Friday, July 17, 2020

My Birth Story (First Time Mom)

When I was pregnant this past year, I really didn't post about it other than very surface-level things or really vague things.  But I really like talking about my birth experience because it's such an interesting thing to have gone through.  The best part is, I wouldn't change a thing other than the fact that I gave birth in the middle of a global pandemic.  So, here is what that experience was like.

The week of my due date was a very emotionally-charged one, understandably.  Prior to this week, I had talked with my doctor about the possibility of inducing the Monday after my due date, if I hadn't spontaneously gone into labor before then (that's what it's called-- kind of a scary term!).  In order for her to deliver my baby though, she decided to schedule me for the Friday night before so that she'd be there that Saturday, which I was happy with.  So either way, I knew that this week was the last week I would be pregnant this time around.  Either this baby would decide to come out or he'd come out on my terms, essentially.  I was nervous about the fact that I was about to eject a new human from my body and I was nervous about things potentially going wrong and I was nervous about getting an IV.  But even with this amount of worrying, I wasn't prepared for how things would go down.

I went to my last doctor's appointment that Monday.  The last month that you're pregnant, you go into the clinic every week, so this wasn't a new experience for me.  I was 39 weeks and some days.  One thing you should know is that for the last month or slightly less, when the nurse would take my blood pressure reading, my result would always be high and they would have to take a new reading when I was in an exam room.  Usually, this has worked out fine, but this time, my blood pressure didn't change when I was taken back to a room.  That did not sit well with my doctor.  She diagnosed me with gestational hypertension-- in plain English: high blood pressure caused by pregnancy.  The only way to cure it is to give birth and not be pregnant anymore.

I can't tell you how fast my heart leaped into my mouth when I heard the words, "I'm sending you to labor and delivery today."  I had gotten very comfortable with the idea of heading to the hospital on Friday and in my brain, my baby was definitely going to arrive on either Friday or Saturday.  I was very much not ready to get this show on the road.  Except, physically, I was.  It turns out I had been in early labor all weekend (they felt like mild period cramps, nothing unmanageable, they were 10-12 minutes apart) and I was already 3cm.  Things were already moving and this baby was ready to come out soon.

The doctor sent me home to finish last-minute packing and get my partner and asked me to call the clinic and let them know when I would come in.  Even though the situation had been elevated (not emergency levels, but urgent), it was not indicated that I needed to hurry which is interesting to me.  We checked into the hospital at noon after we had called our families in excited panic, tossed more things in our suitcase, and passed off our keys so that someone could come and feed our cats while we were away. 

Since I had been in early labor for a while, I had done a lot of the slow work of initial dilating already.  Yay :)  I got my IV (got sick despite my breathing exercises and my effort to not freak out about it... the nurses were so sweet and understanding despite my drama) and got started on Pitocin and fluids.  If you don't know, Pitocin is a synthetic form of oxytocin which helps your uterus contract and ultimately push a baby out.  They start you on a low dose and raise the amount after seeing how your body responds.  It took many hours to get to the point where I could no longer talk through my contractions.  So for a while, it felt weird to be in the hospital because I wasn't in tremendous amounts of pain yet.  I could eat snacks if I wanted to and enjoyed HGTV since it's nice to watch but doesn't necessarily require a lot of attention.

To address the global pandemic a little bit, the only things that were different from a typical hospital visit was that I was tested for COVID-19 fairly early on (it came back negative a few hours later), my partner had to have temperature checks every 8 hours, we had to wear masks when there were doctors and nurses in the room (although once I tested negative, admittedly I became very lax about wearing a mask).  The nurses wore masks all the time and the doctors had a face shield as well as a mask.  I could only have one support person with me.  So if I wanted to hire a doula, they could not physically be with us.  If I wanted my mom or my sister to be in the room, I would have to make a choice between them and my partner.  Obviously, my partner won out :)  We also could not have any visitors, even when we moved to the postpartum room.  To me, it was very manageable. 

 Once it got dark outside, that's when my contractions needed more focus.  I was happy that what I had learned in birth class was coming in handy and that it was working.  I could bounce on a ball, lean on a table, use my partner and take long, deep breaths and make a low guttural sound until my contraction was over.  The low sounds were great-- I think it helped serve as a distraction and it was kind of grounding too.  Don't be afraid of what sounds come out of you while you're in labor.  No one will judge you for it.  At this point, the only medication I had was Pitocin, but nothing for pain.  I couldn't talk through my contractions anymore, really, but they were still manageable.

Fast forward to ten hours into labor and I feel like I'm losing my grip.  I have no idea if it's true that Pitocin makes contractions more intense or not, but these contractions were intense and breathing and moaning weren't really cutting it on their own.  My hope was that I could go through labor without the help of pain meds.  I had made it quite a while, which I was really proud of.  I tried a type of IV pain meds that worked for an hour, but then around 11pm or midnight, I asked for an epidural.  I initially didn't want one because the idea of it really freaked me out and I didn't like that there was no going back once I got one (not until I had gotten this baby out of me anyway).  But at that point, I was tired but couldn't sleep and I felt like I was losing my grip and struggling my way through these contractions.  I knew that I was at the point where contractions came quite fast, but they were lasting 60-70 seconds with 30 seconds or less of a break in between, which I don't think is typical.  It was a lot to handle.  So I got an epidural.  It honestly wasn't bad-- I only jumped when I felt the initial poke, but then I didn't feel anything else.  Literally.  It didn't take long for me to go numb from the waist down like an epidural is supposed to do.  It was really trippy when the nurse who was helping me checked the paper tracking my contractions, asked if I felt that last contraction and I wasn't even aware that I was having one.  Bliss.

I was able to get a good night's sleep after that.  I thought that I'd be woken up a lot since I was in the hospital, but they were actually really good, I thought, about working with the periods when I woke up in the middle of the night.  They would come in and check my progress and they broke my water in the middle of the night too to help things move along.

My doctor checked me in the morning around 8:30 or so while I was trying to ignore the screams of another woman giving birth in a different room and I was fully effaced and 10cm dilated!  But my baby was still fairly high up, so she decided to give it another hour and see if he came down more on his own. 

9:30 rolls around and everything is in place for me to start pushing.  One thing that surprised me a little bit was how calm everything felt in the room.  I thought that the fact that I was about to push a human out would have caused more of a stir in my particular room, especially with the people who were actively supporting me.  I've definitely been watching too many birth episodes of TV shows where there's a lot of rushing around and yelling.  My room was quite zen by comparison, which was great-- yelling would have made things terrible. 

In total, I pushed for about three hours.  Since I couldn't feel my uterus contracting due to the epidural, the nurse taught me how to recognize a contraction by feeling my belly with my hand, so I was able to make the call for when it was time to push.  My partner helped me by counting to ten each time I pushed.  It sounds silly and like I'm just giving them a job for the sake of feeling helpful, but it was actually so good to have something to focus on and to be able to quantify how long I needed to push at a given moment.  It was the mentality of, "I can get through 10 seconds of anything."  It truly didn't feel like I had been pushing for three hours by the time I was done.  I was genuinely surprised to hear what time it was.  I was able to reach down and feel my baby's head before he came out and my partner, Alex, was able to see what was happening, which was awesome. 

Seeing my baby live and in person for the first time was indescribable.  He was here and he was mine.  He was put on my chest and we got to stay there and cuddle for maybe an hour or so.  The doctors and nurses stitched me up (light second-degree tearing, is what I was told.  This is fairly normal).  Admittedly, it took quite a while for me to recognize that this whole situation was real.  But my baby-- my Klaus-- had made his safe arrival into the world.  I'm now two months into parenthood and... wow.  What an incredible feeling.  This kid is pretty great and I feel really lucky that I get to know him and get to help him become a strong, wise, and kind individual if I possibly can.

Thanks for Reading!


Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Preparing for the Reading Rush! (2020)

It's Reading Rush season!  That means that from July 20-26, I will be attempting to read as many books as possible.  There are seven challenges, all of which are optional, but that I have picked books for in an attempt to accomplish these challenges since that just makes things more exciting.

A quick caveat though-- I am sort of cheating this year.  This is the first summer that I've had a baby which makes things busier and more exciting.  Because of this, there are a couple books that I have already started that I am hoping to finish.  I'll talk through each book as it applies to a challenge and you'll see which books those are.

My main goal with this challenge was to push myself to read more of the Kindle and Audible books that have just been sitting in their respective accounts.  I think there's only one physical book that I'll be reading from this list.

2020 Challenges:

Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and ...1. Read a book with a cover that matches your birthstone.

I was born in December, and apparently one of my birthstones is a turquoise.  So I chose "Me and White Supremacy" by Layla F. Saad.  I'm excited about this one because I hear that there are journaling prompts that I can do as I go through this book. The Guide for White Women Who Teach Black Boys ...2. Read a book that starts with the word "The."

I thought it would be easy to find a book to fit this prompt, but it's easier said than done, it turns out.  But then I realized that a book I had started already began with "The," so I chose "The Guide for White Women Who Teach Black Boys" by Eddie Moore Jr., Ali Michael, and Marguerite W. Penick-Parks.  I'm really hoping to finish this one since I've begun it already.

Never Let Me Go: Ishiguro, Kazuo: 9781400078776: Books3. Read a book that inspired a movie you've already seen.

I'm reading this one out of convenience since I am hoping to offer it to my students as a reading option for one of my units this year.  I saw the movie towards the end of high school, so it's been a while, but I am hoping to reread "Never Let Me Go" by Kazuo Ishiguro.

Hidden Figures - Margot Lee Shetterly - Hardcover4. Read the first book you touch.

I tweaked this one a bit and picked a few books that I would be fine with reading and then made a mental decision.  Once I touched this book and took it off the shelf, there's no going back!  The book that I picked is "Hidden Figures" by Margot Lee Shetterly.  This is the only physical book that I will be reading.

Station Eleven: Mandel, Emily St. John: 8601422213614: ...5. Read a book completely outside of your house.

This one you could interpret in a couple different ways.  I don't know if I'll actually read this entire thing while sitting outside (although maybe I'll listen to part of it while spending some time in the sun tent I recently received), but if not, a lot of this book seems to take place outside!  I've chosen "Station Eleven" by Emily St. John Mandel for this challenge.  This is also a cheater one for me because I have already started this book.

Dawn (Xenogenesis, #1) by Octavia E. Butler6. Read a book in a genre you've always wanted to read more of.  

Adulthood Rites (Xenogenesis, #2) by Octavia E. ButlerThat genre is sci-fi, for me.  The only reason I want to read a little more of this genre is because it's my partner's favorite genre.  We're actually reading a series together now that fits this genre (so yeah, I've already started it).  This is an interesting situation though because we have an anthology copy, meaning it has all three books contained in one.  But I am going to specifically list the first two books in the series so that I'm covered no matter which one I end up finishing for this challenge.  The book series is "Lilith's Brood" by Octavia Butler.  The first book is "Dawn" and at the time I'm writing this, my partner and I are about halfway through (or just under halfway, maybe).

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor ...7. Read a book that takes place on a different continent than where you live.

I live in North America, so a different continent is Africa.  Therefore, I am FINALLY picking up Trevor Noah's "Born A Crime."  I'll be listening to the audiobook of it so that I can hear him tell his own story, which I think will be really neat.  I'm probably looking forward to this book the most!

Will I finish all 7 or 8 of these books?  No, I highly doubt that.  Will I spend more concentrated time reading especially during this week?  Yes, definitely.  And that's the point of the Read Rush!  I am really excited to start/continue these books and see how many I can get to the end of in the span of a week!

Thanks for Reading!


Wednesday, July 8, 2020

3 1/2 Years of Bullet Journaling!

I took a look back at my previous posts and realized that 3 1/2 years ago (so, January 2017), I started my first bullet journal!  I got a really cheap lined journal from Target which fell apart after a couple of months (and that might be a generous estimate) because I wanted to make sure that I would stick with this hobby/practice before investing in a more expensive notebook.  Little did I know that I'd stick with this practice for this long!  I love looking back at my old journals to see how they've changed over time, since bullet journal set-ups are meant to change with you and your changing needs.  Here's a look at my 2019 bullet journals!

Usually I use two Leuchtterm 1917 journals over the course of a year (even on years when I'm able to travel and I journal a lot).  My green journal held eight months and lasted me until August 2019 and my wine-colored journal somehow managed to hold nine months in it and lasted me almost halfway through 2020!  My planning style tends to be simplistic.  The way the bullet journal system is supposed to work is that you create weeks and collections as you go, but I don't tend to do that.  I prefer to set up an entire month at a time and I don't really add collections other than monthly memories after my weekly and daily spreads.  It's just easier to handle, especially during the school year when I typically don't have a lot of downtime, even during non-working hours.  During the summer though or when something really big happens in my life, that can change and I do a bit more journaling.

To the right, I have an example of one of the journal spreads I did while on my trip to Utah.  I included pictures that I printed with my HP Sprocket, which has been an incredible tool for me.  I was worried about the cost and if I would use it enough, but I actually print small pictures pretty regularly, so it was worth it!  I just love how my journal pages are really enhanced.  I love returning to these pages long after I have finished the trip in question.  It's a fun aesthetic!

During my travels, I didn't want to totally give up my to-do lists, so I adapted them instead.  I used that space to list what we did that day, rather than writing down a pre-planned list.  But I would also use that space as a traditional to-do list for the most essential things.  For example, on our Utah trip, we spent the night in a few different places.  So the night before, I would make a list of what needed to be done prior to vacating that space.  What needed to be cleaned?  Did I need to remember to pack anything in the morning that couldn't be packed that night?  When were we trying to walk out the door in the first place?  Then I would add in what we did that day next to my to-do list.  It was very helpful to have that.  I also had a page with my packing list.  This packing list was most useful prior to leaving on the trip (any trip, not just this one), but it was also something I could refer back to on the trip if I thought that I might be missing something.  These journals were not the first ones to have packing lists, but rather I carried that over from a slightly earlier one.  It's a nice practice to have when preparing for a trip.

In addition to doing journal spreads when I have more time, I also used the space to draw diagrams to help me plan and also to take notes.  For me, I like to write down what I'm hearing during professional development or anything like that so I can take my time processing that information.  The trouble is, if I put those notes in a loose leaf notebook or on a separate piece of paper, I will never find that paper again until I sit down and go through things.  If I get to that point, the notes aren't useful anymore.  So when I can, I prefer to put them in my bullet journal because that's where every other important piece of written information I need is kept.  It's all in one place and it feels a lot more useful.  Between my last bullet journal post and this one, I have created a couple different floor plans.  The one pictured is how I wanted to set up my classroom for this past school year, but I have also drawn floor plans of my living room because I desperately wanted a change in my apartment.  It was easier to visualize things this way rather than moving furniture a million times and hoping one of those combinations would work.  I haven't really done floor plans in my journals up until now, so this was a cool change.  It's one of the only pages that I keep in pencil rather than going over it in pen.  That way it can be a working document and it can still look relatively neat.

These past couple journals, I have really appreciated that it turned into an artistic expression.  With the printed pictures and stickers, yes, but also with coloring and painting as well.  And washi tape.  So much washi tape...

A lot of the art I created or pulled together found a home on the intro pages for a new month or at the start of the new year or at the start of a new bullet journal.  This is breaking from the original bullet journal method pretty severely, but the artistic aspect is what makes this journal feel more like mine.  

My calendar page is now pulling a lot more weight because it's not just a record of what is coming up in the month, but it's a place to set goals and reflect a tiny bit as well.  I have a space to write down big tasks (or parts of bigger goals), which can help inform what I choose to do in a week, a record of books that I finished reading, and a place to write down things that are getting me excited for the month.  They're things that I find help set me up for a positive start to a month.  I also have a quote to set the tone of the month, although sometimes I fill that in long after the fact.  But it does help the spread feel complete. 

I'm at a point where I feel comfortable with my bullet journaling style, but who knows!  Anything can happen and anything can change.  Especially with not knowing how this coming school year will go, big changes could be on the horizon that I haven't even considered yet.  Eventually (in a year or so), I want to start grad school and that will make an impact on how I plan. 

Thanks for Reading!


Saturday, July 4, 2020

June 2020 Reads

June was an interesting month for reading.  I read quite a bit of nonfiction and I had even more of an excuse to read more books about race in America.  Everyone in the world did.  Or maybe I should say that we no longer had an excuse to not read more and educate ourselves.  Anyway, these are the books that I finished during the month of June:
  • We Want To Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom by Bettina Love
  • Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil DeGrasse Tyson
  • White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People To Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo
  • All-American Muslim Girl by Nadine Jolie Courtney
  • Fences by August Wilson We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching ...We Want To Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom

I am really grateful that I read this book as part of a book club.  It really helped me process what I was reading.  We  (meaning some other educators) started reading this in maybe December or January and picked each chapter apart, sometimes for a couple of weeks.  It was a hard read, because it's hard to face the reality that the way the education system is set up is not meant to serve children of color well at all.  And Bettina Love tells you exactly why and demands to know the answer, "Now what are you going to do about it?" while also telling you her own ideas and why they're important to consider.  It's also hard to face facts that even the most well-meaning practices in teaching are harmful and need to be fixed.  When you get past those feelings and accept that challenge that comes with "Now what?" then the real work begins.  I want to talk more about Black joy in my classroom and use more restorative practices and change the narrative of how I and my school have been handling discipline.  Her ideas on education causing soul death were really eye-opening to me.  I can't wait to get started with this work.

White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About ...White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo

This was another eye-opening read for me (or rather, listen, since I listened to the audiobook).  It talked about a number of things that I have experienced as I've gotten into the work of trying to have more of these conversations about race, injustice, and discrimination.  It helped me better understand some of my own responses and those that other people have as well and I think this will help me be better prepared when I do need to sit down and have a conversation with someone or call out a discriminatory thing that someone says or does.  

I have already been able to use a little bit of what I have learned from this book when talking to the director of my school who is working to form an equity group to help better serve our students.  I voiced my concerns about the possibility of people leaving when they are faced with hard conversations and challenges to their thinking.  This is an example of white fragility.  I don't want this to be what sinks us before we've had time to really sink our teeth into some meaningful change. All-American Muslim Girl eBook: Courtney, Nadine Jolie ...All-American Muslim Girl by Nadine Jolie Courtney

This was one that I kept checking out from the digital library because I liked the cover a lot, but I never actually listened to it.  But since I'm up quite early to feed the baby and feed him for 40 minutes at a time, I have a lot of time on my hands that I've been using to listen to more audiobooks, since reading hard copy books has proven to be a challenge due to not a lot of energy at night and not enough free hands during the day.  So I finally got around to listening to this one.  I didn't expect to like it as much as I did!  Allie, the main character, is doing a lot of soul-searching and feels this gap where something is missing.  Her immediate family is culturally Muslim on her father's side, her mother converted to Islam, but they don't practice at home.  She hasn't had a chance to explore her religion and even the Arabic language, which many of her extended family speaks as well as a lesser-known language, the name of which escapes me.  In order to feel better connected to her family, she finds these pockets of community who help her navigate her explorations through Islam.  One of my favorite parts of this book is when she stands up to her boyfriend's father who is extremely Islamaphobic and I'd even go so far as to say racist.  Even though he remained hard-headed and discriminatory to the end, I thought that Allie was a bad-ass when she addressed him and corrected him with facts and experience.  I just wish that her boyfriend's father would have listened better and changed, but I recognize that that's not how this usually works.  It's too bad.

Thanks for reading!  I can't wait to see what good reads I come across in July!  


Monday, June 29, 2020

May 2020 Reads

Almost caught up!  Here are the books that I read in May:
I have linked the books that are rereads for me.  It was hard to choose which books from the above list to talk about, so I will talk about the ones I haven't written reviews for and/or read for the first time.  

Don't Go Without Me by Rosemary Valero-O'Connell

My dear friend has another book!  Rosemary also did the illustrations for Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me and when I went to look at how people were responding to this book, I came across this title.  It was a little hard to get my hands on, but I'm glad I have it!  It's quite different because it's a triptych of stories.  They're quite sad, but I genuinely enjoyed them.  It's one that I will definitely pick up again and I think is necessary to read multiple times.  It's hard to describe-- it's something you just need to experience for yourself.  I think the one that stood out to me the most was the first time when the main character was losing their memory and couldn't remember that they were in a relationship.  The illustrations are just gorgeous.  I love Rosemary's style, and I'm not just saying that because she's my friend, I promise!

Happy Mum, Happy Baby: My adventures into motherhood: Fletcher ...
Happy Mum, Happy Baby by Giovanna Fletcher

I think I finished this book maybe a week or so before my son was born.  Giovanna Fletcher is the mother of now three boys, but at the time of writing this, she was a mother of two.  Honestly, this was a really reassuring read as a soon to be new parent.  I loved reading her birth stories, especially since I hoped to labor unmedicated (didn't happen, but I can talk about that in a different post, perhaps).  But even the chapters where she was figuring out how to parent, it gave me an idea of just what I was getting myself into.  Parenthood is messy and if you're looking in places like YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, etc. it's really easy to just not talk about the harder parts of parenting.  People don't necessarily want to talk about how their child screamed for three hours for seemingly no reason because they think it paints them in a bad light.  They don't want to talk about being pooped on by their kid because... I mean, it's gross whether you're a parent and have been there or not.  But they're all realities that parents everywhere face.  It's nice to know that you can have a million moments of weakness and still be a great parent.  I thought Gi was optimistic but humble.  And it was interesting to read about how she was parenting while her husband was touring in his band and how they navigated that part of their lives.  Just an added bonus. Teach Your Class Off: The Real Rap Guide to Teaching ...Teach Your Class Off: The Real Rap Guide To Teaching by CJ Reynolds

Oh look!  It's another one of my favorite YouTube people!  This time a teacher!  It's so exciting to me that he wrote a book and got to share more of his experiences from the classroom.  CJ teaches 9th grade English in Philadelphia as well as the History of Hip Hop class.  He approaches education in a creative and at times magical way.  I think that once you get into teaching, depending on the people around you, it can be really easy to feel beaten down and be cynical about what's going on around you.  But CJ's main advice is to always, always prioritize relationships.  Not that you'll connect with 100% of the students you have, but even attempting to make a connection can really go a long way.  I appreciated the stories that show how powerful relationships are and the little reminder that sometimes, in order to be the teacher you idealize, you have to take risks and step into that role and work towards it.  You can't wait for it to just happen to you because that's not how things work.  It's a very honest, thoughtful, and easy-to-read teaching book that I'd recommend to newbie teachers who are just trying to find their footing. Eurydice (9780573662447): Ruhl, Sarah: BooksEurydice by Sarah Ruhl

I got it in my head early on that I wanted to teach a different play next year and perform it with my 9th graders.  I first saw this play when I was in high school in the smaller of the two theaters and I just thought it was magic.  Funny but mostly sad all at the same time.  The only problem with teaching this book is that there aren't a lot of characters, so it would be hard to teach it with a class of 24 9th graders.  Not to mention it would be necessary, I think, to read Orpheus and I have zero confidence in teaching those stories.  

It's a story not just about Eurydice and Orpheus who are in love, but there is also a connection between Eurydice and her father too.  Somehow, interacting with her father just made the story that much more sad to read.  

If you're looking for a quick read (since it's a play) and a lovely one, this is a great one to check out.  

Your Pregnancy Week by Week, 8th Edition (Your Pregnancy Series ...Your Pregnancy Week By Week by Glade B. Curtis

Maybe this is a really nerdy thing to say, but one of the things I was most excited about when I found out I was pregnant was to get a book that would tell me what's going on in my body and with my baby.  This one stood out to me because I liked that it was broken up week by week.  This made it really easy to split up the reading and I could read pieces that were relevant to my situation at any point in my pregnancy.  Whenever a new week turned over (Thursdays in my case), I would pick up the book to see what was going on in there.

One bone I have to pick with this book is that it does go into worst-case scenarios.  Arguably, it's good to be prepared and know as much as possible about your pregnancy, but some things are unlikely to happen in most pregnancies and because it's present in this book, it makes it seem like it happens more often than it actually does.  So on that note, read with this in mind if you're determined to read this book cover to cover like I was.  But the pictures were helpful and I loved knowing what was going on with my baby and what to expect when I would go in for clinic visits.

Thanks for Reading!  I'm looking forward to writing about my June reads soon!


Sunday, June 28, 2020

March + April 2020 Reads

Time for a reading catch-up!  In all of the weirdness and scariness that is our world right now, blogging definitely fell quite low on the list of priorities.  But I have plenty of thoughts to throw out into the internet void-- to begin with, some thoughts on what I've been reading lately.

In the months of March and April, I managed to read these books:

  • Coraline by P. Craig Russell and Neil Gaiman (graphic novel, not the original)
  • Kiss Number 8 by Colleen A.F. Venable and Ellen T. Crenshaw
  • Solo by Kwame Alexander (reread, 2017)
  • The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui
  • Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott (reread, 2018)
  • We Got This by Cornelius Minor
  • The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo (reread, 2018)
  • Motherhood by Sheila Heti
I love that I got to revisit some great reads during this time.  There are a couple that I just today realized I have never written about on this blog before but I've documented as reading before on GoodReads.  Not sure what happened there... so I suppose I'll be writing about them now!

Side Note: I read Solo by Kwame Alexander with students in my spring elective class and they loved it.  They liked that it was poetry and the story and characters were really engaging for them.  If any educators out there are curious :) The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir eBook: Bui ...The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui

This was one that I got for either Christmas or my birthday.  It's a graphic novel and I was looking to get out of a bit of a reading slump and this one really did the trick.  It's not a light read, because it's the story of her parents coming to the U.S. from Vietnam and escaping danger.  Part of what makes it a heavy read is knowing that this is a true story and seeing how much her parents struggled to keep their life together and just keep pushing forward.  You can't help but admire their resiliency but then feel taken aback that they would have to show this much resiliency in the first place.

The other thing about this book that I appreciate is that it takes the time to give background to what was happening in Vietnam at the time from the perspective of someone who actually grew up there.  Thinking back, I think my only context on this war was from those who were drafted to fight in the war.  But that is only one side of the story and it's a rather distorted side with no sense of humanity.  Both of the people who went to fight and the people who actually lived there and frankly, who were killed.

I am looking to teach this book in the fall, so I will likely be reading this book again before the new school year starts.  I look forward to rereading and diving a little deeper.

Five Feet Apart: Lippincott, Rachael, Daughtry, Mikki, Iaconis ...Five Feet Apart by Rachel Lippincott

This book is actually a reread for me, but looking back, I realized that I didn't talk about any books that I read in 2018.  So I'm talking about it now!

I read this book with students in my YA Fiction class just before quarantine started.  Our focus was on death and celebrating life because the whole concept of this book is that Stella and Will both have a form of Cystic Fibrosis (CF), though Will's case is the much more advanced and dire form call B. Sepacia.  Before reading this book, I had watched videos created by Claire Wineland who was also a CFer, so I had a basic understanding of the disease and I had a perspective from someone who lived a life with CF.

One thing that was really interesting for me to think about was how one can have a condition that will ultimately be the end of you but how you can still create meaning in your life.  This was a process for Stella, who was very tied to her treatment regimen without fail, and a balancing act of sorts for Will, who just wants to live life since he knows there's likely no hope for a treatment for him.  For both of these people, they will never not have CF but can only do treatments to help make their life a little bit easier.   Yet, these two young people go on to find love and eventually adventure.  I think this is a beautiful book and both the book and the movie made me cry at the end (but not for the reason you might expect from a book revolving around CF).

The Poet X - Elizabeth Acevedo - HardcoverThe Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

I love this book and I love everything Elizabeth Acevedo writes.  She also wrote "With The Fire On High," which I adored and read in July 2019, but didn't actually review.  Perhaps in the future when I inevitably reread it.  But I digress.  I love that this book is written as narrative poetry with every poem being a conversation or a thought that Xiomara has or something like that.  It's wonderful and I have found that students respond well to stories like this.  It doesn't require a lot of attention and yet it grabs your full attention anyway.

This story revolves around Xiomara's experiences with double standards for men and women in her culture and her struggles with religion and her mother in particular.  The book doesn't shy away from these big topics or dance around them and partially cover them, but shows how these things can and do actually affect a person.  It's a really powerful read.  This is one of the books that I recommend the most to students.  I hope Elizabeth Acevedo writes a million more books.  I will read every single one of them.
Motherhood by Sheila Heti - Penguin Books Australia
Motherhood by Sheila Heti

This was such an interesting book to read while pregnant.  The whole premise is that the author is debating with herself if she would like to become a mother.  She's feeling a lot of pressure to make the jump but isn't sure if this is something that she genuinely wants or just thinks she's supposed to want.  And really, this is such a good question to ask yourself before attempting to become a parent.  Why do I want this?  It's a permanent choice and that's such a scary thing to decide.  I definitely felt that anxiety while waiting for my son to be born.  And I'm someone who discussed having a kid for a long time with my partner and worked with my doctor to make it happen.  Those doubts still came to mind about whether or not I was ready to take on this job and care for a whole new person for the rest of their life.  It's a really scary precipice to be standing on, so to speak.  And it's not something that I would just want to "follow the river" and do without putting thought into it.  But I guess not everyone does think about it the way more people probably should.  I guess this book made me feel a bit more secure about my choice to become a mother because some of the fears that she had I either didn't share or if I did share them, I had come to terms with them.  It's a really interesting read.  It gave me a lot to think about, which is really all I can ask from a semi-fictional book.

Thanks for Reading! 


Monday, March 23, 2020

January + February 2020 Reads

It's that time again where several months slip by and now I need to update you on some of my favorite reads so far this year!  January was a slow month for reading, but I also don't have a set reading goal this year.  February was a bit better.  I read all of these books:
  • The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
  • Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  • Pumpkin Heads by Rainbow Rowell
  • Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula by Andi Watson
  • White Rose by Kip Wilson
  • If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson
For the first time in a long time, I did some rereads (Of Mice and Men and If You Come Softly) and I hope I'm able to do more rereads going forward in 2020.  I think that'll be nice to revisit some of my favorites.  But!  These books really stood out to me in January/February:

Image result for the life-changing magic of tidying upThe Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

I finished this book on January 1, 2020.  I had been reading it pretty passively before, but suddenly there was a spark in me.  January 1, for me at least, really brings on a zest for life and I just want to hit the ground running and accomplish all the things.  But this year, with a baby due to coming in for a landing at the end of May, it really dawned on me how much needs to change at home.  Namely, I have too much crap in my house and since we're about to enter a, I assume, chaotic time in our (my partner's and I) lives, I want some semblance of order and I want a sense of what actually matters to us.  That's where this book comes in.

This book made me think about cleaning up my space in an entirely different way.  It made me examine my relationship with stuff (because let's face it, a lot of the things I was holding onto didn't carry the meaning I thought it did).  My partner and I have been going through her method (not sticking to it 100%, but still hitting each of the categories) and it's amazing how much we have gotten rid of so far.  Someday I'd like to do a post on this and go more in-depth about what our experience has been like.  But yes.  What an amazing read and what a good way to start 2020-- by getting rid of the extra and focusing on what is most necessary in my life right now.

Image result for pumpkin heads graphic novelPumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell

I haven't read a book by Rainbow Rowell since Eleanor & Park (and let's just say, I have some strong feelings about this book...).  This book is quite different though.  I wouldn't call this a romance, per se, but it was cute and whimsical.  I love Deja and her no-nonsense attitude and Josiah is sweet, but definitely needs to grow a backbone.  I thought their chemistry was really neat.  I also love that even though this story could have easily gone along as a typical romance story, but because of the characters, it doesn't quite work out like that.  It gives agency to young people in love-- you can't just wait for someone to approach you or wait for life to happen to you.  Sometimes you have to actively seek out what you want in life and just come out and tell people how you feel about them.  Even if they don't return your feelings.

But anyway, this was a wonderful read, it was an easy read, and it was pretty darn cute.  Highly recommend!

Image result for white rose kip wilsonWhite Rose by Kip Wilson

The cover is what immediately stood out to me about this book, so without really learning too much about it, I put it on my wishlist and voila!  It turned up Christmas Eve :)

I didn't expect this book to be a book of narrative poetry, but I was pleasantly surprised.  I can't think of other historical reads that I've read that are written in a style like this.  But it also added elements of letter writing, which I enjoyed.  

I think what I like the most about this book is that it's taking one of my favorite (I'm not sure if that's an appropriate choice of words) parts of history and it's also not super well-known compared to other parts of World War II in Nazi Germany.  It makes it accessible to a younger audience, which, as a teacher, I greatly appreciate.  Maybe some of my students will be like me and will read it and want to know more and will read everything in sight about this part of history.  I hope they find that passion even if it's not about this part of history.  

I can't wait to see what other good reads come my way this year!

Thanks for Reading!


Friday, January 3, 2020

New Years Resolutions: 2020

Happy New Year!  It's that time of year again where I set goals for myself.  This year is going to be one of great change and so on top of this, I am also approaching my goal setting in a slightly different way that I have previously.  First, I will not be setting nearly as many goals for myself as I have in the past.  Last year I set 12 goals for myself across the categories "personal," "media" (meaning my online presence), and "professional."  This year I have 6 goals that melds these worlds together, but hopefully in a more focused way so that I'm more likely to accomplish a majority of these goals.  I also have some action steps outlined that I hope will help keep me focused and help me feel like these bigger goals that I set for myself can actually be accomplished.

Without further ado, here are my goals for the year 2020:

1. Get ready for our baby!  We have already started work on this goal, but since my due date is in May, we will have to be intentional about getting some of these things done sooner rather than later.  Preparing for a small human is no small task, as it turns out.  In order to accomplish this goal, we'll need to do the following:

  • Build furniture and arrange the room (I know that baby will be in our room for a while to start and that this isn't 100% necessary to complete prior to his arrival, but this is something that will make me feel better about bringing home a newborn).
  • Take parenting classes (we'll sign up soon, but won't take them until sometime in the third trimester)
  • Fill out hospital paperwork (again, this is a 30+ week thing, not a right-now thing)
  • Research birth options (I want to go in with a rough idea of how things will work even if things ultimately change)
  • Choose a daycare (we're working on this)

2. KonMari the whole apartment.  The first book I finished this year was "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" by Marie Kondo.  I am feeling very inspired to take back my house and make it a place that is comfortable to live in.  Ideally, this would be done before baby arrives, but I'm not going to put that kind of pressure on myself.  My action steps will be to follow the order that Marie Kondo outlines in her book, but after discarding and putting things away, I want to work on rearranging the house.

3. Get a handle on my grading life.  This is part of my mission to pursue balance in my life and some separation between work and home. 

  • Avoid bringing grading home as much as possible by grading at school
  • Stick to grading schedule + staying after school schedule.

4. Post on blog 1-2 times a month.

  • 1 reading blog post at the end of each month
  • 1 life blog post in the middle of the month (could be about school, home, or something totally unrelated.  I just want to use my blog more)

5. Successfully complete InCoWriMo 2020.  This occurs in February and I will write one letter to someone (a current pen pal or a new one) each day.

6. Yoga or other exercises 5 days a week.  This is a goal I keep having each year, but I'm hoping my action steps will help me be successful in accomplishing this goal by the end of the year.

  • Build up to this number of days (I'll start with 2 days a week and add a day every 2 months so that I have a long stretch where at the end of 2020, I'm exercising 5 days a week.  I think that's how I can get myself to stick with this goal).
  • Find supporting classes + YouTube videos (if you know any resources on prenatal yoga, that would be really helpful.  After May, I'll use Yoga with Adriene as much as possible)
  • Consider signing up for an at-home program (I follow a couple people on Instagram who use a program that sends a really good message, but I'm unsure about the cost and some other things.  But I don't want to totally rule it out until I have some answers).

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Reviewing My 2019 Goals

Welcome to 2020!  I want to take a moment and look back at the goals that I set myself for 2019.  I'll write a separate post for my 2020 goals shortly after this post goes up.


1. Participate in and win National Novel Writing Month.  I definitely participated in NaNoWriMo this year, but I didn't win this year.  I attribute this to a few things.  First, I didn't have a plan going into NaNoWrimo.  I am not a good "pantser," or person who flies by the seat of their pants when it comes to writing a novel.  I did not prepare to the extent that I should have and that I asked my students to prepare.  Secondly, I was too rigid with my story.  When I felt myself slipping because I was losing interest in my story (why did I think it was a good idea to make my character part of the coast guard when I don't give a crap nor know the first thing about the coast guard?), I didn't switch gears fast enough.  This sort of relates to my third point that I was shooting too much for perfection.  I think I was floating into NaNoWriMo this year with the confidence that I have won the past two years, this year should be no different.  I thought that I had the fortitude to stick with whatever story I started no matter what.  But alas, it was not enough.  So, this goal is only half accomplished.

2. Travel 3 or more times this year.  I did accomplish this goal!  I went on a scrapbooking weekend in February, I went to Utah and New Mexico in June, and I also went to a cabin for a week with my family in July.  Mission accomplished!

3. Play a whole song from a musical on piano.  Nope.  Maybe in 2020.  I didn't put in the time that I needed to in order to accomplish this goal.

4. Exercise 3 days a week.  I have come to the conclusion that I am approaching my goals like this in the wrong way.  I don't think I've ever had a progression when it comes to accomplishing this goal.  I have always written goals like this and expected that I would immediately start exercising that many times in a week as opposed to saying I would reach this by the end of the year.  So by the end of 2019, I didn't do this.  I did have 2 full months where I did yoga with my partner as we followed Yoga with Adriene on YouTube.  I need to approach this goal with more grace for myself.  That'll be what I work on next year.  


5. Read and/or listen to 70 books this year.  Yes!  It took me until New Year's Eve to accomplish this, but I hit 70 books this year!  Woohoo!

6. Read 20 books that are already on my shelves.  Mission accomplished!  I'd like to keep cleaning out my bookshelf in this way going into 2020 as well.

7. Write book posts once a month.  I will say that I half accomplish this.  I did get book posts written, but they were not posted once a month.  I want to have more of a blogging schedule in 2020.  I think the way I'm writing book posts is working for me, I just want to make sure that I'm writing them soon after the month is complete.

8. Write more about teaching and life.  Nope.  This didn't really happen.  I'll be working on this in 2020.


9. Set up website for classroom and teaching.  I have accomplished this goal in the sense that I set up the website, but I never actually used it.  I think this is something that I'm not very serious about doing at this point in time.  Perhaps in the future.

10. Go to 2 professional development opportunities.  I will consider this goal accomplished.  I went to one professional development opportunity by choice about trauma in students and my school is going through ongoing professional development with someone named Cornelius Minor out of New York.  We are continuing to work with him through this school year and I'll be reading his book this year too.  

11. Create higher level quizzes and tests.  This did not happen yet.  The school year is still going on, so it's not too late to accomplish this goal for this school year.  I don't think I'll keep this as one of my official goals for the year though.

12. Pass my GRE and apply to Grad School.  This is another goal that is half finished.  I took my GRE over the summer and I got a score that I am happy with (especially my writing score!), but because I am expecting a baby, I chose not to apply to graduate school just yet.  I thought it would be too much pressure to put on myself and too stressful to go through at the same time as other life changes are happening.  Luckily, my test scores are good for 7 years, so I will consider starting my Master's degree in a year or so.  We'll check in after the start of 2021, let's say.

Even though I didn't accomplish all of the goals I set for myself in 2019, I still feel like this was a good year.  There are many life changes happening and I think I'll be continuing my pursuit of balance, as I have for the past couple years.  This year I am working on boundaries and considering what that means to me and what it means for my life.  I'm hoping that 2020 will be even better than 2019.

Thanks for Reading!


December 2019 Reads

Admittedly, I've been feeling the push to meet my 2019 goal of reading 70 books.  I fell quite behind, despite a strong start.  But with the permission to relax and let go over winter break came a lot of time to read, and I ended up meeting my goal, which makes me incredibly happy!  Here are the books I finished this month:
  • The Umbrella Academy, Vol. 1 by Gerard Way
  • Drama by Raina Telgemaier
  • Paper Towns by John Green
  • Paper Girls, Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan
  • For Everyone by Jason Reynolds
  • Noise by Kathleen Raymundo
  • Kid Gloves by Lucy Knisley
  • On A Sunbeam by Tillie Walden
  • Love is Love: A Comic Book Anthology to Benefit the Survivors of the Orlando Pulse Shooting by Marc Andreyko
  • Nichijou, Vol. 1, 2, 3
  • Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration by Bryan Caplan
  • Street Angel by Jim Rugg
  • We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • The Tales of Beadle the Bard by J.K. Rowling
  • Mary Shelley's Frankenstein: A Graphic Novel by Pete Katz
As usual, I will just talk about a handful that have really stuck with me from this bunch.  I also love that most of these are graphic novels... it's been so wonderful to get to indulge in them.

Image result for the umbrella academy book cover vol 1The Umbrella Academy, Vol. 1 by Gerard Way

I picked up this book a long time ago, long before the show was even a thing on Netflix... maybe in middle school.  But I didn't finish.  I don't think I had an idea of what was going on in this story.  So I'm really glad that I didn't try to force myself to read it anyway, but waited a bit.  I think I needed more practice with graphic novels, if that makes sense.

This book is sort of an anti-superhero story.  I can't say that the characters in this story have led better lives because they have powers and dedicate their lives, at least for a time, to fighting crime.  This is an interesting angle for me.  I imagine that being a superhero is a lot of pressure and isn't all that it's cracked up to be. 

Some things in this book seemed a little random (like the Eiffel Tower blasting off in the beginning of the book... I hope this is addressed in future volumes), but they also caught my attention and make me want to read more.  It's like this book needed something weird in order to kick off the story and force us to stop everything and listen.  I think this book has only whet my appetite and I can't wait to get my hands on more issues of these graphic novels.  I want to see how this story ends.

Image result for paper girls vol 1Paper Girls, Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan

This book has been sitting on my Amazon wishlist for a while (I don't know why I didn't seek these books out myself sooner), so I was really glad when I got it for Christmas! 

I didn't really get what Paper Girls referred to prior to reading this.  Maybe it would feature the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope?  Or break it down?  But it turns out I could interpret this term literally-- they are girls in the 80s who bike around in the early morning and deliver newspapers. 

This book had a strong "Stranger Things" and "War of the Worlds" vibe which I kind of loved.  After finishing this first volume, I'm left with a lot of questions, but I loved every second of asking those questions.  I think I need to read a few more volumes before passing a true opinion on this series, but just this first volume has gotten me really excited to read this series.  Maybe I'll finish in 2020!

Image result for kid gloves lucy knisleyKid Gloves: Nine Months of Careful Chaos by Lucy Knisley

At the end of 2019, I announced to family and friends that my partner and I are expecting our first baby this coming May!  Naturally, I want to know everything there is to know about pregnancy and giving birth now.  I saw that someone I'm connected with on GoodReads was reading this book and I was instantly intrigued. 

Lucy Knisley and her partner struggled with infertility when they started trying to expand their family.  It turns out that when you actually want to get pregnant, it can be quite hard to conceive even if you don't struggle with issues of infertility.  Reading this, I was a little bit relieved that it wasn't just me thinking about how hard this whole process was as I took medication, took ovulation tests, consulted with my doctor... everything involved.  It could be very disheartening, and I never needed surgery in order to successfully conceive.  In this way, Lucy Knisley's book made me feel seen.

It's interesting comparing my experiences in my first and second trimesters with hers.  Her experience was a lot more tumultuous because she was sick several times every day and I never was.  Not bragging or anything, but I definitely expected to feel more than a little nauseous, especially early on. 

The part where she described her birth was really scary to me.  Oddly, until I read this part of her book, I haven't felt particularly nervous about the actual birth process.  I've been watching birth vlogs that people post on YouTube that goes through everything from labor to delivery and even though it can get intense, it still hasn't scared me, even when I can see... well, everything.  But to hear that she was basically ignored in the hospital (she has undiagnosed preeclampsia, despite the fact that she was noticing the signs and tried asking her doctor about them) and then had a really scary emergency delivery after a long and arduous labor... and that her partner wasn't allowed to be with her after their baby was born while they were stabilizing her... that was more than I could handle.  I remember crying and panicking myself to sleep the night I finished reading it.

I guess if you read this and you are expecting (especially your first), I think it is a worthwhile read, but take breaks towards the end if you're a nervous reader like me.

Image result for on a sunbeam tillie waldenOn A Sunbeam by Tillie Walden

My partner got this for Christmas one year (I think) and it's been sitting on our shelf ever since.  It's kind of a thick volume, even for a graphic novel, so it was a little bit intimidating to pick up.

I like that focus on women in this book.  The main character, Mia, goes to a boarding school for girls, she later joins a reconstruction team that is made up of women and nonbinary folks, and there is a society where it feels like the default is that you're attracted to women rather than our current default where relationships are centered on male and female relationships.  I liked experiencing what this shift could feel like if relationships were accepted just the way they are.  It was refreshing.

I love the ending when they go to try and find Grace.  Mia convinces her team to go to where she lives (a very dangerous place, it turns out), but doesn't have any expectations for the outcome of their encounter.  She is open to sweeping her off her feet and living happily ever after, but at the very least, she just wants some closure and to be able to say goodbye if she can.  I think that's awesome and such a great perspective on what a relationship should be, especially if it's a relationship that's been cut short for a while.  I loved those small moments of celebration.  This was a wonderful read.

Image result for street angel book coverStreet Angel by Jim Rugg

This book caught me by surprise a bit.  It's a story featuring a 12-year-old homeless girl that reminds me a lot of Uma Thurman a la Kill Bill.  She's a badass fighter and someone her messed up city can and does turn to in times of great peril. 

It's kind of a quirky read.  She's not just battling typical bad guys like it other superhero stories, but she's also battling some completely unexpected characters too... Cortez and his Spanish Armada that has been transported through time by Incan gods, Satan himself... just really off-the-wall bad guys.  I thought it was awesome!

If you're looking for a book with fairly short chapters and some good actions and quirky characters, this is a great book to try!

This wraps up my reading for 2019!  I can't wait to see what I get to read in 2020 :)

Thanks for Reading!


Monday, December 30, 2019

September, (October), November 2019 Reads

I'm doing a bit of throw-back as I try and catch up with my reading blogs for this year.  Please excuse the backlog :)

In September, school started up again, so my reading life slowed down a bit, but I still managed to read several good books:
  • The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • Scythe by Neal Shusterman
  • Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? by Caitlin Doughty
  • Paper Wishes by Lois Sepahban
October was an abysmal month in terms of reading and I didn't finish a single thing, but in November, I finished these books: 
  • Last Things by Marissa Moss
  • Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
  • Smile by Raina Telgemaier
  • Croquette & Empanada by Ana Oncina
I'm lucky that most of these were incredible reads, but I will just talk about a handful of them, since they have managed to stick with me well after I have finished reading them!

Image result for last things marissa mossLast Things by Marissa Moss

I went and sold a bunch of book club books for school with a teacher friend and while we were wandering around the book store waiting for our offer, I stumbled upon this guy.  I've found that one of my favorite things to read ever is graphic memoirs.  I just love being able to look into other people's lives, even for a short while.

This book gives you a glimpse into what it looks like to see someone slowly decline from ALS.  I felt a lot of different things while reading this.  I felt for Marissa's husband, who just wanted to live as normal and as independent of a life as possible, all things considered.  But I think roughly halfway through until the end, I felt nothing but anger towards him.  I thought he was being awfully selfish (especially when he refused to do things that would make his family's life a little easier) and handled the end of his life rather poorly, but it also feels weird to say that and feel that about someone who is dying and really going through someone.  You want to offer some grace as they tie up loose ends in their life to the best of their ability.  But I won't deny my feelings about this.  I mostly felt for Marissa.  She is the glue to this entire story-- she does as much as she possibly can to make sure her sons are okay and that they have a chance to process and more importantly that they get a break every once in a while from this situation.  She tries to ooze love and care when she feels that her husband is lacking in this area.  She takes on so many roles because she has to and I think that's admirable, even though she is absolutely exhausted.

It's not a light book if you're in a reading slump, but it is a really engaging read.  I couldn't put this book down until I had finished.  I hope this book can be that for you too.

Image result for long way down jason reynoldsLong Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Another teacher recommended this book to me.  It's a story told in verse and it centers on a boy who lost his brother to gun violence.  It highlights other people in his life (and who are in the margins) who have also been cut short by gun violence.  There is a discussion about revenge and recovery after such violent ends from people close to you.

I could see this being a really engaging read for students since this is a topic they want to read about and talk about.  I think this is a good medium to start this conversation because it's a fairly quick read.  But this book is also worth revisiting and I'd love to read this again in 2020 (and I'm going to try and give myself that space to do just that in 2020, but I'll talk about that more in a separate post). 

This is a great book if you're in a reading slump, but this is also a great book to read if you're looking to hear more about the conversation around gun violence and police brutality, especially because this time you're invited to hear from people whose lives ended.  They have perspective now that they didn't have before.  But you're also being asked to pay attention to the people who are left behind after these lives are ended.  Really important read.

Image result for scythe book coverScythe by Neal Shusterman

This book snuck up on me a little bit this year.  My math teacher friend started reading this book and texted me saying something along the lines of, "OMG THIS BOOK."  So I listened through Audible and was immediately hooked.

In this society, death doesn't really exist.  People don't just get killed or die.  But you can't have people living and regenerating forever, so someone has the job of ending lives.  That is the job of the Scythes.  You can't have this job unless you don't want the job.  It was weird to think of death happening in this way and it was even weirder, once you were involved in this world, to see people who actually relished the job and enjoyed seeing people suffer as their lives permanently came to an end.  It's just an interesting world to get yourself involved in, even for a short time, while you're reading this book.

This is another book where I feel like I have so many thoughts that I can't speak eloquently about it.  I will say that I am looking forward to reading the rest of the series in 2020 and then maybe I'll be able to speak much more clearly about my feelings on this book.  This is an incredible read and I hope you choose to spend your time reading it next year.

Image result for will my cat eat my eyeballs big questions from tiny mortals about deathWill My Cat Eat My Eyeballs by Caitlin Doughty

I have loved Caitlin Doughty's previous books about her experience starting out in the death industry and then about death practices around the world.  This book is all about the questions that young people (kids, really) have about death that, I would wager to guess, adults are also wondering the answer to.  They're weird questions about what happens after you die and what happens if you suffer a certain kind of death... it's just a cool read.  I love the illustrations that are scattered throughout (I think at the beginning of each new question).  I also appreciated the really short chapters.  Short chapters motivate me to keep reading because I feel like I'm making more progress than I actually am.

If you want an interesting read or are interested in learning more about death and death positivity, this is a great place to go!


I'm happy that I get to read such neat books like the ones I just told you about.  Hopefully, my luck continues into the 2020 year!

Thanks for Reading!


Sunday, December 29, 2019

July and August 2019 Reads

July was an incredible reading month!  I managed to read all of these:
  • Her: Vol. 1 by Pierre Alex Jeanty
  • Her: Vol. 2 by Pierre Alex Jeanty
  • Teach Like Finland by Timothy D. Walker
  • On The Come Up by Angie Thomas
  • The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson
  • Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton
  • Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee
  • The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary
  • The Grownup by Gillian Flynn
  • The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World by Melinda Gates
  • My Almost Flawless Tokyo Dream Life by Rachel Cohn
  • A Way Out by Michelle Balge
  • The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman
  • The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
  • Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
  • Invisible Ghosts by Robyn Schneider
  • With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
August wasn't as great of a reading month in terms of numbers, but I did finish one incredible book:
  • Geisha, A Life by Mineko Iwasaki
I am fortunate that a number of these books made for incredible reads.  There are some books I have already taken a moment to highlight in my Reading Rush post (which you can check out HERE), so here are the rest of the highlights of July and August!

Image result for on the come up book coverOn The Come Up by Angie Thomas

This was one that both my students and I were really excited to see come out.  A student brought it back after reading it and another mystery student swiped it, I assume for summer reading, while I wasn't looking.  So surprisingly, getting ahold of this book was quite tricky!  But I'm glad I fought for it!

On The Come Up was just as engaging as The Hate U Give and in fact takes place in the same universe as The Hate U Give.  Bree's struggles are quite different from Starr's struggles.  Definitely some overlap, especially because she lives in the Garden (which is a vibrant neighborhood, but suffers from gang violence), but those struggles aren't the main focus on Bree's story.  Her focus is on her rap career.  She struggles mainly with stereotypes and self-expression in this story.  Should she say what she wants or do what other people tell her to do, but risk false representation of who she actually is?  There were times when I wished that Bree would just listen to the trustworthy people in her life when they were trying to help her.  But she does have a mind of her own and some people just need to make mistakes in order to learn.  So Bree is kind of a frustrating protagonist in some ways, but I still really enjoyed her story.  I love books that incorporate poetry and show their power.

Image result for the flatshare beth o'learyThe Flatshare by Beth O'Leary

I found out that one of my favorite YouTube personalities (who is a West End actress) was recording an audiobook called The Flatshare and as she was talking about it, I became intrigued.  So once it was out, I used my Audible credit and got it to listen to.

I loved that this book is told in two perspectives (not just because the book is written that way but because it's recorded by two people to help drive this home).  I like that this book is a fairly light read while still touching on boundaries and less-than-healthy relationships.  I love that these two people are drawn together even though it seems to unlikely that they should ever be anything more than roommates in passing.  This is a great feel-good book and one that can help jumpstart your reading if you're in a reading slump.  I feel like I've had a number of those this year... this was a wonderful book to listen to.  I highly recommend it.

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The Grownup by Gillian Flynn

This one kind of fell into my lap a little bit.  I love my library's digital catalog because I can check things out instantly.  I wanted to read more Gillian Flynn because I remember really liking Gone Girl several years back.  I didn't expect to find one so short though.  I think this audiobook was about 45 minutes.  Definitely no more than an hour.

This book is just as intriguing and just as f***ed up as Gone Girl.  I was literally sat on my bed thinking, "What the hell?!" as I was listening to this book.  This book is also good if you're in the middle of a reading slump and just generally good if you're looking for a jolt to your system.  Gillian Flynn is definitely talented at drawing you in and shaking you to your very core at the last minute and making you stop and think, "Did I really just read what I read?"  I'd love to listen to this again sometime.

Image result for the moment of lift melinda gatesThe Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates

This is a nonfiction book that I thought sounded interesting, but I really didn't expect to like it as much as I did.  Melinda Gates, through her and her husband's foundation, have done a lot of great work to support women and girls around the world in the many ways that they need to be supported-- reproductive health, community health, education, etc.  What I love is that Melinda Gates seems to approach this topic with as much humility as she can muster and is up front about the knowledge that she brings to the table and when she needs others to help bring a vision into reality.  Supporting women around the world is no small task and is less straightforward than I thought.  It's not just throwing money at a problem, but finding the people who can help turn that money into a lasting impact for the women and communities who benefit.  I also love that every opportunity she could, she drives home how supporting the women the foundation supports doesn't just benefit these women in particular, but it also demonstrates how helping these women benefits the wider community and country.  I think that's so powerful, especially when it comes to getting other people to support "women's" issues.  In reality, when women do better, everyone does better.

Image result for my almost flawless tokyo dream life
My Almost Flawless Tokyo Dream Life by Rachel Cohn

Is this the most literary thing I could have chosen to sit down and listen to?  Absolutely not.  But it was very engaging.  This book does a really great job of transporting you from where you are to upper-class life in Tokyo (although, admittedly I don't know how accurate this depiction is... it was fantastic to read about though).  It was interesting to read about places that are so unfamiliar and yet marginally familiar at the same time.  I almost could have forgotten about the plot and would have been just as happy to keep reading.  Obviously, it's good and better off with a plot, but I just want to point out how easy it is to get lost in this book. 

This is a great book if you just need to be transported for a while.  This is also a fairly light and therefore quick read for its length.  I personally liked listening to the audiobook, too.  If you need a book to get lost in and if you are interested even remotely in Japan, this is the book for you!
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Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

This is one I think I will need to read again.  I assigned this to some of my students last year while doing a unit on humanity and dehumanization.  One of the boys picked it and said that he loved it once he actually finished it.  My recommendations for him have been very hit or miss, so I was happy to find that connection point.

The focus of this book is on two women in particular who are involved with flying and communications for planes in World War II England.  They get involved with these secret missions and then... something goes wrong... I won't give it away because it's the basis of this book. 

I love that this book makes you think that you're going in one direction and then the whole story, very suddenly, shifts on you and tells you how things really are in this book.  Now that I know what that twist is, I want to read it again.  I'll have to make that one of my private reading goals in 2020.  I think there is also a sequel to this book so I'll have to check that out as well.  This is a great book.  I already can't wait to read it again!

Image result for geisha, a lifeGeisha, A Life by Mineko Iwasaki

A former student of mine recommended this book to me... probably a year or two ago and it took me so long to finally sit down and read it!  I told her that I really liked the book Memoirs of a Geisha and she said that that book was based off of this woman's story.  But Memoirs of a Geisha has a lot of flaws to it.  This book is actually written by a Geisha who has lived that life and she does address some of the things that were said and depicted in Memoirs of a Geisha and speaks to their truth or lack thereof.  It was nice to have that expose angle to the book, but this is a great book in its own right.  Her story of how she got started is really interesting and there are a lot more customs and traditions around simply becoming a Geisha than I ever thought there were.  I don't know how they keep track of it all!

I don't feel like I can speak too eloquently about this book because it's just one of those books where you have to jump in with both feet and go for the immersion experience. 

I'll be working on catching up on reading blogs over the next few days and into the new year, so look for more of those posts as well as other life posts!

Thanks for Reading!