Simone Biles, GOAT*

* If you’re not familiar with the acronym GOAT, it stands for “Greatest Of All Time” and is reserved for athletes who have in fact demonstrated they are the most accomplished and excellent in their sport in their contemporary era but also in the eras which came before them.

So, Simone Biles. Legend.

To see more images that demonstrate Ms. Biles’ superiority in her field, please go to https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/kirstenchilstrom/photos-simone-biles-goat.

As you are probably aware by now, Ms. Biles recently excused herself from the Olympic games currently underway in Tokyo in order to care for her own mental health. Some completely useless pundits and politicians ragged on her for it, calling her ugly names and generally disregarding the emotional intelligence of her choice, thereby demonstrating they have no emotional intelligence themselves.

Seriously, you guys? Shut up.

Neither I nor they nor anyone else who isn’t an Olympic athlete has any lived-experience context or understanding of what Ms. Biles has accomplished or gone through or what it took to get her to this point. Neither I nor they nor anyone else who isn’t Ms. Biles has the right to insist what is necessary for her own mental health.

She was already a total icon for her numerous past successes, including four gold medals (and one bronze) in the 2016 Olympics. That in itself — including the extraordinary dedication, drive, and skill needed to reach such an achievement — is impressive enough for anyone, full stop. But now, she has also demonstrated the courage and smarts to say, You know what? I’m maybe putting myself at serious risk** if I don’t take a step back for a moment and CARE FOR MYSELF, too.

And that bravery and clarity is ALSO worthy of our respect, compassion, and admiration. We live in a culture that glorifies running ourselves ragged for bragging rights about nothing good. How often have you heard people humblebrag about how little sleep they got or how crazy-busy they are or how much work they have to do? These are not things to be proud of.

Simone Biles is an icon, a legend, a GOAT, and also a really smart woman. Not only for her medals, but also for her recent (and probably temporary) step back to enact some much-needed self-care. 

I hope all of us are able to choose self-care with such grace and intelligence. (This is very much on my mind as I begin another school year in about a week and as my beloved state, governed apparently by abject imbeciles, rages headlong into a Darwinian fourth surge of collateral-claiming proportions.)

And in case you still want further guidance on how to think about Simone Biles’ recent actions, see this helpful decision tree by Carlos Greaves posted over at McSweeney’s. (And if you don’t still need that guidance, go read Greaves’ piece anyway, just for the laughs.)

And also? This goes for all other athletes (or anyone else) who have the presence of mind to take care of themselves. Like Naomi Osaka, who recently made news and got flak for her good choices, and all the others.

Be well.

** If you don’t know what “the twisties” are, they are real and serious. Please learn about it — which you can do easily by clicking here and also clicking here — before you form an opinion.

 

2020 Reading Year in Review

A few years ago I began keeping a list of all the books I read in a given year. My hope was that I would do more reading for pleasure.

Reading. You know, that thing I’ve been doing since I was four, that activity which makes me happier than most other things, that reason (probably) I became a writer in the first place? Good grief, I love books so much.

But I was at a point in my life where I wasn’t doing a lot of reading for pleasure. I was reading a lot of students’ papers to grade them. (Spoiler alert: that is often not the same thing, even when I do enjoy reading some of those papers.) I was reading a lot of emails. (There was little to no pleasure in that.) I was reading for utility and purpose and requirement and work, but I was not taking time to read for fun. That had a very adverse effect on my entire life.

Being a list maker by nature, I thought if I kept a list of books I read, at the end of the year I would see that I’d done more reading than I thought I had, and it would boost my mood. Deciding to do this is one of the better choices I’ve made.

That first year I logged probably a dozen books, and my reading diet was very focused on fantasy, which is one of the main genres I write in. In the years since, as I continue keeping my list, the number of books I read in a year has steadily increased, and so has my reading diet. I try to read much more widely now, which has been very good for me, too.

2020 was, as you know, a challenging year. At midnight on New Year’s Eve, we opened the door to let the old year out and the new year in. (This is an old tradition.) We actually opened multiple doors. We thought about opening the windows and taking off the roof too, but it was pretty freaking cold outside. Still, I commanded the old year to “get the hell out,” and Fabulous Offspring #1 actually grabbed a broom and swept our entry hall onto the front porch to really make sure 2020 took a hike. (We are nothing if not committed to our metaphors.)

During the pandemic, particularly in the spring and early summer, I saw a lot of people online lamenting about not being able to sustain enough focus even to read. I felt that. It hit me, too. But then — even though doing actual creative work, such as writing, and actual teaching work, such as grading papers, felt nigh impossible for a while — I did manage to get back into reading. For fun. For stress relief. For calming my mind before bed. This even helped me start writing again.

And wow, did I read a lot.

This is not nearly all the books I read this year. Some were on my Kindle. Some are up in Fabulous Offspring #1’s room, and I don’t have time to find them. Some are at school in my classroom, some went through my Little Free Library, and some have been lent out to other friends.

This year I enjoyed my way through a whopping 41 books, possibly the most I’ve ever accomplished in my adult life, and definitely the most in a single year since I began teaching. So without further ado, here is my list — with some caveats:
* This year, I am including titles that I re-read. I didn’t use to but think it has value now. However, if I read a book on here more than once this year (and that did happen in at least a couple of cases), I am listing it just the once.
* I am not listing any books I began but did not finish.
* This list also does not include manuscripts I’ve read but which are not yet published. There were several of those (because critique groups, yo).

Texts from Jane Eyre by Mallory Ortberg
The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Circe by Madeline Miller
Limit Theory by Ronald E. Holtman
Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon
Courtship and Curses by Marissa Doyle
Slippery Creatures by KJ Charles
Adulthood is a Myth by Sarah Anderson
Teach Me by Olivia Dade
Charles Bewitched by Marissa Doyle
Office Hours by Katrina Jackson
Blaze by Christa Tomlinson
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
40-Love by Olivia Dade
A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
Salt Magic, Skin Magic by Lee Welch
Royally Bad by Nora Flite
Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
F in Exams: Pop Quiz by Richard Benson
The Kontrabida by Mia Alvar
Catacombs by Jason Zencka
The Rogue King by Abigail Owen
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
The Blood King by Abigail Owen
Once Two Sisters by Sarah Warburton
Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer
On the Edge by Brittney Sahin
Your Book, Your Brand by Dana Kaye
Story Genius by Lisa Cron
White Fragility by Robin Diangelo
Sweetest in the Gale: A Marysburg Story Collection by Olivia Dade
Feng Shaun (Wallace and Grommet)
Dog Songs by Mary Oliver
Wow, No Thank You. by Samantha Irby
All Together by Brill Harper
World’s End by Clare Beams
A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik
The Evil Garden by Edward Gorey
The Duke and I by Julia Quinn

If you would like a review of any of these books, please tell me in the comments, and I’ll do my best for you! Similarly, last year it was requested that I rank the romance titles I’d read by heat level, so if you want those for this year as well, I’m happy to do it. Just drop me a note in the comments.