Sunday, May 31, 2020

We are a diverse nation...

In simple terms white people came here with guns and took the land away from the already existing Native tribes. We rounded them up and shifted them to crap government lands. We broke treaties, we killed as if they were animals.  Native people were not blameless but what would you do if people tried to take over your land?  Fight back.  

White people also brought shiploads of Africans here to work plantations and we kept them enslaved for over 200 years on land that we stole from others and when that system ended we came up with sharecropping as a means to keep black people  poor and in their place. The list is long through our history of how we kept pushing. Some white people still feel like racism doesn't exist and they still believe that a black person is beneath them. The officer Derek Chauvin feels that way; you can see it in his body language as he keeps his knee bent into George Floyd's neck. I have trouble watching the video as most people do.  If you think first of other police officers or that All Lives Matter you are missing the big picture. Of course every life does matter but it is the inequality caused by skin color that we mean when we say Black Lives Matter.  

I am sure there are many exceptional police officers in this country and inherently in their goodness they should not be sticking up for Derek Chauvin or the other three. I don't want officers to be killed and I also want all police departments to clean house. They should not be sheltering racist,  Nazi sympathizers, white nationalists,  power-hungry, violent abusive husbands or men with major anger issues. To fit our diverse world that many of us love and respect we need a police force of empathetic public servants ready to help out in our communities. Many already are successful at this but we still have far too many who would kneel on a man's neck as a way to restrain and never bother to check on that person or to crash into a woman's apartment in the middle of the night and shoot. We need to really think about what is important here.  If you do not like our diverse population than might I suggest you find another place to live, far far away where you are welcome. I want to live in an America where POC do not fear for their lives and we can truly work toward racial equality. 

While looking up the Minneapolis Police Chief I stumbled across their motto: 
"To protect with courage, to serve with compassion."  I did not see courage or compassion as they shot pepper bullets and tear gas into crowds of people. I do understand about unions yet they are not meant as a shelter for bad people who break laws against humanity. And it just occurred to me it should be used as a teaching moment. If certain officers are interested in keeping their jobs they should be paired with members of the black or brown community to learn and grow. People can change if given the chance but it should not be at the expense of another human's life. 

I started this post to discuss these two great books yet I couldn't begin without speaking about these recent events that are overwhelming my being. 

One great thing to help students learn empathy is to put diverse books in their hands. I recently read two excellent books that feature Native characters.

I can make this promise by Christina Day (2019) : Edie has always know her mother is adopted but it isn't until she discovers a box in their attic with pictures of a woman with her name that Edie wants more answers from her family. Day did a great job of integrating Edie's history and the mystery behind the other Edith with day-to-day friendship problems. An excellent modern day Native American story. 

Quote: "The table falls silent, silent, as the sound-the singing-strengthens and rises. Waves lap against the shore, swelling with an incoming tide.  And out there, in the middle of the sea, is a line of-canoes. Paddles plunging into the water in brisk, even swipes. Voices harmonizing and bellowing in a language I've never heard before." (p239)

The Marrow Thieves by  Cherie Dimaline (2017): Dystopian world showcasing the loss of white culture through their ability to dream (or lack of their ability) and their subsequent search for Native people to steal marrow from which tortures the indigenous people. Schools (assimilation boarding schools) were reinstated to keep groups together for medical experimentation. I hope this book is the first in a series because I would love to know more.

Quote:  "We go to the schools and they leach the dreams from where our ancestors hid them, in the honeycombs of slushy marrow buried in our bones. And us? Well, we join our ancestors, hoping we left enough dreams behind for the next generation to stumble across.”

Monday, May 25, 2020

Growing memories

{Back door of my grandmother's home : circa 1999}

I come from a long line of gardeners.  My grandmother had an amazing green thumb and had a large square garden in her backyard and grew a variety of plants in and around the house.  I remember clearly the Clematis that climbed a trellis right outside her backdoor so as you walked out you were greeted with an airy wall of delicate purple flowers and lovey green leaves.  She had a huge hill of rhubarb growing that we would suck on after dipping the end in a cup of sugar she would provide. I remember eating garden produce like sugar snap peas and raspberries right out of our hands as we picked. She didn't believe in spraying and loved that her garden was clean of chemicals.  Oh and the ground cherries-so delicious to pop right out of their paper-like shells and eat immediately except if we were saving up for a pie.  Rhubarb-ground cherry pie is still my favorite even though I haven't had it for years.

{My new garden box with lettuce varieties}
My husband is blessed with a green thumb as well. I can grow things but he has like magical powers and we are amazed at his ability to resurrect plants that look like they  are ready for the compost pile. Every year we plant a variety of flowers and vegetables around the house. We don't have a set spot for either but intermix them together.  This year we planted kale, sugar snap peas, cauliflower, broccoli, basil, cilantro, butternut squash, and cucumbers.  Plus we watched a master gardener class with Ron Finley and we are rooting and will plant a sweet potato bc he made it look so easy. And then we have a whole variety of flower pots and window boxes that we filled in yesterday. My grandmother loved geraniums and this year I have two varieties planted in pots to remind me of her all summer long. I don't have an actual photograph of her smiling while gardening but in my mind I have many snapshots.

With our extra amount of together we stumbled upon an Epic Gardening video with Kevin and we learned a lot about ginger and have a large root planted in a shallow pot.  Both the sweet potato and ginger pot may need to live inside our house in order to stay warmer if we have an unusually chill fall season.  Today we celebrate old memories and new ones we are making together.  We will always look back on the 2020 spring/summer pandemic with interesting memories of gardening, good food, good books, extra streaming time, and planting some new adventures. Peace.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

What sustains us?

Food, for one.  I am cooking twice as much while we stay home together and I've tried to keep it interesting. This week I cooked several winning recipes (and yes, I am patting myself on the back) that my family loved. It's amazing how busy we are finishing up school projects, books clubs, and homework.  Oh and planning a mini socially distant grad party to celebrate our senior. Luckily in our house we are not on top of each other so it is wonderful when we can gather together at the end of a long day to eat together and talk. While the food is important its really the gathering as one that sustains us.

Recipes of the week:

Chicken and Rice with Scallion-Ginger Sauce from the New York Times. It's worth it to download the Times' cooking app; it's my idea starting point. I loved that this recipe used sushi rice and that the flavor reminded me of eating sushi without the rolling work. I sautéed a block of firm tofu to add to it as I'm not a fan of eating chicken. I also used veggie broth instead of chicken broth and we had chicken thighs instead of breasts.  I love recipes with a lot of flavor but that aren't going to take me five hours to prepare. This one won on both accounts and when my husband and I ate the last of it for lunch the next day I added diced orange pepper and zucchini, sprinkled in a little more  sesame oil and rice vinegar to refresh the rice. It was amazing the second time around as well.

Chicken Tikka Masala from Jaime Oliver: This one did take a little more time but after hearing my husband talk about really missing Indian food one night I decided to give this recipe a try. I do make a lot of Indian recipes and have a great cookbook, Indian for Everyone by Anupy Singla, that I've learned a lot from but this one popped up on Jaime's IG feed and I was inspired. Searing the chicken was new for me but also made it easier for to eat my Tikka Masala chicken-free because it's not mixed together during but added as the last step.  I served it with Roti from my freezer and cooked in my cast iron skillet on both sides to make it nice and toasty. I'm not a great pre-planner so our chicken breasts didn't get much more than 20 minutes of marinating time. Next time I would plan ahead a bit more but my two other dinner companions didn't complain one bit.

Roasted Tomato and White Bean Stew again from the NYT: I made this one just last night. I don't go out much at all but we had some errands to run for our soon-to-be graduate and I went to the grocery store with my husband. He pushed the cart while I tossed things in and realized I missed being able to see stuff and choose it instead of me relying on my husband with the list. In preparation for the long weekend I had two recipes picked out to try and purchased all ingredients plus pantry replacements. This white bean dish was so, so simple to put together and added a spicy warmth to a chilly day. There was murmurings of joy and I watched my husband literally like his bowl. Next time I will double this recipe so there are more leftovers. I imagine it would be excellent the second time around. I served it with mini Naan flatbread toasted from the oven. All three of these recipes will be on rotation at my house now. It's great to find new favorites to get us through this world crisis.

Books, for two. I recently read two amazing fiction books and feel that everyone should read them as well. Burial Rites by Hannah Kent was a compelling story about Agnes who has been sentenced to death after the man she works for and has loved is murdered. This book takes place in Iceland in 1829 and I can't say I've ever read a book with this particular setting. I thought I might get bogged down by the unusual and long names but they flowed once I connected with Agnes's story. This book is based in reality as their was a real-life Agnes accused of murdering her employer and lover. From Adelaide, South Australia Hannah Kent heard the story during the year she spent  as a teen in Iceland on a Rotary Exchange. This was her first book. Right out of the shoot an amazing story, award-winning and all!

A little over a year ago I joined Book of the Month Club because, after reviewing the format, I wanted some hand-picked and new book choices. I have thousands of book already in my house-maybe less now that we cleaned one entire book shelf clean over Spring break-still many, many volumes of great books already live here.  To justify joining a club that would bring me more shelves of books I asked my husband to share the experience. So every month we look at the selections together and make a choice. That way we are both invested and we like reading the blurbs from the literary crew that does the picking.

One month as I read through favorites on the BOTM website I came across The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne which won Book of the Year in 2017 and added it on to my order. I finally picked it up a week ago with some trepidation because of its size but as I read the first few chapters any lingering concerns were flung away as I buried my nose in the book sneaking hours away from my to-do list to get another section read. The book made me laugh out loud many times yet I cried when I turned the last page as I stood up at my kitchen counter waiting for my toast to pop. I loved this book. I felt such a deep connection to the main character, Cyril, and his ability to mess things up unwittingly. When your nearest library or local book store opens up, don your mask, and get yourself a copy.

Stay safe out there even as many business begin to reopen. During this time we've found much to sustain us right here at home and we will continue that through the summer so stay healthy.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

What to eat during a pandemic?

I've made a lot of food during our stay-at-home "vacation" because we don't eat out much. BP (before pandemic) I generally only cooked a few meals throughout the week to sustain us. Breakfast was usually quick and out the door and lunch were pretty much pb & j or leftovers at work or school for each of us. And most nights we didn't eat together because of rehearsals and dance. Now I feel like I'm constantly in the kitchen cooking or cleaning it back up. I've made some good food though and we've enjoyed it together.  I follow Jaime Oliver on IG and have several of his cookbooks. I love his videos and his recipes but, I'll admit, it's also about the accent! We've made this bread recipe twice now and it is truly amazing. So easy, delicious and really just takes an afternoon.  Check out Jaime's post to find many other wonderful recipes.

On Monday our senior walked across the stage in a staged version of what will come later; a video of everyone spliced together with speeches and everything. I'm very glad her high school chose to honor the students by hosting this as it took a lot of time and effort from staff.  It was surreal to walk with everyone masked up through the school keeping a good distance between families, as we traveled down the hall together  for the last time. We returned home after our "5 minute" ceremony to have cake and a little bubbly.  I made a buttermilk chocolate cake recipe that was so moist and flavorful. My husband who is not a lover of sweets or chocolate ate two pieces!  

{Buns in the Oven}
What are you cooking up?

Thursday, April 30, 2020

May Day!

It's the end of the month and we celebrated another birthday during this pandemic. We held up our signs to the birthday boy on his balcony and chatted for a about 30 minutes. No hugs, no feast together but just happy to be in each other's presence. Now we are ready for May Day! I can't believe it's May but there you have it.

May 1st celebrates the changing of seasons, the ushering in of Springtime and dates back to the ancient Celts and their honoring of Beltane, which divides the year in half. I remember May Pole dancing taking place on this day in my small German town in Minnesota. 

{Beltane source}
May 1st is also a day for worker's rights starting in the year 1886 when the 8-hour work day was declared. On this day 300,000 workers took to the streets, leaving their jobs, striking for better conditions. The Haymarket riot took place just 2 days later in Chicago in a fight between workers and police. This was a very significant time for workers to gain some control over their work environment and lives.  Grover Cleveland eventually moved Labor Day, the official holiday to celebrate workers to September

For me May 1st is all about the May Baskets which celebrate Spring and friendship.  I've written several posts about it in other years because I love the message of the holiday. I have literally let the day go past a few times because I'm busy with work and this year I have nothing BUT time so we are creating beautiful baskets and will be delivering some time tomorrow.  We made ours out of large craft paper folded like a big envelope and in the morning Groovy Girl and I will pop a big batch of popcorn to fill the envelope baskets and add some wrapped chocolate treats as well. 


Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Happy Earth Day!

The world is still sheltering down, trying to stay safe from Covid-19 yet climate change is still the biggest issue we need to face head on. 50 years ago today people showed up and proclaimed their concern over environmental problems at the time. Read this article from The Hill which talks about how we can get more people mobilized around climate change. Most of us are together in our earnestness to #StaySafeatHome and the same can happen with climate change. There are many Earth Day activities taking place around the world usually and this year is different as you will have to find ways to celebrate solo. The Earth Day organization has a live event happening as we speak until 8pm tonight with many other ways to get involved included on their website and the  National Parks Service has many suggestions.

I think many people at home have new skills emerging which can help our connection to the earth. I see lots of posts on social media about baking bread, creating meals together, lots of walks, more downtime together and maybe some of those new learned habits will carry over.  If people are willing to hunker down to stay healthy this potentially could lead to be as concerned over the environment. What new environmental crisis will follow? Instead of just waiting idly by for it to hit us; now is the time to get on board.  I know I will talk a walk today in one of our many local nature centers. I'm going to follow along with the Live event on the Earth Day website and just try to be more informed. I want to go look at plants to start gardening but I have many seed packets leftover from previous years and I'm going to plant those first. I'll get to the greenhouse at some point but I really am trying to stay home as much as possible.  Find a way to celebrate with family and friends even just by discussing it. Keeping that awareness alive is most important right now. Science matters.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Moving forward to keep sane

Welcome to the new normal. Just about a month ago my Spring Break started with a small gathering of teachers at a local bar.  We talked about our conferences, the virus, the book fair, what fun things we were going to do with our free time over Spring Break.  One person said "maybe we'll have a week or two off to keep the virus at bay." I'd like to take that day back and appreciate that moment just a bit more. I would have hugged everyone at the table as we left that night because the fun things we had planned to do together over our break never materialized. We were asked as a state to not gather and then pretty quickly our restaurants, breweries, and bars closed except for take-out and while we were still "relaxing" we were all worried how far this would go.

That reality was announced yesterday when our governor closed schools for the remainder of the year. Tears, heartbreak, and anger are mixed with the mixed blessing of better safe than sick. I miss my students but I can be happy at home because I like my own time. I can fill it with all kinds of activity. I read, cook and bake, put together lessons for my students, relax with my two dogs, and I can watch the birds and other wild things in my backyard for a good long time. I know my daughter feels robbed though as this IS her senior year. I feel robbed of experiencing that with her. We had talked about prom dress shopping but hadn't actually started, we have beautiful grad announcements on our table, we have hopes for a final dance recital to culminate her years of dance and a solo to perform one last time. I cried when our governor said the words yet we've moved on already. As May approaches we may fall back into grief and by that time we may be starting to get sick of each other.

As it is now we seem to be forging ahead.  Being around my husband 27/7 is annoying somedays but we work it out. I love my own quiet time and he is extremely active. He worked long hours at the theatre, often late with rehearsals so I've always had lots of space. Lucky for me he is still going for long runs, spending time at the theatre- volunteering his time with the hope that theatre will begin again in June or July, and works outside when he can. He is filled with projects because he isn't good at sitting still. I start my day with yoga most days and have done a lot of deep cleaning of my house, yet I have no problem stretching out in a chair reading for a few hours or watching Anne w/ and E with Groovy Girl. Eating a fair amount of dark chocolate also helps.

I've read 6 books in the time we've been sheltering at home. All of them good, some of them amazing reads. I've zoomed with students, teachers, and had a few happy hours/dinner hours with friends and family.  I've watched quite a few shows and movies.


The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates: excellent look at The Underground Railroad. Coates has an amazing writer voice.
The Way the Crow Flies by Ann-Marie MacDonald: 800+ pages of excellent writing about a Canadian family living on an Army Base with many twists and turns.
Love Among the Ruins by Robert Clark: True love for two teenagers in 1968.  William is afraid of the turns the world will take after Robert Kennedy is killed and the riots during the Democratic Convention in Chicago.
Goodnight, Beautiful by Dorothy Koomson: Story of Malvolio and Nova in London as they navigate friendship and love in the adult world.
Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy: Wow!  I read this one in two days because I just had to know what happened to the children. My husband and daughter both read it before me so this morning we were able to talk about the characters and Meloy's airtight writing.

I'm also reading Moving Target by Christina Diaz Gonzalez (great adventure in Rome) and Maximum Ride by James Patterson (group of unusual kids with out-of-this-world skills) to 4th and 6th grade students through videos posted to Google Classroom.

Little Fires Everywhere, Sex Education, Harlan Coban's The Stranger, The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann, and recently discovered Kim's Convenience.  We also had a list of older movies we wanted Groovy Girl to see and we've made it through a few: Pretty Woman, Something about Mary, The Talented Mr. Ripley were all good to watch.

She particularly loved Pretty Woman and we were thrilled by Mr. Ripley. I'd avoided that movie years ago because I thought it was too creepy (as is The Stranger) and it was but it's easier to take when we're all there together which really sums up this pandemic. We have to be better together even though we are apart. I'm quite angry with Trump for not taking this serious right away because for me that's what it means to be president; to see a little into the future and take steps to contain and control. He didn't do that. I'm happy to have my family around me as we weather this crisis. I'll miss being physically with my son' for his 25th birthday, I missed my trip to Guatemala,  and many other important moments and I'll do all this to keep people safe.  I'm not going to cry about my freedom or what should have been. I just need to keep moving us forward.

What are you doing to keep sane?

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Poetry Thursday, it is Thursday, right?


The weather is all over the place. Today it is sunny and then snowing, and also windy.  While we are learning at home I would like it to be Spring warm weather not this all-over-the-radar coldness.  It is great to be outside as you work on school work and I've video taped reading books outside.  It's lovely. Today not so much but I'm getting into a groovy with school work.  Are we in it for the long haul-all the way through May?  I don't know but I am mentally preparing myself.  Browsing through a poetry book this morning I found one of my favorite Springtime poems from Langston Hughes.

April Rain Song

Let the rain kiss you.
Let the rain beat upon your head
  with silent liquid drops.
Let the rain sing you a lullaby.

The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk.
The rain  makes running pools in the gutter.  
The rain plays a little sleep-song
  on our roof at night-

And I love the rain.

Langston Hughes

I love it because it's positive and simple. I wish I could hear Langston read it and I did look and I found this clip of him reading his famous "The Negro Speaks of Rivers" and "I, too" : his voice reverberates with strength. 

I'm reading Love among the ruins by Robert Clark
I'm watching Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist on Hulu and we watched Pixar/Disney's new movie, Onward, with Groovy Girl last night. We had popcorn and everything and the movie was very good. She and her dad built a Rube Goldberg machine for one of her Learning @Home assignments.  She is assembling the video they took when they finally got it to work. It was super cool involving one of our dogs, many cardboard pipes, a candle, two rooms of our house, a marble, and a glass of water.  There is learning happening here.