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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January 2021 Reading Update

I rarely have a reading plan at the beginning of the month. I read what interest me, and usually have a nonfiction book, I’m always looking for fun fiction to balance my reading. I didn’t plan on this month being full of female authors, but that is how it turned out. This month I read 8 books.

  • Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent by Isabel Wilkerson – I heard about this book for the last few months, and knew I would appreciate reading this and would learn from it. Wilkerson compares America’s race history with that of India’s caste system and with Nazi Germany.  She shares elements of history from all three nations that are not taught in our typical history books. It is clear how much Americans still need to learn about our own history, and until we recognize the atrocities that we lawfully allowed to happen, especially in the American South as she details, we cannot truly move forward. This was a powerful, engaging book that every American should read.
  • Leading While Female: A Culturally Proficient Response for Gender Equity by Trudy T. Arriaga, Stacie L. Stanley and Delores B. Lindsey – It’s interesting to me that my first two books of 2021 were both nonfiction.  I actually started reading both of these books in December and just happened to finish them at the beginning of the month.  I have heard two of these authors speak before and I’m familiar with the Lindsey’s Cultural Proficiency work.  Over the last decade I’ve learned more about the staggering statistics of female versus male educational leaders and am constantly grateful to have worked with and for many strong leaders, including more women than the statistics of the nation represent. I appreciate the authors desire to educate and empower both women and men to mentor and support more female leaders. They weaved cultural proficiency throughout their lessons, along with real talk from participants in their leadership retreat. They also addressed intersectionality, because a woman and can have more elements to her identity than her gender alone.  This was a quick read and good for leaders already in position to be mentors and supports, and those seeking to move up in their careers.
  • The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister –  I LOVED this book!  Thanks to my friend Shelley for telling me about it on one of our recent walks (one of my other hobbies!). Emmeline was raised by her father on a remote island, taught to live by scents. As she grows and her life changes, taking her to new worlds and experiences, her sense of smell helps her get to know people and find what matters to her. It was a bittersweet, beautifully written story that I didn’t want to end. I wanted to smell the amazing scents she created!
  • The Last House Guest by Megan Miranda – I enjoyed this book! There were a number of twists and turns, some of which I didn’t expect at all, which is always fun. When Avery’s best friend Sadie dies, no one is sure what happened or why.  The story flashes from the summer of the death, to the summer afterwards, with some other elements mixed in as well.  There are a lot of lies told throughout this story, so it’s hard to trust anyone. I love how the author continued to surprise me up until the end.
  • The Survivors by Jane Harper – This was one of my January Book of the Month Club books and I enjoyed it! It started out a little slowly, but I became invested in this small beach town in Australia and all of the hurt and suffering due to a sudden death, and the memories of a tragic accident more than ten years previously.  Kieran and his wife and baby return to his hometown to help his mother prepare for a big move. Little does he know that a new death will bring up the memories of his brother’s sad passing, and all the guilt people are carrying with them about that event. All of the characters face heavy burdens as they hide their own secrets from one another. I appreciated the intricacies of the relationships and the hidden secrets revealed throughout the story.
  • Tweet Cute by Emma Lord – This was such a fun YA read! I needed a palate-cleansing, easy fiction read over the long weekend and this was perfect! Two teens, Pepper and Jack, end up in a Twitter war over their parents’ dueling businesses. As they fight it out over memes and GIFs, they get to know each other through the usual high school drama, with some sweet twists in between.
  • The Mothers by Brit Bennett – After loving Bennett’s recent novel, The Vanishing Half, I heard that her first book was just as good. I had also heard that this book had a more satisfying ending, and while I enjoyed this book a lot, I found the ending equally open-ended.  In this story, Natalie and Aubrey are two teens who form a friendship founded in the fact that they are motherless, yet surrounded by know-it-all mothers in their community. Half of the book takes place when the girls are 17 and half a few years later, when Natalie returns to town from college. I enjoyed that the story took place in Oceanside, which is in northern San Diego County, where I live. The local references were fun to read, including a nod to our May Grey June Gloom summer weather, with an addition I had never heard: “No Sky July. Fogust”! Natalie and Aubrey’s relationship with Luke follows them through the story. What I appreciated here, as I do more and more often, is how flawed each of the characters was in their own way. They were each keeping secrets that hurt themselves and each other. They had a hard time being honest, even with themselves. They didn’t seem to like themselves much, which made them painfully human and real. It was a bittersweet story about a small community and well worth the read.
  • The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D. – This book was highly recommended on my favorite podcast, so I’m disappointed that I didn’t enjoy it very much. It was very long, very dense with research studies and scientific facts, and very focused on PTSD and childhood trauma.  The last few chapters addressed what I was really interested in: mindfulness, yoga, biofeedback, and other holistic ways to heal our brains and our bodies. One of the last chapters delved into the role that theater can play to support children and adults recover from trauma. It reminded me the year my 8th graders and I participated in a grant called “The Opera Project,” where my inner city students, many of whom came from trauma-filled childhoods, worked with opera educators to write and perform an opera. It was a powerful experience for them to learn a new artform and to express themselves in this unique way. I saw the connections between their growth throughout that year and the research behind that called out in the book.  If you, or someone you know, suffered significant trauma, this might be interesting for you. If you love details about brain activity, and how by changing our brains we can change our mental and physical beings, you would be interested in this book. Otherwise, typical educators would probably not be interested. There wasn’t enough connections to education for me.

Fiction: 5

Nonfiction: 3

Young Adolescent: 1

Audiobooks:

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

Female author: 9

Male Author: 1

Nonbinary Author: 0

Library books: 4

Currently reading or my my TBR list soon: A Promised Land [audiobook] by Barack Obama, The Prophets by Robert Jones, Jr.

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Inauguration Day Reflections

This morning I sat in my office watching the Inauguration of our 46th President. There were some incredible moments that brought me to tears of joy and relief.

  • Watching the first woman, who is also the first person of color, inaugurated as the Vice President of the United States of America. Welcome Madame Vice President!
  • Watching the National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman perform her beautiful words with grace, dignity, and hope for the change that is needed in this nation
  • Listening to the wonderful performances by Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, and Garth Brooks and feeling the words to those familiar songs deep in my soul
  • Watching the new First Lady, Dr. Biden, support her husband as he took the oath, knowing that she is an educator
  • Watching our new president take the oath of office, knowing that he will actually follow through on the words of the oath and the meaning of the office

Many of us were hoping that the calendar change between December 31 and January 1 would bring about change. When that didn’t happen, not in relation to the pandemic nor the political climate, we all took another emotional hit. We have been living in chronic stress for months as a world in a pandemic, years of stress as a nation in conflict, and centuries of stress for another part of our nation. People are hurting. We need change.

Today I think our nation was able to take a deep breath and let it out. This inauguration doesn’t change everything, but it is a step in the right direction. We have more work to do individually and collectively. I am so grateful to work in a system committed to doing the hard work to make systemic change on behalf of our students and our community.

This afternoon I sat in my office (I pretty much sat in my office most of the day!) participating in the San Diego County Office of Education’s virtual Equity Conference. Today’s keynote speaker was Dr. Monique Morris, a scholar I heard speak at an AASA conference about 4 years ago.  She was just as inspiring today, especially in relation to the equity work we need to engage in on behalf of all students, especially our Black girls, which is the focus of much of her research.  A few takeaways for me from her speech:

  • Are our schools trauma-informed or trauma-responsive?
  • Equity work requires that we change the institutions that are a part of the tapestry of harm
  • The use of yoga and mindfulness in schools should be available to all students, considered as a return to regulation
  • Is this policy/practice one that leads with love or with fear?
  • Learning cannot take place without trusting relationships
  • Equity is the work of dismantling systems of oppression
  • A social movement that changes people and systems is a revolution

A student was quote today saying that all they want is “unity, community, and engagement” within their school.  That is what we are working towards.  Our students need us to be daring, need us to do this work. Tonight I will end my night watching the virtual inauguration celebrations with hope in my heart.

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Developing Habits

What habits have you developed for yourself? Are you working on any habits for the new year?  Back in late October I decided to add in one healthy habit at a time for myself. I started with drinking more water.

For step one, I began to track how much water I was drinking. I knew that it wasn’t a lot, but I didn’t truly have an amount in my mind. I use my Fitbit tracker, since it’s already connected to me and tracks my steps every day. Early on I saw that I was not drinking much water, so my goal was to drink at least 64 ounces each day. It took me about a month before this habit became consistent – both the drinking of the water and the tracking of my intake.  After Thanksgiving, I had a great stretch through most of my winter break where I met my goal just about each day. It was so nice to see a row of little stars on my app!

Looking back, this last week was not good for my goal. The difference between last week and last October, however, is that I still drank 40-60 ounces of water each day, I just didn’t track a full 64 to hit that goal.  Back in October, I was drinking half that amount! It’s nice to see that I have developed a habit of drinking more, and that with focused effort I can continue to meet my goal.

Another habit I wanted to work on this month was writing. I set a goal for myself to write every day.  So far, I have written in my journal every day this year, I have written 4 blog posts, and I’ve even written some not-ready-to-be-read-by-anyone fiction. There are still many more days in this month, but a few things have helped me with this goal.  First, I keep my journal on my kitchen table so I see it in the morning and the evening each day.  Second, I created a list of blog topics that I might want to write about, so I have ideas as soon as I sit down to write. Third, I told a few friends about this goal for accountability (and now anyone reading this!). I love writing, but I’ve never made a conscious effort to commit to a daily practice. I look forward to reflecting on this at the end of the month to see how I feel.

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