Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

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1. I am not naturally patient person, so the fact that basically every arena of my life right now is requiring some degree of patience is incredibly exhausting. When I go to bed there is literally nothing left in me to give.  (Clearly, I thought we'd start off with a dramatic note today). 

2. The Naan bread-mashed avocado-fried-egg-S&P combo is back! I could eat that and scrambled egg sandwiches (with only American cheese on top) every day. 

3. I finally finished S-Town and I wish someone would right a comprehensive biography on John. I think I ended up liking it better than Serial, although Sarah will always be my favorite.

3. Pete Souza, Obama's photographer is coming out with a coffee table book in the fall of my favorite POTUS's time in office. I can't wait.

4. My students are reading Antigone in class right now and I'm so pleased with how well they are doing reading it together, in groups. I actually here them stopping to ask each other questions and to clarify relationships and it makes my English-teacher heart SO happy.

5. I get to see Elizabeth Warren speak this weekend in LA with a friend and I can't wait. I am of course a fan, but I also am looking forward to some adult time, since my weekends have been very kid-heavy lately (not that I am complaining, necessarily, but I need a few hours right now... see #1). 

6. I'm off to watch the first episode of The Handmaid's Tale. Finger's crossed... 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

[I made this, not a first grader]


Hey! Link up! Link back! Say hi. Give me music suggestions. 

1. I know parenting is something everyone has an opinion about, but unless you have your own kid that you have had to wake up with in the middle of the night, take to the doctor while sick, or worry about their college fund for, I don't want your opinion. I've been to the zoo lots of times and read books about monkeys, but I'm not going to tell a zookeeper how to take care of his little primate. 

2. I'm going to try the Unicorn Frap from Starbucks tomorrow even though it has no caffeine and will probably taste like a cross between jolly ranchers and skittles (I hate both). It's just so pretty....

3. I finished A Man Called Ove and thought it was sweet without being corny and was a nice break between some of the serious books I've been reading lately.

4. I am now currently reading My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout and really love it so far. 

5. Do yourself a favor and next time you make tomato sauce add 6-8 ounces of mascarpone cheese. 

6. I will never own a yacht, nor do I want to, but I love the articles about the huge ginormous ones that are made. You know, the ones that cost so much they could probably feed a third-world country? Those. 

7. I don't know if I've talked about this here before, but my goal is to live until I am 100 (as long as I am able to basically care for myself). That means I am basically 1/3 of the way through my life right now, since I am 33 and some change. I realized this the other day and I found it to be a sort of comforting thought. I am fairly pleased with the way things have gone so far, so we're one for three in the "life not sucking" category. *gets hit by a car tomorrow*

8. I am trying to cut back a tiny bit on Diet Coke (just maybe one less a day) and I recently found Crystal Lite with caffeine! I know it's not exactly the healthiest, but it is better than soda, so I'll take it.

9. Easter was so much fun (and seems like so long ago, already). We dyed eggs, made a bunny cake, did Easter baskets, had brunch with family, and hung out. 

10. My students are on day six of state testing in my class- I cannot wait for it to be over. CANNOT WAIT. They're going to appreciate Antigone, which we start on Friday, so much more now after sitting in front of laptops answering questions about expository text each day. I actually think they're all handling it better than I am. 

Wish List

I've really been trying to read more of my own books (ya know, since I have 79 unread books right now and all...), but it is fun to add to the wish list. Here are a few I have my eyes on:

The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel- Being a hermit in the woods sometimes sounds nice. 

Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga by Pamela Newkirk- We are actually read thing next for book club, so I'll be getting it soon.

Waking Lyons by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen- I was immediately drawn to this book after reading the summary; this book is both a thriller and a commentary on social justice. 

A Really Good Day: How Microdosing Made a Mega Difference in My Mood, My Marriage, and My Life by Ayelet Waldmen- Let the record show that I am not considering microdosing, but DAMN do I want to read about someone who does a good job with it. 

Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout- I just started My Name is Lucy Barton, so this will be a perfect. 

The Idiot by Elif Batuman- Emails from 1995 and a freshman at Harvard- let's go. 

The Telomere Effect- Live Longer, Live Better



We all want to be healthier and live longer, better lives... right? Nobel Prize Winner Elizabeth Blackburn and Elissa Epel have written The Telomere Effect to help us head in the right direction, focusing on one of the most smallest and most important parts of our bodies: telomeres. 

I'm not going to give a big long scientific lecture about what telomeres are. I thought the authors did a great job explaining them to the common person, but I have to say I did think they went a little light on their explanation. Anyway, telomeres are basically the caps on the ends of our chromosomes that have shown to be directly related to health: the longer your telomeres, the longer you remain in the "healthy" zone of your life and thrive. Telomeres shorten after every cellular division and help determine how fast our cells age and eventually die- the authors use the analogy of the little plastic caps on the end of our shoe laces. So the more you can do to protect your telomeres, the longer they will remain, and, theoretically, the healthier you will stay (obviously there are a lot of exceptions, but you can read the book for those).

So, how do we keep our telomeres from shortening prematurely, and even lengthen them (they can get longer!  Telomere health can be improved!)? There are many, many things, but here are the major categories:

1. Eat healthily: less processed food and red meat, more omega-3s and plants

2. Sleep: Quality of sleep is incredibly important for our bodies to heal and recharge

3. Exercise: Cardiovascular activity most days for thirty minutes is one of the most important things you can do for your telomeres. A variety of activity helps, as well. 

4. Educate yourself: Those that have gone to college have longer telomeres (as do their children).

5. Manage stress: Ongoing, long-term stress does a ridiculous amount of harm to your telomeres

6. Foster relationships: Having people who you are close to lengthens telomeres. Weekly sex has substantial benefits as well (just saying what the science says).

7. Avoid chemical exposure: Be mindful of where you live and products you use in your home.

The book also spends some time discussing the role childhood trauma can have on telomere length, the genetic aspects of the process (telomere length starts in the womb), and positive thinking.

A lot of what this book discussed was just common sense, in terms of things we should do to live healthy lifestyles. Connecting them down to the chromosomal level and providing evidence to back everything up was really powerful for me, though. There are a lot of things I do well (exercise, relationships, being outside, and have an advanced education), but there are many things I need to work on (better sleep, managing stress, and consistently eating well, as I tend to fluctuate between apples and cupcakes too often). 

I really enjoyed this book, both from the perspective of someone who enjoys life science and from someone who tries to be mindful of her health. It was a quick read and has stayed with me- I have developed this internal monologue that frequently lectures me for doing things that may shorten my telomeres. Annoying, but good. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Link up, link back, say hey!

1. It really, really irritates me on the rare occasion I get my son a Happy Meal
they ask for his gender so they can give him the "right" toy. Yup, he loves cars. But you know what? He also loves little dolls. Enough with the labels and stereotypes. 

2. Every morning Sawyer tells me that he's going to drive with my keys, go be a teacher, I'm going to daycare, and then he makes siren noises because he knows this will end in an accident. Ha!

3. I was rejected for the Half Dome lottery this year, which is sad but maybe a blessing in disguise. Logistically, it's always hard to get away alone and it would have cost a bit to stay up there, when I just spent a lot a few weeks ago. But dang. I really thought this was going to be my year to kill it.

4. I'm not sure if it's a blessing or a curse that I don't know how the pipe system works in my house. I know they make noises, as does the water heater, but I'm always wondering if they're the right noises... at the right time... in the right wall... But, on the bright side, there's no signs of water damage so I probably should just slow my roll. 

5. I just finished The Telomere Effect and it was a good reminder that I have some really great habits and some really bad ones. I am hoping it all balances out (more in-depth review to come soon).

6. I started A Man Called Ove and it's perfect for my busy week and my headspace right now. 

7. It's Easter weekend! Time to play Easter bunny, dye eggs, take some pictures, and make a bunny cake. It's also the start of three busy weekends in a row, which right now sounds great but we'll see how I am feeling in three weeks.

8. I never go to Walgreens but a few years ago I signed up for some sort of reward system tied to my Fitbit that rewards me with dollars for steps. Apparently I have $35 now, just for walking and running. DRUGSTORE SHOPPING SPREE. Ha. 

A Feminist Manifesto

I recently read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's response to a friend who was asking for advice on how to raise her newborn daughter to be a feminist, Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions. As the mother of a young son and a feminist myself, I thought it was an excellent list of things to aspire to do as a parent (and a good reminder of things I need to be better about personally). Here are her fifteen suggestions, Cliffs- Notes style:

1. Be a full person: We are not just mothers and our kids need to see us have careers, if we so wish, and take an interest in things that are separate from them. 

2. Do it together: Involve the fathers as much as possible in domestic responsibilities- share the load. And don't see it as them doing you a favor!

3. The idea of 'gender roles' is nonsense: Buy your daughter tools. Buy your son dolls. And don't make a big deal out of it- kids like what they like. 

4. Beware if 'Feminism Lite': Men don't let us be in charge. 

5. Teach your child to read: Whatever you do, try to instill a love of reading in your child- it teaches knowledge, empathy, and perspective.

6. Question language: Be wary of labels, instead teach content.

7. Marriage is not an achievement: This should never be something girls strive for.

8. Reject likeability: It is not our job as women to make others like us just because we are women (pats self on back for deleting tangential comments on the 2016 election...).

9. Give a sense of identity: Who are you? Why?

10. Be a role model when it comes to appearances: We aren't how we dress, but we should still respect our bodies and value ourselves when making choices about clothing. 

11. Question use of biology for cultural norms: Social norms come from humans, not science.

12. Be honest about sex: It may be awkward, but do it early so that shame doesn't infiltrate the conversation or thought-process.

13. Romance is inevitable: It needs to be fair and safe.

14. Don't turn the oppressed into saints: Everyone deserves dignity, even the oppressors. And just because someone is oppressed doesn't mean they are perfect.

15. Teach difference: Difference should be normal and ordinary, not necessarily of value. 

Current Beauty Products I'm Loving

Book lovers can also be lovers of beauty products, okay? 

Over the past few months I've added a few products to my arsenal that I thought I'd share. I always love hearing what other people think, especially of pricier ones, before I buy. So here ya go.



Josie Maran Argan Oil
I got this as a sample from Sephora and quickly replenished my supply as soon as it ran out. I love love love this stuff. I use it as a moisturizer in the morning right now, but since it's sunnier lately I am probably going to switch it to nighttime and go back to my moisturizer with SPF soon (actually I just checked and they make a Josie Maran lightweight lotion with SPF and Argan Oil, so I will be buying it super soon). OI love how this oil brightens my complexion, moisturizes, and also serves as a primer for my makeup.



Laura Mercier Candlelight Illuminating Powder
This product is lightweight, but a little bit goes a long way. And it also leaves just a hint of glowing shimmer, so you don't have to worry about a super-matte finish. On days where I am just running errands or quickly meeting up for coffee with a friend I can get by with the argan oil, blush, and this instead of doing foundation.

Ulta Mineral Blush in Tiger Lily
This shade is somewhere between a pink and an orangey-sort-of-beige-ish color (--> why I am not a beauty blogger) that matches pretty much anything. Plus it's less than ten bucks!

Nexxus Comb Thru Finishing Mist
I always struggle to find a good hairspray for curls, and this one has been great. It has decent hold but it also allows movement.



Trader Joe's Head to Toe Balm 
I have really, really dry skin and my hands feel the brunt of it from hand washing. I picked up this tin at Trader Joe's and love it. It's great for hands, excessively wiped noses, feet, and even for annoying baby hairs. 



Redkin Color Extend Rich Recovery
I color and highlight my hair four or so times a year, spend a lot of time in the son, blow dry once or twice a week, and use various irons almost every other day (well, when I'm working). I know I could do worse, but I could better. This heavy-duty conditioner is awesome and makes me hair feel so much smoother. The only inconvenient part is that you're supposed to use it on towel-dried hair, let it sit, and then rinse it out. 


Writing: Finding Inspiration and Motivation

I declared in January that 2017 was going to be it- this was the year I'd finally  write a novel. So, I thought about it for a few weeks. And then February came. Nothing. Then March came and I read This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett, a collection of essays she has written about her life, many of which relate to her writing career. I absolutely inhaled this book and started planning a trip to Nashville to visit her bookstore and added all of her books that I didn't already own to my shopping cart on Amazon (sorry, Ann, I know you hate big-box sellers). This book made me feel like I could be a writer, at least at some point, and to some degree. Maybe not a greatly successful one, but one that could eventually get a book out of her. 

I saw Patchett read a few years ago and my initial first impression wasn't completely positive. She's matter-of-fact and honest; she doesn't sugar coat things and she obviously possesses unwavering strength that she doesn't hide. All in all, I thought she was a bit abrasive. But at she continued to talk those initial criticisms became positives and she grew on me. Going into this collection, I knew that there would be the same voice in her essays, and I was right. But she is much more articulate through writing (something I can relate to), and much more likable. She shares her stories about the struggles she went through writing her first book, and it made me feel that despite my busy schedule and mountains of obligations I could somehow do it, like her. She wanted it and made it happen.

One thing I greatly admire about Patchett is that her writing is accessible but complex. She isn't concerned with over-the-top figurative language, humor, or complicated narrative structures. Instead her writing is like how she speaks- it's honest, flowing, and smart. Even in essays, which I sometimes struggle to keep my interest tied to, she has mastered a format that works for her and her message. They flow and demand the reader pay attention. She is commanding.

After about halfway through this book I stopped and wrote a short story (really, really short...). Like I literally stopped reading, got out my computer, and just wrote for a half an hour. And what I didn't even realize at the time is that what I was writing would fit perfectly into a project that I started maybe four or five years ago, which I had abandoned not due to disinterest or dislike, but simply because of all of the other things that demanded my attention in life. The process was motivating and made me hopeful.

So, I don't really know if 2017 will be the year I get serious about writing. I hope it is, but I have to be realistic. Between work, being a mom, taking care of the house and sleep my week days are pretty much spoken for. Weekends are hard too. Summer is coming, though, and I am cautiously optimistic that I can get some serious writing in then. But, time gets away from us, even when it seems like there is plenty of it. 

Someday, no matter what, it will happen. Even if I am seventy and my grandchildren make fun of me for it. 

Yosemite 2017



Last weekend Sawyer and I drove to Yosemite when my minimum day was done on Friday and stayed in the Sierras for three nights. My husband's work schedule didn't coincide with this trip, so it was just me and my little buddy! Traveling alone with an almost-three-year-old didn't sound like the easiest thing in my book, but I refused to sit home over spring break. Luckily, my child proved me wrong- our trip went incredibly smoothly. The drive up took over seven hours, since we hit a bit of traffic heading out of LA, but he did great (despite not napping). I had really, really hoped to make it up before dark, since the last thirty minutes are on pitch-black roads that are very windy, with steep drop offs. Alas, we headed up the mountain pretty late, but we made it safe and sound. We stayed at The Tenaya Lodge in Fish Camp, which was the third time for me. I cannot say enough positive things about this place- it's great for families, couples, friends, or even solo travelers. There are four on-site restaurants, a coffee shop, a small store, and a great concierge desk.

[Tunnel View]

[Hello, Half Dome... will I hike you in July?]

[the rivers were full and fast]

Saturday we met my mom, her boyfriend, and my sister in the actual park and spent the day looking at waterfalls and hiking (over 20,000 steps by the end of the day!). The falls are absolutely beautiful, considering Yosemite received over 200% the usual snowfalls this year. There was actually some snow on the ground near Yosemite Falls, so Sawyer was able to experience snow for the first time. The drive back the hotel was about an hour, which is really not a big deal since the scenery is beautiful and the incredibly windy roads take about every ounce of concentration. 

[Yosemite Falls]

[Tenaya Lodge]

Sunday we were on our own and I wanted to head back to the park since we had missed a few things the day before. We spent a few hours there and then headed south to Bass Lake. My great-grandparents had a house there and we visited several times growing up, so I have some fond memories of the place (weird fact: my dad's ashes are spread in the lake... #awkward). We found a delicious hole-in-the-wall Mexican place to eat at and just spent some time walking around the lake. Sawyer would have been content doing this for hours- there were tree trunks to climb on, sticks to throw, and rocks to pick up. 



[Swinging Bridge area]

[Bass Lake]


[Near Bridalveil Falls]

[Bridalveil Falls]


That night we ate at the pizza place at the hotel walked around the grounds, and then sat by the fire for awhile. I think we were both a little sad to go back home the next day (Sawyer keeps asking to go "back... Yosemite... night night Yosemite?").



Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

[just using up Yosemite pictures...]


Hey there! Link up and link back! 

1. I jumped on board the S-Town train- I'm only one in but I'm hooked.

2. I am also listening to Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty and I am finding it a little bit annoying. Everything is always so drawn out with her... But she is super easy to listen to while driving, so I can't complain too much, I guess.

3. I am reading Kevin Wilson's newest, Perfect Little World, about a group of ten families that take part in a research study on collective child rearing. It's good, but it's also sort of bothering me, in a way. I think a lot of that comes from the fact I have a small child of my own and can't imagine him calling someone else mom, but still, it's good.

4. It's starting to warm up outside, meaning I will soon have to go to Costco for my annual pool float and towel. For once, dealing with the masses who don't understand how to properly maneuver shopping carts will be worth it.

5. Last night I read The Book with No Pictures by BJ Novak to Sawyer and he is clearly old enough to now appreciate it. He giggled and giggled and giggled. It was the cutest.

6. I made the Tater Tot Breakfast Skillet from How Sweet It Is last night and it was excellent. I subbed sausage for bacon, left out the peppers, and used sharp cheddar instead of white, though. It will definitely be happening again.

7. Today on Facebook a picture of the surprise book-themed baby shower my friends put on for me popped up as a memory from three years ago. That was such a happy memory [insert smiley emoji]. 

April, Plus March, Revisited

April! Hello! So many things happening this month! We just did Yosemite, I'm on spring break, my husband is going away for a weekend for a wedding (not gonna lie, looking forward to sitting in front of the like three episodes of This is Us I am behind on), we have Easter weekend, it's Sawyer's birthday in a few weeks, I get to go to an Elizabeth Warren reading, I might try to go to The Festival of Books in LA... and whatever else! We also have a lot of stuff going on at work, between our big state testing for juniors and our annual IB celebration. So, from where I'm standing here, April looks good.

Every month I recap on the previous month's goals and set some new intentions for the coming weeks. So, here's what March looked like:

1. Finish book club book in timely manner: YES I was done a whole thirty hours ahead of time, which is a record. Usually I am scrambling to finish as I walk out the door.

2. Blogging comments take 2: Sorta I didn't keep track (oops), but I definitely made more of an effort.

3. Adulting nonsense: Yup I cleared some boring things off my plate and ended up adding some more. Par for the course.

4. Look into... learning: Check! I just ordered a book on telomeres, so we're going to have some fun with science over here.

5. Strength training: Yeah... But I didn't specify how often or how long, so while I did throw in some short sessions I didn't do a killer job. So I am winning this one on a technicality. 

April

1. Use fewer plastic bags for food: I feel like we have gotten lazy lately and need to be better about keeping leftovers, and taking lunches, in pyrex or tupperware. 

2. Financial moderation: I am definitely not a shopper and am typically pretty financially conservative, but after our trip and other moderate unexpected expenses this year I need a month to just simply spend less. Not a financial diet, just some financial moderation.

3. Exercise diversification: I primarily get my exercise through ways that include steps, since I am constantly in work Fitbit challenges. So, basically, I walk a lot and run some. This month I want to make sure to do yoga five times and ride my bike on the indoor trainer five times. 

4. Update my phone: This practically involves therapy (what if it dies and everything is lost and I have to buy another phone and HELLO I have a "financial moderation" goal this month), so be patient with my melodrama.

5. Plan/start a super secret project: This does not involve getting pregnant, adding a new dog, changing anything at work, moving, plastic surgery, or anything else life-changing. I just can't say here but need to hold myself to getting it off the ground asap. 

March Reviews



I'm a few days behind at life right now, but for good reason. We spent the last three nights in Yosemite, but now we're back. Laundry is in the wash, the munchkin is taking a late nap, and I'm completely unpacked, so I figured this would be a good time to get in a few words about last month's reading. 

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
374 pages
Set in the near future, Wade is trying, along with thousands of others, to solve a complex set of puzzles set in the all-encompassing video game world Oasis. The winner will inherit the late-creator's fortune, something Wade desperately need. He is on the cusp of graduating high school and is parentless, homeless, and poor. Times are tough, to say the least. He does have friends he has met through the game and together they form a relationships that surpass the VR world they are set in. 

Verdict: I am not the target demographic for this book- I am not a gamer, I am not a huge fan of '80s pop culture, and I have semi-sworn off dystopian literature until a democrat is in office. I have been looking for sci-fi books to recommend to my students, though, so I bit the bullet and finally read it. All in all? I thought it was endearing, humorous, and interesting. Sure, some of the technical jargon and the epic boss fight bored me a tad, but the rest of the book made up for it. I am actually excited about next year's movie!

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett
305 pages
This collection of mostly previously published essays discusses many topics near and dear to Patchett. Some are about her childhood, a few about marriage, and many about her work. She talks about her struggle to become a writer and the challenges she faces while carrying out her passions. 

Verdict: I absolutely, positively loved this book and it was all I could do to not order every book of hers that I don't own yet. I am holding myself to a more in-depth review of this one while I am off this week, so more on this later.

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
231 pages
Somewhere unnamed, but heavily alluded to, in the Middle East, Nadia and Saeed meet in a class and feel a strong connection to each other. While their relationship develops the world around them falls apart, civil war threatening their lives every second of every day. Eventually they learn of magic doors that lead out of the country, which they can gain passage to for a fee. They escape and find themselves on an island in Greece, which they then are able to leave. This process repeats a few times, and we see their lives change and the toll the process has on their new partnership. Political, social, and magical, this book provides a strong commentary on the global refugee crisis. 

Verdict: I finished this book a few weeks ago and am still thinking about it. I am a sucker for magical realism, which this book provides a great sort of modern rendition of (so many great MR books are a set in more of the past). This is the second book of Hamid's I have read, and I love his simple, yet complex and subtly humorous style. This book is important. Read it.

After the Parade by Lori Ostlund 
337 pages
This novel starts off as middle-aged Aaron decides to leave his partner of twenty years in the middle of the night. Aaron heads to San Francisco to teach English to adults and must simultaneously come to terms with the end of his relationship with the man who provided pretty much everything for him, since he was a young adult, and his past. His father had died suddenly when he was five, and his mother abandoned him later after many years of emotional detachment. Aaron has a lot to deal with and realizes that in order to move forward he must reconcile his past.

Verdict: There are so many great things about this book and so many less-than-stellar things. I appreciated the teaching/learning themes that ran throughout, as well as some of the more minor characters. The strangeness of the book as a whole was also endearing at times, but at the same time some of these elements seemed pointless. I thought the pacing was a bit choppy, some of the characters flat, and that there was way too much context provided, as well. This is Ostlund's first book, so it will be interesting to see what she does next time. 

1,247 pages
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