Monday, January 2, 2017

Welcome to 2017! Recap, Reading, and a Challenge.

Welcome to 2017!

I know that many of us had a craptastic 2016, and I was no exception. To put it bluntly, there were far too many upheavals last year, and too many dramatics for me to consider it a good year. But. I learned a lot about myself over the past year, and while there were a lot of horrible moments, I am a much stronger, driven person than I was last year. I think I have finally found my voice, and in 2017, you're going to hear it.

One of the biggest disappointments for me last year was my total disengagement with the online communities I have come to love so much. I became too consumed by things outside of my control, that I let go of the things that make me who I am. And a huge part of that is reading. At the beginning of 2016, I went 4 months without picking up a book other than the titles I was teaching. And I did it again in November and December. All told, I spent well over 5 months not reading. That's sad.

So, on this side of 2017, I'm making it a goal to read more regularly and more diversely than I have the last few years. I have gone far away from the original purpose of this blog, which was reading the classics, and while I'm happy to be reading more YA, science-fiction, and fantasy, I need my classics back. I'm hoping I can incorporate more into my reading diet this year. My goal is 1 per month, but I think I can do more.

One of the biggest things that I am continuing to work on is balance. Between home, work, personal goals, and adulting. I know that sounds silly, but I still struggle to manage it all. Quite frankly, there are too many things that I enjoy and not enough hours in the day to do everything. So balance is something I am continuing to work for this year.

In terms of blogging, I've been saying it for what...3, 4 years now? But I would like to blog regularly. As part of that whole balance piece. Even if it is only 1 or 2 posts a week, I'll be happy. I know I will never return to the crazy blogger life I had prior to being a teacher, but I can do better. I will be better at it.

So, with all that in mind, I am joining one challenge for this year, which is Adam's Classic Book-a-Month Club. It's right in line with my goals-reading more classics. It will also include some rereads, which I am really excited for getting to this year. I love rereading, and like Adam, I include many books on my "Favorites" list that I haven't read in a long time.

If you're interested in joining in on the fun, you can find the information on Adam's blog, linked above. And here are the books we're reading over the course of the year (*s denote something that will be a reread for me):

  • January: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott*
  • February: The Three Theban Plays by Sophocles*
  • March: The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton*
  • April: Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald* (I think I read half of this....)
  • May: A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry*
  • June: The Confidence-Man by Herman Melville
  • July: Paradise Lost by John Milton
  • August: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen*
  • September: Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
  • October: Angels in America by Tony Kushner 
  • November: The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky*
  • December: Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë*
That's all for now. Happy New Year!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Readathon Post!

Edit 2: 7 PM (Hour 12):
Hey guys! I'm back! I actually finished my first book about a half hour ago, but I needed a snack and some internet browsing before returning to some readathoning.

Not much else has happened-the cats have been passed out on my lap for hours. I only bothered them for a snack and some more water. I'm ready to dive into the sequel to my first read-Throne of Jade-and will be absorbed in that until Matt gets home at 10.


Number of Pages Read: 356!
Books Finished: 1 (His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik)
Cups of Tea: 2 I just made a new cup of English Breakfast...I also drank a 24oz bottle of water while reading this afternoon. I'm sufficiently hydrated.
Instagram posts: 2 (and about to make a 3rd!)
Snacks: I just grabbed some chocolate covered banana slices from the freezer. YUM
Cat Snuggles: LOTS
Husband Distractions: None! He won't be home for another 3 hours!

Edit 1: 3 PM (Hour 8):
Well, I have not been off to the greatest start, but that's about to change. ;) My start time this morning was supposed to be 8am, but I didn't even get out of bed until after 10. I've had a long and stressful week at work, so I needed the extra sleep. I did get up and read for an hour, and made some progress in my first book. Then, Matt got up, we ate breakfast, and then we decided we needed to go grocery shopping as we had nothing left to eat in the apartment (he had the last of our cereal and milk for breakfast, I had two sad looking frozen waffles). So, an hour of shopping later, we have a full fridge, freezer, and pantry. We also cleaned out our fridge, did a little cleaning, and he just left for work. So, I'm settling in to go comment on a few blogs before returning to my book. I have no real plans for this afternoon besides reading. I do need to do a little more cleaning, but I don't want to just yet. ;) Reading first! I probably won't check in again until I finish my book,'ll be at least a couple hours. I hope you're all enjoying yourselves and squeezing in some good reads!


Number of Pages Read: 113-SAD. But my choice in deciding to reread the Temeraire series was a good one. I'm very much enjoying the reread-I read the first 4 YEARS ago and never finished the series. And after finishing The Help earlier this week, this one just jumped out at me. :)
Books Finished: 0
Cups of Tea: 1 I had a nice cup of English Breakfast tea this morning with breakfast. Right now I'm finishing a Lime LaCroix
Instagram posts: 1
Snacks: No snacks-just meals. I had two multigrain frozen waffles for breakfast, and I made some butternut squash ravioli with butter and garlic for a quick lunch before Matt left for work. 
Cat Snuggles: 2. Lily is sleeping by my feet and Sparty is curled up on my legs.
Husband Distractions: Many-he wanted to go grocery shopping, then clean, so....ugh. But he's gone for the next...7 hours, so I should be able to fit in some good reading time!

Hi everyone!

Tomorrow is one of my favorite days of the year-readathon day! And I have been looking forward to it for MONTHS. And while I normally pull a big stack and talk about how all my plans...I have none set for this time. My only goal is to relax and read a lot. I'm shooting for 18 hours (I can never make it the full 24), and 2 books read, but we'll see. :)

In any case, I will be updating this post throughout the readathon. Stop in from time to time and say hi, and let me know if you're reading-I'll stop by and cheer you on! Happy reading tomorrow!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Reading and Rereading Series.

Since June (when school got out), I have been on a big series binge. While I've grabbed a few new ones, I'm also taking the time to revisit some that I haven't finished, or that I want to reread.

I love rereading books, and try to take advantage of doing so whenever I can. There is something very soothing about rereading a series and falling back in love with a story that you love. However, it's easy to make excuses not to do so. This summer, I decided that I just needed to read more, and if rereading was how I was going to jump-start that, then, I would do it. It started with a new to me series-The Throne of Glass series. I inhaled the first 4 books before telling myself I had to take a break. The 6th book just came out, so I am planning on getting around to the next 2. I also read a 4-book series that had been sitting on my shelves for a very long time-The Books of Pellinor. It was after finishing that series that I decided I needed to consciously work at reading, and rereading series on my shelves.

I'm sure I'm not alone in the fact that I will often start a series of books, read the first couple, and then set them aside (or have to wait for the next to come out). And sometimes, it is hard to make the time to go back. I'm also a fan of diving back into the series before reading new titles, especially if it has been awhile since I've read them. For example, I already reread the entire Harry Potter series before a new book came out-I did the same this past year before Cursed Child hit the shelves.

In any case, I thought it would be a good idea to start a list (I love lists) of the series I have sitting on my shelves that I would like to get to reading...or rereading. I should note that if a book has a sequel, I'm counting it as a series for the sake of this post. :)

  • The Heroes of Olympus Series by Rick Riordan: I'm working my way through this series right now! I finished book 3 (The Mark of Athena) last night and will start The House of Hades later tonight. I never got around to reading book 5 when it was released, so I'm excited to get to it!
  • The Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan: I bought each of these when they came out, but again, never got around to reading them. Since I'm enjoying the other series so much, I'm sure I'll get around to reading these very soon!
  • The Throne of Glass Series by Sarah J. Maas: Like I said above, I read the first 4 books (technically the prequel and the first 3 titles) early in the summer, so I just want to read book 4 and 5. I think I might save them for the readathon!
  • The Cinder Series by Marissa Meyer: While I have read the main titles, there is one collection of novellas I haven't gotten around to yet, and I'd like to!
  • All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness: Technically, I only have the first title, A Discovery of Witches, on my shelf, but this is a series I've been meaning to read for a very long time!
  • Across the Universe by Beth Revis: I read the first book in this trilogy when it debuted and enjoyed it enough to buy the other two books when they came out. And I haven't gotten back to them...
  • Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev: I followed Lisa a long time ago on a writing site and purchased her debut when it came out. I read it and loved it (Shakespeare? YES), and like many others, bought the other two books on release as well. Whoops!
  • The Temeraire Series by Naomi Novik: I LOVE this series, but I have only made it through book 5! I think there are 9 books out now and the series is done? Will be done after one more? In any case, this is a great fantasy series and I love the originality of it!
  • Seraphina and Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman: Another set that I purchased shortly after release and never got around to. And I have heard amazing things!
  • The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo: Say it with me...another series I bought and never got around to. I almost started it this summer, but picked up The Throne of Glass Series instead, so at least I tried...
  • The Brotherband Chronicles by John Flanagan: I love Flanagan's books, and always buy them when they release. I think I am only 1 behind in this series, but I love it so MUCH. 
  • The Crown of Stars Trilogy by Kate Elliott: I bought this series (all 7) YEARS ago-I was still unmarried and living with my parents. I used to inhale big fantasy series like this one, but since they take such a time commitment, I now stray away. BUT. I still want to read it. 
Phew. I think that's it for now. I mean, I know there are more on my shelves, but I think I'm off to a good start, right?

Tell me about the series you love. Do you reread before a new title comes out? Or are you a standalone kind of a reader? Let me know below!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Books on my Fall TBR List!

Wow! It has been awhile since I've participated in a Top Ten Tuesday! I knew this topic was coming up, and as you know, lists are my favorite. :) I almost let this one slip by, but here I am!

I love making lists of books to read-and even though I don't always complete them, it usually inspires me to get around to books that I've been "wanting" to read for quite some time.

I'm currently in the mood for some rereads and YA lit...which has been my mindset since June. I'm enjoying myself and all these rereads and fun YA titles, so this list follows that same vein. It's helping me stay focused as the school year begins, and having some comfort reads is forcing me to make time to read-something I let slip by last school year.

Anyway, here is my list, in no particular order.

1. The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan: Back in 2012 or 2013, I read the first 4 books of the series (I thought there were only 4...). Much to my dismay, as I neared the end of book 4, I realized there was another unreleased title. And I was uber sad. So, I bought book 5 the day it came out, and it is still sitting on my shelf waiting to be read. I'm currently on book 3 (just started it this evening), so I know I'll get to the next 2 books soon!

2. Queen of Shadows and Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas: I INHALED the first few books of this series back in early summer. And I purposely set Queen of Shadows aside so I would have another to read before Empire of Storms came out. And that is MOST DEFINITELY happening this fall. I'm going to try and save these for the readathon because flying through them sounds like a fabulous way to spend 24 hours. :)

3. Replica by Lauren Oliver: I've read every Oliver title, so it makes sense to read this one too. :) Some I've like better than others, but I usually find them to be fast, fascinating reads. I enjoy Oliver's writing style!

4. The Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan: In my attempts to read from my own shelves, this is another series that has been sitting for far too long. I bought each title as it came out, so I think its time to read these as well!

5. All the Light we Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: This is another title that I was super excited to read when it came out, and I bought ti shortly after. And yep. It's still sitting on my shelf. Some women at work were talking about it the other day, so I moved it to my nightstand in anticipation.

6. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates: I actually started this one back in August, and set it aside for something lighter. But I know I need to read it and I enjoyed the chunk I read in that sitting. I think it'll be a good read, especially with all that is going on in the U.S.

7. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn: The fact that I haven't read this yet is a bit of a running joke between myself and one of my friends. one has spoiled it for me yet. This is probably as "thrillery" as I'll ever get, as thrillers and horror are outside my comfort zone. But it's one that has been sitting on my shelf for awhile and I've been meaning to get to...

8. The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer: I think Schumer is hilarious. And I think this would be a perfect gym listen.

9. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel: A parent volunteer in our media center (who I love), recommended this to me last year, so I picked up a copy. She said it reminded her a little of The NIght Circus, which I just read this summer and truly enjoyed.

10. Saga, Volumes 4-6 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples: I read volumes 1-3 in a matter of a couple days over the summer and fell in love with the world and the story. I don't read many graphic novels (leave me suggestions!), but I know this series is something special. I'm hoping I can get my hands on the next 3!

What are you planning on reading this fall? Let me know below!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

On Finding A Work/Home Balance.

I had an incredibly difficult school year last year, which is part of the reason why I disappeared from the internet, blogging, and reading. There were many factors-among them: a tense relationship with a co-worked turned toxic, too much grading, and too much pressure put on myself. I was also horrible at managing my time and giving myself the space and time needed to focus on myself.

By the time school ended in June, I was ready to leave. I was exhausted in a way that I haven't been in years, and I was done trying to keep it all together. I walked out of there on the last day of school ready to get back to myself and make a better plan for a healthier lifestyle overall.

The truth is, I'm a workaholic. I love working, and I love being busy. And with teaching, there is always something you can be doing-grading, lesson planning, writing emails, volunteering for committees, hosting clubs, and the list goes on and on. My problem is that I solely focus on these things September-June. And I use the rest of June, July, and August to recuperate and rest up before running another marathon.

And last year, it caught up to me. Perhaps it was the stress of teaching two hours of an AP class and the immense amount of grading that came with it, or perhaps the tense working environment, but I felt overwhelmed for a majority of the year. In October (nearly a year ago), my grandmother passed away and I was out for a week. And I felt that I was playing catch-up after that all year. For months. It also put me into an incredibly bad place, that was only amplified by conflicts at work. For months I felt I was skating around tension, barely keeping my head on straight...and I lost all sense of myself.

I'm trying really hard to fix that this year. I'm no longer teaching AP history, and while I miss it, I'm grateful for the change and the reduced workload. I didn't start out my year with 70+ essays on the first day. I'm not spending hours preparing lecture notes and finding historical documents, and putting it all together to fit into a week's span of classes. I feel a lot lighter letting go of that course, and the tension it brought with my co-worker. I feel free. And much more like myself.

I'm also working to be better about creating a division between work and home, especially with grading and lesson planning. I brought work home with me every night last year. And grading every weekend. By March, I was tallying up the hours I was working at home (which I am in no way compensated for), and it was reaching ridiculous numbers. It was not uncommon for me to spend 12+ hours every weekend grading and planning. So, this summer I decided I needed to figure out how to grade smarter.

It starts with making the determination that I don't need to collect every thing I assign. I've known for a few years that I needed to stop doing this, but I think it finally sank in. And after talking with colleagues in both my departments, I realized they were collecting and grading far less than I was. I also decided I needed to utilize the kids more-let them grade short multiple choice quizzes in class, so I would just have to scan and enter them. And, by being more selective of the assignments I collect, it puts more pressure on the kids to make sure they are keeping up.

I also made the decision to set aside my weekends for myself. For the most part, I'm going to try to NOT grade on the weekends (Unless I have essays). If I bring home something, I can set a time limit. Otherwise, it can wait. This hopefully allows me to be an actual adult-to clean and do laundry and not feel like those chores are taking away my work time (that's an unhealthy thought, you know?).

I'm also setting aside more time for myself on weeknights-leaving school at a reasonable time (4 instead of 5 or 5:30), and leaving work there if I know I won't get to it. Allowing myself to go to the gym afterwards to decompress and feel better. And letting myself read a little. Because I went 4 or 5 months without reading last year....and it was horrible.

Truthfully, I'm only 2 weeks into the year and while I've failed at some of these things, I'm making strides and feeling better about the balance I'm making between my work and my home. I can still be a great teacher without killing myself and pushing my body to the brink of exhaustion. And I can still have me time and be a human without it hurting the quality of my work. I still have a ways to go to get it down, but my routine is better and I'm feeling better about the changes I'm making.

How do you make a balance between work and home? Can you give me any other tips?