spring reads

The quarantine has forced us all to stay in/around our homes. Aside from dog walks and now, trips to the private beaches in town, I have been busy in the house. I’ve reorganized the pantry and kitchen, we started to put in new flooring, we’ve updated our deck — we’ve been busy, but through that busy, I’ve tried to make time to read. Admittedly, taking my spring course-load and two summer courses has slowed me down but I’ve been trying to read lighter books to keep me balanced.

Here the books I managed to get through in the spring:

1 Becoming by Michelle Obama

There’s so much to say about this book; it was refreshing and real and pretty much everything I would have expected by the former First Lady. I found the writing to be equal parts authentic and warm. On a personal level, I was moved by her openness around fertility struggles. I am an instant fan of anyone willing to openly discuss their experiences around this and I had no idea I could like and respect her more prior to reading this text but I now do.

2 Open Book by Jessica Simpson

I’ll happily admit to being a JSimps fan since her show Newlyweds aired. I had no idea about some of the darkness she experienced or her struggles. Though none of them surprised me, the raw and open information she shared about herself hit the mark — she mentioned in the book that her goal was to make you feel like you were talking to her and it really did. Overall, I found this book to be kind of sad — a lot of people took advantage of her throughout her life but she discusses her resiliency and hope.

3 Evicted by Matthew Desmond

Evicted told the tale of housing issues throughout the city of Detroit. It was written in the early 2000s and documented first-hand accounts of experiences as renters and landlords. This book was heavy and eye-opening about the renters market, eviction process, and dynamic between both renter/landlord.

4 Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come by Jessica Pan

I had high hopes for this book. I can appreciate the introvert tendencies because I relate heartily to them. Though the sense of humor of the writer and my sense of humor are not the same, I think a number of others would also appreciate this text.

5 Rules for Being a Girl by Candace Bushnell and Katie Cotugno

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Since I will be starting as a middle school librarian in the fall, I have been trying to read more YA literature. This is one that I enjoyed — it was nice to read another piece from the SATC visionary. This was a quick read — read it in a few hours.

6-10 I plowed through four of Jasmine Guillory’s books; these are great if you’re looking for a light love-story that’s fairly predictable which was really nice to read during these times. Guillory has another book that’s either newly released or coming out soon and I’m looking forward to reading it soon as well: The Wedding Date, The Proposal, The Wedding Party, and Royal Holiday.

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11 Accused! by Larry Dane Brimner

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This book was heavier than I’d prefer but in my quest to read more YA literature, I came across this one. There are a number of elements of race and a deep sense of helplessness that came with reading about these young boys/young men being accused of rape by two white women. It is a powerful read that can be used to understand how society places value on white voices while suppressing black ones.

12 March: Book One by John Lewis

Prior to finding this book while perusing the YA section of the Libby app, I had no idea John Lewis had been a part of writing a book. I believe there are three in this series, all of which progress in the coverage of the Civil Rights Movement. Admittedly, I am not a big graphic novel fan — but I am trying to branch out and read more so that I can better engage with my students in the fall. This book really lays out ideas and history in a clear way and is great for middle schoolers.

I am on a bit of a reading hiatus as I slog through hundreds of pages about government resources, primary sources, and digital media this summer but I am hoping to delve into more YA texts and a few more fun reads before the school year begins.

evil powers

Last week, my husband did something very uncharacteristic of us — we made the kids an early dinner (tacos) and then used the TV as a babysitter, setting 14, 12, and 4 up with the movie, The Smurfs. We needed to have an adult’s only dinner and waiting until 9PM when 14 begrudgingly goes to bed just wasn’t going to work. The kids seemed to enjoy their time together bonding over a movie and so this ended up working out for all of us.

Since then, 4 has brought up ‘the evil guy’ from the movie (good ol’ Gargamel) and yesterday, it seemed like such a great way to start having the conversations that we, as parents, should have with our children. We used Gargamel’s evilness as an intro to what we can do to combat evil. 4 was upset — he doesn’t have powers like Gargamel, and so we talked about what powers he has: the power of kindness and his secret powers, his brain and his boice.

This seemed to give him something to think of and I’m trying to figure out how to connect that more explicitly to the Black Lives Matter movement, especially given the small gathering we plan to attend later on.

There is still a lot of explaining to do and many discussions to come over the next days, weeks, months, and years but this is definitely the start to our future understanding the powers he holds just by being him.

tough conversations

Nearly fifteen years ago, I started my teaching career: I walked into my classroom at Anacostia High School in Washington, DC and met the students and staff that would forever change my life. The year was 2006 and all students in my class and nearly all through the school were Black. During my time there, I heard students lament about police brutality; I listened as students compared stories of when they first saw a dead body spread across the street; I saw the plight on my students’ faces each and every day as they faced oppression at the hand of the white man.

I spent my first two years taking all I could in from students — listening and learning and then processing with older, more experienced teachers who also were POC. Prior to my time there, I’d formulated my own opinions on topics based on life experiences, but once I started to gain exposure to others’ experiences, my views and understandings began to change.

Fast forward to today. I have spent the last three days trying to figure out how to have conversations about race and responsibility with my son. He’s four and attends a private Catholic school where most of his classmates are children of color. My heart breaks for the parents of those children — parents who will have to have even more difficult conversations about how to survive simple tasks like trips to the store or walks to the park.

So, what do we do about these tough conversations?

We have them.

We talk to our children and family and friends and anyone else who may need to hear about those who are oppressed. We use our voices to try and help other white people understand how profoundly white this problem is. If they listen, that’s great — we keep talking to them and try to help them understand and if they don’t listen, we try a different strategy or conversation.

In the meantime, we listen.

We listen to POC who struggle and air their feelings of experiences of oppression. We do not respond with ‘not all’ or stories of our own experiences. We listen. We support. We sit with the stories and information they impart on us and process and then use it to be better people — better parents — better advocates.

The news is filled with images of brutality and it’s our responsibility to have those tough conversations to ensure our children know how to navigate their feelings and their exposure.

It’s time to have a tough conversation. With ourselves. With each other.

quarantinis: 1 part vitamin sea

We found our house five years ago when we expanded our search radius on a popular real estate website. Instantly, we loved our home but the beach town community is really what drove our decision. Because both my husband and I grew up in landlocked states, it never really dawned on us that we could live within walking distance of the ocean. To me, that was reserved for vacation rentals and hotels — to him, it was just something you might read about.

Nearly five years ago, we moved into our home; we spend much of the summer at our town’s various beaches but that’s not all — 4 and I go to the beach every few weeks to run around. It’s easy to toss on rain boots and head down to the wide open space and it’s a great place to let the dog and older two play as well. Since the Covid-19 outbreak, the area surrounding our beaches has been slammed — everyone is walking and trying to enjoy the beautiful weather we’ve had.

I get it.

In the meantime, we have spent our days walking laps around the school. Each day, I walk the dog about three miles — that’s roughly 10 laps around the school for those of you counting at home. It’s a real thrill. The last two days, however, I was able to get down to the beach and breathe in the calming vitamin sea.

The weather turned from sunny and nice to breezy and dreary — this was my chance and I made it down two consecutive days. It was a much needed break from school laps and my neighborhood, where it feels like we pace the streets. The sky was gloomy, but Bru and I were able to log five miles through the breaks in the rain.

The break to the beach was exactly what I needed to lift my spirits and I’m hoping that with the rain in the upcoming forecast, we can get all of us down there for a little frolicking in the sand. This served as a really great reminder that having the beach as a backyard really can make a difference in the day-to-day happenings of life.

 

quarantinis: 1 part planning

I will admit that my drinking has definitely increased during the Covid-19 pandemic. I typically have a glass of wine every month or two but have been having a few glasses a week. Thank goodness for our wine tour trip we take in December with my friends — we are well stocked for a few weeks.

It’s not all wine and dog walks though — last night, my husband and I had what was probably the most serious conversation of our relationship. It was about what we do if 4 gets sick — what is our course of action? 4 is medically complex on paper with a slew of respiratory diagnoses; in person, you’d never know but doctors and hospitals wouldn’t be able to view our busy boy and instead would need to rely on his medical records which are not particularly encouraging when we are both reading about respirator shortages and how other countries’ doctors have had to decide what to do and who to save.

Needless to say, it was a heavy conversation but we have a couple of plans in place. This made us both feel a little bit better. We are now on day 15 of being quarantined; my husband hasn’t been at work since March 3. Wild times. Still, we are optimistic — schedules have changed but our security has not. We are thankful for this because sometimes that’s all we can really point to for relief.

In other news, I figured I’d share some random musings and goals I’m setting for the next week or two:

  1. I am really happy I married my husband. Despite being cooped up in the house, we are calm and sane and he doesn’t get on my nerves.
  2. Every night, I’ve eaten a cheese tray. I love night snacking and it’s not a habit I’m likely to break; so, I think I’m going to try to switch to smoothies or fruit.
  3. In my mind, I’m the next Bob Vila. I am convinced I can lay new flooring in my bedroom. My husband is suspect of my skills but I used 7th and 8th grade metal and wood shop projects on my resume. (See #1 — the feeling may not be mutual.)
  4. I keep finding all kinds of clothes and handbags and shoes that I love online but am actually not ordering them all because I am not sure when I’ll be able to leave my house and I oddly am not trying to impress anyone at Whole Foods.
  5. My husband and I got an old school Nintendo, thinking it would be something fun to do at night. We are both terrible at it and lost interest almost immediately.
  6. Bath bombs/salts are really undervalued.
  7. My brain has been too bogged down with thoughts to focus on reading, which has been frustrating but I felt like I could write today so there’s hope!
  8. We bought 4 a two-wheel bike and are hoping that he will be a riding pro by the time the quarantine is over.

I am thankful for the outlet of writing and it’s really nice to be able to string some thoughts together today. My goal is to get back into my swing of writing because it’s always been something I so very enjoy.

I hope everyone out there is staying safe and healthy!

winter reads

A lot of my winter reads had to do with health and nutrition. I did a lot of reading in the car on the way to/from DC over Christmas and then read some more when we got back home. My semester has been underway since mid-January, so the reading tapered off then but because I am only taking one class, I still tried to keep pace of reading two books a month. With the in-place quarantine, I am hoping to read more but this first week has not really allowed as much as I’d hoped for…

Brutus’s Adventures in Petlandia

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Okay, so this isn’t really a reading book; it’s a picture book that my husband had made for me about my best furry friend, Brutus. It charts his adventures as he makes it big in Hollywood and honestly, this is one of the coolest gift I’ve ever received.

Do Less by Kate Northrup

Do Less - by Kate Northrup (Paperback)

This was a pretty quick read that also included activities. The experiments around listening to your body and discovering what’s important are two things I do regularly but it’s always nice to be reminded. Otherwise, I found the cycle elements/connections a bit out of my interest range.

Forks over Knives by Alona Pulde, MD & Matthew Lederman, MD

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I read this, largely aloud to my husband, as we drove to DC the day after Christmas. Each year in January, I like to do a health challenge — this year, I’d like to try vegan living for a month and got my husband on board. This book offers a four-week plan to transition and gives a lot of information. In reading this, I realized that I don’t have a ton of changes. It’ll be interesting to see how it goes — there are recipes in the book too but I mostly appreciated the suggestions on how to integrate a more plant-based diet into life and the effects that can have on health.

Cook Without a Book: Meatless Meals by Pam Anderson

Cook without a book meatless meals recipes and techniques for parttime and fulltime vegetarians Ebook

Okay, this was not written by the Pam Anderson you may be thinking. Sure, this book had a lot of recipes but more importantly, it had a lot of advice on how to cut back on animal consumption, like practicing vegan until 6PM each day or choosing two days a week for only vegetarian meals. I found it helpful and have shared some of the advice with my parents (their PCP has been pushing them to go plant-based for years).

Eat to Live by Joel Fuhrman, MD

Eat to Live: The Amazing Nutrient-Rich Program for Fast and Sustained Weight Loss (Revised Edition)

One interesting piece in this that also was listed in Forks over Knives was that EVOO is not healthy and that adding fat to food really isn’t a healthful idea. Honestly, I had no idea. I’ve always been told that EVOO is a healthy fat but now I’m thinking this is something I want to look into more. Interestingly, this book also debunks the USDA’s food plate for healthy eating — my biggest takeaway is that maybe I should start adding a cold salad to go along with dinner. There were also a lot of recipes and aside from some of the smoothies, nothing really sounded super great to me.

The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone

The Kind Diet: A Simple Guide to Feeling Great, Losing Weight, and Saving the Planet

Yes, this is written by the famous Clueless star who used to roll with her homies. Whatever. In this book, Silverstone covers her take on a complete lifestyle change with elements of vulnerability and “slip ups” in an honest and appreciated way. If you’re considering such a change to lifestyle, I recommend this book.

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone (for Rent) by Gottlieb, Lori 9781328662057 textbook

I found myself very engaged in the characters John and Julie. The chapters on them hit an emotional chord for me unlike the rest of the characters. Lori’s relationship building seemed honest and forthright throughout and I think that perhaps, that’s the biggest takeaway. I found this book to be interesting but heavy and the whole realm of discussing patients made me uneasy. I hate to think of my therapist using my thoughts, experiences, or emotions to further her career in some way.

Unfollow by Megan Phelps-Roper

Unfollow: A Memoir Of Loving And Leaving The Westboro Baptist Church

Wow. There’s so much I learned about how hate is taught/indoctrinated at a young age. I was familiar with funeral protests and the anti-gay stance of the Westboro Baptist Church, but only on a surface level. This book was equal parts eye-opening and horrifying, as it broke down a very rigid and radical set of “Christian” beliefs… This text makes me want to read about the Amish Rumspringa and similar contexts in other religions, though I’m curious of reading those will make me as uneasy as much of this text made me. I was appalled at the behaviors listed and the casualness of it all; still, I would recommend it to those who have an interest in cults or radical religious behaviors.

The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals that Protect us from Violence by Gavin DeBecker

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I found this book kind of fascinating — the big thing it really focused on was how our intuition is typically a series of cognitive observations, ever so slight ones at times, and that is precisely why we should “trust our gut.” The text was loaded with examples and explanations of how fear can drive thought and behavior and how when really breaking down what we’ve seen, we are able to make the best possible choices. I think this is something that everyone could benefit from reading but as a woman, I am particularly appreciative of the insights.

How Not to Die by Michael Greger, MD

How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to

A lot of this book repeated what I read in Forks & Knives. This book was really informative and I marked several pages/chapters for my husband to read. I appreciate how it broke down many ailments people suffer from and listed the best ways to combat them. I was particularly interested in Alzheimer’s Disease because it is what took the life of my grandmother; also, high blood pressure and heart disease because of my husband’s family history. There is a lot of information in here but I highly recommend this to anyone looking to take control of personal health.

what a weekend…

I know we are all experiencing the fall-out of the Covid-19 virus that’s sweeping the world. I am not going to spend time dwelling on it but instead, going to write and reflect about the experience my family and I have throughout our time in-home.

My husband is a calm fella and doesn’t get worked up about much, so when he suggested we start grabbing a few nonperishables here and there (last month), I went along with it. We have some staple items — cereals, canned potatoes, pasta, rice, beans… nothing wild but enough to hold us over and keep our meals as consistent as possible.

With three kids in the house, any level of consistency we can provide is key. We have had a lot of conversations with the kids this weekend; last week was rough for them with the school musical being ‘postponed’ and my husband taking them out of school early, we just wanted to make sure they understood our concerns: They have everything to do with 4 having more than his fair share of respiratory issues.

Once we were all on the same page, we tried to think of ways to break up the weekend. Friday night, we played ‘name that tune’ and 13 was astonished that rap music is my choice of genre. We sang and danced and it helped to loosen things up. Saturday, we went for a long dog-walk in the morning and also celebrated the musical — my parents were to visit to see it and we had a custom cake made, so we had sugar overload and veggie burgers, which were promptly followed by naps. Then, we spent the afternoon taking a breather — everyone was exhausted from the previous week and just having some space to rest and watch movies was great.

On Sunday, we had a long conversation with 13 & 11. There’s a lot coming up in the next few weeks that are important to them and with school being canceled and restaurants being closed for at least the next three weeks, we wanted to give them space to share feelings and give them some strategies to deal with them. 11 turns 12 on Saturday and we won’t get to go out, so he chose a breakfast meal he wanted; last night, I looked up a bunch of mocktail recipes to make with it as a special surprise. The following Saturday, 13 turns 14 and we will have her choose dinner and I’ll find another mocktail.

We are trying to keep things light and moving — this afternoon, I walked the dog and the kids scream-sang karaoke songs through an app my husband downloaded. He also sang some with them — it was a really nice way to break things up and get some of that energy out. Later, my husband took 4 & 11 to clean the yard and 13 & I talked about relationships.

All in all, we tried to keep the stress of the outside world where it belongs and bring some lightness to the inside of our house. I’ll be using this space to reflect in the coming days/weeks and offer some ideas on things we’re doing while holed up in our home.

valentine’s day

I’ve never really appreciated or enjoyed Valentine’s Day until I became a parent. As a single girl, my gal pals and I would head out on the town and dance the night away; as a coupled girl, flowers are always welcome but phony gifts and pre-fixe menus never really enticed me. As a mom, though, it’s a fun way to celebrate with little gifts and themed meals.

So, what’s the plan for the day —

I found myself at Target a few weeks back and raided the $1 section — I found a few coloring posters, which seemed like a nice little February vacation activity, emoticon chocolates, and “punny” valentines. What a fun little treat to arrive home to at the end of the week.

Then, there’s the dinner — the dinner is the best part. I am going to do lasagna roll-ups. We made them a few weeks ago (maybe I will post a recipe if I can remember to do things like write down measurements and take pictures) because a friend from high school has posted pics many times of her rolls on social media. They are really good and a lot prettier than my messy lasagna pans.

I am going to arrange two rolls on each plate in the shape of a heart.

I know, I know.

It gets better, though. 4 and I are going to bake chickpea blondies tomorrow and zucchini brownies. He wanted to do heart cookies, so we are going to use the cut-outs once the desserts have cooled. We are also going to make some blueberry muffins for Saturday morning breakfast. He is the little baker of the household — 13, our other resident baker, will be dazzling us with some scratch-made peanut butter-chocolate cupcakes during the break.

Gifts, lasagna, and healthy treats for this Valentine’s Day win!

holding space

I have not made writing nearly the priority it should be this year. My semester is full of research and my “day-job” has been full of meetings, feedback requests, and letters of recommendation. Last week, I even had to return THREE unread library books but I’m planning on grabbing some more next week because I’m traveling for some field work and *should have some time to read.

The last couple of weeks have been a bit much — 13 & 11 came home and shared tales of stories/thoughts their mom had about their dad and me. It was a lot to swallow and honestly, I’ve been processing it rather slowly. Manipulation can be so great that even you start to question what the truth is at times, and fortunately, my friends and my yoga practice help to center me when I need it most.

The last couple of days, I really reflected on all of the people in my life who make time for me and hold space for my family. I am doing field work in VA at the end of the month — I have plans with a handful of friends there for dinners, drinks, yoga, and ‘talking library’. Each of these friends have arranged schedules around mine to visit and each of these friends have rearranged their schedules over the years to hold space and time for my family. These are friends who’ve, without a thought or question, have invited a family of five + dog to stay with them (regardless of home size); and my favorite, friends without children who have spent their days visiting zoos or even time at the Magic Kingdom.

In addition to my friends in DC are my friends from home — people I’ve known my whole life, friends from high school, and my college friends. All of these people make efforts to spend time with us on our visits back to PA. They have invited us to their homes, met us out for dinners, caught us at ballgames, and one college friend even introduced herself to my husband, 13, and 11 at Disney Springs over the summer because she recognized them from pictures.

Lastly are my friends in MA — the people who spend every Thanksgiving and Easter with us, who’ve done so before having children and do so now still; people I’ve met through school and work who check in and ask how everyone is doing, even when the conversation isn’t about our families. These are the people who manage to keep me sane when parts of my world feel like they’re spinning and I am ever so grateful for their grounding nature.

I am so fortunate to have these people in my life and it has me thinking more and more about others who hold space and time and love for not only me, but for my family. Sometimes, life can get busy or hectic or cruel and when those moments happen, it’s nice to be able to sit back and realize that those most important and those whose opinions matter are the ones who continue to hold space.

jan reflections, feb goals

I’ve been pretty pleased with the start of the year. I’m back to my mat, consistently, at home and maintaining my practice in the studio. In fact, this month, I met a goal I’ve been working towards for the last decade. I do not feel extraordinarily proud of many of my accomplishments but this one was a zinger for me and I almost cried when I got myself into crow post at yoga last weekend. Who knows how long it will take me to perfect the pose and do it with consistency but this was proof to me that showing up and prioritizing yoga for the last year truly has made a difference. For February, I want to continue this and support my practice with a little weights and cardio — I am not setting goals around this because 1. it’s not my preferred form of exercise and 2. I don’t want to feel obligated to move in any kind of way; thus, trying to add some different types of exercise 2-3x next month is all I’m really hoping to do.

Veganuary went pretty well for us. I had pizza a couple of times and while we did have those few slip-ups, we were 100% vegetarian for the month. It felt good but I’ve also found myself missing meat at times, so I am not sure how the next month will go. I’m hoping to lessen desserts; they are by far, my biggest weakness and even with the vegan-January, I still managed to consume some. I’ve been enjoying just buying much of the same foods at the store and then varying the spices and cooking methods. It’s required much less planning and has given me what feels like more freedom in the kitchen.

My spring semester has started but another goal for February that I have is to continue reading books that are not school related. I have read a lot about nutrition in the last month but I have a few novels to get through.

Additional goals that I have are to continue with my dog walks: It’s cold and the winter weather makes things a struggle but I do find on the days that I walk the dog in the morning, my day is better and I tend to be more active. The best part, the dog is so excited to get out for the walks that it just makes the day a little brighter.

Overall, the goals are pretty similar as they always are — listen to my body and do things that it responds well to (like more yoga and less sugar). I’m excited to see how February goes, especially with some upcoming travel to look forward to!