was a beautiful night and we lucked out with very little traffic there and back. Friday was a bit rough for my friend and I (she is the teacher next door to me at work), but it was totally worth it.

October, Plus September, Revisited

Hey there, October. 

October is the last long stretch for us teachers, since almost every single month for the rest of the school year has either a vacation or a day off. I know. I just had a summer, right? But still. It's all about having things to look forward to!

Here's how I did on my September goals:

1. No social media, blogs, or email in bed at night: Not really. Improvements were made, but I definitely can't claim a yes here.

2. Planks every day: Nope. I did a great job until I got sick, and then it took me about a week to feel right again. I've been back at it for the last few days, but, a week off definitely takes me out of the running. 

3. Watch 10 TED Talks: I AM A FAILURE AT LIFE

4. Finish an Audiobook: Yes! Finally. I finished the incredibly lackluster, mediocre After You by Jojo Moyes. I'm done with her, just too many misses after Me Before You.

5. Sign Up for a Toe Surgery or a 5K: Yup. I signed up for a 5k in November after seeing my podiatrist and getting some gel sleeves for my toes. The pain has started creeping back (the honeymoon period is over, apparently), but it's still manageable with these. I will still need to get the toe surgically straightened out at some point, but I can't take the time to be off my feet right now, considering I have a very energetic toddler. 

I have a really busy month ahead of me, between visiting family, things planned with friends, parent-teacher conferences, and whatever else I can't think of right this second. I want to be realistic, but I also want to work on being more focused, efficient, and balanced. When I've been stressed lately I take a second and ask myself, "What would make you happy right now?" and try to come up with three doable solutions (frequently "drink coffee" is on the shortlist). So when I thought of what I should work on this month, I pulled from things that I constantly consider as ways to make me feel happier. A glimpse into stressed out Christine's happy places:

1. Continue seeing friends at least three times a month: I try to do something with a friend every weekend or every other weekend. I've talked a lot about my emotional and mental welfare depends on being social and active, and being able to touch bases with the people that are important to me in person is a non-negotiable. Luckily most of my friends are moms, or non-moms that love kids, so if I have to bring Sawyer it's no big deal.

2. Log 50 treadmill miles: Now that the weather is cooler the room upstairs that my treadmill is in is as well, making my runs (or run/walks, depending on the day) a lot more practical. Once upon a time 50 would have been nothing, but considering I'm just now starting to log my miles again it's a good place to start.

3. Read 1,500 pages: This is a little more than normal, but there are so many books coming out that I really want to read! I need to get through some of my old ones to justify picking up a few new ones.

4. Track Personal Expenditures: I try to do this once a year or so for a month just to keep tabs on where my personal money is going (my husband and I keep separate accounts and then have a joint one for household expenses). 

5. Travel: Obviously a big trip is out of the question this month, but I am once again afflicted with cabin fever. I have a day trip out of the local area in the works for next weekend, so hopefully I can be assuaged for now. 

6. 30 Minutes of Uninterrupted Sawyer Time Five Days a Week: I spend a lot of time playing with Sawyer and caring for him, but it's not always thirty minutes straight and is often interrupted by folding a quick load of laundry or grading a few papers or starting dinner. I want to make an effort to devote thirty minutes straight at least five days a week to my little guy. I know people without kids probably think this is nothing, but I'd have to just say it is categorized in the "you wouldn't get it unless you have kids" category that I hated to hear about before I was a mom. 

7. Feel Less Nervous Breakdown-ish About Papers to Grade: I am always behind at work- it's The Plight of the English teacher. Lately, especially since I lost a weekend this month, I am more behind than usual and it's bugging me. I refuse to sit home and grade papers all the time, though. I refuse to no do something with my family or friends because I have essays to grade. I refuse to spend every work night with my signature blue gel pen making up writing. So, something has to give and I just need to make things work and get caught up. Conferences are in three weeks, so that's the perfect time-frame for me. 

8. Ten TED Talks: We're going to try this one again. I need to learn. 

9. Start 2016 Year in Review Book: My original goal was to complete every month of time of the photo album I do for myself and family each year, but have not. I uploaded all my pictures from my phone on to my computer the other day, so the next step is to actually get the book layout started. Mixbook, the company I use, does killer sales around New Years, so I want to have the book made so I can jump on them.

10. Throw Out or Donate 100 Things: I need less in my life.