Friday, January 19, 2018

It felt good to help out...

It is easy to feel helpless when mother nature takes her toll on one's town and wreaks utter destruction on one's neighborhood. Attending our vigil felt good! Seeing friends, colleagues, and neighbors, being able to connect, to hug, and to support one another was a great first step for my mental health.

So, I decided to do something to help out and boy did it feel good. One of my best friends lives just two houses away from the mudslides and the Los Angeles County Search and Rescue were stationed outside her house for a few days. Her husband is a total extrovert and made friends with all the guys so I got to help provide dinner for them. What a great experience!

This group of heroes (and many others) are far away from their families and are working long and difficult shifts. They have the awful job of searching for the remaining missing people. So far, 20 have been found dead, but three are still missing.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Sunday Salon: January 14, 2018

My life in books:
Happy New Year Everyone! Except for one YA fiction, my reading the past two weeks has been non-fiction heavy because I am a judge for round 2 of the CYBILS. I'm doing junior high and senior high non-fiction so will be reading fourteen non-fiction books by early February. I am not allowed to post any reviews until the winners are announced, but I'm listing the books I've read here.
Junior High non-fiction finalists that I've read:
  • Bound by Ice: A True North Pole Survival Story by Sandra Neil Wallace
  • Isaac the Alchemist: Secrets of Isaac Newton Reveal'd by Mary Losure
  • Motor Girls: How Women Took the Wheel and Drove Boldly into the Twentieth Century by Sue Macy
  • The Whydah: A Pirate Ship Feared, Wrecked, and Found by Martin W. Sandler
  • Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team by Steve Scheinkin
High School non-fiction finalists that I've read:
  • March Against Fear: the Last Great Walk of the Civil Rights Movement and the Emergence of Black Power by Ann Bausum
  • A Dog in the Cave: the Wolves Who Made Us Human by Kay Frydenborg
  • Queer, There, and Everywhere by Sarah Prager
  • Fiction I am currently reading--Disappeared by Francisco X. Stork
Challenges progress:
  • Non-fiction--My goal is 20 books and I've read 8. Thank you CYBILS!
  • Literary Voyage around the world--The idea was to read books set in as many countries as possible. I the UK and the North Pole/Russia so far.
  • Literary Escapes--Similar to the previous challenge, this one tracks the US states. I have read books set in OK, PA, MA, and AL so far.
  • Read all of the ALA YA Award Winners--these haven't been announced yet.
My life outside books:
Getting back to work after almost a month off (due to the fires in Santa Barbara) was weird. I think everyone felt a bit disjointed the first couple of days, but we were all happy to reconnect with one another after such a weird fire experience. I was trying to focus my work life since I've felt pretty scattered, trying to do far too many things and have been going in a number of different directions. But, just as I was trying to focus, the mudslides hit Santa Barbara and I've been subbing at one of our local high schools. We have about 25% of our teachers who cannot get to work since the freeways are closed into Santa Barbara.

We've had a fairly quiet first couple of weeks of 2018, thank goodness! My daughter headed back to boarding school this past Monday so the house definitely seems quieter. It's her final semester of high school and I know she is ready to move on. Senior-itis has hit!

I wrote that paragraph before the mudslides hit Santa Barbara on January 9 We are only two blocks from the destruction so it's been very intense this week, but our house and we are fine and safe. You can see my post about it here.


With my daughter at home, I found myself sitting next to hear watching random episodes of Suits and Scandal. Both are fun shows, but it's always weird to episodes that aren't in order.

Friday, January 12, 2018

And now mudslides?

This was the site of houses that disappeared
I have not posted much in the past couple of weeks because the reading I am doing is for the CYBILS and I am not allowed to post any reviews of the books until the winners are announced on February 14.

And now I have something post-worthy that isn't book related. After suffering for almost a month with the Thomas Fires (see this post), on Tuesday, January 9 at 3:30am Santa Barbara (specifically my neighborhood of Montecito) was hit with mudslides. You have probably seen some of the details on TV this week, but it has been just devastating. My family and house are fine; we are two blocks from the slides. But our neighbors and community and people we know have been directly affected.

As of today (Friday) the number of people who have died (ages 3 to 89) is 18. The area is full of:

  • Search and rescue personnel and their dogs. This is the part that breaks my heart the most. I know they are working furiously to find survivors, but they are mostly finding bodies. And the bodies are up to a mile away from their homes, giving us all a visual of what they must have endured. In fact, survivors have been found up to 1.5 miles from their homes.
  • Utility trucks and workers trying to sort the piles of wires into some sort of order. Our house has power, but no internet or TV. I think this is a blessing as we aren't being inundated with images. Seeing it in person is enough, but it's strange that people far and wide are seeing the "bigger picture" that we can't see. I was interviewed by local television (I appear twice in the first minute) and it turns out it was picked up by PBS, ABC, CBN (Christian news) and even Australian TV. The New York Times even titled their video "It's Apocalyptic," which is my quote! I keep hearing from people all over the US and Australia that they've seen me on TV. Talk about surreal.
  • Fire trucks and firefighters... again. These poor people were just here in December fighting the Thomas Fire and now they are back. They are all incredible.
  • Dazed neighbors. I think we're all in shock. Seeing our neighbors staggering around covered in mud having lost everything is shocking. Seeing huge trees in splinters, cars upside down in feet of mud, houses ripped off their foundation, and more is than I can fathom and I am here.
  • Evacuations--we are just outside the mandatory evacuation zone so are surrounded by police cars checking IDs of everyone who walks or drives in the area. 
We get internet in one corner of my bedroom
So that's what's going on here. I hope you and yours are safe and well wherever you live.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Action for Happiness... it goes beyond books

Books bring me joy. I'm sure that's not a surprise. Holding books, smelling books, reading books, blogging about books, talking about books, and yes, standing in a bookstore. It's all good. But there is more to happiness than just books, right?

I just read about Action for Happiness on Bonnie's blog and I love the idea of mindful happiness every day. I have been keeping a bullet journal for just over a year now and one of the things I do at the end of every day is write down one thing I am grateful for. It's a wonderful way for me to finish the day.

The other thing I did for 2017 is the "Year in Pixels" where at the end of each day I color a square corresponding to how I feel the day went. It felt so great to look back on the year and see what an overall positive experience it was. I have chosen different colors for 2018, but am definitely going to continue doing this.

Anyway, back to the Action for Happiness. It turns out it is a British group whose patron is the Dalai Lama. What better patron could there be for peace and happiness?! Here's a brief video with him about the group.

One of the free things the group offers is a monthly calendar of positive/happy tasks for each day. I am going to see how I do with these activities because I can always use a little more positivity in my life.

What do you do to keep yourself
happy and positive?

Monday, January 1, 2018

Review: Until Friday Night by Abbi Glines

Title: Until Friday Night (The Field Party #1)
Author: Abbi Glines
Year Published: 2015

Genre: YA fiction
Pages: 328
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2018 Google Reading map)USA (Alabama)

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): To everyone who knows him, West Ashby has always been that guy: the cocky, popular, too-handsome-for-his-own-good football god who led Lawton High to the state championships. But while West is Big an on Campus on the outside, he's grief-stricken on the inside: for the past year, he has watched his father slowly die of cancer. And he hasn't told anyone because he can't face the truth.

Two years ago Maggie Carlton witnessed her father murder her mother. Afterward she told the police what happened, and then never spoke again. Even after moving to Lawton, Alabama, to live with her uncle, Maggie kept her sorrow and her fractured heart hidden away.

Now, as his pain grows unbearable, West finally decides he needs to talk to someone about his dad. So in the dark shadows of a post-game party, he tells the one girl who doesn't speak all the things he can't tell anyone else. What West expected was relief, a flood of emotions--but what he didn't expect was for Maggie to reply. For her to reveal a pain even deeper than his own. For them to form a connection so strong that he couldn't ever let her go.

Review: My first book of 2018! I have a huge stack of books to read, but I wanted to continue the feeling of vacation and figured a "fluff" YA book set in Alabama (so it works for one of my challenges) would be perfect. This book isn't fluff. 

Yes, it has the usual high school characters: new girl; jocks; small town; football (but no play by play, thank goodness); and romance. However, it has much more as well. There is grief. And self-awareness. And friendship. And so much grief. I cried a number of times thinking what it would be like for my daughter to lose me and what it will be like for me to lose my parents. Well, you can imagine it was an emotional read.

What I think I like best about this book is that it has something for everyone. High school students will easily relate to the dating, the crushes, and the family dynamics. I also hope they will see the nuances of how boys and girls (and men and women) treat one another; that possession is a dangerous thing and it's okay to stand up to it, name it, and walk away. Adults will surely remember what it's like to be in high school, but will relate more to the parent-child relationships that are so strong in this book. 

I am looking forward to reading the other two books in this series, which follow different characters in the same friend group.

Challenges for which this counts: