Green Teams

I’m writing a series of blog posts to document my learning about green schools; work that I have landed in over the last two years. Please follow along with my journey and share where you are in the environmental sustainability movement. 

One of the green initiatives in my school district is a district Green Team.  When our previous superintendent, Dr. Tim Baird, came to our district, he has a clear focus on being more environmentally aware.  One of his first steps was to establish a District Green Team.

Dr Baird says that the best way to begin a green initiative is with the three G’s:

  • Green Team
  • Garden
  • Garbage

I will address all of these in my green schools blog series.  Today we are talking about Green Teams. A district green team is comprised of district and community leaders with a passion for sustainability.  Our district green team includes:

  • our superintendent – It is critical in any green initiative to have support from your leader!
  • our assistant superintendent of educational services (that is me!)- we work hard to make sure our green initiatives are linked to our educational programming for students.
  • the director of facilities, maintenance, operations, and grounds – so many of our green initiatives (or ideas that become initiatives) have to do with how we can safely clean our schools or save energy more efficiently, and this position plays a key role in those discussions.
  • the director of purchasing – this person is often involved because they support all of the contracts we enter into for on-going purchasing needs.
  • the coordinator of our DREAMS campus/ Farm Lab – this person plays a critical role in the environmental education for our students as well as maintaining the business partnerships that allow us to grow our own organic produce for school lunches.
  • parent representatives from the sites – these are parents who are interested in environmental issues and passionate about making changes in our schools that will positively impact the environment.
  • community members – we often include key community members who are leading city-wide events that we can connect to our schools.

In the beginning, it is important for this team to come together to discuss their mission. The goals of this group need to be clear and explicit.  This is why it is important to have key positions from your organization represented.  Often these discussion fall either on the business side of a district or on the educational side. By bringing members of both departments into the discussion, you ensure that everyone is speaking the same language and working towards a common purpose. Similarly, by including parents in this group, you hear directly from the community, you garnish support for new initiatives, and you have a through-line from the district to each individual school site. 

Due to COVID-19, our green teams took a hiatus during the last 1.5 years. I’m looking forward to returning to these discussions in the upcoming school year. We will have new members to bring in fresh ideas, and we are so excited to welcome students back to our DREAMS campus for enhanced learning experiences. We were also excited when this book was published recently, as our district was featured prominently.

A Practice Guide to Leading Green Schools

I’d love to hear if you have a Green Team in your school or your district. Are you, personally or professionally, researching Green Teams for your school/district?

 Previous post(s) in this green schools series:

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Did you know that I wrote a book?  The Coach ADVenture: Building Powerful Instructional Skills That Impact Learning is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. I love interacting with readers via Twitter and my hashtag #CoachADV.

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June 2021 Reading Update

This blog has become nothing more than a reading journal for me, and that is fine by me for now. It’s always interesting to see where my stats end up. Last month I read almost all books by women, so I did seek out more male authors to balance myself out this month. I had a few books that had been on hold at my library come up, along with a new book I was anticipating. So far this year I have already more than I did in all of 2015 and 2018, so it’s been a great reading year for ma already!

What I read in June:

  • Shakeup by Stuart Woods – Another typical Barrington novel, where he has to find the bad guys before they shoot him up. This time he only traveled to LA and to English, but was mostly in NYC, with either Holly, the new president, or Maren, the new FBI Director.
  • Written in the Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur – I enjoyed this cute, sappy, lesbian rom-com! Darcy and Elle are total opposites, so of course they meet and hate one another, which means you know that awkward disagreements will follow as they fall for each other. Then something will cause a riff near the end, and then the ending will wrap up with a nice bow, like all rom-coms, and all Hallmark movies, do. It was a fun read!
  • Double Jeopardy by Stuart Woods – Last month I accidentally read two Woods books out of order, but I am back on track again. This was the 57th novel in the Stone Barrington series and it is like a well-oiled machine. Stone has a problem (this time his evil cousins have gotten out of jail and are on a machine to kill him), he calls in Dino and Viv for back up, they travel to one of his many homes (this time Maine), he meets a new woman, and they all end up armed and dangerous and getting the bad guys. These books are my palate-cleansers – easy books I can read in one day in between very different kinds of books.
  • Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor- I really enjoyed the deep dive into how we breathe, why breathing through our mouths is bad for every part of our body, and how breathing can impact health and wellbeing. As I read the entire book, I was so conscious of my own breathing and posture, which is a good thing! I appreciated the history, the author’s personal experiments into a wide range of breathing techniques and scientific studies, and the practice examples shared
  • Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston – I loved this YA fantasy novel! There are similaries to the Harry Potter series – Amari, a young Black girl, gets invited to a secret summer camp that is part of the super natural world. She is looking for her missing brother, who also attended camp here. Then she learns she is a magician, though in this world that is a bad thing, and her brother is a hero. As Amari and her roommate Elsie study to pass their entrance exams and pick their junior career paths, they fight evil and help save the world! This was a fun fantasy and I’m sure there is an entire series waiting to be written about this dynamic, powerful girl and her magic powers.
  • Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson – I LOVED this book! I don’t know where I heard about it, but I loved it from beginning to end. I couldn’t read fast enough to get to the end. Christine has amnesia and cannot form new memories, so each day she has to rediscover her condition and try to put the pieces of her past together. An amnesiac is by nature an unreliable narrator, so I knew to doubt the other characters and the things that were happening. While I was suspicious of everyone, it was still fun to see what Christine would think and do with the knowledge she had.
  • Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid – I love this author and the creative way she tells stories that connect characters over decades of adventure and mishaps. Half of this story takes place in Nina’s house at her annual Rivas party on the beach of Malibu, a party she throws for her 3 siblings each year. The other half tells the history of the Rivas siblings, their parents, and their heartbreaks and successes. I loved how one hour of the party was interspersed with history every other chapter. I loved the Rivas: Nina, Jay, Hud, and Kit. I hated their famous father and loved the way they cared for each other. This was an emotional journey and a fun story!
  • A Fateful Grace (#2) by Louise Penny – Once I read the first in the Penny series about Inspector Garmache, I knew I would continue reading the story. These are traditional police procedurals that take place in Quebec, in a sleepy, beautiful village that has more than it’s fair share of murders. I like how this second book brought in some of the original village characters (Ruth, Clara, Peter, Gabri, etc.), but also introduced some new people. I imagine with each new story, we will continue to meet more villagers as we uncover mysteries. I enjoyed this.
  • The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth – I enjoyed this book, though not as much as The Mother In Law, which I LOVED by this author last year. I liked Rose and Fern, their childhood memories and their adult interactions, as twins who are so different. I knew to expect an unreliable narrator from Hepworth, but was still surprised by the deviousness that ensued.

Fiction: 7

Nonfiction: 1

Young Adolescent: 1

Audiobooks:

Author is of or plot addresses a different race/ethnicity, orientation, religion than me: 2

Female author: 4

Male Author: 4

Nonbinary Author:

Library books: 6

Currently reading or my my TBR list soon: Tarana Burke, Nora Zelevansky, and more!

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May 2021 Reading Update

I had another great reading month in May! I intentionally watched less junk TV and read more whenever I could. It helped that I had a long weekend away (my first plane trip in 14 months!) and lots of time to read poolside! I read so many books that I LOVED this month, and I listened to some audio books as well. This month I read:

  • The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab – I LOVED this book! When I heard about it (on a podcast), I knew I would like it. Then I started reading it, and the e-book version was 1,100 pages long and it started slowly and I thought I would never get into it, much less finish it. But soon I was invested in the life of Addie LaRue. She was a young woman born in France in the 1690’s who didn’t want to get married and be owned by a man. So she traded her life with the devil and then lives a sort of invisible life for centuries. The story alternates between what happens to her in her early life after the deal, and her modern love story in 2014 in NYC, with Henry, a lovely character with his own demons. This was such a fun mix of realistic fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, and magical realism and I loved the author’s creativity. Such an interesting read!
  • Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng – Another book I LOVED! I hadn’t read Ng before, but I did love the TV series based on her other book Little Fires Everywhere. In this book, the story follows the a Chinese American family in the 1970’s in the suburbs of Ohio. The children, Lydia, Nath, and Hannah, are the only Chinese children in town, and they face a lot of prejudice and microaggressions. Most of the story revolves around the fact that Lydia is missing from the first page of the book, but no one knows what happened. As the stories continues, and flashes backwards, we learn that Lydia’s father, who is Chinese, and her mother, who is white, have high expectations that their daughter we reach all the goals they didn’t Her mother wants her to be a doctor and her father wants her to be popular. The siblings have typical, complicated sibling relationships and everyone in the family leaves so much unsaid. This was a bittersweet, sad, family story that, though set in the 70’s could be about today. I loved the way the author developed each character, and how realistically flawed they all were.
  • Wreckage of My Presence: Essays by Casey Wilson – I have loved Casey Rose Wilson ever since I discovered the Bitch Sesh podcast, where she and Danielle Schneider break down Real Housewives episodes every week! I enjoyed this because Casey is funny and self deprecating and honest and real. She shared some silly acting stories, some sad family stories, and some funny memories. Listening to her read it was as fun as the podcast! And I started watching one of her shows, Happy Endings, because of her love for her costars.
  • Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel – I vaguely remember hearing about this book last year, and knew that I couldn’t read it while we were in the thick of our very real COVID-19 pandemic. This book, which I enjoyed more than I thought I would, takes place before, during, and after a flu pandemic that wipes out most of the world. It was sad and scary and entertaining, to read about the best and worst of humanity during the worst of times. While there were some slow parts in the book, there were also some parts I couldn’t read fast enough and I was sad when it ended.
  • Still Life by Louise Penny – I have heard Louise Penny’s detective series mentioned on multiple reading podcasts, so it’s been on my TBR for a few months. I finally decided to dive in to the first book and I enjoyed getting to know Detective Gamache and all of the characters in the small Canadian village of Three Pines. There were a LOT of secondary characters in this story, which made it feel crowded at times, but I still appreciated the lead up to the reveal of the who the murderer was and was had happened.
  • Hush-Hush by Stuart Woods – I haven’t read a Woods book since December, and I found a few available through my library. Just now I realized that I skipped one, so I will have to go back. I try to read the Stone Barrington series in order, just because some of his personal life changes slightly in between books. I don’t know why I love these books so much – they are graphically violent and nothing that I would hope happens in real life. But for escapism, I enjoy the fast-paced, rich-life adventures that Stone and his friends always find themselves in. What regular people can travel from NYC to Paris to NYC to London to NYC to Maine and back again in the course of a week or two, all while being stalked by Russian mobsters? It’s good fiction!
  • Choppy Waters by Stuart Woods – As soon as I finished the last Woods book and realized I had skipped this one, I had to go back and read it immediately. Thank goodness for library e-books readily available! What I enjoyed about this story was it was less about Stone Barrington’s wealthy adventures, and more about the president-elect, Holly Barker, is sometimes girlfriend. As the FBI and CIA fought to protect Holly from a fanatical group out to kill her before her inauguration, there was some fund undercover work, some hiding, and some fake-out scenarios to get the bad guys. I love Holly’s character and appreciated how she was in this entire story, instead of a chapter now and again.
  • Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan – The Currently Reading podcast recommended this as a good YA to listen to on audio. I’m so glad I followed that recommendation, because the audio version was beautiful! This was a unique story, told in four parts. The first part was old fashioned fairy tale and I almost gave up because it was not what I was expecting. Luckily it was short and I loved the main sections of the story. It begins in Germany in 1933, then moves to Philadelphia in 1935 and then SoCal in 1942, and ends in NYC in 1951. Each of the three parts felt so separate, yet the author did a beautiful job of finding the connections. The ending was sweet and the story was light-hearted despite the challenges each character faced. I highly recommend anyone who loves YA books or this author listen to this story!
  • The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin – I remember loving this YA mystery as either a child or a new teacher, and I randomly decided to read it again this month. There are a number of wacky characters, brought together to solve a murder mystery, with a lot of word-play clues. From the first set of clues, I remembered bits and pieces of the story, which is shocking since it was so long ago when I last read it and I rarely remember details! This was a fun read, thought it felt old and I’m not sure that any kids today would find much excitement in the low-tech details.
  • The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave – I loved this book, which I picked for my May Book of the Month Club selection! Hannah has only been married to Owen for about two years when their entire world unravels. Just as Hannah is learning to deal with her surly teenage stepdaughter, Owen’s company gets raided and he goes missing. Throughout the entire book, Hannah and Bailey, her stepdaughter, work to solve the mystery of what has happened to Owen, and all that they don’t know. This was such a fun read that kept me interested from beginning to end.
  • Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott – I believe I saw this book referenced during a photo challenge this month, which made me take it off my shelf and reread it after many years. The first time I read this was when I was an English teacher, diving deep into the study of writing and teaching writing to young adolescents. This time I picked it up hoping for some inspiration or direction for my own personal writing. There were some nuggets I appreciated that drove me to draft some junk first drafts (one of the nuggets), to write about my childhood (another), and a reminder to be open to ideas from anywhere. What I was thinking when I began was that I wanted to work on my own fiction writing, but where I am now is thinking about the art of memoir. I’m curious to read other memoirs and essay collections for writerly inspiration.
  • No Bad Deed by Heather Chavez – I loved this book because it was my favorite kind of mystery- fast-paced, with the reader getting only some of the clues at a time, so it was hard to piece together the story or to know what was right or wrong or where we would end up. When Cassie stops to help with a couple fighting on the side of the road, she has no idea what kind of mess she will bring into her life. Everything that follows is a race to save lives and figure out the truth.
  • Calypso by David Sedaris – I love David Sedaris’s writing for the laugh out loud, self-depricating stories! I haven’t read one of his collections in over a decade, so even though this is older, I enjoyed it. Sedaris bought a beach house for his family, then filled this book with mostly humorous stories about him and his middle-aged siblings, their aging father, and their childhood memories. While there are some sad points, his humor shines through and always ends on a high note. His fitbit obsession was remarkable and I’m curious if he still aims for a minimum of 7 miles of walking every single day!
  • Me Before You by Jojo Moyes – I loved this bittersweet story of Louisa Clark, who after losing her job ends up working as a caretaker/companion for quadripalegic Will Traynor. As they get to know each other, Louisa learns the simple and complex challenges that Will faces every day, while Will inspires her to see and do more with her life while she has the chance. Have tissues ready when reading this!
Me Before You: A Novel
  • When She Returned by Lucinda Berry – I have no idea where I heard about this book, but I enjoyed it as a fast-paced mystery that was perfect for a poolside reading experience! The story jumps from the present, when Kate returns after an 11 year disappearance, and the past, when we learn what happened to Kate. I love a story that involves mystery, a cult, and multiple narrators, and this had it all!
  • Girl With the Louding Voice by Abi Dare – It took me awhile to get into this book, because the main character narrates in broken English. When the story begins, Adunni is a young girl forced to marry at age 14. After that sad beginning, we follow Adunni as she fights to be able to get an education, fights for her freedom, and works to find and use her own voice. As the story moved on, I enjoyed the characters more and more. I enjoyed learning a variety of facts about Nigeria, although many of them were quite sad or disheartening, especially about human trafficking, and the young girls who are forced into servitude.

Fiction: 13

Nonfiction: 3

Young Adolescent: 2

Audiobooks: 2

Author is of or plot addresses a different race/ethnicity, orientation, religion than me: 3

Female author: 13

Male Author: 2

Nonbinary Author:

Library books: 9

Currently reading or my my TBR list soon: Tarana Burke, Stuart Woods, Nora Zelevansky, and more!

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Currently 2.0

I loved this Currently post on one of the healthy living blogs I read regularly. I flagged it as a good idea for me, since I haven’t written a blog post about anything other than books in awhile and I’m trying to write more. Before I started drafting this, I had an inkling that I had done it before. So I searched my own blog and way back in September of 2015 I wrote my first Currently post. It’s fun to do a 2.0 version in 2021!

  • Currently Reading: Still Life by Louse Penny – I have heard great things about Penny’s mysteries and I’m happy to be enjoying the first of this detective series. It was a little slow to start, but I had heard that so I was prepared.

  • Currently Anticipating: Vacations! I have one vacation booked for later this month and I’m busy making plans for a few more this year. I cannot wait to get on a plane again for a fun vacation! I am so ready to see friends and family I have seen in over a year, see new places, and cross off some bucket-list items.
  • Currently Pondering: Writing. I set a goal in January to write every day and I met that goal. Since then, I have written very sporadically on this blog, in my journal, and no other writing. Recently, I pulled out an Anne Lamott book about writing as inspiration to get back to my own personal writing. I’ve been pondering whether I could be a fiction writer or whether I might have a memoir in me. TBD…

  • Currently Watching: The newest season of The Handmaid’s Tale. It always takes a minute to remember where we left off (two years ago!) and then to get sucked back into the wild story, but I love it. Since the last season I read The Testament, the second book by Atwood, so I’m interested to see how the TV shows moves forward.

  • Currently Relishing: The time I have dedicated to reading, a hobby I enjoy so much! And because I’ve found new podcasts that talk about books, I am also relishing my extensively long To-Be-Read list of books! I truly love reading and am happy when I know I have a good book waiting for me. A second idea I am relishing is that I have had fresh sunflowers in my office for the last two weeks thanks to two different colleagues who treated me with my favorite flower!
  • Currently Ordering: Plane tickets (see Anticipating above!) and possibly a subscription to Peacock. Even though I’ve been watching less TV, there are a number of shows on Peacock that I am interested in, so a new account may be necessary soon.

  • Currently Making: Schedules and plans for the 2021-22 school year! It’s hard to believe that this wild year is almost over and that we can actually start planning for a return to pre-COVID life in our school system. I LOVE being able to talk about instruction again!

  • Currently Moving: My body and my step count with daily walks, either on my treadmill or out in nature. I love that I have so many friends with whom I can plan walking dates. I enjoy walking around so many beautiful areas in San Diego, from my usual beach spots to different neighborhoods on weekend explorations!
A recent hike over 7 bridges
  • Currently Craving: My brother has become my personal chef, and he comes over to my house to cook us dinner twice a week. He is a good cook, he can follow any recipe and he makes it look easy, and since I hate to cook and love to eat, it’s a good situation for me! This week he made one of the most delicious meals we’ve had all year. It’s from Rachael Hartley’s book Gentle Nutrition and it was amazing!

That is my Currently 2.0. Would love to hear your currently!

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April 2021 Reading Update

This might be the best reading month I’ve ever had in my entire life! Our school district was on spring break for two weeks and I did take a few days off, which definitely helped me add to this month’s list. I watched WAY less TV, which gave me more time to read! I’ve been listening to two great podcasts by readers, for readers (What Should I Read Next? and Currently Reading), which are filling my TBR list so fast I can’t keep up, yet I was motivated to try!

In April I read:

  • Later by Stephen King – I loved Stephen King in my teens, and I have loved 11/22/62 and The Institute, two of his more recent novels. His writing style is so unique, and his horror is just fun to read! This story was about Jamie, a young boy who can see dead people. When a nefarious adult learns of his unique skill, she uses it for evil, which causes drama for everyone.
  • Too Good to Be True by Carola Lovering – I loved this mystery! The first half of the book was amazing, with the story told from the present point of view of Skye, the semi-present point of view of Burke, Skye’s new fiancee, and the past told from the point of view of Heather, Burke’s wife. The reader knows more than Skye for most of the book, and it’s painful how despicable both Heather and Burke can be. The twist mid-way through the book was a complete surprise to me, but such a great way to change the story. This was a fun read and a good pick from my Book of the Month club!
  • The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert – I loved this YA novel, that I heard recommended on the “Currently Reading” podcast. Marva is a young Black high school student with an intense passion for voting rights. She meets Duke, a mixed race high student when they begin their day voting. The rest of the book takes place throughout one day – election day- and the chapters are narrated by Marva and Duke, alternating their perspectives as they go from one mishap to another. While the story was cute and funny, it was also smart and had compelling storylines about voter suppression, what happens when Black teens are pulled over by cops, and interracial relationships. There was a lot crammed into this short, sweet story.
  • Win by Harlan Coben – Coben is one of my favorite mystery writers. I recently watched a Zoom where Sharia La Pena, another author I love, interviewed him about this book, his newest release. Win was a secondary character in all of the Myron Bolitar books that Coben has written. It was fascinating to have an entire novel about this rich, sociopathic character, who has always been the side-kick in other stories. Win spends this story trying to solve a mystery close to home, impacting multiple generations of his own family, yet spread out across the country. His insane wealth and desire for violence make this a wild ride!
  • Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris – I loved this fast-paced, psychological thriller (thanks JJ for the recommendation!)! Grace and Jack have the perfect life, at least from the outside. But between chapters that flash from past to present, we learn that there is a darkness to Jack, and that their marriage is anything but perfect. I was so tense reading this right up until the end, waiting to find out what would happen. That’s a sign of a good thriller!
  • Ladies Who Punch: The Explosive Inside Story of The View by Ramin Setoodeh – I have never been a regular watcher of The View, but I have heard snippets about this book ever since it came out. I read this during my spring break, when I was going for light and airy reads. This was a decades long chronicle of all of the in-fighting amongst the co-hosts, the lack of leadership from the show to the producers, to the political and personal battles fought on and off screen. While I enjoyed the celebrity gossip of it all, it was sad to read how so many smart women fought with one another, seemingly for power and control. It’s sad that an ensemble of women can’t be successful, no matter how many times they changed up the people sitting at the table. It sounded like an uncomfortable place to work!
  • Eternal on the Water by Joseph Monninger – This book is beautiful literary fiction at its finest. It holds a special place in my heart, and reading it in April is my way to honor my mom, who we lost 10 years ago. I love the improbably love story of Mary and Cobb, their love of nature, of crows, of travel, and myth. Their trip to Indonesia to see turtles and Yellowstone to count crows and wolves, make me want to travel to those places with a biologist. I cry every time I read this story, even though I know what will happen and nothing is a surprise any more. I cry for their love, their loss, and the beauty of the story, and I cry for my own loss.
  • Whisper Network by Chandler Baker – I liked this book for the powerful messages about female empowerment, standing up for what is right, and independence. I disliked this book because I wanted to like all of the female characters so much, but they were all so flawed, so painfully real in their secrets and lies. Sloane, Grace, and Ardie are lawyers for a company, working under Ames, a man who harasses women. When a new woman starts working for them, the women decide to put a stop to Ames’s behavior. Then everything goes wrong. During depositions and investigations the truth and lies come out in different ways. I loved the character of Rosalita, a cleaning woman in the building who saw everything. I liked the end of the story.
  • Strike Me Down by Mindy Mejia – I loved this book! The author is a CPA and a writer and she combined her two passions in this story. Nora is a forensic account, hired by Strike gym to find $20 million that went missing. Gregg and Logan, the gym owners, are both suspicious and seem to be framing each other. I loved the way the author gave us glimpses of the story, and then went backwards to fill in past actions that moved the story along. This was a fun, fast-paced mystery!
  • Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant – I LOVED this ridiculous book that can only be described as mermaid horror. An entertainment company commissions a huge boat of scientists to go out to the Mariana Trench in search of mermaids, which most people believe are mythical, but which the entertainment company already believes to be real because of the destruction of a previous ship they sent out there to make a movie. What unfolds is truly mermaid horror, so you can’t stand descriptive horror stories, this is not the book for you. If you like that, know that this is fun, ridiculous, fast-paced, and full of fun and diverse characters.
  • When You Look Like Us by Pamela N. Harris – This was a YA mystery that would be good for high school students. Jay is a young Black teen whose sister goes missing. Because they live in a poor area of town, there isn’t a lot of concern taken to help find her. It doesn’t help that she was hanging out with the local drug dealer the night of her disappearance, so people write her off as worthless. As Jay tries to solve the mystery of what happened to his sister, while supporting his aging grandmother, he doesn’t let anyone get too close. Then Riley, a girl from his church, just busts her way into his life. I love the character of Riley and how she opens Jay up to others helping him.
  • Broken (in the best possible ways) by Jenny Lawson – I love Jenny’s humorous essays – about life, fights with her husband, her mental illness struggles, and general merriment. This book has more seriousness, as she wrote it in the thick of deep depression, and I appreciated her honest accounts of the good and bad times. She is always honest, usually funny, and a gifted writer.
  • Goodnight Beautiful by Aimee Molloy – I heard this book recommended on one of my new readerly podcasts and appreciated the description so much I knew I had to read it. It’s hard to talk about this without giving away spoilers, but I can say it is fast-paced, has hints to Stephen King’s Misery, has an unreliable narrator, switches perspectives, and makes you question everything. I loved it!
  • Professional Troublemaker: The Fear-Fighter Manual by Luvvie Ajayi Jones – I liked Luvvie’s TED Talk, “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable,” and I wanted to love this book and just couldn’t. She provides general self-help advice to build confidence, be independent, have the tough conversations, and be brave. I love all of those things, but Luvvie didn’t say anything new or unique about these ideas. Her writing style is very informal, like she is having a chat with a good friend, and she shares a lot of personal memories of her Nigerian grandmother and her own learning experiences. I confess that I skimmed through the last section of the book, because I didn’t want to DNF this, but I wasn’t willing to commit to fully reading every word.

Fiction: 11

Nonfiction: 3

Young Adolescent: 2

Audiobooks: 1

Author is of or plot addresses a different race/ethnicity, orientation, religion than me: 3

Female author: 9

Male Author: 4

Nonbinary Author: 0

Library books: 7

Currently reading or my my TBR list soon: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

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March 2021 Reading Update

I can always tell when I’ve had a stressful month because my reading list is shorter than usual.  March was a rough one for me, and most of the books I finished were read in the last two weeks and/or via an audiobook on a high speed!

This month I read:

  • The Things We Do For Love by Kristin Hannah – I love Hannah’s writing. She manages to craft stories that have heart, family, conflict, and resilience, in a variety of forms. In this story, Angie and Conlan are a married couple who have suffered the long-term loss of trying to have kids unsuccessfully. When Angie returns to her hometown to help the family business, she meets Lauren, a teenager with a hard life who has worked hard to learn scholarships to college. Angie and Lauren’s friendship helps them both grow and heal, even though the hardships they deal with alone and together. This was such a sweet story.
  • The Stranger by Harlan Coben – When I need a good fiction escape read, I go back to my favorite mystery authors, like Coben. I loved this book! Adam’s world is rocked when a stranger comes up to him and reveals a secret his wife kept from him. As Adam digs to find the truth, his wife Corrine goes missing, and everything begins to unravel. The reader learns more about the stranger, and the secrets that so many people keep. This was a good, suspense-filled mystery. Random bonus, my hometown in New Jersey is mentioned!
  • Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey [audiobook] – I’m not sure why I got this book, other than a friend who told me it was decent and the romantic comedies that this actor has been in that I have enjoyed.  Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy hearing him read this random book anymore than I would have enjoyed reading it. I found it to be weird, and I was annoyed by how highly he thought of himself (from childhood on). With most celebrities books, I can usually find something endearing (childhood trauma, setbacks, unexpected success), but even with those, I found myself disliking this man throughout the entire book. Not a good read for me.
  • The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah – I LOVED this book! I have enjoyed many Hannah books over the last year, but this was one of my absolute favorites! I didn’t know that a story about the Dust Bowl and the Depression would end up being about strong women, family love, and speaking up for what is right. Elsa was such a beautifully crafted character, leaving her unloving parents to create a new family, and then making difficult choices on behalf of her children during one of the worst environmental times in our history. Ironically, in the afterword, the author acknowledges how odd it was to write about that time during the COVID-19 epidemic, causing similar devastation for families across our country. I highly recommend this book.
  • The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together by Heather McGhee – I highly recommend this to every American – it’s a must read that is part historical lesson and part call to action. I appreciate the historical journey that McGhee takes us on, while rooting each example within a specific city and/or industry in the US. She paints a vivid picture that helps explain the white supremacy that our country was built on, and how we can work together to make a better America. This is not easy work, but it is necessary and well past the time for us all.
  • Anti-Diet: Reclaim Your Time, Money, Well-Being and Happiness Through Intuitive Eating by Christy Harrison [audiobook] – I enjoyed listening to this audio book on a recent road trip I took. I appreciated all of the research studies that the author broke down, showing how some diets show “success” with manipulated data. As someone who has been on and off diets most of my life, I’ve been working to get out of the diet culture mindset for awhile now, learning to listen to my body and not Instagram influencers or health magazine editors who are also entrenched in diet culture. This is an on-going journey but I love the author’s history and messages of hope!
  • Dirt: Growing Strong Roots in What Makes the Broken Beautiful by Mary Marantz  [audiobook]- My favorite podcast recently had an interview with this author, which made me want to read this memoir. I knew I wouldn’t have much in common with the author, a religious woman raised in a trailer in West Virginia. That is why I chose to read this – to continue to learn about different lives and perspectives by listening to the stories of lives very different than mine. With that in mind, I enjoyed the author’s beautiful writing and interesting storytelling.

Fiction: 3

Nonfiction: 4

Young Adolescent:

Audiobooks: 3

Author is of or plot addresses a different race/ethnicity, orientation, religion than me: 2

Female author: 5

Male Author: 2

Nonbinary Author: 0

Library books: 3

Currently reading or my my TBR list soon: Later by Stephen King, and two Book of the Month books

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Calendar of Observances

Did you know that March 31 is Cesar Chavez Day? Do you know why we honor Chavez? Do you know who or what is celebrated tomorrow or next month and why? The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has a very detailed calendar of observances that outlines many ethnic, cultural, and religions observances. The ADL calendar can be viewed here. Diversity Best Practices has a diversity calendar as well.

In my current work I collaborate on district-wide equity work with a core group of leaders within our system. At the beginning of February, which is known as Black History Month, one of my colleagues brought up this calendar and why we still use it. Below are just a few examples from a lengthy and diverse list of honors.

  • March is National Women’s History Month
  • April has a Day of Silence to protest the actual silencing of LGBTQ students and their allies
  • May is Jewish American Heritage Month and Asian Pacific American Heritage Month
  • June 19, Juneteenth, commemorates the announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas in 1865, and now celebrates African-American freedom and achievement
  • November 16 is International Day for Tolerance

In our discussion we agreed, as equity leaders, that we need to move beyond one day or one month celebrations, and into a more integrated system where all of our curriculum and timelines address the contributions of, for example, Black Americans within American History, not just in February. However, we also recognized the history behind developing national calendars that call out key groups across a year. I know that when I study the ADL calendar of observances linked above, there are historical religious events called out that I am not familiar with, which means that I need to educate myself in order to honor these events with my students. In many part of our country, and across educational systems, current adopted curriculums do not address the full history of our nation, nor the contributions of BIPOC Americans. If we didn’t have a day or month dedicated to certain groups or events, such as November being National American Indian Heritage Month, would American Indians be mentioned or studied at all in some classrooms?

Some thoughts for educators to consider:

  • Who is represented in your state standards?
  • Who is left out of those standards?
  • Who is represented in your adopted curriculum?
  • Who is left out of your adopted curriculum?
  • In those standards and curricular materials, when non-white people are mentioned, are there successes and challenges shared?
  • When you supplement your curriculum with your own texts, videos, and resources, how do you make your selections?
  • Do the students in your classroom see themselves in your content area on a regular basis?
  • Do the students in your classroom see successful people who are different from them in your content area on a regular basis?

If you study that calendar, there is a celebration or honor on most days of the year, and certainly within each month. Due to social media, I feel like more of these days are being celebrated publicly, especially by politicians, large businesses, and celebrities. But a tweet or post, using a trendy hashtag, is performative and not contributing to any systemic change. I believe we need to move beyond a list of days, and do a complete audit on our systems, our policies, and our resources. Only when we lift up the hood and look deeper will we know what work we need to do to ensure our schools are focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion in ways that systemically support all students.

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February 2021 Reading Update

This month I read:

  • Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan – This is a cute YA novel that reminded me of the world of Schitt’s Creek, the amazing tv show, created by the talented Dan Levy. In this world, like the tv show, there is no homophobia. There are boys who like boys, girls who like girls, a transgender teen who likes a boy, and boys who like girls, and everyone is okay with everyone.  It was a nice world to visit, knowing that this could be a reality in our world someday. Paul’s story of falling for Noah was a sweet look into the hearts of young teens. I didn’t know when I started the book, but this was a 10th anniversary edition and there was a fun interview with the author at the end, as well as a bonus chapter about one of the secondary characters.
  • The Lazy Genius Way by Kendra Adachi – I could appreciate some of the advice in this book, but I think it’s meant for someone who lives with a family, and young children, in their home. While the Lazy Genius principles can apply to many parts of life, most of the examples relate back to how to maintain your sanity and a semi-functional home. Since I live alone, I’m the only one to blame when the mess gets too bad! The overall premise is to “be a genius about the things that matter and lazy about the things that don’t… to you”. Adachi lays out 13 principles on how to be more genius. My favorites were Decide Once, Ask the Magic Question, Build the Right Routines, Put Everything in Its Place, Let People In, and Batch it. The Magic Question is “What can I do now to make life easier later?” and I’ve reflected on it in relation to cooking dinner. That is an area in which I am perpetually challenged, so I’m trying to build a new routine (half of which involves my brother cooking me dinner twice a week!) for weekly dinners. I love that she ended the book by reminding us all that we need rest – seasonally, monthly, weekly, and daily rest – and that is not just sleep or meditation, but spending time doing what you enjoy doing.
  • Share Your Stuff. I’ll Go First: 10 Questions to Take Your Friendships to the Next Level by Laura Tremaine – I LOVED THIS BOOK!  I loved it so much that I wrote an entire blog post about it specifically! I love Laura Tremaine and her message to share our stuff.  It matters.  It helps deepen our connections. I highly recommend this book!
  • Distant Shores by Kristin Hannah – After about a week of slogging through a book I finally decided to abandon, I needed some fun fiction reading. Since I had just watched Firefly Lane on Netflix, I remembered how much I liked Hannah’s writing and found some of her earlier books. This was a bittersweet story about Birdie and Jack, each reaching for their dreams after years of marriage where their passions fizzled out. The characters of Meghann, Birdie’s best friend, and Anita, her stepmother, make for interesting female friendships of love and support throughout Birdie’s journey to find herself again. I loved the gorgeous descriptions of Oregon’s beaches!
  • A Promised Land [audiobook] by Barack Obama – I enjoyed listening to this book, read by the author and former president; I missed his soothing voice! After over 14 hours of listening, the story hasn’t even reached the end of his first term of the presidency. He has a lot to say! I appreciated the details of running a campaign, the financial crisis he inherited upon his election, the challenges he faced with Congress and the GOP, how much people fight against climate change legislation, and the Bin Laden raid.
  • Angel Falls by Kristin Hannah – After quickly finishing the last Hannah book, I found another one available on my library app and devoured that.  Some weeks I just want easy-to-read fiction.  This story started off so differently than where it ended, which was a unique reading experience.  Micaela, a loving wife and mother, has an accident early on in the book.  Her medical challenges test the family in more ways than they were expecting. I don’t want to give away anything that happens, but I enjoyed this story!
  • To Night Owl From Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer  – What a cute YA book! My friend Bobbie recommended this to me and I knew it would be a quick, fun read. Avery and Bett meet when their dads begin to date, but through a series of unfortunate events, nothing goes the way they hope. This reminds me of a modern day version of an old favorite movie, The Parent Trap (and by old, I mean the original!).
  • Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid – I loved this book! I have no idea why I bought it (I think it was a Kindle sale item someone talked about), but I was looking through my Kindle for a good fiction read this week and this was perfect. Emira, a young Black woman, is a babysitter for Alix, a white woman who is sad to have left her career-driven life in NYC for her work-from-home-while-mothering-two-children life in Philidelphia. Alix has a lot of self confidence issues, which play out in funny and not-so-funny ways throughout the story. There are also a lot of real racial issues that come up when a white family employs a Black woman as a babysitter, even in 2016, and even when that woman is dating a white man.  There are lessons to be learned about parenting, confidence, race relations, trust and friendships. We still have so much to learn here in our own country.

Fiction: 5

Nonfiction: 3

Young Adolescent: 2

Audiobooks: 1

Author is of or plot addresses a different race/ethnicity, orientation, religion than me: 3

Female author: 6

Male Author: 2

Nonbinary Author: 0

Library books: 4

Currently reading or my my TBR list soon: more by Kristin Hannah

Abandoned: The Prophets by Robert Jones, Jr. – I just couldn’t get into this book. Too much wordy description, not enough plot for me, as each chapter is narrated by another character. I wanted to like this book but was hating every minute of the reading, so I gave myself permission to put it down unfinished.

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Sharing My Stuff

I just finished reading Share Your Stuff. I’ll Go First: 10 Questions to Take Your Friendships to the Next Level by Laura Tremaine. I have been anxiously awaiting this book since I began following the author through her podcast, 10 Things to Tell You. I pre-ordered the book back in August. This was the first time I had ever pre-ordered a book. I was 100% certain I would love the book. I also pre-ordered a copy as an early birthday present for my childhood best friend, because I thought it would be fun for us to discuss the questions. I knew another friend would buy herself the book (hi Lauren!), and my cousin (hi JJ!) saw an Instagram post I wrote about the book when it arrived, and she began reading it with me as well.

Laura Tremaine, author of Share Your Stuff. I’ll Go First. Source: https://www.10thingstotellyou.com/podcast/102

Since the book came out just two weeks ago, I have talked about the first chapters with friends and family (Hi Holly & Ellen!), and encouraged more people to buy the book. I highly recommend this to every woman (men could certainly read it as well, but they are not the typical audience for this kind of book) to read and then share with friends. Laura Tremaine’s entire premise is that we all have stories to tell and we should be sharing our stuff with the people who are important to us. This sharing can be done online or in person, or even just in your journal when it’s really personal or private, but the important part is the sharing.

I often find in my own busy life that when I check in with friends and family, we tend to spend the majority of our time catching up on the basic, superficial parts of our lives (the weather, the same work successes and challenges, the same COVID news, the same stuff), and we rarely get to the deeper stuff. I have already found that through this book, my friends and I are able to share things that feel much more real, important, and connected to what matters. [Not that we are going to stop talking about The Housewives. Ever.]

As I read the book, I took my time. I read one chapter at a time and then I spent time journaling my thoughts about each chapter’s question. Some of what I wrote I have shared or will share in my conversations with friends. Other parts I wrote just for me. I have always used writing as a way to reflect. But I haven’t always shared my thoughts. I mean, I have a blog and I wrote a book, so I have shared plenty of thoughts over the years! But when, where, what, and how I share depends on the topic. There are times when it is easier to share something publicly, on social media for example, than it is to share with one person.  There are other times, when the topic is personal or raw, when I only feel safe sharing with one person, in person. The value of this book is that all forms of sharing are encouraged! And for any of my friends and family reading this, Chapters 2, 4, 5 and 6 brought up some fun memories for me that I’m happy to talk about for hours!

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A Month of Writing

Back in the end of December I set a goal for myself to write every day of January. I decided to give myself the following options: journaling, blogging, or working on fiction.  I am proud to say that I met my goal!

During the month of January I wrote in my journal every single day. I haven’t done that since my sophomore year of college when I was taking a class for which that was a requirement. I think back then I had to write 5 pages a day.  This month, some days I only wrote a paragraph, but other days I wrote a lot more. I know that because of this goal, no matter how tired I was after a long day, I made sure to journal something.

Sometimes when I journal I write to capture what is going on in life, even if I never go back to reread it. Other times I write to process thoughts and emotions, stressful moments, or new discoveries. Even though most of my life feels controlled by COVID (What mask am I wearing today? How many feet apart can students be this week? When and where can I get my next test? When will I be eligible for the vaccine?), I try to journal about more than just that. I do enjoy writing at the end of the day and hope that I can maintain that habit.

I also wrote 6 new blog posts this month (hobbies, women mentors, reading, habits, inauguration day thoughts, and this post). I never know how much I will blog, as my posts are driven by ideas that come to me and the time I’m willing to spend drafting them. It’s fun to look back and realize that because of my daily writing goal, I was more aware of a desire to create more blog posts this month.

Writing fiction has been something I have wanted to do since I was a child. I haven’t made any attempts to write fiction in over a decade, but this month I put fingers to keyboard and began to sketch out an idea. I have no idea if the idea will become something real, but it is a place to start. I only opened that file a few times this month, but it was a start, and I plan to continue. It feels like a small way that my word of 2021, DARING, is pushing me forward this year.

When you read advice from writers, there are two themes that come out more than any others: read a lot and write every day. I have always been a voracious reader, so I have that box checked. Setting this goal for January helped me tackle the second piece of advice. I plan to continue to write as much as possible in the coming months.

 

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