2014 has been a year in which I’ve flown by the seat of my pants. Graduate school took over most of my evenings and a large chunk of weekends–and though it’s been a lot of work and severely limited my social calendar, I feel like I am learning alongside some of the most passionate literacy teachers and from the all-stars of my profession. A great deal of my life at work was spent immersed in the world of inclusion teaching: thinking about what full time co-teaching would look like, trying to get the necessary supports ready, sitting in on interviews, clenching my jaw nervous about letting go of full control, and then feeling utterly thankful for the co-teacher I now share a classroom with and how much I’ve learned from the experience. The team of teachers I work with has amazed me with their passion and drive–and the support that exists among us when at the end of the day all we can get out is “teaching is hard.” (True story. That was where the conversation took us at a party a few weeks ago.)
This has also been a year where I’ve been so thankful for family. We lost my grandpa in June, and I witnessed the definition of what family should be–and that is exactly what my grandpa would be the most proud of–having his five kids, their spouses, and his 13 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren together. So many dad’s side of the family came to the services to stand alongside us. I’ve been able to get home to my parents 4 times this year to laugh and listen to music. I celebrated my first Christmas away from home, but married into a wonderful family that includes the cutest nieces in the world and got to eat waffles from my mother-in-law’s grandmother’s waffle iron. My apartment continues to be an adventure in shitty-coziness (leaks, slants, animals), but couldn’t ask for a better guy to check for rodents that may or may not have fallen from the ceiling.
I’m still trying to weave art and poetry into my life, playing with watercolor and drawing, reading Mary Oliver. I journeyed through The Artists’ Way by Julia Cameron and am still learning so much from Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards. But as always, it is reading that has built the backdrop of my year: opening my eyes beyond my daily existence, reminding me of bigger truths, letting me escape, introducing me to new people. Here are the best of this year, linked to the post I wrote about them:
The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker: recommended by my mom and a gorgeous story that explores the space between suffering and love, set mostly in Burma
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt: an incredible book to read closely and the basis of one of my favorite book club conversations of all time
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter: a surprising favorite that started as a beach read but stole my heart in the last third
Transatlantic by Colum McCann: the second half of this story beautifully (and surprisingly) pulled together threads of women’s history and walked me through grief
A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki: the most beautiful and thought-provoking book of the year, set mostly in Japan
Yes, Please by Amy Poehler: the most enjoyable book to read while in week 2 of a month long cold, with some tea, while it’s pouring. Fey/Poehler for president.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: stunning, though-provoking, lyrical WW2 historical fiction
The Varieties of Scientific Experience by Carl Sagan: my foray into science-nerd reading which literally showed me just how big and wonder-filled the universe is
This One Summer by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki: I thought this young adult graphic novel would be for kids, but it was a poignant reminder of the complexity of the early teenage years
The Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra: the post for this book is still in progress, but its craft and themes taught me so much about Chechnya and life in a war-torn country
This is the end of my 8th year writing this blog. You can find lists from 2007-2013 here. I think I’m going to re-do an old reading resolution–read the books on my nightstand before I buy anything new. Here’s the current pile: