July 2020 Reading Update

This month was a balance of summer fun reading and ensuring I was continuing to educate myself. In July I read:

  • Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner – This was another “good summer read” recommended a few months ago that just became available on my library e-reader. I haven’t read a Weiner book in a few years, and at first I was annoyed and felt that I had finally outgrown her. The characters all still seem to be 20-something women with low self confidence, with weight issues, with parent issues, with not-yet-fully-formed careers, struggling with men. However, there was a bit of mystery and some fun mixed in, so I stuck with it. Daphne and Drue were high school friends until Drue’s true colors finally hurt Daphne enough to end the friendship, and begin her social media influencer lifestyle. When Drue returns out of the blue and asks Daphne to be a bridesmaid in her wedding, it was ridiculous that Daphne agreed.  Once I got past that, I was able to enjoy the insane wedding details, the cute romance elements, the nice family and friendship stories, and to get to the bottom of the mystery. Not my favorite by a long shot, but a quick summer read for sure.
  • Stealth by Stuart Woods – Every few months I check for a new Stuart Woods book; sometimes I find I missed one (though I try to read the Stone Barrington series in order).  I always enjoy the fast-paced mysteries that Stone gets himself involved in. This time, his CIA buddy Lance Cabot recruits him to become a CIA Deputy Director, instead of just a consultant. This leads to attempts on his life and a near-death experience (with some romance along the way). Another fun read!
  • Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds [audiobook] – After reading Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist last month, I looked back at his previous books. I decided to read this YA version of his adult Stamped book, to see how the message plays out for students. I also decided to listen to it, and I’m so glad I did because Reynolds, who is a great children’s author, narrates the audiobook and his reading is incredible!  They call this a not history history book, and they take you through hundreds of years of American history – the real history of Black America. If I was still a middle school teacher, I would be planning to read this with my students in the coming school year. This is one of many ways we can adjust our curriculum and help young people learn things that many adults are just now learning around our country.
  • Mañanaland by Pam Muñoz Ryan [audiobook] – I loved this book! I love this author, and her gift for beautiful storytelling with rich, vivid language! I had the amazing opportunity to join a 4th grade class on a Zoom call with the author back in May. She shared about her writing process and a little about her latest book, so I immediately had to download it. I listened to it on a recent road trip. Young Max’s story of searching for details about his mother, wanting to be a soccer star, and wishing his father would see how grown up he is, was a sweet story. This is another book I would put in my classroom library if I was still a teacher (and if we were back in regular school!).
  • Treason by Stuart Woods – Once I get back into a Stone Barrington kick, I read a few of these stories in a row. I love that I’ve been reading this series long enough to know all of the main characters, their characteristics, and I can look forward to a random adventure, especially now that Stone works more directly for the CIA. The only disappointment in this book is that it ended with a cliffhanger, which is not usual for a Woods novel.
  • Me and White Supremacy: How to Recognise Your Privilege, Combat Racism and Change the World by Layla Saad – This is another book in my self-education, that I highly recommend to all White people. This book is really meant to be a self-reflective practice, with the reader journaling answers to questions at the of each chapter. The book is designed to be read one day at a time for 28 days, providing enough time for reflection. I wrote a lot in the beginning, and then began to do more thinking and less writing as it went on, just because I wanted to finish the book! The author recommends you go back and reread and respond to the questions over and over as you learn more, so I will plan to do that again in the future. Reading this not only gives you an understand of the key elements of white supremacy, but a deeper understanding of your own role in the system. It’s hard work to consider how you have harmed BIPOC in your life, but if you don’t start the work with yourself, you cannot contribute to dismantling white supremacy.
  • When We Believed in Mermaids by Barbara O’Neal – I love discoverng new-to-me authors whose writing style I enjoy! I can’t remember how I found this book, but I loved the bittersweet story of Kit, Josie, Dylan, and their dysfunctional childhood, and how that impacted their lives as adults on different continents. It was a beautifully told story and I really want to visit New Zealand now!

This year I’m also keeping track of the stats of the books I read. Here are July’s stats:

Fiction: 5

Nonfiction: 2

Young Adolescent: 2

Audiobooks: 2

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

Female author: 4

Male Author: 3

Nonbinary Author: 0

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My blog is 8 years old today!

Each year in July I like to celebrate the birthday of my blog (see 1st2nd, 3rd4th, 5th , and 6th birthday posts). I’m not sure why I didn’t write a post last year, but I imagine my mind was in other places since I was two weeks into a new job, learning lots! I love reading back through those posts and seeing how far I’ve come. Back in 2012-2013 I wrote about someday possibly writing a book about coaching teachers.  In October of 2019 my book, The Coach ADVenture, was published!

Rereading the list of all the places I traveled between 2012-2018 made me both happy and sad. Happy because I LOVE traveling and I have fond memories of all of those trips; sad because we are currently living in a global pandemic and I have no plans to get on an airplane for any major trip anytime soon.

Since July 2018 when I last capture some blog milestones, here is what’s been on the blog:

  • My word of 2019 was shine (and it came through often, and when I needed it!)
  • My word of 2020 is grace (and it made itself known me in 2019 and has been exactly what I needed this year!).
  • I spent all of 2019 rereading and reflecting on Elena Aguilar’s Onward, focused on educator resiliency
  • I read 89 books in 2019!
  • I started a Green Schools blog series (and then paused it when COVID-19 hit!)
  • I spent a lot of time on Instagram during quarantine, documenting my daily neighborhood walks
  • I completed the ACSA Superintendent’s Academy
  • I started a new job in a new district (and then learned how to lead by working from home during a global pandemic!)
  • To continue the travel list, since July 2018, I have traveled to:
    • Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
    • Las Vegas, Nevada (multiple friend trips)
    • Oakland, CA (multiple family trips)
    • Sacramento, CA (ACSA work)
    • Grenada (annual Caribbean girls’ trip)
    • Lincoln, Nebraska (concert #3 of the summer of ’19)
    • Hawaii
    • Victoria, Canada
    • London, England
    • Iceland
    • Cupertino, CA (to visit Apple)

I love having this blog, knowing there is a place I can capture my monthly reading and my random reflections, keeping a history of where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing. As always, looking forward to more of this writing journey. Thanks for coming along!

Amazon Rainforest Fires Update

 

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June 2020 Reading Update

In May I finally got out of the quarantine fog enough to enjoy a lot of fun reading.  By then George Floyd was murdered and I changed my viewpoint. I spent a lot of time trying to immerse myself in some deeper learning about antiracism, finding new-to-me Black leaders to follow on Twitter and Instagram, and seeking out more books by Black authors.

  • The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides – Wow! I loved this thriller! I love when a writer can keep tricking me with different twists and turns throughout a story. As Theo, a psychotherapist, gets too close to Alicia, a patient who has been silent since being accused of killing her husband, we learn more about both of them. From rough childhoods to beautiful love stories, they have a lot in common. This was a great story from beginning to end!
  • How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi – I had this book on my to-be-read list before the national uprising after the murder of George Floyd. As I began to expand my perspectives in that time, I knew it was time to read this book. This was incredible. While I’ve read other books that enlightened me about the way history has swept over key elements to make our nation seem better, without a racist past, I’ve never read a book that got to the heart of our issues and the need for immediate policy changes.  Kendi explains that “I’m not racist” is not the opposite of being racist; the opposite is being antiracist.  He cites examples in a variety of ways to be antiracist from power racism or antiracism, to biology, culture, behavior, and more. As I was reading, I felt more empowered to challenge the racist policies that we have in education, in city government, and across our nation. White people so often get offended when they are accused of being racist. We need to move into explaining how policies are racist and we need to become activists making impactful changes to said policies.  I highly recommend this book for every American to read, especially in the times we are experiencing right now. I wrote an entire blog post just about this book!
  • I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown – What a beautiful book! This book is an important read for anyone who is ready to glimpse into what daily life in America is like for a Black woman.  Austin, whose parents gave her the name not just for family reasons but also as an advantage later in life, when people screening resumes might assume she was a White man and not a Black woman, shares segments of and stories from her life growing up in a very white world. She shares microaggressions committed against her by teachers, strangers, colleagues, subordinates, and more. She shares her sadness and her loss of hope. She shares her truth. If you don’t believe that there is still racism in America, you aren’t paying attention; you aren’t listening to the right voices. Racism is real and it is up to all of us to do better. Knowing that Reese Witherspoon picked this as her book club selection gives me hope that many White women will read this, and gain a greater understanding, ready to take action.
  • The Gone Dead by Chanelle Benz – This author was recommended to me in a discussion about Black authors, and specifically in the mystery genre. As I continue to expand what I read, I wanted to find some fiction authors to enjoy as well. In this story, Billie, a woman born to a White woman and a Black man, returns to her father’s home in Mississippi, seeking answers about his death. With both parents gone, and no close relationships with her only living relatives, she enters into a world still separated by color and race.  As she digs deeper to discover the truth, the ugliness of racism get closer and closer.
  • Beach Read by Emily Henry – I read about this fun summer book on a recommended list at least a month ago, and it just became available from my library (e-book edition). Of course, I had 3 library books all come up as available from my hold list at the same time. I hate when that happens! Anyway, this is a cute story about a romance novelist with writer’s block who re-meets a literary fiction writer from her past. As they work their own issues, they find humor in trading genres for their summer writing projects. I only wish I had been reading this on a beach vacation!
  • The Boy From the Woods by Harlan Coben – When I had multiple books on hold at the library all come available at the same time, I knew I could finish these last two quickly! I love a good Coben mystery and this one did not disappoint. Wilde is the boy from the woods, now a grown man, who is brought in to find two teenagers who seem to have run away. As he gets closer to finding the truth, politicians, lies, and the past all come together. This was a fun read!

This year I’m also keeping track of the stats of the books I read. Here are June’s stats:

Fiction: 4

Nonfiction: 2

Young Adolescent: (Have one started but not yet finished this month!)

Audiobooks: (Have one started but not yet finished this month!)

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

Female author: 3

Male Author: 3

Nonbinary Author: 0 (Looking for author recommendations)

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Moving from “not racist” to antiracist

I just finished reading How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. While I keep track of my reading in monthly blogs, I knew I had to write a blog specifically about this book, to capture my reflections and to highlight some key thoughts. First, I highly recommend that every American read this book.

As I read, I highlighted so many key lines that resonated. I want to share a few here, along with my thoughts. I hope these give you something to think about as well.

What’s the problem with being “not racist”? It is a claim that signifies neutrality. “I am not a racist, but neither am I aggressively against racism.” But there is no neutrality in the racism struggle. The opposite of “racist” isn’t “not racist.” It is “antiracist.” What’s the difference? One endorses either the idea of a racial hierarchy as a racist, or racial equality as an antiracist. One either believes problems are rooted in groups of people, as a racist, or locates the roots of problems in power and policies, as an antiracist.

This is both the introduction and the summary of the book, all rolled into one quote. So often in life, I have seem [mostly White] people get offended when they think someone is calling them a racist. No one wants to be publicly shamed, and no one I know thinks of themselves as a racist. However, when we look deeper, we all have biases and we have all committed microaggressions. I know that I have made mistakes, and I know that I have considered myself “not a racist” for as long as I was aware that the term felt like a “bad” label to have. However, I have not been a true antiracist, as Kendi outlines throughout the book. I am taking this as a personal call to greater action within my spheres of influence: education and city and state government.

A racist policy is any measure that produces or sustains racial inequity between racial groups. An antiracist policy is any measure that produces or sustains racial equity between racial groups. By policy, I mean written and unwritten laws, rules, procedures, processes, regulations, and guidelines that govern people. There is no such thing as a nonracist or race-neutral policy. Every policy in every institution in every community in every nation is producing or sustaining either racial inequity or equity between racial groups.

Over the last four years, I have become more involved in causes that are meaningful to me. I have advocated on key legislation and called for policy changes that mattered to me. I have emailed my state and federal senators and representatives so many times that I am on all of their mailing lists now. I have met with state leaders in a legislative action day, to advocate for more school funding and state bills that would positively impact education. I have written my legislative leaders and expressed my concerns about upcoming votes, encouraging them to vote no to problematic bills. I am proud of those actions, but there is so much more to do. In education, and in government, we have many racist policies. There are policies we have lived with for so long we can’t even fathom a different way of doing certain things. But now is the time to examine all of our policies. In my work as an educational leader, I am going to be more intentional about examining our policies, and the decisions we make, with a lens on racist or antiracist outcomes.

To be antiracist is to reject cultural standards and level cultural difference.

Kendi write about segregationists and assimilationists, both of whom get it wrong. Segregationists believe that anyone outside of the norm (read: White and male in America) cannot reach the highest cultural standards. Assimilationists believe that those outside of the cultural norm can work hard to reach the standards set by the “norm”. Antiracists recognize that there are cultural differences that make us unique AND equal.

… [public schools are taught by an] 80% White teaching force, which often has however unconsciously, lower expectations for non-White students. When Black and White teachers look at the same Black students, White teachers are about 40% less likely to believe the student will finish high school. Low-income Black students who have at least one Black teacher in elementary school are 29% less likely to drop out of school, 39% less likely among very low-income Black boys.

We need to do better. The hiring practices in education must change. For the last decade I have read research about the inequities in women in top educational leadership positions, despite the fact that women make up the majority of the teaching profession. Black men and Black women make up even less of the top educational leadership positions, and fewer of the teaching profession overall. Our students deserve to see themselves in our ranks. When we sit in a room, whether it’s for professional development or a staff meeting, we should be talking about who is not in the room and what we can do to change that. In some cases, how we post jobs, recruit candidates, screen applicants, and interview need to change. In other cases, we need to build mentoring programs and support those within our system.

The most effective demonstrations (like the most effective educational efforts) help people find the antiracist power within. The antiracist power within is the ability to view my own racism in the mirror of my past and present, view my own antiracism in the mirror of my future, view my own racial groups as equal to other racial groups view the world of racial inequity as abnormal, view my own power to resist and overtake racist power and policy.

As I continue to learn and grow, I am taking more time to look within. So much of antiracism work needs to happen on a personal level first. I must acknowledge my privilege, the unearned advantages I was born with because of the color of my skin and the economic earning power of my parents. Then I must reflect on my own mistakes, past, present, and future, because I know that growing requires stumbles and falls along the way. Finally, I need to harness that knowledge and awareness in order to impact the power and policies that have set up racist structures.

Additional resources I have found helpful in my journey:

  • Brene Brown interviewed Ibram X. Kendi, the author of How to Be an Antiracist, on her podcast. It’s a powerful conversation!
  • The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander – I read this book in 2016 and wrote about it here. It’s an eye-opening look at our country’s history and why our criminal justice system needs to change.
  • Rachel Cargle’s Public Address on Revolution – I found this Black researcher and leader on Instagram. I appreciate her honesty and the clear steps she outlines for us, especially White Americans, to do moving forward.
  • #ShareTheMicNow – This was an incredible initiative on Instagram, where 50 White women with large platforms turned over their Insta accounts to 50 Black women for the day (earlier last week). Not only did I find some amazing new leaders to follow, but I learned a lot. Each of the Black women used the day to share the projects, passions, and purposes of their lives, while educating us on what it’s like to be a Black woman in America right now. We need to get out of our echo chambers and I find it’s important for me to make sure I am seeing diversity in my social media feeds.
  • Books on my to-be-read list next:
    • I‘m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Make for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
    • White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism by Robin Diangelo
    • Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi

 

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May 2020 Reading Update

I feel like I finally got my reading mojo back midway through this month!  Despite the continued stress of distance learning and working from home, I’m finally able to enjoy reading for pleasure again.

  • The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith – After reading the first in this mystery series by J.K. Rowling, under this pseudonym, I knew I would continue. I enjoy the main character, Strike, and his assistant Robin. They have to work hard to show up Scotland Yard and solve murders the police can’t seem to figure out. This one was full of egotistical authors and fantastical fiction storylines, but not fantastical like Harry Potter; very dark and twisted.
  • They Call Me “Mr. De” by Frank DeAngelis – My friend, and one of the publishers of this book (and my book), Shelley, told me this was a great book for school leaders. I trusted her, but hadn’t found the time to pick it up until now. I’m so glad I read this. It was hard to relive the Columbine tragedy through the eyes of the school principal. But it was important to hear his story, as it was not what all the news media reported immediately after the event. I was lucky enough to see a school assembly a few years ago about the Rachel Kindness Challenge, created by the family of one of the victims.  Their legacy lives on in Frank’s words and daily affirmations, and through their families. Beyond detailing the tragedy, this is a story of how the community came back together, stronger than ever.  This man spent his entire educational career at Columbine High School. It is a powerful story to hear about his career, his leadership, and his ability to build a family within a school community. He also details relevant charities and school safety work that continue in this day and age when we are usually talking about school shootings every month.  That does seem to be one silver lining of our distance learning days.
  • A Stranger on the Beach by Michele Campbell – I took a screen shot of a blog from over a month ago that described this book as “Dirty John meets Big Little Lies”. That description told me I would enjoy this book! I love a mystery that is narrated by two different characters, every other chapter.  This story is told by Caroline, a married woman who lives in her newly-built beautiful beach house, and Aidan, a single local with a rough past. I love the way the author introduces elements of each of these characters and their families, as they get drawn into each other’s issues. I loved the twists and turns the story takes.  It was a fun read!
  • Sea Wife by Amity Gaige – Episode 65 of the 10 Things to Tell You Podcast was a discussion about summer reading recommendations. This book sounded fun, and was available on my library app, so I started it as soon as I finished listening to the episode. It was great! The book begins with the reader knowing that a man and his family went off on a sailing adventure and then flashes forward to the wife, Juliet, sitting alone in her closet at home.  You know her husband is gone, but you have no idea what happened.  The story then flashes between her husband’s Captain’s Log/ diary of their time on the boat, her narrative of the time on the boat, and her in the present. It’s an interesting story of marriage, sailing, nature, poetry, politics, and more.
  • Untamed by Glennon Doyle [audiobook]- I had heard and read a lot about this book over the last month, and didn’t know if I would enjoy it. I hadn’t heard of Doyle before recently, and I hadn’t read any of her previous memoirs. I enjoyed going in mostly blind, and listening to the stories being told to me. Each chapter was it’s own stand-alone short story, but I could also feel the larger story of her life being told throughout the book. I appreciate her honesty about love, marriage, family, addiction, self care, and so much more. I appreciate how she wants to empower women to be themselves, in any context. I appreciate how she admits mistakes and faults without apology, and how she recognizes how she has grown and changed in the last decade. I now enjoy following both her and her wife on Instagram!
  • My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell – When Laura Tremaine described this dark book on a recent podcast, it sounded intriguing.  The book flashes from past to present, when a woman is reminded of her teenage self and the relationship she had, at 15, with a teacher, who was over 40 years old.  As she grapples with what happened to her then, and as other victims of this man come out, her view of the relationships changes. It was a dark, sad story, with a lot of literature, some irresponsible adults, and glimmers of hope.
  • The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand – This was an easy, breezy, beach read with a mysterious twist. I enjoyed getting to know Celeste as she prepared to marry Benji, and into his rich family. Their Nantucket house sounded beautiful, but full of secrets.
  • Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum – This was a sweet story about friendship, family, love, and loss.  Jessie has to move to LA when her father remarries after her mom’s death. As she navigates her new family and school, she finds friendship in unexpected places.  I love a good YA movel!

This year I’m also keeping track of the stats of the books I read. Here are May’s stats:

Fiction: 6

Nonfiction: 2

Young Adolescent: 1

Audiobooks: 1

Author is of or plot addresses a different race/ethnicity, orientation, religion than me: 1

Female author: 7

Male Author: 1

Nonbinary Author: 0

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April 2020 Reading Update

Since the pandemic and quarantine, I have found it so hard to concentrate on reading. I’ve read enough articles and posts to know I’m not alone in this. I felt guilty for awhile, but I know that I need to whatever makes me feel good during this odd time. When my cousin recommended the second book on this month’s short list, I was grateful for an easy read, as a way to get back into reading again.

**I just realized that I never even published this short list for April.  So here it is!

  • The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes – I loved this book, a fictionalized story about the WPA’s Packhorse Librarians of Kentucky.  There was romance, mystery, lots of books, and adventure all in one story. As these young women rode horses to rural, remote areas to share reading materials with locals, I loved and hated their small town life. The characters were so much fun to read about, from the British Alice to the fiesty Margery. This was a beautiful story.
  • The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth – Thanks my cousin JJ for this recommendation! This was a fun, quick read about a wealthy family with lots of issues. I love how the story was told in chapters that alternated between flashback and present day details, narrated by Diana, the mother-in-law, and Lucy, the daughter-in-law. I appreciate the details we learn about their relationship as the story unfolds.

 

This year I’m also keeping track of the stats of the books I read. Here are April’s stats:

Fiction: 2

Nonfiction:

Young Adolescent:

Audiobooks:

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

Female author: 2

Male Author:

Nonbinary Author: 0

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5 Things

Inspired by this blog idea by a lifestyle blog I follow, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on 5 things I miss, 5 things I don’t miss, and 5 things I’m grateful for right now. As hard as it has been to concentrate during this weird time, I do want to document what life is like in quarantine because of COVID019, as of May 2020.

5 Things I Miss

  • My friends and family – I miss being able to see, visit with, and hug my friends and family. I miss spontaneous happy hours and making plans to meet up. I miss my people! 
  • My work family – I truly miss interacting with the people I work with in person. I miss catching up on the weekend in the office common area. I miss our team gatherings for holidays and celebrations. I miss my actual office. I really miss visiting schools and interacting with students. I miss non-virtual school.
  • Traveling – I miss the vacation I didn’t get to take in March. I miss the concerts that I was going to travel to this summer that have already been cancelled. I miss planning a vacation and anticipating the countdown until travel day. I miss the adventure of traveling to new places with my friends or family. I can’t wait to plan a future vacation!
  • Eating in restaurants – I love eating, but I didn’t realize how much I would miss this simple pleasure. I miss my regular catch up times with friends in restaurants. Those were less about the food and more about the companionship, but they go hand in hand. And I do miss some of my favorite places!
  • Non-mask, normal life – I miss being able to walk out of my house, get in my car, and drive anywhere I want, without worrying about my mask, my cleaning wipes, whether the place I need to go is open, and how long the social distancing line will be when I get there. I miss going for walks on the beach (that is technically allowed now, but you can’t park near there and it’s a crowded mess that I’m currently avoiding!). I miss reading for hours on end just for the simple joy of it. I miss the old ways.

5 Things I Don’t Miss

  • My commute – I think I have filled my gas tank once or twice in the last 2.5 months. As much as I miss my work life, I don’t miss the daily commute. I don’t miss all the time I spent in my car, in traffic. 
  • The 5 AM alarm – During my pre-quarantine life, my alarm went off at 5 AM every day for the last few decades.  This was so I could work out at home (on my treadmill) in the morning before the work commute.  Now that I’m walking in my neighborhood after work each evening, and my “office” is ten steps from my bed, the alarm time has definitely gotten later.
  • Errands – I’ve never been a person who enjoyed running around town doing a lot of errands, but I have spent many a Saturday doing just that. Considering I’ve only been to a grocery store about 4-5 times since this all began (plus some CVS runs), I can’t even remember what all those errands used to be for. By simplifying life, I find I need a lot less “stuff” on a regular basis.
  • Crowds – I have always been an introvert. I prefer small groups of people I know, above large crowds of strangers any day. Living alone has always been great for me because of this. I still like living alone, though I do miss more daily interaction with other humans (the cats only provide so much support!). I do not miss having to deal with large crowds when shopping, at random events, or just out and about in regular life.
  • Mindlessness – I’m so much more aware, so much more mindful, right now. I realize how much of my life was done on autopilot before. Going through the motions, not considering where I was or how I was feeling, just doing what came next. I don’t miss that feeling, where you are always busy but never doing anything that matters. I feel more purposeful in my actions right now.

5 Things I Am Grateful For

  • My job  – I’m so grateful that I still have a job, that not only do I collect a salary and have healthcare, but that I am able to work safely from home.  I may not enjoy many aspects of working from home, but I’m grateful it’s an option.
  • Health – I’m grateful that my family and friends are healthy, and have been able to remain so during this time. I know that isn’t a given as we continue to open up more around the country.
  • Neighborhood walks – I continue to be grateful that this time has forced me to explore my own neighborhood. I’m grateful that I’ve been able to do this in the company of my brother, with whom I haven’t spent this much time since we lived together! I love all the new canyons we have found, and all the fun we’ve had exploring new areas.
  • Photo prompts – As I mentioned in Happiness Hashtags, I’m enjoying daily photo prompts by Susannah Conway.  We finished up #aprillove2020 and moved right into #maymoments2020. I love the challenge of finding a good picture to match the day’s prompt, and seeing how others interpret each prompt. Instagram is fun entertainment!
  • Technology – As much as technology can be a pain, what would this time be like without it? I couldn’t work from home, I couldn’t “see” my friends, family, or colleagues. I couldn’t take pictures or share them with others. I couldn’t order from store remotely or get anything delivered. I couldn’t catch up on old seasons of new-to-me shows. I couldn’t find new books to read. I couldn’t listen to music or podcasts. Technology has it’s problems, but I’m grateful for all it brings into my life.
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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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