January Reviews

Favorite form of (temporary) escapism: reading.

Reasons why I need to escape right now: ugh.

Anyway, this month was such a solid month for reading and I am proud of the diversity. Nonfiction, contemporary literary fiction, feminism, a graphic novel, two classics... It was good. 

The Nix by Nathan Hill
640 pages
This lengthy novel is told from a few different time periods and perspectives. At the heart of it is Nathan Andersen-Anderson, a journalist turned disenchanted college English professor (and avid computer gamer), and his estranged mother, who is in quite a bit of trouble over throwing some rocks at a conservative politician. Nathan agrees to write a scandalous tell-all book about her, in order to make a pending unsatisfied book-deal lawsuit go away. In order to do this he needs to actually figure out what his mom has been up for the decades he hasn't seen her... and the decades before he was born that he knows very little about.

Verdict: If this book doesn't make my top ten list at the end of the year I will be really surprised. The writing is superb, some of the subject matter is timely, the characters (even minor ones) are developed, and the story is paced perfectly. Despite the length I was s disappointed to be done with it. 

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
52 pages
Gregor, a traveling salesman, wakes up one morning and is  bug. Cue family strife, existential crisis, and slow painful demise.

Verdict: This was a reread for work; this is the third time I have taught it and the fourth time I've read it. It really is a great little novella, full of thematic and symbolism to converse with teenagers about for days.

Kafka by Robert Crumb and David Zane Mairowitz
176 pages
This graphic novel highlights Franz Kafka's tortuous life while also providing brief summaries of his most famous works.

Verdict: I thought it was a great crash course in Kafka and recommended it to my students. The balance between written content and pictures is perfect and I thought both the tone and look captured the writer well.

How to Win at Feminism by the  Reductress
208 pages
The internet feminism magazine created this guidebook to teach you how to be a feminist- I plan on a more in-depth review soon. 

Verdict: A few times I thought it was maybe a tad over-the-top, but still I appreciated the satire and sentiment. It's definitely hardcore theory, by any means, but it's heart is in the right place.

A Long Way Gone: Memoir of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah
220 pages
This is the story of a Beah's robbed childhood in Sierra Leone, where war destroys his family and innocence. He and his friends desperately try to avoid being captured, which would result in either death or being forced to join the military. Eventually he becomes a soldier, living off drugs and murdering others. He is taken for rehabilitation, but the process is challenging. 

Verdict- This was a really hard book to get through, especially as we are living in times of political and social unrest, granted nowhere near this degree. The horrific details were also hard to stomach. Nonetheless, it's an important book and it's good to be affected.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde 
213 pages
Dorian Gray is painted by a friend Basil Hallward, all the while exploring the connections between mortality, youth, and beauty in long, philosophical discussions with other men that apparently don't have much to do. Eventually, it becomes apparent that the painting starts aging and he stops- what a horrible problem to have. Meanwhile, our friend Dorian starts to abandon morality and partake in some pretty scandalous activities that earn him quite the notorious reputation. 

Verdict- I read this in high school and college and have always been a fan of Wilde, despite the fact that I do enjoy poking fun at this book a little. I read this on the Serial App, which was awesome- every day a new installment that took 10-15 minutes or so to read was delivered to my phone. I would never read a book for the first time this way, but I think it's great for rereading classics. 

Nutshell by Ian McEwan
197 pages
Sometimes when you're little you overhear adults having conversations. You work hard to make sense of them, given your limited perception of the world. But you are smarter than they might think you are. Even if you're a fetus. And especially if your mom is sleeping with your uncle and they are plotting your father's murder (ohhhhhh Hamlet!). 

Verdict: I loved this book! I thought the narration was different and amusing, and I loved that McEwan doesn't try to over-explain the baby's intellect. The Hamlet angle was done well, and the balance between humor, drama and worldly-commentary was deliberate and well-done. As a mom, I do have to confess that the excessive amounts of alcohol consumed by the mother bothered me (the baby was quite the connoisseur), but, ya know, it's not real.

1706 pages 

Outside Reading: Getting My Students Interested

As an English Department, a few years ago we set forth a very flexible outside reading policy. Teachers could monitor, assess, and grade however they pleased, but freshman were supposed to read 500 extra pages a semester, sophomores 600, juniors 700, and seniors 800. Our department chair gave teachers total discretion; ultimately it was to get the kids reading more (always a good thing). 

As an IB (and sometimes AP) teacher, my plan was a little more strict. I require all my students' titles to be approved, and when I do so I will only sign off on books I deem literary- ones that would be challenging, well-written, and perhaps potentially taught in college (think Jeffrey Eugenides or Oscar Wilde as opposed to Nicholas Sparks). Each semester one of their books has to be from a certain genre (first semester was memoir, autobiography or biography and this semester it's sci-fi, drama, or a graphic novel) and they have to have their parents sign off on their choices, to waive me from potential familial conflict. 

The biggest roadblock? Kids really just don't know what to read. I have a huge interactive bulletin board in my classroom, a list of student read books on the wall, and a few other lists posted. But still, they struggle to find books that intrigue them. So, I thought. And thought. And then it came to me:

[it's a ginormous binder, in case you can't tell]

Starting at the beginning of the year every couple of weeks I make copies of the first page or two of books I think will intrigue them (I won't list them here because my research into Fair Use Copyright Laws was a little confusing). After I give them my little commercial on each book (which I physically bring in for the day so they can see it), I pass out the passages. I find that being able to talk from personal experience really helps sell the process and of course makes my recommendation more genuine. 

Each group gets four different handouts and every three minutes they trade. If they are interested, they write the title and author down in their provided logs and it's up to them to find it at a local library on buy it (I have noticed a lot of kids will buy one book a semester and then share, which I LOVE!). If they're not interested, no skin off my back. Recently, I finally got it together and compiled the passages in a binder for the kids to look at when they need suggestions. I also created an in-depth table of contents that includes some genre information, in case they're in the mood for, say, a sci-fi book that's humorous or a coming-of-age novel that's modern. It's saved, so every time I give them new passages I can add to my list and simply print out a new table to replace the outdated one.

I was really surprised last semester when so many kids read the books I gave them passages on in this ongoing activity (I'd say over half of my 140ish students read at least one of the books they had seen a passage from). And, even better, they enjoyed them! I conference with each kid individually during the week before finals, and an added bonus of them reading these binder books is that I've also read them and can really converse with them (and see if they've read). 

When I Read: A Log

The last week has been pretty typical, schedule wise, so I decided to keep a log of what, when, and where I read. I think I did this several years ago, but definitely not recently. I think the main takeaway anyone can get from this is that if it's important to you, you'll find time. I am a busy teacher, mom, wife, and friend, but reading every single day is something I make happen, so that I feel like myself. 

I also have to point out that I basically do not watch TV; during this whole week I watched less than an hour and a half (one hour of Fargo with Scott and a half an hour of This is Us). It's not that I don't like to watch things, but I rarely have time to sit down for a full 45 minutes to an hour to actually commit. When I do watch things it's usually just to relax with Scott; I very rarely will watch anything alone, and never do I turn the TV on for myself when it's Sawyer and I (we don't have satellite, so that's part of it). I honestly just don't like the extra noise; I am generally surrounded by chatty (but lovable) teenagers, so it's nice to have a quieter atmosphere at home. 

Here's the breakdown (and probably too much narrative):

Texts mentioned, and the abbreviations I'll use: 
A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah (ALWG)
A Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wild (DG)
Kafka by Robert Crumb (KF)
How to Win at Feminism by The Reductress (HWF)

Wednesday 1/18
11:45-12:05 KF- My friend usually joins me for the last ten or fifteen minutes of lunch (we get thirty-five minutes), so I have been spending the first bit reading while eating.
5:15-5:30 ALWG- While Sawyer happily played with his trains
6:50-7:05 DG- I am reading this on the Serial App, so I try to get in some time while I supervise Sawyer's bath, since he ignores me anyway
9:20-9:45 ALWG- After a run and right before bed

Time: 1 hour and fifteen minutes

Thursday 1/19
11:45-12:00 KF- During lunch 
8:05-8:15 DG- Under the crib while hanging out with Sawyer until he settled down a bit
9:25-9:50 DG/ALWG- Post hanging out with husband and before bed

Time: 50 minutes

Friday 1/20
7:30-8:00 KF- I technically am off (as in not my prep period; I am contractually not bound to work first period since I teach a very late class on Modays, but because of our daycare drop off time I end up at work anyway), and today I decided to read instead of work like normal, since I am caught up on grading and planning. 
11:50-12:00 KF- lunch
9:05-9:25 ALWG- in the bath 

Time: 1 hour

Saturday 1/21
2:20-2:40 ALWG- This was during Sawyer's nap, after I did some cleaning. Saturday is usually our day to do fun things, so I don't generally read a lot. This weekend we had friends over, other times we are off in Orange County, or whatever else we plan. 

Time: 20 minutes

Sunday 1/22 
7:34-7:45 ALWG- I got in a few pages while I ate my breakfast and Sawyer played.
3:00-4:00 ALWG- It was cold and rainy and I couldn't resist curling up on couch with my favorite blanket while Sawyer napped.
8:10-8:20 DG- Under the crib, sneaky-like

Time: 1 hour and 20 minutes

Monday 1/23
5:50-6:10 KF- I decided to read a book instead of blogs while I ate my breakfast before waking up Sawyer
7:50-8:10 KF- I busted my butt grading essays all weekend, so I spent some more of my off period reading
11:45-12:05 KF- Lunch
8:10-8:20 DG- Under crib
9:30-9:45 ALWD- After run and before bed

Time: 1 hour and 25 minutes (this is really surprising because I am at work really late on Mondays)

Tuesday 1/24
11:45-12:15 HWF- My friend had stuff to do during lunch, so I read 
5:20-5:45 ALWD- While Sawyer played with trains
6:50-7:00 DG- While Sawyer was playing in the bath 

Time: 1 hour 

Total time: 7 hours and 10 minutes

- I miss reading in larger chunks, but I make it work
- Having books for different times is good for me... right now. Depending on what I am reading this doesn't always work, but a classic on my phone, a graphic novel at work, and a normal piece of prose for longer periods did the trick (I am also listening to an audiobook from my ride from work to daycare, but I don't count that as reading)
- I think I do a good job of playing with my son, but I also like him to see me partake in my own hobbies, like reading
- Taking some time to read during my lunch as been a really nice reward for working super hard and efficiently during my prep period, and often during my off period
- Not all weeks are like this; I was bringing my A game. Right now, a few days later I feel like my game has been graded to a C-. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Link up, link back, say hi!

1. My husband and I started watching Fargo last Saturday night (the show, not the movie) and I honestly had no idea what I was getting myself into. I had heard it was smart and really good, but that's about it. So. There's a lot of blood....

2. I think I'm going to start learning how to embroider. I will always love cross stitching, but I am intrigued by the variety of stitches that you can work with when you take it up a notch. Naturally, I bought a book.

3. My friends and their kids came over last weekend and I made a few different things, including this french toast casserole (minus the blueberries)- so good fresh out of the oven and cold from the pan two days later. Brunch, by the way, is officially my favorite meal to entertain for now. You get up, get stuff ready, you get to hang out for a few hours, and then once everyone leaves (to put kids down for naps) you still have the rest of the day (to grade papers). Plus brunch food is delicious. 

4. Are you participating in 10 Actions in 100 Days? My letters just need stamps! 

5. This weekend we are headed to the Fleet Science Center in San Diego to see The Art of the Brick Exhibit. Sunday is the last day it will be there, so I'm glad I realized it and got tickets. I'm super excited- I would go even if I didn't have a toddler. There are nearly 100 LEGO sculptures (or whatever you want to call it), so I'm sure we will get our money's worth.

6. At lunch today I was reading How to Win at Feminism by The Reductress and saw this and could not stop laughing:

7. Pro-tip, discovered by a sleepy, accidental moment in 5:30 am: put on a little blush before foundation, and then some after, if you want it to stay all day.

8. New books:

9. If you are a baker, follow King Arthur Flour on Instagram for some serious inspiration.

10. I am obsessed with making Sawyer a puppet door theater this summer. I think he may be a tiny bit too young (or not?) right now, but by then it'll be so much fun to make some DIY puppets and put on shows in his room. Can you tell I'm living vicariously through my kid just a tiny bit? I really always wanted a doll house when I was small, but this will do. 

11. I am way, way, way too attune to the noises my house makes. And attune I mean bordering on psychotic. The heater. The pipes. The water heater. Strange smells that might be gas leaks (or just cooking smells). It's like my super power is noticing slightly irregular noises and obsessing about them and wondering what sort damage they could cause (and would our home owner's insurance cover it? And if not, how much would the repair cost?). It's bad. This is what happens when I am caught up on my grading and have room in my head to stress about things. 

12. Let's end it with something sweet: like these cupcakes that I desperately want to make but could see ending disastrously.

Top Ten Tuesday- Reading about People

For this week's Top Ten Tuesday from The Broke and the Bookish, we have a freebie. I decided to do a list of ten people I'd like to read more about, in the form of biographies, autobiographies, or memoirs. Some may exist already and I just haven't gotten to them, while others might need their stories told or updated.

1-3- I want updated autobiographies/memoirs from Barak Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Joe Biden

4. Julia Child- I have had her's on my wish-list for ages, but haven't ordered it. Her life was so fascinating!

5. Franz Kafka- This one is sort of cheating, since I am currently reading the graphic novel version right now. He was such an interesting guy!

6. Gloria Steinem- Was there any doubt?

7. Lance Armstrong- His story is long and has been drawn out over many years and I know only bits and pieces. I want the whole story for once! 

8. The Beatles- There's a million different ones, but I know that it has to be by Mark Lewisohn. 

9. Eva Peron- Such a big story to tell. 

10.  Harvey Milk- I saw the movie way back when and meant to learn more. 

Lemme Tell You a Story (2)

Considering that tomorrow will be one of the darkest days this country has seen in a really long time, I thought something fluffy was in order. 

(If you missed the first installment here it is)

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

[happy 12th birthday, Cordie!]

Link up, link back, say hi!

1. Miracle of miracles- I had an HVAC person out to the house the other day to give me a second opinion on some heater repairs our maintenance company said we needed (that neared $3,000 dollars, unless we wanted to shell out $13,000 for two new units). Turns out the new people said we don't really need to do anything and that the other company works on 100% commission. Thank goodness I went with my gut.

2. I signed up for a 10k in a little over a month in Redlands, a city forty-five minutes or so away from here. I have been running more and feeling good, so I'm excited. 

3. Last weekend I had a training overnight and I ditched my colleagues and spent the entire time after we were released the first day alone. We originally tossed around the idea of going to dinner as a site, but myself and another teacher bailed to spend the evenings by ourselves. I went to the gym, finished The Nix (loved!), got take out, and slept like a baby in a big comfy hotel room.

4. In a few weeks I'm going to Vegas with my mom to see Cher, which I'm really excited for. Meanwhile, my friend asked me to go see Elton John the weekend before, also in Vegas. I was sooooo bummed to say no, but that would have been a super expensive two weeks and I would have felt bad to leave Sawyer two weekends in a row. I am super amused that both performers are sort of... old. And yet here we are wanting to. 

5. I had planned on taking Sawyer to Zion National Park over spring break, but as I look at hotel rooms I'm seeing that they're already becoming super booked. So I think we are going to go to Yosemite, since I really want to see all the waterfalls this spring after the massive amounts of rain and snow California is getting (thankfully). My mom was excited to hear that we might go there instead, since she can come meet us for the day to hang out. I guess I should reserve a room! 

6. This coffee table book seems adorable (I follow him on Instagram and his pictures are great):


7. I recently read something that advised people to "do less, more" when it comes to housework. I tend to keep things from not going to hell during the week and then spend a few hours on the weekend really cleaning. I've been trying to keep that philosophy in mind lately and when I have a few minutes I try to do something extra. Same with grading and my classroom; it's a lot more doable to grade a few papers here and there rather than a hundred in one sitting.

8. I am reading A Long Way Down by Ishmael Beah right now and having a really hard time with it. It's a really good, important book, but considering  the inevitable looming domestic and international political instability, as well as some own recent personal concerns, it's just maybe a bit too unsettling for me right now. I'm no quitter, plus I have an incredible talent for torturing myself, so I will power through.

9. This weekend will be fun. On Saturday we are having a few friends and their kids over for brunch, and Sunday I am going to reorganize my workout room (yes, this currently sounds fun, but that may change). I might try to sneak out for a little while to go rug shopping, too. This is 33, guys.

10. Betsy DeVos is a horrible, unqualified, ridiculous wench and doesn't deserve an sort of cabinet position. Elizabeth Warren is my hero, though, for her unabashed roasting of her at the hearing. God. It all just makes me sick to my stomach. Luckily, I live in California, but I fear for those who live in less liberal states. Good job, America!

Of the Kitchen Variety

[bad picture, good recipe]

I'm really, really hungry right now. I have been very busy today and went for a run, and now my husband is apparently coming home late, so I can either wait for him to eat dinner, go snack, or I can write about food (because words just always satisfy an empty stomach).

The third option it is. Blogging about food instead of eating it is the new diet plan.

Recent Recipes Tried
Last week I somehow managed to try three new recipes, all good, and all options to bring the next day for lunch. The first was Slow Cooker Cheesy Chicken, Broccoli, Wild Rice Soup, which I thought was delicious but was way too involved (and made way too much for my sized crock pot). I prefer crock pot recipes to have as few steps as possible, and this one required a bit of effort. Quinoa Taco Bowls with Tomatillo Avocado Salsa was delicious and easy. The salsa was definitely the best part and would be great on other things as well. And the final was Tomato Cream Pasta with Grilled Cheese Crumbs, which was a basic tomato sauce with mascarpone, plus tiny chunks of bread sauteed in olive oil and butter until crunchy and then mixed with some mozzarella (see picture above). How could you go wrong? 

Restaurant Lust
We used to attempt one new restaurant a month, but that's not a practical endeavor since having a kid. I recently read about Curtis Stone's LA place, Maude, which sounds super awesome, as it should be, considering it was LA Weekly's Best Restaurant of 2015. They only seat a super-limited number of people a night and the entire meal (it's a price fixe one) is centered around a certain ingredient, like "lime" or "truffles" for the month. Reservations on weekends are basically impossible, but a girl can dream. 

Kitchen Essentials I Need
The list of things to replace seems endless right now: 
- new cookies sheets
- a larger food processor 
- a better broiler pan 
- garlic press
- an 8x8 non-stick pan
- a springform pan 
- a coated flat-beater for my KitchenAid Mixer 

Kitchen Gadgets Tempting Me
- An Instapot
- A griddle that spans two burners
- New plates and bowls 
- A second Keurig for work (so indulgent, but it would make work that much better)

Recipes on Deck 
I'm hosting a small brunch on Saturday for some friends and their kids. There will be six adults and five kids (who may or may not eat at this weird time or day), so nothing too crazy, but still something to look forward to planning. Some things I'm considering:
- a frittata 
- our family's Honey Horns
- Some sort of potato hash
- French toast casserole 

Bookish Discoveries

Happy Sunday! Hopefully this is a three-day-weekend for you- there's nothing like knowing that your week is Monday-less. Meanwhile, I have a few cool new things I've discovered lately that I thought I'd pass along.

The Handmaid's Tale Series
I seriously just found out that this Hulu Series was being made. I always have reservations about books turned movie/TV, but I am excited that Elizabeth Moss is Offred and that Alexis Bledel is also also going to in it. They will obviously have to add a lot to the story and characters for this to work as  show, which sort of preemptively bothers me, but I will definitely watch a few episodes. 

Serial Reader
I honestly don't remember where I heard about this app (Facebook? A blog?), but I love that you can get chunks that read in less than twenty minutes delivered to your device every day, for free (I upgraded for a few dollars so that I can read ahead, though). I am currently rereading The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde and am hoping my students take advantage of it to pace their outside reading obligations. I don't plan on reading anything for the first time, but it's a great way to revisit old classics I read in college and high school.

Moonlite- A Bedtime Story Projector
A friend posted this online the other day about a Kickstarter project about a little manual turn wheel that goes over your iPhone that projects pictures from stories on the ceiling. The story itself, as well as buttons for sound effects, appears on your phone for you to read as you make the pictures appear above. It was a little expensive, but I love the idea and think Sawyer will love it occasionally as a treat in his dark room. Plus, it reminded me of a 21st century View Master, which I loved when I was a kid. It's was fully funded on Kickstarter, but you can get it on Indiegogo

Lovepop Cards
These are really pricy for a card and I haven't bought one yet, but they are so cool and I know I'd love to get one. There are a variety of intricate pop-up cards that seem to run around $12, give or take a few bucks. 

Productive App
I feel like the Productive App is my answer to bullet journaling, at least in terms of habit tracking. This app (it's a couple bucks for unlimited goals and features) allows you to set goals that occur in whatever time frame you desire, determine labels, colors and icons, and provides stats on your productivity. I am super list and goal-oriented, so this is a dream come true. 

[some examples from my own setup]

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Link up! Link back! Say hey!

1. Day three of second semester: caught up on grading. This means I have graded 133 quizzes on their break-work reading, 133 Gregor from The Metamorphosis models (also from break), plus the accompanying reflection form, and 80 quick assignments from TOK. I have been utilizing every spare second at work and am sticking to my grading schedule. I am determined. 

2. I am hoping January isn't setting the precedent for 2017 in terms of domestic money-sucks. We have to replace our pool sweep, supposedly need several thousand dollars worth of repairs on our heater (this might be far less, from what my gut and uncle are telling me; I have a second opinion in the works for Monday), and our dog needs a currently harmless gum growth removed before it becomes too large and gets infected. 

3. My child is sitting on the ground threading pipe cleaners through a colander singing "Rainbow Connection." We are not used to all this rain (but thankful for it).

4. George Lucas has decided on LA for the home of his new museum and while I'm sure there are probably political or social or environmental reasons I should be angry I'm just plain excited. I think it's seven or so years away, but it'll fun to track the progress when we make our yearly or so visits down to Exposition Park for the other museums that are there. 

5. I am going to a conference Friday and Saturday and I get to (have to?) stay overnight. I'm of course a little excited because I'll have a lot of alone time, since the Friday session ends by three or four and I am not close to any of my colleagues from my actual site who are also attending. I am not exactly wowed by the city we will be staying in, though, so part of my feels that it's one big hassle to get everything squared away here at home for thirty-six hours away in... Cerritos. 

6. I just got Kafka by Robert Crumb and David Mairowitz, the short graphic biography of Franz Kafka, since I'm teaching him at school and have always meant to read more about his life story. Hopefully it's good and I can pass it along to my students to read for outside reading!

7. The knitting guy who makes himself sweaters to correspond with his travels is the best. I saw the article a few days ago, and when my husband sent it to me today he said that Sam Barsky is my "spirit animal." I don't think I'd take it that far, but he's still pretty awesome.

8. I had a really hard time getting through Obama's Farewell Address. Actually, I started crying before he started talking. If we were trading him in for someone else it would be a tiny bit better, but I have such respect for him and will miss his humanity, compassion, and humor.

9. I am still reading The Nix and am still a huge fan. I wish it was longer than 600 pages- it's that fantastic.

10. Last weekend my friend and I took Sawyer to Mile Square Park in Fountain Valley, which I will now associate with the most aggressive ducks and squirrels I have ever seen. They were coming right up to us begging for food! This is why you DON'T FEED THE WILDLIFE!!!! The park itself is awesome- a true mile square of playgrounds, walking paths, golf courses, archery ranges, and sports fields. 

Top Ten Tuesday- 2016 Releases... in 2017?

I am not one of those readers who's necessarily current on new releases- sure, I might own them, but I sort of just read whatever I feel like. Maybe it is the newest McEwan... or maybe it's a Patchett from eight years ago. Nonetheless, there were a TON of releases last year that I was super excited for and didn't quite get to, which is perfect, since that's what The Broke and the Bookish are asking us to list this week! Go-go reality check!

1. Hagseed by Margaret Atwood- I am so fascinated by these Hogarth books! I think I might want to reread The Tempest, first, though, so that's part of the hangup. 

2. The Terranauts by TC Boyle- Considering I'd list this guy in my top authors, it's embarrassing how few of his books I've actually read. 

3. Zero K by Don Delillo- I even went to his reading last spring!

4. The Barbarian Days of Surfing by William Finnegan- I was so into this book as a summer read. And then summer ended and it didn't get opened. 

5. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi- Everyone had nothing but amazing things to say about this. How was that not enough?

6. Nutshell by Ian McEwan- Ian, buddy, I'm so ashamed.

7. The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra- I'm sure I will get to it this year, since short stories fit into busy spots in my life well. And there are never any shortage of those!

8. Commonwealth by Ann Patchett- I was SO excited about this book and then it sort of fell off my radar during November and December. I even forgot to ask for it for Christmas! I have gotten it since and see it being read in the next month or two. 

9. Swing Time by Zadie Smith- I will say that I have to be in the right mood for Zadie, so hopefully this will happen then year. I have had White Teeth for forever and haven't been able to get into it, yet I loved On Beauty and Changing My Mind. 

10. A Doubter's Almanac by Ethan Canin- I read The Palace Thief many, many years ago and enjoyed it, but I sort of forgot about it until my husband picked tis one up last month. 

A Secret Resolution

I guess it's not really a secret is you write it for all to read on the internet, right? Technicalities aside, this resolution isn't necessarily one that I'm posting on social media or talking to my mom/husband/colleagues/friends about, mostly because it's a pretty massive undertaking that I decided in the parking lot, alone, of Target this morning, trying to chug the rest of my Starbucks so it would't get cold as I shopped. I got a size bigger than normal and added an extra shot (I had a lot to do today, okay?), so maybe this is purely the caffeine talking. 

I'm going to write a novel in 2017. 

It might be total shit, but this is the year. I am thirty-three years old and this has been something that I've wanted to do since I was like seven. So, for twenty-six years I have wanted to write an actual novel and it's never happened. Sure, I've started many, but none have been finished. I don't like the feeling that I'm one of those people that are all talk, so this is the year. The doing, rather than the talking and hoping and assuming and procrastinating, will happen. 

January will be spent mentally accepting this fact, as well as figuring out what idea I will develop, since I have a few that I've been thinking about over the years. February through October will be spent writing. Let's say this book is going to be 65,000 words (so very, very, very ballpark); that's 7,222 words per month, or 236ish words per day. I write blog posts and emails longer than that. November will be spent being smug and happy that I am finished. December I will edit, and then I can work on becoming a published, incredibly wealthy, author in 2018 (that's what happens when you write your first book, right?). 

In terms of accountability I'm not sure what I'm thinking quite yet. Monthly check-ins here? Weekly word count totals that are set as reminders on my phone calendar to nag me? Bribery? I have been using the same Fossil work bag since I started teaching eleven years ago... 

236 words a day for nine months. Some days more, some days less. At this very moment I feel like this is incredibly doable, despite lamenting approximately 482 times a day both verbally and mentally about how I don't have enough time as is. But how awesome would it be to end 2017 know that I finally did it?  

Things I Refuse to Apologize For

Things I Refuse to Apologize For:

1. Drinking too much Diet Coke (it's not like I'm smoking crack).

2. Crying. I literally can't help it when it happens, so what am I suppose to do? And it's not like it happens at work or in front of my son (fine maybe once or twice), so good enough.

3. Being a slow runner. I will never be fast and that's okay.

4. For owning many, many not-so-cheap dresses.

5. Loving food found at such places as gas stations, amusement parks, and baseball stadiums. Sure, a quinoa and tabouleh salad is my jam sometimes, but lets be honest- I love me some Hostess Cupcakes, garlic fries, and fountain drinks.

6. Needing to be alone for at least fifteen minutes a day. Preferably an hour.

7. Making excessive amounts of lists. Lists about lists, even.

8. Being agnostic. Flirting with atheism. Being religiously unsure. Having massive questions that I am not okay with being unanswered.

9. Having occasional, generally fleeting, moments in which I am paralyzed in fear that something horrible will happen to my child. That is pretty much my worst nightmare.

10.  Rolling my eyes. It just happens. I cannot control it. Let's just call it an endearing quirk. Or not. I don't care. 

11. Holding Sawyer's hand at night through his crib slats until he gets sleepy, in which I then tell him I have to pee, whether I want to or not, so I can leave the room, justifiably.

12. Partially measuring my worth by how productive I am.

13. That you might have to lint roll after leaving my home. I vacuum several times a week, but my dogs shed excessively. This is their home. 

14. Loving fresh flowers. I know that there are a lot of people who like to say that they're a waste of money because they just die, but, honestly, a $3.99 bouquet from Trader Joe's makes me really happy and makes my living room cheerful.

15. Posting what I post on social media and my blog. People get so upset and annoyed about the words and pictures of others- if you don't like it, unfollow, or, begin a respectful dialogue. It's so much mature than just judging (I have stopped "hate reading" blogs this year- who has time for that?). 

16. Being super competitive (re: Fitbit competitions).

17. Buying books, for me or Sawyer. Neither the time nor money or ever a waste. 

18. Telling my son no. Telling my husband no. Telling my students no. Telling family no. Telling those emails that try to rope you into doing things after hours no (well, unless they come from the big boss). 

19. Being annoyed when people I know don't acknowledge the fact that I didn't change my name when I got married. I am not Mrs. Husband's First Name Last Name. I am not Christine my name-his name. Just the same as before. Thanks. 

20. Loving sweatpants so very dearly. Yoga pants are great, but when it's cold and you're not leaving the house? A pair of thick men's sweatpants are impossible to beat. 

21. Just really, really loving commas. I mean, sometimes you just, you know, need to add some pauses, or you feel like some separation is necessary. 

And a Few Things I Do Feel Bad About...

1. Being horrible at blogging comments, both on other people's blogs and replying to those on my own.

2. Mindless afternoon snacking.

3. Worrying about future events that I realistically know will be okay.

4. Not spending enough time with my husband.

5. Sometimes not saying what I really mean, whether good or bad. 

January, Plus December, Revisited

I tell ya, it's hard to get in all of the regular end of month posts combined with the end of year stuff! And I don't know about you, but I'm a little sick of it all, so I'm going to make this quick:

December's Goals and How I Did:

1. Stay 90% on track with my grading calendar: Yes! I love this new system and while I did feel pretty stressed with all I had to do, my calendar made things attainable and allowed me to have my teacher work day for quickly inputting grades and getting some work done for next semester.

2. Run an average of three times a week: Sort of. When I was well I did, but for the week or ten days I was battling double ear infections and and a nasty chest cold I did not.

3. Finish my 2016 year-in-review book: Yes! It's ordered and will arrive next week. I'm so excited to see the finished product! Hopefully I can get it together enough this year to do it month-by-month so I'm not scrambling around at the end of the year like 2016. And 2015. And 2014. And 2013.

4. Send out our Christmas cards: Done! This year's cards were probably my favorite- I posted the picture we used on Christmas. I only send out 25 to close family and friends, but this is a tradition that is important to me.

5. Enjoy the season: Very much so. Sure, it was rushed at times, and working until the 23rd sucked, but it was still so much fun. We visited Santa, had a separate Breakfast with Santa, walked around our neighborhood many times to look at lights, painted ornaments, decorated cookies, went to the Pixar Exhibit (not really Christmas, but still felt festive), visited Downtown Disney, saw family, and watched some Christmas movies. 

January's Goals

1. Stay off the scale: I need to clean up my diet and push myself with exercise, since I'm feeling a little blah after too many peanut butter balls. I usually weight myself nearly every day and instead this month I want to focus on making healthy choices and not focus on the numbers. 

2. Book mini-vacations: I am going to Vegas in February with my mom for a night and need to book a hotel and make reservations somewhere awesome to eat. I am also taking Sawyer somewhere for spring break (probably Zion National Park) and I want to get things locked down because rooms go fast that time of year.

3. House things: I need to find some big area rugs to replace two that we have and are falling apart/buckling, schedule a second opinion on a heater issue, and keep working on organizing. 

That's it! I'm clearly easing into the year.