Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The simple things in life...

I have quite a few things swirling around in my personal life which are creating this need for me to return to some basic human needs for me; like yoga, meditation, and making bread.

Last Sunday I made 5 loaves of rustic bread. There is something so simple about pouring the four ingredients together.  There's an order to it. You begin with level teaspoons or tablespoons of yeast and you pour cups of soothing warm water over the yeast with a few sprinkles of sea salt. It's almost mystical as you watch it start to bubble and froth after a few minutes.  While it's heating up I start measuring out cups of unbleached flour. One wooden spoon stirs it all together and then I use my hands, covered in some flour, to knead it around a little. My recipe doesn't require this step but I like it. Just don't do it too much. Before you set it aside to let it double in size shake some olive oil around the dough and the bowl. I only kept one loaf here; the rest I gave away to friends at school.  Bread makes people smile and think of home. Sometimes people make chili for their family because you made the bread. It's a win/win for all involved.

Meditation has the same effect. I like to sit on my bed right before going to bed and make some space in my brain. I can do it on my own but I've discovered three cool apps to help me as well. I started with Headspace created by Tibetan monk trained meditation teacher Andy Puddicombe. (read an excellent review here @ The NY'er) I like this app and it's guided meditation with Andy's British accent. I like that it gives me prompts during the day like "your meditation today can't wait until you get home" or other little motivational moments to inspire you. This one has free basics but you have to buy a subscription to unlock more content. I probably won't ever buy more I'll just keep using free because I like what Andy has to say.

During an online conversation with my friend Erica, she shared that she uses Insight Timer to meditate daily so I downloaded that also. This one is totally free. I love that it gives me a more traditional meditation experience through bells, gongs, and wood blocks to begin and end my session. I don't love that if I miss a day (which I do) it starts back over. So if I miss one day but have meditated five other days it still logs me as "day one"; I want it to appreciate that I did the five days. It's still a great app and I've become accustomed to using both at different times of the day.

I met with my friend Lori for a drink and I mentioned meditation and she told me she was doing a 21-day thing with Oprah and Deepak so now I have that downloaded as well. These are longer sessions and to be clear I have yet to finish one but my heart is in the right place and I will get to it.

In between, I have been doing some yoga to keep my bones mobile and stretchy. I especially love how my arms feel after a few downward dogs and planks.

What do you do to stay stress-free? Drinking wine can also be helpful especially if good friends are involved. Salud!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

YA books related to social justice

Recently I've had the opportunity to read a few young adults books with social justice themes.  The Hate U Give would be a perfect example of a book for teens about a shooting of a black teenager.  This is work we are doing to find appropriate texts for 6th grade students and while I may allow my daughter to read a wide variety many parents are not happy about younger students reading about real-life (sometimes scary) situations.  We had a large pool of books to choose from and unfortunately we had to cross many off the list right away. My job was to read a few of the questionable titles and see if any would be appropriate.

1. Ball Don't Lie by Matt de la Pena (2005); Matt's debut and it's excellent. This book tells the story of Sticky, a teenager who has fallen through the cracks his whole life. First with his single mom while she suffers from mental health issues and ultimately commits suicide in the apartment with him in the next room.  After her death, he is shuffled from foster home to group home never able to find a good match. While this is an excellent book there is just too much in here for 6th grade students to process.  Death, suicide, teen pregnancy, petty crime, and drugs all play a role in who Sticky is-luckily for him, his passion and skills at basketball help him to escape some of his situations.  I loved Matt's dystopian series The Living and all of his picture books including his brand new Love collaboration with Loren Long.

2. If you come softly by Jacqueline Woodson (2006); Woodson, one of my favorite authors, writes eloquently about first love in this story. Ellie and Jeremiah are from two different worlds and meet accidentally at school. In their first meeting when they bump into each other spilling Ellie's books across the hall they both feel sparks and spend the first weeks of school looking for each other again. Jeremiah is transferred into Ellie's English class and once they start spending time together they find a solid connection. Jeremiah's father is a famous filmmaker and his mother is an author but they no longer live together.  Ellie is the youngest in her family and all her siblings are off in their adult worlds. Twice her mother has left her family and even though she's been reliable for the last few years Ellie has a hard time trusting she will always be there. Everything I've read of Woodson's is filled with truth and this one hits home on love, consequences, family, and what it still means to be black in America today.

3. House Arrest by K.A. Holt (2015); A novel in verse, this story tells the tragic story of Timothy who steals a man's wallet so he can pay for medicine that his baby brother needs to survive. Levi has been very sick his whole little life and lives at home with constant care from Tim, his mom, and a cycle of babysitter/home health care providers. The father has been absent for the past few months and Tim's mom tries to keep it together.  Tim tells us his story through journal entries he writes to his probation officer and counselor as he tries to do penance for what he's done and to stay out of the juvenile detention center. This is my first K.A. Holt book and I like her style. Another title of hers was a hot seller at our recent Scholastic book fair-From you to me which is about a sister's grief.
House Arrest is the only book on our list that is "appropriate" for our 6th grade audience. It has a strong social justice theme w/out sex/kissing/swears.

4. Pinned by Sharon G. Flake (2012); This one I've not read yet but I will. Autumn and Adonis are both differently abled young adults who work to overcome what is stacked against them. Autumn is on her school's wrestling team which is a cool twist. And Adonis is in a wheelchair and has a crush on Autumn. I'm interested to see how this story plays out; I've enjoyed other books by this author such as The Skin I'm in.

I also recently finished Well, that was awkward by Rachel Vail and now I have Groovy Girl reading it. It was a great retelling of the Cyrano story. Not so much a social justice them except it is about accepting yourself in all your own glory; a lesson for many teens (and adults).

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

International Women's Day

The first International Women’s Day was celebrated on March 19, 1911.
This first event included meetings and organized events and was successful in
countries like Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland.
The March 19th date was chosen because it commemorated the day that the Prussian King promised to give women the right to vote. He didn't follow through on his promise and the date was later changed to March 8th in 1913.

In some countries, this is a national holiday and government offices are closed as well as some businesses. It seems that as we continue to push for more equality in this country and around the world that this day would grow in importance. This year the theme is #PressforProgress which combined with the #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns make it feel like we are getting closer to gender equality.

There are no major events that I know of celebrating this day in my small
area of Iowa so I plan to talk up and celebrate women’s achievements,
set up a book display showcasing strong female leaders and other achievers and celebrate me and other strong role models.

Check and see if your area features any cool
events, International Women’s Day site And read this excellent article from
The Times entitled The New Vanguard that highlights women writers in this century who’ve helped to change and reconstruct our thinking. The first book on the list is
Chimamanda Adichie's novel Americanah-one of my favorite inspiring reads.

Happy International Women’s Day 2018! I hope this year will truly be a year of spectacular change for humans for as we lift ourselves up men can only become more self-aware.

Post note: Man-what a day to have weird formatting issues.
I had one 1/2 of another blog post disappear and now this one doesn't want to make correct paragraphs.
Oh, how I wish blogger saved like a google doc.