You Will Be My Friend!

Some might not count short children’s books towards their reading goals, but I do.  Hey, some of the other reading material I’ve finished this year have more than 400 pages, so I think it all evens out.  One of my favorite children’s picture books I read this year was Peter Brown’s You Will Be My Friend!

#31daysofreading

Lucy, the title character, is desperately looking for a friend.  And she will try anything to make a new friend.  She goes to all the other animals in the forest and attempts to enjoy all the activities they like to do.  No matter how hard she tries, though, she struggles to make a good friend.  For the others in the forest, she’s just too much.  

I love this little book so much because, despite its intended audience of young children, I found it astonishingly relatable.  In fact, when I first found a copy of this book at Goodwill, I joked that it was essentially my memoir: the story of someone who runs up to people and declares friendship.   I can’t count the number of times I have felt like Lucy, struggling to find friends and realizing that others think I am too much.  I care deeply and passionately about many people, causes, and ideas—and some people find that too overwhelming.

I’ve learned (for the most part) to embrace my too much-ness and try not to put too much stock in the opinions of those who would wish my too much-ness away.  Whether you’re a young bear in the forest or a young woman in the real world, making friends is hard and life is too short to be worried about the people who aren’t interested in being your friend. I’ve been fortunate in my life to find many good friends–the question is, though, will Lucy find someone to be her friend?


You Will Be My Friend! Peter Brown, 5-stars, children’s picture book, adorable


You Will Be My Friend!

#GIRLBOSS

I read #GIRLBOSS one morning in July when I woke up accidentally at 4:45 AM.  My medication woke up my brain before my body wanted to get out of bed so I picked up #GIRLBOSS (yes, the hashtag is included in the title) off the top of the giant stack of books next to my bed.  It’s not a long or difficult read, and I had the book finished by the time my alarm went off at 7 AM to get ready for work.

#31daysofreading

Part memoir, part self-help, part business tale, #GIRLBOSS is Sophia Amoruso’s story of how she grew her business NastyGal.  She started out as a one-woman shop on eBay selling vintage clothes she found in thrift stores and over the course of a few years grew that shop into a multi-million dollar company.  I had never heard of either Amoruso or Nasty Gal, but the book had been recommended by a website I read for young professional women called Levo League.

What I liked most about this book was, as is the case for most memoirs, is Sophia’s story.  She’s honest and open about the mistakes she made in her young adulthood and as she started her business.  Her journey to becoming the CEO of a giant brand was, to say the least, unconventional.  She didn’t go to college, she didn’t attend business school.  Instead, she built her business through trial and error and wasn’t afraid of making mistakes if she could learn from them.

Interspersed through her personal story are tips for the modern young professional women, the #GIRLBOSS.  She has rules like, “Money looks better in the bank than on your feet,” and “Dream big, start small.”  None of these tips or rules are new or earth-shattering, but they are practical reminders that can help young women take charge of their personal and professional lives.


#GIRLBOSS, Sophia Amoruso, 4-stars, memoir, business, advice, some swearing


#GIRLBOSS

Dear Committee Members

Months and months ago, Linda Holmes of NPR recommended the book Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher on my favorite podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour.  Alas, at the time she recommended the book, she had read an Advanced Reader Copy and it wasn’t set to be published for months. In September, the book was finally published and since I was at the top of the holds list at the library I was able to start reading Dear Committee Members right away.

#31daysofreading

DCM is a short novel of letters from a professor of English at a small college to many, many people.  Professor Jason Fitger writes biting letters of recommendation for students pursuing jobs and degrees at a wide variety of institutions.  With a few exceptions, these are not positive recommendations.  In most of these letters, he is irritated at the requester or the intended recipient, and is not shy about his irritation.  He tells these committees exactly what he’s thinking, with no filter.  While these kinds of letters would be terrible to receive in real life, they are hilarious to read.  Professor Fitger writes what people actually think, but aren’t brave enough to say.

Mixed in with these letters of recommendation (or rather, un-recommendation) are yet more letters detailing his attempts to help one of his students publish a manuscript.  In each new missive, you discover just a little more about Professor Fitger’s life, relationships, and work.  Epistolary novels are so much fun to read: details are teased out piece by piece and you never know which letter will have a bombshell of new information.  DCM is an especially entertaining example, because it is filled with wit and humor.  If you like to laugh, you should read this book.


Dear Committee Members, Julie Schumacher, 5-stars, epistolary novel, hilarious, some swearing


Dear Committee Members

31 Days of Reading

I am a lifelong reader and book nerd.  Even though there have been seasons where I didn’t have the time or energy to read as much as I would have liked, books and reading have always been an important part of my life.  I also love sharing about what I’ve read, but I’ve never been very successful at actually writing down and publishing any reviews. When I came upon the idea of #31daysofwriting in October, I knew I had a topic ready-made for this challenge: #31daysofreading.  I’ve read 67 books so far this year (finished an audiobook in the car this morning on the way to work!), so I have plenty of material to review.  For this first day, though, I wanted to write about the tools I use to aid my reading habit, as well as what kinds of books I usually read.

#31daysofreading

While I already own hundreds of books, I also really like reading new shiny books.  Alas, my book budget cannot sustain my new shiny book habit, so it’s a good thing I work at a library.  I’m always hovering around my 50 items checked out limit, and I have over 80 items on hold.  Even though I know I won’t ever read them all, I love having choices and perusing these new shiny books.

One of my biggest partners in my reading adventures is Goodreads. I keep my imaginary bookshelves filled with what I’ve read, what I’m currently reading, what I’ve put in hibernating, what I’ve rejected completely, and what I want to read (the shelf that is ridiculously optimistic).  I can also record my reading progress (page number or percent completed), which is helpful since I tend to read 15-20 books at the same time.  I know many people can’t fathom reading more than one book at a time, but I love jumping from book to book and Goodreads helps me stay on track.

Goodreads also hosts a reading challenge every year, which I have participated in since 2011.  That year, I read 20 books, the next year I read 40, and last year I set a goal of 50 and read 53.  For 2014, I wanted to really challenge myself and decided to attempt to read 100 books.  The reading challenge lets me know how well (or not well) I’m keeping to the pace I need to be reading in order to finish 100 by December 31, and right now I’m 7 books behind the pace.

When I finish a book, I give it a star rating using Goodreads’ system: 5-stars: it was amazing; 4-stars: really liked it; 3-stars: liked it; 2-stars: it was ok; 1-star: did not like it.  Most of my books are rated 5s and 4s, because if I really don’t like it, I don’t normally finish it.  If I give a book 1 star, it generally means I hate-read it, meaning I disliked it so much yet I had to finish it because I hoped it might improve (see my 1-star review of The Magicians).

My favorite genre of books is memoir because I enjoy learning about life from someone else’s personal perspective.  Sometimes I choose a memoir specifically because the writer has lived a life very different than mine and I want to explore that difference.  Other times I choose one because I relate to the author and can place myself in her shoes.  Beyond memoir, you will also find me reading young adult fiction and historical nonfiction, with the occasional adult fiction and graphic novels.  Working at the library is expanding my reading horizons, but I mainly stick to these genres when I’m choosing my reading material.

I’ve read a lot of great books this year, as well as some not-so-great books.  You can see them all on my Goodreads page.  I don’t plan on reviewing every book on my list from this year, so if there’s a book in particular I’ve read that you’d like to see, leave a comment letting me know.  I hope that with my #31daysofreading you’ll discover new books to enjoy.

What I’m Into: September 2014

After months of just thinking about writing a post to link up with Leigh Kramer‘s What I’m Into series, it’s finally September and I think I’m finally going to manage it on time.  While I’m still dealing with my kidney problems, life finally feels like it’s settling into a normal rhythm.  Thank you September, for calming down a little.

Spanish School Friends

One of the greatest parts of Spanish School was making new friends: Mexican, American, and Canadian. I miss most of these friends as they’re flung out all over the world, but fortunately two of these friends only live a few hours away!  They made the trip to Tulsa in the beginning of September to visit Emily and me before Emily returned to Mexico for the fall.  Natasha and Levi’s visit was one of the best parts of September: there’s nothing quite like being able to spend time with friends who have shared a very important and specific life experience like attending language school in a foreign country.

Emily, Me, Natasha, and Levi

Emily, Me, Natasha, and Levi

Knitting

Did you know I knit?  I took a bit of a hiatus from knitting in the past couple years, and in September I pulled out my yarn and needles again.  I had some half-finished projects that took some time to figure out where I had left off, and I also started some new projects. Necks will be warmed this fall and winter! If it ever gets cold.  Note: knitting is fun, but it’s time-consuming and not cheap if you like nice yarn and needles.  If you receive something handknitted, know that person loves you an awful lot. Second note: I don’t give many knitted items. My mom is still waiting on a cowl I started two years ago (maybe it will be done this Christmas…..)

You mean everyone doesn't have a yarn bowl?

You mean everyone doesn’t have a yarn bowl?

Books

As of the end of September, I have finished 66 books this year.  I’m still hopeful to meet my goal of 100 read by December 31, but I’m pleased with my progress so far.  These favorites from this month were all very good, especially My Salinger Year and Dear Committee Members–I basically devoured both of them and would recommend them highly.

My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff (memoir)

The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance–What Women Should Know by Kay Katty and Claire Shipman (nonfiction, self-help)

Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher (epistolary fiction, hilarious)

Speak: How Your Story Can Change the World by Nish Weiseth (Christian storytelling)

What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding by Kristin Newman (memoir)

Inspired by this post on Book Riot, I’ve started a spreadsheet to even further analyze what I’m reading (I KNOW and I don’t care. I’m a nerd). Goodreads is awesome for overall tracking of books, but I’m interested in information that Goodreads doesn’t really track, like gender or country of origin of the author.  I’m working towards expanding and diversifying my reading habits, and I want to quantify what I’m lacking.  I also just want to make a spreadsheet of my books.

TV

Ah, fall, the time of new television. Some of my favorite shows have started their new seasons in September, including Bones, Once Upon a Time, Big Bang Theory, and Castle. All of these shows (ok, except for BBT), started off their seasons with a lot of drama and excitement, and I’m looking forward to how these shows will play out their current storylines.  The new season of Doctor Who has also started, but they’re stacking up on the DVR, as yet unwatched because I’m just not that into the new doctor yet.

Another show I’ve been enjoying the last couple months has been Project Runway. I loved the first few seasons, then fell away as a viewer when they switched to Lifetime. I came back this season because of how much I love Tim Gunn, and I have not been disappointed. It’s been an interesting show, especially the episode featuring American Girl dolls (which led me to searching eBay for American Girl doll accessories, so if you’re looking for the spinster nerd club, it’s meeting over here at my house).

Another September TV highlight was the Roosevelts on PBS.  I love history, I love the Roosevelts, I love PBS.  My dad and I have finished 8 of the 14 hours so far and will be finishing the remaining 6 hours soon.  It’s an amazing documentary, and if you can set aside 14 hours of your life to watch it, you should. It will make you smarter.

Art

At the end of September, I spent the weekend in Arkansas–even though it’s not that far from Tulsa, going somewhere different just for a couple days is so refreshing.  My college roommate and I made a point of visiting Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, an art museum built and sponsored by Wal-Mart, to see their current special exhibition called State of the Art: Discovering American Art Now.  It is an excellent exhibit with many different creative pieces and you should go see it. Also, it’s free, which is even more reason to go see it.  Go get cultured!

Crystal Bridges

Crystal Bridges

#31daysofreading

Around the internet, I found this challenge called #31daysofwriting for the month of October.  Starting tomorrow, I’ll be doing #31daysofreading for my #31daysofwriting.  In theory, I will be writing reviews and thoughts on all these books I’ve been reading this year. In practice, I’m not entirely sure what I will be writing. Stay tuned.

#31daysofreading

Summer 2014: What I Was Into

May, June, July,  August: Summer 2014 flew by for me. I started a new job in the spring, muddled my way through my kidney problems and diagnoses, started new medications, went on vacation, came home and got a promotion, and now August is almost over and now it’s September.  It was a challenging summer, but a good one.

#kidneyproblems

Where do I begin with my #kidneyproblems (I’ve decided to stop fighting and simply embrace hashtags)?  Between insurance changes and long wait times before I could see a specialist, I didn’t visit a nephrologist (kidney specialist) until the end of May. The only way to find out for sure what was going on with my kidneys was to have a biopsy of my kidney.  Alas, with more insurance confusion, it took almost another month to schedule and then have the procedure.

 Within a week of the biopsy, though, I received a diagnosis: a kind of glomerularnephritis (kidney inflammation) called IgA nephropathy. According to my kidneys, I’ve had this inflammation for 5-10 years, without symptoms.  When I caught a virus in the airport or airplane on my way home from Mexico, it set off the underlying kidney inflammation.  All those unpleasant symptoms I had in April, May, and June (including kidney pain, overwhelming fatigue, and other unmentionables) had nothing to do with being in Mexico–I’ve had this disease for years.

After receiving this diagnosis, I started medications to try to reduce the inflammation, which I’m still taking as of this writing.  Almost immediately after starting the medication, I felt like I woke up from a three-month long fog.  I finally had energy again and I no longer felt fatigued all the time (just some of the time).  Alas, even with these benefits, my medication also has its downsides, including sometimes causing me to wake up at 4:30 AM and making me want to eat all the time.  It’s been a long summer of figuring out how to handle being on all the different new medications and coping with their side effects.  In September, though, I may be able to start making some medication changes—I’m just waiting on my next nephrologist appointment.

Vacation

There are few things I love more than vacation, and particularly a vacation at Lakeside.   For one week every year, I am able to go to my happy place.  I have a whole week to read, spend time with family, and eat delicious food, and it is glorious.  While I was more tired than usual this year (thanks kidneys),  I still found a way to finish twelve books, enjoy my family, and appreciate sunsets on the dock.

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Promotion

I started working at the library in April as a Bilingual Circulation Clerk. As will shock no one who knows me, I love working at the library.  I have direct access to nearly any book I want AND I get to help people: two of my favorite things.   In July, I went on vacation for two weeks in Ohio (and it was GLORIOUS).  Upon my return, I was offered a promotion to Library Associate–and I took it! It meant a chance for more hours as well as a significant pay increase.  Instead of working in Circulation, I now work at the Information Desk at the same branch of the library.  I work with people from so many different walks of life–I never know what kind of problem people might need help solving.  I sometimes help patrons find books or research information, but I primarily help troubleshoot computer, email, and internet problems. I also teach computer classes in Spanish twice a month.  This new job has been a great opportunity for me and I’m excited to see where it leads.

Books

As will surprise no one, my love of books has only been encouraged by my library job.  I’m still not quite where I need to be to meet my 100 books-in-2014 goal, but I made a lot of progress this summer.  You can check out my Goodreads page (if you have a Goodreads account) for the full list, but here are some of my favorites from this summer.

Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint by Nadia Bolz-Weber (memoir)

Data, A Love Story: How I Gamed Online Dating to Meet My Match by Amy Webb (memoir)

Stories I Only Tell My Friends: An Autobiography by Rob Lowe (audiobook memoir)

Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer (true crime, polygamous mormons)

Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman (young adult fiction, WWII)

A Death-Struck Year by Makiia Lucier (young adult fiction, 1917 influenza epidemic)

The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger (epistolary fiction, law)

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton (suspense fiction, dinosaurs)

End of Summer

At the end of each month this summer, I would think about writing that month’s “what I’m into” post.  Alas, I could never muster up the energy and thinking skills to actually write something. Being sick all the time will do that to you.  Here’s hoping that this fall, things will be different.  I have some ideas about what I would like to write and publish here, most likely including reviewing some of my favorite books I’ve read this year.  We shall see what my kidneys decide.

What I’m Into: April 2014

In April I came home!  I said my goodbyes to my sister, my Mexican family, and many American, Canadian, and Mexican friends.  I managed not to cry until I sat on the plane in Huatulco, bound for Houston.  When I finally arrived in Tulsa at the end of a long travel day, I was so excited to see my parents and my friends Christine, Rebecka, and Brett waiting for me at the airport.   It’s hard to go home when you’re leaving another home–but it’s so great to be at this home.

I had a lot of plans for my first month back in America, but things didn’t turn out exactly like I’d hoped.  Also, it took me forever to write about April.  But here it is, What I Was Into in April, inspired by Leigh Kramer.

Sunset from the flight to Tulsa

Sunset from the flight to Tulsa

Health and Food

After more than six healthy months in Mexico I got sick within 48 hours of coming home.  At first it seemed like just a little virus, but after a series of unfortunate events (including many trips to the doctor, getting better then getting sick again, a blood test, and a CT scan) it turns out that I have some kind of kidney inflammation.  I’m waiting to see a nephrologist (kidney doctor), but the earliest appointment I could get is in the end of July. Until then, I’m drinking a lot of water, sleeping a lot, and eating a low sodium diet.

That sounds easy, doesn’t it, just eat less sodium?  Don’t add extra salt, don’t eat salty foods?  Alas, sodium (and too much of it) is in almost everything. If I want to make a simple sandwich at home, I can easily eat over 1000 mg of sodium in just  the bread, lunch meat, and cheese.  That doesn’t sound terrible, until you learn that it’s recommended that you eat about 1500 mg of sodium a day, 2300 mg should be your upper limit, but most of us eat more than 3400 mg a day.  I’ve been trying to eat between 1000 and 1500 mg a day (or less if I can manage it) to take care of my kidneys while I wait to see the doctor and see what’s going on.   Some foods, like fruits and vegetables, naturally don’t have much sodium.  Many, many other foods also naturally don’t have sodium but have tons and tons of added salt and sodium because that’s how we like to eat our food: salty.  And eating out? Is nearly impossible.  There is no such thing as low sodium fast food or restaurant food

I’ve had many friends who have eaten specific diets, some by choice but most for health reasons, like eating gluten or dairy free.  No matter what your dietary need is, it’s hard to eat differently than everybody else. Eating low sodium is difficult–there’s no special section for low sodium foods, you just have to spend a lot of time at the store reading nutrition labels.  Thanks to the amazing help of my mom, though, I’ve been able to consistently eat low sodium, even when it’s challenging.  Believe me, no salt-added food tastes way different than typical food.

Job

April was not all dreary health and eating problems.  Ten days after I returned fro Mexico, I was offered a part-time job as a Bilingual Circulation Clerk with the Tulsa Library!  I emailed a resume for this job in March, letting the library know I would be home from Mexico in April.  The day before I left for Tulsa, my mom let me know that the library had called my house (thank goodness I put my house number and not my cell number on my resume) wanting to talk to me about the position.  I was able to interview my first week back and the next week I got a call offering me the job and I started the next week.  I still can’t believe I got a job that quickly and that I now work at the library.  It’s been great so far and I’m excited to see where this position will lead me.  It’s been so great to immediately use my Spanish at work.  I worked really hard to learn that language–I don’t want to lose it now!

Books

I had hoped to read a lot in April and get on track with my 100 books in 2014 goal, but being sick ruined that for me.  When I’m sick, my brain refuses to concentrate on reading. So I spent a lot of quality time with HGTV, but that’s for another section.  I did read five books in April, but here are my two favorites:

I won my copy of Girl at the end of the World in a contest from Elizabeth Esther.  She eloquently tells the story of her abusive childhood in a fundamentalist cult, and how she was able to leave and start over:  I highly recommend it.  Boxers is a comic/graphic novel telling a story from the time of the Boxer Rebellion in China.  If you don’t know what that is (and even if you do), I recommend reading Boxer to learn more about that important time in history.

TV

Dear TV, Thank you for being there for me when my kidneys decided to misbehave and my brain decided to take a vacation.  I especially want to credit HGTV, along with its shows House Hunters, House Hunters International, Property Brothers, and Income Property.  I do not thank Love It or List It or Love It or List it Too, because they’re horrible shows. After watching a ridiculous amount of HGTV, I feel qualified to go buy and remodel a house.  As I can barely keep my room clean and I have no money, though, it seems unlikely.

I’d also like to thank Parks & Recreation and Bones for having solid seasons (though Bones might not actually be over yet?) for me to enjoy when I returned from Mexico.  I still have the P&R finale on the DVR and I rewatch my favorite scenes, especially when Leslie Knope meets Michelle Obama.

Leslie Knope Meets Michelle Obama

Leslie Knope Meets Michelle Obama (found here: http://seattletostorybrooke.tumblr.com/post/83777876794)

The End

April didn’t go exactly as planned.  Instead of reading, I watched HGTV.  I started organizing and decluttering my room, but persistent fevers in the beginning of April made me lose my steam and not it just seems too overwhelming. I wanted to jump into new opportunities, maybe visiting a Spanish speaking church or finding a Bible study or just being with people, but I spent a lot of April exhausted and sick instead.  I was very sick. And I’m better, but I’m not fully well either. However.  I did turn 26 on April 16 and celebrated my birthday with some of my favorite people (just see the list of the people who met me at the airport).  I got a job! And a bilingual job at that, at the place where I hoped to work.  Here’s hoping for a healthier May as I figure out how to live my life here in America.

PS Please enjoy the pictures below. I’m sure it would be prettier if I interspersed them throughout the post, but that’s more work than it’s worth.

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Gris (my Mexican “mom”) and me

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Me with my friend Irma

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Emily and Me

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Me and Melody (my Mexican “sister”)

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Moriah, Natasha, Pamela, Genna, Me, and Emily