Friday, June 15, 2018

Some stuff I love

I've been making some positive changes in my life recently, and I wanted to share some things that I love, love, love.

The library: You probably could have already guessed that this would be on the top of things I love. I love the library. I read about 2-3 books a week (depending on how long they are) and there is no reason for me to own that many books. Plus, if I don't like a book, oh well, back to the library it goes. In addition, the library has a ton of cookbooks, the latest bestsellers, Legos, toys, and it's right next to the Farmer's Market. The Stanford library is gorgeous. I can look up the books I want and the call numbers before I go there, so I just head over there when I want a walk. And, I check them out for months! It's so nice.

Spotify: I got this app a while ago, after the "kids" in my lab encouraged me and I love it. The algorithm is so much better than pandora and they have pretty much every song I can think of that I want to listen to. It can store music offline for travel and flights, and it's got pretty much every Disney soundtrack my kid can listen to. It's also got old, old albums that I had when I was a kid (Hot August Night, anyone? Melissa Etheridge Brave and Crazy. Cat Stevens. Tom Petty. the Beatles. So good. Also, all those one-hit-wonders. I'm in heaven. Also tons of classical music for focus. I did pay the $15/month for the premium to get rid of ads, but it's so worth it to me.

Calm: My work has these "BeWell" assessments and I went and did one a couple months ago. I told the lady helping me that I felt overwhelmed and anxious about everything and she told me to meditate 5 minutes a day. I thought that 5 minutes was something I could do, so I did it. My co-worker suggested this Calm app and I really love it. It has a bunch of meditations (most are 10-15 minutes long, but you can do shorter ones). It has guided meditations, or more silence, walking ones, or ones focused on something you might want to improve (anxiety, sleep, relationships, etc). There are even ones for kids. It also has bedtime stories (both for kids and adults) that are designed to help you fall asleep. One of my favorite parts of the app are the Master classes. These are "classes" taught by leading experts on certain topics, such as nutrition, depression, etc. I've listened to almost all of them and I get something out of each one. Plus, each class is about 10min or less, which is a nice bit of time. There are also "music tracks" that can help with focus, sleep, calming, etc. I really like those for when I am working and I can't listen to actual words in music. Most of this app is behind a paywall, but I used it a couple times (maybe for a week?) and they sent me a coupon for 25% off the cost of the app. It's about $60/year ($5/month) but the coupon got it for me for $45/year, which I think was totally worth it.

Bullet Journal: Seriously, I love this thing. I've tried keeping traditional calendars/day planners and I've tried keeping things on my computer calendar, but none of that works. My schedule and my life and my job and my family just do not fit on a traditional calendar. The bullet journal, you just do with it what you want. You don't have to use it every day. You can make huge lists, or just brain dump. You can draw pictures, plan out vacations, make lists of recipes, whatever you want. You can track things monthly (like gratitude, or weight, or whatever). I love this model because I can put all the things I want to do (experiments, questions, housework, school, kid, family vacation, etc.) in the same place. Its been a revolution for me.

Podcasts: As you can tell, I spend a ton of time with my earbuds in. There are a couple podcasts that I have really loved recently: Pod Save America (I mean, of course I love this one. Lovett or Leave it. (I love Jon Lovett, obv). Malcolm Gladwell's Revisionist History (all 3 seasons). No Such Thing as a Fish (OMG, humor, British, random facts - does not get better that that). Honorable Mentions: Atlanta Monster (this could have been so much better, but it is what it is). Fresh Air with Terry Gross is really great if it's a topic I want to hear about. A Killing on the Cape (professionally produced with a predictable ending. A bit of a rough murder mystery). The Moth (sometimes this is super good, and other times I just can't get into it.)

No Facebook: Yeah, this has changed my life. First, I cleared out my friends list (like, all those people from high school that I don't even know? Yeah, they are gone. Just family, actual friends and some of my students.) I check it once a week, maybe? I'm still on IG, which I love, but that's a much more cultivated list of people I dig.

And that, folks, is that. Things that have improved my life for the better :)

Friday, March 23, 2018

The bully in the school

There is a bully at D's school. He's in the class above D, but those two classes combine a lot, so D has to see this kid being mean to the other kids. One kid is bullied so bad that he's literally sick.

Yesterday, this bully threw a block off the play structure and split a kid's head open (not my kid's). The kid had to go to the doctor and get his head glued back together. There was blood everywhere, and my kit thought his friend was going to die. (his words, not mine) The teachers swear the block wasn't thrown on purpose. D was super upset and couldn't sleep last night, understandably.

My kid goes to a high demand, private daycare center on Stanford campus. We pay a shit-ton of money for my kid to go to this school and get a good education and be safe. My question is why the school tolerates this kind of behavior and/or tries to protect the bully? What good could come of that?Why is there not a "zero tolerance" policy for bullying? Why isn't this kid kicked out immediately?

Honestly, the rest of the kids in D's class are good kids. The worst infractions are a lack of listening ears and not napping. Seriously, that's it. The most my kid has been in trouble was during potty-training, he peed outside in the school yard.

Yeah, of course I've emailed admin. They keep setting up appointments with me and then cancelling them at the last minute. Very helpful.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

My kid gets it - why doesn't anyone else?

Yesterday, D participated in the National School Walkout in protest of gun violence. He and his classmates made signs and walked around for 17 minutes. We've been talking a lot about guns - it's sad to have these conversations with your 4 year old. But he made me proud when we had the following conversation:

(Background: I work with an alternatively-abled man, M who is missing the lower part of one of his arms. D has been talking about body parts at school, and asks a lot about this man and how he is able to do all the things we can do)

D: Why can't we give M a new arm?
Me: People can't grow a new arm, and if they make one for M they are really expensive.
D: That's stupid. We should make things like arms really cheap so everyone who needs one can get one. And we should make guns really expensive.

Hit the nail right on the head, son.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Yep, totally behind...

I was lucky to find Wonder Woman at the library so we could check it out. We watched it last week, and you know what? I LOVED IT. I know, I know, lots of people loved it. ButI thought I would tell you why I loved it:

1) The lead is female and she was awesome. I swear I would follow Gal Gadot to the ends of the earth. Also, the cast has many women, amazing women. I loved them all.
2) The director is female and she knows how to make a good movie for everyone.
3) I never really liked Chris Pine, but he was super good in this movie. Also, very cute.
4) The movie has lots of funny parts, which makes the whole "going after the god of war" thing much more enjoyable.
5) The protagonist does not hesitate to try to help, in any way possible. I feel like lots of male superheroes brood, or retreat to their cave or whatever they do. Wonder Woman just f-ing dives in feet first. Also, the fight scenes were UNREAL. I have never seen such amazing sword fighting atop horses - I mean, what?
6) There was romance and it was really well done. None of this superhero bullshit where it has to be all fighting all the time. There was actually a plot.
7) Wonder Woman was my favorite when I was a kid. She made me feel like I could be anything I wanted to be. In fact, I used to spin around in a circle (that's how she changed into Wonder Woman) to change into my alter egos. I don't know what this movie did, but somehow I saw myself in this iteration of Wonder Woman. Somehow she is every woman. And she kicks ass. Also, she doubts herself, doesn't always know the right way, etc. She is amazing.
8) I will watch this film over and over again. But I'm really looking forward to seeing the second installment.
9) Why can't all superhero films have some of these aspects?

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks

Did I tell you I'm writing a novel? Yeah, after reading all those terrible books on Amazon Prime, I decided I can write a story better than some of those. I loved to write stories when I was a kid and I love to read, so it makes perfect sense.
So, I'm doing some research. This includes reading lots of books and observing things like story arcs, plot points, character development, etc. My latests piece of research was Nicholas Sparks' The Lucky One.

This book follows Logan Thibault, a former Marine who had three tours in Iraq. While he was there, he found a photo of a woman. When the photo wasn't claimed, he took it with him and he believed that the photo provided luck for him. He was in a record number of IED attacks and avoided dying on numerous occasions. When he gets back from active duty, he decides to walk across the country to try to find the woman in the picture. Although this story sounds a bit creepy, it's pretty well put together and the Thibault character does not seem to be a mentally deranged stalker. The woman he finds is named Beth, a single mom with a crazy ex-husband. Naturally, Logan and Beth fall in love, the ex-husband loses his mind and the story resolves with the death of a major character, but it's the one you don't mind.

This book was good but not exceptional. The characters were interesting, but I didn't really identify with any of them on any level. It was a nice romance, but, honestly, I could have taken this book or left it. The characters are stereotypical (a war-hardened veteran, a beautiful woman who doesn't know she's beautiful, a manipulative ex-husband, a cute, smart kid). The plot was predictable. It's a good escapist read, but that's all!

Monday, March 5, 2018

Some good books, some bad books

I've been reading a TON lately, mostly to keep myself off of social media. I find that FB and IG generally make me feel horrible, so I've been avoiding them lately. I'd generally like to continue that trend....

Luckily, my big reading habit has been helped by a few things: the discovery of free reading via Amazon prime on my Kindle, the local San Mateo library and the local Stanford library. Among those, I have been able to read about 2-3 books a week for the past several weeks. It's been a good thing. I thought I would tell you about a few that I've read.

America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie tells the story of Martha Jefferson Randolph, the only surviving daughter of Thomas Jefferson. The novel follows Martha as her mother dies shortly after childbirth and she essentially becomes the mistress of the Jefferson household. The book is apparently based on thousands of letters and original sources and draws an interesting picture of the life of Jefferson's daughter. In her life, she lives in Paris during the French Revolution, is a witness to the dramatic forming of the American government, marries a cousin of hers and has a tumultuous relationship (and 11 surviving children), plays witness to Thomas Jefferson's affair with his slave, Sally Hemmings, and takes on the role of "first lady" in the White House. She lived a rich and varied life, in contrast to the slaves that Jefferson and her relatives kept.  As a review, honestly, I thought this could have been so much better. The imagined dialogue is inane, the characters are fairly two-dimensional and several of the interesting plot points are imagined. With all the intrigue of forming a government and carrying out the American experiment, I would have thought that the authors could have created more interesting scenes, a more cohesive story (with or without the imagined romance) and more conflict addressing the fact that Jefferson wrote, "All men are created equal", except he kept slaves and women certainly were not considered equal. Although we know little about Sally Hemmings (and it's suggested that Martha destroyed any writings by Thomas Jefferson that referred to Hemmings), the authors create a love story between Hemmings and Jefferson. I find that largely unbelievable as Hemmings was a slave and many years younger than Jefferson (Hemmings was about Martha's age). It's well known that slave owners would rape their slaves - why would they not choose this scenario? It's definitely the more likely one, but I am assuming they chose the one they did to continue to white-wash history and not talk about reality during the creation of the US. If you like historical fiction and an easy read, you might like this book. Martha was a very interesting woman, I just think the authors could have done her more justice.

In the light of the garden by Heather Burch: I actually liked this story., although it was a bit cheesy. It was very light and easy to read. It follows Charity, who has just inherited her grandparents' house in Florida. She inherited a ton of money, too, so she decides to move to this sleepy community to start her life over. Her neighbor, Dalton, is a handyman who has moved to the island because he's experienced a dramatic tragedy (his wife and child were killed in a 7-11 robbery - a bit too dramatic, I thought). Anyways, there are some interesting characters, a slightly dramatic plot twist and the two of them end up together, naturally.

Coming Clean by Kimberly Rae Miller. This is a memoir about growing up with parents who are hoarders. This book was well written and interesting to read. It's clear it was therapeutic to write for the author. She talks about her childhood growing up surrounded by stuff - it's enough to make you want to clean your house! She describes not inviting friends over, being different people in the car as a family vs. being at home, and the complete and utter breakdown of a house they owned that literally fell apart because of stuff. I wanted this book to end with them finally cleaning everything out, but it doesn't end that way (of course it doesn't - this is her actual life), but it's interesting nonetheless.

Her Perfect Revengeby Anna Mara. This book is free on Amazon Prime and, honestly, I almost didn't make it through this one. It is billed as "a romantic comedy" and "laugh-out-loud funny". It follows Christina as she starts high school and is bullied by Bill. Fast forward 12 years later, and Christina is still mad about that bullying situation and decides to prank Bill for reasons that are beyond me. Christina barely has a job - she is a freelance photographer yet somehow affords to live in NYC unaided. Bill is a spoiled brat, but the heir to his father's dog food (?) fortune, so he drives fancy cars and does fancy stuff. Christina accidentally crashes her car into his and then Bill convinces her to pretend to be his fiancee so he can keep getting his dad's money. All of the characters are manipulative liars, so in the end they all deserve each other, I suppose. The only thing this author is good at is creating compulsion - I was compelled to find out what happened next so I finished the book but I'm unsure that I'm better for it...

 A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy. This author was recommended to me because I love Rosamunde Pilcher, so I checked out some books from the library. This book is written about a new character each chapter, which I thought was an interesting way to write a story. The story centers around a new inn on the west coast of Ireland. It's being opened by Chicky Starr, the first character we meet in the book. The rest of the characters are either connected to Chicky in some way, or are connected to the Inn in some way. And each character has a problem that is subsequently solved by their trip to the Inn. It's a cute story with compelling characters, and, honestly, I wanted more to the story when I was finished (I think that is the biggest complement to an author, that you want to keep inhabiting their world).

The Glass Lake by Maeve Binchy. This was a longer book than the previous one, but was a really interesting story. The book centers on Kit, a young girl in the beginning of the book, who lives with her mum and dad and brother in Lough Glass, Ireland. When Kit is 12, her mother goes missing one night and cannot be found. Kit grows into a woman during the course of the book and comes into her own as an adult, discovering the truth about her mother's disappearance. I thought this book was so great. I really enjoyed the story, the characters and the plot twists.

The Return Journey by Maeve Binchy - this is collection of her short stories, which were fine to read. It's nice to have a story without having to wonder what happens next. One of her stories was told entirely in letter form, which I thought was original.

I've got four more that I checked out from the library this past weekend - I will let you know what I think!

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Random stuff

  • It's been really cold lately. There was snow on the mountains across the bay from us today. 
  • We went to Yosemite for a day and I can't upload pictures because my phone and blogger have stopped cooperating.
  • Yesterday it rained as we were coming in. As we were descending our twisty-turney mountain road, we saw a cop ahead and slowed to a stop. He had pulled someone over. When we could finally pass them, we saw that the person pulled over was driving a forklift truck. Like the ones you see in a warehouse. On a mountain road. With his dog sitting up on his forklift too. It sounds like the beginning of a "You might be a redneck if...." joke...
  • It's been sunny but cold. I think our electric bill will be thru the roof.
  • I've stopped reading the FB and I have to say it makes me pretty pleased. I can't handle the vast majority of the rhetoric in my news feed and I'm unsure why I am friends with the people I have friended. Most of them I do not even know. It would be nice to erase it all and start over :)
  • My cousin will be on The Voice either this week or next. Do you watch that show? I never watched it, but I love my cousin, so I will be watching. I really enjoy the Kelly Clarkson - Alicia Keyes - Blake Shelton banter but Adam Levine seems like kinda a dick. I guess there always has to be one!
  • Tonight, we are getting a Hello Fresh box. My friend Jessica gave us a free one, so we will see if we like it. Alex claims he doesn't like Blue Apron because of all the trash it generates. Here's hoping HF is better because I like the idea of not having to come up with meal ideas sometimes.