Hey! For those who missed it, I spent three nights in the hospital due to an ulcerative colitis flare.
I’d tried telling two different doctors at various times throughout January that my medicine stopped working, but nobody listened to me.
For a week before I was admitted, my doctor’s office ghosted me. I called. I emailed. Nothing. No answer. Radio static. (Long story here. If you want more details, call, text, or inbox me.)
I felt like Demi Lovato singing “Anyone” at the Grammys.
Turns out, shocker, that my colitis had spread further into my colon, and I needed a blood transfusion to replace the blood I had lost.
Because. Nobody. Listened. To. Me. Seriously.
But I won’t get into the entire story right now because:
Because. Nobody. Listened. To. Me.
Enough of the negativity. Here’s what I learned during my hospital stay.
And while humor helps, what happened to me is no laughing matter. If you suffer from any illness, whether invisible or visible, you are your own best advocate. You are the only person who knows what the pain feels like, and if doctors aren’t listening to you, keep speaking up–even if it feels like nobody is listening to you.
(I respect all doctors, and I am not doctor bashing here, friends. This came down to ineffective communication within a doctor’s office and between doctors’ offices and medical bureaucracy. What happened to me could have been prevented. I’m just relaying how unnervingly unheard I was.)
Even though January lasts eons, I look forward to reading in January each year. In December, I peruse the best-of-the-year book lists that permeate book lovers’ blogs and throw their favorites on my January TBR. I end up reading a few fantastic books at the beginning of every year.
Wilder Girls by Rory Power –YAL horror–published 2019–two stars: Under quarantine because of a slow-moving, fatal disease called the “Tox,” an all-girls school battles with the fallout. Even though the premise is fresh, Power failed to create a single likable character. Because of plot holes, the characters starved for no plausible reason. However, the cover is badass. I still can’t stop looking at it.
Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language by Gretchen McCulloch–nonfiction–published 2019–five stars: This. Book. Is. Fascinating. As a self-proclaimed word nerd who loves learning about etymology, I couldn’t put this book down. Who wouldn’t want to examine the history of how the internet has influenced the English language’s evolution? Who wouldn’t want to learn about text tone of voice, the history of emojis, and the Unicode Consortium? Plus, McCulloch’s comedic word-nerd voice radiates throughout. Take away? Stop judging informal writing as if it were formal. Texting and social media writing will never follow standard English.
The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw–YAL fantasy–published 2018–two stars: Three sisters, killed for their supposed witchery 200 hundred years ago, come back every summer to haunt the seaside town responsible for their demises. They drown unsuspecting teenage boys to take their revenge. Disclaimer–the adult supervision in this town is nonexistent. The parents allow the teenagers to throw a massive beach party on the night of the witches’ reappearance even though there are drowning deaths every summer? Come. On. A girl goes missing during this time, and the teenagers hold her hostage. The adults neglect to search for the missing girl. Ugh. Now, I admit, I missed a plot twist, but I’ll blame that on the muscle relaxer I took the night I read the book.
The Chain by Adrian McKinty–crime/thriller–published 2019–three stars: A divorcée and breast cancer survivor named Rachel is finally getting her life back on track when two people kidnap her daughter Kylie from the school bus stop. This is no normal kidnapping. Rachel gets a phone call demanding ransom and that she must kidnap and hold another child hostage to get her own daughter released. The people who kidnapped her daughter received the same phone call and instructions, and this process goes back years like a chain letter. Forced into a terrible position, Rachel and her family face death if they break “the chain.” The plot is inconceivable. Have everyday Joes become mastermind kidnappers at the drop of hat and not get caught nor go to the police? No chance. I found parts of the prose contrived. For example towards the novel’s end, McKinty explains the metaphor of the chain. Mind blown emoji. Don’t explain the metaphor McKinty! You know better. I guess I’m just in desperate need of a good thriller because this genre consistently fails in impressing me.
Night (The Night Trilogy, #1) by Elie Wiesel–memoir–published 1956–five stars: Considering my aversion to World War II historical fiction and nonfiction, it shouldn’t be surprising that I’ve eschewed reading this memoir for years. However, Wiesel’s austere prose gutted me.
Normal People by Sally Rooney–contemporary fiction–published 2019–four stars: Connell and Marianne, high schoolers who come from different backgrounds, fall for each other, hiding their relationship from their friends and their families. Their toxic relationship follows them to college. I disliked Connell and Marianne but liked this novel.
The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow–YAL fantasy–published 2019–four stars: January, raised by a rich armchair archeologist, pines for a grand adventure. One day she discovers a door, walks through it, and finds herself in another world. Her guardian then destroys the door. Once she discovers there are more doors leading to millions of other worlds, her hero’s journey begins. The magical, wistful, and carefully chosen words shine on the page, creating a glorious fairy tale.
Where the Forest Meets the Stars by Glendy Vanderah–contemporary fiction–published 2019–five stars: Trying to resume her ornithology research after a health setback, Joanna rents a cabin in Southern Illinois to conduct her studies and to help her heal. One night, a little girl appears, and Joanna enlists her reclusive neighbor to help solve the mystery of the scared, intelligent girl. I. Could. Not. Put. This. Book. Down. If you enjoyed Where the Crawdads Sing, you’ll love this book; it’s better than Crawdads. It has more humor and more heart while being less dense.
The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern–fantasy–published 2019–five stars: I held off on picking up this book for two reasons. 1. It’s lengthy. 2. I reread Morgenstern’s Night Circus last year, and to my horror, couldn’t explain why I thought it phenomenal upon first reading. As a result, I thought this book would waste my time. A few book reviewers who I respect critically panned this book while others loud capped their approval. Morgenstern’s sophomore novel is more concrete, vivid, and literary than her first. Much like the above-reviewed The Ten Thousand Doors of January, the plot focuses on doors leading to other worlds and the doors’ widespread destruction.
Get a Life, Chloe Brown (The Brown Sisters, #1) by Talia Hibbert–romance–published 2019–three stars: The titular protagonist faces chronic pain, moving from her family home to prove her independence. As soon as she unpacks her flat, she gets the hots for her building’s super hot super. Against her better judgment, she asks him to help her cross off items from her “get a life” list. Chloe has fibromyalgia, the same disease I suffer from. Brown does a decent job describing its symptoms and the day-to-day difficulties those symptoms create, but that does not outweigh this romance novel’s mediocrity.
Do I Make Myself Clear? Why Writing Well Matters by Harold Evans–nonfiction–published 2017–three stars: Believe me, Harold Evans, a well-respected British editor, would judge my writing. While I found a few of his insights valuable–particularly the importance of writing a clear sentence, he’s a self-described language purist and abhors English language evolution. Parts of this book are simply old-school grammar textbook lists of things like common word usage mistakes. He also t-charts poorly written passages of a wide variety of genres with his commentary of its weaknesses. These parts made me feel like I was trying to wade through terribly constructed student work, resulting in my head wanting to explode. Read a different book if you want writing tips.
The Cactus by Sarah Haywood–contemporary fiction–published 2018–three stars: Even though Reese Witherspoon is a national treasure, her book club picks are literary trash. I”ve yet to read one I’ve rated higher than a three. The Cactus is a lesser Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine. The plot twist exposed itself within the books’ first quarter.
Ava and Pip (Ava and Pip #1) by Carol Weston–middle grade–published 2014–four stars: Ava, a writing loving elementary schooler, tries to help her painfully shy older sister Pip find her voice. Little Thing and I enjoyed this read.
What did you read in January, friends?
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on these books if you’ve read them!
begin with the end in mind, AKA backward design
Common Core and 504
ELL, STEM, and IEP are not absentee (But if they were, you’d have to let them make up the work, for sure.)
collaborate and debate
Claim retired, and its replacement is assertion; try teaching that to little persons.
will point you in the right (write?) direction
facilitate with fidelity; provide actionable feedback . . . (but don’t call in sick unless you’re having a heart attack)
Is your summative assessment warm or cold? (Grab a blanket–so we’re told.)
flip the classroom; personalize learning (to get their brains churning)
What’s the objective?
Does it align with the standards?
How does the curriculum get them college and career ready?
One to one.
The kids still find it boring.
And by week’s end, the only buzz words we care about are Tito’s, tequila, and Tanqueray (with honorable mentions to happy hour and chardonnay).
What does ulcerative colitis feel like? Here’s my best poetic attempt.
twisted under blankets to smother
raging through the
flicking its forked tongue
puncturing smoke and blaze
scarring its wake vermilion, bitter, black
sloughing its cinders
a phoenix-masked ouroboros
twisted under fire blankets aching for the rain
As always, invisible illness only remains invisible unless we talk about it. I hope all my fellow chronic pain sufferers find their rain soon.
It’s that time of year! With our holiday travel, the new decade ushered in, and my 37th birthday (yikes!) over, I’ve found a moment to jot down my goals for 2020.
1. Stop referring to myself as “Mommy” when conversing with Little Thing.
She’s seven. This is going to be a long-overdue, hard habit to break. Considering I’ve mostly conquered my spacing twice after a period at a sentence’s end habit, this resolution is attainable.
2. Spend less time on social media.
Last month, I read Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport, which calls for deleting social media apps and points out that when Apple created the iPhone, the company never envisioned it becoming a pocket-sized, distracting mini-computer. While I won’t be deleting Facebook and Instagram, I do agree with his underlying argument. I’m monitoring my activity closely, even deleting distracting Facebook notifications and turning off email notifications.
3. Manage my stress better.
A. My ulcerative colitis is barely managed right now. My medicine stopped working, and I’m a week out from an IBD specialist consult with a John Hopkins’ educated gastroenterologist. My UC stresses me out, and stress triggers flare-ups.
B. I’ve got a new curriculum for one of my classes, and I have two preps. I’m existing like a primitive amoebic blob with mush for brains, crossing my pseudopods, I mean fingers, and hoping that everything works out in the end.
C. My school district is building a new middle school, relieving overcrowding for my school and a neighboring one. To staff it, they’re taking teachers from both schools. What does this mean for me? Who knows, but it’s freaking me out! No matter what, it’s the last year I’ll be working with some of my coworkers, furthering my anxiety.
This all boils down to I’m a nervous wreck, and I need a way to cope. I’ve tried anxiety medicine before, but my fibromyalgia causes me to have exaggerated side effects with lots of medications. (For example, I tried to take half of a low dose muscle relaxer with my UC medicine last weekend, my rheumatologist assured me it would be okay, and I was a wet-noodled narcoleptic the next day.) I’m going to find some books on managing stress and look into therapy.
What are your 2020 resolutions friends?
Sorry for my unannounced extended hiatus . . . but life happens (e.g. two teaching preps, new curriculum, remodeling the kitchen, traveling for the holidays, and obsessively listening to Taylor Swift’s Red and Lover albums whilst procrastinating). But I’M BAAAAACCCCKKKK on the 2020 blogging train with one of my favorite yearly posts–my favorite reads of 2019.
And choosing my favorite reads this year proved more difficult than it was the previous year. I’m #sorrynotsorry for the lack of book reviews for my faves, but trying to decide which of the 153 books I read deserved to be ranked sucked my time for this post dry. Quite frankly, there are nearly 40 more books that I’d recommend; if you want to see a full list of my 2019 reads and how I rated them, check out my 2019 book challenge on Goodreads.
Anyway, drumroll please . . . here are my favorite books read in 2019:
There you have it! I’ll be back next week with my New Year’s resolutions post.
Although I manage to grade most student-written essays during school hours, inevitably home grading transpires from time to time. Here’s what my grading process looks like when I do lug home heaps of papers.