Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: a national treasure

(Elle article)


We lost a national treasure this weekend and the loss will impact our lives for a long time. She's been on our minds for awhile now as she went in and out of the hospital, we feared for her with Covid + her own health issues. Over the years she kept working even though it must have been tough and painful - in this she is like our Black Panther hero Chadwick Boseman. I am sure that Ruth had a hero's welcome when she arrived at the gates of heaven. I'm still struggling with this loss and I think about her family and how they are feeling. We may see her as an icon for human rights but they've lost a mother and grandmother, a leader of 

During the very first part of the pandemic my husband and I caught up on some movies and series that we'd missed and one of them was the RBG documentary on Netflix. If you've not yet watched this take time to do watch or re-watch it to remind yourself of what an amazing person she was. We need her passing to light a fire in each of us to do whatever we can and then some more to first insure that our current leadership team not pick a new Supreme Court Justice until we've had a change in said  leadership. Fair is fair and they set the rules on this with President Obama and second insure that as many democrats win across our states, local races and presidential. We need to right the falling tower as quickly as possible. DT is not a president to everyone; he picks and chooses, ridicules, often siding with racists people and ideas. 

I don't know how to get through to people who really, really love him yet we can talk to our friends and neighbors who might be undecided about voting for Biden. Biden was low on my list as was Kamala but this race is vital in so many important ways and those of us that are strong, fervent Democrats need to help others see why it is so important to vote by mail or vote in person; just VOTE for the Democratic ticket. I cannot image another four more years of this man unleashing his own curriculum, his stance against all things science related, voting down everything that we've worked hard for like voting rights and women's rights. We need the Black Lives Matter movement to continue to make change all the way to the White House with someone ready to really help us find a more equitable future. We need our leaders to understand better what we are looking for in our police community; one of working with people without force, to see all people in need of help and understanding  Just like George Floyd became a catalyst for change so to should our grief over Ruth Bader Ginsburg propel us forward into serious  action. After all it is our country we are trying to save. 



My husband recently showed me a video of Trump supporters sharing why they believe Trump was sent by God to help the nation and it makes me wonder how we became so divided as a country. I grapple with understanding how a wide array of Christian people feel that Trump represents them. 

Find a way to stand up for our country and honor Justice Ginsburg with action. Refer back to my earlier voting post to find people to support with donations or volunteer time. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Groovy Girl turns 18...

 

(First trip to NYC)

which is a major celebration! This girl has been featured on this blog almost her entire life. I started Peaceful Reader when she was in kindergarten and now she is a freshman in college.  We celebrated this major birthday with dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant and there were gifts and delicious vegan desserts. She's not vegan but her brother is and everyone wants to share in birthday treats. Because I spent part of the weekend visiting my brother and sister-in-law in Deephaven, MN I had the opportunity to visit a cool vegan bakery/restaurant  Vegan East, and purchased a box full of treats to bring home. They have 3 locations and I stopped by the Uptown shop which took me through some familiar neighborhoods.  I passed by Lake Calhoun, Lake Street, and Hennepin Avenue, and my favorite Walker Art Center; all places I loved hanging around when I lived in Mpls/St. Paul.

She is enjoying her freshman year even with it's unusual Covid-19 restrictions. It's a long list of negatives yet she is making it work and smiling! G.G. and her roommate spend a lot of time in their room and luckily they don't seem to be getting on each other's last nerve, which is fantastic.  Most classes are on Zoom but she has  two dance classes that meet in big studios.  This is great as she is very used to being active and dance + Zoom is not a good combo. 

(Dad ride)

All of our children are unique and inspiring and Groovy Girl, as the baby of the family, brings a level of happiness that is often infectious. She gets very excited and we love her enthusiasm for life. She cares about the world, is empathetic toward others, and will continue to make a difference as she grows. I appreciate that she loves many different styles of food, can cook a great meal, and is willing to experiment with spices and sauces. I'm surviving the empty nest but only because she and I talk at least every other day. She texts me when she needs to talk and we FaceTime when we need to see each other.  Communication is so different now. My husband and I compared our experience of having one dorm phone on each floor!  We had to take turns so I talked to my parents maybe once a week if that.


(Groovy Girl now (r) w/ her roommate Laurel)

When I began this blog I didn't want to use her real name as it is unusual and over the years she has had readers call her "Groovy Girl" which made her feel a little like a blog celebrity. Even though she is a beautiful 18 as of last Saturday she will always be my Groovy Girl!  





Monday, September 7, 2020

September is really here

 and school has been in session for two weeks. No longer am I welcoming students into my amazing library space to talk about books, pick out books, and work on projects. Instead I am pushing my library around on a cart; books and computer riding with me. It is a weird year. Oh did I mention the masks, and face shield, hand sanitizer, wipes-those are all there also. 

Kids are happy to be together and most seem to be okay wearing masks everyday. I feel their strength in the idea that it's better to be together with a mask on than not.  We have one 5th grade student demonstrating irony to us every day with his "Trump 2020" black mask. IRONY. We are in this mess because of that guy. 

We were to stay positive with both students and staff. I did get more books in on Friday and so next week after school will be a little like Christmas as I unpack them and get them in to our system. 

This weekend I've done equal parts relaxing and getting things done around the house. The mess of life spirals so easily into piles on tables, mail clutter, laundry...so I worked to get that under control. I've also made lemon bars (recipe from my Baking Ill. cookbook), a butternut squash and kale soup, both produce from my garden, and an angel food cake recipe for my mom. She is struggling with some health issues and could use a more desserts in her life. 


I am mourning Chadwick Boseman like everyone else in the world. I marvel at his ability to continue to make amazing art while he was very sick. The resiliency of people amaze me. I started to watch the whole Captain America series on Disney so I could understand the story line and see where Black Panther connects up. I also watched the pilot for Lincoln Heights, one of the first shows he did. My husband and I watched a great love story, Always be my maybe with Ali Wong, on Netflix and we started a new show Away with Hilary Swank headed to Mars. We are looking forward to the new series Enola Holmes at the end of September. 

I haven't just been cooking and watching! I am reading The Choice; a memoir by Dr. Edith Eva Eger. My brother sent this to me over the summer and it's been on that stack of to-reads. Resiliency is the theme here today I guess. We are all going to make it through this one way or another. Let's get to November, VOTE, and then keep voting for the good candidates, the ones who can get it done like finding ways to end racist laws/practices and climate change. The list is long...

Peace

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Are we ready?

For school...

Yes and no. I'm excited to see all my student's faces even if behind a mask, I will be happy to hear their voices, and read with them. I am anxious though about teachers and staff getting sick, and the busy crazy schedule for classes. So many regulations and I plan to follow but during our week day on Friday I walked out of the library twice without a mask bc I was busy and thinking about next steps not Covid-19. I've been careful this summer.  I've worn a mask, limited my friend circle, had fun outdoor adventures, and I don't want all that careful time to change. I need to come to grips with staying safe inside school with lots of little bodies. It's going to be a year; unique and filled with joy. Plus my Groovy Girl will be gone having her own school adventure, also trying to stay safe and finding joy on her college campus. 

I recently finished two fantastic fiction books and as usually I still have stacks and stacks to read still. I never get all the books read that I bring home.  My stack this year took a hit because after George Floyd's murder I swerved off my regular reading and picked up lots of current books that had BLM as a theme which means I've read a lot of powerful books this summer and these two are no exception.


From the Desk of Zoe Washington (2020) by Janae Marks: Zoe finds a letter from her birth father on her 12th birthday and she opens it.  She's never met him and she has a stepdad and her mom who love her very much yet something is missing-so she opens the letter, reads it, and hides it. Inside the letter her dad sounds so nice and she didn't think a criminal, a murderer in fact, would sound so good. Zoe decides to investigate with her next door neighbor - friend  Trevor and the two set off on a quest to help her dad prove his case. This book brings up the idea that not everyone in prison is guilty and that sometimes people are convicted because it's easy. I hope Janae Marks writes a continuation because I would love to read more about Zoe and her adventures.


Prairie Lotus (2020) by Linda Sue Park: Wow! This historical fiction book blew my mind a little and I appreciate Park's writing and research. Park's was enamored with Laura Ingalls Wilder series Little House on the Prairie, reading them over and over.  It wasn't until later that she realized the racism that existed in the stories. Inspired to write her own version she sets her story in the Dakota Territories in 1800.  Hanna and her father are running away from her mother's memory in San Fransisco and end up in small town LaForge City. Hanna is half Chinese and knows how people feel about her. Everything from her father's attempt to open up a small dress shop to her ability to go to school with other children from the prairie are hindered by how people feel about her. The racist aggression she feels from townspeople is softened by the simple fact that some people do accept her and she makes a few friends and changes a few minds. 

My mantra this year will be Focus on the positive.  Keep reading, keep smiling.  

Sunday, August 9, 2020

BLM book list #2

 I started a list on this post - Books give insight- and I have more to add after another few weeks of reading plus a stack that I look forward to reading soon. While protests are still happening across the country our own community has hosted a few community events and peace walks where people are allowed to share their stories. It's good to listen as a person and as an educator yet I feel like the real people that need to hear the message are in our city councils, police departments,  and other government positions. Our Black mayor was at the last organized Peace Walk. I'm sure he has his own stories from before he took office and during as I know just from reading the paper he has a few foes that stand in his way. 

We have two sister sisters close together and while I happily have my feet in both communities the one I live and teach in does not seem as pro-change and I'm personally trying to figure out how to create good trouble for our new and so far ineffective Mayor Green.  

But let's segue back to books! For people interested in BLM stories this list gives you a great place to start. Some of my book choices come from The Brown Bookcase an independent bookstore run by 9-yo Rylei and check out The Brown Bookshelf for more inspiration.


1. Dear Martin by Nic Stone (2017) : This YA novel recounts Justyce's story as he tries to be like his hero Dr. King and finds himself in several unnecessary situations with police including one off-duty officer when the music volume is in question. "Stand your ground" is a terrible law because it gives credence to any average G.I. Joe wannabe who carries a gun.  If you have this mentality that someone is infringing on your own well-being and claim you feel unsafe or just simply anger for being disrespected. Ugh. This book! Too real. Justyce is pre-judged as gangster instead of the good student that he is. We see this happen all the time when we are shown "thug" photos instead of high school grad photos. I'm a new fan of Nic Stone and look forward to reading the next book in this series. 

2. Clean Getaway by Nic Stone (2020) : After reading Dear Martin I quickly put this one on hold at our local library.  This story, more for elementary/middle school, shares Scoob's journey with his grandmother as she retraces her steps through a few Southern locations using Scoob's grandfather's Green Book. His G-ma picks Scoob up for an impromptu road trip leaving Scoob's dad in the dark. This would make a great read-aloud to help students understand Jim Crow laws and other not-so-subtle rules to keep Black people segregated. 

3. Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes (2020) : Donte, a mixed-race middle schooler, is getting used to a new prep school filled with mostly white students and staff. The first chapter has Donte in the principal's office defending himself against a teacher who sees him as trouble. His sibling Trey presents as white and has a much easier time at school. This book is not my favorite JPR chapter book but I appreciated the issues raised. It's maddening as an educator to hear how Donte is treated by people who should be supporting him. This would make a great read-aloud for 5th-7th grade to discuss the inequality of experiences. 

4. Ways to make sunshine by Renee Watson (2020) : I'm in love with Renee Watson's writing. What I love about this particular story is that while it is realistic fiction; it isn't a "problem" story.  The biggest "crisis" that happens is that the family has had to move to a new/old rental house because her dad's postal job was eliminated. So relatable at this time. Ryan has fun with her friends, she goes to a pool party, her grandmother spends hours straightening her hair, she gets into trouble yet she loves her brother, her parents, and her extended family. This is the beginning of a series and I am so excited to read more about Ryan!

and one adult book-

5. A Good Neighborhood by Theresa Anne Fowler (2020) : Valerie Alston-Holt, a professor of forestry and ecology, lives in a beautiful older neighborhood where she raises her mixed race son. While her son, Xavier, was very young he husband died in a tragic accident. Enter in the Whitman family who've built a new home and pool and perhaps avoided a few property line codes along the way. Brad Whitman is new money and he's not concerned about the environment like his neighbor. He only wants to make the three women in his life happy. His downfall is that he has a crush on his teenage stepdaughter Juniper. When Brad and Valerie collide major problems abound. I really couldn't put this book down. I felt for Valerie as she stands up for what she believes in yet those decisions come with a price. 

Books I'm looking forward to reading soon:


1. Take the mic: fictional stories of everyday resistance edited by Bethany C. Morrow (2019) : A compilation  of major authors contributed stories to this book and I'm excited to see what they have to say. 

2. Count me in by Marsha Bajaj (2019) : This one is about finding an unexpected friendship and how to deal with a hate crime when it happens to you and your beloved grandfather. 

3. Love like Sky by Leslie C. Youngblood (2018) : Another teacher read this and offered it to me. This is a realistic fiction story set in Atlanta. 

And two adult books: 

4. I'm still here: Black dignity in a world made for whiteness by Austin Channing Brown (2018) : This is one I ordered early in April and it took until end of May to arrive. I heard Reese talk about it on her book club website and had to read it. Hopefully I will get to it soon. 

5. Behold the dreamers by Imbolo Mbue (2016) : A friend passed this on and the story which takes place right before and during the Lehman Brothers collapse is about a Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem.  

Ahhh, so many good books, never enough time. School schedules are starting up. Groovy Girl heads off to college on the 20th. We are all hoping Covid-19 doesn't affect schools but really I'm just worried. WORRIED MAMA.

**None of these books are linked to a store. I cannot promote Amazon and hope that you can find any of these at a local bookstore, bookshop, or simply from your local library. Have you read any of these on my lists or have other suggestions for me? Let me know via email or a comment. 



Sunday, August 2, 2020

Gratitude for what is


 

My people:
friends and family are vital to a good life; you have to have a strong crew to support you through life. Old friends, new friends, young friends, and older all lend me support in innumerable ways every day. I'm a glass half full generally happy hippie-spirited person and we all need our own crew. Thank you to those of you who support me every day. This past weekend I was able to reconnect with an old friend from 30 years ago-wow-it was amazing to talk with him even though we haven't spent physical time together; there's a certain cool connection you have with people from your past. It filled my heart to be in person and not on Zoom or FaceTime. The top photos is me 20 years ago and the one with two of my brothers is 30 years ago. To be honest I love looking at those young faces. I appreciate all my experiences through the years but that fresh face and wide smile....not going to lie, I miss that. The photo below shows my Pete family and I miss them. Hanging around young people united in a common and vibrant cause is uplifting as hell.  Same for the 2008 family photo after Obama was elected. Same elation.

This Pete team made me smile!



My health: I'm quite a lucky person to have experienced two open heart surgeries before the age of 18 and still be in really good health. Yes, I struggle with baby bulge/ menopausal belly and I'm not muscle bound but my heart is strong and I walk, get my yoga on, and am trying to add weight lifting to my routine. Meditation and yoga keep me focused which helps me deal with the highs and lows of my family. And I've been fortunate enough to birth to beautiful babies that I love very much. Plus I was gifted an amazing step-daughter who loves to read and write like I do. Below photo shows part of our back yard and some of our garden flowers in bloom right now. 





My house: I love my brick Tudor-style home with it's wild garden spaces. I love my girls who live in the backyard squawking and laying eggs for us. I love their personalities and don't know how I lived without them. We love showing them off and talking chickens with other flock families. We jumped into gardening this year with all our extra time and have red cabbages, broccoli, cucumbers, and eventually pumpkins growing in our backyard. We took out a pond that was not functioning and added a birdbath instead and we have birds fluttering back and forth. When we head back to school I will miss watching all the birds but especially the gorgeous cardinal family. There is a certain spiritual thing that happens in the outdoors, in nature and I’ve purposefully added more time enjoying state parks and nature centers during this unique summer. I made a little movie of recent hikes and adventures just from July.


This year an old friend of mine from my Colorado days died in a tragic accident in California. This broke my heart and reminded me how important it is to stay in touch with people we care about. I hadn't talked to him for a few years and that caused me a lot of grief and anxiety. Why hadn't I called him? He showed up in a series of dreams and that should have been the catalyst to pick up the phone, say hi on FB, something.  In the world we live in today every day is a new day with joy and horrors, embarrassments, and lessons to learn. Keep moving, keep loving, keep growing...hold hands and hug (even virtually). United together.



Friday, July 24, 2020

Make your VOTE count

The presidential race is really just around the corner. We will vote for a new president before we have a vaccine for this virus and before we all make out our Christmas wish lists so it's important to stay educated on what matters. There are a lot of smaller but important races happening around the country and it is crucial to pay attention to these races AND donate to help them stay in the race. Let's start small-right here in Black Hawk County. I'm going to give you a link for all the candidates on the progressive side so you can find out more information and/or donate to their campaigns. I've donated a ton this summer because I'm not out shopping or eating out so you can do it too. These are the ones I'm paying attention to; let me know if there are others you think are crucial.

Kelly Dunn vs LeaAnn Saul : this race is for Cedar Falls City Council and Kelly needs to win because she will make a positive difference in our community while Ms. Saul is homophobic and narrow-minded.

Theresa Greenfield vs. Joni Erst : Greenfield has the endorsement of the League of Women Voters, is against Citizen's United and will be a good senator for Iowa. We really need one!

J.D. Scholten vs. Randy Feenstra (he won Rep ticket against Steve King and shares his views) : this is a very important race and it is crucial that J.D. win this one. He was close in 2018; let's hope this is his year.

Sara Gideon vs. Susan Collins : Maine Senate race, time for Collins to go.

John Hickenlooper vs. Cory Gardner : It would be great to see Colorado flip blue.

Jaime Harrison vs. Lindsey Graham : It's been time for Lindsey to go...

Amy McGrath vs. Mitch McConnell : We definitely need Amy to win Kentucky!

Jon Ossoff vs. David Perdue : Georgia needs Jon Ossoff.

And the top of the mountain is of course Joe Biden. I caucused for Pete Buttigieg and I'm still a major fan.  I am not a huge Joe fan but I am happy to vote for him because I know he will right the shipwreck we are in right now. Encourage others to vote too so we don't end up with the non-voter apathy we had in 2016.

And if you are interested in Black Democratic candidates running right now, check out this state-by-state list in Marie Claire.









Friday, July 17, 2020

July Ramblings

I'm taking a BLM class through Iowa Safe Schools-what an amazing organization this is!  The class is great, learning a lot, and I'm almost finished. The homework keeps me busy though as I worry about school openings and life surrounding Covid numbers rising all over including Iowa.


I''m still reading Ibram X. Kendi's book and I realize I have a bad habit of setting nonfiction down in order to pick up fiction. I had a turn to stroll around our public library last week (by appointment only) and picked up the first in a mystery series by one of my favorite authors William Kent Krueger. He wrote Ordinary Grace and This Tender Land. He has 17 books in this mystery series started in 1998 and they feature an Irish/Native detective named Cork O'Connor and are set in northern Minnesota.

My book club this month is reading The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Murial Barbery. I'm barely half finished and it's got a lot of big words in it and I'm not really pulled into the story yet. It's interesting mind you but not like "ooh, I don't want to stop reading..." I'm also reading a book for school, Lalani of the distant sea by Erin Entrada Kelly.  I'm also still reading to a group of students using Google Classroom. I upload videos of my reading in my backyard and they listen at some point in the day. I just finished Kazu Jones and the Denver Dognappers by Shauna Holyoak and I just started Carl Hiaasen's Squirm, which is on our state award list for this coming year.


When I need a mind break I've been catching up on HBO's Insecure with Issa Rae. It's one of my favorite shows because I connect with her humor, her awkwardness, and the shit she goes through on a daily basis. I get her and I think of her like a friend. This is the perfect reason for watching shows outside of your regular comfort zone. You can learn things about people.

I'm still pretty much hunkered down at home. I venture out to the grocery store every once in awhile, fully masked up and disappointed in a world of people that can't seem to do the same. What the heck people?!? Ridiculous-we could lower our numbers if you all would just get on board. I also go to work because I've got three boxes of new books to process before school starts (if? Yes, I'm looking at you mask-less people) and I want to get them finished and do a massive clean-up there. I've only spent a couple hours total just reading away in my beloved orange hammock~I trust there will be more before the summer is over...