Natural History Museum of LA County Visit

For some reason, I had never been to the Natural History Museum in LA, even though the NYC version is one of my favorite museums ever. For some reason I thought it was on the smaller side, so I sort of ignored it, until this summer. It's actually pretty bug, and right now they have an Extreme Mammal exhibit, as well as a greenhouse that's pretty packed with butterflies. The museum itself has all the normal things a Natural History Museum does, like dioramas (these were lit extremely well, I noticed, for some reason), a gemstone area (we didn't go there), a local history wing, and dinosaurs, which Sawyer was super excited to see. We spent three hours there, including lunch, and then headed over to the California Science Center to take a look at the space shuttle, since, thanks to Little Einsteins, my child is obsessed with rocket ships. CSC has The Endeavor Shuttle, so for $4 we were able to walk around that for awhile (we were actually just here for the Pixar Exhibit last December, but I guess he didn't remember?). It was a really, really fun day and I can't suggest the NHMLA to local people enough! Their science labs were awesome and the place is just really well maintained and curated (the tech is far, far better then the CSC). 

Some pictures:









If I Could Only... [a survey]

So, I saw this feature in an old issue of In Style I was reading on the treadmill this morning and thought it would be fun to play along, since some of my posts have been a little heavy this week. So, in a (mostly) bookish manner:

If I could only...

...buy books by one author Ann Patchett- she publishes every few years and I've liked everything I've read by her

... read in one spot I would say my pool float, but that would eliminate most the year, so I'd have to go with the couch in my living room

... buy books from one place Amazon. I'm sorry, I am, but I have a budget. And then there's Prime. It's bad.

... drink one drink I want to say a gin and tonic, but you can't really sip on those all day long. So, Diet Coke. Shoot me. Take my kidneys. Give me cancer. I love it so. 

... teach one author That's really hard! If newer, maybe TC Boyle? If older, Oscar Wilde. 

... teach one literary element Theme! We talk theme do death in my classroom, but you can bring in so many other aspects of a text with it.

...subscribe to on streaming service Spotify; I can take or leave shows and movies, but I need music to work out and drive to (or entertain my kid).

... read one genre If "contemporary literary fiction" is too broad, I'd say "magical realism." 

...eat at one restaurant So I sort of snub chain restaurants (but still go, since we have limited options), but I'd have to say The Cheesecake Factory because their menu is a book. There are like 3,452 options, so at least it wouldn't always be the same thing. 

... recommend one book Tortilla Curtain by TC Boyle. The social and political messages are so important and he's a fabulous writer (even if he does teach at USC)

... take one book while being stranded on a deserted island Maybe the Oscar Wilde anthology I have, or the Narnia books that compiled into one volume (I've been meaning to reread them for years and years). 

... meet one author Salman Rushdie. 

... visit one more country Switzerland (it just looks so beautiful, in summer and winter) 

... rearead one book right now I've been itching to reread Marisha Pessl's Special Topics in Calamity Physics for awhile

...have one reading superpower I'd want to remember everything I read much, much better. Not that I forget, but with how much I read combined with life in general, details slip through the cracks 

... develop one better reading habit It would be to spend more time looking up unfamiliar things when reading them. For example, I read a short story by Richard Russo recently and they were talking about some gallery in Venice that I thought I had visited, but wasn't sure, but didn't take the time to investigate. I need to.

... develop one better life habit Stop over-thinking the future. 


Play along! 


Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts



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1. I go back to work in two and a half weeks, so that means mom guilt and time-off remorse are both in full-swing. I sat down the other day and added up how much time Sawyer will be in preschool compared to daycare last year, since my schedule is changing a tiny bit, and it's the same, but I still feel bad (it's always like that at the beginning of the year, and I always feel better after a few days). I also look back at the last two months and wonder if I did enough with him, for the house, with friends, etc... What can I cram into the next eighteen days while still relaxing? I WANT TO DO IT ALL AND I WANT TO DO NOTHING.

2. Speaking of friends, I have been so lucky to spend time with so many of the wonderful people in my life lately, with plans yet to come. It's so nice to catch up.

3. So, Sawyer dropped out of swim lessons. The first day was great, but on the second day they pressured him to put him face in and he was not having it. Then, when he started crying the instructor dunked him. My child literally screamed the whole thirty minutes. I took him out to use the restroom and tried to settle him down, but it didn't work. I tried again the next day after talking to the instructor about letting him keep his head up (it was the first week of level one, come on), which he agreed to, but Sawyer started bawling as soon as he got in. And that was that. I took him and left- he was scared, the other kids were confused, and parents were annoyed. So now I'm trying to work with him more at home and we'll figure something out for next summer. Water safety and learning how to swim is super important to me, though, since we have a pool.

4. More fun times with kid activities: at gymnastics yesterday an ornery little child put his hands around Sawyer's neck to "playfully" choke him. Sawyer ran away to me and looked so, so sad. I told him he did the right thing by leaving and telling a grown up, and that the other kid wasn't being nice, blablabla. The kid's mom was right behind me. Ha! She asked me what happened and immediately removed her child was a stern talking to. Parenting. It's lovely.

5. I finished the cross stitch above in record time (thanks, summer!) and I love how it turned out.

6. I am current reading Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gaily Honeyman and am enjoying it, although it does remind me at times a little bit of The Rosie Project (not that it's a rip off, just some similarities with the tone/voice). I am also still listening to Beartown, which is definitely entertaining. 

7. So many fun things coming up (see number one... ha)- two days of breakfasts with different friends, a day at some museums with Sawyer Saturday, and then Sawyer starts going to preschool in the morning for two days a week on Monday.

8. Not fun: I just got a cortisone shot in my hip and as soon as I walked out of the office I almost passed out. I went back in the office and called for a ride. Sigh. I can run half marathons, jump out of an airplane, birth a baby, hike Half Dome twice, and get a tattoo but I just suck at needles. In my defense he did it standing up, so that was uncomfortable and weird. 

One and Only- Some Personal Thoughts

Disclaimer: I wish I was the type of person who had the "I don't care what other people think" sort of attitude, but alas I do not. I know that topics regarding things like family size, fertility, etc... are sensitive; it's easy to offend and easy to take offense. But, I'm feeling daring, so let's see if I can be both honest and respectful. If not, know that's my goal. Also know that this is a long, rambling post that is me explaining a part my life when I probably don't need to, but a lot of people have been mentioning baby #2 lately, so I feel a little... defensive? Reflective? Conflicted? I also know that there are a lot of people who want to have just one child but they're almost afraid to admit it, since there are so many stereotypes out there. So, here I am, putting it out there.

Over a year ago I bought the book One and Only: The Freedom of Having an Only Child and the Joy of Being One by Lauren Sandler and then let it sit in a drawer, out of everyone's sight, until this past week. I had always said that I wasn't going prepared to make any big decisions about having a second child until Sawyer was three, which he turned in April.

The book itself was fine, offering some personal insight from the author (she was trying to figure out if she wanted a second, and also happened to be an only child herself). There's quite a bit of research provided, albeit dry at times. She focuses on economics, parental contentment, child behavior, what it's like to be a grown only child, and some historical perceptions. While it was nothing amazing, or shocking, it was reassuring and very thought-provoking. 

Sandler starts the book off by discussing why her mom only had one child, and what she said echo my growing sentiments. Sandler paraphrased her mother's thoughts that, "To have a happy kid, she figured she needed to be a happy mother, and to be a happy mother, she needed to be a happy person. To do that, she had to preserve her authentic self, which she could not imagine doing with a second child" (Sandler, 1). That, right there, is me in a nutshell. 

I always was pretty sure I wanted to be a mom- to how many kids, that was the question. My husband and I struggled for over a year to conceive, which was very hard, but still so much luckier than many. After an incredibly easy pregnancy and delivery Sawyer was born. He was a happy, healthy baby who didn't really love sleeping in long stretches (still often the case), yet was otherwise flexible, fun, and oh-so-cute. But as a working mom who brings home buckets of work (I am an English teacher, so there are literally hundreds of essays on my plate to grade at a time), an individual with hobbies (reading! running! yoga! writing!), a friend who actually likes to interact in person, and a wife (whose husband worked long hours with a long commute, a fact of life I accept, understand, and am in agreement with), I was falling apart. Every second of every day was accounted for, I was never not exhausted, and I always felt a hop-skip-and-a-jump away from losing my shit (I am fully aware this is normal for a new mom, or even just moms in general). Nonetheless, I was happy. I had a baby, a husband, a core group of loyal friends, and a job I was passionate about. But me? Who I am and what I love, including time to be alone occasionally? I was fighting a losing battle. 

And this is what my life was like for probably two or two-and-a-half years. I always have had very high expectations of myself at work and at home, and I constantly felt like I was failing (and some people purposefully, and accidentally, made me quite aware of my inadequacies). I was constantly sacrificing one thing for the other, and that's not even considering my lack of sleep. Multi-tasking was my norm- that baby on the floor playing with blocks, me on the treadmill walking on an incline reading for work. Or me, in the kitchen uploading pictures, while baking cookies for a work meeting, while playing with my toddler with measuring spoons. I needed more breaks, so much so that two or three or seventeen times I considered how great it would be do have my appendix out so that I would get a few nights in the hospital. 

In the last six or eight months I started feeling more at ease. Sawyer is older and he and my husband have been spending more time together. I got things at work under control with a new organizational system and by being hyper-efficient every second I am there. I purposefully schedule in down-time at home, and I started changing my cleaning/laundry/errand routine. I see friends, I pursue hobbies, I am trying to spend more time with my husband, I am a good mom and interact with my son constantly, I work out, and I've worked hard on making anxiety productive. I am also planning on doing some traveling again soon, hopefully, which is something I have greatly missed. 

But I am still very, very tired. I am happier, but I am so tired. 

I cannot go back. I cannot rewind the clock. I cannot focus more on surviving than thriving. I cannot. 

Let's say it takes me a year to get pregnant again. Then I cook the thing for nine months. Then it takes two and a half more years for me to return to me. That's over four more years. It's easy to say that that's not a long time, but it is. 

And then there's the money. I'll be honest- we paid anywhere from $450-$625 a month for daycare and will be paying $800 for preschool. Times two? Dear God. Then there's college, later. I'd like to help my child get an education but also not go severely into debt (again) myself. 

Some people are good at having multiple kids and looking at life's big picture. Some people are more patient, can survive better on little sleep, and cut themselves more slack. But I know myself, and I know that I just... cannot. And knowing my weaknesses is something I consider a strength. Different people need different things to be happy. 

Am I depriving my son of a sibling? Yes. Saying no would be a lie. It would also be lying if I said that I'm worried what will happen if he needs a kidney later in life. But is that an acceptable reason to bring a kid into the world? 

"Hey kiddo, you're super cool and all, but I was just worried about Sawyer's renal future, so thanks for the potential spare parts that you will hopefully match for, if so needed." 

(Sawyer has no renal issues, I am just being hypothetical). 

So yes, I'm not giving my son a sibling, a live-in playmate, and he might be sentenced to a life on dialysis, but I still feel like I am giving him a lot. I am prepared to spend countless hours with him playing with LEGOs, taking him to parks, visiting museums, and signing him up for summer camps so he can hang out with other kids during weeks off. And I totally volunteer my husband to take him to every single super hero movie that comes out, ever (by the way, my husband is not even close to begging for a second child; if he was then I'd have to do that thing you do in marriage when you consider the other person's desires and opinions). It cracks me up when parents of only-children are accused of being "selfish." There is nothing selfish about having a child, even if it's only one. I spent forty minutes the other  morning involved in a conversation about Mama Batman and Baby Batman going to Target for apple juice, thankyouverymuch. 

Am I 100% sure? No, but closer every day. Could something in me snap in a year and make jump back on the multiple-child train? Maybe! There are plenty of things in life that I said I wouldn't do and then decided otherwise. But sometimes you need a book to help you articulate what's going on in your head and your heart (and your ovaries). So, here we are. 

Families come in all different packages, and at the end of the day, I really truly think that there are so many ways to raise a good little person (or good little people). Maybe you and your partner are lesbians and you have five kids of all different ages and colors you've adopted. Maybe it's you, your husband, and your two dogs (pets are family members too). Maybe it's a husband, wife, a daughter, and  a son. Maybe you live in wealth. Maybe poverty. Rural? Urban? Stay-at-home-mom? Two working parents? Divorced? Remarried? The possibilities are endless. And that's good. 


Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

[another from Skylight Bookstore]


Hey! Link up, link back, say hey!

1. Thanks to those who alerted me about the photobucket issue- I think/hope it's resolved for good now!

2. This month, July, is probably the only month I will not have substantial childcare costs until Sawyer is in first grade. Three years down, three years to go... Because he is in between places this summer I lucked out, but tuition goes up next month for preschool and we are back at it. How people can have more than two kids in daycare/preschool at one time is beyond me!

3. The last two nights I have gotten almost seven hours of sleep and I feel so much better about life. Combined with ample caffeination, I am READY TO GO. 

4. I am so thankful for having several other moms that I can use as resources when I am curious/concerned/frustrated about a kid thing! It's come up lately and it's great to know who you can ask what questions, depending on where they're at and where they've been. 

5. I am rereading Fahrenheit 451 for the fourth time right now, so that I can advise a student, and while it's an awesome book, I prefer not to have to reread things. Considering my current backlog, I have more than enough unread books to focus on.

6. I just finished listening to The Nest and while most of the book was fine, I thought the ending was so rushed and so contrived. If I was to rate it (I don't add audiobooks to Goodreads) it would have been downgraded a star then and there. I just started listening to Fredrik Backman's Beartown and so far it's a good listen. I read A Man Called Ove, and enjoyed it, but I think that his books are simple enough fiction for me to listen to while  driving around (I typically don't listen to fiction because the books I tend to read don't permit daydreaming or navigating around unfamiliar areas... you can fill in the gaps with Backman).

7. I think I want these popsicle molds. I hate regular ones, but it would be nice to make some healthy ones for Sawyer (read: yogurt and spinach, haha). 

8. Tomorrow I am going to do P90X yoga with my husband, since he's back on that plan. I can't wait. I'm going to win. 

26 Years in 29 Books



Twenty-six years ago, for my seventh birthday my favorite aunt gifted me my first diary, compete with combination lock. It was pink, had a bear on it, and each page was broken in to two entries. I wrote horrible things about my mom and sister, lamented elementary atrocities, and sometimes included some very terrible sketches of faces crying. While obviously quite melodramatic, even at such a young age I found a great deal of catharsis in writing down my feelings. And so it stuck. 

Over the years, I have been made fun of for writing in a journal, in jest and out of spite. But if people knew how much in therapy these books have saved me over the years, they might be a little quieter. Writing has gotten me through awkward teenage years, insecurities, my parents' troubles, my dad's suicide, issues with siblings, problems with money, job concerns, homesickness, troubled relationships, moments of depressing and anxiety, difficulties conceiving- I could go on and on. My life could be far, far worse, but there have been some sizable bumps in the road. Reflecting through journal writing has helped me organize my thoughts and create plans to move forward (and usually at least three additional contingency ones).

People often ask me if I go back and read them- I don't. For me, keeping a journal is about the immediate expression and the release of emotions, rather than the ability to review the past. The few times I have looked back (minus the first one, it's hilarious, but I was so young) I am absolutely horrified. The only advantage is seeing that most of life's worries are fleeting; something that seemed like the END OF THE WORLD was often resolved six months or a year later. The older I get the more I remember this, but I wish I could have told myself this from the ages of about ten to thirty-one. 

My habits have varied greatly. There are stretches when I am younger that go for weeks and weeks of no writing, while there have been times where I have had to write twice a day. I mostly write about the negatives in life, and I often write lists as opposed to lengthy paragraphs. Currently I try to write for at least five minutes every night, just to stay grounded and reflect on where I'm at on a day-to-day basis (for those who are trying to develop this habit, this is my biggest piece of advice- just set aside a reasonable amount of time for your life every day or two and stick to it for a month).

I joke that I want to be buried with my journals when I die, but I'm guessing by the time I croak I'll have like 90 books and I don't think they'll be room in my coffin (what am I saying? I want to be cremated and have my ashes illegally thrown off Half Dome). I am lucky enough to trust my husband to not read them, so if I go first he will just have to figure out how to dispose of them. I definitely don't want them published (as I will clearly be famous enough for people to care to read them), nor do I want them treated like a family heirloom. I probably should have a real plan at some point. 

So, yes, this is my defense of journaling but also my not-so-humble pat on my own back about sticking to a hobby for so long. I'll end this with a quote someone forwarded to me a long time ago about journaling that I couldn't agree with more:

"[Journaling] is like whispering to one's self and listening at the same time"- Mina Murray (Dracula)


Out and About (ALONE)

Yesterday I spent a good chunk of the day completely alone, something I haven't done in a really long time. I didn't feel guilty, I didn't have reservations, and I didn't look back. I could give you an extremely long inner monologue about parenting, trying (and often failing) to be a good feminist, and use of time, but I will not. Instead, here are some pictures of my day at LA's Metropolitan of Contemporary Art (MOCA), walking around downtown LA, and a visit to Skylight Books up in Los Feliz. 

[the outside of the MOCA]

[Pollock]

[found items of NYC streets]

[Warhol]

[Spirographs! Part of a larger exhibit]



[outside sculpture]

[eating alone at a place that doesn't
serve chicken strips]

[DTLA]


[On of my favorite bookstores]

[a bookstore without fluff]

When I Read- Summer Edition

Every once in awhile I like to keep track of how I spend my time (yes, I have some issues with productivity, and at some point I should probably do a post acknowledging this simultaneously beneficial and detrimental addiction of mine). Sometimes I keep a log of how I spend my days as a whole, others more targeted. A week or two ago I kept track of when I read and when I exercise. Today's post is about the reading, and, for fun, I might do the exercise one next week. The week I kept track was  a pretty typical summer week for us, with errands, some little excursions, and time around the house. 


June 23
8:50-9:20 am On the treadmill, In Style magazine 
1:15-2:15 pm During Sawyer's nap, finished Waking Lions
4:20-4:30 pm While Sawyer painted, started Hunger

Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

June 24
2:30-3:00 pm During Sawyer's nap, Hunger
9:45-10:00 pm Before bed, Hunger

Time: 50 minutes

June 25
2:00-2:20 pm During Sawyer's nap, Hunger
7:30-8:00 pm By the pool, with a glass of wine, alone, Hunger

Time: 50 minutes

June 26
1:00-1:40, 2:50-3:20 pm During Sawyer's nap, Hunger

Time: 1 hour

*also went to Roxane Gay's reading for Hunger that night

June 27
1:00-2:00 pm During Sawyer's nap, pool, Hunger
3:30-3:50 pm Outside while Sawyer played in the water table, finished Hunger and started Persepolis 

Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

June 28
3:00-4:00 pm During Sawyer's nap, Persepolis

Time: 1 hour

June 29
2:30-4:00 During Sawyer's nap, Persepolis

Time: thirty minutes 

Not bad! I read for about an hour, give or take a bit each day, which is decent (I think) for having three-year-old to care for. 


Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts



Link up, link back, say hey and then click HERE to enter my giveaway! I am going to draw a name tomorrow night, so check back soon!


1. I hope everyone had a great holiday weekend! I took my son to a local baseball game on the 3rd so that he could see fireworks, which we did last year as well.  I was so impressed with his ability to behave during the nine innings beforehand, though, so much so that at one point I thought "this is why I cannot have another child. This behavior is an anomaly and I am not equipped to handle anything otherwise" (full disclosure: he cried in Target today because I wouldn't let him pay with the money he did not have but insisted he could run and go get). Yesterday we swam all day and I spent some time in the kitchen making....

2. .... the pie pictured above. I have never eaten fresh cherry pie before, just because the ordinary cherry pie you typically get isn't so great, so I've never been compelled (plus, lemon meringue is where it's at). But, Sally's Baking Addiction blog had a homemade cherry pie for this month's challenge and I went for it. Her crust is now my favorite crust- she uses half butter and half shortening, which makes for the perfect flakiness. Pitting 4.5 cups of cherries, and then halving them, was a bit of a pain, but it was definitely worth it. Also, important to note, she uses almond extract in her filling, which I found to be a great addition. It's cherry season, guys! Go make it! 

3. I asked students who may need a letter of rec this fall to sign up for one before the school year ended (I carry my junior students over into senior year), and I received nearly 50 requests. I just did two. Almost there. But honestly, I'm so glad I am able to do it this way, because inevitably there will be a scholarship they all hear about the weekend before it's due and then I'd have to kill myself doing a whole bunch at once. So, a few each day during the month of July makes it so much easier when we return. 

4. I have decided to start saving Sawyer's cuter t-shirts to make a quilt out of in a few years. I fully admit this is me being sentimental, but I have such a hard time getting rid of, say the Batman shirt he loved so much, or the Zootopia he was SO excited to pick out in Target back when he was barely two. I figure in a few years I'll have enough and then he CAN TREASURE IT FOREVER (yeah, I know, this is probably more for me than him). 

5. I have started watching GLOW on Netflix and am really enjoying it. It's only a half hour show, so it's actually manageable to get an episode in during nap time occasionally.  The corresponding Spotify playlist is so great too, if eighties music is your guilty pleasure (raises hand). I've been running to it lately and it helps pass the time.

6. I've actually been putting in some serious quality time on the treadmill this week; Monday and yesterday I ran nearly 4.5 miles each day, and then today I walked three to give my feet a break. I have to do it in the morning, and it's so nice to have my workout done for the day. That's not an option when school starts back up, so I probably shouldn't get too attached, but for now I'll just enjoy it.

7. After taking Sawyer to The Getty last weekend, I've wanted to see some more modern art, BY MYSELF (it's great taking him places, but let's be honest- three-year-olds do not linger). It might work out for me to do just that this Saturday, at the MOCA (Metropolitan Museum of Contemporary Art) in LA. There's a great little independent bookstore (Skylight) less than a half hour away,  plus a little restaurant at the museum I've been wanting to try. Clearly I have my hopes up about this day all alone working out.

8. I actually really, really wanted to travel alone this summer for a long weekend. I didn't actually include my husband in this sort of plan I was working on making a reality, but I had some pretty realistic fantasies about taking off for three days to go to maybe Washington DC or Boston or Yellowstone or even Nashville to just take some time to myself. For various reasons it's not happening, but I really have been getting a little antsy for some alone time lately. Nothing crazy, and I don't hate my family or anything, I just need time to myself to be a nice person, that's all. I need to collect my thoughts, get some sleep, and try to remember how to relax. It'll happen. It'll happen. 

9. Whelp, I'm off to the orthopedic surgeon in a little while about my hip (this does not count as alone time, thankyouverymuch). I am pretty sure he's going to order x-rays, not give me an idea about what the cause of the pain in, and maybe start me on some preemptive PT. Just my completely professional prediction, of course. I would like to walk out with a clear idea about why I feel like I am 85 when I get up from sitting, but I know that this is probably asking for too much. 

A Trip to The Getty


This past Saturday Sawyer and I made the nearly two-hour drive to West LA to visit The Getty, Southern California's largest art museum. Most of their art focuses on work before the twentieth century and they also have a beautiful garden. The architecture itself is amazing, as most of it is constructed from travertine. Personally, I much, much prefer twentieth and twenty-first century art (I always try to convince my husband that there is more to those huge installations that are only painted, like blue, with one white spot in the middle). But I've never taken Sawyer and it really is an awesome place, so off we went. Here are some pictures from our day:












Seven Years of Blogging (+Giveaway)



Seven years ago today I started this blog, during the height of, well, everyone starting blogs. I was resistant to do so for precisely this reason, but possible unemployment was looming, thanks to the lovely state of California RIFing teachers, and I needed A Project. So, Bookishly Boisterous was created. 

At first the posts were completely about books, but over years I started adding in more personal posts, as well as the occasional one about food, fitness, vacations, etc... Initially I felt like a traitor to my self-prescribed writing subject, but I was quick to realize that it didn't matter, no one was paying me to post and that this space of the internet was mine to dictate. And that, right there, is why I keep blogging. Not to say I don't appreciate the community, because I do. Getting comments is great, reading other peoples' posts is often interesting and informative, and interacting on social media with other like-minded people is fun. But, honestly, if no one read I think I'd still keep doing this. Having a blog motivates to me write about what I'm passionate about, something I probably wouldn't do otherwise.

Is this blog perfect? Far from. There are typos aplenty (hello, most days I barely have time to post and give the final product a quick read-through), I am horrible at replying to comments (I really am sorry), and there is often no consistency regarding when I post (although I do aim for at least three times a week). I will once in awhile allude to things going on in my personal life and don't elaborate, but, frankly, I don't have to  and with my students occasionally finding the blog I have to be careful. I am also aware my photographs are generally mediocre, my template outdated, and the search terms list out of control. I'm also terrible at publicizing posts on social media.

But, there are things I am proud of. I have never abandoned the blog, not even when moving, having a baby, feeling buried by work, or while tackling other challenges life has thrown my way. I feel like I've stayed true to my voice and opinions, but have done so in a respectful way to others who may disagree (see: politics and author criticism). I don't post just to post, and I put thought into my content. I am pleased that I've never made posting a chore for myself and that it's always stated really, really enjoyable. I've also been really realistic- I don't expect to ever become a professional blogger, make money at this, or acquire thousands of readers. 

So, what's next for my little corner of the interwebs? Probably the same. For the past year or so I've wanted to get into longer, essay-style posts, just to challenge myself as a writer, but that has yet to come to fruition. I've also wanted to write more about my plans for writing a novel, but I'm not going to bore you with posts entitled "I've Been Doing Some Thinking" and "Day 453: Still Nothing on Paper." So, I'll just keep rolling and doing what I can.



And, in order to thank all of you kind people that have read over the years, or have at least glanced at the posts and skimmed, I have a giveaway. To be honest, the only reason why I'm doing this is because I ended up with two of these books on accident, but the timing with this post worked out. So, to win your very own copy of Roxane Gay's Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body leave a comment below (you don't have to have an account, it will let you comment as a guest). I'll pick a random winner next Thursday. 



June Reviews



Check back tomorrow for a giveaway!

I have been off for the last four weeks and it has been pretty fantastic. We went away for a long weekend to see my mom, she also came down to visit, and we've done some things locally. But I've also had a lot of time at home, which has allowed me to knock back ten books this month. In the interest of full disclosure, my kid generally naps for at least two hours a day, which allows me some solid time by the pool or on the couch with a book (as long as the chores are done first... sigh). 

More than anything, I really appreciated the diversity of topics, authors, and genres this month. I have classics and contemporary literature, nonfiction and fiction (two plays!), female authors and male, and three authors from abroad. Here are some quick thoughts:

Othello and Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
128 pages and 209 pages
Oh, you know the drill- someone in power, someone trying to bring them down, destruction and death left in the wake. You've probably read them by now, and even if you haven't you're probably not going to now (and honestly, I don't really blame you; I plan on reading only one new-to-me Shakespearean title this summer, and that's just because I want to read a contemporary book based on it). 

Verdict: For me, Shakespearean plays are nostalgic and fine in small doses. They're sort of like listening to music from high school. Am I going to start listening to Third Eye Blind on repeat? No. But if "Semi-Charmed Kind of Life" comes on I'll probably sing along. 

All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg
208 pages
Andrea is getting older, and societal pressures are becoming more abundant. When is she going to get married? Have a kid? Really settle down? Meanwhile, she hates her job, sleeps around, struggles to accept her friends are buying into the white picket fence dream, and is just generally unhappy (not that marriage and kids will bring you lifelong cheer). Things are tough on the home front, too, as her brother and his perfect wife have a child that has a severe birth defect that requires around-the-clock care. There are a few mom issues, too. 

Verdict: The title and premise both sound like chic-lit to me, but some bloggers whom I respect were singing the book's praises, so I decided that it might be a good pool-side read. I was right (as were they). There is so much more depth and a sardonic humor that I appreciate. 

The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel
224 pages
I wrote about this here.

Verdict: I really enjoyed this book, since I have a thing for nonfiction survival tales and am deeply connected to the idea of needing alone time (maybe not hermit-level alone time, though). There are some concerns that I have, which I write about in my post, which really just serve as a good reminder to be critical readers.

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay
320 pages
Roxane Gay's memoir is about her hunger, both in terms of food and things she craves in life. It's told in a non-linear format with short chapters, and discusses many, many tough things that she has endured: rape, bullying, depression, serious body-image issues, eating disorders, dysfunctional relationships, and more. It's complex and honestly written, but definitely not for the faint at heart.

Verdict: Gay won me over with Bad Feminist, so this was an easy sell for me. It's a challenging read because no matter what size you are or what you've experienced relationship-wise, this book will make you pause and reflect. For me I appreciate that this wasn't a "and this is how my life turned out so magical and I am okay" memoir, like so many at least dance around. She's upfront about this not exactly being a success story (at least not in conventional ways). 

A Really Good Day: How Microdosing Made a Mega Difference in My Mood, My Marriage, and My Life by Ayelet Waldman 
256 pages 
Writer Ayelet Waldman suffered for many years from depression, anxiety, and severe moodiness. At one point she was diagnosed as being bipolar, but that never seemed fully right to her. Eventually it was settled on that she was afflicted by PMDD, which was controllable until she hit pre-menopause. At this point she stumbled across the idea of microdosing, or taking a tiny bit of LSD every few days in order to help make her less irritable/anxious, able to sleep, and to control some pain issues she'd been having. She experiences success and writes about her experiences for the month that she experimented, also bringing in a healthy dose (ha! get what I did there?) of scientific research on drug usage.

Verdict: I found this book fascinating, as this wasn't something I knew existed (for the record, I am not condoning drug use, at all, I just think that this was interesting). There were some things that struck me as particularly amusing, like her struggles to find LSD in Berkeley (ha!), the fact that she's Michael Chabon's wife, and her discussions of the drugs they have done together in the past, once in awhile (ecstasy), for "the sake of their marriage." Her handling of drugs with their teenage kids also made me think, since I'm sure one day I will have to broach the topic with my kid. 

Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout
272 pages
This compilation of vignettes returns the reader to Lucy Barton's hometown, giving the reader a more complete picture of what she left behind, and where she'd be if she would have stayed. We are given snapshots into the lives of her siblings and many of the characters mentioned in the previous book. Extending beyond individual characters, the book is about personal connections, small town dynamics, and rural life. 

Verdict: I love Strout's ability to connect characters through the short story platform. Her ability to be simultaneously simple and complex continues to shine, as does the way she manages to extract sympathy towards those that might not otherwise earn it. 

The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
341 pages
This graphic novel tells the story of Marjane Satrapi's coming of age in Iran during the revolution, giving Westerners a better idea of what growing up in a time of war is actually like. There's conflict aplenty in this text; political, familial, social, and personal. Overlaid onto this incredibly serious historical time period is Marjane's own struggle for identity, as a woman, a liberal, and an Iranian. 

Verdict: I enjoyed this book so, so, so much more than I thought I was going to. I'm still sort of dipping my toes into graphic novels, but I've heard nothing but great things about this one and would like to recommend it to my students for outside next reading this year (with parental permission, of course). I admittedly don't know much about the Iranian conflicts, so I liked learning more in that regard, but I also appreciated Satrapi's candor on the personal side. 

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett 
336 pages
A christening starts off as just another family event, but ends up being the pivotal point for the destruction of two families and the creation of a new one. This book spans over fifty years, looking at the siblings and parents involved, centering on a tragedy that is slowly unveiled to the reader throughout. (I kind of feel like it's hard to give a lengthy synopsis without giving things away...)

Verdict: In my book, Patchett can do no wrong. I'm not sure if I liked this as much as some of her others, but it was still outstanding. Patchett develops powerful, dynamic characters that are slowly revealed throughout the novel. Her attention to detail is ever-present in her typical way, as is her carefully crafted prose. 

Waking Lions by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen (*yes, two books this month by women named Ayelet!)
352 pages
One night after working late at the hospital, Dr. Eitan Green hits an African immigrant in the middle of the Israeli desert. He abandons the dying man, only to meet his widow at his home the next day (he left his wallet at the scene of the crime... sigh...). She blackmails him, forcing him to provide medical assistance to other refugees in exchange for her silence. As if having a family, a job as a neurosurgeon, and now moonlighting as the head of an illegal medical clinic isn't hard enough, Green's own wife is investigating the murder. Things are complicated.

Verdict: I really, really enjoyed this book, albeit a few issues with pacing and slight redundancies. The issue of refugees and immigration is so prevalent all over the world, and I think sometimes in the US we restrict our discussion to that concerning issues with US and Mexico, so this was an important perspective. There are several twists and turns in the plot and some emotional revelations and developments that are done decently. 

2,646 pages

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts



It's that time again. You know the drill.

1. I don't typically pay attention to how many years and whatnot that I have been blogging, but I realized that it will have been seven years here in a few days! Come back and visit for a post with a giveaway soon.



2. Saturday I took Sawyer to walk around Newport Beach for awhile and it was perfect. He loved it, the weather was absolutely perfect, and it was nice to get away from the area where I live for awhile (we're about an hour inland). It also finally felt like summer; sometimes I have trouble with change and transition, so I haven't really settled in to my time off yet (I know, I sound like an asshole to all you people that aren't teachers). But now that I've done that, gone to LA for the reading the other night, and have some more things planned I'm starting to feel like I am finally taking advantage of the time. 

[a Little Free Library outside a super wealthy person's beach mansion]

3. My Harry Potter sorting hat results are spot on:



4. I've been spending some time reading The Rumpus lately and can see it being a serious time suck.

5. Some good parenting advice about helping your kids acclimate to life's adversity:

[source]


6. I've started reading Persepolis, the graphic novel, and am really getting into it. I don't know a ton about Iran, so I feel like I'm learning a lot, too. 

7. I'm working on my photo book for 2017, hoping to get caught up before I go back to work, and I have come to the conclusion that my computer is the equivalent to someone else's incredibly messy closet or guest room. I'm fairly neat, but this laptop is a ridiculously unorganized shit show that I can't even begin to get together. 


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