Books of January

The goal is to read three books a month, but I only made it through two (and a half). Consider it a stretch goal.

cover225x225.jpegYou by Caroline Kepnes – It’s been a really long time since I’ve had a book that I literally couldn’t put down, and I would like to openly thank Caroline Kepnes for entertaining me during my long flights to and from Europe. Written from the point-of-view of a stalker, this book is as if American PsychoMisery, and The Catcher in the Rye had a baby. At first, I was disgusted by Joe (our narrator) and terrified for Beck (his obsession), but Kepnes is so skilled at weaving the plot that Joe subtly became my protagonist, and I feared for the moment he would get caught. It’s pretty slick writing that can get you to like (and even feel sorry for) a sometimes violent, sexually depraved sociopath. It does get a little graphic at times, but if you liked American Psycho then you could definitely handle this one.

Even more exciting, once I had finished the book, I discovered that a sequel comes out this month! I can’t even imagine where or how that story will play out.

Unknown.jpegThe Painter by Peter Heller – Having read Heller’s The Dog Stars a couple years ago, I was excited to pick up his next book. The blurb on the back described an artist (cleaned up after trouble with the law) who finds himself accidentally pitted against a band of dangerous hunters and ends up on the run. True, but this book was deeeeeep. Like possibly too deep and heavy for me (that part about the pet pig was just too close to home). The moments of action were really engaging (and the narrator is tongue-in-cheek funny), but the book slows down considerably to dig into identity, self and grief (and there’s some class and gender and man vs nature stuff in there, too). Basically what I’m saying is, this is a heavy text. There’s a surface story, but there’s also a lot going on along the way and if you’re just looking for a quick read – this isn’t the book you are looking for. I liked it but I didn’t love it.

On a side note, for February I have several biographies that have been stacked up on my nightstand so I officially declare February Biography Month. I’ll let you know how it goes.

How far I’ve come…

In my role as an instructional coach, I’ve worked with teachers across all spectrums of experience and style. I can’t say that I have a favorite “type” (variety is the spice of life), but right now I’m having a lot of fun watching the evolution of my brand new teachers. In the fall, they had so many questions, and so many tears. One of them even shared this graphic with me:

295x201xphases_2.jpg.pagespeed.ic.GChG1LsPKS.png

Ten years ago, I was charged with teaching 6th grade for the first time, and I can vividly remember these feelings. When they said, “You get to spend a week at Outdoor School with your students,” I wanted to run and hide in a hole. An entire week? Sleeping on a bunk? Eating camp food? Singing songs? No, thank you. My (very patient) teammates can attest that I HATED Outdoor School, and made my misery well-known…for several years.

The thing is, I like my life. It’s just the way I want it to be. Having grown-up living in joint custody, where I schlepped my stuff from house-to-house every few days, I developed a keen sense of what I wanted in my adult life: STABILITYCONTROL. COMFORT.

If you grew up consistently sleeping in one bedroom, eating out of the same fridge, and taking the same route to-and-from school everyday, you’ll never know what it was like to basically live a vagary lifestyle of unknowns. Now, I want to eat the same, bland breakfast everyday; Netflix and chill afterwork; play video games in bed; you get the idea.

So a couple weekends ago when I was being dragged around Barcelona with 49 other teachers on zero sleep and strange food, I asked myself, “What the hell am I doing here?”  Most everyone else seemed pretty content to let someone else decide when and where we went, what we would eat, when we would go to sleep; but I kept finding myself sneaking away from the group, and at one point I ditched them to go running and eat salami from the supermarket. (It was a very freeing moment).

There’s a misconception that I am so particular because I’m high-maintenance, or inflexible. That’s not it at all – I grew up constantly experiencing change based on the whim of my parents. In fact, that has made me so incredibly flexible in the workplace (which I think my teammates can also attest to). So when they said, “Go to Outdoor School,” it wasn’t that it was cold and muddy and the bunk was hard as a rock and the food came out of a can or the camp staff are insanely perky at 6am – it was that I had no control.

That being said, I know that I can’t hide in my shell for the rest of my life. I signed up to take my students to Greece in the summer (with a teammate who will help calm my anxiety) because HEL-LO it’s a free trip. At the same time I was thinking, “What the hell am I doing here?” in Barcelona, I also thought, “Look how far I’ve come. I can do this.”

The kicker? Even though I’m no longer teaching 6th grade, I volunteered to spend a week at Outdoor School in place of a teacher who has an infant at home. An entire week. Sleeping on a bunk. Eating camp food. Singing songs. And I’ll probably enjoy it.

 

Run #2 – Carlsbad, California

After an epic run in Barcelona last weekend, I was excited to run in another semi-warm location during the heart of January. This weekend I’ve been holed up at the Park Hyatt Aviara in Carlsbad, CA for an author’s retreat, hosted by Corwin (no, I’m not an author, but I’m honored to spread their word). Typically the way these events work for me is that I spend all day sitting, and expel all my pent up energy at the end of the day. However, the days were extremely compressed from sun-up to sun-down so instead I joined a small running group in the morning.

Straight off, we don’t know where we’re going. We had a map the concierge gave us, but once we hit the road, there were no signs, and no light read the map. My GPS gave a vague location but since we didn’t know which direction to go, it didn’t really help. Regardless, we squeezed in a quick three miles that went STRAIGHT DOWN, and then STRAIGHT UP.

As you can see, there was a lot of backtracking and, “Wait – where are we?”

IMG_6330

That being said – you can’t complain about running along the Four Seasons as the sun comes up.

IMG_6292

I’ve run in this area once before, and it remains one of my least favorite runs ever. I know there are running trails, but I just can’t seem to find them. While I did identify the trail around the lagoon, I turned back after thirty feet because it was so empty and hidden amongst the brush that it screamed “rape trail.”

So instead, I’ve now run in weird loops around the resorts and residential streets that are not interesting enough to keep my mind off the fact that I don’t know where I am.

Two down, ten more to go.