March 2020 Reading Update

This month I didn’t enter the first book on this list until March 17. It has been a crazy month, between work travel, my own sickness (not the virus!), and then all the work to close schools and plan for distance learning (adapting to the new abnormal!). After spending my work days staring at my computer screen all day, I’m finding it harder to pick up a book and read after work and even on the weekends right now.

This is what I read in March 2020:

  • The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith – I heard that J. K. Rowling’s mystery books, written under this pseudonym, were good, but I hadn’t checked them out until now. I enjoyed the main character of Cormoran Strike and his P.I. work. It was a long, but enjoyable story and I will continue to read this series. I love discovering new mystery series!
  • Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators by Ronan Farrow [audiobook] – I am so glad I listened to this book, read by the author.  Farrow was one of the first journalists to publish evidence of the Harvey Weinstein crimes, at the beginning of the #MeToo movement. I appreciate all the depth he went to in his research to get the facts, told by the victims. It was fascinating, and sad, to hear of all the ways this story was covered up by so many people in Harvey’s company, in private industry, in the news media, and more. So many women were asked to sign Non Disclosure Agreements to cover up the bad behavior by top-ranking men in these companies; it’s sickening. I’m so glad this story has seen the light of day.
  • Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout – This was the sequel to a book I read last month. When I read the first book, I was surprised by the way the story was told – with each chapter introducing new, seemingly random people, who were in some small way connected to Olive. Starting this second book, I knew what to expect from that, so I was able to enjoy the book a little more. I did find this one to be a bit slower, as Olive ages dramatically throughout this story.

This year I’m also keeping track of the stats of the books I read.

Fiction: 2

Nonfiction: 1

Young Adolescent:

Audiobooks: 1

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

Female author: 2

Male Author: 1

Nonbinary Author: 0

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Happiness Hashtags

I keep sitting down, thinking I will write the next post in my green schools blog series (catch up on one and two), but it just doesn’t feel like the right time. How can I write about the amazing green initiatives that go on in my district when we aren’t working there right now? Life feels so bizarre!

Instead, I decided to capture something that has made me happy during these challenging times. There are a few hashtags on Instagram that are bringing me joy! I want to share that joy with you and invite you to come over to Instagram to enjoy theses happiness hashtags.

#aprillove2020 – Every year Susannah Conway does an April Love photo challenge, an August photo challenge, and a December end-of-year reflection that helps me choose my word of the year. I love Conway’s work and I have dabbled in her photo challenges in the past on and off. She began the April challenge earlier this week, in late March, to give us something to enjoy during self quarantine and social distancing.  Some days I use the prompts, and other days I tag the hashtag on whatever I’ve photographed that day. By visiting the hashtag each day, you see amazing creativity, glimpses into the lives of strangers who are all participating in the same challenge, and ways to connect. It’s hard to imagine how many perspectives there are on one simple prompt, but each person’s interpretation is unique. Conway’s photos are always beautiful, and often of her cat and the city of London. I am inspired by her creativity throughout the year, and I appreciate this April Love challenge more now than ever before!

SC_AprilLove_Badge-Prompts

#onedaycv – I have shared my love of the podcast 10 Things to Tell You, by Laura Tremaine, many times on this blog since I discovered it about 8 months ago. Tremaine created an annual challenge called #onedayhh, which was one day hour by hour. She encouraged people to post a day in their life, hour by hour, one day each fall.  I participated in last year’s, which was in November I believe. It was a fun way to see what a day in the life looks like for a wide range of people. Building on this community idea, Tremaine is now challenging us all to document our time during the coronavirus (hence the cv on this hashtag!).  Her recent podcast, episode 58, was about 10 ways to write your own history. One of the ways was to use #onedaycv to document this unique era in our lives, in your own words and pictures from your life. I am loving this community and it has challenged me to find something to acknowledge each day during the two weeks I’ve been working from home. It will be interesting to look back on this time years from now to see how small our worlds were for awhile, when we were social distancing physically, but connecting virtually in new ways.

#seemorebywalking – The third hashtag that is bringing me happiness is this one – See More By Walking. For years I had two friends who used this hashtag every weekend, when they would go explore a new neighborhood around San Diego. I loved seeing what they saw on their weekend walks. I was reminded of the hashtag this week during one of my daily afternoon walks. After full days of staring at my computer screen, I am loving the fact that I am able to get out of my house each afternoon to meet my brother for a walk around our neighborhood.  Since we both live alone, and have limited our contact with anyone over the last two weeks, we feel safe to meet up for our walks (though we still keep space between us at all times!). It’s been fascinating to explore new-to-us nooks and crannies in a neighborhood where I’ve lived for over 15 years. I’ve seen things I never notice when I drive by, but you truly do see more by walking.

What hashtags are bringing you happiness these days?  Please share them in the comments!

All of this is reminding me again of my word of the year.  Grace found me last fall and I knew it was going to be important in 2020, though at the time I had no idea how or why. Every day right noI am reminded to give myself grace and to leave space for grace for others.

Amazon Rainforest Fires Update

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The New Abnormal

It’s been over a week since I’ve written a blog post. Writing is one of those things that normally brings me peace, that relaxes me, and that helps me reflect. Unfortunately, the last week of my life brought so many changes and so many unknowns, nothing has felt quite right. Since last week, we have closed schools and I’ve worked from home for 5 days [so far]. Even though I am a proud introvert, who enjoys spending time alone, I am not enjoying establishing new work-at-home routines.

In one of my many conference calls this week, I referred to this time as the “new normal”. Someone else said they would rather we call it the “new abnormal” because so little about this is normal, and we will get back to what our normal was again at some point.

I love my work colleagues and it’s so weird to have to schedule Zoom calls to get anything done.  I feel like I spent about 7 hours a day on Zoom calls this last week, while I watched my inbox and my to-do list grow. Somehow, it feels like I have more work than I would if we were back to normal. And I do, right now. We are rearranging everything about a school system, while collaborating virtually with thousands of stakeholders.  None of this is easy.

At the same time, I am more grateful for my work than ever before. Not only am I glad work where I work (the district that employs me, not the location of my home office at the kitchen table!) with these people, and an amazing leader during this difficult time, but I am also grateful to still be able to work remotely.  So many people are without work, losing jobs and businesses, as we struggle to figure out what a socially distant life looks like for a while.

Today I went to the grocery store. It was surreal. I had to wait in a line outside because the store would only allow 25 people in the store at a time. Many customers were wearing masks. All the workers were wearing gloves. Some of the aisles had completely bare shelves. I was happy to be able to buy some fresh fruits and vegetables. My freezer and pantry have been stocked and ready to keep me fed for a while, but I’m grateful to still have access to fresh produce. I’m also grateful that my store is taking all of these precautions to keep their workers safe as they continue to provide us with food when they can.

As I remind myself that this will pass, I want to capture some big and small moments of gratitude for myself. I’d love to hear what you are grateful for right now. I’m grateful for:

  • a job I can do remotely, with caring colleagues
  • family who are safe and healthy
  • the ability to take walks outside in the fresh air
  • an income that allows me to support local businesses and my favorite service providers during this time
  • calls with friends and families
  • FaceTime dance parties with my nephews
  • Netflix and Bravo and Hallmark to binge-watch when my mind needs a mental break
  • my cats loving me being around so much
  • clean laundry
  • an extra clean house
  • living in the same neighborhood as my brother, so we can meet up for socially distant walks together
  • spring flowers
  • the bouquet of sunflowers I bought myself to brighten up my new home office area
  • essential oils diffusing around my house
  • my health
  • rainbows

What are you grateful for at this time?

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Solar in Schools

I’m writing a series of blog posts to document my learning about green schools; work that I have landed in over the last year. 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 to be more energy efficient when it comes to light.  We live in southern California and have an abundance of natural daylight, thanks to our year round sun (minus May Gray and June Gloom, of course!). Each of our schools has solar tubes installed throughout classrooms.  What I’ve learned about these is that they allow natural light into the classrooms through protected tubes in the ceiling.  You can often turn off the classroom or auditorium lights completely and still work well with the natural daylight provided.

In addition to the energy savings, there is research to support that daylighting can positively impact students’ mental and physical health.  I know that I feel better when I can see (and feel) natural light while working. Another benefit is the glare that teachers often fight with in typical classrooms.  The unnatural florescent lights that are in most classrooms cause a glare on the screen or white board that teachers often use to project instructional information for students to see. I can’t count the number of classrooms I’ve visited over the years that were dark, with all lights off and the blinds closed to avoid that glare.  Students then sit, huddled over their desks, with hoods on, making it even easier to fall asleep. In my current district, I visit classrooms using the solar tubes that have enough natural light that they don’t need to turn on the classroom lights, thereby limited the nasty glare.

To hear more about this technology from someone much more knowledgeable than me, here is a commercial for the solar tubes we have in our schools.

In addition to the solar tubes in classrooms, all nine of our schools have solar panels installed. When installed in 2016, the hope was to cut the district’s energy consumption by nearly 80% and save over $20 million in future energy costs. In addition to cost savings, we use all of these solar products as educational tools for our students. We want our students to understand the science and engineering behind solar, and how we are harnessing the power of the sun, a renewable energy source, to power our schools.

I’d love to hear if you have solar tubes in your school or your home. Are you, personally or professionally, researching solar options for your home or school?

 Previous post(s) in this green schools series:

———- ———– ———- ———– ———- ———– ———- ———– ———- ———– ———- ———–

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.

The Coach ADVenture

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Reflecting on my carbon footprint

After attending the Green Schools National Conference this past week, I’m reflecting on my knowledge of sustainability and green schools education. I joined a new district nine months ago that is a national leader in sustainable education and my word of the year is coming in handy.  I am giving myself grace for what I don’t yet know.  I’ve decided to start a blog series to capture all of the learning I am doing in this area of education.
The first in the series is about my personal carbon footprint. Here are the ways I’m trying to live a more green, sustainable life in my own home:
  • I recycle.  I live in a condo complex that does separate trash and recycling.  It’s basic. I’ve been researching ways to enhance how and where I can recycle specific items. I also recycle clothing by donating my used clothes to charitable organizations or by buying from gently used places like Thred Up.
  • I reuse. I use reusable water bottles and metal straws for my drinks, avoiding single-use plastic cups and straws whenever I can. I also use Tupperware and canvas bags to store food. I have used canvas bags for grocery shopping for years.  My mother used to carry the same canvas bags to the grocery store back in the 80’s… long before anyone else was doing that!  I still have one of her bags (see picture below).

  • I unplug.  Before I go on a vacation, I unplug items that I know won’t be in use while I’m gone, such as my toaster oven, fans, and diffusers. I’m trying to be better about this when I’m home too.
  • I control the temperature. I use my home’s programmable settings to control the heat and AC to come on at appropriate times and appropriate temperatures. I love when my energy bill shows that I’ve used less this year than in the past.
  • I grow my own herbs. Thanks to a gift from my brother, I have my own mini Hydroponics garden in my home. I can grow a number of herbs at a time, inside, with limited water and no pesticides. This not only saves me money buying herbs at the store, but it also saves the plastic the herbs are often sold in at a traditional store.
  • I drive a hybrid. I know that driving, especially alone and a lot, contributes negatively to my carbon footprint.  To offset that, I drive a hybrid car, to limit some of my impact.
  • I use essential oils. My essential oils replace a number of products that I would otherwise buy, from candles to scented lotion in plastic bottles to some over the counter medicine. This saves any harmful toxins that candles let off into the air as well as the plastic packaging that so many goods come wrapped in these days.
  • I buy local. When I have a choice, I try to buy local products, especially fruits and vegetables.  Ideally, I’d like to only buy these items from local Farmer’s Markets, but I only hit those sporadically due to my schedule.
  • I use reef-safe sunscreen. I’ve recently made the switch to sunscreens that are both safe for my skin and for the water and the animals in the ocean where I often swim with said sunscreen covering my body.

 

Things I do that add to my carbon footprint:

  • I travel. Traveling by car and by plane adds to my footprint due to the carbon dioxide production and the green house gas emissions that are produced.  I am not going to give up traveling. I will try to pack lighter to add minimally to the overall weight I contribute. I will bring my reusable water bottle with me when I travel. I will try to fly direct to avoid multiple planes in one trip (that is more convenient anyway!). I will use local public transportation when I can in new cities. I’m even researching ways to offset my carbon through various programs. I’ve just read a new-to-me tip for travel: bring your own bar of soap and bar shampoo/conditioner.  This will eliminate the waste of the tiny plastic bottles that are provided in most hotels, and that are often thrown out only half used at the end of your stay. While I’m not a fan of bar soap, I’m willing to consider this switch to help the planet!
  • I still use plastic. I haven’t eliminated all single-use plastic from my world yet. I’ve reduced the amount over time, but there is still more I can do. I continue to research other options for my favorite products or sources of the problem.
  • I use electricity at prime times. There isn’t much I can do about this one. I have to use my electricity between 6-9 PM because that is when I am home and awake after work. I can’t change my hours because I work in public schools. All I can do is limit my use in any way possible.
plastic bottles

Source: “Recycled Type” by Amy Chen is licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0

As I reflected on this post, I realize I am doing more than I initially thought. This is an on-going learning for me. I plan to share more in future green posts.  I’d love to hear how you are green in your home and life.

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February 2020 Reading Update

Each month I blog about what I’ve read for my own records, and to share my recommendations with anyone interested.  My reading goal of the year is to broaden the type of books I read, exposing myself to cultures beyond my own. This month I read:

  • Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout – Another book recommendation from my favorite podcast, 10 Things to Tell You.  This was not what I was expecting at all.  Based solely on the title, and the fact that there is a sequel called Olive, Again, I assumed this was going to be all about the life of Olive.  And it was, but not in the traditional storytelling manner.  This was a lot of little snippets about life in a small town in Maine, and the unique characters who come into contact with Olive.  So often I would become interested in one storyline, only to have that chapter end and never to hear of those characters again.  It was interesting and disappointing. I loved the way we learned more about Olive as we met people who knew her, and learned their perspectives on her personality.  This was a well-written story.
  • Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson- I haven’t read a book by Woodson in a long time. I love her YA books and her writing style is so unique. This book was told by various characters and not in chronological order. I appreciated how each chapter gave you another detail of the life of the characters across three generations. However, Woodson also makes the reader infer a lot – she doesn’t go into great detail and you have to work! It’s a bittersweet story of a Black American family.
  • My Life Has Been A Bowl of Cherries by Louise Bond Dowling Vincent – This was not my usual reading material.  This is actual the autobiography of my grandmother’s cousin, who, with the help of her daughter, wrote her memories out when she was 99.  She is still with us today and over 100 years old! It was fun to read about her life, and to read small snippets about my grandparents and my father through the years. I know I met Louise at at least one family reunion event when I was a teenager.  She and my grandmother were close throughout their lives. I wish I had paid more attention to the family history when I was younger.  The older I get, the more I treasure the stories and memories from our family’s past. This was a special treat, especially because of all the amazing family pictures that were included.
  • The Institute by Stephen King – I haven’t read a King book in many years, though I loved his books as a child and I loved 11/22/63 sometime in the last decade. This book, while being over 600 pages long, was amazing! It was suspenseful, intriguing, and I couldn’t put it down (though sleep and work forced me to do so a few times!). Young children with some extraordinary powers are kidnapped and brought to the institute, where they are forced to endure medical tests and torture as mad scientists try to harness their powers.  The main character Luke, was such a great protagonist.  I loved this book!
  • Miracle Creek by Angie Kim- I loved this book! It was a quick-paced mystery that made you question every character’s motive and actions, as each chapter gave you just a little more information and a lot more to doubt. Young and Pak created Miracle Submarine, a hyperbaric chamber to help children with autism and various diseases. A fire causes a great tragedy in the first chapter, and the rest of the book is the trial about the fire mixed with flashbacks as we get to know each of the characters and their lives inside and outside of the submarine. Everyone was so real and flawed, and each had motives and guilt. I loved the way the author weaved together this bittersweet story.
  • On The Come Up by Angie Thomas [audiobook] – I loved The Hate U Give by Thomas, and knew I would love this YA book too. Bri is a black teenager whose father was a famous rapper killed many years ago.  As her family struggles to survive, Bri is determined to make her own way as a female rapper. This story explores school security, the differences in discipline given to white students versus students of color, poverty, gang issues, friendships, teen romance, and the influence music has on our lives. It’s a powerful story with many lessons.
  • Open Book by Jessica Simpson [audiobook] – I love a celebrity-read autobiography! While I’ve never been a big fan of Jessica Simpson, I have been a fan of pop culture and have known parts of her life over the years.  There was much about her life that I didn’t know, and I appreciated her honesty about her childhood trauma, her relationships, her demons, and her search for love. She is a successful businesswoman, and a wife and mother with a full life. I enjoyed her story.

This year I’m also keeping track of the stats of the books I read. I am not surprised that I read more fiction than nonfiction and books by more women than men authors.

Fiction: 5

Nonfiction: 2

Young Adolescent: 2

Audiobooks: 2

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

Female author: 6

Male Author: 1

Nonbinary Author: 0

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Coming out of a hole

Have you ever had a week where nothing felt right?  I feel like I’m coming off of a few weeks like that.  I’ve been fighting a losing battle with a sinus infection, so I’ve had a headache for 8 days straight. I’ve experience the deaths of two people who were good acquaintances to me, and amazingly loved by people I care about. I’ve worked out less because of the sickness, which means I feel more sluggish than normal.  That leads to me eating not as well, which makes me feel even worse.  I’ve felt like I was in a spiral I couldn’t escape.

During this time, I’ve tried all of my usual fixes: meditation, extra sleep, extra essential oils, every variety of cold and headache medicine, fresh air, time with friends, journaling, binge watching tv, staying in my pj’s all day on a Saturday, and more. Nothing seemed to do the trick by itself.

Today, however, I feel like I’m crawling out of a hole. I woke up without a headache, which is a start. I took a great walk by the lake with friends, which was replenishing. I had a facial, which was hydrating.  I got my grocery shopping complete, including some much-needed nutrients, which was important. I got a massage, which was relaxing!

I’m writing this for my own reflection and for anyone else who is currently feeling like they are in a hole, unable to get themselves out.  We all go through these phases and it’s helpful to know we aren’t alone. Here’s hoping this week is great for us all!

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