It's Okay to Be California. Finally.

[source: The New Yorker]
I know I'm a little behind, but I just have to say how happy I am that Prop 8 was finally overturned in California. We're typically so liberal and democratic it was really frustrating (end embarrassing) to see so many other states give single-sex partners the go ahead while we did not. I am so happy for the couples that can finally experience equality. 

Oh, and also, I just want to extend my congratulations to Bert and Ernie. 


I don't really understand what's happening, but follow me on Bloglovin!

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

There's a widget on the side. 

I really don't understand what's going on.

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

1. I'm on a boat right now- I wrote this (and all the posts this week) last week. It's like some weird space-time wormhole continuum thing (hey, is that what Doctor Who is about?). I'm in the past writing for the future. No! I'm in the present writing for the future! No- okay. You get the gist.

[sorry... sorry...; source]

2. After much serious consideration I have decided to cancel my Birchbox subscription and stay with the Ipsy bag. This is important stuff, folks. Beauty products are no joke.

3. I found this random quote on my phone from a book I read earlier this year that reads, "Pain is a requirement, not a curse." Obviously at that moment it resonated with me enough to take note. Today, not feeling as much in pain as I did on that day, I'm trying to figure out if the statement is true or not. Pain is undoubtedly a part of life- it's something we use to grow, cope, and process with. Whether or not it's a curse I'm not sure... Ask me again in twenty years.

4. The only books I ever buy used are cookbooks. All of my novels are brand spankin' new. Sorry environment. You're welcome publishers.

5. Will someone please make me a batch of these Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Cookies from What's Gaby Cooking? By the way, if you're not familiar with her blog, it has some great recipes.  

[it's go time]
6. There are just so many good things happening over the next few weeks. Vacation. Time with family. Time with friends. Fun things are planned.

7. I have a built in wine rack that is empty 99% of the time. It's pathetic, but I only buy one bottle at a time... to drink. I feel like I should go to Trader Joes and buy a hole bunch of cheap stuff simply for decoration.

8. My husband and I were talking about the movie Definitely, Maybe the other day and how much we love the whole April buying up all the copies of Jane Eyre in order to find the one her dad wrote in aspect. God, I love that movie. 

9.  Can we not just live in maxi dresses and skirts for the rest of eternity? Would that be okay? Any objections?

10. I am infinitely more excited for Kate and William's baby than I am over stupid Kim and Kanye's (do you think the fact that his name started with a "K" was a selling point for her? Or was it just the status?). I'm not a big royalty buff or anything, but I think Kate's pretty great. The woman has great style and obviously knows how to miraculously look like your barely pregnant in the third trimester. 

Your Mom Let's You Read Whatever You Want

Happy birthday to my mom! I honestly have no idea if she has ever reads the blog, nor do I know if she wants her picture flashed all over the internet, so today I'll just talk about her connection to me as a reader and not how awesome she is (please, why would I waste my time bragging about someone who would never find out?). 

[this is not my mom, but she sure is my favorite TV mom; source]
First of all, my mom (and dad, who worked a lot and then died when I was 14) never really monitored what I read growing up. I know this sounds irresponsible to some, but I turned out pretty well, all the while reading some extremely inappropriate things way, way too young (a book called Shank about life in prison, as well as Time to Kill both way before high school, for example). I was allowed to choose from the adult section of the library by the time I was maybe eleven or so, and whenever I saved up my allowance to buy books no one checked what I was buying. It was a combination of trust, freedom, and the fact my mom had three kids younger than I to take care of. I totally worked the system. 

[thank God she's not my mom... I'd kill Buster; source]
Speaking of the library, my mom was the queen of library visits. When we were younger she took us all the time to story hour and to check out books (the rule: you could only check out as many as you can carry). It was our job to remind her when our books were due and if we dropped the ball we had to pay any fines that accrued- my mom was big into teaching us to be self-sufficient and responsible. As we got older she was still willing and ready to drop us off to study or do research and pick us up when we were finished. I think way, way too many families these days either don't read with their kids or opt to buy their kids books instead of visiting their local branch. It's a pity- libraries need young patrons to expand their programs, not to mention the fact that library cards are a right of passage.

[if she were my mom I'd know Tim Riggins...; source]
My mom didn't read a ton, given the fact she had four kids and all, but she did have some books that I was bound and determined to borrow from her. She apparently went through some sort of semi-religious literature stage because I remember reading the Love Comes Softly Series by Janette Oke and Christy by Catherine Marshall (admittedly, I was disappointed in how little sex and profanity were in each...). Later on, I borrowed countless Danielle Steel, Mary Higgins Clark, and VC Andrews books from her (oh hello, here you are sexy time). While those authors are most definitely not in my TBR stacks anymore, I do look towards them with a bit of nostalgia. It was a time to discern my palette. Now that her kids are grown and a bit more self-sufficient, my mom reads much more. I try to impose my taste on her occasionally, sending her books I think she'll like for Christmas and birthdays (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the  Night Time, State of Wonder, etc...). 

[my mom took as much crap as Mrs. Cosby; source]
I also have to give my mom credit for not pushing. I was a natural, enthusiastic reader early on, so no prodding was necessary with me. Not all of my siblings were this way, though, and while doing what was necessary for school was a requirement, my mom never made anyone read for pleasure. We all know that one of the easiest ways to hate something is to be forced to do it.  

[some seem to think I'll be like this mom; source]
I hope to be as liberal and happily oblivious when I one day have little readers of my own. While I'm not sure if I'd let my eleven-year-old read about glory holes in prison, I would like to think that my kids will be able to understand what they're ready for (I wonder what this says about my younger self...), and that learning about the world through books is safe and intellectually stimulating. 

So thanks, mom.

Books on Your Back- Poe A Tree

Haven't done one of these in awhile! This one is brought to you by Novel-T.

[Source; $24.95]

Top Ten Tuesday- Thus Far

This week The Broke and the Bookish ask us what our top ten for the year so far are. It ended up being a bit harder than I thought! This was also a good exercise in the sense that it made me take note of my habits during the last six months- I need to add in some more nonfiction and a few more challenging texts I've been putting off.

1. Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann- This is probably my favorite so far- his ability to connect stories and create a sense of vitality is impressive. I saw him speak recently and he was just as impressive in person. 

2. The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer- This was the first novel I read by Wolitzer and I thoroughly enjoyed the story and writing style. She follows a group of teenaged friends from a summer camp all the way through adulthood. 

3. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston- I reread this to teach my students at work and had forgotten how damn good it is. Identity searching, man handling, and rabid dog.

4. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood- Another one I reread, more so because I was headed to see Atwood speak at the LA Times Festival of Books. If you like dystopian novels and haven't read this one you should give it a try.

5. Night Film by Marisha Pessl- I'm a huge Pessl fan and was thrilled to receive and ARC for this book. It is a true literary mystery that embeds multimedia aspects and a shit ton of suspense. Pick it up in August when it comes out.

6. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald- Another reread! People either love this novel or hate it. I for one hadn't read it since high school and had forgotten what an amazing writer Fitzgerald is. 

7. Fathermucker by Greg Olear- I really enjoyed this witty novel about a stay-at-home father who must handle his autistic son, lively daughter, and fear that his wife is cheating on him.

8. Transatlantic by Colum McCann- Another McCann book makes the list. Transatlantic, in McCann's words is about "deconstructing the machine," told through three separate narratives (two female journalists, the two men who made the first Transatlantic flight, Senator George Mitchell, and Frederick Douglass. 

9. Me Before You by JoJo Moyes- To this day I am still surprised about how much I liked this novel. Sentimental without being mushy, amusing without being over-the-top, and controversial without being preachy.

10. Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple- God I loved this book. It's not a challenging read at all, but I adored the quirky, tongue-in-cheek feel throughout. It's satirical, smart, and and just plain fun. 

What's your favorite book from the first half of 2013?

High Five for Friday

I just ran across "High Five for Friday," hosted by lifestyle blogger Lauren Elizabeth and thought it looked like a fun way to brag about recap your week. This week was definitely a busy, fun one:

Clockwise, from top right:

2. Crystal Cove in Newport- a friend and I walked for almost an hour on the beach!

3. There was cupcake eating at the delicious Sweet and Saucey before the above walk...

4. Another friend joined me for a pool day and we decided to pretend to be white-trashy with Bud Lights Lime-a-Ritas. They're not horrible, but super tiny and super low in alcohol content (and a bit too sleep and there was no salt). Nonetheless the weather was beautiful and the company wasn't half bad either.

5. Chomsky and I did a few things in the front yard (he was leash-less and didn't try to run away- progress!) while we waited for my sister to arrive at the train station. I am trying to regrow grass in a few patches of my lawn and IT'S WORKING! No one really seems to understand my excitement, but that's okay. I just feel a little bit like, you know, God, but it's all right. No big deal. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

1. A new ice cream parlor opened up not too terribly far from me that makes their ice cream on the spot with liquid nitrogen. It's getting rave reviews for their eclectic flavors like chocolate lavendar, olive oil vanilla bean, and strawberry balsamic. A visit is in the near future.

2. I'm currently reading Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon and am really struggling to get into it. I'm not even half way through and have no motivation whatsoever to keep going, but I will...

3. Hierarchy of male characters on Breaking Bad: Jesse > Mike > Saul > Hank . Junior/Flynn > Walt. We are almost done with the first part of the last season and Walt just continues up the ladder of douche baggary.

["I like donuts, bitches!" source]

4. I can't stop making "who/that" mistakes. It's humiliating. I'm an English teacher for fuck's sake.

5. I always think about earthquakes happening at the most inopportune times, like when I'm seven stories below ground in a parking structure, in a crowded stadium, in a gym with a thousand teenagers, or stuck in traffic on a freeway overpass. 

6. Thanks to one of my favorite yoga instructors, I'm in love with this song. Her full album comes to the US next month:

7. A parent emailed me last night thanking me for a letter of recommendation that I wrote her daughter. This has never happened before! It was incredibly heartfelt and I couldn't have been more surprised or appreciative of her gratitude.

8. Read this. And weep. One in four Americans didn't read a book last year? Give me a break. Come on. 

9. Any Gilmore Girls fans out there? Does anyone remember the Living Art episode? I'm going to something like that in Laguna Beach next month called Pageant of the Masters (fast forward in this clip that they won't let me embed). 

10. While at the Getty yesterday I found three books in the gift shop that I want: 

No, I'm not an atheist, yes I love LEGOS, no I don't want a tiny house. 

The Getty Center//Colum McCann Reading

After learning that Colum McCann was going to be in Santa Monica a few weeks ago, I quickly decided to spend the day in the area, since I would be on summer break. I'd been meaning to get back to the Getty for years, so it seemed like the perfect time. It was a beautiful LA afternoon and I had trouble committing to the art inside the building since the gardens were absolutely perfect. And while I tend to prefer doing these sorts of things with others, it was actually a little nice to go to a museum alone- I saw what I wanted, when I wanted. For those that live in the area, their current exhibition Overdrive: LA Constructs the Future 1940-1990 was fascinating. The Getty has put together an enormous collection of blueprints, architectural models, pictures, and video from the changing landscape of the greater Los Angeles area during the mid-twentieth century (no pictures allowed, unfortunately). A few pictures from my afternoon:

[a bit hazy, but still a nice view of West LA]
[I'm completely in love with their gardens]
[Up close]
[I really love chandeliers]
[Van Gogh]

The Getty closed at 5:30 and the reading didn't start until 8:00, meaning I had some serious time to kill. UCLA, my alma mater, happens to be conveniently located between the Getty and Bergamot Station, so I stopped for dinner and the obligatory Diddy Riese (an epic cookie shop that used to offer cookies for a quarter and ice cream sandwiches for $1; since my days on campus they've raised the price to 35 cents and $1.75, respectively). I had completely forgotten about the dinner time Westwood crowd- an amusing mix of hipsters, businessmen, and college students. It was nice to be back.

[right outside where I spent 4 years working in the Medical Plaza]
[getting ready for bikini season one ice cream sandwich at a time]

I made it to Bergamot Station with plenty of time to spare. Bergamot Station is an old rail yard in Santa Monica that has been converted into several art galleries. The space is incredibly eclectic and couldn't better fit the vibe of LA Talks' events. 

[a green car... get it?]

[no, this is not Pinterest...]

Colum McCann was of course wonderful (made even better with the Irish accent), and the LA Times' Carolyn Kellogg's easy wit and open-ended questioning was a perfect fit. McCann spoke about the anxiety he felt while writing Transatlantic after Let the Great World Spin- he had started writing another novel all together but made the change after Fredrick Douglas (a character in Transatlantic) wouldn't stop infiltrating his thoughts and writing. He compares novel writing to the difficulty of pushing a kayak out to sea, and quotes his friend Aleksandar Hemon that "it's all shit until it isn't." McCann admitted to his disdain for the label "historical fiction" and made sure to include episodes from modern times in order to avoid the category.

His emigration story is quite interesting. While growing up in Ireland his father, a rose expert who lectured in the US, would bring him back novels by the beatniks, including Kerouac. In his early twenties McCann, inspired by the American writers he loved, came to the United States with his bicycle and rode all over the country. Eventually he landed in Texas, where he went to college (and finally read Ulysses...) and began writing. 

I have to admit to actually getting my copy of Let the Great World Spin signed- this is the very first time I ever stood in the signing line (I just love the book that much). When I realized he was actually chatting with people I momentarily panicked, having no clue what I'd say to the man. Luckily he asked me if I was a writer, to which I responded "Maybe someday, but for now just an English teacher." He asked a few questions and I was out the door. It was nice to meet him, but I definitely won't make this a habit, given the fact I don't really care much about autographs. 

Oh, and I made it back home in less that 90 minutes, which was just icing on the cake. 

A Year Can Change Everything- Or Can It?

Over the last few months I have listened to three audiobooks: The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, and Drop Dead Healthy by AJ Jacobs. It takes me awhile to get through them, since the only real time I listen is while walking the dogs, or occasionally on the treadmill. Last time my theme was "memoirs by funny female comedians," while this time it was the idea of changing your life in a year. 

The idea of self-improvement is something I find fascinating and something I take fairly seriously. I'm definitely not one to buy books or take off on any crazy fad programs, but over the years I have committed to regular exercise, a healthy social life, intellectual stimulation, and balanced eating. Making changes to your life isn't easy, and it's interesting to see how other people tackle the challenge. Plus, it's nice to know that you're not the only person that's flawed and hungry for change.

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

The lowdown: The Happiness Project is set up by month, Rubin tackling a different area of her life during each. For example, she focuses on her marriage, finances, parenting skills, fitness, spirituality, and hobbies. She makes both big and small changes based on current research and what will work for her family. 

What I found helpful: I didn't find anything ground-shaking in this book, but I did take away two tidbits that I still remember. The first was from the parenting section- she talked about how sometimes people just need to hear their feelings validated. This is something I use a lot with my students at school, for example, "Yes, Jose, I understand that you're upset you got a D on this essay, so let's look at my comments" or "I can see why you're worried about passing this class, English is really important for graduation." And it's true- it's important that our emotions are understood by others. Another piece advice is to not keep saving things or waiting to use "the good stuff." I'm horrible about this, especially with things like expensive perfume, dresses, and makeup. Who cares! We buy things to use them.

Yeah, but...: Rubin is pretty annoying and I don't feel like she really ended up that much happier. 

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

The Lowdown: Trying to move on past an extremely messy divorce and a saddening breakup, Gilbert decides to spend a year soul-searching in Italy, India, and Bali. She experiences the cuisine, spiritual practices, and locals, all the while trying to steady her own nerves and heal her psyche. 

What I Found Helpful: I think the idea of getting outside of your comfort zone, alone, as Gilbert did, is really important, no matter what age we are or what our living situation is. Single and not tied down? See the world! A working mother of two? Take a class or go on a day trip exploring a nearby city without your family. It's fine to love others and care for them, but you have to cling to some sort of shred of independence- you are an individual, after all. I loved the different areas of the world she traveled to and was extremely jealous she was able to spend a year abroad.

Yea, but... Gilbert is pretty annoying  (deja vu). Also, the fact that her trip was paid for by an advance made the whole thing quite a bit less authentic. 

Drop Dead Healthy by AJ Jacobs

The Lowdown: After contemplating his health and longevity, Jacobs decides to live as healthily as he possibly can. He focuses on different parts of his body each month, accumulating quite the list of things to do to be healthier. He works on everything from his cardiovascular health to his memory to his hands and feet. He utilizes a variety of research and consults with experts in every field.

What I Found Helpful: First and foremost, I appreciated Jacobs' mild self-deprecating tone and willingness to try just about anything. He also did a fairly good job presenting both sides of various health-related arguments, and not being too preachy about the decisions he made. He encourages a busy lifestyle and considers health to be more than just the number on the scale or ab definition. He's also a proponent of building exercise into your routine, which is a great option for busy people. 

Yeah, but... The project as a whole is really unrealistic. Most people don't have the time he does to dedicate to exercise and overall health, nor do they have the financial resources he does. One doesn't have to spend tons of money to be healthy, but having some cash to spend on a gym membership, quality produce, and a water filter does help. Pushing beyond that into the realm of sleep studies, various exercise classes, and consultations with top experts is just not happening. 

Top Ten Tuesday-This Summer

The Broke and the Bookish ask us to list our top ten reads for this summer (yes I went over ten- there is much reading to be had this summer!):

For Work
Othello, King Lear, Macbeth, and Hamlet by William Shakespeare- I know this counts as a few, but in order to prep to test my students on their summer work and to prepare for what we'll be reading in the fall, I'll be spending some time with The Bard. These will all be very necessary rereads.

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath- I also have to teach Plath's poetry this fall and want to get some better insight (shockingly I haven't read it before).

Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje- A memoir that I'll be reading with the students by the author of the English Patient and Divisadero.

For Fun
This Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick: I've heard good things and it seems like a great read by the pool, in a plane, or on a boat.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein: This too is one that I think may be a little less challenging and perfect for vacation.
For the Brain
American Pastoral by Phillip Roth: I've had this one on my need-to-read list for awhile. I've read only one other Roth book, but I feel like this is one of the "should have" reads that I've neglected.

Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie: I saw Rushdie discuss this memoir several months ago and have been looking forward to reading it over break when I have the mental capacity to handle the heft and subject matter. 

For Review
My Education by Susan Choi

What Maisie Knew by Henry James

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

For Creativity
Kapow by Adam Thirlwell- I ordered this from Visual Editions months (or more) ago and have yet to devote any time to it. I'm excited to stretch myself through the nontraditional format.

Building Stories by Chris Ware- I was so in love with this box of visuals when it came out but haven't had the time to truly explore it. In fact, it still lives in our coffee table because of the size.

The Underwater Welder by Jeff Lemire- The only unread graphic novel I currently have. It just looks cool. 

What are you reading this summer? Anything good? 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

1. I love all of the reading-related activities that parents are doing with their kids over break that are popping up in my various feeds the past week. Mom's creating book clubs with fellow moms and daughters, planned trips to the library for babies, and sweet pictures of kids reading books on Instagram.

2. Now that I've sort of taken up cycling (using the term very loosely, here) I'm hyper-aware of bike lanes now for future reference. 

3. I watch very little TV, but I have to say that I'm in love with the AT&T commercials with the little kids. "Puppy brother" cracks me up every time.

4. How much to we adore Hilary's new Twitter profile?

5. My husband and I bought a 1948 Smith-Corona for the new table in our great room and I couldn't be more pleased with the look (a globe is on its way to sit next to it). I'm seeing a few more on that table in the distant future.

6. Lorelai Gilmore Lauren Graham wrote a book. For the love of God, why? It looks pretty bad, both in synopsis and the page or two I glanced at. I refuse to read it and tarnish my positive memories of one of the best shows in the entire history of television.

7. Another TV commercial reference (so, after our 25 mile bike ride Saturday my brother and I proceeded to eat pancakes and then sit on the couch for three hours watching the Food Network), this time for Cliffside Malibu. Technically, it's a rehab center, but doesn't it look fun? 


8. I got the Feedly app for my phone, even though I never had the soon-to-be defunct Google Reader. Holy convenient!

9. I seriously don't understand people who don't wear sunscreen. I'm already on my second bottle of SPF-30 this summer and am pissed at myself for not stocking up on it when Costco had it on sale last month. Do you want cancer, people? Wrinkles? Come on!

10. My future daughter next dog will be named Calliope, just in case anyone was wondering.


There's Something About a Box of Books

Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. It's been three and half-ish months since I- 

Oh wait, that's right. I'm not Catholic. Hell, I don't even have a father (distasteful jokes FTW). 

There's something about getting a huge box of books in the mail (that you really only ended up paying $26.08 for since you had so many Amazon points that you were supposedly saving for Christmas presents) that invokes such happiness. Sure, one or two books is always great, but nine? Nine is something else. The different covers, the various lengths, the heft of the box as you lift it from the porch to the kitchen table. There's just something about a box of books.

From the Interwebs- Fun with Sluts, Extradition, Dyslexia, and More!

 1. While maybe not reading, you should of course check out today's Google Doodle, honoring the late Maurice Sendak, whose 85th birthday would have been today.

2. Slate's article "Where Should I Flee to Avoid Extradition" is incredibly useful if you plan on doing anything that warrants asylum. This piece was of course triggered by Edward Snowden and his current location in Hong Kong, which experts are saying may not have been the smartest place to flee to. Instead he should have tried Iceland, France (duh- they let Roman Polanski stay), or Ecuador. We'll save the PRISM discussion for another day.

[You wish]

3. Need some new friends? You might want to try sluts. Jezebel persuades their readers with "10 Reasons Sluts Make Better Friends," arguing that slutty friends are better conversationalists, more fun, are open-minded, and surprisingly sympathetic. It sounds bad I know, but I have to say that there is some definite truth to this. And for the privacy of my own friends I will now shut up...

[In Vegas... never thought I'd have a legit reason to use it]
4. As readers we generally try to connect with the characters we're reading about. "What Literary Character Do You Identify With" from the Thought Catalog got me thinking (his was Patrick Bateman from American Psycho, while his girlfriend was Jessica from Sweet Valley High). I definitely feel TS Spivet is a kindred spirit, but I'm sure there are more. 

5. Hungry? Need to be inspired on a culinary level? Try this, this, or this.

6. This quick blurb from Galley Cat discusses a new open-source font that helps those with dyslexia have an easier time identifying letters. Using technology for good. 

Weekend Update

This weekend was pretty good. 

A 25.5 mile bike ride along the Santa Ana River Trail in Orange County with my little brother (and I'm not sore!). 


Finished This Song is For You by Arthur Phillips.

Got in a few dog walks.

Saw Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing in LA with my husband (this is how you make literary greats into movies, by the way. The tongue-in-cheek nature of the play was perfectly captured by the original dialogue and cast chemistry). 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

1. At ten'o'clock this morning I handed the school secretary my keys and checked out of the 2012-2013 school year. I then started my summer vacation with a noon "yogalates" class and frozen yogurt. After posting this I plan on laying in the backyard with a book in the shade. It's been a really tough day, guys. 

[9 weeks of freedom]

2. I really, really hate Home Depot, but every time I go in I'm a little amazed that you could literally build a house with all of the materials in the store. 

3. I watched Cloud Atlas last weekend with my husband. It was horrible. I really don't understand why David Mitchell was so enthusiastic about the movie- I understand that the Wachowski siblings are a big deal, but so what? 

4. Speaking of books as movies, we're going to see Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing in LA this weekend- hopefully it's not as horrible as The Great Gatsby and Cloud Atlas. I feel like I should read the play really fast, but we'll see.

5. While driving around town I frequently look at places and wonder if they're actually places where people sell drugs or launder money. Examples: yard sales, massage parlors, those stores where people fill up their water jugs, and auto parts carriers. I've obviously watched too many Weeds and Breaking Bad episodes.

6. Is it demeaning to say old people are cute? I saw this eighty-ish year old man in the grocery store the other day wearing a pair of bright new board shorts with flip flops buying things for a barbeque and I instantly thought, "how cute!" And then I felt a little bad. If the guy had been thirty I wouldn't have have given it another thought.

7. I think would enjoy being on a show like Chopped or doing one of those Quickfire Challenges from Top Chef (do they still do those? Is the show even on anymore?). I should probably practice at home and use up all the half-used ingredients I have in my pantry...

8. I'm trying to get my husband to start a Ulysses book club with me. So far I haven't had much luck, but I'm not giving up hope.

9. This dress from Banana Republic arrived today: 

I know it's tacky to be all like "oooohh, look at me, look at my new things, yay for me and my credit card," but this dress is special. I tore the picture out of an In Style way over two months ago and waited not-so-patiently for it to be released on May 30. And now it is mine. All mine.

10. Sometimes when I get stuck behind one of those big auto carriers on the freeway I start envisioning them all coming loose and smashing into me and my car. Luckily, in all of these scenarios I end up alive and really rich because the truck company has to pay me a shit-ton of money. 

The End of the Year: 2012-2013 in a Nutshell

Tomorrow I will be finishing up my seventh year as a teacher, four of which were spent teaching elementary students and three with high schoolers (whom I much prefer). All in all it's been a good year- there have been more positives than negatives, which is all that any of us can ask for.

My students have been an absolute joy. I taught four sections of IB English HL 1 (and yearbook, of course), meaning the first year of a two year series. With a few exceptions, I'll be taking the same group up to their senior year next year in order to prepare them for their big examinations in the spring (although I'll only have enough students for three sections; I'll also have an AP class). I've grown incredibly close to some of them- I'm already dreading the 2014 graduation when I'll undoubtedly have to stash a box of Kleenex under my robe. They're definitely an eclectic group. I've never laughed so hard or been so distracted from things I've needed to be distracted from.

I think a lot of times people assume that teaching the more advanced classes is easier, since there are less behavior problems, but I can definitely attest to the fact that this is not true. Despite that this is a higher level class, we are an open-access school, meaning any student that wants to take the course is permitted. This is definitely a great, fair approach, but it does mean more differentiation than one would think. Overall, there's more prep work involved, so much more grading, and the kids demand a high level of mental agility from me on a daily basis. Yes, I'm not dealing with being sworn at or assaulted, but I do get plenty of attitude- sometimes the smart kids are a bit too smart. There's also the pressure of knowing that the students are going to take a large assessment when you're done with them that dictates whether or not they receive college credit. Like with anything there are the pros and cons.

This year we read a lot of fantastic literature. We went back to the Greek and Roman times with Antigone, learned about magical realism and complex narrative structures with Chronicle of a Death Foretold, and pondered the reason why, and if, Gregor was turned into a bug in Metamorphosis. Spring semester brought us slavery and discussions about independence with Their Eyes Were Watching God, teenage depression with The Catcher in the Rye, and the dramatic "Master Harold"... and the Boys. I drilled MLA formatting into their heads, nagged them about writing better theses, harassed them about their outside reading choices ("John Green is not academic, college-ready literature, guys!"), and was relentless with sticking to deadlines. I worked hard to help them to cite evidence from the text and force them to think independently and creatively. Did it work? Sometimes, yes, sometimes, no. But I can honestly say we all tried. There was a lot of growth in my room, both in terms of the students as readers, writers and thinkers, but also in my professional abilities.

There were definitely times where I wanted to beat my head against the wall. The few students who plagiarized, typical issues amongst the staff, and the workload (and meetings!) surrounding the transition to Common Core were things that made me roll my eyes on occasion. But honestly, the fact that I have some fantastic colleagues (and friends) and that I had the privilege of working with some great kids made up for the occasional problem.

That being said, I am ready for summer. It's time to recharge (by my pool with books and cocktails).

Top Ten Tuesday- Trippin'

This week The Broke and the Bookish ask us to share out top ten books regarding travel, an especially timely topic considering summer is officially underway now that it is June. 

Unchangeable Spots of Leopards by Kristopher Jasma
Where: Manhattan, Sri Lanka, Dubai, Iceland
How: Plane, train 

Naked Lunch by William Burroughs
Where: Mexico, Tangier, Interzone
How: Drugs, mostly

The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison
Where: Yellowstone
How: Handicapped accessible van

The Lost Girls by Jennifer Bagget
Where: Peru, Kenya, Vietnam, Australia
How: Plane

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall
Where: Mexico, Badlands
How: Feet

The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Where: Up and down the Mississippi River
How: A raft

Into Thin Air
Where: Mount Everest
How: Plan, helicopter, feet

Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert*
Where: Italy, India, Bali
How: Plane, hyper-sensitive self-awareness

Transatlantic by Colum McCann
Where: Ireland, New York, Missouri, Newfoundland
How: Plane, boat 

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
Where: the Pacific
How: boat (just Adam Ewing's story)

*I listened to this on Audiobook and didn't really like her; I did, though, love the setting

Anyone going some place awesome this summer? I'm off to Florida and the Caribbean in a few weeks and then plan on parking it by the pool for the rest of summer break.

Respecting Nature: A Ten-Second Rant

[tons and tons of water per cubic meter]

This has nothing to do with books. Just a warning. Over the past week two people have lost their lives in Yosemite, resulting in a barrage of comments and opinions on social media. My two cents.

In the past week two people have died in Yosemite National Park, one after swimming too close to a waterfall, and another while rock climbing. These tragedies are just two of the many deaths that happen there every year- now that the Half Dome cables went up last week the number will probably increase. Public outcry is always conflicted- one side will say that Yosemite needs to do more to protect people (even more signs, railings, rangers, etc...) and the other will, a tad insensitively, say that the people deserved to die for trying to survive Mother Nature. 

[Some say death trap, some say a good time if rules are followed]

My personal opinion lies somewhere between the two- most people really don't deserve to die. Yes, I'd say 90% of the deaths at Yosemite are avoidable, but the loss of a life is always a tragedy. The 19-year-old that fell to his death because he was swimming too close to Nevada Falls had a family and friends that are now grieving. The man that was hit by a dislodged rock while climbing El Capitan yesterday also leaves a full life and people behind. As do the hikers that go off trails and fall down ravines, the people that climb up Half Dome in lightning storms, and those thinking that the deceivingly calm, cool waters of the Tuolumne will soothe their sore feet. 

[No one wants to fall on those rocks]

The danger extends past the the people themselves, though. The Yosemite Search and Rescue (SAR) also risk their lives every time they receive a call for a trapped climber, stranded hiker, or drowning swimmer. Their families have to live with the fear that their husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers may not return from their attempt to save the husband, wife, mother, father, sister or brother of someone else. Not to mention the funding that's required to send out a team (especially if there's a helicopter involved).

For me, this idea of these accidents being avoidable is most bothersome. The fact is, yes, they're accidents, but they come from a sense of entitlement- a lack of respect for nature and the park as a whole. People feel that they should be able to go wherever they please. If I want to go all purist on the issue, Yosemite Valley shouldn't even be a park; there shouldn't be roads that bring in pollution, trails that lead to plants being cleared away, or buildings that require electricity. I'm not that extreme, though, so I feel that with careful management the Valley can be enjoyed by people. People that obey the posted regulations that have been carefully put in place for the protection of human lives and nature itself, that is. 

[Climb at your own risk]
Every time someone defies the rules and is hurt, the chances of parts of the park being closed increases. Every time someone defies the rules and is hurt, the chances of the park considering even more unnecessary precautions increases. Every time someone defies the rules and is hurt, the chances of someone else's experiences at one of the most beautiful places in the country being ruined increases. 

I guess my main point is that nature demands respect. If you want to swim in her waters, climb her mountains, and hike her valleys you must understand that you may get hurt or even die. And when you take that risk you are affecting the people in your lives, those who would try to rescue you, and others who are trying to enjoy the park. It is you responsibility to keep yourself safe and to be aware of your surroundings. Yosemite doesn't need more fences, stairs, hand rails, or signs. Death is a tragedy- even more so when it can be avoided.