Good things about my day

2012/01/28

Starting out the day going out with friends for breakfast and discussing a book. Love eating out for breakfast, love books, love socializing with friends. This was the initial meeting of the "Big Fat Book Club" where we are going to slowly work through some of those huge classic titles that I can never seem to fit in otherwise. We read a couple hundred pages a month and get done when we get done. Peer pressure at its finest. We're reading Crime and Punishment, I'm liking it so far even though my brain isn't used to reading the classics anymore. Another reason I decided to start this book group. Must resist atrophy.

Studying this afternoon. Initially this felt like a downer but I got to remember how much I adore Geometry. It makes me crazy happy. To steal a turn of phrase from my friend Sarah, I want to make out with it. (Thanks Sarah, I am going to use that one way too much from now until forever.) I am in an upswing with the whole teaching thing. I'm feeling energized and excited. Thankfully I'm not quite naive enough to think this is where I'll stay. I'm ready ride the roller coaster.

Good yoga class this afternoon. Not too hard, not too easy - just right. There are a lot of days when making it out of the house to get to a yoga class just seems like a lot of work. But I'm always glad when I do. Always.

Making pizookies with my girls and vegging out with Project Runway. I love cookies. And I love that show. But most of all I love my girls. They are amazing in so many ways. I do my best to stay out of their way so they can continue on their own fine trajectory without me messing them up too much. I am a lucky mom.



Company

2012/01/27

We've been dog sitting for a friend this week. The cutest little peekapoo named Jeter. Life with three dogs isn't all that bad and Cinnamon is on cloud nine having a playmate. They wrestle all day while Cricket sits in the corner looking slightly annoyed.

The Economic Naturalist

2012/01/24


The Economic Naturalist: In Search of Explanations for Everyday EnigmasThe Economic Naturalist: In Search of Explanations for Everyday Enigmas by Robert H. Frank
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I'll admit that I didn't even make it half way through this book. I thought I could read just about anything about behavioral economics but this book proved me wrong. It seems the author just collected a bunch of answers his students had provided in the course of class and compiled them in to a book. Without really siting or even verifying their thoughts. There were some "answers" to puzzles of human behavior provided that were just preposterous. Life's too short to read lame books.


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The Disappearance


The Disappearance: A Novella and StoriesThe Disappearance: A Novella and Stories by Ilan Stavans
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I wanted to wait and review this after meeting with my book club to discuss it because usually that helps me understand and enjoy the book more fully, but not in this case. Pretty much the whole group disliked it. There were two short stories and a novella, I only liked the last short story. The other two pieces I found unbearable.


Reading about the Mexican Jewish experience seemed like it would be intriguing. But it seemed to me that the understandable alienation that the author felt growing up (the pieces being somewhat autobiographical) has made him bitter and seems to want to punish the reader by making us feel excluded, rather than illuminating and breaking down barriers through explanation/education.


I feel the author and his work comes across as snobby and pretentious. This is completely typified by a moment in the novella where he is describing the home of one character and in the process lists the books on his coffee table. The author lists some classic and important works that are there and among them he decides to slip in one of his own titles! Lame.


The last short story, Xerox Man, was intriguing to me and I thought it had the best voice of the collection. But still, not enough for me to recommend this title to anyone.


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Wishing for spring

2012/01/23

It has been so lovely this winter, so warm, that it's got me craving spring. There's a magnolia tree down my street and every time I drive by I hope to see it blooming. I love magnolias. I went to Atlanta a few years ago and was blown away by the size and beauty of the trees there. Such a beautiful memory...


Crazy

2012/01/22

I calendar as a form of therapy. I am always closely tied to my calendar, but especially when things get stressful in the fourth dimension I need to make sure it all lays out neatly on my weekly grid. I think I got a reputation yesterday in class as I probably asked five different questions about the nuts and bolts of the schedule. (In my defense their calendar was vague at best and misleading at worst.) I have an online class the next three weeks that will require a lot of time, so first thing I do is head to the calendar to lay it out. Crazy week, eh? Crazy brain too.

Relatedly, the first class I have is for content mastery. Three weeks to remember pretty much the entirety of high school math from Pre-Algebra through Calculus and Statistics. That's gonna be fun. And if you look at my week you'll also notice that I have three different book groups converging on my week. I realize something's gotta give, but I'm not ready to sacrifice that quite yet.


Continued

And then this morning I got to clean up a laundry room full of dog pee and not one, but two dog pukes this morning. Really?

Whining

I need to whine for a moment about my day yesterday. I got almost no sleep Friday night. I had a terrible headache that was keeping me up all night. Plus nerves. Plus a fitful Sylvie in my bed who was tossing and turning and moaning and thrashing and getting up and down all. night. long. But I survived and my all day orientation was fine. Crazy amounts of information to process that would have overloaded me under any circumstance, but considering the night I had I was major spent by the time I was done. I took the girls out to dinner to celebrate and then we crashed on the couch with a movie. We were done at 8:30 and I was seriously cogitating making that my bedtime. But the girls were both complaining of itchy scalp so I thought I'd better take a look before bed. Um, lice. So instead of bed I got to put my clothes back on, head to the store for the lice kit, launder the whole house, and spend hours picking through my daughters' hair with the tiny comb. Pretty thrilled with Tessa's waist length hair right now. Oh, and did I mention Dave was out of town on a guy's weekend? Superb. The house was (and is) still undone with piles of laundry everywhere but I crawled into bed just before midnight not caring one whit more. Dave tells me he got home at midnight but I was so knocked out I didn't even hear him. Yay Saturday.

Big News

What a whirlwind week - lots of big news that I am still processing myself. I applied about a month ago to a teacher certification program. I really felt strongly about teaching Math as the next chapter for me. I've really felt confident about the decision and pretty calm that it would all work out. And it seems that it truly will. Thursday I was called in for an interview to the program, Friday I was accepted, and Saturday I attended an all day orientation into the program with course work beginning immediately. Off to the races!

 There are a few unique and great things about the program. First it is accelerated so that I will actually be a certified teacher this very fall. Which is great and scary both. (The ratio of great v. scary vacillates hourly.) Also, by the time I had applied in December the program would normally be closed but they had extended the deadline this year. Extremely fortuitous for yours truly as this wasn't on my radar until recently. The very best thing about the program I was accepted into is that I have a "hired unassigned contract" which means I am guaranteed a job this fall in AISD. I will still be applying at different schools to find a best fit, but I definitely have a job. Not very many participants in the certification program have that guarantee so I am very fortunate. 

The next year and a half are going to be tremendously difficult I'm sure. How much that is of an understatement is to be seen. But I am extremely energized for the challenge. It will be an abrupt change for me to move from half time work in the quiet of my home to basically a full time job in the trenches (for only marginally more pay too). But it is time in my life for me to really give back and this is such an exciting way to do that. I truly love my job at GCC (and I'll still be working there until June unless I manage to get myself fired before then) but I have been stagnating there to a degree and I want my next career to be more service oriented, a more immediate impact for good. We all know that Algebra can save the world!

 Send me good wishes and prayers. I will need it all.

Jump

2012/01/20

The girls and friends are snaking hop scotch boards across the driveway, each trying for the longest. The weather has been so incredible this week. I'm not the only one confused by the unseasonable warmth, I've found blooms in my yard. Yay January?

Ghost Town

I saw this band in passing at ACL a few years ago and thought they were nice but they didn't truly register for me. I just found their latest album this week and I can't get this song out of my head. So beautiful.

Talent

2012/01/17

Even eating a tortilla involves talent and creativity. Always.

McKinney Falls

We took off to McKinney Falls on our MLK Monday. Probably an atypical time to see it for the first time considering the water is low from drought and winter time isn't conducive to swimming, but we thought it was great. I definitely want to see it again when trees are green, but the low water allowed us to see the interesting limestone formations in a very unique way. I'm sure most of that is covered when the water is running full. Great weather if a little cloudy and both girls were in super fantastic moods, making for a great family outing.

Cute

2012/01/14

The best kind of hamsters are weekend hamsters. We did the whole hamster thing a few years back and I am firmly in the never again camp. But babysitting the class pet for the weekend is much more tolerable.

Beautiful

2012/01/13

Lovely sunrise this morning. Makes me almost glad I'm awake.

Full

2012/01/12

I have been craving Freebird World Burritos for two days now. And now that I'm full my dark mood from the past two days is lifted. Coincidence? I think not.

Predictably Irrational


Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions 1 Exp Rev editionPredictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions 1 Exp Rev edition by Dan Ariely
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book cover to cover. I love behavioral economics in general; I could read about it endlessly. His book especially I thought was fresh and readable and just plain old fascinating. Starting out I didn't agree with his general theme, that humans are not purely rational as traditional economics would assert. I felt that we do use cost benefit analysis to make most of our decisions, it's just that those factors are not always tangible. But he did showcase a few examples that changed my mind somewhat. Great book.

What I learned:
So much! Each chapter was something new that made me think about the forces behind my decisions. There are so many biases at work and I love unearthing them so that I can at least be aware of them next time I think I'm being "rational".

What I loved:
His writing style was very accessible and interesting. The topics were interesting and not always intuitive which makes for some entertaining and interesting surprises.

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Come Together

2012/01/11

I'll clean out the bitter by sharing a great quote my yoga teacher shared this morning. (I really should go to yoga after staff meetings and not before.)
We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don't really get solved. They come together and they fall apart.  
- Pema Chödrön
I haven't read anything by her, but after reading through her quote page on Goodreads I certainly will be.

Fun

Thought I'd share a fun moment from today's staff meeting. Which incidentally is really the first time I've spoken with my boss in the eight weeks since she informed me that my job is being yanked out from under me. She's classy that way. Anyway, first my boss totally went sugary on me about how some recent synthesis/analysis work I had done for the president (the kind of work one might reasonable expect to fit under my boss's job description) had been so great that the pres used it all during her convocation speech. And then directly after that I got to sit through my boss rambling about the future direction of the office, renovations, new hires, new office name, that will all culminate after I am to be gone. She told me she'd keep me in the loop. Needed my input on it all. How nice.

Fast

2012/01/10

My new, much needed runners are orange. This makes me very happy. 

Choose

2012/01/07

Almost four hours of my day were spent on this bulletin board for the front of our primary room at church. Pretty deluxe if I do say so myself. Can't go wrong with buckets of glitter. I love the scriptures it references in Joshua. "Choose you this day whom you will serve... as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."

Every question brought up in primary seems to bring a chorus of responses, "choose the right!" (which is what the shield stands for) and it makes me smile every time. 

Books 2011

2012/01/05



Yet another 2011 recap post. I read 34 books last year. Which is actually a smaller total than both 2009 and 2010. Probably a direct result of my uptick in time spent crocheting. If only leisure hours were more generous. In 2011 I read:
  • 1 book of short stories
  • 1 graphic novel
  • 3 memoirs
  • 4 non-fiction
  • 25 novels
My favorite books were:

New Territory

2012/01/04

You know you've entered a new phase of parenthood when your baby sings "na na na na na na na, I'm gonna start a fight..." to herself as she's washing her hands in the bathroom.

Or the discussion in the car on the way to piano lessons turns to why exactly "girls don't like boys, girls like cars and money".

Thank you Lego Rock Band.

Slippers

Another crafty moment: slippers for my girls. In characteristic fashion, I busted my way through Sylvie's in a weekend, then it took me a few more weeks to work on Tessa's. Then they sat unfinished, waiting on just one flower for ages more until I sat down this afternoon to finish it. Why do I let things drag out so? I enjoy starting much more than finishing projects.


Words

2012/01/03

I think you can learn a lot about people by examining their Pinterest boards. My words board makes me laugh fully at myself. I am a contradiction. And snarky. But always hopeful...

My Favorite Albums of 2011

2012/01/02

It seems to get harder each year for me to cull my playlist and find my favorite albums of the year. Part of it is just the sheer number of albums and part of it is a inborn reluctance for me to name favorites - my listening is just too mood based. I love them all! (Spoken like a true mother.) But I have done my best and listed the best of the best below. The stuff that came out the last quarter of the year really didn't get a fair shake but that's life I guess.

I'll start with my two very favorites of the year. These are the albums that I simply cannot get enough of.

The Decemberists, The King is Dead
This album has killer songwriting by one of my favorite bands. Add to all that goodness the mega bonus of Gillian Welch guesting on most of the album and I'm sold. I saw them live earlier this year and it was my favorite show of the year. Crazy great show.

June Hymn
Why We Fight


Adele, 21
It's hard to say what my favorite track is. Her vocals blow me away.
And as much as I loved her debut album, this one has a polish in the production that makes it amazing. Adele occasionally makes me feel guilty as if I'm flirting to close to main stream pop. But she's worth it.

Rolling in the Deep
Rumor Has It


This year seems to be a strong one for plain and simple songwriting. Just amazing songs all around. The two above certainly fall into this category, but there are a handful of others that I truly love as well.


Middle Brother, Middle Brother
This is one of those albums that I never think of as my favorite until I realize that each and every track is one I love. Funny thing is that two of the three band members released other albums with their main gig (Deer Tick and Dawes) and I don't really love either of those albums.

Portland


Tristen, Charlatans at the Garden Gate
Saw her earlier this year and I am enchanted with the whole album. Got a killer concert T too so that should be bonus points. Finding new artists like this is my favorite thing about my obsessive music listening habits.

Baby Drugs


Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Here We Rest
I would never categorize myself as a Jason Isbell fan, but I adore all his work, including his time with the Drive By Truckers, so I guess I need to  wrap my head around it. Great songs. Great album.

Alabama Pines


Caitlin Rose, Own Side Now
Saw her in a tiny bar during SXSW earlier this year. She was literally five feet in front of me, not even on a stage but just standing in the middle of the room. I could listen to this album over and over, just lovely songs and I love her vocals too.

Shanghai Cigarettes


These are the albums that I turn to when I need something melancholy and beautiful.


Wye Oak, Civilian
The mood of this album is completely singular. I love the moody vocals and production. Beautiful.

Fish


Radiohead, King of Limbs
I'll admit that this album hasn't made it to adoration status for me yet. But I have no doubt that it will. Radiohead is a slow burn for me and it can take dozens of listens to unravel.

Lotus Flower


Alexi Murdoch, Towards the Sun
Just beautiful. I've heard a lot of comparisons between Murdoch and Nick Drake which are very apt. I love the quiet of this album.

Someday Soon


Gillian Welch, The Harrow and the Harvest I knew I would be a huge fan of Gillian Welch from the very first song I ever heard. I love her songs, her vocals, and David Rawlings beautiful guitar work. This new album is no exception. The beauty of it all is just indescribable.

Hard Times


These are the albums that make me smile. Crazy fun stuff that is just an absolute delight.


Cornershop, And the Double-O Groove Of
I've always loved Cornershop even though their catalog is pretty spotty. But this album with all the vocals done by Indian singer Bubbley Kuar is a complete delight. I am never sad when I listen to it.

United Provinces of India


Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside, Dirty Radio
I defy you to listen and not love it. Completely fresh. Completely infectious. Makes you wonder why there aren't more albums that sound just like it.

I Swear


Beastie Boys, Hot Sauce Committee Part Two
If you have a half an hour to spare you must, must watch this video. I know, I know, who has a half an hour to spare? But it is so worth it. I am not a die hard Beastie Boys fan, but this album is all good. The film is crazy awesome too.

Fight for Your Right (Revisited)


My Brightest Diamond, All Things Will Unwind
This album was a total surprise for me. So unusual and beautiful and quirky. Her label is Asthmatic Kitty, which was founded by my one true love Sufjan Stevens, and I can completely see his influence. The songs are completely unexpected and work in such a fantastic way.

Be Brave


You didn't the good times would end with just 14 albums, did you? My 2011 playlist is full of dozens of other albums that I am crushing on. Here's a list of other albums I love this year, in no particular order.

Jessica Lea Mayfield, Tell Me :: R.E.M., Collapse Into Now :: Say Hi to Your Mom, Um, Uh Oh :: Tapes 'n Tapes, Outside :: The Damnwells, No One Listens to the Band Anymore :: The Belle Brigade, The Belle Brigade :: Iron & Wine, Kiss Each Other Clean :: Dolorean, The Unfazed :: Telekinesis, 12 Desperate Straight Lines :: Hayes Carll, KMAG YOYO :: Sarah Jarosz, Follow Me Down :: Maritime, Human Hearts :: The Rural Alberta Advantage, Departing :: Frank Turner, England Keep My Bones :: Foo Fighters, Wasting Light :: Elbow, Build a Rocket Boys! :: TV on the Radio, Nine Types of Light :: Jill Andrews, The Mirror :: Eddie Vedder, Ukulele Songs :: Tinariwen, Tassili :: Bon Iver, Bon Iver :: King Creosote & Jon Hopkins, Diamond Mine :: Lisa Hannigan, Passengers :: Bjork, Biophilia :: Mutemath, Odd Soul :: Feist, Metals :: Wilco, The Whole Love :: We Are Augustines, Rise Ye Sunken Ships :: Fountains of Wayne, Sky Full of Holes :: Richard Buckner, Our Blood :: Steve Earle I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive :: Brett Dennen, Loverboy :: Death Cab for Cutie, Codes and Keys :: Black Keys, El Camino

You can see my entire 2011 playlist on Spotify here. If you haven't jumped into Spotify you really should. It's free for a basic membership and it's unbelievably awesome. Happy listening!

Amber does 2011

2012/01/01

Here I am at the end of my first year of OCD fabulousness, tracking lots of interesting and not-so-interesting tidbits on Daytum. And yes, I will be continuing with it in one fashion or another. I wasn't sure about that at the outset, or even if I'd make it all the way through 2011, but it definitely strikes a chord with me for myriad reasons. I'm not really in the mood to give a defense of the particularities of my personality that make this interesting and enjoyable for me. It just works for me, I expect very few to understand.

You can look through the whole year and beyond on my Daytum page here, but below I'll try to pull out some of the more interesting or surprising highlights as they strike me.

Misc

  • Despite all the comments about my hair matching my shirt, I actually wear blue and green tones the most. You think I should pull out the graph when people say that to me in the future? 
  • I've eaten 95 oz of dark chocolate this year, averaging to about a quarter ounce a day. I don't eat it every day, but when I do I eat on average 0.6 oz, I think that's just about right.
  • I run 0.83 errands per day. These are mostly trips to stores or the library, ferrying kids to activities are not included. This seems like a low number to me and I like it that way. I do what I can to keep running about to a minimum.
  • Chick-Fil-A far and away wins the most frequented restaurant. I love it and it's cheap so that's not surprising. But I've also noticed that I'd rather try a new spot than go to a favorite. Most restaurants on my list only have one or two entries for the year. I eat out on average every three days which was really surprising and is way too frequent in my opinion. Not that I don't enjoy it, it's just an expensive habit.

Mind

  • I listened to 237 new albums this year. I realize that is a ridiculously large number - but I truly fell off the last of the year, just got saturated with keeping up with the new releases, so it could be a whole lot higher. That large number is also why I'm having a really hard time putting together a favorite albums of the year post.
  • I got crafty for 265 hours this year which is also a pretty high number. Mostly crochet and I'd be interested to see if that intensity can sustain itself but I'm major sick of tracking this so that will be an unknown. Tracking hours spent is must more difficult that just plain old widgets. Plus I multi-task a lot when I'm crocheting so calculating true hours spent is just a drag.
  • I watch a lot of TV - on average just under two episodes per day. I'm actually surprised that number's not higher but I suppose there are lots of days when I don't make it to the couch to veg. This is a number I'd like to see go down but the fact of the matter is that I just plain old enjoy it. I tend fall asleep when I read in the evenings so TV is a good way to unwind. The Daily Show is far and away my most frequented show, not surprising since it's just on all the time as compared with weekly sitcoms (and because it's awesome). My Netflix favs are on top of the list too for the same reason: easy access. I watched all four seasons of Mad Men recently and would keep going if I could - love that show.
  • I am a way more inconsistent magazine reader than I pretend in my head. I am sad at how many issues I miss. Yet I have subscribed to some new titles for 2012 (thanks to Amazon's $5 subscriptions this time of year) so apparently I am an optimist.
  • I read a lot. That is nothing new. 11,450 pages in 2011, which is about 33 pages a day. 
Body
  • 131 hours on the yoga mat this year, averaging out to only 20 minutes per day. I'd like to see that number go up but that's not likely considering the craziness 2012 may have in store for me. I really did expect to see that be a lot higher, one of my more disappointing outcomes. Daytum tells me I'm practicing every 3 and a half days or so, seems like that should be more frequent.
  • I ran 192 miles in 2011. A pretty puny number but I'll take it considering I really don't aspire to be a runner nor do I enjoy it much. But I do enjoy being outside, the easy access of running, how I feel when I'm done, and most importantly the countless hours of good conversation with my running partner (which is the real reason I run at all).
  • My body feels "good" only 57% of my days. That seems like it should be higher. Not that a "so-so" day keeps me from doing what needs to be done. But I have enough headaches and such to keep me from feeling tip top a lot of my days. Seems like I should be able to improve that but I just really don't know how.
  • Headaches are a whole other thing. I have medicated a headache a whopping 137 times this year. That just stinks.
Spirit
  • My only real goal when I started this project was to read my scriptures every day. Something I haven't achieved for more than a few weeks at a time since I was in high school. And I got so (!!!) close but there was one stinking day where I just plain and simple forgot. Ah well, that's still a pretty great outcome and that alone is worth the price of admission to this whole crazy Daytum project.
  • I spent 238 hours this year at church, on callings, and other church related stuff. That doesn't include scripture study or temple trips. I've only spent 67 hours on my calling in the primary presidency and that doesn't seem like a lot. (That 67 hours excludes the two out of three hours at church every week that I am physically working in primary.) I and the other members of the primary presidency do try to eliminate the "fluff" that can take up time without actual impact for the children. That plus the elimination church wide of quarterly activities has taken the time toll down significantly for this calling.
Mommy Life
  • I only cook about half the time. And most of that is non-recipe based or "easy" cooking as I call it. I need to stop whining. But probably won't.
  • I spent 38 nights away from home. Some for work, some for vacation - but all in all that is a pretty big total. That is one that will go down for sure in 2012.
  • I spent 205 hours this year doing what I think of as "mommy activities". Stuff that I'm doing only because I have kids and would certainly not be doing of my own free will and choice. Not that I begrudge this time (other than the hours spent at birthday parties, I do hate those), but it's just mommy stuff and not Amber stuff.
I'll be dropping off several items for tracking in 2012 and picking up a few new ones, I haven't sorted out the particulars quite yet. If I were truly honest I'd track treats consumed or fruits and vegs or even my weight, but I am not ready for that level of reality yet. But all in all I really like seeing how reality matches up with perception in my daily habits. It really does change my level of mindfulness, which is always my goal.