Currently

Currently:// Sitting at one of my favorite spots in my home: my kitchen table. My table is medium brown and wooden; it’s not too long or too short. It’s the perfect height and length to sit at and drink a cup of coffee or read a book. I even prefer to do my homework on it. A window is next to my table, so I can easily look out and light filters in throughout the day.

andersonReading:// I’ve been dipping in and out of books for the past few weeks. Right now, I’m reading We Are Not Yet Equal: Understanding our racial divide by Carol Anderson. I had no idea the book is a young adult adaptation of her bestselling work, White Rage, which she wrote several years ago. The book starts at the Civil War and continues until the presidency of Barack Obama, highlighting America’s progress on racial equality and the ways it was been steadily countered by a calculating opposition. Two steps forward, three steps back.

I’m finding the book to be an eye-opener. I wished every thing the author writes about was taught in schools. I’m finding the book to be so insightful that I already bought my own copy to share with my kids.

Thinking about:// time management. The semester started two weeks ago and I’m already worried about finding enough time to read, write, blog, study, and work. But it’s going to happen. I’m going to figure out a way to do all the things I need and want to do.

Listening to:// as many podcasts as I can. My job is so quiet that staff can listen to podcasts and audio books while they work. From The Slowdown to Levar Burton Reads to Fresh Air, I’m listening to fascinating content and finding new books to read.

Now I’m off to:// visit blogs and plan my week.

What are you up to today? What are you reading?

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Currently

Right now: // It’s early Sunday morning and everyone else is asleep. The heater’s on and it’s nice and cozy. Plus, I have a steaming cup of coffee right next to me. I try to wake up early on Sundays to reflect on the past week and plan what I need to accomplish in the upcoming days. It helps my week run a bit more smoothly.

Reading: // Palaces for the People: How social infrastructure can help fight inequality, polarization, and the decline of civic life by Eric Klinenberg. I first heard about this book on the podcast, The Librarian is In, and knew it was the book for me. Klienenberg is a sociologist who discusses how public shared spaces like libraries, parks, and places of worship can help strengthen communities and bridge the divide between people. I’m less than twenty pages in and I’m already using post-its.

 

Up Next: //Both of my picks for this week have been featured on several 2018 “best of” lists.  Brown: poems by Kevin Young and The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline. I don’t read enough poetry and this is the year that I’m trying to change that. It also doesn’t hurt that I’ve been trying to get my library to buy Brown for a while and they finally did. I don’t often read YA books or even dystopian fiction, but Dimaline is an indigenous writer and I want to support her work by helping it get as many check-outs as it can at my library. The more checkouts a book receives, the more likely the author’s other books are bought and along with similar titles.

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Listening to:// How Long ‘til Future Black Month? by N.K. Jemisin. I haven’t read any of the author’s books, but I have listened to a few of her short stories before.  So far, so good.

Watching: // Sometime today, I plan on watching Melissa McCarthy in Life of the Party. My daughter loved this movie, so now it’s my turn to watch.

Now I’m off to: // Start my day.

What are you up to today?

Three years

It’s been almost three years since my last post. To say that time flies is such a cliché, but it’s the truth. In three years, my youngest has went from being a newborn to a bouncy toddler. My oldest kids are mostly in high school and life has changed so much. I went from a being a stay-at-home mom to a library clerk and undergrad.

Yet through it all I’ve often thought about writing, about coming back to this blog or finding someone (anyone!) I can discuss books and reading with. I’ve wondered how my blogging friends are doing, what are they up to, and are they still blogging. At times, I’ve found myself on your blogs, peeking in a bit.

I think it’s time for me to come back to blogging. Or at least dip my toe in the waters again. I can’t wait to really see what you all have been up to.

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Reading:// I’m currently in the middle of Wayétu Moore’s She Would Be King. It’s about the lives of three people gifted with heightened abilities and the creation of Liberia. The book is filled with magical realism. The book’s pace has been slow in places, while sometimes I can’t turn the pages fast enough. It’s beautiful and devastating.

Preparing://For my week. I’ve realized that when I sit down on Sundays to prepare for my week, gather my thoughts, and figure out what I need to accomplish, my week happens more smoothly. I have less hiccups and when the unexpected happens, I’m not caught off guard.

What are you up to today? What are you reading/doing/thinking about?

Sunday Salon

Good morning! It’s early Sunday morning and the whole family’s already up and about. I have a quiet baby in my lap and a cup of coffee next to me. The sun is shining and pancakes are being made. Heaven.

Reading: // Last week, I finished my first audio book in years: The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater. I’ve been waiting for the last installment of The Raven Boys series and Scribd has it. It was a good read, but there are still so many unanswered questions! Jenny, what did you think of it?

After The Raven King was a graphic novel about WWE wrestler Andre the Giant and the latest volume of Rat Queens. Reviews are coming up this week.

Louise Erdrich’s newest book, LaRose, is up next. This tale of loss and redemption has received a lot of positive reviews. Erdrich is one of those writers who’s been on my to-read list for years and yet I’ve still haven’t read anything by her.

Gardening: // I love my little plots at the community garden. Southern California is having some warm weather right now, so I’m there every day to water my plants and do some weeding. We’re growing carrots, tomatoes, onions, basil, beans, strawberries, fennel, corn, and bellpeppers. We’re pretty much growing whatever we can think of!

We’re newbies, so it’s been some hits and misses. Strawberry plants have died, weird mold on the peas. . .but we’re getting there.

This week: // summer vacation is here!! I’m so happy! I’m sure Avram is happy too. Now I can read as much as I can without worrying about homeschooling. I’ll share my summer reading list in a few days with you all.

As much as I love the end of the school year, I also love planning for the new school year. My older kids are both leaving public school to come back home, so I have a lot of planning ahead of me.

Now I’m off to: // have breakfast. What are you up to today?

Sunday Salon – April 17, 2016

 

Time: // 11:39 a.m.

The scene: // It’s a quiet Sunday morning as half the house has gone shopping and the baby is asleep.

It’s been so long since my last post, but that’s just life right now. At first, I felt guilty for not being able to blog and read more. Now? I’m okay with it. Sooner or later, I’ll find a balance. In the meantime, I’m squeezing books in when I can and enjoying life with a crawling, giggling, headstrong, adventurous nine-month old.

Reading: // I actually finished five books last week! Granted, they were short books, but that’s five more than my total for the whole month of March. My two adult reads were The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion by Elle Luna and Sugar Snaps and Strawberries by Andrea Bellamy. Granddaddy’s Turn: A Journey to the Ballot Box by Michael S. Bandy and and Lillian’s Right to Vote by Jonah Winter are two children’s books that deal with African Americans and voting. Snap by Hazel Hutchinson is a fantastic children’s book about the power of creativity.

PicMonkey CollageHave you ever been in the middle of a book and knew that you needed to reread it? I’m not a big re-reader, but that’s what I’m currently going through. Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhrigg and How to Tutor Your Own Child by Marina Koestler Ruben are my latest reads. I’m finding that I need to go back and reread both books from the beginning, taking notes as I go. There’s just so much information I want to remember. Plus both are worthy of reviews.

When it comes to nonfiction reads, do you take notes or just hope you remember the important points?

The kids and I bought two plots at our local community garden, so Sugar Snaps gave me a lot of much-needed advice. We started planting seeds at the end of January and until this morning, we had two overgrowing beds filled with veggies. The kids planted so many different seeds that I don’t even remember what everything is.  We’ll do better next time.

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Avram checking out his peas.

 

I would post more pictures, but WordPress doesn’t want to behave itself.

Almost forgot about: // Dewey’s Read-a-thon!! Can you believe it? There’s no way that I’m going to be able to read as much as I want to on Saturday, so I’m thinking about spreading my reading over the next few days and just cheer on Saturday. We’ll see.

What are you up to today?

Sunday Salon

Time: // 5:44 a.m.

The scene: // It’s been a while since I’ve been able to get up early and write a post while the family sleeps. Keeping up (or trying to) with a seven month old is pretty much a full-time job. Before Gigi came along, my youngest was ten years old, so I’m starting all over again, relearning parenting lessons that I should’ve remembered. Like the fact that you almost have to have laser-beam focus on very young kids. Turn your back and your kid will find something to put in their mouths. Since Gigi doesn’t really believe in daytime naps, I’m usually one of the first to go to sleep and sometimes I’m still not the first to wake up.

Drinking: // nothing right now, but after this post I’m putting on some coffee.

This week: // I actually finished two books! I don’t know how it happened, but it needs to happen more often! The first book I read was Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: The Underground Abductor by Nathan Hale. The book is an engaging and fast-paced graphic biography about Harriet Tubman. The intended audience is middle school readers, but don’t let that stop you from picking it up. If you read the Goodreads reviews for this, you’ll see that even adults love it.

Luckily for me, this isn’t the only history-based graphic biography that Hale has published. Before I finished The Underground Abductor, I went online and put all of his other graphic nonfiction on hold.

The second book I read this week was Terrible Typhoid Mary: A True Story about the Deadliest Cook in America by Susan Campbell Bartoletti. This is another excellent middle grade nonfiction read that adults can also enjoy.

Reflecting on: // Lent. Every year Bryan writes a post about Lent and what he’s going to give up or add to his life. His posts always makes me want to make a change. This year, I jumped in and decided to give up sugar for Lent. Sugar is such a big thing in my life. I love sweets. It’s been hard and there have been occasions where I ended up eating something sweet without thinking. It’s making me realize how sugar is in so many foods.

Now I’m off to: // make pancakes. The family’s up so it’s time for me to start my day.

What are you up to today?

Sunday Salon

Time: // 8:27 a.m.

The scene: // I’m currently sitting at my kitchen table, holding Gigi, and drinking a cup of coffee as I type this post. The sun is shining brightly into my window and I still can’t believe my luck.

Almost three weeks ago, I received a call about an available townhouse in a complex that I’ve been hoping to move into for years. Within hours of the call, my family and I were moving in. According to my nine year old, I went through the townhouse screaming with joy. I don’t remember that, but I can say that the past few weeks have been wonderful.

Reading: // Ruth Reichl’s My Kitchen Year has been sitting on my nightstand unread since last week. Instead, I’ve been diving into Lumberjanes since Scribd have more current issues. If you haven’t started reading this series, you need to start.

It is so hard trying to find time to read with a small child. You would think I would’ve remembered that since I’m the mother of four, but it’s funny how time can make the early years of motherhood a blur. I’m trying to make reading a daily habit, but it’s been a struggle. For now, cookbooks, graphic novels, and short reads are in my future.

Today: // and tomorrow I’m unpacking the last boxes and putting everything in its place. Is it me or is it crazy how long it takes to fully unpack a house? I might watch snippets of today’s football game, but it’ll be while folding clothes or doing housework.

Loving:// the new place.

Hating: // nothing right now! Life is good!

Making: // Caramel Macchiato Cheesecake. My home wouldn’t be complete without it.

What are you up to this beautiful Sunday?

Sunday Salon: Thoughts

sunday salonIt’s been over three months since I last wrote a post. Three brutal months that have left my family and I changed–but for the better. There have been many times that I found myself composing a blog post in my head. Many times that I didn’t bother to write down those thoughts. There was just so much going on and I couldn’t find the energy or desire to be online. Sorry to be so vague, but what happened isn’t just my story but my family’s.

During those hard months, my reading mojo came and left. There were books like The Dresden Files series that helped coax my mojo back for a short while, but overall, I didn’t read much. Now that things are much better, I can concentrate on more than just surviving.

Cooking is one of the things I’m looking forward to doing more of this year. There’s something about preparing a meal with and for your loved ones that is comforting to the soul. It’s also a good way to create memories.

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My Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichl follows her life after Gourmet magazine was shut down. I’ve just started the book, but I already love her conversational tone. The editors of Food52 compiled 60 of their favorite recipes in Food52: Baking. I’ve already gone through the book and picked more than a dozen treats to bake including their cardamom currant snickerdoodles. A girl can’t live on sugar (and coffee) alone, so Besh Big Easy: 100 Home Cooked New Orleans Recipes by John Besh is another cookbook that’s on my nightstand. After only a glance through the book, Besh’s Cajun Stuffed Pork Chops are going to be cooked this week.

Forgive me, but I’m going to keep this post short. It’s hard to ease back into writing a post when you’ve been away from blogging so long. Though I haven’t been online much, that doesn’t mean you guys weren’t on my mind. I’ve missed you all so much and look forward to seeing what you all have been up to.

Sunday Salon: What’s Your Story?

sunday salon

Time: // 7: 37 a.m.

The scene: // ALL of my kids are up right now. It’s Sunday and they act as though it’s a school day! I was hoping to get some work done this morning. It’s going to be harder to do now, but still doable. The kids and I have been passing a cold back and forth to each other for over a week. Now it’s my turn again and I’m hoping not to give it to the baby. There’s nothing more stressful or sadder than a sick newborn.

Eating and drinking: // keeping with Sunday tradition, I’m making stacks of pancakes later. For now, I’m drinking my second cup of coffee.

Reading: // I finished Beastly Bones, the second Jackaby book. I enjoyed it more than the first book. The series is just what I needed to get out of a reading funk. Now I have to try and patiently wait for the next book.

Thinking about: // stories again. A few months ago, I read an interesting New York Times article about the narratives we tell ourselves about our lives. The stories we internalize about ourselves is so important and shows just which events we include and exclude about the past.

My daughter, along with many of the teens in our neighbor, had a few mishaps this summer. One of her recent assignments was to write an autobiographical narrative. The story she wrote excludes a lot of her accomplishments – almost all of them – and includes the recent failures and mistakes she’s made. The narrative that’s going through her head is one in which she’s more of a villain. We’ve been talking about the story she’s telling herself and how to change it.

It made me think about my own narrative. I know bits and pieces of my story, but I’ve never stopped to think about what I’m saying to myself. It’s something I plan to explore in depth more.

Now I’m wondering: // what’s your story?

Sunday Salon

sunday salon

Time and scene: // It’s 7:53 am and already it’s 73 degrees. It feels hotter than that. Fall needs to come already. I’m ready for pumpkin muffins, stews, and El Niño.

Most of the house is asleep, so I’m taking this quiet time to write my first post in weeks. It’s been so long since I’ve had a new baby that I’m relearning certain things all over again. One of them is that there’s never enough time in a day. Between homeschooling and taking care of Gigi, along with regular household duties, there’s always a huge list of things that don’t get done. I’m finally becoming more okay with that. It drives me crazy that my house can be a mess or that I’m not reading much, but for now, it’s the norm.

Reading: // nothing! Sadly, I haven’t read anything in over a week. I went to the library and checked out a ton of books so maybe something will catch my eye. If I can, I’ll post my library loot in a few days.

Thankful for: // all the birthday wishes and congratulations! My birthday was celebrated with cake and being taken out for dinner.

I’m also thankful for the fact that I found a new place! I’ve been searching a long time for a decent place that’s bigger and in my price range. Now I’m waiting for a unit to become available which can take months. I’m so eager to move that I’ve already started packing. I’ve lived in the same place for ten years now, but it’s time to go. As I type this, my next door neighbor is currently blaring The Bee Gees. Did I mention that he’s singing along at the top of his lungs?

Waiting for: // Carl’s R.I.P. Challenge to start! I don’t have a list yet, but the kids and I are planning on participating.

Now: // I’m off to start my day.

What have you been up to? What are you currently reading?

Back to Basics

sunday salon

It was exactly a month ago that I gave birth to Gigi. Life is taking on a new normal as my family adjusts to Gigi and she adjusts to the world around her. I feel so grateful to my mom and kids. They’ve been a big help. Right now, most of the family is asleep and I’ve already inhaled a cup of coffee. The writing bug seem to have hit me lately, so here I am typing away instead of staying in bed.

Thinking about: // my birthday that’s coming up this Thursday. In the past, it felt like too much to celebrate since one of my sons have a birthday two days before mine. This year I feel differently. I want to celebrate my birthday in a simple way. I also want to reflect on my life so far.

Bryan (Still Unfinished) has this wonderful tradition in which he picks books to read and reflect on during his birthday month. I thought about doing that, so I may finally read Barbara Brown Taylor’s An Altar in the World. I bought it years ago when it was first published, read snippets of it, but never finished it. I also feel like I need to reread Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit  for inspiration. It’s self-help for creative types, but I think almost anyone can benefit from reading it.

Now that I’m turning 33, I’ve been thinking about an old passion. When I was younger, I used to write and create art in my art journal every single day. Even with kids, even while homeless, even when life was hard and dark and hopeless, I would write or paint. My journal wasn’t just a journal; it was my commonplace book, my diary, my sketch book, my prayer book. Anything that I wanted to say went into my journal.

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Some of my old journals.

A few years ago, my older kids’ dad stole the journal I was working on at the time and ripped it to shreds with his bare hands. It was a journal thick with paint and words, two hundred pages at least. I was so devastated. And since then, I rarely use a journal. I buy them every now and then, but can never conjure up the enthusiasm I once had.

That’s going to change.

It’s time for me to start creating again. The world has been pretty dim without my constant paper companion. I’m going to fake enthusiasm until the day comes when I don’t have to. This won’t be easy, but of course, not everything is.

Sunday Salon: My favorite books of June

Time: // 2:05 p.m.

The scene: // For the first time ever, I am days past my due date. I’m calm about it, while the rest of my family are on eggshells waiting for the new arrival. She’ll come when she comes. In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy my time and just read and do any last minute things.

June: // was an okay month for reading. I don’t what happened. I checked out many books from the library and even read books from Scribd, but there just wasn’t enough “yes!” books. You know the type of book where you want to grab the nearest person and make them read it? Those. Some standouts from last month includes:

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Dreaming in Indian: Contemporary Native American Voices edited by Lisa Charleyboy. I spoke about this anthology last week. It’s good to see current work by indigenous people, especially young people. We need more books like this one.

lynchThe Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch by Chris Barton and Don Tate. I’m always on the lookout for good nonfiction to share with my kids. Plus, nonfiction picture books are a great way of learning about people and events that you wouldn’t have known about otherwise. John Roy Lynch spent most of his childhood a slave until about the age of fifteen. After that, he took on a number of jobs before becoming a portrait photographer, then a justice of the peace, and finally elected into Congress in a matter of a decade. Lynch’s life was pretty inspirational.

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Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music by Margarita Engle. This was another inspirational nonfiction picture book. Decades ago, Cuba had this taboo against women playing the drums or becoming a drummer. As a young girl, Millo Castro Zaldarriaga wanted nothing more than to play the drums. It was her passion. Finally, her father relented and got her a teacher who believed that Millo was one of the best drummers he met. The young girl took off and even started an all-girl band with her older sisters, becoming world famous.

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Blueprint Homeschooling: How to Plan a Year of Home Education That Fits the Reality of Your Life by Amy Knepper. With school starting in a little bit over a month, Blueprint Homeschooling was just the book I needed to help me plan the upcoming year. Knepper takes readers step-by-step through planning a whole school year in a matter of weeks. I found the book to be so helpful and it makes things less overwhelming. It was also refreshing to see her mention resources that beginner and veteran homeschoolers can use.

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Nimona by Noelle Stevenson. The basics: a kick-ass young girl who loves to kill and is the sidekick to a local villain. Plus, she’s a shapeshifter. If you haven’t read this book already, you should. It’s much more than it seems. Noelle Stevenson can’t produce things fast enough for me.

Now you know my favorites books of June. What were yours?

Sunday Salon

sunday salon
Time: // 5:13 a.m.

The scene: // I’m sitting in bed as the house sleeps. Insomnia has hit me pretty hard in the last few weeks, so as usual, I’ve been up for several hours.
Drinking: // water.

Reading: // I read several books last week, mainly children’s books. One that stood out was Dreaming in Indian, an anthology of poetry, essays, and short stories by indigenous youth. The latest volume of the Fables series stood out, but not for the best reasons. I found the sudden turn of events and drastic personality makeovers from the main characters to be disappointing, which is sad since there’s only one volume left in the series.

With my due date fast approaching this week, I really want to read as much as possible. After my daughter’s birth, I know I won’t have the time or energy for much. On my reading stack are:

  • Between the World And Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (nonfiction)
  • Find the Good by Heather Lende (nonfiction)
  • Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead (middle grade/YA)
  • Rat Queens Vol. 2 –Kurtis J. Wiebe (a reread)
  • Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis by Robert D. Putnam (nonfiction)
  • Stella by Starlight by Sharon Draper (middle grade)
  • The Martian by Andy Weir (fiction). I’m probably one of the few people who haven’t read this yet. Luckily, The Socratic Salon is having an upcoming read-along for it.

Looking at my list, I notice some adult fiction is missing. I need to change that.

The past few weeks: // have been so emotional for this country. First, there was the Charleston massacre, which is such a horrendous thing. Then, there was the latest Supreme Court rulings. I had no faith in the SCOTUS, but found myself amazed and thankful that the Affordable Care Act was left alone. Then for SCOTUS to decide that marriage equality is now the law of the land?! Omg! Love. Love wins. Love should always win.

Now I’m off: // to have a sip of coffee and read a bit before the kids wake up.

What are your plans for today?

Sunday Salon: On Recovery

sunday salonTime: // 5: 23 a.m.

The scene: // The house is quiet as I listen to the birds chirp outside. I’m sitting here with my thoughts and there’s so much to try and process.

I named this post “On Recovery” because right now I’m recovering physically from being really sick early in the week and emotionally from all that’s happening in the United States. Nine people were gunned down on Wednesday at Emmanuel African Methodist Church in Charleston, South Carolina during Bible Study. Nine people who were murdered because they’re black. They were parents and grandparents, coaches and college students, librarians and pillars in their community. They were loved. They were human beings.

As a black person, I don’t often mention things about race on my blog. Often, like now, I feel like it’s so hard to put my thoughts and feelings into a coherent post. But being silent about things that matter like race and privilege and being so talkative about things that don’t like book giveaways or whatnot is part of the problem that’s going on in this world. Book blogs try to stay focused on the subject, but as people, we are not one-dimensional. Things happen and they affect us. So why not speak about it?

As I pray for the victims’ families, I’m hurt, angry, and shock. People often act as though our society is post-racial though it’s anything but.

It’s a world that’s filled with hatred and acts of violence based on skin color, religion, and gender.

It’s a world that’s filled with love and forgiveness as we’ve seen with the families of the dead.

It’s a world that’s filled with courage as Joy and her friends stand every weekend to point out that “black lives matter” and Jill posts about a diverse and important number of subjects about the world.

It’s also a world that’s filled with hope as people come together to pray and openly talk.

You may not know how to contribute to the conversation. Listen to what others are saying. Speak up even if it means offending or losing the support of family or friends. It may be hard, but isn’t it harder living in a world where horrific things of this nature happen? Acts of hatred and terrorism cannot be fought by being silent or on the defense. That’s not how the world is going to change.

Emily Perper at LongReads compiled a small list of online reading about the massacre.

Thanks to Evelyn for pointing out #CharlestonSyllabus, a list of selected readings that educators have gathered to talk about race and race relations in the U.S.

Speak up.

Sunday Salon

sunday salon

Time: // 8:04 a.m.

The scene: // As usual, I’m sitting at my desk in the living room. I spend a lot of time at this spot, doing research, reading, or just watching my kids play outside.

Drinking: // coffee.

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Reading: // Syllabus by Lynda Barry. I started it earlier in the week and though it’s a short book, I’m taking my time reading it. Barry has been a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for a few years now and Syllabus is about some of her past classes. The book includes syllabi, assignments, and is done in that typical Barry style: composition book-like pages and filled with images. I can see why Joy enjoyed this book so much.

Thinking about: // the power of storytelling. It’s been something I’ve been thinking about for a while now. Avid readers love stories and there are some themes we gravitate to, while ignoring others. Stories have the power to change us and give us words to experiences that we ourselves couldn’t voice.

With my daughter starting high school next year, I have the opportunity to create her English class. Previous classes offered for homeschooled high schoolers have been pretty bland, filled exclusively with busywork, books that were written at least forty years ago, and all the authors are white. Nope. That’s not for us.

So I’m starting from scratch: going over standards while figuring out what we should explore from themes to books, documentaries to podcasts. It’s scary, yet exciting at the same time. It also means that I have a ton of reading ahead like old favorites such as To Kill a Mockingbird, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Persepolis, American Born Chinese, and more. I have my work cut out for me.

Enjoying: // my last few weeks of pregnancy! I have four weeks left and it’s exciting, though I hope time flies by. I can’t wait to meet my baby girl.

Now I’m off to: // figure out what’s for breakfast. These kids aren’t going to feed themselves (though they’re old enough to).

What are you up to today?

Sunday Salon: It’s finally summer!

sunday salonTime: // 8:28 a.m.

The scene: // It’s a cold and cloudy Sunday morning, not your typical setting when you think of summer but it feels good.

The last day of school was Friday, so I’m spending the weekend packing up old textbooks, correcting tests, writing my last learning record of the year, and decluttering our homeschooling space. It feels good to have the school year done with. I plan on writing down what went right (and wrong) about this school year, and any new changes I’m thinking about implementing. Lesson planning will start in a few days.

Reading: // I’m currently diving into the middle grade class, Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo with the kids. It’s a fantastic read aloud and I can see why it’s won so many awards.

Participating in: // The 7th Annual #bookaday challenge. The challenge started a little more than a week ago and I decided to join in this summer. I’m hoping to read a ton of books. Well, at least before the baby arrives in early July. You can find the challenge on Instagram and Twitter.

Now I’m off: // to read blog posts.

What are you up to today?

Sunday Salon

Time: // 9:26 a.m., four hours after the readathon ended.

I didn’t stay up reading the whole time. I’m too pregnant to do that! I stayed up until hour 18, woke up around hour 22, read a bit more, then went back to bed. No readathon hangover for me thanks. As someone who has been going through a reading rut for such a long time, it felt good to get through book after book. I feel like maybe I’m getting my reading groove back.

Eating: // homemade waffles that Oliver, my 11 year-old made.

Drinking: // water

This week’s tbr (to-be read) list includes:

  • Citizen by Claudia Rankine for an upcoming Socratic Salon chat.
    Best American Science and Nature Writing 2011 edited by Mary Roach
    Where We Were Kings by Christie Watson

Today: // I wish I could take it easy, but I can’t! I need to clean up around the house and do some homeschooling prep work for the week among other things. I am looking forward to dinner, which will be carne asada nachos. They’re my sister’s idea and I can’t wait to try them.

It’s time for me: // to start my day.

What have you been up to this past week? How are you spending your Sunday?

Sunday Salon: Happy Easter!

sunday salon

Time: // 9:00 a.m.

The scene: // It’s a cold Easter morning as I sit at my desk, regretting the fact that I didn’t start cooking Easter dinner yesterday. I’m a big believer in cooking the day before, so I can just eat on a holiday. Now I have hours to go before the ham and everything else is done, which means I have to buy takeout.

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Reading: // After talking to Memory, Chris, and Sarah, I finally started a free trial with the reading app, Scribd. The app has a crapload of comics that my library doesn’t have and I didn’t necessarily want to pay for since I’ve never read them. Since the start of my trial a few days ago, I have been reading up a storm! I read the first seven issues of The Lumberjanes series and Blue is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh, a graphic novel. The app doesn’t feature the newest books, but I can use it to hit my reading goal of reading more diversely, trying out new comic series, and reading older books from my tbr list/pile. If you want to get a free two-month trial from Scribd, here’s the link: https://www.scribd.com/g/7271v

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Celebrating: // The fact that it’s Spring Break. For the next seven days I can do pretty much what I want to do, which means I am reading from the stack of books above and taking the kids to various places like the beach and local museums. I’m also going to relax and enjoy the start of my third trimester.

Now I’m off to: // relax and do some reading.

What are you up to today?

Sunday Salon

sunday salonTime: // 4:16 p.m. – Saturday afternoon

The scene: // Since California has decided to skip winter AND spring, it’s a hot summer day. The kids are outside enjoying themselves while I’m sitting at my desk and feeling a little bleh. Emotionally, I don’t feel all that great. I don’t know what’s going on.

Eating: // Nothing. I just finished my crockpot dinner of stewed steak with rice.

Drinking: // Water.

Reading: // Can you believed that I’ve read three books this past week and I’m now on my fourth?! That’s crazy. I haven’t read this much in probably a year. I finished The Life-Changing of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. My review will go up tomorrow. Also finished are The Sculptor by Scott McCloud and Tricky Vic: The Impossibly True Story of the Man Who Sold the Effiel Tower by Greg Pizzoli.

I’m currently reading Blue Horses: Poems by Mary Oliver. National Poetry Month is in a few days and I’m looking forward to diving into a few poetry collections. Also on my reading list for this week is The Wrenchies by Farel Dalrymple, a graphic novel, and Ironweed by William Kennedy. I was cleaning out my bookshelves when I came across Ironweed. I started reading it and the opening pages reeled me in.

Bloggiesta: // was a success. I didn’t participate in any of the chats or mini-challenges, but I was able to cross off pretty much everything on my to-do list.

Next up: // I think I’ll enjoy a brownie and a nice nap.

What are you up to?

Sunday Salon

sunday salon

Time: // 7:36 a.m.

The scene: // Sitting in my living room with my son as he watches Steven Universe. I was trying to get some alone time to just read, but that’s okay. I love spending time with my soon-to-be second youngest.

Drinking: // coffee. It’s so good today.

Eating: // I’m thinking about making some donuts this morning even though I just made some on Friday. They are so good and I cut down on the prep time by letting the donuts rise for an hour instead of two hours.

Reading: // I’m still reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. I’ve had a few disagreements when it comes to the author’s de-cluttering philosophy and I can see myself writing a post about this book later on this week.

Looking forward to: // Bloggiesta. I still don’t have a list yet, but I know reading, writing, blog commenting, and giving my blog a new look is part of my plan. There’s some of my list!

What are you up to today? Are you joining Bloggiesta?

Sunday Salon

sunday salon

Time: // 8:35 a.m.

The scene: // sitting at my kitchen table while being surrounded by books.

Drinking: // water and my first cup of coffee. I know that’s a little odd, but I wake up sometimes thirsty.

Eating: // nothing yet but I have a slice of carrot cake that I plan on finishing off.

It’s amazing to me how easy it can be sometimes to stop blogging. A lot has gone on since my last post. After recovering from the flu, I broke my tooth and spent almost a WEEK in excruciating pain before finally having it removed. Now that that’s over, life is pretty much back to normal. Thankfully.

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Reading: // I’m actually reading books! For the past couple of months, there hasn’t been a lot of books I’ve completed. More often, I started a book and then stopped for no apparent reason. It’s becoming a habit that I’m trying to get out of. I’m currently reading A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science Even if You Flunked Algebra by Barbara Oakley. According to the reviews on Goodreads, the title is pretty misleading. It’s not a book about excelling at math and science, but learning how to learn any subject. It’s filled with tips based on cognitive psychology and neuroscience. There’s even a course on Coursera that people can take as they read the book. Being the lifelong student, I decided to take the course and see if I can get the full effect of the book.

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I’m also reading Birth Matters: A Midwife’s Manifesta by Ina May Gaskin. I have three and a half months until my due date, but there’s no time like the present. It’s been years since I’ve last listened to an audiobook, but I’m actually listening to one now! The True Meaning of Smekday by Alex Rex has been on my TBR (to be read) list for years. Now that the movie adaptation, Home, is out in theaters, I decided to give the book a try. So far, I’m really enjoying the story of Gratuity Tuchi, a young girl who’s traveling to Florida after all Americans have been relocated there by an alien race. On the way there, she meets a rogue alien by the name of J. Lo and they start a strange friendship. Did I mention this is a middle school book? The wonderful Bahni Turpin is the narrator and as usual, she’s doing a fantastic job. My daughter and I are listening to it together which always feel good to do.

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Today I plan to: // catch up on my blog reading, reorganize my bookshelves, read, and plant some flowers. We’re having summer weather in SoCal this week with temperatures in the 90s today. Strangely enough, it was just raining a few days ago.

What are you up to today?

Sunday Salon

sunday salonTime: // 8:18 a.m.

The scene: // sitting at my kitchen table listening to my tea kettle. The boys are watching TV and my daughter is off to a sleepover. It’s a cold winter morning and for once, I’m wishing that summer was here.

February: // has been one hell of a month. The kids and I spent most of this month in bed with the flu. I haven’t had the flu in years and every time I get it, I end up losing a massive amount of weight. I like being a curvy girl and the fact that I’m pregnant means that I now need to gain the lost weight and then some. Gaining weight has always been an uphill battle, but I’m determined to have as much of a healthy pregnancy as I can.

Having the flu also means not being able to blog, homeschool, or read most of the time. Now I feel like I need to catch up on everything and everyone. Luckily, the thought of catching up on so much isn’t overwhelming.

Thankful for: // the fact that all of us are feeling much better.

Reading: // not one thing. Any suggestions?

Missing: // each and every one of you. What have you been up to? How’s February turning out for you? What are you looking forward to doing?

Sunday Salon

sunday salon

Time: // 8:54 a.m.

The scene: // Cuddling with my family on the couch while watching HGTV’s Flea Market Flip. The older kids are in the kitchen washing dishes and making pancakes. Love.

This week: // has gone by in a flash! When I look back on it, the kids and I got a lot accomplished school-wise, but that’s about it. I guess I should be grateful for that.

Currently reading: // not much. My reading has drastically slowed down, but it’s my fault. I found myself doing things like being on Facebook and Instagram instead of reading. I plan on changing that this week and focusing on things I love and make me grow.

I started reading Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art: Break through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles for Joy’s New Year’s Resolutions Read-along. The author talks about feeling resistance whenever you have something positive you need to do but will take time. I’m feeling that when it comes to de-cluttering, reading, and even taking walks. I’m going to continue reading to see what the author suggests when it comes to pushing through resistance. If you want to join the read-along, there’s still time. The War of Art is a short book.

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On my nightstand: // Jillian and Mariko Tamaki’s This One Summer. The graphic novel has been on many “best of 2014” lists last year. Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin. Beyond Magenta tells the lives of transgendered teens in their own words. My daughter and Elisabeth read it and loved it, so it’s my turn to read it. Daphne’s Book by Mary Downing Hahn is a middle grade book I read in middle school and fell in love with. As an adult, I searched for an original copy of it and was lucky enough to find one. It’s the story of two girls, Daphne and Jessica, who have to come together for a school project. While Jessica’s life is pretty average, Daphne’s is anything but and she hides a serious secret. Readers who enjoyed Cynthia Voight’s The Tillerman Cycle will appreciate Daphne’s Book.

Promoting: // My Chunkster Challenge giveaway for Children of the Stone by Sandy Tolan. The giveaway is only open to Chunkster participants.

Now I’m off to: // eat pancakes then play Uno with the kids.

What are you up to today?

Sunday Salon

sunday salonTime: // 6:46 a.m.

The scene: // I woke up early this morning to get some me time in. The living room was nice and cozy as the coffee pot perked in the background. Not even five minutes after I came into the living room, all three kids came and joined me. Maybe I’ll go to Starbucks later for that me time.

Thoughts: // I didn’t read much this past week. When I look back on it, it seems like I didn’t have much time or energy. But I don’t think that’s true (at least about the time part). The kids and I had the week off from homeschooling and besides a few errands and appointments, there wasn’t much for us to do. Once again, it’s time for me to take stock of how I’m spending my free time and get back on track doing the things I enjoy and need to accomplish.

Promoting: // Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness recently wrote a post about Laura Vanderkam’s 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think. She’s not the first blogger to mention the book, but after reading her thoughts I think I need to read the book for myself.

Andi’s post at Estella’s Revenge, “The Slippery Slope of Diversity Tracking,” has a lot of readers thinking about what diversity means to them and how it’s tracked. Join in on the conversation.

Need some support when it comes to keeping your New Year’s Resolutions? Look no further than Joy’s New Year’s Resolutions Challenge. You can sign up any way you want either formally or in the comments. There’s also a read-along and giveaway of Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art.

Now I’m off to get started with the rest of my day. What are you up to today?

Sunday Salon

sunday salonHappy New Year!!

Time: // 7:26 a.m.

The scene: // It’s a cold SoCal morning, so I’m bundled underneath covers on my couch. The boys are making pancakes and it’s a pretty quiet morning for the most part. Wait. I need to make another pot of coffee.

2015: // will definitely be the year of change for me. With the addition of a new baby in July (I’m expecting!), life is going to move at a faster pace. I’ve been wanting to move for years, but this year it has to happen. Living in SoCal, it’s hard to find affordable and roomy places in a decent neighborhood on a limited budget. You can easily find expensive places in shitty neighborhoods but who wants that? It’s going to be a challenge, but I’m determined to move before the baby comes.

Bookish Goals: // Last year I read 192 books, my lowest in years. Most of those books were picture books. This year I want to read 200 books, with half being adult books. 200 is a low number, but I’m being realistic. Once the baby comes in early July, I expect my reading to go out of the window.

Diversity: // I just knew I was going to read a ton of diverse books last year. I read a dismal 28 books by people of color. My favorite books of the year like An Untamed State, Brown Girl Dreaming, and Mr. Loverman were by and about people of color but that’s not enough. For 2015, I want to read 100 books by people of color, 50% of my reading. Compared to last year, this will be a challenge, but I think I can do it.

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TBR (To be read): // Meet my dreaded tbr bookcase. It’s not the only bookcase I have with unread books, but it has the most. My shelves are collecting dust so my last bookish goal of this year is to read 40 of my own books. That’s 3.3 books a month.

Now I’m off. What are your goals, reading and otherwise, for 2015?

Sunday Salon: Week 3 of My Happiness Project

sunday salonTime: // 12:46 p.m. – Saturday afternoon

The scene: // The sun is out and shining. If you didn’t already know it, you wouldn’t think it was fall. It feels more like summer, but for once, I don’t mind. My mood matches the weather. Tomorrow morning, as this post appears on my blog, I should be at a local park that has plenty of acres to explore or at the beach with the kids.

As with any goal, there has been some hits and misses with my ongoing happiness project as I de-clutter and try to manage my time better. Here’s what I learned in the past two weeks:

It doesn’t matter where you keep your to-do list as long as you check it throughout the day! I’m a post-it/back of a bill/index card-writing kind of girl. Before, I would put my to-do lists on any piece of paper near me. I would also use that same piece of paper for a bookmark and wonder why I couldn’t find it later. So I decided to write my to-do lists in my journal, thinking that if I kept it in the same place, I would be able to find it. I was able to find my list but I never checked it! Talk about frustrating. For days I forgot to check my list, if I even remembered to write my list down! I didn’t use my journal very often to start with, so it wasn’t the best place for my list.

Now I use my phone to keep up with my to-do list and add an alarm so I get beeped during the day to check on my progress. That helps a lot. While we’re talking about alarms…

A kitchen timer is one of the best things you can use to help you achieve your goals. Whether I’m putting on the timer for 15 minutes as I straighten up a room or for an hour as I work on homework or my blog, hearing the ticking of the timer keeps me focused. That’s something my phone’s alarm can’t do.

Cull. Rearrange. Repeat. In the past three weeks, I have given away books, bed sheets, clothes, and anything else I thought I can live without. My space still felt small, so I started rearranging things. What a relief. My living room and bedroom function a lot better and I don’t have to look at piles of things. What couldn’t fit is gone.

De-cluttering and time management will always be an ongoing process. I didn’t realize that at first. I figured that once you understand how to manage your day or keep your living space livable, you don’t have to worry about it again. Wrong. It’s a daily process.

Be patient with yourself. Over the past few weeks, I had to deal with stubborn and smelly carpet stains, migraines, car troubles, and other unexpected things. It doesn’t matter how packed your day is, things come up. And they usually happen when you least expect them to. I’ve gotten pretty frustrated before I realized that I need to take a deep breath and realize that’s life. It doesn’t matter how early I wake up or how late I stay awake, I’m not about to run myself ragged to do the unexpected along with everything else. Asking for help or waiting until another day to do some things helps keep me sane.
I plan on spending the next week focusing on my de-cluttering and time management routine. While I’m doing that, I’m also figuring out what November’s goals will be. With NaNoWriMo and so many other writing projects going on during that time, writing may be the thing I focus on.

So tell me, what have you been up to? Have you figured out what you are going to accomplish in November?

Sunday Salon: Week 1 of My Happiness Project

At the beginning of October, I decided to spend the month de-cluttering and focusing on managing my time better. I’m pretty tired of my days going by in a blur with little to show for it, but an ever-growing to-do list. So last week I decided to go through my days and write down my observations about my daily life before I put a plan into gear.

Time Management

There’s too much to do and I’m only one person! There’s a million things that I need to do every day. From homeschooling to cleaning the house, making dinner to taking care of my kids, there’s always something that needs my attention.

I try to multitask. That’s a fail right there. Multitasking is something that you feel the need to do even if you can’t always do it well. I find myself trying to look up something online for one kid while helping another one with their work, and doing a third thing. I know I’m not giving any one thing my undivided attention and often it shows.

Multitasking leads me to being distracted. My attention span seems to be getting shorter and shorter. It doesn’t help that I’m constantly running around with things to do and not enough time to do them. There’s 24 hours in a day and my son, Avram, often asks me if I wish there was more time.

Organization

I don’t have enough space. I live in a small two bedroom apartment, crammed with kids and books. I try to take advantage of every inch I have, but I’ve realized that I can scale down and cull our things, buy furniture to help make this space home, or just move. I’m at the point where every time I look around my place, I don’t feel peace. I see more tasks that I need to do.

I have too many things. I really don’t, but as I said above, I don’t have enough space. It makes what we own seem like too much though it’s not.

Our things are everywhere. As any bookworm knows, books never stay on shelves. They’re on nightstands, on the floor when you run out of shelf space, on the couch, and all over your desk. I can say the same thing about my pens and pencils, writing notebooks, Legos, and other objects.

Writing down what I observed this week was pretty eye opening. I’ve been having the same issues over and over again for years now and it’s time to change that.

Changes

Now that I understand some of my problems, it’s time to put a plan into place. Instead of lamenting about my small space, I’m going to work with what I have for now. I plan on culling things, organizing, and trying to give everything its own place. When it comes to time management, I’m going to cut things from my to-do list and cut out multitasking to see if it helps. We’ll see what happens.

What are you up to today? Do you have any time management or organization tips for me?

Sunday Salon: My plans for October

My daughter's vanilla birthday cake.
My daughter’s vanilla birthday cake.

Time: // 8:34 a.m.

The scene: // sitting in my living room with the kids, watching HellBoy 2. The kids and I decided to watch a scary movie every day in October. We missed two days but are planning to make them up. Next up is Super 8.

Yesterday, we celebrated my daughter’s thirteenth birthday with cake, ice cream, and Chinese food. There were several birthday parties going on in the neighborhood, so instead of hosting one more, we decided to go and enjoy everyone else’s. As a parent, I realize nothing makes you feel old like seeing your children get older.

Reading: // I seem to be on a non-fiction kick. Right now, I’m currently reading 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually WorksA True Story by Dan Harris. He’s one of the hosts of Good Morning America. I like his reporting style but didn’t know if I wanted to read a celebrity memoir. I figured if Harris learned something about being happier, maybe I should read the book. So far, I’m impress. Harris is very honest about how he was a chronic worrier, even when things were going well, and how being a war correspondent is like a drug.

Steve Harvey’s Act Like a Success, Think Like a Success: Discovering Your Gift and the Way to Life’s Riches is the author’s third self-help book. I’m about seventy pages in and I’m finding it inspiring.

A few months ago, Elizabeth of The Dirigible Plum recommended Opening Minds: Using Language to Change Lives by Peter H. Johnston. Once I finished reading her post, I bought a copy. Since then, the book has sat on my shelves unread. In Opening Minds, Johnston talks about the language adults use to help children become their best and get them out of a fixed mindset.

Planning: // a happiness project. Too often, it seems like there’s not enough time in the day. My days have started to blur together and it feels like I don’t have anything to show for it. I decided that I’ll spend October focusing on managing my time and de-cluttering my home. I plan on posting updates about my progress to help me stay focused.

So now I’m off to: // start my day. I have a house to clean, lessons to plan, and some jambalaya to cook.

What are your plans for October?

Sunday Salon

sunday salon

Time: // 8:42 a.m.

The scene: // my living room is a mess! As I sit at my desk typing this post, behind me my son has poured thousands of Lego pieces on the floor. I better remember to walk around with shoes on for the next few hours.

Reading: // Black Swan, White Raven, an anthology of fairy tale retellings collected by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling. It’s a reread for me so I’m looking for a novel that will knock my socks off. Any recommendations?

Grateful for: // a lot of things. Last week was pretty hard to get through. Now, there’s a lot of change that I need to adjust to. I’m grateful that I’m not sad or upset but looking forward to the future.

Promoting: // Deb’s Week in Books post. If you’ve been going through reading slumps or blogging malaise, this is the post you should read.

Now I’m off to: // finish my cup of coffee and start correcting math books.

What are you up to today? What’s the last book that knocked your socks off? What are you grateful for?

Sunday Salon

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Time: // 8: 52 a.m. Sunday morning

The scene: // sitting in the living room, listening to my kids and sisters talk. Is it me or are teenagers kind of loud? It’s already 80 degrees, set to be 97, and I’m miserable. Can fall please come already?

Listening to: // the latest album by FKA Twigs entitled “LP1.” I don’t even know what genre to call this music but I love her voice.

Promoting: // if you didn’t know, today is the first day of Aarti’s A Diverse Universe event, which goes on until the 27th of this month. You can find her link-up post here.

Reading: // for the past week or so, my reading has been going . . . surprisingly well. After being in and out of reading slumps for months, I’ve actually finished a couple of books. I want to keep the momentum going so I pulled a few books off my shelves to read this three-day weekend.

Kara Cooney’s fictional biography, The Woman Who Would Be King, started off pretty good, but I’m putting it down for now. I call the book a fictional biography because its subject, Hatsheput, lived thousands of years ago as a pharaoh in Ancient Egypt. There’s little evidence of Hatsheput’s personal life, so Cooney uses her experience as an archaeologist to fill in the blanks, which she admits to doing. Readers will find life during ancient times fascinating but Cooney’s input kept taking me out of the story.

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Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson is book of verse about the author’s childhood. I’m only a few poems in but so far, so good. I wish I could get the cover as a poster. I would definitely put it on my walls.

I recently added Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America by Linda Tirado to my tbr list after reading the essay she wrote last year about being poor. I was lucky enough to get an ARC from the publisher. I can’t wait to start reading it.

Looking forward to: // going to the library today. The local libraries were hit hard with budget cuts about a decade ago, which left them open only five days a week. Recently, the original budget was restored, so the library is now open seven days a week. I have fond memories of going to the library on Sundays, and I can’t wait to make new memories. It’s funny how simple things can make you happy.

So: // what are you looking forward to today?