Some Recent Non-Fiction

It wasn't until a few years ago that I really started giving non-fiction some solid time in my reading schedule. Currently, I try to read one a month (not counting listening), but this month a few have piled up, varying very much in subject matter and enjoyability. A quick look:

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White House by Alyssa Mastromonaco
I listened to this relatively short audiobook (not even six hours) and I desperately wish it was twice as long. Mastromonaco worked with Obama when he was a senator as his Advanced Scheduler and then in the White House as the eventual Deputy Chief of Staff, so her perspective and insight is particularly interesting. Her narrative voice is spectacularly hilarious, honest, and insightful and she does an outstanding job narrating her own text. The book isn't about Obama, exactly, but about her role behind the scenes in politics, looking at everything from the work required campaigning, how it is to transition into the White House, the logistics of traveling abroad with POTUS, and how she had to work to control her own flaws and issues to be successful (reigning in her emotions, having IBS, being a workaholic, etc...). It was the perfect blend of politics, personal stories, harmless gossip, inspiration, and humor. #imissobamasomuchithurts 

Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga 

by Pamela Newkirk
This was someone's pick for book club and I was intrigued when I started it, since most of our selections are pretty solid, but this one fell incredibly flat. For those who aren't familiar with Ota Benga's story, he was taken from Africa at the turn of the twentieth century and placed, most memorably, in Central Park in the Monkey House. There was a great deal of controversy regarding the inhumanity of it (YOU THINK?!?!?!) and problems with the responsibility of his care. The book documents all of this, plus his life before and after very well- but that's the problem, the documentation. Newkirk provides a ridiculous amount of of evidence and information for every tiny little thing she mentions (for example, a group of men walk into a city building for a meeting and she briefly discusses some of its architectural historical background; now multiple this by 150). I hate to say this, but the dry, academic, extraneous detail-heavy style of this book detracts from the emotional affect and nauseating implications about recent humanity. Obviously we can read between the lines, and imagine the horrors on a more sensitive level, but it bothered me throughout that Newkirk was so detached.

By the Book 

by The New York Times, Edited by Pamela Paul
This book took me a few months to get through this, since it was the book I picked up at home when I just had a few minutes to read. This collection compiles the articles from the series of the same name in the The New York Times, which asks writers questions from a bank of twenty or so each week. The questions range from their perfect reading location, to what they think the President should read, to childhood literary heroes. Some of my absolute favorites were interviewed, including Ann Patchett, David Mitchell, Michael Chabon, and Jhumpa Lahiri. Each interview takes only five or six minutes to read, so it's perfect for when, say your kid is in the bath or your waiting for dinner to finish up. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

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1. I played in the annual staff vs senior softball game yesterday and it was as fun as always. Someday I'll join a league once again. My indefinitely sore hip was not pleased with the sprinting around, though, so I'm paying the price today. WORTH IT. 

2. Who else is watching The Handmaid's Tale on Hulu? We are through four or five episodes and I really like it. I am actually a little disappointed that it's been renewed for a second season, since I think that might make them veer too far away from the source material, but I guess we'll have to see. 

3. Seven years ago I interviewed to work at the high school I am currently at, very reluctantly. I was an elementary teacher and was facing a lay off, but my district was doing some restructuring and some positions were opening up (this is a very simplistic version of a very complex situation that I'll spare you guys from). I'm glad I was desperate for work- moving up to my site has been the best years of my career. I am lucky enough to have made a few really important, life-long friends from my K-5 days, though, that I am thankful for! 

4. Lemon Noosa- try it (it's "yoghurt").

5. My students are powering through a tough assignment right now, with just over a week of school left, and while I think they are a bit frustrated with me, I'm proud of their perseverance. I'm asking them to push their writing abilities and they're really trying to rise to the occasion. Ten months ago they would have floundered- it's nice to see their growth in maturity and ability. 

6. My mother-in-law has been helping us out on Mondays with Sawyer for a few years since I teach a late class, so I made her this (it looks better in person, especially since it's mounted and framed now):

7. I ordered myself a box of books several weeks ago and told myself I couldn't open them until the bulk of my grading was done. Honestly, I have forgotten what I even ordered! The good news is that I am the cusp of being able to open it. Christmas in June. DOn't worry, I'll post allllllll about the haul.

Weekend Snapshots

I knew that this weekend needed to be busy, both because of things that I needed to get done, but also because I needed to keep my mind and body occupied. And occupied I was! Here's some snapshots from the weekend, reading and otherwise:

[Friday afternoon- outside! It's starting to get pretty warm here in Southern California, so we busted out the water table after work/daycare]
[I met one of my favorite, and oldest, friends for lunch in Orange County. She's the happiest person I know and it does my soul good to spend time with her.]
[While driving, alone (wheeee), to and from lunch I started listening to this, which I am in love with. Why didn't anyone ever tell me about being an Advanced Scheduler? That should have been MY job! I am good at logistics and planning, I would have been perfect for it, darn it.]

[we spent a lot of time outside Saturday night partying (as in playing with sidewalk chalk). After the little guy was in bed my husband and I watched Me and Earl and the Dying Girl]
[for many reasons, I had a horrible night Saturday and got way less sleep than I needed. I rallied, though, determined to not waste me Sunday (and by "rallied" I mean I consumed a lot of caffeine and tried not to cry or be mean to people)]
[Sawyer and I met another one of my good friends at Sky Zone today and jumped and played for an hour. She was an exceptional sounding board, as well, which I greatly needed and appreciated]
[Finished this while Sawyer napped. We read it for book club and I really didn't love the writing style, at all. More on that later, though.]

[Boston Cream Pie, using Annie's Eats' recipe and the Milk Bar's technique. Delicious and sure to be an exceptional breakfast]

Not pictured: grading, lesson prepping, cleaning, laundry, walking, and grocery shopping. I didn't want anyone to get too jealous. Ha. 

Have a good week, friends! 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

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1. My mantra for the next two weeks: just keep working.

I am actually in the best place I've ever been in at this point in the semester, but there is still so much to do before our last day on June 2. 

2. I am deeply, deeply concerned that my husband and I have somehow accidentally traded one of our two pillows each. The very thought is so disturbing (to me, he could care less). I am incredibly protective of all things personal- I won't share my toothbrush, ear buds, razors, or chapstick). 

3. I refuse to let anything stop me from having a great summer. Not gonna let it happen. Nope.

4. I will be teaching my current IB juniors next year as well, and this summer I am going to give them the choice to read Hamlet, Othello, The Tempest, or Julius Caesar in preparation for reading Macbeth (I know that The Tempest is considered a tragicomedy, but I am going to be reading it anyway to prepare for reading Margaret Atwood's Hagseed, so I might as well give them the option). Most of the kids have limited Shakespeare-reading experience, so I like them to read something else before we tackle a play they will be tested on. My point? I have to reread four plays this summer. Right now I am excited, but I think this might not be the truth in August.

5. I watched Nocturnal Creatures a few weeks ago and liked it- I appreciated the novel aspect.

6. Robert Mueller seems legit. Maybe? Is this bipartisan appreciation real? Is this POSSIBLE? SHOULD ROBERT MUELLER BE OUR PRESIDENT?!?!?!

7. I think my next audiobook will probably be Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?: And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White House by Alyssa Mastromonaco because I miss Obama and this seems like that will make my Democratic heart a little happier.

Lemme Tell You a Story (3)

Every other month or so I like to post some of my Instagram stories for fun- here's what goes on behind the scenes and in the mind of over-caffeinated woman: