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...

Sunday, July 5, 2020

I'm judging you by Luvvie Ajayi

This 228-page book is filled with love, hope, snarky humor, and a whole lot of wisdom from a young activist.  This is a library copy and I have a ton of pages "ear-marked" for re-reading or talking points. I'm gonna have to iron it before I return it to our library. Speaking of our library they are opening tomorrow for browsing by appointment!  Masks are required and very limited amount of people at the allotted time. We have one hour in the library with like 5 other people. For the last month or so they've been doing holds with curbside pick-up, which has been great but how nice to browse...I'm reminded of all that we've taken for granted.

I follow Luvvie on Instagram and thought about ordering her book but money being what it is I checked the library and was very grateful they had a copy. I love that she refers to herself as a "professional troublemaker"!  She blogs at Awesomely Luvvie and has a podcast as well. This book published in 2016 still touches on all that we are experiencing today. If she could add on a chapter concerning Covid-19 I'm sure she would. And she has a new book coming out in 2021!

I just want to give you a little taste from I'm judging you...

"Racism is not just perpetuated by the people in white hoods. It's also the well-meaning "I have Black friends" people who help it remain upright and unmovable. They refuse to see the part they play in the system because they're two busy making sure everyone knows how NOT racist they are. 
Listening to Black music and loving Beyonce does not give you a free hall pass out of the system of structural racism. Just because I enjoy a salad from time to time doesn't mean I'm a vegetarian. Being able to live w/out having to be defined by your skin color is the hallmark of privilege." (84-85)

and another: 

"So saying you don't see race is saying you have nothing to fix. 'Colorblindness' and cultural erasure help perpetuate this crappy system of oppression, because forced politeness and fear of the 'race card' trump actual work and progress. In the words of my beloved cousin (in my heart) Kerry Washington, "I'm not interested in living in a world where my race is not a part of who I am. I am interested in living in a world where our races, no matter what they are, don't define our trajectory in life." (88)

If you think at this point I'm going to quote most of the book it is a little like that...Plus I'd like to think Kerry Washington is my distant cousin as well.

In the feminism chapter she questions why can't we all get along, why do we need a dip stick to test out who can be a "real" feminist and that it isn't just reserved for white women.

"By the way, fellas, you can be feminists, too. We need more of you to say you are. That's sexy. I mean, don't say you are just to make it a pickup line. Actually believe it. Hey, boo. Call me sometime, with your respectful ass.   
Become a CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Stay at home and raise your children. Keep the name you've always had. Change your name to your husbands. Hyphenate it. Refuse to cook because you hate it. ...Be Martha Steward, Be Oprah.  ...Wear short shorts. Wear a cloak. Wear heels." (128)

and in the homophobia section: 

"...many of those who are yelling about the sanctity of marriage are married men who are so far in the closet that there's a lion and a witch by their favorite wing tips. Their wardrobe of denial is so deep, it can get you to Narnia. How many conservative, publicly and boldly homophobic male politicians have been found to have side dudes? More than we can count." (136)

And then there is a whole amazing chapter about religion and Luvvie identifies as Christian but definitely not the sanctimonious kind. And that's as far as I've read; I still have a couple of chapters left. I'll leave you with this last thought on who we are:

"There's power in believing that there's God in each of us because if we are made in His/Her/Their image, then aren't we all like good Horcruxes for God, because a piece of Them is in us all? (144)

Beautifully said and if we all felt that in our hearts and souls we could see each other as humans worth love and kindness and treat each other as such. I hope you had a good holiday weekend, resting and taking care of your well-being. 

I, for one, am not a champion of this holiday for to me it's like Columbus Day and why in the heck would I celebrate him.  I think we should have some new holidays and some new positive statues like John Lewis, William Monroe Trotter, or James Baldwin. 

Friday, July 3, 2020

More on being anti-racist...

I am continuing my journey to better understanding by watching and I want to share the most interesting with you.  We should keep learning and pushing ourselves while we actually work to dismantle the racist systems in place that keep people of color from succeeding at life. We need to push our schools, banks, city councils, police departments, landlords, and neighbors to do better. If you work in an area that should help more get your people on board.  If you are a parent, teacher or administrator you need to push for real change in what and how we teach. This video shares how students in the South were explicitly taught to respect the Confederate flag, and it's so-called "heritage".

Also I read this great article, When black people are in pain white people just join book clubs, by Tre Johnson in The Washington Post about how easily white people dismiss the struggle. I feel like I'm stuck in this myself by how much information I'm taking in yet in order to be a better ally and teacher I have to understand how and what to say. I was asked to be on our district's equity committee, which I understand has been in place for years w/out getting much done, so we are still dealing with a lot of old/same hurt, outrage, and anger.

Teaching Hard History in K-5 is a webinar I watched from the Teaching Tolerance website, which is filled with valuable resources. This webinar already took place but if you register they will send you a link to it within a few minutes. I'm going to keep an eye on other webinars they may host as I would like to be part of the real-time Q/A

This video with Emmanuel Acho is helpful and he has several others to watch. I either stumbled upon this one or someone shared it on their FB feed.  It's shocking that people still don't understand the mental trauma and racist systems that Black people have experienced. This is one of many areas where the race has not been fair for generations. I encourage you to subscribe and take a look at each of his videos.

And one last one that I found on our list of resources for the school equity committee about micro aggressions. I love the dialogue that happens in this particular classroom. My head cannot wrap around things that people say out loud; like stop people and think before you speak and also how about a little mind-you-own-business! What would it look like to be more welcoming and accepting of people who don't look just like you.

Be kind out there and seriously do better. There are many ways to get involved and help even if just by donating or making phone calls. 8 can't wait is a great tool to help you. Breonna Taylor's murderers are still out there and here is a good article talking about this. And Elijah McClain in Colorado. We need to stop this before the list continues to grow...
Thank you for continuing on this journey with me...

Monday, June 22, 2020

Books give much needed insight...

Between Spring Break and Covid-19 (still happening) I've been doing some reading which is not something new for me but my book numbers have definitely increased. Reading books by Black authors has always been important to me. It's like traveling or meeting new people; I appreciate learning and understanding about culture, people and places.

I prefer fiction and have learned from books like Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds. I am appreciative of  Jacqueline Woodson, Renee Watson, Angie Thomas, Aisha Saeed, Sharon M. Draper,  Nic Stone, and Hena Khan. Mildred D. Taylor is one of my favorite authors with her Logan family series about life in segregated Mississippi. All have enlightening me on their own race experiences through fiction. There is one scene in Black Girls Must Die Exhausted by Jayne Allen that helped me feel what it was like to be approached by an officer.  I could feel her fear.  Me reading that in no way gives me the real experience yet it gave me a huge sense of the negative adrenaline rush if your driving while Black.

I am reading How to be an Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi and I find it interesting to learn about the history of racism and I'm waiting on White Fragility by Robin J. DiAngelo from the library. I want to read I'm judging you by Luvvie Ajayi. Non-fiction takes me forever though like I'm still working chapter by chapter through Eat to Beat Disease-fantastic book but does not call to me in the same way.

It's the fiction stories that fly by for me and teach me about another person's experience.

Jerry Craft's graphic novel New Kid: demonstrates how horrifying school can be for students of color because of teachers, administrators and students.  I am so glad this one won a Newberry Medal and hope that opens it up for more readership.

The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates: I liked Between the world and me and thought this beautiful fiction writing was an amazing piece of magical realism that brought new depth to the time of slavery. I look forward to whatever Coates writes next.

The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline: Native dystopian about how we continue to dehumanize and hunt Indigenous people. Well-told story and I fell in love with some of the characters and wanted to read more...

I can make this promise by Christine Day: I purchased this book for school and read it right away. There are not many realistic fiction books about BIPOC and this debut book shares the difficult times today that Edie experiences through bullying, misappropriation of Native stories and artifacts and her own curiosity about her ancestors.

Genesis begins again by Alicia D. Williams: Also ordered through school and brought it home straight out of the box. This amazing debut book talks about the hard topic of skin color through the eyes of Genesis who has dark skin tone like her father and she wishes so much she were light-skinned like her mother. The learning that went on as Genesis tries to figure out her life was mind-blowing for both of us. She gets such mixed messages from family, friends, and enemies that it's hard for her to know what is real. She tries bleaching and whitening creams and relaxers and plays mind games with herself. So good.

All-American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brenden Kiely: Jason Reynolds has a gift.  This alternating POV narrative sat on my shelf for awhile bc I ordered for school just because it was Jason but then read a review that said it was better suited for high school. It is but only due to some perfectly placed swear words. This story places three people at the scene of a crime; Rashad the victim and Quinn the bystander as a police officer over-the-top reacts to a simple misunderstanding and wrestles Rashad to the ground, pummeling him into submission over a bag of potato chips.  Rashad spends time in the hospital as his family,  friends, neighbors, and basketball team come to grips with what really happened.

For Black Girls Like Me by Mariama J. Lockington: I finished this book just last night; its a powerful story of adopted Makeda living with her white family in the desert as her adoptive mom struggles with mental health.  It's difficult for children to not take the burden of their parent's anger and frustration and Makeda and her sister Eve spend too much time parenting their mother as their papa travels overseas playing for the symphony. Makeda dreams of her birth mom as she tries to deal with racism in her everyday life in New Mexico.

I encourage you to go out and find these books either at your public library or a small independent book store. Here is a list of Black-owned book stores for you to access. I'm not a fan of Amazon until they pay their fair share of taxes-I understand Bezos is willing to lose customers because he supports the Black Lives Matter movement but I 'd like to see that in taxes back or better work support, unions, etc. Right now as our smaller stores work to recover from Covid closures its a great time to support them.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Where is the love? asks Laverne Cox

Some days I have no words for what is going on in these United States of America. Other days I am bursting with words and often cursing is involved. What the !@#$* are we going through and why isn't it fixed already? How is it possible that people are simply not enlightened enough to treat everyone they meet with respect? I realize this is simplistic for the racial strife our country has experienced since the first European settlers arrived on the shores of this beautiful land. The first settlements of people stuck it to the Native tribes and then when our ancestors needed help building the country up they stole people from a far away country and forced them into a caste system that continues to keep Black and other people of BIPOC as marginalized citizens, lesser than their white counterparts, continuing the history of slavery through our police forces, banking systems, and government structures. I cannot even say his name anymore but the man living in the WH who has specifically shut down the plan to rid military bases of Confederate names...I have no words for that $#%^&.

I am staying informed by listening to various podcasts, live webinars via Zoom, and Instagram BLM moments.  I started following Kendrick Sampson on IG (kendrick38) because I love Issa Rae's Insecure on HBO and Kendrick is leading the LA BLM protests and he is fierce. I heard him first on Kerry Washington's account after she lead a short yoga session.  I am getting inspiration from Tori Williams Douglass's podcast White Homework as well as Brene Brown's Unlocking Us. Yesterday I listened to a new episode of Unlocking Us with Laverne Cox and heard about her new Netflix documentary Disclosure dropping this Friday night! After the deaths of Riah Milton and Dominique "Rem'mie" Fells I think this is an important piece of information for better understanding.

I cannot say that George Floyd's death started this all because it's been deeply brewing for quite awhile but I am grateful that an uprising may come out of this event. Every time I've been part of a "moment of silence" for George Floyd those almost 9 minutes drag out and cause me to cry because it's a long fucking time. It shows me intent from that officer to do great harm. It is a dehumanizing act.

I am also reading a ton of books and I'll save that list for another post...

Stay brave, Stay kind, Stay informed~Think outside your everyday life. Empathy is such an important skill. Err on the side of positive through action...

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.