2016 Summer Bucket List

We returned from our honeymoon on Monday. Reader, it was glorious. We had so much time to just relax, and hike, and talk, and read, and people-watch, and eat that I think everyone should go on a honeymoon at least once a year, whether you’re married or not. (I think other people might call these vacations, but like a true grad student, I don’t really know how to take time off. A honeymoon seemed like a good enough excuse, though.)

While driving back on Monday (so much driving!), I started thinking about what I wanted to do this summer. So here it is, my summer 2016 bucket list, in random order:

  • take L. to camp at Sequoia and/or King’s Canyon National Parks (this was a favorite family destination when we were growing up so obviously L. needs to go, too)
  • visit Santa Cruz
  • go to a baseball game (Go Giants!)
  • visit Lassen Volcanic National Park
  • experiment with spelt bread recipes
  • make my own yogurt
  • run a 5k (I’m on week 5 of couch to 5k now, which is like three weeks further than I’ve ever made it, so I’m hopeful)
  • ride another century
  • visit friends and family in the Netherlands this summer
  • write and submit an article to an academic journal
  • not get sunburned (which is harder than it looks, at least if you’re me. I went on a bike ride a couple of weeks ago, and cavilierly applied sunscreen, thinking I’d only be out for 90 minutes or so. Thanks to my abysmal sense of direction, 90 mins turned into 3,5 hours and my arms and legs got very red indeed. I’m going to aim at not repeating that experience). Also included in this goal is to avoid heat exhaustion/sunstroke
  • go to Yoga in the Park, put on by a local yoga studio here
  • go see a movie on Courthouse Square in Redwood City (the city puts on free movies on a big square in the summer–it’s a good mix of older and newer movies, and there should be at least a couple I’m interested in)
  • volunteer with CASA San Mateo (Court Appointed Special Advocates–I’ve talked with them and they’re amiable to me helping out. I get some hopefully relevant work experience, they get an extra pair of hands)
  • check out Cal Academy of Science’s new show, “Incoming!”, narrated by George Takei
  • attend at least one meet-up event
  • find a new book club
  • watch Love Between the Covers, a feature length documentary on romance novels, readers, and writers
  • keep writing cover letters until someone finally hires me

My reading goals are separate. The biggest one is to make a dent in the unread books on my shelves, but specifically:

  • Ron Chernow’s Hamilton 
  • Greg Prince’s Leonard Arrington and the Making of Mormon History 
  • Annie Clark Tanner’s A Mormon Mother
  • Kate Bowler’s Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel
  • Heather Hansen’s Prophets and Moguls, Rangers and Rogues, Bisons and Bears: 100 Years of the National Park Service 
  • Amy Wallace and Edwin Catmull’s Creativity, Inc. 
  • Robert Putnam’s Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis
  • Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You
  • Annie Barrow’s The Truth According to Us
  • Frederick Backman’s My Grandmother Told Me to Tell You She’s Sorry
  • Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian
  • Marilynn Robinson’s Lila
  • Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life

although I also reserve the right to reread the Harry Potter series for the fifth hundred time, and anything I might find on my no doubt frequent trips to the library. Hashtag spontaneity.

reader, I married him

It’s still a little hard to believe, but I’m married. Sunday night, after the ceremony and reception, we stayed the night at the Claremont hotel in Berkeley, and then returned home bright and early on Monday morning to have a last breakfast with L’s family before most of them left town. And now we’re home again, and everything is different, but also the same.

On Facebook, I posted the following:

I washed the makeup off my face last night, took the pins out of my hair, and hung up my dress. There I was, the same Saskia, but also a little different. We’re back to normal now, the two of us. Except we carry the love of so many people with us going forward, and that makes all the difference.

Thank you to everyone who made our wedding day happen. Thank you to my family, and Loel’s family, who are now also mine. Thank you to our officiant, who helped us craft a ceremony that reflected who we are and what we value. Thank you to our friends and family who came, and those who loved us from afar. We are so blessed.

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I have a husband now. I am a wife. L. and I have been joking around all day, saying things like, “this is our first breakfast as married people!” “hey, look, this is our first time walking Josie as married people!” and calling each other husband and wife. Per Dutch tradition, I switched my rings from one hand to the other, and although it’s a little jarring to feel them on the other side, I think I’ll get used to that pretty soon. It might take me a little longer to get used to these new identities, though, and this new reality  in which I am mine, always mine, but now also his.

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We leave on our honeymoon tomorrow: the Grand Canyon, Vegas, and then a stop in Salt Lake City, both so we can go to all our old haunts, and because I have a paper to present at the annual Mormon History Association conference up at Snowbird. (What, you didn’t spend two days in a conference hotel with a bunch of nerds on your honeymoon, talking about Mormon history? just me? Oh.)

I have some posts planned about our ceremony, what we wore, how much I cried (so much!), and how happy I am (so happy!). But first, I have to go enjoy this feeling of being L’s wife.

see you on the other side

On Tuesday, L. and I had our last marriage prep session with our officiant, the rector at my church. Where other sessions had focused on our relationship and the ceremony, this one went more into what marriage means, why it’s considered a sacrament in the church, and what it means to start a new family. The rector stressed that we should be wanting to bless the world, not just ourselves, through our marriage. While I certainly don’t think you have to be married to do good in the world, something about that idea stuck with me and I’ve thinking about it since.

Yesterday, we had our rehearsal, at the venue. Standing there, running through the service, saying some of the words we’ll say on Sunday, even just seeing our names on this sign at the parking lot:

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It hit me. We’re getting married on Sunday, the day after tomorrow. It’s finally here.

Shit just got real.

read what you want, when you want (part 1)

A popular book blogger had a post about New York Times bestsellers worth reading, saying that ‘bestseller’ doesn’t actually mean very much since a lot of not-so-good-books make it onto the list. I’m not linking to the post because this isn’t about her and I’m not even critiquing her–it just got me thinking. I am a big proponent of reading what you want, when you want. This doesn’t mean I think all books are good, or worth my time–but the operative word here is my.

I read cozy mysteries like my life depends on it. I read Patricia Cornwell and Karen Slaughter thrillers. I read Amish romances. I read fantasy and sometimes sci-fi (though the latter is rare). I also read high-brow literary works, and academic tomes, and non-fiction. (I don’t read much science, though, something I’d like to change.) Hell, I’ll even read the back of the cereal box if I have to (ie, if I’m stranded without anything else to read during breakfast).

I have a friend whose book list gives me holy envy. She goes off on reading tangents and now knows a lot about both Darwin and the Russian tsars. But just because I admire her dedication doesn’t mean I want her list, even as I’ve vowed to read more quality non-fiction as a result. Fluff fiction relaxes my hamster wheel brain more than anything else (except maybe drugs? Stoners always sound super relaxed. But cozy mysteries seem like a much more viable, safe, and legal option there).

There is so much classism and other forms of perceived moral superiority stuck under these expectations of who should read what. And to get back to the beginning of this post, bestseller lists, if nothing else, are interesting because they tell us something about the popular consciousness–if four out of the first five fiction books on the list are thriller mysteries (Grisham, Patterson, Greaney, Baldacci), and the fifth is Stephen King, that says something about the people who read books, and the books they choose to buy. Books might not be ‘worth the hype’ based on literary merit, but that there is a hype is very interesting nonetheless.

I do, however, make an exception for Twilight. And Fifty Shades of Gray. No one should be internalizing that (and I have read both, so I should know). Anything else, however? You go girl. Read whatever you want, whenever you want, and don’t let anyone shame you into thinking your tastes aren’t good enough.

to be continued…

On Hamilton, Or Why I Should Think Before I Press Play

Last week, I had a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. It was one of those days that you just have to get through, and when I went to take Josie for her afternoon walk and was looking for something to listen to, I saw the Hamilton soundtrack. I thought, “yes, this is just what I need, an upbeat soundtrack about persevering and making it and not throwing away anyone’s shot. I’ll sing along in my head and it’ll give me perspective on my own stupid problems and it’ll be great.”

Bad idea. You see, I was halfway through the musical, and you know what happens after the halfway mark? (Spoiler alert, although this shouldn’t be a spoiler for anyone who’s had to take a US History class.) Philip, Hamilton’s son, dies in a duel. And then a terribly sad song comes on (“It’s Quiet Uptown”), and I cried. I know Hamilton’s story, I knew this was coming and I still cried. And I kept walking, and then Hamilton’s own duel happens, and he dies (“The World Was Wide Enough”), and poor Eliza sings “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story” and I was trying very hard to not weep while Josie wandered, oblivious, at my feet.

At least no one noticed, and I didn’t have to explain I was crying over something that happened way back in 1804.  Small mercies, I guess.

 

 

 

what I read in February and March

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Fiction

His Right Hand, by Mette Ivie Harrison. This is book number 2 in Harrison’s Linda Wallheim series. From Goodreads.com: “In the follow-up to the controversial and critically acclaimed mystery The Bishop’s Wife, Mormon housewife Linda Wallheim finds herself ruffling feathers in Draper, Utah, as she assists a murder investigation that is being derailed by transphobia within the LDS community.”

Honestly, I was a little apprehensive when I saw the premise of the book, because it centers around the life of a trans man and deals with transphobia in general, and it is really hard for straight, privileged people to get that right. Good intentions and sensitivity don’t always translate well on the page. I also kind of felt like Harrison made sure to include a paragraph or two about every difficult social or political issue the LDS Church is facing, whether or not it aided the story. But, as in the first book, she does a good job of portraying Draper, Utah, and the Mormon church more generally, as a space where people frequently get it wrong, but get back up and try again.

Mistborn: Secret History, by Brandon Sanderson. I love the Mistborn series, and this one talks about Kelsier’s legacy after his death. (Summary is intentionally vague because hell hath no fury but a nerd scorned, or spoiled.) I’m not necessarily a die-hard Kelsier fan, so I didn’t get that much out of this book. Recommended if you’re a Mistborn fan, because you’re probably a completionist, like me.

Calamity, by Brandon Sanderson. The third installment in the Reckoners series! I love this series so much.

Crazy Rich Asians and China Rich Girlfriend, by Kevin Kwan. Amusing read about the (imagined?) insanity that is the Asian (noveau) riche community. Crazy Rich Asians is slightly better, I felt–China Rich Girlfriend continues the story but seems more focused on cataloguing the excesses than developing characters. At the heart of each book, however, is a clear message that money does not happiness make.

Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, by Becky Albertalli. Simon is 16 years old, and gay, and emailing with an anonymous, adorable boy in his school. He isn’t out, though, and when the emails fall into the wrong hands, he has to decide for himself who he wants to be. The book is half teen romance, half coming of age story, and a quick read.

(Cozy) Mysteries

Murder on the Links and The Monogram Murdersby Agatha Christie. The Monogram Murders is actually written by Sophie Hannah, in the Christie style. It’s a Poirot mystery, and although I felt Hannah’s Poirot was a little more gimmicky than the Christie version, it’s still a good mystery and recommended for Poirot fans.

Red Velvet Cupcake MurderPeach Cobbler Murder, Devil’s Food Cake Murder, and Wedding Cake Murder, by Joanne Fluke. Hannah Swensen is one of my favorite cozy mystery heroines, and the rereads were all in preparation for the latest installment, Wedding Cake Murder, in which we (gasp!) actually see a love triangle resolved. This wasn’t the best installment in the series, but definitely worth reading if you like the Swensen clan.

The Skeleton Takes a Bow and The Skeleton Haunts a House by Leigh Perry. This is a new-to-me series, in which an adjunct professor takes on mysteries–with a live, talking skeleton by her side. (I know it’s weird, but it works.) I loved them mostly for Perry’s take on the eternal quandary of being an adjunct, and felt a little nostalgic as I read it–but mostly relieved to no longer be one.

Off the Books and Played by the Book by Lucy Arlington. This series is set in Inspiration Valley, a cutesy small town with a prominent literary agency (and a sandwich shop where all the sandwiches are named after literary characters–anyone feel like a Hamlet?) and a “murder magnet” who solves mysteries on her day off. (I swear, all these hokey plots feel way less contrived when you’re reading them.)

Non-fiction

Building a Better Teacher: How Teaching Works (and How to Teach It to Everyone), by Elizabeth Green. This is actually a really fascinating book. I read it in tandem with Dana Goldstein’s The Teacher Wars, and where Goldstein discusses the political context of teaching (how we think about teaching, how non-profit, corporate, and government interests try to solve the US’s education problem, and how that effectively paralyzes public schools in a lot of cases), Green dives into charter schools, what teacher education programs look like, and what the ramifications are in the classroom. Recommended if you think teaching is either natural or easy, or if you want to know more about what people are doing to make the US ed system better.

As Texas Goes…: How the Lone Star State Hijacked the American Agenda, by Gail Collins. I listened to this one on audiobook. It’s a little dry in places, but it’s a fascinating look at the way Texas politics, legacy, and culture influences the greater US. From education to gun rights, what happens in Texas doesn’t stay in Texas.

The Great Fitness Experiment, by Charlotte Hilton Anderson. I read Charlotte’s blog for years and loved reading about all the crazy things she tried in the name of fitness. This is basically her blog in book form, with some extras thrown in. Fun and entertaining.

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, by Barbara Demick. This was a book club pick. It deals with, as the title says, ordinary lives in North Korea: six of them, to be exact. She manages to humanizes the terrible history of North Korea, which I realized I know very little about, and should rectify that.

 

on moving, and starting over (again)

For the most part, our move has been good. Our apartment/condo is really nice and actually bigger than our old house, I have an actual office now, the sun shines most days, and I’m no longer the lone foreigner in the room because here? there are so many people with complicated “where are you from” stories. I’ve been exploring the area on my bike, I found a new church, and my new library has an interlibrary loan service that gets me anything I want to read. Like I said, it’s good here.

But.

I miss my friends. I miss going to book club. I miss meeting friends for coffee. I miss having ecumenical theological conversations over lunch. I miss the community it took me more than a year to build, and it just feels so daunting to do that all over again here. Especially since I’m the trailing spouse here, and that’s such a liminal space to be in, and a directionless one at that. I do not like being directionless. Being directionless scares me. I believe in goals, and plans, and lists, and checking things off, and charging forward.

For most of my two years in Germany, I hibernated. I don’t think I even realized it until after I’d left, but I was so unhappy there. It wasn’t Germany’s fault, just a combination of circumstances, most of them mine and most of them things I’d been carrying around for years. After six months, or maybe a year in Utah, I kind of woke up and realized that whether I’d known it or not, I’d fought my way out of a depression and I was ready to start living again. And I did, and I was happy, for the most part.

And then we moved. And now we’ve been living here for three months, and I’ve made the total of one acquaintance (though a really fun one), and I have to keep reminding myself that it took me a while in Utah, too. It’ll be okay. I’ll be okay. But if you have any tips for a socially anxious introvert on how to make friends, let me know, please. This stuff is hard.