What I’m Into: April & May 2018

April & May 2018. The bitter end of winter and the end of the school year and most of our sanity.

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This post is brought to you by a critical condition called End of the Year Teacher Brain. This is a condition in which my brain cells have been killed off, one by one, by every interruption and request for make-up work and time I have had to say, “You should be quietly reading at this point” in my quiet, I-have-eternal-reserves-of-patience voice instead of the guttural roar of “WHY IS THIS HARD. JUST STOP TALKING. YOU SHOULD KNOW HOW TO READ SILENTLY AT THIS POINT IN THE YEAR,” that is resounding in my head. Every day that I make it through without a. napping through my entire prep period or b. completely losing my mind is worth celebrating.

The Internet knows what I mean.

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At least it’s just a few days until I can do this:

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Here’s the long list of other things that are making this season a little bit better.

P.S. There is an excessive amount of stuff in this wrap-up – especially books – because I skipped last month. We can blame End of the Year Teacher Brain for that, too.

 

Reading

Dreamland Burning – Jennifer Latham. This book is really, really excellent. On her first day of summer break, Rowan wakes up to see that a construction crew has uncovered a decades-old skeleton on her property. The story unravels from there, jumping back and forth between 1921 and the present day. There is much to love here – multiple perspectives, a bit of mystery, and more information on the Tulsa race riots (a historic event I knew nothing about).

Rules of Civility – Amor Towles. Adam picked up this book, so I reread it at the same time. I love Amor Towles’ sharp observations and subtle wit, and I stand by my original assessment that this is similar in tone to The Great Gatsby (atmospheric, glitzy, melancholy), with more likeable characters. Now if only he could write another book soon…

Orbiting Jupiter – Gary Schmidt. I am discovering that I am very picky about endings. A student had told me that this one made her cry, so I waited to finish it until I was alone in my apartment. It was a good thing I waited. This ending is devastating, but incredibly well done. Go read this little book. Right now.

Code Name Verity – Elizabeth Wein. I don’t want to say too much about this book. I can tell you that it’s told from the perspective of a female spy who has been captured in occupied France and who is writing out confessions to the Gestapo, and that it’s chock full of surprises. This ending, too, worked for me: aside from one coincidence that was just too perfect, it was tragic and excellent. It is YA, but this is one of those books that transcends the label and is worthy of being read by older folks.

(Admittedly, I couldn’t get into the prequel, The Pearl Thief. Perhaps it was a book hangover from this?)

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage – Ann Pachett. This is a collection of essays by Ann Pachett, the novelist and co-owner of Parnassus books. It is only partially about marriage, and contains many other stories of her life and writing career. I enjoyed it. Worthwhile, but not life-changing.

The Wednesday Wars – Gary Schmidt. I remember loving this as a teenager, but I didn’t remember anything about it. In the midst of the Vietnam War, a boy deals with the typical coming-of-age struggles – while he also has to learn Shakespeare with his teacher. I guarantee that teachers will find this funnier than kids.

The Road Back to You – Ian Cron and Suzanne Stabile. I will admit, I only read the chapters of this that applied to me. (I am a One, undecided if I have a Nine wing or not.) Since I’ve listened to a lot of podcasts about this topic, the book wasn’t revolutionary, but I think it would be a great basic introduction to the Enneagram for the uninitiated. (I’m going to dive into The Sacred Enneagram by Chris Heuertz next and potentially check out Suzanne Stabile’s new book The Path Between Us, too).

What I Saw and How I Lied – Judy Blundell. This is a sparsely told story that takes place just after World War II. Evie’s stepfather has returned from the war, and inexplicably whisks her and her mother away to Florida, where buried secrets come to light. This was a quick read that I wished was deeper in parts, but I was fascinated by how it was impossible to tell if the narrator was unreliable or just naïve.

One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter – Scaachi Khoul. Another book of essays! This one was fine. I think I was expecting her to be another Jenny Lawson or Tina Fey, and who wouldn’t seem only fine in comparison to those? My favorite parts were her descriptions of her Indian family, and her emails with her father at the end of every chapter.

It Won’t Be Easy – Tom Rademacher. This teaching memoir is by a recent Minnesota Teacher of the Year. It was fine. Maybe a little preachy. On the whole, a decent reminder that we should be in teaching for the kids.

Abandoned: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – Taylor Jenkins Reid. This is a pick that so many people have loved, and what I read of it certainly was addictive. But I didn’t like Evelyn’s character enough to stick with it. Plus, I was terrified she was going to hurt sweet Harry, and I didn’t want to stick around for that emotional train wreck.

 

Listening

Darling – NEEDTOBREATHE. It’s a good thing I was physically with Adam the first time I heard this song, or I probably would have busted out crying. The Spotify radio for this song is excellent, too.

 

Be Kind to Yourself – Andrew Peterson. Kendra Aadachi of The Lazy Genius Collective has a playlist for Enneagram Ones. The first time I heard this song, I did bust out crying.

Watching

The Post. I thought this movie was well done. After all, it has both Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. It was extra interesting coupled with Slow Burn, a podcast I’ve been listening to about the Watergate scandal. I’m hoping to pick up Katharine Graham’s biography soon!

My Next Guest Needs No Introduction – David Letterman’s interview with Malala Youshafzi. This was such an unlikely pairing, but I found Malala to be a fascinating person. This would actually be a great interview to show students.

 

Loving

Warm. Weather. We had a snow day in mid-April, and it’s hard to believe that was just over a month ago. In the span of what felt like a week, we went from snow on the ground to 70 degrees, and I can’t say I’m mad about that. (Though I’m not sure how I feel about hitting 100 degrees on Memorial Day…)Now I just have to resist wearing shorts every day.

Kiehl’s Ultra Face Cream SPF 25. I searched long and hard for a moisturizer with SPF that doesn’t smell like sunscreen, dry my face out, or irritate my crazy sensitive skin. I tried just about everything, and I hated just about everything. This one worked.

 

Doing

Vising Adam. Over the past two months, I drove to Chicago three times, which equals driving for half a million miles. At least the guy is worth it. 🙂 Here are the highlights:

Weekend #1 – I was recovering from a bout of the stomach flu and decided to make the drive anyway. We didn’t do much other than attend a performance at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, where the run up 6 flights of stairs and then the perilous descent from the top of the gallery to our seats nearly took me out.

Weekend # 2 – We went to the Party in the Sky, UChicago’s grad event at the Willis Tower. We also squeezed in a tour of Rockefeller Chapel’s carillon tour (incredibly cool and worth climbing eternal flights of stairs) and a walk down to Promontory Point.

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Weekend #3 – For Memorial Day weekend, we wandered through the Science of Pixar exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry and escaped the heat of Adam’s unconditioned apartment at the beach (you know it’s hot when you actually go into Lake Michigan in May). Adam also let me drag him downtown just for Shake Shack, Millennium Park, and the Buckingham Fountain. Before I left, we also tried bubble tea. Bobas are weird.

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Attending a Rend Collective concert with the family. I like Rend Collective’s Irish quirkiness. And my family’s general quirkiness.

Watching The Lorax. Though this was a production at the Children’s Theater, it was incredibly well done and thought provoking. I got to tag along with a few kids, and seeing their reactions was also a delight.

Running a half marathon relay! Andrew and I weren’t feeling up to a full half marathon, so we split the difference and ran the relay. Training for a race was a great way to kick my butt in gear after a winter of sitting on the couch, but I was grateful Andrew let me take the shorter 5 mile leg!

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Watching Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner at the Guthrie. This show was excellent. I remember watching and enjoying the movie version of this, but I didn’t know what to expect from a play. It was simultaneously hilarious and heart-wrenching.

Teaching. Almost summer. Out of words.

Whew. What have you been into this spring?

 

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What I’m Into: April 2017

April. proper noun. Its showers are supposed to bring flowers. We’ll see.

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It’s cliche, I know, but where has April gone? I blinked, and now I’m mystified as I write May on the calendar. It’s been a mixed month – spring is slow in coming, and there have been some anxiety-inducing decisions stretching through this month. But Christ has risen. Though it’s easy to make that cliche, the magnitude of it has been hitting me in this Easter season. We are saved. We have hope. Our lives are worth celebrating.

Here’s what I’ve been loving this month.

Reading

The Four Loves – C.S. Lewis. There’s a reason that this is a classic. C.S. Lewis expounds on the four types of love (affection, friendship, erotic love, and charity) and why they are all important. The charity chapter was most mind-blowing to me. A favorite quote: “All who have good parents, wives, husbands, or children, may be sure that at some times – and perhaps at all times in respect of some one particular trait or habit – they are receiving Charity, are loved not because they are lovable but because Love Himself is in those who love them.” There are so many of these in this slim book – I need to read it again, soon.

The Boys in the Boat – Daniel James Brown. I adore this book. That’s in no small part because I listened to the audiobook, and Edward Hermann (the grandpa in Gilmore Girls) has the perfect voice to narrate this blend of history and rowing strategy and narrative. I am now half in love with all of the hardworking, dedicated boys of the 1936 crew team, and joining a rowing team has never had more appeal.

The Sun is Also a Star – Nicola Yoon. Recommendations for this book are all over the place, and I was a little scared to read it because I didn’t know if it would live up to the hype. It did. It chronicles one day in the life of Natasha and Daniel, two very different immigrant teens who meet on the streets of New York. Their story was unlikely and beautiful and heartbreaking and reminded me of how much our actions matter and influence those around us.

Very Married – Katherine Willis Pershey. This book is a sort of marriage memoir, with reflections on the beauty and struggles of lifelong commitment. Each chapter covers one aspect of marriage and offers stories, musings, and advice. I would love a bit more depth and length – sometimes it felt like Pershey just touched on a topic before moving on – but it was helpful to hear very real stories about married life.

Mosquitoland – David Arnold. In this book, a young girl runs away from her dad and stepmother in “Mosquitoland,” and boards a bus in search of the mother she left behind. It didn’t quite meet my expectations, but I did adore the characters, especially the friends Mim made along her journey. The empathetic, real portrayal of mental illness is also powerful.

Winter – Marissa Meyer. I finally finished the last book in the Lunar Chronicles. I’m glad to be done reading the series and know how it ended… but it seemed like Meyer was glad to be done writing the series, too. Overall assessment of the series? Great and fun and clever. Overall assessment of this installment? Meh.

Counting by 7s – Holly Goldberg Sloan. Willow, a super smart and socially awkward preteen, learns one day that her parents have been killed in a car crash. This book follows the unlikely generosity that helps her survive. The story is tender and sweet.

 

Watching

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Though this movie was a good deal creepier than my highly sensitive self expected, I loved the magical twist on 1920s New York and the subtle references to the world of Harry Potter. I’m curious what they’ll do with the sequel!

 

Listening

Spotify Daily Mix. I just found this Spotify feature, with individualized playlists that combine songs you’ve liked with other music of a similar genre. Yay for not making decisions.

The original version of this song got stuck in my head after every Zumba class (which is problematic when you only know 7 of the words…). But I have to admit, I love the Justin Bieber in this remix…

 

Loving

This video makes me laugh.

Olive green pants. I struggle dressing for spring in Minnesota, when boots feel too wintery but it’s still 38º on morning bus duty. These have given me a springier option than my constant black pants. Pseudo-neutrals for the win.

Salsa dancing. Adam and I finally tried out our moves at a dance this month. We are, well, not Latin. But it was fun!

Black Coffee & Waffle Bar. Leslie Knope would approve of this place. They understand the necessity of adequate whipped cream.

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Doing

Participating in a panel of new teachers at my alma mater. We spoke to student teachers about the hiring process. It was fun to hear the perspectives of a few teaching friends, and it also reminded me just how much I’ve learned in the short time that I’ve been teaching.

Dress shopping. I am lucky enough to get to be a bridesmaid in a college friend’s wedding this fall. We picked out our dresses this month, and I am now even more excited for their wedding!

Taking a family trip to Chicago. My sister had her final grad school interview over Easter weekend, so my family drove to the windy city to spend the weekend with her. We packed our little vacation full, walking over 20,000 steps each day. Highlights include the Tilt window at the John Hancock observatory, the beluga whales at the Shedd Aquarium, the mummy exhibit at the Field Museum, and the limo ride we took when we were too tired to walk back to our hotel. (Yes, you read that right. We rode in a limo. We were not at all chill about it.) We also fully recommend the CityPass, a booklet of tickets for the most popular museums and experiences in the city. It made everything, especially the long lines at the Willis Tower observatory, faster. We finished off the weekend by celebrating Easter at Moody Church, which had a full orchestra and choir for the occasion.

 

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Note the four blond adults staring enraptured at an animal spouting water…that’s us.

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We also got matching tattoos. They were temporary.

Attending a concert at Orchestra Hall with friends. One of our favorite double date couples invited us out on the town for a birthday celebration, and we loved eating dinner and listening to enchanting music with them. Ravel’s Ma Mere l’Oye, or Mother Goose, collection is dreamy.

Finally, as always, teaching. We finished off our final session of parent-teacher conferences and are on the last leg of our year. I have no idea how we will fit in everything left to cover. None. We are currently finishing up a public speaking unit. I’ve learned even more about my students by listening to them share about items that represent them – it’s a good time of year for a reminder that they are complex human beings. My Advanced kids are also practicing mock debates. So far, the most memorable thing they’ve learned has come from a debate we watched to study technique. One of the debators said that television can be a positive influence because Cookie Monster teaches us that “cookies are a sometimes snack, not an always snack.” I have since heard this line once a day. I am clearly an influential teacher.

 

What have you been into this month?