Education is supremely fucked in this country, and my job is no different. I have over 50 poems documenting the scene that is my school. Scene may be too minimizing, but that’s all I’ve got. It’s like calling #MeToo stories “scandals.” Like, that’s not a scandal; that’s a crime. So, yeah, it’s a scene. But understand when I say scene, what I really mean is something like “crime.”
My teaching practice, however, is strong. I no longer have to write detailed lesson plans to know what I’m doing. And specifically, I have finally cracked how to teach: Hamlet, For Colored Girls, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Maus, and The Piano Lesson; writing about theme, capturing complexity in thesis statements and claims, and utilizing a variety of sentence structures; reader response theory as the basis for the study of literature; reading—just generally, how to actually read and make sense of a piece of literature or a news article.
READING: I read dumb number of books this year, like almost 70. I think this is because I went deep on graphic novels over the summer, in search of a book to slide into the English 12 curriculum. (I ultimately chose The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by Sonny Liew.) The hands-down best graphic novel I read was My Favorite Thing is Monsters, Vol. 1 by Emil Ferris, and I can’t believe Volume 2 isn’t out yet because I AM DYING. Also, Rosalie Lightning by Tom Hart was beautiful and devastating, yes, but also deeply weird and singular in the way of the best graphic novels. Best poetry includes: The Owl Was a Baker’s Daughter by Gillian Cummings, which I haven’t finished yet, but see above about how I finally understand Hamlet and know that this book beautifully riff on Ophelia; Vast Necrohol by Caolan Madden, which is written in a variation on Ye Olde Englishe but set inside a mass multiplayer game universe; and Whereas by Layli Long Soldier, which I was not quite expecting to be about as much as it was, and that made it all the more rewarding and resonant. As to novels, I started the year by spending a whole luxurious month reading Hild by Nicola Griffith, which is probably the best historical fiction I have ever read. Also sexy. Other notable novels include Forgive Me Leonard Peacock, by Matthew Quick, which made me ugly cry while listening to the audiobook and driving home from school; Quintana of Charyn, the final book in the Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta, and all of those books are just spectacular; We Have Always Lived in the Castle, which I finally read; and about half of the Thursday Next books by Jasper Fforde—I would have read more but really I was listening to them and the library does NOT have book 4 on audio, boo. I read nonfiction, too, but not much. Cuz I never read much nonfiction. But both Evicted by Matthew Desmond and Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann are well worth the read.
MUSIC: I got a new phone with a much bigger hard drive, and this means I can put a lot of music on it and that is excellent. I very much continued to enjoy all things Grimes this year. Other albums I played the shit out of include “Ash” by Ibeyi, “Puberty 2” by Mitsky, “DAMN.” by Kendrick Lamar, and “Masseduction” by St. Vincent. But also I listened to “Raingurl” by Yaeji approximately one million times. Actually, I watched this choreography video approximately one million times and played the actual track an additional million.
Calvin and Hobbes. This is the year our children discovered Calvin and Hobbes. Neither Jeff nor I want to read Calvin and Hobbes every night, but damn if that’s not what they want. Sigh.
Willa is very into Barbies, her new American Girl dolls, My Little Ponies, and drawing. She loves to draw.
Emmett continues to love building. He also loves Beanie Boos and anything small and cute. He can officially read, all by himself, and that is the fucking coolest thing ever. Willa WISHES so hard she could read independently, too. Soon, though. Soon.
I went off birth control pills, and my whole life changed. Swear to god. I didn’t realize until I stopped how much those hormones flattened out ALL my emotions and not just the crazy mood swings I was getting around ovulation and my period. I’m happy to say, now that I’m five and a half years away from my last bout with pregnancy, those mood swings are much better under control—even without the additional hormones. Going off the pill single-handedly transformed my marriage. 5 stars. Would recommend.
FOOD: This was the year of the frozen taquito. Lots of frozen taquitos in the Boyle household. Also many quesadillas, much roasted broccoli, and my own general inability to function after 4pm. I’m also into my second year of “Vegan Before 6,” and that has worked out really well. I love this porridge for breakfast. And for lunch I almost 100% of the time eat a salad with frozen falafel, avocado, cucumber, sunflower seeds, and Trader Joe’s goddess dressing. If I don’t eat that, I eat this salad made with kale and some of the teriyaki tofu from Trader Joe’s. Trader Joe’s for the win. Though I’ve broken down a little here over the holiday break, I also try to EITHER eat sweets OR drink on any given day. This habit keeps me pretty well in check when it comes to my weakest impulses.
EXERCISE: I have never been so healthy. I go to barre. But they cancelled my beloved Barre-dio class, wherein we would learn a dance routine, do a strength set, learn a second routine, do a strength set, and then dance it out by combining both routines. WHY DID YOU CANCEL THIS AMAZING CLASS, THE BARRE CODE. (Probably because only, like, 5 people showed up regularly, but that was another reason I LOVED it.) And I’m doing lots of yoga thanks to YogaGlo, now rebranded (dumbly) as “Glo.”
Back in August, the same week I started a brand new teaching job, I also threw myself a party to celebrate the release of What's pink & shiny/what's dark & hard, my perfect little chapbook from Porkbelly Press. The Pink & Shiny Party glammed up ModernFormations Gallery on August 21st. Margaret Bashaar read with me, my brother Adam Gibson performed a set of original songs, and my cousin Brand Dykstra painted live on stage.
It was a glorious evening, and perfectly what I wanted. My family and friends came out to drink champagne and eat this huge and delicious pink & shiny cake I baked. Some people I've never met before came and bought my chapbook. A kind Pittsburgh blogger wrote me a glowing review. Many chewed strawberry gumballs as they listened to me read this:
Thank you thank you thank you to Margaret, Brandt, and Adam for joining me on stage and making the event what it was. And thank you to everyone who came out--I can't tell you how how happy that night made me.
If you, too, want a copy of my chapbook, you can get What's pink & shiny/what's dark & hard from the Porkbelly Press Etsy shop.