The Final Day of NaBloPoMo 2020

Each evening when I sit down at my computer to write my daily NaBloPoMo post, I panic about not having anything to write about (it’s a mild panic, don’t worry! NaBloPoMo is a challenge I’ve given myself and has no real consequences). Thirty days feels like forever, and how could I possibly be creative every day? But then every year when it’s November 30th, I feel like there’s still more left to say. I can never quite believe it when the month is over. 

My brainstorming list still has a few ideas left behind:

  • What I’m most looking forward to reading next 
  • First lines from the books I read this year
  • Go with the Flow
  • Bookish Art – a shoe?
  • Books to inspire young activists
  • Caraval review + fan art 
  • A list of everything I’ve read since last NaBloPoMo

Perhaps this means I should post more to my blog throughout the year, but without the pretend pressure of NaBloPoMo, I just can’t get the habit of blogging to stick! 

Here are some of my stats for the month:

Next up is December. I’m looking forward to the Christmas season – even though it will look different than it has in the past. Perhaps some creative ideas will come out of the craziness of 2020.  

Thank you so much for following along with me this month. Read some good books, stay healthy, and let’s meet up again next November. 

From the Book to the Big Screen: The Ones That Got Away 2

Earlier in the month, I mentioned that one of my bookish goals was to watch TV and film adaptations of books I’ve read. If you read that post, you also know that I failed miserably at it in 2020. Even though I spent a lot of time at home, I didn’t spend time watching movies rated over PG. Only kindergartner-approved films were consumed! So here are the adaptations I’m most looking forward to viewing…someday.

  • Enola Holmes (Netflix), based on the Enola Holmes Mysteries series by Nancy Springer
    • When Enola Holmes’ mother goes missing, she calls on her older brothers for help, but quickly ditches them and goes off on a quest to find out where her mother is and why she didn’t take Enola with her. Another mystery hooks Enola along the way, and she uses her smarts to solve it. A fun update to Sherlock Holmes. 
  • Little Fires Everywhere (Hulu), based on Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
    • A book about race, class, and what it means to be a mother. With nods to ‘90s pop-culture and a suspenseful secret I was itching to uncovering, Little Fires Everywhere lived up to its hype.  
  • All the Bright Places (Netflix), based on All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
    • Violet, already dealing with the loss of her beloved sister, finds escape and hope with Finch, a classmate who is familiar with darkness. Violet gives him a new lease on life, but is it enough? I’m also a fan of Jennifer Niven’s Holding Up the Universe.
  • To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You (Netflix), based on P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han
    • Lara Jean returns in the sequel to To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, but this time, she and Peter are having some growing pains. Lara Jean spends time with another one of her letter recipients: John Ambrose McClaren. 
  • The Handmaid’s Tale, Season 2 (Hulu), based on The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
    • Atwood’s book about a religious regime that has overthrown the government and stripped women of their power and autonomy is a classic. I was stunned at how incredible the first season of The Handmaid’s Tale was. Dare I say, it was even better than the book? While terrifying, this show is so well done that I can’t wait to see what happens next. 

Not Released Yet:

  • Chaos Walking (film), based on The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
    • Read about my excitement here
  • Shadow and Bone (Netflix), based on Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
    • Leigh Bardugo is a pro at creating fantasy worlds for YA readers. This series is supposedly going to combine her Shadow and Bone series along with Six of Crows – which take place in the same universe. I also really enjoyed her recent adult release, Ninth House, so I’m hoping Bardugo’s work translates well on the screen.  
  • Paper Girls (Amazon), based on Paper Girls comic book series by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Cliff Chiang
    • This is one of the most original and awesome graphic novels/comic books I’ve ever read. Set on Halloween night in the late 1980s, four pre-teen newspaper delivery girls get tangled up in a war between time travelers. In each subsequent volume, the girls get flung backwards and forwards through time, piecing together a mystery as they try to get back home. There is cool technology, humongous monsters, evil cavemen, new languages, body doubles, and twists and turns galore. So clever and amazing. Vaughan is attached to the Amazon series, so I hope that means this project is in good hands. 

Here’s to hoping that I’ll be able to cross a few of these titles off my list in 2021! 

Listen to This Tablet

I came across an article in September called “Why You Should Read This Out Loud,” in which the author discusses the history of reading out loud and outlines some of its modern day benefits. Apparently, clay tablets from 4,000 years ago told the reader to either “listen” to a tablet (read it out loud) or “see” it (read it silently). Now, it’s normal to read silently in our heads but “a growing body of research suggests we may be missing out by reading only with the voices inside our minds.” The benefits of reading aloud include “helping improve our memories and understand complex texts…strengthening emotional bonds between people,” and even detecting Alzheimer’s disease.   

I read out loud to my daughter, but I never considered it an important activity for adults. But now that I think about it, audiobooks and podcasts have seemed to explode in popularity over the last few years, so perhaps this helps support the idea that even as grown-ups, we enjoy being read to.

As a high school teacher, I loved reading out loud in my classes. One reason why I did that was because I didn’t trust most of my students to do the reading on their own! But also, I wanted them to really love reading, and I was hoping my enthusiasm would rub off. One of my favorite books to read aloud was The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton – especially the chapters about Johnny after the fire and Dallas’s final moments. There were big feelings and I like to think that my students will remember The Outsiders long after they left my classroom.

After reading this article, I’m wondering if I should start reading out loud more often. What do you think?

Facing Food Insecurity in Maddi’s Fridge

This summer, I learned that the United Nations has an ambitious set of 17 goals it’s striving towards to create a more peaceful, equitable, sustainable world for all. No Poverty, Quality Education, and Gender Equality are just a few of the goals. Our Sunday School has been tying Bible stories to these goals to show how we can do God’s work in the world. I really love this concept and I’m learning a lot about what needs to be done in order to see real change. 2030 was originally the date the U.N. wanted to see the goals achieved by, but COVID has had a huge impact on a number of the goals. What gains had been made have rolled backwards. What’s always eye-opening is that issues like hunger, inadequate healthcare, and inequalities aren’t just taking place in third world countries – they are problems here in the abundant United States, too. 

For our November Sunday School Lesson, we focused on the goal of Zero Hunger. Thanksgiving is the perfect opportunity for us to remember that while our own tables may be plentiful, it’s not true for everyone. Food insecurity means that a household, or a family, is unable to provide enough food for every person to live an active, healthy life. This can be caused by a variety of reasons: perhaps a parent has lost a job, or families have to decide between buying food or paying rent or purchasing medicine. In some areas, it may be cheaper for families to buy food at convenience stores or fast food restaurants, but we know that this type of food isn’t a nutritious option. In other countries, war, famine, climate disasters, or the COVID pandemic have made it extra difficult or expensive for families to purchase food.   

A great way to introduce these big concepts to kids is through children’s literature. Maddi’s Fridge by Lois Brandt and illustrated by Vin Vogel is a book that has stuck with me even though I first experienced it a couple years ago. 

Sofia and Maddi are best friends and love playing at the park together. Sofia gets hungry and she rushes into Maddi’s home and opens the fridge to see what they’ve got for snacks. The fridge is empty except for some milk. Maddi explains that her mom doesn’t have enough money to buy more food. Maddi tells Sofia not to tell anyone, but Sofia struggles with this information. She goes home and notices how much food is in her own fridge. Sofia tries to sneak food to Maddi, but it keeps turning into a mess in her backpack. Finally, Sofia knows what she has to do to make sure Maddi gets the food she needs – she just hopes Maddi won’t get mad at her.  

This book is both sweet and powerful – even though the cartoonish illustrations wouldn’t initially strike you as a book that packed such an important message – and I think it will have an impact on you, too. 

Check your local library for this book, purchase it online, or listen to a read-aloud of the story on YouTube. Another great book about hunger and giving is Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora. This 2018 children’s book has beautiful cut paper illustrations, so it’s no surprise it received a Caldecott Honor.  

A Very Virtual Thanksgiving

I’m not sure how things are going in your state, but here in Wisconsin, our COVID situation continues to worsen. Hospitals are warning that they’re running out of beds and facing staffing shortages. Our Republican-controlled state legislature hasn’t done anything except take our (Democratic) Governor’s mask mandate to court. To keep our relatives and ourselves safe, we are staying home for Thanksgiving this year and celebrating as a family of three. Even though we won’t be together in-person, we’ll still connect with our family through Zoom, so I pinned some fun things to do over a virtual call. I’ve compiled them into a PDF and thought someone out in the blogosphere might appreciate these activities too! There are some games that will require dice, an m&m activity, a thankful list, conversation starters, and two coloring pages. 

2020 Virtual Thanksgiving Activities

Let’s mask up, social distance, and be conscientious towards one another so we can get COVID under control. I sure want to spend time with my relatives in 2021.    

Happy Virtual Thanksgiving! 

Release of Chaos Walking Trailer

I was so excited when I saw that there was a trailer out for the Chaos Walking movie. The Chaos Walking book series, written by Patrick Ness, is one of my favorite reads. The series is incredible. In fact, I wrote three blog posts about it because I liked it so much! 

Even though I read the series back in 2015, I’m still thinking about these books. The series starts with The Knife of Never Letting Go, on a new planet where settlers have landed to get away from the problems of “Old World.” When they arrive, they catch a disease they call “Noise,” which broadcasts everyone’s thoughts. All of their most secret and mundane thoughts, hopes, dreams, and memories are on display for everyone to hear. The main character, Todd, lives in a community where there are no longer any women. It’s just a town of angry, frustrated, noisy men. One day, Todd is out gathering apples when he comes across a pocket of silence. This silence starts a chain of events that sends Todd running from his community in fear for his life. A dramatic cliffhanger ending leads into The Ask and the Answer, and culminates with Monsters of Men

When casting choices for the two main characters was released in 2017, I wasn’t too impressed. I felt the actors were a lot older than the characters were in the book. However, seeing the trailer has changed my mind. The film has a darker vibe than how I pictured the book in my head, but it looks awesome. I am sooooo excited for this! What do you think?  I think a re-read of the series might be in store for me.

Bookish Goals: The Wins and Losses

  • Complete Goodreads Challenge of 60 books
    • I completed my challenge at the beginning of October, and I’m currently reading book number 70. Quarantining provided plenty of reading time for me. This year will mark the most books I’ve read in a single year since I started tracking my books on Goodreads in 2014. Of course, it also helps that I’ve been reading more graphic novels, and those tend to be shorter in length. 
  • Read more nonfiction
    • This wasn’t hard to do because I think I only read two nonfiction books in 2019: Becoming by Michelle Obama and Shortest Way Home by Pete Buttigieg. In 2020, I read several social justice and race titles, a book about introverts, Educated, a book about discussing politics, and a book detailing a piece of journalism. I can thank my church’s two book clubs for most of my nonfiction reading this year. I ended most of these books feeling like I had learned something from them. I don’t think nonfiction will ever be my go-to, but I’m going to keep encouraging myself to read from this genre. 
  • Watch TV/film adaptations of books
    • Last year, I did such a good job of watching books on the big screen. I watched Ready Player One, The Hate U Give, The Handmaid’s Tale (Season 1), Every Day, Wonder, and a few episodes of A Discovery of Witches. In 2020……….nothing. You’d think being stuck at home for months on end would have given me time to watch some movies – but I am also a mom to an only child. I got to entertain a kindergartener every day, all day long. The only movies we watched were Trolls World Tour, Onward, and whatever kids movies we could borrow from the library once it opened up again. I want to renew this goal for 2021.  
  • Read physical books I’ve borrowed, bought, or been gifted
    • It’s no secret: I love my kindle fire. At least 75% of the books I read are from the OverDrive app, which I read on my kindle. I have many lovely hardcover and paperback books in my house – either through my own purchases or from gifts – but I have a hard time making myself read them. A kindle is just so handy! I love highlighting favorite lines while I read, I like using the dictionary function to look up words I’m unfamiliar with, and I love the ease of holding it. I’m really only good at reading physical books when they are graphic novels. While I’ve read a fair share of graphic novels on my kindle, it’s definitely easier to read them and to view the artwork when it’s a real book. Again, I plan on keeping this goal for next year. 

What bookish goals have you set for yourself? How successful were you in completing them in 2020? What bookish goals will you set for 2021?

Reimagining Rodham’s Narrative

“The margin between staying and leaving was so thin; really, it could have gone either way.”

Curtis Sittenfeld’s novel Rodham opens with Hillary Clinton’s own words: “My marriage to Bill Clinton was the most consequential decision of my life. I said no the first two times he asked me. But the third time, I said yes.” The whole premise of Sittenfeld’s novel is that Hillary turns him down and doesn’t marry Bill Clinton. She doesn’t become a wife or a mother or First Lady. Instead, Hillary becomes a law professor, runs for senator of Illinois, and has several failed presidential campaigns. But Sittenfeld doesn’t make the journey easy and she doesn’t make Hillary out to be a saint. Hillary is flawed and makes mistakes, and also has the impossible task of presenting herself as a viable candidate for president.

“I don’t know if this sounds pathetic or conceited,” I said. “But I always hoped a man would fall in love with me for my brain.” Again, Phyllis and Nancy exchanged a glance. Phyllis’s voice was kind as she said, “Hillary, no man falls in love with a woman’s brain.”

In short, author Curtis Sittenfeld is just so talented. Intimate and captivating, Sittenfeld takes us into the personal side of politics. Add this to a line-up of Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win and Young Jane Young and you’ve got a good picture of the double-standard women face in politics. Sittenfeld also has the advantage of knowing how history turned out, so when she discusses Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall’s retirement and the controversial confirmation of Justice Clarence Thomas, it’s hard not to see the parallels in the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh. This was also timely as I read this book shortly after the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, making me think that there has to be a better way of selecting Supreme Court judges. The book isn’t all heavy, though. There’s romance – both sexy and sweet – and levity. Supporter Donald Trump’s lines would have been hilarious were it not for the fact that millions of people seriously voted for him again in 2020. 

But as much as I wanted to be president, I wanted a woman to be president—I wanted this because women and girls were half the population and we deserved, as a basic human right and a means of ensuring justice, to be equally represented in our government. Yet it was hard to explain because no man had ever run for president for this reason; even Barack, who’d surely run in part for the racial version of it, had never to my knowledge articulated it as such.

This book makes me so eager to see a woman as President of the United States. I was ready to vote for Hillary in 2008 and I voted for her in 2016. I’ve read Hillary’s book What Happened and think she’s so smart and could have made an incredible president, let alone, first woman president. Even though this book is a work of fiction, I feel like we missed out on calling Hillary Madam President. 

And really, wasn’t this endless ruminating over my own likability in itself a thing only a woman would do? Did Bill—or Ted Cruz or Rand Paul—ever ponder their likability, or did they simply go after what they wanted?

A Recipe for Readers: Cinnamon Roll Waffles

Yes, cinnamon roll waffles – did I get your attention? I learned this awesome waffle-hack from Instagram during the pandemic, and I want to pass it on because it’s so easy. 

  • Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls with Icing
    • Tip: If using a mini waffle maker like mine, get the regular-sized rolls. The Grands! Cinnamon Rolls are too big.
  1. Heat up your waffle maker according to instructions.
  2. Open the tube of cinnamon rolls. If using a mini waffle maker, place one roll on the griddle. Close the lid and cook!
    • Tip: For a mini waffle maker, you might want to flatten the dough a little so the roll isn’t as thick.
  3. Remove waffle when cooked through. Spoon on icing. 
  4. Eat and enjoy! 

You can eat these for breakfast, or even for dessert! Pair your waffles with one of these books that feature food and you’re in for a sweet treat.

  • With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

Written by the author of The Poet X, this prose novel is about teen mom Emoni Santiago, a high school senior living in Philly with her ‘Buela and babygirl. Life after high school is on everyone’s minds, and Emoni doesn’t know what the future will hold. But Emoni’s strengths become apparent when she’s in the kitchen. The way she blends spices and mixes up recipes is a type of magic. When a culinary arts class is offered at school, it seems only logical that Emoni enrolls. But the class culminates with an expensive trip to Spain. With high school graduation quickly approaching, Emoni has to make some realistic decisions about her future.

  • Bloom by Kevin Panetta

A graphic novel with lovely artwork. In Bloom, Ari wants to move with his friends to the city so they can pursue their dreams as a band. But after his sister gets married, Ari is the only sibling around to help his parents at the struggling family bakery. Ari decides to hire a replacement for himself so he can leave town. But when he hires cute culinary student, Hector, he finds it difficult to stay away from the bakery.

  • For All Who Hunger: Searching for Communion in a Shattered World by Emily M.D. Scott

A memoir by Emily Scott, founder of St. Lydia’s church in NYC. Emily starts a church that gathers for dinner to find moments of connection amidst the loneliness. Lovely, vulnerable writing from a reluctant pastor.