Saturday, November 27, 2021

Thanks and Giving

Gratitude is everything. I don't feel great about the whole holiday experience surrounding conquerors and Indigenous people. In my vivid imagination I can see what a different world we might be in if only the “pilgrims” had learned from the people already living here on this land.

Greta Thunberg would be living a different reality. We might have created a much simpler life and people wouldn't be thinking past gratitude to Black Friday. Or planning and prepping the copious amounts of food on this holiday and others as well. We’d eat what we needed and share easily with others.

I  feel passionately for the underdog and celebrating a holiday that represents a misguided look at history and what came after is wrong to me. I understand why Abraham Lincoln made it an official holiday (to bring unity to the nation during the Civil War)  but when we know better we should do better. 

Find ways to connect to the Wampanoag people because they welcomed and helped the first immigrants to survive. Make a donation this year to American Indian College Fund or the First Nations Development Institute. Read a book about Native life such as Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer or books by Joseph Bruchac,  Kent Nerburn or Louise Erdrich.  Seek out Native authors and Native films. Think about what foods the real Thanksgiving might have had and give that a try. Branch out. Make fry bread or wild rice soup. Check out The Sioux Chef's Indigenous Kitchen by Sean Sherman and Beth Dooley, the book or the restaurant in Minneapolis.   

This PBS article and video are worth exploring. I would love to go one day to Cole's Hill to be part of this National Day of Mourning. Why can't we give more land back because in the long run this land will help to save the earth. Returning Native forest land to it's original intent over commercial property is a win for nature. Native Americans are a thriving community and once again we could learn from them. 

I've worked on this post on and off during November. Just having a hard time getting all the words out. I feel a turning in as the winter weather marches out and as my thoughts focus on Mother Earth it coincides with my mother's health issues. I feel a snapping inside myself as time becomes stretched too thin. 

My hope is that everyone had a lovely time with family, connecting in a positive spirit and that gratitude was a guest at your table. 

We took a quick trip to Chicago to see the oldest daughter Kaylee and ate the most amazing vegan food at The Chicago Diner. Usually vegan and vegetarian people have a small selection (sometimes one choice)  on a average menu but here at the diner it was almost overwhelming as Kaylee put it because everything was an option and it all sounded delicious. Even our one meat-loving papa enjoyed his vegan Radical Reuben sandwich. 

What I've cooked: This amazing pumpkin soup from Cookie and Kate. I made it with canned pumpkin and it still tasted like all the goodness of the earth.

What I've read: I just finished The Children's Bible by Lydia Millet and I highly recommend. It coincides so well with how I'm feeling right now. We, the children, are the caretakers and our children will be the radical change-makers.

What I've watched: Fell in love with Ted Lasso (totally late to the game here), trying to finish up Outlander because the book arrived on my doorstep the other day, and began watching the Shadow and Bone series with Groovy Girl because the Leigh Bardugo books were thrilling! 

I am grateful to each and everyone of my readers. I appreciate the comments, texts, and connections I've made through my posts. Peace be with you this month and into the next as we avoid more over abundance. Be well in spirit and mind. 

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Voting for a way of life

 I wish long ago I'd had the foresight to start a notebook that I kept quotes from books that made an impression on me. I think of all the books I've read over the many years and how bits of them stayed with me. It would be interesting to read back through this notebook and be reminded.  What I have instead is index cards and lots of notebooks scattered across my life with ideas and thoughts scattered throughout. 

If I had this notebook I would dedicate several pages to the current book I'm reading Neither Wolf Nor Dog by Kent Nerburn. There is so much wisdom in his writing that comes from Dan, the Native elder in the conversations he holds with Kent.  Not a fan of nonfiction yet books on Native life do capture my attention because I'm somewhat of a "wanna-be" as Dan would call me. I admire Native life and try to incorporate parts of that into my own philosophy but I'm not over the top trying to intersect myself into or pretending to be. I encourage everyone to read this book and thank you to Sue for lending me her autographed copy! Here is one of the many quotes I relate to from the book:

"You came to this country because you really wanted to be like us. But when you got here you got scared and tried to build the same cages you had run from. If you had listened to us instead of trying to convert us and kill us, what a country this would be." (159)

Voting in Cedar Falls/Waterloo is upon us and getting out to vote is always important.  Here are my choices for local elections if you need ideas. Each candidate is linked to their website for your own research. I'm a fan of the POS model for our fire and police because I think cross-training is a great thing. In the beginning this was not handled well but I think the end result will make for a better trained emergency force. Waterloo's main issue seems to be the Griffin, a mythical creature that has been a police symbol since the 1960's. It looks remarkably like the KKK dragon and really should have been removed long ago. I hope the city can move past this issue peacefully which means listening to the many Black residents and others like myself who see this symbol as antiquated and out-of-touch. We want people in office who have an open mind and are experienced. It matters. 

Mayor for CF -Tom Blanford

CF City Council - Kelly Dunn and Carole Yates

CF School Board - Jeff Orvis, Brenda Fite, and H. Alan Heisterkamp

I appreciate all the wonderful comments about my last writing piece. I hope to incorporate more like that mixed in with my book and recipe recommendations. Thank you.

Monday, October 25, 2021

My jacket

I’ve loved this leather jacket for many years. I bought it in my mid 20’s when I worked for Benetton in Minneapolis/St Paul. I wore it to concerts and shows, often to 1st Avenue. A coat like this becomes part of your person. Friends asked to borrow it and I happily let them because I wanted to share the good vibes I had while wearing the jacket. It brought me such joy. It still does. 

Several years later I moved to Boulder, Colorado and I still wore the jacket although not as frequently. My Minneapolis downtown style intersected with my newly embraced mountain bohemian rhapsody. Flannel shirts and and t-shirts fit nicely under this black rugged jacket. The story of the jacket takes a turn here a few more years later while I was living in Denver.

I wore the jacket out one night with  jeans and a simple white t-shirt. I met my friend Stan at a bar where he was entertaining his friends from Chicago. They'd gone golfing during the day and then he called and asked if I would join them. I was introduced to the guys who were rowdy and raring to go for their night out. I had one gin and tonic while we made plans to find some food. Both Stan and I needed to eat and were body aware enough that we usually made it a priority if we were out together. While we made plans to go to a favorite Mexican restaurant we ran into some local friends including Stan's roommate Chris. We ended up back at Chris' girlfriends house which was supposed to be a small stop but turned into a major ordeal. 

The girlfriend's roommate was acting as host and offered to make us drinks. We accepted but Stan and I were still very much on the "must get food soon" He (the roommate) brought hand mixed drinks out to each of us although several of the Chicago boys just had beers. They were restless so it was decided that they would go for food with Stan driving while I stayed back and waited for Chris and the girlfriend (I've completely blanked her name but I can picture her). It seemed like mere moments after they left that I finished the drink and I was beyond exhausted and started to fall asleep on the sofa. 

This is the point in the story where many of you might be thinking "what was in the drink?" and you would be right. I ended up crashing in the roommate's bed with promises from both Chris and the girlfriend that I would be completely safe. I crashed hard, missed Stan and friends coming back with food, and ended up puking my guts out in the middle of the night after feeling said roommate naked and rubbing up against me.  I wandered out to the living room, grabbed my jacket, and dialed my own apartment asking my brother to pick me up through quiet sobs. I waited outside for him and realized I was missing the belt of my beloved leather jacket but I couldn't walk back into that house and hoped it could be retrieved at a later time. 

I should have had my brother take me to the nearest emergency room. I just wanted to crawl in bed and forget about it. This was the 1990's; until that night I'd never even thought about date rape drugs. It just never occurred to me but there was definitely something in that drink that made me pass out. Even though I still love this jacket and wear it happily I always remember a glimmer of that night when I put my arms into the sleeves, when I think about the empty belt loops.  I choose to wear it anyway. 

Even though I remember I'm not going to let it overwhelm my love and attachment to this singular item or my general well-being. Humans are hearty souls and we are able to adapt to overwhelming situations. I tell this story now just to write it out one more time as a reminder of what I've experienced and how lucky I was to have woken up because the story could have had a much different ending.  

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

My feet are cold and I need a cup of tea

 I'm under the weather as temperatures change here. I have the bare essence of a cold. My ears itch, my chest is a little raw, and I'm blowing my nose like crazy. In the midst of  a pandemic being sick takes on new meaning. I sneeze at work at my students look at me like "ewww" and I wear a mask most every moment at school. 

I take a wide array of cold remedies; most of them are on the natural side. At the first hint of something coming on I start with the Emergen-C packets in a glass of water and I take regular vitamin C by tablet as well. My friend Jen turned me on to Gypsy Cold Care Tea years ago and I still use it religiously.  For some reason I now have to order it online because many stores just don't carry it. No idea why. I also have NutriBiotic GSE (Grapefruit Seed Extract) liquid concentrate which I take by squeezing 8-10 drops into a small glass of water. While I do use all these very natural remedies I also use Vick's VapoRub all the time. I can't help it because it works for me. I do love a good hot bath when I'm not feeling well. I know even without testing that I don't have Covid because when I had it last winter I was so, so tired all the time. 

I did get an amazing amount of reading done last weekend just because I had a sleepless night on Friday so I read The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave-it was so good! I read until 11pm (late for me) and then I tried to sleep but was still awake at 12:30 so I read a little more and that's kind of how the rest of the night went. I really enjoyed the mystery and Hannah Hall and Bailey's relationship as they started to work together.

Now I'm furiously reading Dear Pink written by Michelle Angelle so that I can begin the next in (maybe) a series with connecting characters. Until Next Year just came out and both books are fun, romance novels with sexy main characters!

Stay healthy out there and happy reading.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Farewell to September

 I can’t believe October begins tomorrow. Summer is my favorite weather season because I like the heat of the sun, the warm days on a boat or patio, and easy summer foods and beverages.  Many people love all that about Fall; the pumpkin spiced everything, the sweaters, the leaves falling. We’ve had amazing weather throughout September and I hope October brings more of the same. Truthfully all the seasons provide something to love but when we veer towards winter I dread feeling chilled all the time. As with every month I’ve done a fair amount of cooking and reading this last week. Right now I'm enjoying Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo, the 2nd in the series. 

Last weekend I cleaned up an area of my living room and went through a stack of books. Weird right, that I would have a stack of books sitting right on the floor in any of the rooms in my house? As I sorted this particular stack of books I found a note from a friend inside the front cover that said “I’m going to want this one back” which is code for “this was very good!” so I promptly started to read it. 

The Plot was amazingly good and written by Jean Hanff Korelitz, an author I was completely unaware of until now. I read the book in 4 days and while it has some creepy moments it isn’t over the top because I can’t handle scary. It has great plot twists and interesting characters. Now I want to read other stories by this author. She is a playwright and started an online book group, Book the Writer, that pairs authors with readers. Check out the EventBrite page to see upcoming authors. I would love to sit in on one of these sessions even though technical they all take place in NYC apartments. (After browsing the list I signed up for the online group with Jhumpa Lahiri and her new book Wherabouts.  I'll have to check if the library has a copy as I made a promise to myself about book buying after I moved that stack of books from one spot to another. 

{Half-Baked Harvest image}

Sometimes my brain works overtime and I try to prepare something for book club that relates to the book we read. This is not always easy but reading Anxious People by Fredrik Backman the food question was very clear. The characters all eat pizza together in the apartment with the bank robber/kidnapper and so I made Roasted Mushroom Kale Pizza from Half-Baked Harvest and it was delicious. There were no leftovers. Last night I made Roasted Butternut Squash and Spinach Lasagna and it is amazing. We had it for dinner tonight with a salad and we had to force ourselves to stop picking at what remained in the pan. Two pieces is plenty...but oh, so good! I do want to make her Vanilla Chai Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew soon as well...I mean tomorrow is October after all. 

Now I'm off to do a little bedtime yoga with Adriene and get myself mentally prepared for Friday. 

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Reasons for happiness

On Monday we will start back to school with everyone masked up again and I couldn't be happier! I really dislike wearing a mask; it makes it hard to hear students and hard for me to read books aloud to students. You miss the emotions, the smiles, the glee. You can see joy in their eyes but I miss my students faces; all 650+ of them! On the other hand it will keep us safe from the virus (and other germs) which is important because we have young students who don't have the opportunity to get vaccinated. We have kindergarten students missing school because of positive Covid tests or due to exposure. I don't want to get sick and I don't want our students to get sick or miss school either. I know there will be complaints but bear with us. This too shall pass-eventually!

I recently had a chat with another teacher during a staff breakfast and she relayed that she was going to be away from school for over a week for surgery. She leaned in and asked me if I'd read any good books lately? Why of course I have! I love the start of a good book conversation and she took my two book recommendations with a smile on her face. I'm sure her foot surgery won't be fun but I do know she'll be set up with good reading material. What did I recommend? Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly And Lisa See's The Island of Sea Women

Over the weekend I've had a chance to really relax with nothing major on my agenda. I had a good talk with my mother-in-law. My husband and I strolled through our local Farmers' Market on Saturday morning, I read Six of Crows in my bright orange hammock for over an hour while listening to the chickens cluck around me. I watched a little Netflix after the sun went down. I did an hour's worth of yoga. Today I'm about to embark on a long walk with my dogs. I feel like some weekends we go non-stop but this kind of weekend really helps me settle. What's on your agenda?

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

What is your love language?

We are living in a rough environment right now. So much that surrounds are daily life are colliding. Emotions, government, lifestyles, masks/vaccinations, climate developments. I've discovered that when I'm struggling emotionally I connect with food. I've made a wide variety of recipes the last few weeks. And then I'll completely stop making food and just eat snacks for dinner; cheese, crackers, and a cluster of grapes. It's back and forth. For awhile I was really focused on my at home yoga practice with Adriene but I've slacked off - like way off. I haven't done a lick of yoga throughout September except this morning. I was awake too early and decided to spend some of that time blinking my eyes open and reconnecting to my mat. It felt great and I know I can get back on track but I still feel a bit off kilter. I'm going to make the promise to show up though and as she's says that's what's important. 

(Buffalo Chickpea Salad)

Here's a smattering of what I've cooked to connect to myself. I made this  Quinoa Enchilada Bake after I discovered Jamie and her Dishing out Health on Instagram. I've made several of her recipes now and love every one. Many are vegan or can easily be with minimal switches. I made this Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup to split with Tristan and my husband "accidentally" had a bowl after work and loved it.  I made this Buffalo Chickpea Salad with Yogurt Ranch Dressing  which was so easy and packed a little heat! And to combat allergies and the cooler Fall weather I made this Immunity Boosting Tumeric Chicken Soup because I had leftovers from an farm-raised chicken.

And because I love dessert I made this Easy S'mores Dip to share with friends. It was amazing and days later I was still scraping chocolate and toasted marshmallows crusts from my Lodge skillet. Last night after a meeting I came home and made this easy brownie recipe to share at school for a teacher friend's birthday. Just for fun I added chopped up marshmallows and broiled the pan for just about 5 minutes. The brownies were dense and delicious all on their own but the browned marshmallows added extra birthday zing! This recipe truly was easy and I'll make it again when in a pinch for a chocolate treat. 

This is the love I share with my family and friends. I feed them. It's an old tradition that stems from my grandmother who loved to offer visitors a meal or at least a sandwich!  I just finished the very quirky Anxious People by Fredrik Backman which I loved even after a rocky start. And I'm trying to spend as much time outside as I possible can to soak up the wonderful weather before it gets too cold. Recently I was lucky enough to connect with my dearest friend, Verda, and we walked her dogs, shopped at crafty local stores, ate good food, and talked about the world. I guess maybe my recent blue period is because I want that to be my every day. I love teaching and connecting with students but I'm constantly worried about getting sick. Even though I know I'm in a much safer category after having Covid and getting vaccinated but it is still a major worry. 

"Find what feels good" ~Adriene and try and remain calm - this is my new mantra. Say it with me...

Monday, August 30, 2021

Summer Books

 I've read a ton this summer and I want to share these titles with you so you can read them also. All of these are perfect for upper elementary and middle school except for the last one on my list. All are worth a read even as an adult. Pick your topic and find them at a library near you. 

The Lion of Mars by Jennifer L. Holm: Life on Mars as told by Bell, an orphan growing up on this solitary space station. America is at war with other nations over Antarctica and even on Mars the U.S. team is not speaking to the other settlements (so like American) and the kids save the day. 

A Whale of the Wild by Rosanne Parry: Told from the point of view of Vega, an Orca Whale, as she shares her life journey with her extended Orca pod. Deals with environmental changes that affect our water, climate change, family relations, and a darkly humorous insight into humans.

Stand Up, Yumi Chung! by Jessica Kim: Yumi wants to perform and finds her way to a comedy camp through a hilarious mix-up. Her parents want her to study hard for a scholarship as they try to safe their restaurant. Great friendship and family story about what really matters. 

Becoming Muhammad Ali by James Patterson and Kwame Alexander: A novel in verse mixed with prose takes us through Cassius Clay's early life. He is a peace activist hero of mine and I loved this story. This is an important but quick read. 

Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson: ZJ lives with his parents as they begin to navigate his father's head trauma from playing professional football. It's very difficult to see your hero become angry and confused by every day life with no answers from the medical world. Made me cry and wonder why we don't just play flag football at all levels!

The Amelia Six by Kristin L. Gray: Fun mystery that takes place in Amelia Earhart's childhood home. I learned a lot about Amelia and her flying career as the girls uncover an unusual plot to steal the aviator's favorite goggles. 

The Best At It by Maulik Pancholy: Rahul Kampoor, a gay Indian American boy, growing up in the Midwest and is anxious about the upcoming school year. He takes his grandfather's advice to be good at just  one thing...but what if he can't find anything to be good at. I loved the multigenerational story, the characters were outstanding, and was emotional in love with his struggle. Most of us understand this struggle. 

Firekeeper's Daughter by Angeline Boulley: I think I've already said multiple times how much I loved Boulley's story; a family mystery set on a reservation in Michigan. Drug use, FBI informants, romance, athletes, all mixed with Native lore and traditions made this my favorite summer read. This one is for young adults. 

Summer may be waning but there is still plenty of time to find your hammock and read any one of these fabulous books.