13 Years!

Today is a lot of things -- Martin Luther King Jr Day, a day where we FINALLY have boatloads of snow, a day off from work, but also...our 13th Engage-o-versary. 

Thirteen years ago today I was home, planning a romantic dinner for when Bryce got home and nervously plotting my proposal. It was a letter, carefully crafted and typed in a file called "merrime." It was a persuasive essay of sorts on why we should get married. 

It's so strange to look back on a time when I felt I had to convince Bryce to get married, but it existed. He was burnt from a first marriage and was like, "let's just live together, why do we have to get married?" While I know people who made the choice to have a life partnership and never get married, and have been together for more than 20 years, that isn't what I wanted. I'm not sure if I wanted the chance to do marriage again the right way, or if the idea of a legal partnership was somehow romantic, or if I'm just so much a rule-follower that I needed the traditional route if we were going to try to have children, but I wrote a whole page on why marriage was a good choice and we should do it and then let the nerves take over while I waited for him to read it to the end. 

Spoiler alert: he said yes. 

I'm proud of a lot of things, but our marriage is definitely towards the top of the list. I love our partnership, our relationship, the way we've grown together through so much. The way we support each other and enjoy each other's company, something that could be seriously tested in a global pandemic where there is a LOT of togetherness time! We respect each others' need for quiet alone time as much as the need for time together, snuggled on the couch. We've devised a sort of playbook that includes things like "We can't both be crazy at the same time, someone's got to dial it back and be the calm one," and "Just make food for Jess when she is insanely crotchety, because she's hungry but will likely bite you if you ask her" and one I stole from Brene Brown about the lie of 50-50 -- "when someone is overwhelmed, take on more of the household responsibilities and shift the split, because it always evens out eventually." 

I am so grateful for our life together, probably more so because we are a family of two (plus cats). 

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Surreal Parallel

Well, I've made it one week into Omicron School  and so far (knock on wood, lots and lots of wood) I've avoided the COVID. Kids have been out, staff has been out, and in one surreal moment last week we handed out rapid testing kits to students to take home to their families. 

One student asked, "how do you know if you're positive or not?" I examined their box (because of course kits weren't handed out to teachers, and the low accuracy rate of the rapid tests wasn't addressed), and saw the lines... 

"Well, it looks like if there's one line it's negative, sheet two it's positive, if it's anything like a pregnancy test." A girl squealed "oh my GOD!" and I said, "What? A second line means it detects something. One line means it wasn't detected. True with pregnancy, true with COVID too, I guess." 

I then wondered if you leave it out too long if you can get an evap line that fools you into thinking it's positive when it's not. Or if the first snot of the day yields stronger results. I saw something in my Google feed about a faint line meaning you should test again a day or two later. 

Ugh, ugh, ugh. Not enjoying the parallels. 

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One of my Christmas gifts this year was a set of colorful fountain pens with refill ink. 

Photo courtesy of Basbleu.com

I've eyed them for a while, and put them on my list for my mom and stepfather. They do a thing where they ask for and want us to do a 3 things gift exchange -- something you need, something you want, something to bring you closer to the divine. We love this because it limits the number of prizes -- we are trying to reduce our "stuff" just for stuff's sakes. The pens went on as my "want." (My "need" was a pair of slippers with arch support, and my "divine" was a donation to FoodLink, a food bank that helps supply all our local food banks, including the one in the community where I teach.)

So far I love them, although there is a tiny bit of smearing with the dark blue and a little leak on the side of that one, too, but nothing catastrophic. 

Except, you have to load the ink, so you unscrew the bottom of the pen, flip the ink cartridge, and push it in with your thumb with a click: 

OH MY GOD. As I clicked them in all I could think of was so many Follistim pens over a different sink, in a different kitchen. I had to stop and take a breath. 

And then it passed. 

It's amazing how such a seemingly innocuous thing could just trigger an anxiety response because it flashed me back to the time of loading and clicking and dialing and injecting. But that time is over, long over, and all this pen promises is to write smoothly with colorful ink from a retro metal nib. Nothing more, nothing less. 

It just caught me off guard, is all. 

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The Books of 2021

I love lists. I also suck utterly at Goodreads. I tried to be more on top of logging my books there this year, and did well over the summer and then... fell off. But I always log my books in my Google Keep lists, for School Year and Summer and then track the calendar year.

I started doing this when I took my grandmother's lists of books and digitized them into an Excel spreadsheet. It was fascinating to see what she read when, and to know that the books you read tell a story. 

At the end of the year, I take my Google Keep lists and I write down the books I read per month, and then do a genre grouping to see what I read the most of. There's overlap in that, because of course books don't always fit in just one category. 

So... in 2021 I read a whopping 106 books. I have no idea how many pages that is since I suck at Goodreads, but I can say that some of them were lengthy for sure.

In terms of months, I read the least in November (5) and the most in July and August (12 each). Go figure, the months that were entirely summer break were the most plentiful, and my most stressful month at school so far had me struggling to focus. I read 7 books in September and October, 8 in January and May, 9 in February, March, and April,  and 10 in June and December. 

Here's my genre breakdown: 

Young Adult: 33

Nonfiction: 20

Poetry/Stories: 3

Realistic Fiction: 15

Historical Fiction: 8

Mystery/Twisty: 23

Fantasy/Sci-Fi: 31

Books Bryce Bought Me: 15

Books by Diverse Authors/Diverse Characters: 40

My favorite book each month: 

January: I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown

February: Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

March: Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger

April: Broken (in the best possible way) by Jenny Lawson 

May: Starfish by Lisa Fipps

June: Before the coffee gets cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

July: The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune

August: The Boatman's Daughter by Andy Davidson

September: The Secret Bridesmaid by Katy Birchall

October: The Fisherman by John Langan

November: Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune

December: The Last House on Needless Street by Cariona Ward

My favorite books all year (top 20): 

The Fifth Season (and entire Broken Earth trilogy) by N.K. Jemison

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

This is My America by Kim Johnson

Finna by Nino Cipro

Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Before the coffee gets cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

Tender Is the Flesh by Augustina Bazterrica

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

Miss Benson's Beetle by Rachel Joyce

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

The Boatman's Daughter by Andy Davidson

Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily Nagowski, PhD and Amelia Nagowski, DMA

The Secret Bridesmaid by Katy Birchall

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson

The Fisherman by John Langan

Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune

A History of Wild Places by Shea Earnshaw

The Last House On Needless Street by Cariona Ward

The Weirdest Book I Read This Year: 

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

The NUMBER ONE BOOK of 2021: 

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

Seriously, If you haven't read this book yet, please go read it. It is phenomenal. And I realize now that I never wrote my post dedicated to it, so I will have to remedy that soon. 

And there it is, my reading life of 2021! Really, out of all 106 books there were only THREE that I didn't like. So much good reading!