January 2021 Favs

Personal Updates, Reading Wrap-ups

Because I’m doing recent reads every week or so, it doesn’t make sense to do full wrap-ups the way I used to but I do want to have a place to reflect on the month overall so I’m going to start talking about some of my favorite things each month. I’ll start with books but I also want to talk about hobbies, movies, music, TV, etc. so let’s get started!

Books

I have two stand-out books from this past month. If you’ve talked to me about books or read anything I’ve posted about books recently, this shouldn’t be a surprise because these books are from two of my new favorite authors.

First, I want to talk about The Obelisk Gate by NK Jemisin. This is the second book in the Broken Earth Trilogy and I loved it just as much as I loved the first book. This is rare for me. I typically don’t pick up a series because I’m afraid of investing time in something only to not like a large chunk of it. I also have never been a series fantasy reader but I think this series is going to be the thing to get me into fantasy and I am so excited for that possibility. I’ve really loved being able to jump into this world. It certainly takes a certain level of time and focus to read and get everything from Jemisin’s writing. As someone who zones out a lot, it can be difficult for me sometimes but for me, it’s totally worth it. I think Jemisin creates such interesting characters; I want to know what happened to them before and what will happen to them in the future. I also appreciate Jemisin’s narrative structure in both of these books. It isn’t linear and she has a way of bringing everything together in a way that seems simple but takes me by surprise every single time. 

I also want to give attention to Grown by Tiffany D Jackson. I never read books in one day. That’s just not my style, but Grown was impossible to put down. This book deals with some difficult subject matter and my heart broke for the main character, Enchanted. I had to know that she was going to be okay and the writing really lent itself to me being able to fly through the story in two sittings. If you’re familiar with Jackson’s work, you probably know that she tends to write hard-hitting YA contemporaries or thrillers. I read a fair amount of YA and enjoy it but it never quite ends up being a favorite but now that I’ve read two of Jackson’s books and they’ve become instant favorites, I’m starting to see what is possible in those genres. With Grown specifically, I appreciated the commentary on the way society doesn’t listen to women, especially Black women, when they have been abused. They are blamed or called liars when they speak up and while this story takes place in the music industry, it has messages that apply to the broader conversation surrounding women and sexual assault, grooming, stalking, etc. 

Music

I’m in a *very* specific mood musically. I’ve made a YouTube playlist to put on when I’m having a hard time focusing on anything that’s primarily live performances by Arctic Monkeys and Neck Deep. I really miss live music and since the seasonal depression is hitting hard, I’m reminding myself of better summer when I could go to shows. I’ll include a favorite performance for each band below in case you want to check them out. I wish I had something new and exciting to talk about musically but my brain just wants old, familiar sounds these days.

TV

There are two TV shows I’ve really been watching this month. First, I started getting back into One Piece. This is an anime that follows a group of pirates. The main character has a special ability that made him essentially made of rubber. It sounds lame but it comes in handy quite a bit. The trade-off – he can’t swim. If I’m not mistaken, this series is the longest-running anime and manga and I have a love/hate relationship with it. I’ll never catch up and I’ll never collect all the manga. It’s not feasible. But I love the story so much so I keep trying. Comedy is a must in my anime and while this one has plenty of action, it also makes me laugh all the time. Luffy is blindly confident and sometimes it gets the crew in trouble and a lot of times, it really pays off. Besides him, my favorite characters are Zoro and Ace.

I’ve also been watching It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Again. I can’t help it. I love this show so much. The main characters are totally unlikeable and are awful people and that’s the point. The creators make fun of the worst people you could meet and shows how ridiculous it is to act horribly and hold the worst beliefs. That being said, I do have a favorite character – Mac. He is incredibly religious and tries to use his religion to justify his ignorant beliefs all while struggling with his sexuality. And somehow, the writers turned this into something that is comedy gold (though I will say that the finale to season 13 takes a more serious look at his character and is just such a beautiful episode).

Hobbies

Especially at the beginning of the month, I was playing a lot of videogames. Primarily I was playing various Assassin’s Creed games. I am not great at finishing or sticking to one game so I’ve been switching between Valhalla, Origins, and Odyssey. I get really sucked in when I’m playing because I like tracking quests and traveling all over the world to accomplish small things that add up. I also played a ton of Kingdom Hearts this month. I played Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance the most. This is one of my favorite game series because I like the mix of Disney + Final Fantasy and how it’s kind of surprisingly dark sometimes. I think a lot about the conversations that were had that made Disney decide to agree. I made it all the way to the boss and then just didn’t finish the game. I’m really bad about that.

I also have been learning to cross-stitch. It’s really relaxing and helpful especially when I’m feeling anxious. Since I’m new to it, I really have to focus on what I’m doing which means I can’t think about everything else that’s going on in my brain. I finished this piece a week or so ago and while I left out the French knots (they’re *really* hard, okay), I’m still satisfied with it.

So what have you been enjoying this month?

2021 Goals

Personal Updates

I used to be one of those people that did see the point of setting resolutions for the new year because you can make those changes any time you want if you really want to but last year I set one goal: start journaling. It was successful and it was very helpful. It also started a new hobby that I truly enjoy.

In this post, I want to talk about some goals I have for 2021. Some will be related to reading and some will be just personal and I want to share them here as a way to keep myself accountable.

Reading Goals

Most people talk about their Goodreads goals and have different ways of approaching them. In the past, I just set my goal slightly higher than what I read the year before but I read 125 books in 2020 and I’m just not totally sure what 2021 is going to bring so I’m not setting my goal anywhere near what I actually read last year. I am just aiming for 52 (1 book per week) this year and will up my goal when/if I start getting close.

I also want to continue to read more of the books that I already own. I did a pretty good job of this in 2020 so there aren’t any real changes I need to make here. I just need to keep doing what I’m doing in order to get my owned TBR down and unhaul the books I don’t want on my shelves.

I also want to continue to read more diversely. I definitely started to be more aware of what I was picking up last year since it was my first year back to reading for fun in about two years but I want to set a more concrete goal this year. I’d like at least half of my books read to be by authors of color. A lot of my physical TBR is white. I bought most of my books from thrift stores and yard sales in my local neighborhood and they were just white. While I do have a goal to get through my owned TBR, I will supplement this with library books and most of the other books I buy in 2021.

Speaking of buying books, I want to be a lot more selective and strict with what I do buy. I will continue getting my book subscription boxes but outside of that, I really just want to buy books that I need to continue a series I already own/am reading. I will utilize my library for other books I’m interested in as much as possible and if I love them and want them on my shelves, I will add them to my wishlist and maybe treat myself to some around my birthday late in the year.

Personal Goals

My first personal goal is to continue journaling every day and utilize my planner. I talked about this on my Instagram last week but both of these hobbies really help me manage my anxiety. I make lists of things to accomplish almost every day and it really keeps me on track. I just want to make sure I stay on top of this habit because last year I definitely got out of it for a while and I definitely noticed it.

Another personal goal is to take better care of my body. This includes getting more exercise. I want to go on more walks and when I can’t do that, I want to do light workouts at home. I sleep better and feel better when I’m active in some capacity. I also want to eat more regularly. When my entire world got turned upside down in 2020, my eating schedule got destroyed. I’ve been bad about skipping meals and not eating regularly so I want to be more conscious of that and try a little harder. None of this is about losing weight because I don’t care about that much but I do want to take care of myself in these specific ways because it makes me feel better.

My final personal goal is to learn to embroider. I used to do it a little bit but stopped because I got into crochet but I love the look of embroidery and have some ideas of things I want to create. By the end of the year, I want to have executed at least two of my ideas. I’ve already started learning and made this piece in one night from a kit and while I stabbed myself about a million times, I’m pleased with how it turned out for the most part.

What are some of your goals for this year (reading or personal)? Come chat with me!!

Teaching During a Pandemic – A Personal Update

Personal Updates

Yesterday was my first day back in the classroom since mid-March. For those of you who don’t know, I teach college English. I am going into my second year and while I absolutely love this job and find it rewarding, teaching face to face in a country where the pandemic is not under control in any way is terrifying and emotionally taxing.

I hope that no one minds that this isn’t directly book-related. I want to find ways to share more about me on my blog and this entire month, my mind has been so occupied with preparing to teach and now that I’m back in the classroom, it’s going to consume more of my time and thoughts and I just wanted to share that with anyone who is interested.

I’m teaching two hybrid courses this semester. This means that they are part in-person and part online. Unfortunately, the rooms on campus aren’t big enough to accommodate all of my students at once, so I have had to divide my students into two groups. One meets on Tuesdays and the other, Thursdays. I feel like my two classes are actually four.

As I was planning for this semester, my top priority was trying to consolidate the information I used to have three days a week to deliver, into one day and an online module. It was an exhausting and time-consuming process that meant I had to be incredibly selective with the information I covered.

Another priority and a huge obstacle for me was having to change the entire structure of how my day-to-day course looks. In the past, something that has worked well for me and my students is letting them break off into smaller groups and talk through the information together and informally present their ideas. They feel more comfortable with each other and have a minute to process their thoughts and have something valuable to add to the conversation this way. That’s no longer possible.

I am still not sure how best to move forward apart from giving them time on their own to gather their ideas. This breaks my heart because I feel like they aren’t getting as much out of this as they can because apart from learning the information, I want my classroom to feel like a true community and giving them five or ten minutes to talk to each other – about the course but also sometimes about whatever – really helped. 

My first day just felt sad. And exhausting. And draining. Just looking out at one point and just seeing five students when I’m used to five times as many, was strange. Trying to enforce properly wearing masks so that we all don’t get sick was frustrating and exhausting. Coming home that day and scrolling through social media to see pictures of giant parties near my campus was infuriating. 

As a new teacher, I always worry that I’m not doing enough. I want to give my students the best experience I possibly can and I just can’t stop holding myself to a standard that simply cannot exist right now. I can’t do as much as I could before because the world doesn’t look the way it did when I started teaching last August. I truly hope this gets easier. It took me all day to recover from teaching two courses back to back yesterday and I don’t know how long I can maintain that. 

I wish I had something hopeful to end on. I wish I could say that I have faith that my school does the right thing or that every student will take responsibility to make sure that as few people catch COVID as possible, but I don’t. I’m sad and I’m scared and I’m tired.

I’ll be back to posting non-teaching related content next week. I just really wanted to share what life has been like for me recently and what it will look like for the next few months. 

Stay safe,

Sam